Saturday, November 15, 2008

OK, now you're crossing the line...

I've been somewhat removed from this topic, but after reading about the "anthrax" scare in two LDS temples and a Catholic church, my interest perked.

Frankly, I'm apalled at some of the things the opponents of Prop 8 have been doing to harass and bully the voters of California.

They blame religious groups for hate, but watch how they conduct their protests. Will they ever protest against the black community, which voted overwhelmingly 2-1 to ban gay marriage? No. The media would crucify them; it wouldn't be "politically correct." So they focus their bullying on churches preaching "traditional" (in the grandest sense of that word) values.

Read this article. Is anybody else infuriated?

Friday, October 31, 2008

The senators will solve our problems...

I wrote this article for the BYU Political review during the primary elections. I think the ideas apply just as much today. Would it be a different race with Mitt Romney in the mix? With the economy the way it is right now, Romney could have been the Republican's remedy. Instead, he got Huckabee'd out of the nomination, and now the GOP has more McCain (than they're) Able.

In my last article for The Political Review, I criticized our generation for not caring (or, seemingly not caring) about government programs that are destined to fail when we need them the most. For the record, our Social Security funds are still on the path to insolvency, with the most recent estimates giving us until 2041 before it runs out of money. The Concord Coalition, a fiscal watchdog group, estimates a $72.3 trillion dollar Social Security and Medicare shortfall through 2080.

If observing government spending has taught me nothing more, and it certainly has, it’s this: When politicians and bureaucrats try their hand at economic programs and solutions, America (and hence, the American taxpayers), invariably end up with a mountain full of debt on molehills of promises.

In case you’ve been spending the last few months underwater, allow me to recap a few points of economic news that you may have missed. Our country is currently facing a credit crisis that threatens economic influenza. Most economists now agree that we are in a recession. Some say a recession is the least of our worries; we should be most concerned about avoiding The Great Depression II.

It turns out that risky subprime loans were just that—risky— both to investors and borrowers. Many people bet on a housing market that couldn’t substantiate the price appreciation of the past booming five years. Investment banks and hedge funds put risky (but high returning) loans on their balance sheets in the form of securitized mortgages, which, in layman’s term, is basically a “diversified” pool of mortgages— Jim Bob’s cabin in Idaho, Uncle Victor’s condo in Florida, and thousands like it—that are sliced, divided, packaged together, and sold on an exchange market.

Now millions of people are foreclosing on homes they couldn’t afford, banks are writing off billions of dollars worth of assets they shouldn’t have purchased, and the credit and housing markets have slowed to a standstill. The dollar has weakened, oil prices have skyrocketed, and Americans are turning to credit cards to meet their obligations.

What is the solution to this mess? The Democratic frontrunners would have you believe that it is more government intervention. Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama would provide $30 billion to help buy foreclosed properties and aid financially stressed borrowers. Hillary would freeze interest rate resets on subprime loans for five years, and allow the Federal Housing Administration to buy mortgages in which the borrowers owe more than their homes are worth. Obama would give income-tax credits to middle class families, and provide $10 billion dollars to help families modify a home loan or sell a house. Obama, along with Democratic lawmakers in Congress, also wants tougher government regulation on the banking industry.

John McCain believes that tightening regulation would make the U.S. capital market less competitive in a global economy (the Sarbanes-Oxley effect—companies in an international competitive marketplace will naturally try to avoid expensive compliance procedures). He would remove tax, accounting and regulatory hurdles for banks and other companies to raise capital. McCain also believes that, philosophically, taxpayers should not be forced to bail out investors who acted irresponsibly.

So, which senator’s plan do you support? Before you answer, consider the irony that these senators are attempting to solve our economic problems that resulted from too much debt and not enough long-run financial foresight.

With a (projected) $500 billion dollar 2008 Federal Budget deficit, doomed-to-fail Social Security and Medicare programs, and little, if any, real world financial experience, are these Senators the people we want at the helm of our economic future?

Looks like we have little choice now. Let’s raise a (borrowed, most likely) glass and give toast to our future economic prospects. Mitt Romney doesn’t look so bad anymore, does he, America?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Up! Mind thine own aim--

By nature, I am prone to doubt. I tend to check and recheck any path I travel. In situations that are new and foreign, I lack confidence. I cower under waves of fear and “what ifs.” In my quest to always want to do things right, for things to work out how my narrow-vision thinks they should, I often find myself tripping into the pit of criticism—I become trapped playing the part of the cynic (as you can tell by reading my last few posts).

But, deep down, I don’t think that’s me. I long to be enthusiastic; I want to live on hope, with my vision bedazzled by the sparks of humanity, goodness, and virtue that can be found in the people of America. Goodness seems hard to find, at times, in the realm of network news. TMZ, and Late Night TV mockery. But I want to try.

Because I believe in America. The framers of our Constitution began an experiment of freedom that has lasted for generations. One bad president cannot spoil a nation of good people. A good president cannot save a wicked nation. Duty lies in every citizen of a free society. As long as America succeeds, I should always be able to find models of this patriotic duty.

Thomas Paine’s book Common Sensewas a sensation that helped spur sentiments for the American Revolution. As important as that book was for the revolution, John Adams disapproved somewhat of Paine’s style of writing. He thought that Paine used his pen to “bring things down.” The end purpose of writing, Adams thought, should be to lift up.

I need to make that my goal with this blog-in-progress.

Life is too short to waste
In critic peep or cynic bark,
Quarrel or reprimand:
'Twill soon be dark;
Up! Mind thine own aim, and
God speed the mark!

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hey Guys, Can You Fix This?

For five minutes forget about global warming and melting ice caps. Rest your mind from Darfur and the conflict in the Middle East. Close your issue of US Weekly and ignore any current cause that Angelina Jolie wants you to support. As a young American, you should be concerned about something else at the moment: Social Security.

Usually, any mention among our age group of Social Security reform evokes images of suspendered actuaries hunched in front of a computer screen fiddling with calculations. Social Security? Save the problem for the old people, we say, as we listen to Live Earth concerts and contemplate world issues that really matter.
It’s time for us to get smart. Older people don’t want Social Security reform—not if it means cutting their benefits. Politicians are afraid to raise taxes to fix the problems, and any mention of benefit cuts immediately brings fiery threats from powerful lobbyists like the AARP. The politicians of today will not make the necessary changes today because the problem isn’t manifest today. The Social Security problem is a crisis for tomorrow, a headache for the next generation, our generation.

Consider this: according to U.S. Treasury projections, by the year 2017, Social Security will collect less than it owes. By 2041 (about when some of us might retire), all of Social Security’s reserves will be exhausted. Anyone born in our generation will receive less in lifetime benefits than in payments that we’ve made to Social Security. Because Social Security is a pay-as-you-go program, the government cannot “pre-fund” Social Security with surpluses today unless it saves rather than spends those surpluses. This isn’t happing right now. Instead, the current Social Security surpluses usually result in some combination of higher government spending on non-Social Security items, or in lower taxes. In short, the Social Security tax we pay now (and will pay in the future) does not come directly back to us. And the demographics are clearly not in our favor when it will be our turn to look for the nation’s young workers to pay our Social Security benefits when we retire.

Next time you pick up your paycheck, take a long look at the 12.4% of your wage that goes towards Social Security. With our current program, you’re getting a negative return on this retirement “investment.” The saddest twist is that no one in our generation even seems to care.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oct 7 Debate--Comment on Two Responses

Take Credit When Credit Is Due, Sir

I love the way canidates try to use the selective history of what they said in the past as credentials for their leadership and foresight.

Take Obama, for instance. In the Oct 7 debate, he made sure to point out that two years ago he "said that we had a sub-prime lending problem." One year ago, he "wrote to Wall Street and said we had to reregulate and nothing happened." Nobody did anything about it, he complained.

So, that was it? He wrote a letter, he made a passing remark while on a commitee? If he really believed we had a problem, why not propose a solution WHILE A SENATOR. These guys act like they've been bystanders watching our country fall apart for the last eight years. It's never their fault. They were only Senators.'s because of THOSE people--the Bush administration this, the greedy Wall Street executives that. If you knew that this was a problem two years ago Barack, why didn't you do anything about it then? I can think of a few reasons.

1) You are lying to us right now and you didn't really think the sub-prime lending situation was such a big problem, but you happened to be in a situation in which you cosigned a letter with a bunch of other senators and you are now trying to claim credit for that routine "shame on you guys" Senate complaint.

2) You really did know it was a problem, but you didn't want to waste any political capital trying to fix it. I mean, you've gotta have a large group of senators behind you before you try anything bold and beneficial to the country, right?

3) You really knew it was a problem and you tried to get it fixed, but the republicans and other democrats stopped your progress. I think we would have heard about this by now if you tried this.

So--we know that Barack is either 1) lying to us, 2) not a bold, decisive deicision maker, or 3)not very good at convincing people to join his side.

Put a Pork In It

Don't think that McCain gets off with a free pass. Did anybody else yellwith fury at the television whenever McCain talked about the economy? Not your strong point, buddy. Kinda makes us Republicans look stupid for not choosing Mitt five months ago.

I still can't get over the audacity of these canidates. Do they really think we have twenty minute memory? When asked about taxpayers can trust the government with our money, McCain answered thus, "This situation calls for bipartisanship...and we need to reform." McCain then went on to blast Obama for pork barrel earmarks, maintaing that he, John McCain was "working to eliminate these pork barrel earmarks."

John, my friend, where were you this past week? Didn't you shut down your campain to help with the emergency bailout bill? (And no--politicians. It's not a rescue. Lassie rescues. The Coast Guard rescues. Girlfriends of felons and the government bails out.) Didn't you camp out in Washington to smooth over your Republican friends and convince them to pass a rescue bill?

How come that bill didn't pass the first time it was up for vote? How come it didn't pass until a layer of pork and special interest tax breaks were added? Nothing else changed. Bernanke and Paulsen were just as adament and demanding before the first vote. The only thing that swayed Congress seemed to be the pork that the Senate added. Your senate. Barack's senate. Neither of you were arguing about pork on the Senate floor when the bailout bill was presented.

And then you have the gall to come to the nation a week later and say you are fighting pork?

No, my friend, you and your senate cronies have lost my trust. I want someone honest and courageous. They can be wrong. They can make mistakes. Admit it. Say that you were wrong about the economy. Tell us you'll do better next time and then ACTUALLY DO IT. Fight for what you believe. That's all I ask.

Maybe I ask for too much.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Disclaimer--Who I Am, Why the Blog, Why the Effort

I am a busy American. Politicians work to spend money. I work to make it. I don't have time to keep current on the latest polls and political gossip. I've got better things to do than stay up to speed on the most recent Yemen or Darfur engagement, as reported by the New York Times or Angelina Jolie.

I don't have time for politics. I keep my opinions to my mom, my dad and my younger sister. I'd rather watch Sportscenter than CNN, I'd rather read John Adams than Politico.

But I feel that I need to try my best to voice my opinions. The internet allows me a medium unthought of a century ago. I doubt these thoughts will get far in the cyberspace world. At least I can say I made an attempt. I've got to try something.

I am a young American. Too often,the issues that will affect my future are forgotten by Congress and other political leaders. They put problems of tomorrow into the same drawer that I keep all of those odds and ends that I never really have a place for--the scissors, Papa John's coupons, duct tape, yellow pages, Gorilla glue, broken stapler, postage stamps. However,the problems that they are relegating to future generations--Social Security obligations, enormous national debt, slipshod immigration policy, moral disintegration--are a bit weightier than pizza discounts and office supplies.

I don't enjoy paying taxes so that today's political leaders, who seem to care only about the short term--whether it be the short-term for their constituants (which I hope is the case), or the short term for themselves and reelection (which it all-too-often seems). Where are the politicians with visions for the future?

American needs more young people to speak up. The sqeaky wheel gets the oil, the lobbyists gets the pork. The young Americans? We get debt, acid rain, a powerful Russia to flirt with on the schoolground, and we'll have broken system of government entitlements. Like last holiday season's phone commercial--"And what did Daddy get? Daddy got hosed." The scene in UHF sums up our prize nicely: "You win a drink from the fire hose!!!!"

I'm not at all a political junkie; I'm no wordsmith, no logician, and I'm certainly not a philosopher. I graduated college this year with a degree in accountancy. I work for Ernst & Young on the 23rd floor in a cubicle far removed from the water cooler. I'm your average white-collar worker. Take my political writings and knowledge with a granule of salt--ne sutor ultra crepidam, as the Classicists say.

I care about the future of the young American. I'm 24 years old. I have hope that America will still be great when I'm seventy. But we have work to do for that.

And miles to go before we sleep. And miles to go before we sleep.