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Posts Tagged ‘Greed’

Climate Change in George Will’s Words

Posted by Steve Markowitz on February 19, 2014

Syndicated columnist George Will was on Chris Wallace’s talk show this past weekend and ably articulated the real motivations behind many of the zealots who have closed the book and their minds on reasonable debate concerning the causes of climate change.  As has been said on many occasions, when in doubt, follow the money.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMYshWO5kHk#t=32

Posted in Global Warming | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fear and Greed Index Reaches New Highs

Posted by Steve Markowitz on January 28, 2013

CNNMoney publishes what a “Fear and Greed Index”.  This index, which is determined by a combination of seven major stocks and bonds indicators, has reached a record high of 92.  As this number gets higher, so too is the level agreed.  To put the current 92 into perspective, a number of 50 indicating neutral bias, with the fear level sinking to a low 12 in September 2008.

It is not surprising that equities are currently reaching highs not seen in years.  Increasing greed pushes investors to take ever larger risks.  As long as the market continues upward, happiness abound.  However, at some point the markets became or become a bubble that will deflate causing pain.  While this is normal in capitalism, too many now look to the government for bailouts, which then create a feedback loop causing ever larger bubbles.

The Wall Street Journal posted a troubling article last week titled Pensions Bet Big With Private Equity.  According to the Journal, some pension funds have morphed into the high risk venture capitalist business.  For example, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas has $114 billion in assets and has invested a significant portion, $30 billion, in private equity and real estate in the last five years.

The reason for the pension funds risky behavior is government intervention into finance markets.  In an effort to stimulate the economy, the Fed pushed interest rates to historic lows where they remain today.  These low returns caused pension funds to miss their actuarial return rates requiring either cuts in benefits or an increased infusion of cash by members.  Neither action is equitable for the parties involved so they have instead taken the high risk investment approach in an effort to increase returns.  This is a very dangerous approach for pension funds, one that has been historically avoided to ensure engineers safety.  Should markets take another downturn, the results will be disastrous.  It is likely under this scenario that should they look for a government bailout, the funds available from a government that is already so far in debt.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.  Governmental interventions have consequences.

Fear And Greed

Posted in economics, Governmental Intervention | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Time for the Boomers to Move Aside

Posted by Steve Markowitz on May 29, 2012

One thesis often proffered by this Blog is the mess that the Baby Boomer generation has made of society.  A generation that started by defining itself as being one to give back more than it takes, has instead become the generation that and demands instant gratification.  The Boomers are demand that the government to fill its every desires.  There is no better proof of the selflessness of the Baby Boomers than the huge deficits we have run up that has stolen wealth from future generations, our own children.

Demographer and author Neil Howe is well-known for predictions on generational changes of more contemporary times.  Howell this year delivered the commencement address at University of Mary Washington that not only puts the Baby Boomers in perspective, but also what can be expected of the current rising generation, the Millennial.

Howe nails it.  Shame on us Boomers.  And yes, shame on the Generation Xers.

To the Class of 2012, Neil Howe

At a commencement address, speakers often go on too long.  This I won’t do.  I may not succeed as well as Salvador Dali, who famously delivered the world’s shortest speech, only four seconds long. He announced at the podium: “I will be so brief I have already finished,” and then sat down.

Commencement speakers also like to intone about “today’s youth generation.”  And this is fine.  Except that they then go on to talk at length about their own experiences in their own youth and tell you: Because this worked for me in my generation, it will work for you in yours.  This should alert you that these speakers have no idea what a generation is.

Let me clarify.  A generation is a group of people who share a basic outlook on life shaped by their common age location in history, their common “generational setting.”  The renowned sociologist Karl Mannheim called this “eine Generationslagerung,” which I promise you is both the longest word—and the only German word—that you will hear from me.

“Youth,” on the other hand, is just an age bracket.  It’s like an empty hotel room that different generations move into with their own baggage, and then soon leave.  Sometimes that room swells with sweet music, sometimes it throbs with death metal, and sometimes it’s utterly silent.  But it’s never the same.

Bottom line: All of you Boomer and Generation X parents are essentially unlike your children—and were not the same even when you were kids.  And you Millennial Generation graduates are essentially unlike your parents—and will not become like them as you grow older.

So how, exactly, are you different?  Well, start with the obvious: pop culture.  Believe it or not, parents, your kids have never known that America, Chicago, and Kansas are the names of rock bands, not just places. Or what about technology?  Ever notice the blank stares when you tell them roll up the window, turn the channel, or dial a number? Or what about current events?  For as long as Millennials can remember, NATO has been looking for a mission, China has been peacefully rising, Brazil has been building shopping malls, and Boomers Bill O’Reilly and David Letterman have been hating on each other in plain view of millions.

Now these markers are interesting, but if there’s one big idea I want you to take away from my remarks, it’s that generational differences go much deeper.

Consider.

You Millennials grew up in an era of rising parental protection, never knowing a time without bicycle helmets, electric plug covers, Amber Alerts, and fifteen different ways to be buckled into your minivan seat. We, the parents, grew up in an era of declining parental protection: Our moms and dads told us, “We don’t care where you go so long as you’re home for dinner.”  As for seatbelts, we were told if there’s an accident to just throw up our hands to protect our heads.  As kids, we never saw a “Baby on Board” sticker. “Baby Overboard” would have been more appropriate.

You Millennials were raised to be special—very special—and to trust your counselors, support groups, and smart drugs to keep you feeling pretty good about the world, like a Sims character having just the right digital balance.  We, the parents, knew we weren’t very special, didn’t trust anyone to advise us, and thought staying away from counselors was a sign of toughness.  When you came to college, there were long orientations and immersions, and many of your parents clutched teddy bears and wept.  When we came to college, we jumped out of the car and tried to grab our suitcases before our parents sped off.

You Millennials were raised to be team players—and you are, with community service, group projects in the classroom, and clubs for everything.  And, above all, you are team players with digital technology that connects you all to each other on Facebook, and smartphones that you take to bed with you. We, the parents, were a lot more into competition, rebellion, and defying the mainstream.  We did not “friend” each other. Our generation invented the “personal” computer.  Personal, as in “mine and not yours,” and certainly not part of the corporate mainframe our own parents bequeathed to us.  Growing up, our biggest fear was that Big Brother might someday install cameras in our rooms.  Our biggest joy was hearing Steve Jobs announce that ” 1984 won’t be like 1984.”  And now, our biggest surprise has been to see our kids connect with each other by installing their own cameras in their own rooms!

As a generation, you Millennials have a surprisingly conventional outlook on life.  Surveys show that as you grow older you wish to become good citizens, good neighbors, and well-rounded people who start families.  Violent youth crime, teen pregnancy, and teen smoking have recently experienced dramatic declines, and for that we congratulate you.

Most startling of all, the values gap separating youth from their parents has virtually disappeared.  You watch the same movies as your parents, buy the same brand-name clothing, talk over personal problems with them—and, yes, feel just fine about moving back in with them.  When I travel around the country, I often ask people now in their 40s or 50s how many songs on their iPod overlap with what’s on their kids’ iPods.  The typical answer is 30 to 40 percent. Let me tell you, back in my days on campus (later known as “the days of rage”), we did not have iPods, but if we had, the overlap would have been absolutely zero.  Everything about our youth culture was intentionally hostile and disrespectful of our parents.  That was the whole idea.

People sometimes ask me, “What does it mean that one generation is different from another—that Millennials, for example, are different from the Boomers or Gen Xers who raised them? Does it mean that some generations are better than others?”  And I say: No. There is no such thing as a good or bad generation.  Every generation is what it has to be, given the environment it encounters when it enters the world.  History shows that whatever collective personality a new generation brings with it is usually what society needs at the time.  As such, youth generations tend to correct for the excesses of the midlife generation in power, and they tend to refill the social role being vacated by the older generation who is disappearing.

To avoid speaking in code, let me rephrase this as follows.  The Millennial Generation is correcting for the excesses of Boomers and Gen Xers who today run America.  I need not remind you what those excesses are: leadership gridlock, refusal to compromise, rampant individualism, the tearing down of traditions, scorched-earth culture wars, and a pathological distrust of all institutions.

The Millennial Generation is also reprising many of the hallmarks of the original G.I. Generation, the so-called “Greatest Generation,” who are now passing away.  Like the Millennials, the G.I.s grew up as protected children and quickly turned into optimistic, consensus-minded team players who, in the dark days of the 1930s and ‘40s, saved our nation from turning in the wrong direction at the wrong time.

Igor Stravinsky once wrote that every generation declares war on its parents and makes friends with its grandparents.  Yet again, that has happened.

So all of you parents out there: Be proud of this new generation.  They aren’t like you, but they are what America now needs.  They don’t complain about the storm clouds looming over their fiscal, economic, and geopolitical future; they try to stay positive.  They don’t want to bring the system down; they’re doing what they can to make it work again.  They worry about you a lot.  And they want to come together and build something big and lasting, something that will win your praise. Beneath their tolerant, optimistic, networked, and risk-averse exterior lie attitudes and habits that may prove vital for our country’s healing and for our country’s future.

No one knows what challenges this Millennial Generation may eventually be asked to bear.  Hardly anyone expects them to become America’s next “Greatest Generation.”  But someday you can say you heard it from me: That is their destiny, to rescue this country from the mess to which we, the older generations, have contributed, perhaps a bit more than we ever intended—and, in so doing, to become a great generation indeed.

Thank you.

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Forbes Magazine Reports on Climategate 2

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 26, 2011

Challenge a believer in the theory of man-made global warming (excessive CO2 emissions) and they will likely respond by claiming that the case for cause-and-effect is closed.  They back this conclusion with the claim that most scientists are behind the theory.  While in fact many scientists do not believe the case is closed on the cause of changing global temperatures, more than half have likely signed onto the theory.

Claiming that a theory is valid based on its popularity or acceptance in the scientific community has a less than stellar history.  Before Copernicus and Galileo, nearly all of the best minds in science were sure that the sun circled the earth.

For a more recent example of the scientific community getting it wrong we need only go back about 12 years.  Then, most of the best minds in science were sure that when the year 2000 came around, computers and equipment controlled by them would go haywire, i. e. the “Y2K” crisis.  Tens, if not hundreds of billions, were spent on remedial actions throughout industrialized countries.  January 1, 2000 came and not a blip occurred.  While apologists claimed that this happy ending resulted from the remedial actions taken, the fact that Third World countries that took no corrective actions also did not have a hick-up proves the fallacy of this claim.  This modern-day example of the failure of science on Y2K issue, one that was astronomically simpler than the subject of Global Warming, should have put a halt to the lemming mentality of following the crisis of the day prognostications.  But it did not.

In addition, in what became known as Climategate, key scientists were caught fudging data in order to support the theory of man-made global warming and CO2 emissions.  This was the subject of previous postings in this Blog: Global Warming- Fraud Exposed and Climategate Scandal Grows.

Now, Forbes magazine has published an op-ed titled Climategate 2.0: New E-Mails Rock The Global Warming Debate exposing still more deceptive behavior by scientists promoting the man-made global warming theory.  At the very least this is evidence of bad science.  More likely, tells of a concerted efforts to deceive.  The motivation behind the deception is no different than what motivates Wall Street; greed and profit.  The academic community and large industrial companies have huge stakes in continued governmental spending that will dry up should the Global Warming theory be debunked.  The Solyndra debacle that cost US taxpayers over a half billion dollars is just one example of this greed being acted on.

The case for manmade global warming and CO2 emissions has not been proven and remains theoretical, based on complex, but only representative mathematical models.  If the science could be proven, there would be no need to for parties with vested interests in the outcome to fudge the data.

When faced with reasonable logic that questions the manmade/CO2 Global Warming theory, its proponents fall back on the argument the potential catastrophes from Global Warming require drastic action today.  However, the suggested actions will increase the cost of food to the point where poorer countries will face growing hunger and even starvation.  And that’s just fine for the “believers” as it would result to their real goal: redistribution of the world’s wealth.  Shame on the scientist who have bastardized science in for greed and political gain.

Posted in Climate Change, Global Warming | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Teachers, Tenure, NFL and Wall Street

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 31, 2011

Discussions relating to the challenges state and municipal governments face often include the cost of education.  While most Americans agree that the educational process needs repairs, proposed actions are debated.

Those on the Left often express the belief that the educational system can be improved by throwing more money at it.  For example, President Obama suggested including billions more for “public school modernization” in his latest jobs plan.  This is in the time-honored Progressive tradition that proffers that any societal ill can be cured by government spending.  If only it was so easy!

The main school of thought is that America’s education problems are more systemic that include a breakdown of family and a corrupt philosophy within unions that rewards teachers for years of service, rather than performance.  This Blog adheres to this view.

Hall of Fame quarterback, Fran Tarkenton, retired from the NFL (National Football League) in 1978 after 17 terrific years.  He has since been an entrepreneur and adviser on small business education.  Tarkenton published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal some weeks ago titled What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules? that looks into the problems of public education.  To make a point, he interposes the method of compensation and promotion for teachers and NFL players saying: “Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality.  Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league.  It’s about tenure, not talent.  The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. … “.  The result of such lunacy is easy to understand.  Under such a system the NFL would at best offer a mediocre product that few would be willing to purchase and the league would ultimately disappear.

For those like President Obama who claim that more money can address the problem of education, Tarkenton offers the following statistics in rebuttal:

  • Inflation-adjusted spending per student in the Unites States has tripled since 1970.
  • America spends more per student than any other Western country except Switzerland.
  • Spending on buildings and equipment for schools has doubled since 1989, even after being adjusted for inflation.

Tarkenton correctly concludes that one problem with America’s educational system is the method by which its employees are compensated.  Teachers are not rewarded on results or efforts, but merely for years on the job, have little incentive to excel.  Worse, poor teachers who have no fear of being terminated for performance continue to teach to the determent of students.

America’s corruptive compensation practices are not only found in public education and the problem is broader than the way unions demand compensation for members.  For example, there is rightfully much angst being expressed by the Occupy Wall Street movement relating to Wall Street’s compensation for some of the same executives that helped create the Country’s ongoing financial mess.

The federal government played a role in creating Wall Street’s outrageous compensation packages.  First, starting in the late 1990’s, it and the Federal Reserve bailed out Wall Street with historically low interest rates every time the economy slowed down.  This led to bubbles and a belief on Wall Street that there was little risk in their increasing risky behavior.  Had the government let the recessions occur, i.e. required market corrections, during this ten-year period, Wall Street banks would have had poor profit years that would not only have tempered compensation packages, but more importantly tempered their willingness to make what were outrageously risky investments.

The government’s response to the 2008 financial meltdown was even more outrageous, bailing out the very people who caused the crisis.  However, instead of making these capitalist pay the ultimate price for their gross failures, the destruction of their companies, the government bailed them out.  That allowed the same executives to retain their jobs with outrageous compensation packages at the expense of the American taxpayer.  This grotesque crony capitalism started under the Bush Administration and continues under Obama.

Examples of compensation inequities in America are many.  These inequities have intensified in recent years not because of greed or capitalism, but because of peoples’ ability to act on that greed.  This increasing ability to act on greed has been enhanced by unnatural market manipulations that range from union demands for government workers, to governmental bailouts of huge banks and companies.  Unless these unnatural market manipulations are addressed (stopped) the problem of the inequities will continue.  Unfortunately those that govern will instead likely create still more interventions to repair their earlier interventions, which will only exasperate the problems.  This madness will continue until a transformational leader emerges with the guts to break the ties between power groups and those that govern.

Posted in Bailouts, Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Occupy Wall Street Mob

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 7, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street gatherings are attempting to create an identity.  As with any mob, they hide behind noble sounding goals and create scapegoats for the ills they want addressed.  However, as the onion is peeled back, it is evident that greed plays a significant role in what motivates this group and has allowed them to be manipulated by the Leftist revolutionaries that took control of the youth movements in the 1960’s.

The Country continues in a lengthy and nasty recession brought on by a credit bubble that popped and took the housing bubble with it.  Since then, the economy has been in the midst of deleveraging of the excessive debt built up for over a decade.  Quite simply, deleveraging means less money in the economy.  While the knuckleheads in Washington continue to promise pain-free solutions to the deleveraging, that is just not possible.  Less money means less wealth for America and its people, period!

The Occupy Wall Streeters where all too happy to play the game with the bankers and government that created the bubble economy as long as that meant easy to get student loans, food stamps and other government grants that would ultimately lead to a cushy job.  Only after these benefits are no longer available does the righteous indignation begin.  How convenient.  How greedy.

Some on the Right have drawn a line in the sand that does not allow for any tax increases.  America has created too much debt for that dog to hunt.  The aggregate amount of taxes collected will need to increase to bring America’s debt under control.  And yes, that means wealthier Americans will be paying more taxes.  However, that must be done through tax code simplification and elimination of all deductions; not by increasing the tax rates.  Also, a VAT tax may need to be considered.

The elimination of tax deductions would stop wealthier Americans and corporations from drinking from the trough of government handouts.  At the same time, those that pay no taxes will need to start paying into the system and those receiving benefits from the government will have to accept less, and that includes the entitlement programs too!  Americans benefited from the bubble economy in some ways.  All will need to share in the pain that required with deleveraging.

The Occupy Wall Streeters preach anarchy and revolution.  This is but subterfuge for their true motivation; greed.  While these college educated protesters didn’t spend much time in the economics classrooms, they understand that there is lees in the pot and their goal is to insure that they get their cut at the expense of others.

Ann Coulter is a lawyer and author from the Right.  While often caustic to the point of interfering with open discourse, she published a piece posted below on the Occupy Wall Streeters that makes worthy comparisons and conclusions.  Emphases have been added to it by this Blog.  Clearly the agenda for this mob is self-preservation, greed.  We Baby Boomers, the children of the sixties, taught them well.

This is What a Mob Looks Like, by Ann Coulter

I am not the first to note the vast differences between the Wall Street protesters and the tea partiers.  To name three: The tea partiers have jobs, showers and a point.

No one knows what the Wall Street protesters want – as is typical of mobs.  They say they want Obama re-elected, but claim to hate “Wall Street.”  You know, the same Wall Street that gave its largest campaign donation in history to Obama, who, in turn, bailed out the banks and made Goldman Sachs the fourth branch of government.

This would be like opposing fattening, processed foods, but cheering Michael Moore – which the protesters also did this week.

But to me, the most striking difference between the tea partiers and the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd – besides the smell of patchouli – is how liberal protesters must claim their every gathering is historic and heroic.

They chant: “The world is watching!” “This is how democracy looks!” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!”

At the risk of acknowledging that I am, in fact, “watching,” this is most definitely not how democracy looks.

Sally Kohn, a self-identified “community organizer,” praised the Wall Street loiterers on CNN’s website, comparing the protest to the Boston Tea Party, which she claimed, “helped spark the American Revolution,” adding, “and yes, that protest ultimately turned very violent.”

First of all, the Boston Tea Party was nothing like tattooed, body-pierced, sunken-chested 19-year-olds getting in fights with the police for fun. Paul Revere’s nighttime raid was intended exclusively to protest a new British tea tax.  (The Wall Street protesters would be more likely to fight for a new tax than against one.)

Revere made sure to replace a broken lock on one of the ships and severely punished a participant who stole some of the tea for his private use. Samuel Adams defended the raid by saying that all other methods of recourse – say, voting – were unavailable.

Our revolution – the only revolution that led to greater freedom since at least 1688 – was not the act of a mob.

As specific and limited as it was, however, even the Boston Tea Party was too mob-like to spark anything other than retaliatory British measures.  Indeed, it set back the cause of American independence by dispiriting both American and British supporters, such as Edmund Burke.

George Washington disapproved of the destruction of the tea. Benjamin Franklin demanded that the India Tea Co. be reimbursed for it.  Considered an embarrassment by many of our Founding Fathers, the Boston Tea Party was not celebrated for another 50 years.

It would be three long years after the Boston Tea Party when our founders engaged in their truly revolutionary act: the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

In that document, our Christian forebears set forth in blindingly clear terms their complaints with British rule, their earlier attempts at resolution and an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world for independence from the crown.

The rebel armies defending that declaration were not a disorganized mob, chanting slogans for the press and defacing public property.

Even the Minutemen, whose first scuffle with the British began the war, were a real army with ranks, subordination, coordination, drills and supplies.  There is not a single mention in the historical record of Minutemen playing hacky-sack, burning candles assembled in “peace and love,” or sitting in drum circles.

A British lieutenant-general who fought the Minutemen observed, “Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob will find himself very much mistaken.”

By contrast, the directionless losers protesting “Wall Street” – Obama’s largest donor group – pose for the cameras while uttering random liberal cliches lacking any reason or coherence.

But since everything liberals do must be heroic, the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd insists on comparing themselves to this nation’s heroes.

One told Fox News’ Bill Schulz: “I was born to be here, right now, the Founding Fathers have been passing down the torch to this generation to make our country great again.”

The Canadian environmental group behind Occupy Wall Street, Adbusters, has compared the Wall Street “revolutionaries” to America’s Founding Fathers. (Incidentally, those who opposed the American Revolution fled after the war to … Canada.)

The – again – Canadians exulted, “You sense they’re drafting a new Declaration of Independence.”

I suppose you only “sense” it because they’re doing nothing of the sort.  They say they want Mao as the president – as one told Schulz – and the abolition of “capitalism.

The modern tea partiers never went around narcissistically comparing themselves to Gen. George Washington.  And yet they are the ones who have engaged in the kind of political activity Washington fought for.

The tea party name is meant in fun, inspired by an amusing rant from CNBC’s Rick Santelli in February 2009, when he called for another tea party in response to Obama’s plan to bail out irresponsible mortgagers.

The tea partiers didn’t arrogantly claim to be drafting a new Declaration of Independence.  They’re perfectly happy with the original.

Tea partiers didn’t block traffic, sleep on sidewalks, wear ski masks, fight with the police or urinate in public.  They read the Constitution, made serious policy arguments and petitioned the government against Obama’s unconstitutional big government policies, especially the stimulus bill and Obamacare.

Then they picked up their own trash and quietly went home.  Apparently, a lot of them had to be at work in the morning.

In the two years following the movement’s inception, the tea party played a major role in turning Teddy Kennedy’s seat over to a Republican, making the sainted Chris Christie governor of New Jersey and winning a gargantuan, historic Republican landslide in the 2010 elections.  They are probably going to succeed in throwing out a president in next year’s election.

That’s what democracy looks like.

Posted in Government Handouts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Madoff Calls Victims “Greedy”

Posted by Steve Markowitz on February 28, 2011

In interviews from jail with reporter Steve Fishman, swindler Bernie Madoff continues to pontificate.  The most recent interview included Madoff saying:

  • Everyone was greedy.  I just went along.  It’s not an excuse.” – Unfortunately there is truth to Madoff’s dribble.  Without investor greed Madoff’s Ponzi scheme could not have worked.  With unheard of year-after-year returns of 12 – 15%, it took willing sheep to be sheered by the Ponzi professor.
  • The whole new regulatory reform is a joke.  The whole government is a Ponzi scheme.” – Again Madoff’s dribble rings true.  Those burnt by Madoff’s scheme were offered no protection from the many previously implemented governmental regulations, including the SarbanesOxley Act designed to protect investors.  And yes, Social Security managed by the government is a huge house-of-cards that is doomed to failure.

Madoff incredibly believes that he is a “good person“, coming to this conclusion based on his prison therapist who, according to Madoff, told him: “You’re absolutely not a sociopath.  You have morals.  You have remorse.”  While the reports of these words come from a convicted liar, it sounds like the type of psycho-babble we have heard so often from this feel-good profession.

Bernie Madoff is not a good person, period.  However, that should not stop society from listening and learning from such sociopaths.

 

Posted in Bernie Madoff | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Unions Beginning to Lose their Democrat Allies

Posted by Steve Markowitz on February 15, 2011

For years the Democrat Party has been the patron for organized labor.  Through a cozy relationship the Democrats backed unions through legislation and in return unions got out the vote and contributed money to the Party.

In earlier decades union power was concentrated in heavy industries including steel, automobiles and mining.  With unsustainable wages and burdensome work rules mandated by unions, these heavy industries were brought to their knees with many closing American facilities.  At their highpoint, union membership reached about 36% of the American workforce.  Today it has dropped to only about 12%.

The erosion of America heavy industries and its union members did not stop organized labor from attacking other targets to maintain its dues receipts.  They switched their sights to an easier mark, the public sector that was more resistant to competitive pressures since governments could raise taxes or sell bonds to pay union demands.  With the backing of the Democrat Party, unions steadily increased representation to about 37% of the public sector employees including teachers, fire fighters and policemen.

Until recently, governments found it easier to give into union workers’ demands and leave the resulting financial problems for the next elected officials to resolve.  That gig is now over.  With the financial meltdown and dropping tax receipts, as well as union employees’ pension obligations becoming unsupportable, governments are also being forced to cut costs.

Even some of organized labor’s long-term supporters are seeing the need for change.  For over 20 years Illinois’s current House Speaker, Democrat Michael Madigan, has been a strong union backer, continually endorsing increased pension benefits for state workers.  As late as 2003, Madigan backed a plan for the state to borrow $10 billion for its pensions.  Now, Illinois has funded less than 50% of its pension benefits has a $15 billion budget deficit .  This has led to the state raising its income tax to 5% from 3% and sell even more bonds.  Even Madigan has seen the light suggesting pension benefits be cut for current state workers, a move hotly contested by the unions. The reaction from public employee unions have been predictable union with one American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee spokesman saying: “It’s not only unjustified in fact, but it’s totally misdirected“.  Translation:  Let everyone else suffer so we can get ours.

Madigan is not the only Liberal politician seeing the writing on the wall.  Rahm Emanuel, running for mayor in the Chicago, indicated support for public employee givebacks.  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown have also gone in this direction.  These Leftists politicians have not abandoned their union allies due to any change in philosophies.  Instead they have no choice as the union pay
and benefits have taken some states and municipalities to the brink of insolvency, just as they did with heaven i
ndustry in previous decades.

Greed is a nearly universal trait of mankind, whether a banker or union worker.  As long as a balance is allowed to be maintained by market forces between supply and demand, no industry or individual will be able to take advantage of their greed in the long term.  Unions, like other forms of industrial monopolies, try to circumvent market forces for the advantage of their members.  It is the resulting distortions that have played major role in the downfall of America’s heavy industries and more recently municipal and state governments.  However, unlike America’s heavy industries that went out of business because of failed business practices, governments must continue to supply the people with basic services such as education and law enforcement.  This reality demands that public employees give up the right to have collective bargaining.

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Pastor DeForest Soaries’ Straight-talk

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 4, 2010

Earlier this week this Blog commended a member of the Jewish clergy, Rabbi Shlomo Lewis, for his straight-talk on terrorism.  The Rabbi’s message was even more courageous given that his tough message on terror was pointed to a community that typically has a Liberal bias.

Today, this Blog commends an African-American Baptist minister, Reverend DeForest Blake Soaries, Jr., for straight-talk of his own.  Pastor Soaries is the minster at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey.  His message, was also pointed to a community that typically has a Liberal bent and was included in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, link provide below.

Dr. Soaries starts to take on this difficult subject by starting with a discussion about fellow pastor, Bishop Eddie Long, of a megachurch in Atlanta, Georgia, who was recently involved in sexual abuse allegations.  But this sordid story was not the subject of Soaries’ comments.  Instead he attacked what he has called the “Prosperity Gospel” in black churches.  To quote Dr. Soaries:

It would be premature to judge the truth of these allegations, but it is not too soon to weigh in on his opulent lifestyle.”

If God were a cosmic Santa Claus, then the entire economic crisis could be brought to a halt by making our lists of needs and sending them to Him.  Reasonable people know that faith in God must be accompanied by responsible actions to achieve lasting prosperity.  Education, hard work and discipline are key components to any authentic prosperity plan.”

The problem of excessive greed is prevalent throughout our society and has been elevated to a higher ground by us spoiled Baby-Boomers.  Its prevalence was pronounced and glorified in the 1987 movie, Wall Street, by Gordon Gekko with his video clip provided below.  Our society would do well to put more stock in preachers like pastor Soaries.

Black Churches and the Prosperity Gospel, by DEFOREST B. SOARIES JR

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NASA’s Cadillac Healthcare Benefit Plan

Posted by Steve Markowitz on May 8, 2010

A few weeks ago the politicians in Washington made “Cadillac” medical benefit plans a subject of public discourse.  These deluxe plans are very expensive and offered only to a small minority of American workers.  The plans include soup-to-nuts coverage such as dental, eye glasses, etc.  The implication of the political discussion pursued by the Left was that these benefit plans were elitists and should therefore be subject to a special tax.

Given the politicos discussions about Cadillac healthcare plans we might not expect the government not to offer them to public employees.  But that logic doesn’t work with the elitist political class that now runs our country.  The Wall Street Journal reported that not only has NASA offered some employees and their families Cadillac healthcare plans, but its Chief offered the benefits to himself.  How convenient.  NASA Chief Charles Bolden requested coverage for medical, dental, and vision for life for astronauts and their families, and yes, Bolden himself.

Adding insult to injury was NASA’s response to the negative publicity that started to circulate because of this outrageous benefit for government employees.  NASA stated that the package “would not be envisioned as a benefit, but rather as a means to maximize former astronaut participation in long-term medical studies.  What doubletalk!  Sort of says what they think of the American peoples’ IQ’s.

The astronaut team includes great Americans.  However, that does not justify taking this advantage of the American people.  The greed and money grab is occurring at all levels of government including members of Congress who have their own special medical and retirement plans and access to private jets.

Not so long ago government employees traded higher pay and benefits for job security.  Now they not only have the security, but also better pay and benefits than their private counterparts.  It is time to lower this job security. Underperforming government employees need to be terminated and government agencies must learn to do more with less, just like private industry is being forced to do.  In addition, public employees’ compensation packages must be brought in line with those offered in private industry,

The Progressives are on a perpetual rant against the greed that is shown from the private sector.  Some of this is justified.  But when it comes to the largest corporation of them all, the US government, they lack any moral courage.  Various states including California are on the verge of insolvency due to excessive compensation packages for active and retried employees.  The only alternative to bankruptcy for these states are significant cuts to these costs.  Either the states and federal government will have the courage to implement these changes or they will be force on them, as they are now being forced on Greece.

Posted in Government Ineptness, Government Spendning, Healthcare, healthcare costs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »