Paul Krugman – EconoMissed

In a recent article in Fortune as reported in Rational Review News Digest on 2/12/2019, Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, was quoted as saying at a recent World Government Summit in Dubai that a recession might be coming late this year or next. Really? This year or next? Might or might not? My question is what the hell is this kind of forecast good for? All it is is typical economic BS. In this case BS means Boloney Supposition – a guess.

What should we do with his prediction? Should we stock up our cupboards? Should we change our retirement plans? Should we bury our money in the back yard? How about we just YAWN? That’s right – yawn. Because even Krugman admits, “By the way, my track record for this is bad – as bad as is everybody’s. No one is good at calling these turning points.” THEN WHY CALL THEM AT ALL?

Maybe this is why Alfred Nobel never established a prize in economics. Officially there is no such thing. In fact a grand nephew of Nobel, Peter Nobel, has said, “There is nothing to indicate that he would have wanted such a prize”, and that the association with the Nobel prizes is nothing but, “a PR coup by economists to improve their reputation.”

The prize that everyone associates with the Nobel Prize in Economics is actually The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. It was established in 1968 to commemorate the bank’s 300th anniversary with a large donation to the Nobel committee. It was a bribe. “If you guys let us use the Nobel name we will make a large donation.” Kind of like naming rights on a sports stadium. Seems kind of hollow to me. Perhaps if I was rich and donated millions to the committee I could have a Nobel Prize named in short order cooking. That’s what I spent most of my career doing.

But that’s Economics. Lots of maybes. Lots of might or might nots. Not too many sure things. It is really not a science at all.

When I was in college I had to take an Econ class. So I signed up for a class taught by a PhD in Economics, Leon Applebaum. Applebaum was well respected in his field and was called to Congress to testify on economic issues of the day. Well one day in class he was putting some kind of graph on the board and he told the class the reason it worked was because the line of the graph had a different slope at different points on the line. I raised my hand and explained that the scientific definition of a straight line was that it had a constant slope between any two points. He said I was wrong.

Like I said, Economics is not a science at all.


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Dark Store Silliness

Wisconsin’s new governor, Tony Evers, has recently said he is willing to address the “Dark Store” taxing issue. That issue allows successful operating stores such as Sears, Pennys, Kmart, Walmart or Walgreens to challenge the property tax assessments of their successful stores by comparing the value of these properties to the value of vacant similar sized big box stores.

A couple things come to mind. Firstly – shouldn’t property tax assessments be based on the brick and mortar value of a property – the lot, and everything that goes into making a building useful as a going enterprise? In that case what does it matter whether a given property has a going entity operating within its walls or not? It is a property tax, not a going enterprise tax. The property gets taxed as a going enterprise when it starts operating via the sales taxes and income taxes that the state and local community collects. The property should not be taxed more just because it has a going entity within its walls.

It should also not be taxed less when that entity goes belly up. Herein lies the problem. Why have these communities undervalued certain properties in the first place just because the business operating within its walls has shut down?

My contention is that any given property should be taxed at its original building cost or purchase cost (land value plus improvements) plus any additions or remodeling done to it over the years. That value should never change for any other reason.

For a commercial building, it would encourage owners of vacant buildings not to hold on to them. They would never be able to challenge their assessment because the property went vacant. Vacant property would therefore be developed quicker because owners would have no incentive to hang onto them. In point of fact there would be a huge incentive to redevelop or sell the property quickly.

For instance here in Racine, WI we have a former 4 story large department store building in our downtown that has been vacant since 1981. It is currently assessed at $600K but in 1995 it was assessed at only $100K. And in 2011 for some reason it was assessed at $1,650,000. Why has the assessed value of this property changed when throughout all these 38 years, the property has been vacant?

For personal homes, it would encourage people to stay in their homes and remodel them rather than move. It would stabilize neighborhoods. Sure there would be situations where a given city block would have similar houses at significantly different assessments. But oh well! It would also not force old people to sell their homes because they could no longer afford their property taxes.

Secondly, I am not sure improvements to property should even affect property tax assessment at all. Maybe property tax should be assessed on the value of the land only. After all does it cost any more to provide city service to a given square foot piece of land whether it has a $1,000 improvement or a $1 million improvement on it?

It is time to rethink the way property is assessed in Wisconsin and everywhere.


Military Monstrosity

Can anyone tell me why there are 242 US Coast Guardsmen in Bahrain? For that matter why are there 28 in Germany, 24 in the UK, and 31 in the Netherlands? And the least logical of all, why is there only 1 in S Korea? If anyone can come up with a valid reason for USCGuardsmen to be stationed in S Korea, certainly you must admit you would need more than 1 to make a difference of any kind.

If the mission of the Coast Guard is to “….ensure our Nation’s maritime safety, security and stewardship” then why are so many Coast Guardsmen stationed overseas?

For that matter why are there 81,000 US troops in East Asia, 64,000 in Europe, 54,000 in Japan and 1,000 in Djibouti? You may ask where the hell is Djibouti? I had never heard of it and had to look it up. It is in the Horn of Africa. I still do not know how to pronounce it. Why does the US military have a presence there? Is Djibouti planning an attack on America’s homeland? If so the Coast Guard should be able to protect our shores from a Djibouti attack – if they have not undermanned their presence at home too much in order to man stations in far away lands!

It is time for America to reduce its military presence everywhere! In fact it is time for us to eliminate our military presence in most areas of the world. Of course the usual argument is that we are protecting our interests or that we are protecting freedom. What American interests are being protected in Montenegro with the presence of 20 troops? Can those 20 troops guarantee the freedom of Montenegrins? And even if they could, does America have a right to interfere in the politics of that nation or any nation? In some areas of the world where US troops are stationed, there has not been peace in hundreds of years. So if our presence is not helping, then let’s get the hell out of there!

Now I am not an isolationalist. I am a Jeffersonian in that regard, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none.” We should have embassies in these nations. I just do not think we need soldiers.

How much does one soldier cost across the board – enlisted, officers, support, etc? The defense budget in 2018 was about $600B. With the total number of active service personnel being about 1,500,000, the cost for each and every soldier is $400,000. It is simple arithmetic. Sure some of that is for support but if you did not have the soldier you would not need the support.

How much would we save if we eliminated 1,000,000 military personnel? That’s higher math. I will leave it for you to determine. But ask yourself if you think the 500,000 active service personnel left would be able to adequately keep America safe from invasion? I am pretty sure your answer would be absolutely yes!

Reduce the military now!

Suspension Politics

In a front page headline article in the Racine Journal Times on Sunday, Jan. 6, it was reported that certain local schools are trying to shrink the school suspension rate for black students which was almost 25% district wide for the 2015-16 year. At Knapp Elementary school, the suspension rate for black students was 60.5% last year.

Did you catch that? 60.5% of black ELEMENTARY students were suspended last year! District Superintendent, Eric Gallien, has said that Unified policy allows suspensions of students for violent behaviors, habitual disruptions and behavior that endangers other students. May I reiterate – WE ARE TALKING ABOUT ELEMENTARY STUDENTS with violent, disruptive behavior that can endanger other students!

What solutions are being tried? At Knapp they have established, “…areas in each classroom where students can go take a break, redirect themselves, and refocus.”

It seems to me like they are trying to use a cork to stop a tsunami. It will not work. This type of behavior is learned at home. You will not stop it by giving a child a 15 minute break in the middle of an important class that he or she is disrupting.

The only way to stop this behavior is to get to the root of the problem. But that will never happen when good people, white and black, are labeled racist the minute they start talking about generational welfare, single parent poverty, gangs, and drugs.

In another front page headline article in the Journal Times a day later, it was reported that Gov elect, Tony Evers, wants to include information on property tax bills showing how much money taxpayers contribute to private schools through the voucher program. If Evers wants to know why parents are choosing voucher schools over public schools, all he has to do is read the Journal Times article mentioned above.

But Evers is in the pocket of the education lobby. During the campaign he promised to get rid of Act 10 and the Voucher program for them. The feeling is that with the money going to vouchers, these problems could be solved. But money will not solve these deep rooted problems


Gun Control Book Review

Recently I finished reading Guncrazy America by Frank Egerton, professor of history, Emeritus, at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside in Kenosha County, WI. He and I have had dozens of back and forth opinion pieces regarding gun control published in our local paper and in personal correspondence for at least 20 years.

He sent me the 5th chapter years ago to read because I am included in it. I told him then that I would like to read the entire book when he finished. He finished a while back and sent me an email saying if I still wanted to read it that I could get a digital copy for $3.99 from Amazon. I told him I would not spend $4 just to see my name in print and if he wanted me to read it, he would have to supply a free copy. He did.

The book is 358 pages long but here is the interesting thing: there are only 264 pages of prose with the remaining 94 pages being index, bibliography, endnotes, and further reading suggestions. It appears at first glance to be a scholarly work. It is not. It is filled with misspellings, punctuation errors, and misidentifications. Some of the errors can be attributed to the apparent self publishing of this book. But I fault the author, a PhD in history, for not having hired a proof reader to check his manuscript. Without these corrections this seemingly scholarly work becomes nothing but a personal rant and bias against individual gun ownership. If his thought in writing this book was to convert gun lovers into gun haters, he has failed miserably.

Guncrazy starts out as a history of the gun industry in America and the use of guns for war, hunting, and for personal defense. The first dates mentioned were in the 1500’s with the use of guns by the Spanish, English and French against the American  Natives and against each other. It proceeds to the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries with discussions about the war of Independence, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish American War. In later chapters the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and current conflicts are discussed. But in each discussion the underlying theme is the connection between the gun industry and those governments waging war and their financial support for improvements in gun development and production.

Chapter 5 is particularly interesting when it discusses the NRA. Egerton follows the NRA from its beginnings in the late 1800’s as a shooting club to its current status as the primary defender of the individual right to keep and bear arms.  After the Civil War he says the NRA was established in New York to promote rifle practice. It was perceived that many if not most of the Northern Soldiers in the Civil War were from urban areas and not familiar with guns and hence very poor marksmen. The Rebels on the other hand were mostly country men and much better shots than the Union Soldiers. During the late 1800’s the NRA established shooting ranges with the support and financing of New York State and later by the Federal Government.

Egerton says the NRA fell upon hard times for a while when its public support was ended. However with the start of the Spanish American War, the renewed interest in military preparedness again prompted public support. Rifle clubs were established, civilian marksmanship was encouraged, and public funding was restored.

Egerton bemoans this connection between the NRA and the public support they received. He also dislikes the fact that many US Surplus guns ended up in civilian hands. At one point he says, “During the 1960s, it became evident that both left-wing and right-wing extremist individuals and groups were joining or forming NRA clubs in order to receive free government guns and ammunition.” Egerton provided a footnote for this statement, “Bakal, The Right To Bear Arms, 1968, 140-141”. I did not read this book but I have read a couple reviews. The author was a professional glamour photographer for McCall’s Magazine in the late 50’s, not the type of credible  reference that should be cited in a scholarly work.

Another questionable reference he uses is the web site, http://www.stopthenra.com. I went to this web site and found a total of one page of info. And the page starts with the sentence, “The NRA is a fucked up organization.” Later the web page author says, “I love guns just as much as the next person (have you ever shot a pumpkin with a gun?” It seems rather strange to use a self identified gun lover as a reference in a gun haters book.

Using these types of references calls into question the reliability and credibility of every reference Egerton has used. No one could possibly research all of the included footnotes to see whether any of them are credible. But having found two that are not makes all of them questionable.

Later on in chapter 5 Egerton says that he obviously does not speak for the NRA but lists 12 of their basic beliefs as he understands them. Among his list of NRA beliefs at number 12 is, “Law-abiding NRA members have a right to shoot other Americans if they conclude that whoever is being shot is a serious threat to themselves, others, and possibly to property, even if the perceived threat comes from a government official.” I have been a life member of the NRA for 50 years. Never in all those years and in all the publications by the NRA I have read and never in any minutes of any annual meetings have I ever seen a statement such as this. There is not one NRA member I know that believes this. It is an absolutely false and inappropriate claim and is shameful from a man who has dedicated himself to higher education.

I could write more but I won’t. I have said enough about an issue that was settled over 200 years ago, “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

This book is not worth reading. And if this book is representative of the quality of the anti gun literature available then the 2nd Amendment is not in jeopardy.

Narcissim

I am an avid reader of letters to editors of papers, magazines, blogs, etc. It never ceases to amaze me how blind most people are. In a recent letter to my local paper a man wrote in exclaiming how narcissistic President Trump is. I agree.

He is almost as narcissistic as our former President. And the one before that. And the one to come. Presidents have to be narissistic to think they are worthy of leading a nation of 300 million diverse people.

In fact all politicians are narcissists. Any person who thinks he or she knows better how to run our lives than we know ourselves is a narcissist. There is no doubt in my mind. No one knows what is best for me except me. No one knows what is best for you. Only you. Nothing I do should ever be regulated or controlled by a politician unless I am hurting someone else through force or fraud. Same for you.

A wise man once said, “Good men do not need the law. Bad men won’t obey it.” So any time you hear someone say, “There outa be a law…”, tell them we don’t need any more laws. We have too many the way it is. If the good people of the world do not need law, then we do not need politicians.

In another letter in my local paper on the same day as the above mentioned, a man laments the fact that Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has never had a real job that was not paid for by the taxpayers. The same can be said of our former President and many other national, state, and local politicians. And the same can be said of anyone that works at a government taxpayer funded job at any level.

Bureaucrats and Politicians. How many is too many? We hit the limit a long time ago!

 

 

Fools and Schools

My local newspaper, The Racine Journal Times, ran a front page headline recently that declared, “Voucher enrollment increases”. The article went on to bemoan the loss of money to the public school system that the Choice Program takes from them. It even said that these students are attending private school, “…on the public’s dime.”

Here is what happens – when a student chooses to join a participating Choice program school, $7754 follows him. That is money taken away from the local public system. Here is the interesting thing though, if that student were to stay in the local Unified public school, that system would spend $11,377 on his or her education.  Each and every student enrolled in a Choice school saves the taxpayer $3623.

I guess the local paper and the taxpayers should all be applauding the money that the Choice Program saves the taxpayer. But the news media manipulates what the public thinks through the words they use. In fact aren’t all students attending a public or Choice school, “…on the public’s dime”? But those students enrolled in a Choice school are taking fewer public dimes. Isn’t that good?

Wording is everything. Why didn’t the headline declare, “More parents dissatisfied with public schools”? Why not, “Choice Schools saving taxpayers millions of dollars”?

As far as I am concerned in this internet age, public school systems are an anachronism, a hold out from long ago, and needed about as much as an operating manual. If you want to end bullying, violence, and racism in the public schools, eliminate the schools. We could easily educate our students at 1/10th the current cost. All that is needed is the will to breakup the bureaucracy. And anyone who wants their children in a private school can then pay for it themselves!

Loony Laws

To paraphrase Plato, he said that good men do not need laws. And bad men don’t obey them. So why oh why, year after year, are thousands of new laws passed?

In the 112th Congress there were 561 new laws passed out of 6,845 introduced. Off the top of my head I cannot recite one of them. There are at least 20,000 laws just governing the use and ownership of guns. From 2000 to 2007 there were 452 new Federal crimes created. The number of Federal crimes then exceeded 4,450. Many more now. You can hardly walk across the street safely without getting busted.

Add to these all the laws passed at the state, municipal, and county levels and you can understand why Harvey Silvergate in his book, Three Felonies A Day, estimates that the average American violates 3 Federal crimes each and every day. It becomes clear why our prison population is so overcrowded.

On top of all these laws there and thousands more federal, state and local regulations which might as well be considered law. If you do not think so just violate one. You will see how fast you are fined or your property is confiscated. All in the name of the law!

James Madison once said, “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow.”

I seems to me that we are at that point right now. Too many laws. Too many law makers.

My question for today is how did the Israelites survive for 40 years in the wilderness with only 10 written laws on 2 stone tablets? If they did it, so can we!

Know anyone with a blank stone tablet and a sharp mason chisel?

Truly Terrorist?

My wife and I took a color ride through the Upper Pennisula of Michigan a couple weeks ago and I ran across a billboard declaring, “The NRA Is A Terrorist Organization”. It was sponsored by a group called MADDOGPAC. So being a lifetime member of the NRA, I looked up some info regarding this group when we got home.

On their website they declare, “With over 50 billboards and counting, Mad Dog PAC is building public opposition to Trump, Republicans in Congress, and the NRA.” They might as well have said, “We are pitting one half of the country against the other.”

They listed some of their other billboards such as, “Impeachment Now – Make America America Again”, “Ban Assualt Weapons”, “End The NRA”, and lots of specific attack ad billboards against current candidates they disagree with. (RE: Republican)

Politics has become extremely polarized so much so that I have family members who will not talk to me. And I am not a democrat or republican. I am an anarcho/libertarian leaning independent. I am sure my situation is duplicated all over the country.

The sad thing is this vitriolic hate should not be directed at Democrats or Republicans but at the philosophy within the party structure which says the other side can have no good ideas, the philosophy that if the democrats are for something, the republicans have to be against it.

I go farther than this. The philosophy that there are only two sides to the questions and problems that plague America and the world today is wrong. But the party structure only allows for 2 sides as currently set up. If it allowed for 3 parties or 4 parties or 5 parties, then the power and the money that follows election politics would be less for everyone.  Also if there were members of 5 parties in Congress, even less would get done than gets done currently. If two parties cannot agree, how can five? Now there is an idea whose time has come!

Here is my billboard, “GRIDLOCK IS GREAT!” What they can’t do can’t hurt me!

The Fed’s Foolish Foulup

In a recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle it was reported that Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, said Tuesday he sees no need to drop the central bank’s current gradual approach to raising interest rates. He further said that the combination of steady, low inflation and very low unemployment shows the country is going through “extraordinary times.”

I have a question for Mr. Powell, “If indeed these are extraordinary times with unemployment and inflation near record lows, why don’t you just leave the economy the hell alone?” After all it was the monetary policies of the Fed that caused the massive unemployment and inflation of the 70’s. Have they rally gotten any better at this? I don’t think so. The current thriving economy is not thriving because of the Fed. It is thriving in spite of the Fed.

Let’s get rid of the Federal Reserve system. Let’s get rid of the Treasury Department. Let’s get rid of the politicians that screwed with the housing market in the recent past allowing housing purchases with nothing down causing a crisis which damn near crippled our economy through record foreclosures and personal bankruptcies, bank closings and consolidations. Let’s get rid of Washington. They don’t know what is good for Wisconsin or Nebraska or Kansas. Let’s get rid of a 50% or higher tax rate. If you think I am exaggerating just add up all the taxes you pay – Federal and State income taxes , sales taxes, inheritance, gasoline, and real estate taxes, etc., etc., etc. Let’s get rid of every government bureaucracy that says we cannot use a plastic straw or grocery bag. Let’s get rid of a court system that puts people in jail for smoking pot but lets murderers out early because of jail crowding. Let’s get rid of the constant state of war with nations half way around the world.

So what is left? Free people, that’s what – living together and working together to solve the problems that they currently look to Washington to solve. There might be some bumps and hurdles. There are bumps and hurdles now. Who cares? The bureaucracy would be gone. Justice would be pure. War would not be used to protect special interests. You know – “…entangling alliances with none” (from Jefferson’s first inaugural address).

So what is left? The American spirit of inventiveness and innovation is left – that spirit which fueled the greatest leap in the standard of living for the little man, the forgotten man, that the world has ever known.

So what is left? I am left, a nation of one, an individual whose rights are guaranteed not by Washington or even the Constitution but by the Creator of all, a man who by nature is allowed to protect himself, his family, his neighbors, his property, by whatever means is necessary, and a man whose Lockean property can be taken by no one for any reason.

Government is an anachronism made unnecessary by the abuse of power free people have granted them. Let those bureaucrats earn an honest living for once.