Disappointing Halloween turnout and participation. Bear and I walked the neighborhood while my wife dispensed candy favors. I would estimate no more than eighty children wandered the streets. Usually, we have over a hundred children come to our door. Of the more than forty houses lining the streets of our block, only ten were lights on, open, and accepting trick-or-treaters. Not a single black or Hispanic household participated. All the participating homes were white, excepting one Asian household. I understand that some Christian churches frown on Halloween as pagan holiday, so their parishioners might not participate. (Four of our black neighbors have never participated.) With one or two exceptions, however, all the children going door to door were black or Hispanic. Why would so many black and Hispanic families turn aside from black and Hispanic children having such fun? Five years ago, nearly all the houses on one street that sides our block participated, with households putting out tables of punch and home-made treats and family members wearing costumes to welcome the children. Now, only one household went to such efforts to entertain the trick-or-treaters. (The father and their daughter hid behind bushes outside the house. When children approached the porch, where the grandfather dispensed candies, the father and daughter would stick their hands out of the bushes and howl softly, wo-o-o-o-o-o-o, startling the children. The mother, wearing a costume from the "Lost" show, stood at the curb with their dog, carrying a backpack, to welcome the children.) What has happened? Is this lack of participation only in my neighborhood? Is it the recession? Candy is very expensive, certainly, and maybe families don't have the money to hand it out. Is it a national reaction to Obama? Deflated, disspirited, disillusioned. Lights out everywhere. Definitely, not a good sign for Obama's supposed era of "hope and change".
The Democrats in Congress are cock-sure they can understand, reform, and regulate the entire, mixed private-public, US health care system.
The Federal Government is already the major player, with Medicare, Medicaid, VA, military, Chip, SSI, workers compensation, and, who really knows, other health regulation and subsidy programs. Now the Democrats want to include all medical care within their purview. How can anyone encompass in the entire amalgam? The answer is, no one can. But the Democrats and the Left believe that more commissions and (to use that ugly word Obama loves) czars, acting with arbitrary authority to set regulations, will be able to do so.
To the current health care system, the Democrats now wish to add new entitlements through legislation that runs, depending upon which committee bill is being discussed, between 1500 and 1900 pages of law. If this monstrosity gets enacted, the law will be transformed by Congressional offices into a set of regulations that will run in print thousands of pages more. Once in operation, administrative decisions based on the regulations will be challenged, leading to court decisions, which will add thousands of printed cases relevant to the administration of the regulations, to the rights of citizens in the health care system, and to the arbitrary authority of the governmental managers. An entire specialized practice of the law will have to spring up to provide counsel to the administrators, the consumers, and others involved in health care.
Herbert Spencer once derided the notion that an administrative state could run, by the command structure of administration, a complicated economy by asking his readers to imagine running the economy of London. Imagine putting into printed regulations every single decision and movement of every resident, regarding every economic and social act and transaction, every price, every sale, every purchase. It is unimaginable. Only free markets can organize such a vast, complex economy. Yet it is precisely this kind of totalitarian command administration of health care that the Democratic Party wishes to impose on America.
Where do the Democrats get their confidence that they can successfully frame legislative law, administrative regulations, and administrative law to organize the minutia of disease research, pharmaceutical production and distribution, medical practice, mental health practice, dental practice, patient treatment, well-health maintenance, administration of social, natural, and workplace environments for safety and health, the social decisions related to chronic diseases, degenerative diseases, and end-of-life care, and set fees and compensations for this vast economy?
Do the Democrats get their confidence from a study of history? No. Do they get their confidence from the advice and consent of economists? No. Do they get their confidence from personal experience in practicing medicine or administrating medical care? No. Do they get their confidence from any empirical scientific study of the health care system? No.
Then from where do they obtain their confidence? From two sources. First, from Marxist, socialist ideology. Obama is a true believer. The Left are true believers. Most liberals are true believers in some vague version of it. That source is simple foolishness. Second, from the legal fact that they have the power to pass such laws. That source is brute arrogance.
The Democrats' project shall surely fail. Will inevitably fail. The quality of everybody's health care will fall. Why? Because it bears no relationship to reality of the complexity of health care. And because it bears no relationship to the limited capability of the human mind intellectually to organize such complexity.
What shall the Democrats say then, when the results of their grand scheme don't meet their predictions? What shall they say when whole sectors of health care collapse? Here the scary part gets scarier. They will say, they must simplify reality so that it can fit into their scheme. How to simplify the reality of medical care? End the private-public mix. Put all health and medical care of any and all kinds into a single administrative system. Make all doctors and health care workers employees of the government. Nationalize all hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, neighborhood clinics. Give everyone exactly the same care, making all care "free" by ending all personal and employer payment, and having the federal government pay for all care. Then get the money to pay for all this health care by confiscating, say, 30% of everyone's gross income.
Briefly put, the only answer the Democrats will have to the question of how to make reality fit our limited, human intelligence and capabilities is a totalitarian communism of health care. That won't work either; it didn't work in any communist society, not the Soviet Union, not Communist China, not in Cuba (want to wait three years for your "free" prescription glasses?). But by the time that failure is clear to all, all the current politicians will be dead. They won't care then. And they don't care now.
We shall all suffer from their foolishness and arrogance. We will lose quality health care. We will lose our freedom.
Obama has touted his green energy plans as more than just an expensive, partial replacement for other sources of electricity; he promised it would create new industries and be a jobs stimulator. I warned that it would likely do little to do either. The wind turbine industry is dominated by foreign manufacturers, who are in a better position than American wind turbine makers, even GE, to bid for new contracts. Federal subsidy--our tax dollars--for wind-born electricity will generate jobs, uh, huh--jobs in foreign factories. Case in point: A 36,000 acre wind farm development in Texas will buy Chinese turbines. China looks forward to expanding the US market for its turbines. (Rebecca Smith, "Chinese-Made Turbines Will Fill Texas Wind Farm," The Wall Street Journal, Friday, October 30, 2009, A7.) I'm sure it does, and is wildly optimistic, what with Captain Know-Nothing and his pack of ideological fools in the White House.
Honestly! Our Secretary of State dresses in such poor taste, wearing clothing that does nothing to flatter her, nothing to lend dignity to her demeanor, nothing to provide authority of office to her mission. Her cosmetic makeup is always age-inappropriate. She should throw away the red lipsticks. She always looks to be on the verge of disintegrating into discombobbled frumpiness. Couldn't some wealthy supporters of this woman, from her presidential campaign, fund a nonprofit trust to hire a fashion consultant for her? She should stop embarrassing America.
President Obama went to Dover Air Force Base last night to be among the reception party and grieving families who waited and received eighteen fallen American soldiers. I applaud his doing so, but fault his manner. He took the press along to photograph him "paying honor" to those soldiers and thereby deprived them of the honor. He made himself, rather than them, the center of attention. He transformed a solemn moment into a political moment, as if the return of the slain warriors was the same as a Fourth of July parade. He belittled himself, misunderstanding what was required of him.
We have a Halloween economy. It's scary, there are spooks and ghouls behind every door and around every corner. And the US government's efforts to protect us from this fiendish holiday yield only tricks, tricks everywhere. Let's look at the scary news:
There are indications that the stock market rally of the first half of the year was a "suckers' rally": The economy is not going to grow sufficiently over the next five years, and companies have downsized about all they can, for companies to produce the profits to support share prices.
Not only will the "recovery" of the economy from the recession be "jobless", it will be "job loss" (as one financial advisor said--sorry I can't recall the source). Instance: Caterpillar announced that it will rehire perhaps as many as 500 laid off workers, but will reduce manufacturing employment by 5000 workers. That experience will be repeated across the industrial sector, as the motor vehicle manufacturers continue their contraction.
Taxpayer paid bailouts of big companies will continue, simply to keep them afloat; GM is asking and will receive billions more--call it make-work project for the auto workers union.
Small business formation continues to fall. And increasing small business formation is required for increases in private employment. The liberals have no idea how to aid small business; increasing the SBA's funding for guaranteeing bank business loans is not adequate.
After some increases, new home sales are down. Congress is considering extending the first-time buyers home credit of $8000; but it is not clear that this has any appreciable economic impact on maintaining the home market over a year or two.
A foreclosure crisis is coming to the commercial real estate business.
Wages are stagnant or falling.
And facing us in the near future, from 2010 to 2014, if Obama's and the Democratic Party's major policies pass: A horrendous increase in taxes on all families, which taxes will largely involve transfer of money to mostly nonproductive sectors of the economy:
End of the Bush tax cuts
Energy costs increases due to carbon cap and trade
Health insurance premiums increased on everyone (1)
Income tax increases
Americans know that these tax increases are coming, if Obama's proposals become law, and they are hunkering down, not taking loans for or spending new money on projects, because they know tax increases will diminish their capability to pay for them.
Why are government actions tricks, rather than the treats Congress and the President want them to be? Because the rationale for them is grounded in Leftist ideology and special interest politics, rather than in an understanding of market economics. The treats are favors to groups that donated large sums to the Democratic Party. The treats ease the pain of the recession for those groups, but simply shuffle welfare money around, without providing fuel to grow the economy.
The only government actions that had a positive effect were the emergency action taken to stop the electronic run on the nation's major banks and investment houses on September 11, 2008 and the subsequent infusion of capital into those institutions to keep them afloat. That helped everybody. But notice that TARP was not used to sanitize toxic assets, i.e., the bad mortgages whose default and foreclosure destroyed the balloon of the mortgage securities system. The housing and financial industries are still bleeding, with no sign that the cancer of toxic assets has been defeated.
The recent modest expansion of the GDP, which indicates the economy is bottoming, if not growing, is a misleading statistic. It is being heralded by the Democratic Party and the President, because they want the public to believe that their policies are responsible for "saving" the economy and putting it back on a growth track. Few economists agree. The expansion of economic activity is a stage in the business cycle, economists say, mostly increased production and purchase of goods to restock depleted inventories in consumer stores and business services. But this replenishing of inventory will soon cease without a sudden broad-based burst of economic growth accompanied by an increase of consumer spending. And nobody is predicting that. Indeed, there is reasonable concern that the holiday season will not see a large increase in consumer spending; and that after the holidays overstocked inventories will end restocking, production will decline.
The fundamental distortions in the economy remain unresolved. Until they are resolved, the economy cannot grow strongly. All that will grow is the federal government and the special interest groups whom it favors by confiscating taxpayer money and giving it to them.
Amidst pundits, politicians, and the public, the opinion is occasionally now expressed that the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth fighting, or worth fighting only if we have reliable "partner" in a "democractically" elected Afghan government, or only if it looks like an Afghanistan nation, capable of defending itself, is taking shape. Some of this opinion is sadly offered by Republicans or conservatives who are prepared to sack Obama, as the Democrats did Bush in Iraq, now that it is Obama's war. Some of the opinion is offered by the Left, which is always sad to see a totalitarian party kept out of power. Whatever the affiliation and motive, the opinion is, in terms of America's national interest in foreign relations, dead wrong. The Afghanistan War remains the high priority it was immediately after 9-11 for the same reason it did then. If we do not control the ground in Afghanistan, it will be controlled by the Taliban. And the Taliban remain bad actors. If they return to power, they will return to their old tricks. Their old tricks are: giving safe haven to Al Qaeda and the terrorist enemies of the US, and aiding the Pakistani Taliban in toppling the Pakistan government in favor of an Islamist controlled state. Pakistan's role as a prolific and leading international breeder of terrorists (as most of Britain's terrorists appear to be from "Asia", which is how the Brits refer to Pakistan) would be greatly expanded.
The Taliban of Afghanistan and of Pakistan are Jihadist terrorists who are, it needs to be repeated, committed to values and actions that are anti-Western, anti-democratic, anti-women, anti-freedom, anti-capitalism, anti-free market, anti-religious freedom, anti-semitic, anti-Israel, and pro-violent conquest of infidels. They are committed to producing another 9-11 in America, and more similar spectacular mass murders of civilians in Britain, Spain, German, Italy, and France.
A Taliban victory in Afghanistan, the loss of significant territories of Pakistan to the Talibann, or the complete lost of Pakistan to Islamists, would put in place a crescent of American enemies spreading from Pakistan in the East to Iran in the West, jumping over Iraq, to Syria next to Israel. It would likely put Pakistan's nukes in Islamist hands. It would empower Islamist forces in states such as Libya and Algeria and Indonesia. It would encourage Islamist forces further south in Africa. An axis of Islamist evil, to resurrect a worthy phrase, would greatly increase the difficulties of protecting America and for America to protect, as is our obligation, Europe and the UK.
As after 9-11, the US must deny to these enemies the huge powerful base of operations that Afghanistan and Pakistan would constitute if we walk away from this war without securing victory. And victory must be defined as defeating the Taliban and A-Q and other Jihadist groups so they cannot obtain a base of national power in middle Asia.
Our neighborhood streets were empty. City lights dimmed and pulled aside, like theater curtains, to reveal the evening. The night air was crystalline and soft with a warm Santa Ana breeze.The black and blue sky at ten rose overhead as a vaulted roof above the columns of trees lining the streets. Adjacent suburban yards shrank back behind their sheltering grass, gardens, fences, and flowers. The houses were to all appearances empty. No one passed before lights in living rooms. And no one came out to walk the streets with my dog and me. No cars passed us by. The quiet evoked meditation. Bear's nose was to the ground, but my eyes were on the stars. I was filled with gentle wonder. Tomorrow would be our birthdays. My daughter and I share birthdays. She was born on mine when I was twenty-eight years old. A portentous gift. From God? When I was young, I was an atheist and wouldn't have said, from God. But now, I find the word, the religious vocabulary, and religious feelings occur unbidden to me. A grand liturgy is needed to express the grandeur of life and love. Religious liturgy is the only repository of such devotional lyric. So began thirty-nine years ago life's journey of my daughter and me. Walking Bear in this cathedral scene, I was suffused with humble gratitude, that my daughter should have been born, and that I should have lived so long to share her love and life. It is more than luck. Happy Birthday!