The Social Contract of Lending: Hairbrushes and Rakes

It was just another Friday for the workers of the restaurant, so I felt foolish for almost squealing when Paula placed my first paycheck in my hand. I remember the sense of pride I felt when Paula, handed me the fruits of my labor. Paula didn’t last long at the restaurant, for reasons endemic to her character, but due to the fact that she was the one who handed me that paycheck, her face is enshrined in my personal Mount Rushmore of memories. The lessons my father and grandfather taught me about the value of a dollar might have been nothing more than a creative way they found to avoid giving me more money, but whatever it was their lessons did to me were born the day I received my first paycheck.

I was not a morning person back then. I didn’t greet the morning to be “healthy, wealthy and wise.” I wasn’t happy to be alive. I wanted more sleep. Back then, sleep was an inconvenient conclusion of the night, but a precious commodity in the morning. I told a fellow waiter about this in the break room of a restaurant we both worked in. I expected him to find my analysis humorous. He didn’t. “Don’t sleep your life away kid,” he said. He was old. He was happy to be alive. 

The morning of my first paycheck was different, however, and I knew it the moment I awoke. There was no mid-morning delirium, and the first words out of my mouth were not a swear. I couldn’t wait to throw my wonderfully warm blankets off and greet the day. I even had a mid-morning smile on my face, and that hadn’t happened since a certain someone ruined Christmas for me. I don’t remember the bus ride over to that restaurant, but I remember stepping off the city bus, knowing that my paycheck was waiting for me inside the restaurant.

I knew that the days of asking my father and grandfather for money were officially over. I was as free as a teenager could be. That day was the day I learned the power of the dollar, firsthand, and it is still one of the top ten greatest days of my life.

My first official purchase, with my money, was a hairbrush, and I considered it an against my father and grandfather’s claim that I would never learn the value of a dollar. My grandfather lived through The Depression, and my father lived in the aftermath of it, and they knew the value of a dollar and the subsequent scarcity of it better than I ever could. Their words went in one ear and out the other, until I cashed that first paycheck. Buying products with my own money, introduced me to the power of the dollar, but the more profound lesson I learned occurred soon after the intoxication with my financial freedom led me to blow that first paycheck in one weekend. I went from being a power player in control of my financial fate to the vulnerabilities inherent in being dead broke in the course of one weekend, and the only thing I had to show for it was a hairbrush.

My father and grandfather informed me that when I purchased a product, I was to care for it in such a way that extended its life cycle beyond generally accepted norms. Doing so, they said, paid homage to the cogs in the system that made that product available for my convenience. Caring for it also displayed a level of appreciation for the idea that I was only able to demand quality services from my fellow man by providing quality services to him. If I purchased a meal, for example, they suggested I should all but lick that plate clean in appreciation. If I purchased a rake, I was to hang that rake in such a manner that it wouldn’t fall off its peg, and/or collect any water that might cause rust. There was no excuse for a rake falling off a properly secured peg, in their world, and if it did, its rattling tone would reverberate throughout our genealogical tree. This newfound purchasing power, and the subsequent values inherent in the dollars I earned, taught me more about the power of the dollar than their theoretical lessons ever could.

Their lessons also suggested that while I should care for the products I purchased, I should show a level of reverence for the products another might lend me. If a man were generous enough to lend me his rake, in my time of need, not only was the rake not mine, it was not mine. I was to treat such a rake as if the Baby Jesus himself had once suckled it. Not only was I to return it in a timely manner, but I was to return it in the condition in which I received it, or replace it for the man if it was not. The horrible responsibility inherent in borrowing things from others has often led me to just purchase a brand new rake. If I were to encounter a moment of desperate need, without the resources necessary to purchase another one, it’s much less emotionally taxing on me to simply do without. 

Purchasing a new rake is not easy for me either, for doing so is a condemnation for how I treated the previous one. I would much rather use a rake that is not 100% productive than endure the personal embarrassment and remorse I experience when replacing one. Even if my standards and practices lead the productive lifespan of the lawn tool to last ten years beyond its life expectancy, I still experience a small scale Oskar Schindler dilemma when I throw away an old rake thinking there was something I could’ve and should’ve done better to extend the life of that old rake.

I know most people do not receive the philosophical training seminars on preservation and conservation I did, but when I decided to loan my beloved hairbrush to a friend, and he disrespected it, I considered him unprincipled. I worked hard for that hairbrush. It cost me approximately one half hour of manual labor. As a general practice, I didn’t keep that hairbrush in the family bathroom, fearing that others in my family might use it, ruin it, and alter its life expectancy. I knew where it was at all times, and I developed a spot for it that I thought might prevent me from losing it. When I did loan the brush to my best friend, I monitored his usage and stipulated terms of its usage. Once he no longer needed it, I told him, he was to return it in the manner I loaned it to him.

On a separate occasion, I loaned a Queen’s Greatest Hits cassette tape to another friend. Although this tape endured thousands of plays, over the years, its condition was excellent relative to usage. The friend I loaned it to managed to lose the plastic jewel case and the inner jacket sleeve within a week, and he had to spend another week locating the cassette tape. He never found the jewel case or the jacket, but he did manage to locate the tape. The friend didn’t offer to compensate me for my loss, or display any of the guilt that should’ve followed such an egregious violation. I would’ve considered this a reflexive response, he did not. When I informed him, in a heated argument, that I would be compensated, he said. “It’s just a cassette tape geez.”

“It’s my cassette tape,” I said, “and you do not dictate its usage.” He decided to compensate my for the loss later, much later, after I offered him a month’s long sampling of my father and grandfather’s many lessons on value, relative value, and the penalty of violating those standards in regards to his character. In the aftermath of this incident, my friend found it less stressful to buy the products he wanted, rather than borrow anything else from me.

The thing that still grates on me is that this friend who borrowed my cassette tape knew all the details of my hairbrush, and the friend to whom I loaned it. He even joined me in condemning my hairbrush friend. So, “It’s just a tape geez,” was what I considered a violation of a values I assumed he and I shared. I wasn’t sure if I should continue to befriend him if our values were too disparate, and I told him so. “It’s just a tape geez,” he said, and he added my name at the beginning of this repetition to strengthen his case that I should rethink my whole line of thought on this matter.

There wasn’t a whole lot of clamor for usage of my beloved hairbrush, and that’s the way I preferred it, but anytime one values a possession in the manner I did with this item, some people are going to be seduced by the intangible qualities assigned to it.

After a couple years, a piece of plastic splintered off the mainframe of that hairbrush. The splinter started as a simple fracture, but it grew over time, until it was sticking out from the brush at a length as long as the average person’s index finger. The splinter that became an embarrassing break was an eyesore, but I didn’t want to cut that piece off or try to fix it in anyway, for it had been my experience that whenever I tried to fix something I only made it worse.

When my friend asked if he could borrow the hairbrush, I was reluctant. As I said, I consider the whole practice of loaning items out rife with unforeseen ramifications. I don’t think either party gains anything in the transaction. If the recipient returns the product as it was, it is a relief to the relationship. The relationship continues as is without any EKG style movements. Anything less than as it was, could cause unforeseen turmoil and/or unseen tension between the two parties involved that could damage the relationship.    

As a responsible lender who didn’t want this transaction to end in any tension, I laid out some of my stipulations for him to consider before using it, and he said, “It’s a brush (he added my name with a hint of condescension). I’m going to brush my hair with it a couple of times, and I’ll hand it back to you. I promise.” His intention was to make me feel silly for valuing a hairbrush in such an inordinate manner. When he added the words ‘I promise’ after evaluating me, it revealed how uncomfortable I was with the notion of lending out my beloved brush to anyone, even someone I considered a best friend. I felt foolish, and I begrudgingly acquiesced, but I watched him use it intently.

He watched me watching him use it, and he informed me that I might have some hang ups that a psychologist would find fascinating. He then pretended to throw it, and my near hysterical reaction caused him joy. As anyone who knows anything about psychology can probably guess, my friend asked me if he could borrow my hairbrush as often as he could. He enjoyed watching my squirm. I lied at times, and told him I didn’t have it on other days. He knew I was lying, and he capitalized on it. He enjoyed doing things that might cause me to lie, and he tried to force me to prove that I didn’t have it by opening up my school bag. I told him that I would not be emptying my bag to show that my hairbrush was not there and that he would just have to believe me. I also speculate that he knew I wouldn’t be able to use the hairbrush for the rest of the day, in fear of revealing the lie. If I wasn’t going to allow him to use my brush, then he would develop a way to prevent me from using it too. 

To avoid having to go through that again, I told him he could not borrow my hairbrush on another occasion, and I offered him a pre-planned explanation. I informed him about the hygienic concerns he should have when using another’s hairbrush. I wasn’t concerned about such matters, but I considered it an excellent excuse regarding why he shouldn’t want to borrow another person’s hairbrush. When he proceeded to rip that excuse apart, I endured that rant with the knowledge that my rationale was sound.  

On one of the other occasions when I did lend it to him, he began fiddling with the splintered piece of plastic that hung off the brush. His fiddling included twisting the splintered piece in such a manner that it would eventually fall off. I caught him in mid twist, “Wait a second,” I said. “What are you doing?”

“Oh, you want that left on there?” he said.

A brush is just a brush, and a rake is just a rake, but it seems common sense to me that when two parties enter into a social contract of lending, an unspoken stipulation accompanies that agreement that suggests the recipient of another’s largess has no standing when it comes to the condition of said product. This, it would seem to me, is an ancient rule that compels both parties to recognize the guiding principles of such a transaction, regardless the relative value of the product in question. I realize that I may have been over-schooled in this concept, relative to the rest of the world, but I would think that everyone would have a firm grasp on the elementary aspects of conscientiousness and respect. 

I understand that a rake is just a rake, but if I was to borrow another’s rake, and I damaged one of its rake teeth, I wouldn’t say, “It’s just a rake. Just favor the left side from now on.” I would consider such a statement an atrocious violation of my personal constitution that I wouldn’t be able to look the owner in the eye ever again, and I don’t understand how other grown adults, with presumed mentors teaching them about guiding principles, can violate them and absolve themselves of any guilt by commenting on how inconsequential the item in question is. It’s not your product. You have no standing in this arena. 

I have tried to understand such matters in an objective manner, and I can report to you that these two friends do not engage in subterfuge. They might attempt to excuse their guilt away, but I do not believe they do so to insult me, or minimize my valuables. I think they genuinely believe that my tape and my brush were disposable items that would eventually be lost, broken, or in some way ruined. The fact that it happened while in their possession was simply the laws of chance occurring in that brief window of time. In the case of my friend who lost the Queen’s Greatest Hits tape, he wanted me to buy the idea that because I owned the product for ten years, it was bound to be lost sooner or later whether I loaned it to him or not. He didn’t say those words, but that was the gist of his reaction to my righteous anger.   

I could go into further details on this matter to break it down into the minutiae involved in such an agreement, but I consider them so fundamental that neither party involved should be required to undergo the near-militaristic training I received, in this field, to understand its fundamental role in a civilized society. Expressing such concerns in the hope of changing their mind, or opening it to the possibility that they should reconsider how valuable these products are to me, and that they should value them accordingly, is an exercise in futility.

My friends’ defense did not intend to lose, ruin, and destroy my products, and they did not seek to insult me by placing so little value on my possessions. They were just careless people who hadn’t been taught the same principles I was. In the case of my hairbrush friend, he was also an unconscious fiddler. He fiddled with everything he could get his hands on, and that fiddling often led to an unconscious destruction of everything he didn’t lose. I knew my friend’s habits, and I knew that the subtext of his condition involved a mother replacing everything he lost or destroyed. 

My friend and I came from different sides of the track in this regard, for if I fiddled with a hairbrush in a manner that led to its destruction, and/or lost it, I might have to create a ten point dissertation describing my careless act, and why a young man, my age, might need a hairbrush in this day and age, before my father or grandfather regretfully parted ways with the money I might need to complete such a transaction at Walgreen’s. My friend would just have to say, “Mom, I need a new hairbrush.” Say what you want about the binary constraints my father and grandfather placed on me, but their stubborn, frugal ways led me to learn their lessons on value long before I was able to purchase products on my own.  

If my friend and his mother valued their products in ways I could not see, they had no regard for the products of others. I knew if I loaned one of my products to my friend, and he destroyed it, it would take nothing short of a civil case to get his mother to replace it. I knew that if he destroyed my hairbrush, I would have to work another half hour to buy another one, and I would have to budget accordingly. He didn’t understand any of this, because he didn’t have to, and he considered my desire to have my hairbrush returned to him in the condition he received it quaint and quirky.

I spent most of my teen years with this friend, and I watched him blow through money like a high stakes Vegas gambler. He had no regard for the various components of power money wielded. He spared no expense when it came to having a good time. He didn’t make discerning choices with money in the manner one might to make his good times last as long as possible, but, again, he didn’t have to. I was the tightwad who made discerning choices. I decided, for example, not to throw a softball at the target to win my girlfriend a prize at a fair, because I knew I would not hit the target. I also knew that when I didn’t hit it, I would play the stupid game until I did to prove to everyone involved that I could. The idea that attempting to win a girlfriend a prize at the fair is a time-honored staple of a relationship was not lost on me, and I knew she wouldn’t hold it against me if I didn’t win one, but my competitive instincts are so powerful that they would override good sense, and I would end up blowing through whatever money I did have to win her a prize of minuscule value.  

At various points in my life, I was the kid with money, making decisions on how to spend it. I was also the kid without money, at various other points in my life, who lost the power to decide. I knew that the kid with money had a lot more power and prestige than the kid who didn’t. I decided against playing the stupid softball game, enduring the abuse for doing so to spend my limited resources on tickets for her to ride the rides at the fair with me, and I bought food for her too. I thought the fun I ended up proving that I made wise, thoughtful choices with my money, but the only thing they remembered from that weekend was my refusal to play that stupid softball game.

In the course of that night at the festival, my hairbrush friend played every stupid game the fair offered, and he won his girlfriend prizes, and he ran out of money. He called his mom to inform her of this, and he chastised her for her lack of foresight. “I told you that $20.00 wouldn’t be enough,” he said. Not only did my friend’s mom avoid commenting on my friend’s irresponsible spending habits, she accepted her role in the incident by not showing enough foresight to give him more than $20.00, and she felt guilty about it. The heated exchange that occurred outside the fairgrounds also involved my friend accusing his mother of making him look foolish in front of us. This exchange was so foreign to my experience that the only reaction I could find was laughter. 

Most authors reserve this space for a conclusion that reveals how his antagonist’s lack of principles eventually led to his downfall, and how the author wallowed in the glory of that man’s eventual realization. This is not one of those stories. My grandfather, my father, and I thought my friend’s story would not end well. We thought he would eventually learn the responsibilities inherent in responsible spending. “One way or another he will learn them,” they told me. “Every man does in his own ways and on his own time.” My friend did go broke numerous times in his adult life. After an employer fired him, he filed for unemployment, then disability, and then welfare. He said, “I don’t agree with the idea of government assistance, but I can tell you they saved my tailbone.” After discovering a loophole in the bankruptcy laws, he found a way to file for bankruptcy twice. When he needed a loan from a bank, he knew his credit rating was such that they would turn him down, so he and his wife filed for it under his wife’s name. I thought our principles would reveal our relative characteristics over time, but they didn’t. The reader might suggest that falling to a point where he had to use such resources was a punishment in and of itself, but my friend had excuses all lined up for anyone who might condemn him for such actions. As far as any shame or remorse he might have felt, I can tell you that he took some pride in figuring out how to manipulate bankruptcy laws, and all of the other systems that provided him more money.

“So, why were you friends with this guy?” some people have asked. My first inclination is to say, he and I shared a set of values. We talked values all the time, in the various ways friends talk about values. He and I talked on the same page so often that we became brothers. Yet, when I try to come up with a defense for why I decided to befriend him, the words “good friend” come to mind. “For all his faults, he was a good friend,” I want to say, but he wasn’t a good friend. He wasn’t always there for me, loyal, or trustworthy. He wasn’t a good husband. His kid didn’t turn out to to well, from my limited experience around the young man, and his parents ended up falling prey to some headline worthy charges. All I can say, in defense of our friendship is that he and I became brothers in the formative years of my life, and we have been brothers ever since. Anyone who has a brother understands that he can be 180 degrees different from us, and that might confound us considering that the two of us were born and raised in the same house, but we’re still brothers. We realize that shortly after we disagree, and after we fight and hate each other in the short term, and the two of us sit down together to strengthen unbreakable, inexplicable bond between us. 

The search for any lessons my friend may have learned require a deep, philosophical dive on my part, and it has something to do with my friend never learning the basic definition of value. The objects involved in this discussion are of relative minuscule value, but if we do not value the relatively meaningless articles and aspects of life it forms an underlying layer of definition of our character that surfaces throughout our life? 

Can the desolate feelings of desperation teach us anything about ourselves? What happens to us after we’re backed into a corner? Some may joke that the desperation we experience in such situations are relative, and that the problems listed here are first-world problems, but they still require proactive and reactive solutions that we learn over time to define our character, unless someone steps in and helps us avoid ever having to endure them.

“She always believed in me,” my hairbrush friend said at his mother’s funeral. “Even when she probably shouldn’t have, she always had my back.” I considered that sentiment a touching testimonial to his mother, and in my experiences with the two of them, it was 100% true. As a person who spent most of my maturation without a mother, I envied her unconditional loyalty to him, but that jealousy blinded me to the idea that although unconditional loyalty can be a beautiful thing to watch, it doesn’t always serve the recipient well. 


There is no other United States on the horizon

Geithner discusses the state of the global economy and the U.S. recovery.

At this point in history, the United States of America still has the largest domestic economy in the world, even though a World Economic Forum rated the U.S. seventh in global competitiveness. {1}  This is a sharp decline from the top perch it achieved until 2009-2010.{2}  The force of U.S. leadership, diplomacy, economic power, and its unprecedented generosity still provide a dominant influence on geopolitics at this point in history.  The question is how tenable are these positions in the face of such domestic economic instability?

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that “within ten years the three entitlement programs—Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security—and interest on the national debt to pay for these entitlement programs, will consume nine-two percent of the federal budget.” 

That leaves eight cents of every dollar for the military, for national parks, and for food inspection.{3}  If these conditions remain consistent, and we add the expense of Obamacare on top of all that, what percentage of the U.S. dollar will be left available for our influential foreign aid?

Most Americans have been complaining about the money allocated for foreign aid for decades.  They say that the American government has given too much of our hard-earned tax payer money to foreign countries with too few results to show for it.  “These countries don’t appreciate what we do for them,” Americans complain.  “Look at Egypt.  How much foreign aid have we given these people, and they still hate us…And I don’t see any evidence of this world-wide stability that American taxpayers have had their hard-earned money involuntarily allocated for.  I see riots, mayhem, and increases in terrorist acts.  What good has any of this done for anyone?” Most of us have probably heard at least one friend, or family member, complain about this at one time or another.

First of all, most legislators voting to approve foreign aid allotments have done so with few, if any, illusions about making friends the world around.  Most of these American legislators were allocating your hard-earned money for stability, election influence, and to try to prevent another Weimer Republic from falling in the ashes of a country’s devastating poverty.{4}  Still, say citizens and pundits alike, the United States shouldn’t be sticking their nose in every third world country around the world.  Let them face the disunity that is, more often than not, of their own making.  Let their fields burn, so that another harvest can rise from the ashes.

The bottom line questions concerning the success or failure of the influence of our foreign aid is almost impossible to quantify, but a question that is asked by a New York Post columnist named Peter Brookes may answer many of our questions in a roundabout way.  What if America had listened to these complaints?  What if America saw 9/11 as evidence of the fact that our attempts to influence foreign countries around the world were an unmitigated failure?  What if America decided to withdraw all of its troops from their installations throughout the world?  What if we decided to stop sending foreign aid altogether?

“While it’s not our preference, we are the world’s “cop on the beat,” providing critical stability in some of the planet’s toughest neighborhoods.”  If we had decided not to play this role after 2001, writes Brookes, “India and Pakistan might well find cause to unleash the dogs of war in South Asia – undoubtedly leading to history’s first nuclear (weapons) exchange.  Osama’s al Qaeda gang would be fighting tooth and nail from Saudi Arabia to “Eurabia.”  In Asia, China would be the “Middle Kingdom,” gobbling up democratic Taiwan and compelling pacifist Japan (reluctantly) to join the nuclear weapons club. The Koreas might fight another horrific war, resulting in millions of deaths.  A resurgent Russia, meanwhile, would be breathing down the neck of its “near abroad” neighbors, and you can forget all about the democratic revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia.  And what other nation could or would provide freedom of the seas for commerce, including the shipment of oil and gas – all free of charge?

“Also missing would be other gifts from “Uncle Sugar” – starting with 22 percent of the U.N. budget. That includes half the operations of the World Food Program, which feeds over 100 million in 81 countries.  Gone would be 17 percent of UNICEF’s costs to feed, vaccinate, educate and protect children in 157 countries – and 31 percent of the budget of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which assists more than 19 million refugees across the globe.  Moreover, President Bush’s five-year $15 billion commitment under the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is the largest commitment by a single nation toward an international health initiative – ever – working in over 100 (mostly African) countries.

“The United States is the world’s economic engine. We not only have the largest economy, we spend 40 percent of the world’s budget on R&D, driving mind-boggling innovation in areas like information technology, defense and medicine.

“We’re the world’s ATM, too, providing 17 percent of the International Monetary Fund’s resources for nations in fiscal crisis, and funding 13 percent of World Bank programs that dole out billions in development assistance to needy countries.

“The fact is that no matter what anyone says: No country has given so much to so many so often – while asking for so little in return – for so little gratitude than this great country of ours.”

It’s an easy, populist approach for a politician or a pundit to list off for tax payers the amount of their hard earned money that is being sent to individual countries.  Then, with effortless pleasure, they get that crowd worked into a frenzy with something along the lines of: “What good has it done?!  I say we cut them off, until they do A, B, and C.”  Then, with the politicians in particular, they get in office, read intelligence reports, and “betray” their campaign rhetoric by voting yea on foreign aid allotments.  We’ve all fallen prey to this type of rhetoric, at one point or another in our lives, without considering the unforeseen consequences.

One of the reasons it’s so easy to get American citizens frothing at the mouth over this issue is the ungratefulness we’ve received for all of our efforts.  American liberals are particularly susceptible to this rhetoric, for they see these efforts as ignoble.  Ask most American liberals if America has been a noble country throughout her history, and they will tell you no.  They will then proceed to list off a few of the actions America has engaged in that they believe forever taints her legacy.  They will also talk about America’s history of imperialism without noting that America is one of the very few countries in the history of the world that goes into an unstable country, builds it up, spends billions to give it an independent infrastructure, and then leaves it largely independent.  America is one of the few countries that still believe that it is in her best interests to have more independent countries throughout the world.  As evidence of this, we can point to Iraq and Iraqi oil in particular.

Winning this argument over the general noble efforts of our country’s history to influence the world monetarily, and otherwise, is an almost impossible effort in the face of a 230 year history in which some mistakes have been made, but recent activities in Tunisia, Lebanon, and Egypt suggest that these noble attempts to shape the world may be coming to an end.  The reality of all of the theoretical complaints and arguments listed here may be rearing their ugly head in a theater near you.

With a $16 trillion debt, one trillion plus dollar annual deficits, quantitative easings, and continued spending that some have suggested goes into the billions every day, American influence around the world cannot help but dwindle.  Previous generations were concerned about the debt, but few gave serious thought to the fact they may be seeing serious ramifications in their lifetimes.  Previous generations cited George Washington’s warning about staying out of foreign affairs without considering the idea that those foreign conflicts may eventually reach U.S. shores, and that is because foreign aid and various forms of influence have always kept those arguments theoretical.  What happens when domestic economic instability begins to force U.S. influence into a precipitous decline?  What happens when individual monsters, who lead various factions and countries, no longer fear the “cop on the beat?”  Some fear we are on the cusp of this theoretical argument reaching the point of reality, and they know that there is no other United States on the horizon.
{1} {2} {3} {4}

Liberalism is dead! Long live liberalism?

“Certainly liberalism is dead,” said R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., author of a new book, “The Death of Liberalism.”

“In an interview, Tyrrell, the founder and editor of the conservative American Spectator, suggested that the war on poverty and gun control have failed from a lack of new ideas and misguided focus on side issues.

“Consider, there are unprecedented levels of poverty under Obama despite an enormous proportion of the federal programs now being devoted to eliminating poverty and the Messiah simply calls on the electorate to redouble its expenditures–very dramatic!” he told Secrets with his trademark flair.

“And, he added, “With roughly 200 million guns loose in the country a maniac commits vast carnage in Colorado and the New York Times, in its headline, claims we are all ‘reviving debate’ on gun control. We can not even control our borders but somehow we are going to gather up two hundred million guns. As I say liberalism is dead–brain dead and otherwise.”{1}

Photo by Joaquin Siopack-Pool/Getty Images

Anyone who doubts that liberalism is dead—or needs to die—should be forced to ask the question, where does liberalism from here?  In 2008, the liberal dream occurred when more liberals took office in our three legislative branches than at anytime in our history.  Conservative and more independent minded Democrats were intimidated and hushed, as just about every aspect of the liberal dream was put through Congress, the Senate, and under the President’s pen.  The result of all of this liberal legislation is a poor economy, and a level of poverty that hasn’t been seen since 1965.  The ’08-’10, 111th session of Congress engaged in unprecedented levels of spending, and the country’s poverty level is back to the 1965 (pre-Great Society) levels?  Where do they go from here?

Do they have Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke do something temporary to the currency, so the market will bump temporarily enough to get them back into office?  If one listens to a Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) that is precisely what we should do.  Let’s say that Bernanke does initiate quantitative easing (QE3), what some are calling the final bullet in Bernanke’s arsenal, and it helps the market temporarily enough to get Democrats re-elected, where will we go from there long term?  Who cares, say Schumer and Obama, get us re-elected, and we’ll deal with the long term consequences when they rear their ugly heads.  Or, put another way, let’s initiate QE3, so we can find out what’s in it.

Obama told us to be patient, and his philosophy would eventually win out.  He wasn’t lying when he said this.  He truly thought that his philosophy would eventually win out.  It hasn’t, and he’s no longer telling us to be patient.  In desperation, Obama has renewed his focus on the “Blame Bush” meme that he’s been putting forth since his 2008 election with the hope that it will hold true through the 2012 election.  A new poll from The Hill is suggesting that it may already be fracturing:

“Is the slow pace of economic recovery inevitable? A 66 percent majority say no, that it’s the result of bad policy in Washington, D.C. Only 26 percent say the weak growth is unavoidable. Among independents, 65 percent blame Washington, and 29 percent say it’s inevitable.

“Even worse for Obama, 37 percent of independents, who will likely determine the election’s outcome, blame him for the nation’s dire economic straits. Another 29 percent blame Congress, 20 percent blame financial institutions and corporations, and 9 percent blame Bush.”{2}

In the early months of the 111th session of Congress and Obama’s presidency we all knew that the “times they were a changing”.  We knew that a storm was a coming, and many of us on the right said that with such unprecedented change on the horizon, shouldn’t we engage in unprecedented scrutiny to see if all of these proposals will work?  Such a high level of centralized government hasn’t worked in the past, in any country, so why do we think it will now?  We gave Reagan patience, was their answer, so Obama deserves at least as much.  First of all, that’s not true.  If the gauge of liberal thought can be represented in the voices on the mainstream media, they tore the Reagan approach and philosophy apart.  They were incredibly impatient with Reagan’s proposals.  They interviewed every twentieth worker in the nation who had been laid off before Reagan’s proposals could effect a turn around.  Then they sat back and mourned the failure of Reagan’s legislation months after it was initiated.  Obama, on the other hand, has been afforded a great deal of patience from the mainstream media, on the basis that he is our president, and “We have to give him a chance to succeed.  “If he succeeds, we succeed,” they said.

To this, Rush Limbaugh said, “I hope he fails!”  Liberals got very emotional about this.  They said it was unpatriotic to hope that any president fails.  They said it was a personal attack against the president.  Most conservative bloggers weren’t as bombastic as Limbaugh, and they backed away from stating that they hoped Obama would fail, but they knew he couldn’t succeed either.  They knew the various economic philosophies that have been tried in history, and they simply knew that historical precedent suggested that the Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Schumer model couldn’t succeed.  Liberal defenders of Obama declared this to be a personal attack too, as they did any statement that suggested that Obama would do anything but succeed wildly, but it wasn’t a personal concern for most conservatives.  It was just business that they were concerned about.

{1} {2}

Is raising taxes in a poor economy good economics or agenda based politics?

In the days preceding the 2009 fight over extending the Bush tax rates, President Barack Obama said the following: “You don’t raise taxes during a recession.  The last thing you want to do is raise taxes during a recession, because that would just suck up…take more demand out of the economy.  And put businesses in a further hole.” {1}

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In 2009-2010, Congress and the President managed to work together to extend these tax rates.  Obama now seeks to raise these taxes again, as the new January 1, 2013 expiration date on the Bush tax rates nears.  The question now is if we are still in a recession, or the weakest recovery on record, and if we continue to receive paltry job numbers month after month, why are we raising taxes on anyone if raising taxes “suck up…take more demand out of the economy.  And put businesses in a further hole.”  Is philosophical purity more important to Obama, and the Democrats, than the economy and job creation?  How many times a day do we hear a Democrat say that they want to get back to the job the American people sent them to Washington to do?  Americans wants jobs, they say.  What happened here?  Do they selectively apply this modus operandi of their “jobs based” agenda on the legislation before them, or do they believe that taking more money out of the private sector will actually stimulate growth of the private sector and thereby add jobs?  Is it more important to them that they adhere to their political philosophy than it is to help the average American out?

Some have nicknamed this new January 1, 2013 expiration date taxmageddon, and this is based on the number of tax rates ready to expire on this date that include updating an annual patch Alternative Minimum Tax.{2}  The Heritage Foundation also states that Income tax rates will shoot up, the child credit rate will be cut in half, the marriage penalty will roar back to life, the capital gains tax rate will go up, the dividend tax rate will soar, the payroll tax rate will jump two percentage points, and the death tax will be restored to its punitive past.  There will also be a uniquely pernicious additional payroll tax hike from Obamacare that will take effect to pay for that bill.{3}

The change in the President’s philosophical approach to the Bush tax rates began months ago when he began calling for Congress to allow the tax cuts to expire on millionaires, or those making one million a year.  Then, Monday, he lowered that bar to those making 250,000 a year.

Those who view this “taking more more demand in the economy” 2009 NBC interview about  are wondering what has changed?  If anything, they say, we’re in the same straits we were in in 2009, and it may even be worse. And if it’s the case that we’re in the same straits, or worse, than we were in in 2009, the question of what is more important to this administration, and Democrats in Washington, economics or philosophy must be asked.

When asked by Bill O’Reilly what was more important, Congressman Dennis Kucinich claimed that you can have both.  There was no clarification what “both” meant, but I assume it means that Kucinich and company believe that you can lower the unemployment rate by creating more government jobs, you can lower the debt by taxing individuals more, and you can spend your way out of the recession.  As any fan of the Atlanta Falcons knows, one can pursue a passionate ideal regardless of historical results, but with so many lives affected by the decisions that you make, one would think that a Congressman, or a President, would be able to put philosophical purity aside for the betterment of the whole.  The answer is that they believe that their philosophy will win out…if we’re just a little bit more patient.  President Barack Obama believes in this philosophy so much that he stated that it is the reason he decided to run for re-election.  “I would hate to see someone like a Mitt Romney, or whoever the Republican candidate is, get credit for all the work we’ve done.”

President Barack Obama has had three years to ignite this economy, and by almost every account he has not been successful at it.  His economic philosophy has added to the debt, devalued the dollar, failed to stimulate the private sector, and it has resulted in a net loss of nearly one million jobs.  Yet, on Monday he stated that he wants Congress to “take more demand out of the economy and put business in a further hole” by raising the taxes on certain individuals.

Obama, and his economic advisors, know that raising taxes on those making over 250,000 a year will only pay for eight and a half days of this current government, so why does he do it?  As liberals will tell you it’s about fairness.  Fairness is apparently more important to them than American prosperity.  An attempt to disprove this makes no sense when one compares what Obama says in 2012 compared to what he stated in 2009.  If Obama made an attempt to qualify his current statements with his former statements that would be one thing, but as we’ve seen few in the media force him to clarify his position on issues with what he’s said in the past.

Obama states that we should go back to Clinton-era tax rates.  Just the tax rates, he says, nothing else.  We had unprecedented levels of prosperity under President Clinton, and we had a 39% tax rate.  Why don’t we go back to those levels?  The first question to be asked of this line of thought is, does anyone honestly believe that the Clinton-era prosperity was due to these increased tax rates.  I don’t know, say Democrats, but it’s worth a shot.  The next question, if you believe that, is how does taking more money out of the private sector procure prosperity?  I know it’s about fairness.

Some have called former president Clinton the luckiest president in modern times.  He sat in the aftermath of the Reagan tax cuts, tax cuts that offered private businesses enough excess money to devote to research and development (R&D).  That R&D eventually produced the many products that developed and enhanced the internet, that resulted in the tech bubble that the Clinton administration prospered under, and some have argued that the Clinton era tax increases eventually popped this bubble by the time George W. Bush took office.  The next question is if we prospered under Clinton era taxes, did we also prosper under Clinton era spending levels?  If we’re going to use the Clinton model as a model of success, why do we limit our pursuit of this “successful” model to the tax increase portion of it?  Is it because we honestly believe that that portion of the model procured prosperity, or is it because that fits an agenda?




Solyndra’s success: A testament to the power of alternative energy

If you are one who turns to television and movies for philosophical purity, then you’re led to believe that alternative energy is the great liberator of the future. Alternative energy, if one listens to Former President Clinton, current President Barack Obama, Oliver Stone and other movie makers and television producers, is the wave of the future and the cure to all that ails us. They will all tell you that alternative energy is the last, great untapped market. If you listen to these theoreticians, you would be led to believe that alternative energies will lead us out of 9% unemployment, reliance on Middle East oil, and to a better, cleaner future. Results and statistical data, and facts and figures, suggest that this isn’t true in the present. The failure of a company like Solyndra also shows that this probably won’t be the case anytime in the near future either.

Solyndra was a company that promised to offer innovative and expensive solar panels. They were given $535 million by the Obama Administration to help them compete in the solar panel market. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) says that, “If you disagree with the idea that the government should help companies compete in a market with your money, you are probably science denier.” He furthers this point saying that, “the idea that government should not pick winners and losers among private companies has some superficial appeal among those who doubt that climate change was brought on by burning fossil fuels.”

Executive director of energy (DOE) loan programs, Jonathan Silver, concurred saying: “This (loan) wasn’t picking winners and losers — it is helping ensure that we have winners here at all.”


In other words, Silver is saying that the loan wasn’t about picking winners and losers. It was about picking winners. Unfortunate for the administration, it appears as though Solyndra turned out to be a loser, but the administration could not have known that…Unless they listened to Bush’s DOE…or given even a “cursory glance through their prospectus”.

Those reading Silver and Waxman’s comments can only guess that they knew Solyndra wasn’t a winner at the time, but that there was a need (with our money) to create one. Peter Lynch, a New York-based solar energy analyst, furthered the idea that Solyndra wasn’t a company worth investing when he told ABC News, “It took only a cursory glance through Solyndra’s prospectus to see there was a problem with their numbers.

“It’s very difficult to perceive a company with a model that says, well, I can build something for six dollars and sell it for three dollars,” Lynch said. “Those numbers don’t generally work. You don’t want to lose three dollars for every unit you make.”


If we were to listen to guys who seem to know what they’re talking about, like Peter Lynch, you learn that Solyndra was probably never going to be “a winner” in this market.

The Chinese then made the Obama administration look like fools when they flooded the solar panel market, dropped the prices, and caused Solyndra to collapse. Who could’ve predicted that? Apparently, a near majority of those in the know did predict Solyndra’s failure. They may not have known the specifics of this failure, but they predicted failure based on logic that was based on Solyndra’s math and accounting, and prospectus.

Barack Obama’s initial reaction to all of this has been: “Pass my bill! I don’t know what they (Congress) are waiting for! If you love me, get them to pass this bill” Some would say that drawing such A to B correlations is unfair, since the new Jobs Bill has nothing to do with Solyndra other than the result of poor timing. It could be said, however, that Obama has a very poor record when it comes to “job creation” and spending money to stimulate the economy. Some would say that Obama isn’t interested in job creation in a macro, comprehensive manner, but that he directs our money to politically friendly enterprises that he “deems” responsible. Some would say Solyndra is an example of this. Some would say the Obama Administration knows nothing about how business operates, but they know politics, and they know theory. They knew that if Solyndra succeeded it would’ve been better for our country, regardless of that business’s accounting, their business behind the business, or their prospectus at the time. It should also be noted that when one reads through the emails in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), there were warnings about the business, but the administration went ahead with it anyway. They went ahead with it to the tune of $500 million dollars (of our money) in funding. They “rushed” it, according to a House sub committee’s findings, so that Vice-President Biden wouldn’t be embarrassed at the public groundbreaking Solyndra ceremony.

Some people are saying that bloggers, and everyone not in the mainstream media, should lay off what should be called an honest mistake. No one in the administration intended to waste money. There was no fraud or crony capitalism in this move. It was a move done with the best intentions. Examining the “results” with such a microscopic, fine toothed comb is a bit over the top. It was a move initiated by the Bush Administration that the Obama Administration approved and moved forward with. To this, we must provide the disclaimer that Bush never went forward with the loan, so that’s off the table. After clearing that up, if we’re going to take fraud and/or crony capitalism charges off the table, then we must start asking questions about competence.

And liberals and Obama loyalists are willing to concede negligence on this matter as long as bloggers, and everyone not in the mainstream media, are willing to give up on the fraud and/or crony capitalism charges. At this point in the investigation, you’re right, we don’t have evidence of fraud and/or crony capitalism charges against the administration, but we still have the lingering incompetence issue nagging at us. We still have annoying people, who claim that they work hard for their money, who are sick of government officials asking us to pay more in taxes when they continue to make honest and habitual mistakes with our money by investing it in companies to which they have emotional (at the very least) attachments.

Obama supporters are all over the internet saying that this loan was three years in the making. They say that the Bush administration is responsible for laying the groundwork for this loan, and that Obama merely hit the “send” button. Fortunate for the Bush Administration, his (DOE) put up a yellow flag on this loan. “As opposed to a red flag,” say Obama supporters. “Bush’s DOE didn’t totally nix the loan. They only cautioned against it.” Fair enough, but the Bush Administration heeded that warning. The Obama Administration didn’t. The Obama Administration pushed it forward to completion. Obama wanted it included in the 787 billion dollar stimulus. They pushed through the yellow flag, in other words, in an effort to see the checkered flag of victory. What they received, as we all know now, is a horrific crash that bloggers, and everyone not in the mainstream media, are oohing and awing at.

While I’m sure the Bush Administration was disappointed at the appearance of the yellow flag, and their subsequent inability to take advantage of the opportunity to appear high-minded and open-minded to alternative energies, they didn’t pull the trigger.

We’re talking bottom line here. Regardless all the back and forth, he said/she said arguments, the Bush Administration did not go forward with it. We’re talking about the fact that no one cares that Chad Henne threw for 416 yards with two touchdowns on Monday Night Football, the Dolphins didn’t win. No one cares that the Steelers won the AFC Championship last year, they didn’t win the Super Bowl. No one cares that the Bush administration initiated the loan procedure with Solyndra, they didn’t follow through with the loan when DOE officials informed them that Solyndra would probably run out of money by September 2011. (Yes, they predicted September 2011!) To follow the football analogy to completion, Bill Parcells says, “You are what your record says you are.” You can talk about injuries (or good intentions), a draft pick that didn’t pan out (bad luck), or what the previous administration did, but in the end “You are what your record says you are.” The only difference is when Parcells, the Steelers, or Chad Henne don’t succeed you have a disappointed fan base. When the government fails to succeed in performing their job at a high level, you have waste and more spending, and a call for more taxes from individuals to help make up for their honest and habitual mistakes.

A layman’s political discussion on the economy

“Now that I’m older,” a friend of mine says, “I’m starting to get more involved in politics. You get that way when you have kids,” he says. “You start to realize that there are more important things in life. Our future. Their future.” He said the latter absently, staring off into the distance dramatically.

“We gotta get rid of the greed in this country,” my friend continued. He said this over and over, until a scenario popped into his head. “What if I opened a business and I nominated you as CEO of this company, but I offered you a flat rate of $250,000 a year. Would you take it?”

I said yes, but in the process of my employment I told him that I would want to barter. He said fine, as long as I accepted that initial offering. We went forward a year in our scenario, and we decided that I made him a significant profit after the first year. After that first year, I informed him I would ask for a significant raise contingent upon the profits I secured for him. He told me that that wouldn’t happen, and that I should be very happy on the very livable $250,000, flat rate salary. I informed him that I would give him a hearty handshake and thank him for hiring me when no one else would, as an inexperienced CEO, and I would shop my wares on the market.

My friend was disgusted with me at this point. “You would go to another company?”

“I would,” I said. “Unless you were going to give money commiserate with the amount of profit I brought to your company in year one.”

He said he wasn’t going to up my salary. “The 250 grand was a flat rate,” he repeated.

“Where are all those profits going to go?” I asked.

“It’s for the good of the country,” he said. “What’s killing this country is greed,” he said.

“How is my desire to make the most money I can–what you call greed–going to make any difference in the manner this country is run? How is my desire to market my ability going to control the manner in which Congress spends our money? In our scenario, we have an insular agreement based on merit. How is that going to effect this economy in any way?

“Unless,” I continued, “you’re going to send your profits directly to Congress to help pay down the debt.” He said nothing. “If you send this current crop of politicians more money, they’ll only spend it. It’s not their money. They have done nothing to earn it, and they have a deplorable record of spending other people’s money.

“Plus,” I continued, “the greedy CEOs that you’ve heard lambasted in the press had little to nothing to do with the debt. Unless, that is, you’re talking about Harold Raines and the CEOs of Freddie MAC and Lehman Brothers, but that’s another discussion for another day.”

In an attempt to get educated on politics, I believe that my friend tuned into CNN and MSNBC a little too often. These two networks have successfully conflated CEO salaries with some of the greed that led to our downfall. Of course the greed of some CEOs (listed above) had a hand in the economic downfall of 09/08, and CNN and MSNBC joined that chorus. Yet, these networks didn’t mention specific CEOs responsible at first. Then they did list CEOs, but the specific CEOs they finally listed had nothing to do with the economic debacle. Then they stoked the fires of the indignant masses by listing the salaries of CEOs. They left the public with the notion that the exorbitant salaries, and the subsequent exorbitant lifestyles, of the CEOs had a direct impact on the economic debacle, and they counted on class envy to fill in the blanks.

In doing so, they diverted the eyes away from the government and the complicit politicians James Earl Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barney Frank and “Countrywide Financial” Christopher Dodd. In doing so, they deflected attention away from any of those involved in the matrix of the debacle. We, as my friend exhibited, were left with the notion that greed (i.e. the salaries of any and all CEOs) was responsible for the current unemployment rate, the lowered salaries, the difficulty a working man has in getting a loan, and the hits on the stock market.

Some of the downfall did have roots in greed, but that greed came from lower income families that sought NINJA (No Income, No Jobs, and No Assets) loans that banks were called upon to give out by the federal government. These loans were then backed by Harold Raines, Freddie MAC and Lehman Brothers. These loans were to attempt to lessen the divide between the rich and the poor.

It seemed like such a beatific idea. It fulfilled all of the angst ridden comments about America made by members of the media, comedians, movies, music, TV, and the screamers on the street corners. “Every American should have the right to pursue the dream of home ownership,” George W. Bush once proclaimed. The question that should’ve been asked sooner was do the ends justify the means? Bush tried to reverse the means seventeen different times, but he was thwarted at every turn. The question of whether the means would succeed in America, under Capitalism in good times and bad, should’ve been asked sooner. That question would’ve killed the dream however.

My eager friend has been handicapped in his attempts to become political by a corrupt press. In our brief political discussion, he spouted all of their lines. His intentions weren’t nefarious. He just wanted to understand the issue. He just wanted to solve the issue, and he figured that it had to be the rich that caused all this. He needed a face, he needed a cause, and the politicians and the media gave it to them. They didn’t allow this disaster to go to waste. Don Henley once sang: “A man with a briefcase can steal millions more than any man with a gun.” Henley’s worldview dictates that he was referring to a man from the private sector, but can a man from the private sector steal more money from you than a man from the public sector?