Friday, January 07, 2005

Let the fun begin...

For stories related to the filing, look here, but also here, here, and here.

Our friend David Hardy has filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that public universities violated a "ban on corporate donations to political campaigns" by paying Michael Moore to speak (on behalf of John Kerry) at their campuses. Now, anyone who went to listen to Moore knows that it was a political rally for John Kerry. Let's just hope that something comes of this, and it scares certain Lehigh employees into making some better decisions in the future.

The Most Evil Woman in the World

After I finished my women in business post I was getting creeped out by how much Carly Fiorina looked like Hillary Clinton. It brought back memories of how close we came to a Hillary running. For those who want a very good look at whether Hillary will run in 2008 they should check out the Limbacher book. He provided a look at whether Hillary would run in 2004 or 2008 and came to the conclusion of 2008 but showed the contingencies of what it would take for a 2004 run and as a post election bit of fun it is nice to read. Hillary Clinton is the greatest evil in American politics and must be stopped at any cost. What worries me is that we discount her out of hand and as both Limbacher and Morris point out the Clinton campaign Gestapo is one of the most effective out there. They are willing to stoop very low and go the distance when it comes to cover ups and smearing their enemies. If people thought this was a dirty campaign any fight against Hillary will make this look like a gentleman’s chess match. The brand HILLARY as described by Dick Morris is a good indication of what we are dealing with. Hillary is reinventing herself to care about issues about health care (which she is wrong on) and focusing on defense issues. She first refused to speak at a gradation from the naval academy as a New York senator and then at the last minute said she would do it forcing the secretary of the Navy to step aside. This kind of behavior not to surprising and look at her appearance at the benefit concert for 9/11. She was booed off stage because of her attacks on the law enforcement in New York during her campaign. The Clinton’s have a proven record of hating both police and military and will go out of their way to avoid both of those forces. As Limbacher points out many people who try to interview Hillary as a public candidate are stopped not by secret service but Hillary’s “good squads” making interviews impossible. Finally Hillary’s temper is the greatest reason to worry. She often loses control and Limbacher discusses a case where he reminds people that she once called an aide “f***ing Jew Bastard” which causes problems if you are in New York. Hillary did capture the lowest percentage of the Jewish vote for a senate race in a long time. The Clinton Spin Machine is very good though and should not be discounted in this 2008 election. Hopefully disaster will befall the Clinton camp over the next two years and the loss of Terry Mcawful will be very important in helping to slow down the Clinton juggernaut. As Limbacher says hopefully Clinton’s dream of a Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton presidency will not come true.

Sources/Recommended Reading
“Hilary’s Scheme: Inside the Next Clinton’s Ruthless Agenda to Take the White House” by Carl Limbacher with Newmax.com
“Rewriting History” by Dick Morris
“Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House” by Gary Aldrich

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Women in Business

During the talk by Christina Hoff-Sommers at Lehigh University a college male asked if she could name 10 female CEO’s. The question never got answered due to the fact that this man went on a bitter attack against Hoff-Sommers whole argument. What really is not the question here is naming 10 female CEO’s but what accomplishments were made. I don’t care if you are a man or a woman the only way I am judging a CEO or entrepreneur is by what they accomplished. Female CEO’s like Oprah and Martha Stewart are famous for what they do. What I would like to talk about are two female CEO’s that I doubt the man who asked this question has ever heard of their great accomplishments that are noteworthy.

The first CEO is Meg Whittman who is the CEO of Ebay and has propelled that company to new heights. She is a company insider that spent most of her time at Ebay but did work elsewhere in Silicon Valley before going to Ebay. She is a growth strategist and although some people say that she does not deserve credit for the company’s success because she did lead them through its first negative quarters she is a very tough CEO. She knows how to play the line between public company spokeswomen who has to woo Wall Street and the ready CEO who has to manage one of the most diverse companies in the world. Ebay’s success has been tremendous and her contribution cannot be discounted.

The CEO that I would really like to focus on is Carly Fiorina. She is the CEO of HP and orchestrated one of the most contested mergers in modern corporate history between HP and Compaq to form as the Wall Street Symbol shows HPQ. She got her start at AT&T and was a workaholic who rose to the top by tough tactics and a winning personality that allowed her to sell anything. When AT&T was forced to look at how to break up its company she became the CEO of Lucent technologies and quickly decimated both HP and the other competition in the market. She is a grand vision strategist and some call her the next Jack Welch a statement I heartily agree with. When HP decided it was time to get rid of their lackluster CEO Lew Platt and try to reform their company in a bold new way they turned to Carly Fiorina who was a controversial pick at best. Up through the Compaq merger she would have a rocky time as CEO of HP with the founders children challenging her every step of the way. A brutal PR campaign would have to be waged in order for her to retain control over the merger and in the end she beat out Walter Hewlett and the Packard family who opposed the merger. Relations with the Packard side were restored however Hewlett decided that he could not remain on the board and chose to leave due to pressure form other board members. At he time this was the only way to save HP was to make a huge merger in a “new economy” style that had been Silicon Valley. These mergers which became common place in the tech industry never achieved the level of synergy that Carly did at HP. This was a merger that looked like the old days of RJR Nabisco or Daimler Chrysler. Her tough as nails character and her long term stratagey make her one of the most dangerous CEO’s in America to her competitors and one of the best assets for her company. I expect big things now that the business is stabilized and HP is returning to dominance in its markets.

Sources/Reading
“Perfect Enough: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett-Packard” by George Anders
“The Perfect Store: Inside Ebay” by Adam Cohen
“Taken for a Ride: How Daimler-Benz drove off with Chrysler” by Bill Vlasic

Another CA Problem

The votes in Ohio have been challenged by my lunatic senator from CA Barbara Boxer. The democrats still believe this election was stolen and they believe they have been abused in Ohio. 31 house members and 1 senator (Barbara Boxer) have decided to rise up in challenges. The far left wing has risen up flying the face of the base has drawn the conclusion that this is good for the party. The democrats have decided to continue crying over their loses which only makes them look as bad as Gore in 2000. Gore decided not to ask for a hand recount in Florida and to move behind the people that had elected George Bush. The democrats are trying to flex their muscles and they think they fight for every vote which only changed 235 votes in Ohio. The democrats are once again showing that they are sore losers and I am pleased to see that big names like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton stayed out of this but I wonder how much behind the scenes they are pulling. The new head of the DNC is still up in the air and both CNN and Fox today talked about “big name democrats” wanting Terry Mcawful to stay on and be the head. This fits with the possibility of a 2008 Hillary Clinton run but that is the subject of another post. In the meantime lets hope this blows over very quickly and we can move on to a unified country behind our president.

Too bad we don't have a movement to recall Boxer! =(

CA Pension Reform

The California Pension system is a huge mess and is a problem that has to be addressed if we want to fix the problem. Right now it is a defined benefit plan where you are given a set salary when you retire and the group that wants to defend this the most is the CA teachers union. The suggestion put forth by Arnold yesterday called for a defined contribution plan where a certain amount is set aside from the employee and matched by an employer. It would mean that the employee could do more private investment and relative the government of the burden of having to pay a fixed salary with a COLA increase. This problem is something that needs to be curtailed and we need a pensions system that can be more easily controlled and with smaller amounts paid out each year it will allow us to deal with the workers when they work for the state and not be held to the whims of over population. This is one of California’s problems that can be solved with this change as a start. If this change is enacted we need to seriously look at the illegal immigration problem. I am tired of the illegal immigrants being given free health care, primary education, and other benefits. This is absolutely ridiculous as these people are here illegally. We need to wake up and realize that while we are a country of immigrants we are a country of legal immigrants that came here to help make America great not send money back to Mexico or commit crimes in our country. True pension reform will be a top priority but the problem will not be fixed until we adderss the illegal immigration issue in California.

Terrorists and Elections

I was shocked to learn today that while the elections for a new head of the Palestinian territory are going on both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are refusing to participate. I suppose this should not have shocked me as much as it did but they are so determined to wipe Israel off the face of the planet that they simply will not even have a candidate to put up. This is absolutely ridiculous and for those who think the Palestinians want peace when roughly 30 percent of the electorate is officially represented by this group is insane. This type of behavior only allows Israel to stand on the high ground they already had. We now have a clear view of what happens when terrorists are part of the electoral process and this should be a lesson to those groups in Iraq that have pulled out and want to pull out. The best way to change things is from within the system. We have seen a successful democracy that has been built up in the United States based on adherence to principles. The founders were true visionaries and the institutions they created have survived through now. These institutions maybe cannot be copied but their basic ideas can be brought to these regions. Once again as I hear more about this I will try to keep people updated.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

State of the State (CA)

Tonight was Governor Arnold’s State of the State address. It was quite a show in typical Arnold fashion and was a necessary look at what CA needs to do. Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante tried to demean the reforms that Arnold has undertaken and bring politicizing back into the race. Arnold’s humor deflected the pathetic attempt by Bustamante to try and paint Arnold as big business and harmful to minorities. Arnold passed credit to the people who voted the propositions into law including the one that stopped the state from borrowing money from other states in future deficits. Two things most be done according to Arnold including reforming the way government spends and operates in order to regain the trust of the people.

A special session will look at four reforms that the state must face including the budget system. The budget system according to Arnold is “the elephant in the room” and he believes it is time to ignore the lobbyists and take back the budget system to a responsible level. 83 billion in revenues have come into CA this year but 10 billion more was needed for spending. There is “not a revenue problem but a spending problem.” Arnold is absolutely correct and like the federal government the budget is accountable to no one and the people and the politicians must take back control. Arnold did pledge to submit a balanced budget that did not raise taxes but admits that it will only get us through the current year and the deficit will only grow as it is not paid off. Arnold did make clear that raising taxes is not the issue and we could raise taxes but it would only drive up spending and “California would never come out ahead.” Special legislation will be enacted (barring dems cooperation) that will cut spending when it exceeds the budget.

A second issue is the pension system that is a problem in CA. The obligations are up to 2.6 billion dollars in this year. This program is out of control and could destroy the state. Arnold wants to move from defined benefit to defined contribution and I know that Kevin will follow me when I say that this has to be done. (more on this tomorrow but I need to look up some numbers first).

Education is another problem in CA. Half of the states budget is in education and we get many teachers and students doing well but we still have many problems. Hundreds of schools are failing and many students conversely cannot perform at grade level. The proposal is to start in the classroom trying to correct problems there. Arnold appealed to the teachers to get help in changing the current system and I hope that the teachers union, which is very divisive out here, in helping Arnold fix the state. The proposal is tying a teacher’s money to performance not tenure. There are some problems and I will come to those in another post later. Arnold rightly defined this as a battle between special interests (Teachers Union) or the children’s interest.

California’s elections becoming democratic once again are another issue especially with gerrymandering and stopping it in its tracks. Personally I think this is a waste of time and although the democrats have taken control through gerrymandering it is not an issue that needs to be taken when compared with the three above. I would love to see more republicans in office but right now that is a smaller issue compared to the budget. The state like many places has been screwed up by politicians who want to increase there votes in a given area. It is time for both sides to come together and draw lines that make sense.

Business reforms have been a top priority and Arnold has gone out of his way to business overseas and in other states. He has got the Indian Tribes to give 1 billion dollars for road reform. This state is obsessed with their automobiles and life and cars go together. Arnold is pushing for a greater freeway system which is necessary because traffic inside LA has gotten worse despite a 14 lane freeway (7 in each direction with one carpool in each direction). PCH is another that needs to be reformed without harming the environment. I am far and away from an environmentalist but we must preserve PCH as a great tribute to CA. Energy is also on the agenda and power plants must be built. Privatization and deregulation destroyed this states energy because it was so badly managed.

Affordable housing is also a priority for the governor and rightly so. Housing prices are out of control in this state and many people my parents included are choosing to retire elsewhere because they can get so much for their house here and go by a virtual mansion elsewhere. Housing prices across the country are out of control but 800,000 for a simple two story home are ridiculous. This situation has to be brought under control very quickly and if it is not done soon it will lead to a collapse of the CA economy. Inflation is not a huge problem out here except in the housing market which fueled by speculation is growing increasingly unstable.

Breaking the law?

The LAPD today announced that it was illegal for drivers to use a new spray that makes license plates to bright to be picked up by the cameras that catch people who run red lights. For those who are not familiar many places in LA have cameras at intersections and if you run a red light it takes a picture and mails you a ticket which is basically impossible to argue your way out of. A spray was developed, and is being sold for about 30 dollars a can, that will allow you to have a brighter license plate. This will make it harder for the camera to read the license plate and you will not get the ticket. It is illegal for a person to cover or hid their license plate in the state of California. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has said that because this does not limit the view it may be legal and will be a matter for the courts to decide. I will keep people posted as this story unfolds.

Book Review "The Supreme Court"

I have recently finished reading “The Supreme Court: How it Was, How it is” by William Rehnquist which provides a history of the Supreme Court. This is one of the best books I have read on the Supreme Court and is divided into three parts. The first part talks about how the court is set up and how it decides issues. This was a fantastic look at the court by one of the people who know it best. He provides very useful insights and a good look at how writ of Certioraris is granted. The second part is a history of the Supreme Court and how that court was composed going through the nomination process. The final part analyzes why the court made some of its decisions and provides a very interesting look at Marbury vs. Madison. I cannot recommend this book enough but just be warned it was written in the 1980’s so it may be a little hard to find. It is the best look that I have ever seen about the Supreme Court and once again I cannot recommend it enough.

The International Beat

I have really had it with the United Nations. In the worst-case scenario, the neglect towards and/or the corruption in the Oil-for-Food program led to over $23 billion in kickbacks and payoffs from Saddam Hussein’s immoral regime to European nations, their leaders, and corporations. Conspiratorially, some of the nations that are purported to be the beneficiaries of these monies – France, Germany, Russia – were the same actors who, almost two years ago, spearheaded the fight against the U.S.-led action against the Baathist regime in Iraq. Save for the diligent work by William Safire in The New York Times and the occasional report on Fox News however, Oil-for-Food has been ignored. But that’s O.K, your leftist media professor may tell you, because William Safire is not really a journalist, he’s just a token (and thank the secular god he’s retiring!), and Fox News, of course, is produced deep under Pennsylvania Avenue where the bowels of the White House meet the gates of Hell.

These days, of course, the tragedy that has befallen the Pacific Ocean basin has refocused much of the world’s attention, and has allowed many in the international community to selfishly redirect criticism towards the United States. As most of you already know, it was suggested by one international bureaucrat soon after the tsunami that the United States and other wealthy nations had been “stingy” with their aid pledges. In under a week, the United States had pledged $350 million to the relief efforts, but because the administration took some time to analyze the situation as to decide the best procedure they were berated with criticism. They were called stingy because the initial offering $15 million, followed by a raise to $35 million the next day, was apparently insufficient in the minds of some paper-pushing bureaucrats from Scandinavia. The United States, along with the rest of the “wealthy” nations of the world, have offered a tremendous amount of money for the relief effort, with the bulk of the pledged funds coming after the comments in question. It’s a shame that these funds may be interpreted by some as the result of a submission to the international community rather than the natural course of American generosity.

Domestically, the left made sure not to miss an opportunity to criticize the President, suggesting that he missed an opportunity to show good will to the nations of the world by coming out in public and speaking about the tragedy. Instead, the President and his administration were monitoring the situation, assessing information such as casualty counts and what sort of assistance was needed in the region, waiting to act at the proper time. Colin Powell explained it well in the week following the tsunami, reminding those who criticized the president for not “speaking” sooner as well as those who called the United States stingy exactly why they are wrong. First, it would be purposeless for the president to come out and say “I feel your pain” into the camera while biting his lip (Clinton was too busy doing it himself in Britain right away, never too late to snag attention for himself even under the circumstances). That is nothing more than stupid politics, and personally, I would rather have my president receiving information in those anxious hours after the attack instead of sitting in a makeup chair preparing to go on television. Second, the initial aid offerings were directed towards groups like the International Red Cross, who were on the ground providing emergency assistance to victims, and the sums were quite satisfactory. About five days after the disaster, the big money was finally promised, $350 million, because the proper network had been set up in the region to bring in the desperately needed supplies. Most of this network, not coincidentally, was facilitated through the Defense Department through the use of military transport and the manpower of American troops. To announce an enormous sum ten minutes after the tsunami would have been worthless; the infrastructure of the countries would have been unable to handle that large a supply of goods. Plus, the magnitude of the destruction increased daily, and all nations were adjusting their responses accordingly. Finally, the nations of the region were extremely grateful to the world community who had offered them assistance, especially the United States.

It’s a stressful thing to have to listen to bureaucrats complain that not “enough” money is going to international causes from Mr. and Mrs. American Taxpayer, especially when you know, deep down, that he might be saying it because the more aid his organization gets, the more he can kickback into his own coffer. It’s stressful when you can go onto amazon.com and see what Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer do with the money the government so graciously lets them keep, and how quickly that sum reached eight digits. Finally, it’s especially stressful when, during all this criticism about your country and their (at the time) $35 million donation, you can turn on the television and see on a graphic that France, the international darling, had only pledged $160,000. But hey, blame America first!


Kevin Frost

Interesting new blog

http://commonsblog.org/ - free market environmentalism

also, keep tabs on our new site (under construction) at www.lucr.org.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Book Review Hamilton

I have recently finished reading "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow and I must highly recommend it to anyone with a curiosity in American History from the Revolutionary time period. I generally prefer reading European History myself and have not read much from the American time period except modern politics and business. This book has convinced me to go out and get more books from this time period. The author goes through in great detail and highlights the major events of his life including the development of our modern banking system and stock market, coast guard, and the authorship of Washington’s farewell address. He influenced the course of the civil war being one of the better commanders early on and Washington’s right hand man. Even after he resigned as secretary of the treasury he continued to operate the federalist cause and oversaw the continued growth of his creation, the United States Postal Service. The book provides excellent detail and was a very quick read that I cannot recommend enough.

This does not sound good....

I caught a disturbing New Bulletin today about the ACLU’s latest victory (if we actually want to call it that). They have now won an award in NJ saying that DNA records of criminals do not have to be kept on file and can be destroyed once the prisoner is released. This is an incredibly bad idea since repeat offenders can often be identified faster with their DNA already on file and it allows the police to narrow down the “usual suspects” in a more efficient manner. This state has made a huge mistake and I am waiting more details before I make a longer post but I hope this is not as bad as it sounds.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Napoleon

Well I have been neglecting posting for some time due to two factors. One loss of internet form the snow storms here in CA and also due ot the my thesis which is going to become a very common excuse. For those interested in napoleon I wanted to put up some suggested reading from some of the books I have covered.

“Napoleon and Europe” by Philip Dwyer: This book is an excellent overview of the part of Napoleon’s life that is the most interesting. It focuses on his time as emperor and his rise to power leaving out all but a few details of his childhood. It is very good analysis and is a compilation of essays from various writers on experts in various fields of Napoleon’s life.

“The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte” and “The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte” by Robert Asprey: These two books together are the best source on Napoleon’s life. They are not over exhaustive in detail but provide a good summary from childhood to death. I highly recommend them because they also go into the allies of Napoleon who are so important in his rise and maintained power.

“Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaigns 1798-1801” By Michael Barthorp: This is more of a middle school book but does provide very vivid details on the uniforms and weapons of napoleon’s men. It also provides an excellent timeline of the Egyptian campaign which is hard to find information on.

“Napoleon: A Biography” by Frank McLynn: This is an absolutely exhaustive biography of Napoleon that almost gives too much detail but if you are the type of person who wants to know everything that he did during his life this is the book. The Asprey books focused on more of the relevant information while still covering his life although the details of battles were much more indepth in this one and the military history much more detailed.

“Napoleon and his collaborators: the Making of a dictatorship” by Issac Woloch: This is a very interesting book and my favorite of the ones I have read. A prior knowledge of Napoleon’s activities is required but this focuses on how Camberces, Fouche, Talleyrand and Bernadotte all helped to bring Napoleon to power and how each of their activities would help him remain in power. It is very dense and not a quick read but one well worth taking a look at.


Tax cuts or budget (Debt) cuts

There was an interesting idea raised on the Forbes on Fox show this past New Years day. I t asked whether it would be better to cut taxes or cut the budget (debt) and what should the president be more concerned about. The clear answer is that our current president is a great deal more concerned with cutting taxes as opposed to the deficits. In the days after 9/11 the tax cuts which have stimulated the economy as they were intended and even raised a little more revenue. This was incredibly important at the time and paying down the deficit was not even feasible at this point. The economy was in disarray and the deficit could grow because of the demand for the dollar and quite honestly from the generosity of the Saudi’s who were willing to take so much of our debt. (I am not thrilled that China, Japan and Saudi Arabia are now holding most of our debt). This was the best solution at the time unfortunately and we did manage to stave off a meltdown in our own economy.

Given that was what has happened it is now time to focus on our deficit. We need to curtail spending and begin to pay of the bulk of the debt immediately. Our dollar is still overvalued and there is little we can do except let it fall. The downside to a weak dollar is that our trade is unstable, our stocks become less valuable and people in our country will be forced to a lower standard of living. I would like to reference a plan laid out by Lee Iacocca in his autobiography which called for eliminating the budget deficit when it was only 120 billion. His plan called for cutting out 30 billion dollars in government spending and this would have forced Senators like Arlen Specter to stop guzzling pork and focus on what this country really needs. Our leadership is creating the problem and a new mindset will be needed. His plan called for a 5 percent reduction in defense spending which equaled 15 billion at the time and then he would have called on the democrats to take 15 billion out of there beloved social programs. The plan called for raising an additional 30 billion dollars in revenue which would have come from a 15 cent gas tax at the pump and creating a tax equal to 15 billion on oil when it hits the country. This would have left the United States with the cheapest gas outside the Arab world still because Europe taxes it so heavily. This plan can still work. I agree with one idea and that is you can cut 5 percent out of just about any budget and you will not know it is missing. I have done this many times in my stock and business careers and you really don’t notice that 5 percent especially from budgets those large really doesn’t matter. We have spent our time cutting taxes and now it is time for us to honor our commitments (debts) and start paying them off like a respectable country would. Debt is kept on most companies as a way to keep taxes down but in our case we don’t have that problem as a nation and we have no excuse for carrying this debt. We only serve to destabilize our nation. With regards to what I call the Iacocca plan we can sill raise the gas tax and while it will take longer to lower the deficit now that it has grown so much but as I have said before Americans are not entitled to lower taxes. We have since the revolution revolted against taxes and now we believe we can have our cake and eat it to. The problem is we are not paying for the cake and that is going to lead to serious problems later on. Cutting taxes will NOT work if we do not curtail spending and given the administrations view points and the viewpoints of those in the legislature that will never happen. I know the tax guru Kevin will be weighing in on this subject later on and if any of my fellow bloggers have an opinion on what they believe is more important I would love to hear it.

Tax responses

As per Brian's request, here are my initial thoughts on the previous posts about a War Tax and reforms in Social Security.

War Tax: Philosophically, I don't agree with this because I see it as an attempt to fix another problem in this country through legislation. An increase in taxes on gasoline would certainly be on the efficient side, meaning that consumer behavior would hardly change at all. Gas, being a relatively inelastic good, could certainly stomach a 5 cent increase in price, just as it has survived the recent 30-40% increases. There is even a prominent energy economist out saying that our economy would be able to handle a per-barrel increase to $150 dollars with ease (graduated over many months). If raising emergency funds is your goal, a gas tax works just fine, but rest assured that it an inherently temporary fix to a problem that begs a solution.

There is a certain charm to the thought of President Bush encouraging the American populace to change its ways, not due to compliance with legislation but through earnest patriotism (a word usage that brings me back to a debate in Mattern's class in which I was interrupted and shot down by a fellow student). Don't expect this, of course, why should we? Our savings rate is dismally low, and represents a reality that is entirely foreign to me. The episode of the Simpsons where Burns Co. stock goes through the roof and Marge exclaims that they will be able to "afford" a savings account for the first time was, in fact, the first time I can recall finding it strange that every family didn't have a savings account. I always knew that we had one, which wasn't taken lightly. There are many Americans, lots of Marge and Homer couples, who don't have savings; indeed they have tremendous debt: credit cards, mortgages, student loans, car payments. They are trapped, seemingly forever, with the only way out (save the impossible task of limiting consumption) appearing to be the incarnation of Tyler Durden. The points in here somewhere... consumption and debt has been institutionalized, and institutions tend to fall stubbornly.

Back to where Bush fits in (which, being the first sentence of the last paragraph, represents how convoluted my writing can become on topics like this at 1 am). Supply-side economics requires consumption. To a supply-sider, the Bush tax cuts spur growth, which then must be spent to improve the economy, raise revenues, and reduce our debt. This, of course, is another temporary fix. Even if the supply-side solution comes to fruition, which I don't foresee, it will fail to change the culture. In fact, it could prove to make the savings rate worse (supply-siders have a shrewd response to this, in that if the economy is better there will be more wealth for all, more money to potentially save, thus increasing the savings rate. I think this takes a great leap of faith which I am not prepared to make at this time). For those of you who don't know, the savings rate can be negative, thus it can always get worse. Point being, fat chance you see the President in front of the camera trying to "lead" us into saving, or conserving, or much of anything. Big government culture looks to legislation to fix problems. Jimmy Carter isn't my favorite guy, but I give him a certain level of respect for something many conservatives laugh at him for - encouraging Americans to conserve energy during the energy crisis in the late 70's and following up by wearing a sweater in the White House. I'm sorry, but that in itself is more leadership on the energy problem (be it the 70's or today) than I have seen from the president (but thanks for the Christmas card, I think I'm going to frame it!)

I apologize for laying my thoughts out so incoherently...

So we have a problem funding the war. Brian, the WTO would certainly forbid an increased tariff on French, German, and Russian goods (as does the handbook for free market economists!). War bonds, a traditionally appealing idea, are certainly made less palpable by our debt levels. Ideally, our debt would be low enough to allow us release more bonds, but alas. Unfortunately, if I was to go any further with this trying to offer solutions I would begin to sound like an idiot. Hopefully in a few years I will have studied stuff like this enough to offer some real suggestions to these issues, but this is about all I've got at the moment.

Social Security: The "affluence test" as it is called (people worth a certain amount of money forgoing their Social Security payment) would certainly not be a "fix." In many proposals it is a part of a larger solution, but just a small part, because it certainly could not stand alone. I find it to be wholly unfair but probably unavoidable and not as bad as some other plans. I hope to study the "original intent" of social security senior year with J. Richie Aronson, as well as LBJ's infamous institutionalization and perhaps even Gore's tie-breaking vote to increase the SS tax (and, of course, hundreds of proposed solutions).