Beyond the Cusp

March 5, 2013

Solution for United States, Back to Basics, the Constitution

The United States has managed since the turn of the century to take a budgetary surplus and strong economy and turn the economy on its head while having two Presidents, one from each the Democrats and the Republicans, spend the nation into depths of deficit spending and rising national debt rivaling that of the worst of Europe. With the spiraling increases in the debt of the United States reaching levels that have required a number of increases in the established debt ceiling simply to make interest payments and meet salaries and other budget necessities, the United States has found itself in the position of having to monetize its own debt as China and much of the rest of the world refuse to invest in what is seen as a lost cause driving headlong into financial oblivion. Despite predictions from leading economists, the public does not appear to hold much trepidation towards the financial catastrophe which is looming if something is not done to address the ever bulging deficit spending and the massive amounts being added to the national debt. The manufactured crisis at the end of last year labeled the Fiscal Cliff turned into more of a showcase for pontificating politicians and gasping talking heads all attempting to work up some concern with the public mostly to no avail. Then, even when the politicians simply kicked the can down the road for a few months, there was no eruption of shock or anger but simply a collective shrug of indifference. The neglect shown towards fiscal responsibility by the Washington elite has been a perfect representation of indifference and replete with total disregard to any consequences or warning which predicted the potential doom that would eventually result if spending was continued with such disregard.

 

The one semi-amusing side effect of the fiscal mismanagement has been the many disparate solutions, warnings, predictions, and long winded prognostications given from all fronts and political orientations which managed to cover almost every angle one could imagine. There have been those who claim that the government was executing the correct fiscal plan by applying increased government spending which would boost the economy resulting in collected taxes covering the increased spending and then some thus solving the problems. Others have called for austerity measures and universal spending cuts across the board as the only way to address the deficit problems. There have been calls to increase taxes, decrease taxes, end many tax deductions, go to a flat tax, and just about any other tax program ever invented, all of them come replete with graphs, spread sheets, and pages of justifications which show that each and every solution should produce the desired results. Perhaps the complete idiocy existing in the economic and fiscal debate where every possible solution can be shown to work despite many being polar opposites, it is no wonder that the public has simply disowned the problem and just walked away. How can anybody care when everything is claimed to be the solution and everything that is done simply makes the problem that much worse.

 

What is needed is a vision which has a historic record of proven fiscal success which cannot be dismissed. Oddly enough, the United States has what might be the best guide to fiscal and economic success and productivity. The really strange thing about this guide is that even though it has never been followed to the letter, simply making a concerted and honest effort to run the government by its dictates and restrictions have resulted in nearly one-hundred-fifty years of economic stability and low, often no, taxes. This guideline is what may eventually be proven to be the greatest single document providing a blueprint for responsible governance. The document, of course, is the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution was not followed to the letter from the very start but it did act as a restraint for over a century. The initial serious onslaught on the United States Constitution was in the 1860’s with the onset of the American Civil War.  President Lincoln suspended many provisions of the Constitution and placed unrivaled power in the hands of the President and neutralized the power of the other two branches. Unsurprisingly, by the end of the Civil War the United States had run up a healthy deficit. Despite that deficit, the return to Constitutionally guided and limited government following the Civil War the United States rebuilt and even spread her territories and soon had paid off all of the debt. The final daggers into the heart of the Constitution came in 1913 with the enactment of two Amendments, Amendment XVI and Amendment XVII. The Sixteenth Amendment established the personal Income Tax Amendment which was supposed to never rise above a paltry three percent nor be applied to anyone below the top ten percent of earners. All of these guarantees soon proved to be completely false. The Seventeenth Amendment provided for the direct election of Senators which removed the last vestiges of power which the Constitution had allocated solely for the States. This was the final nail which would lead directly to the over-centralization of power being stolen by the central Federal Government in Washington. Even with this death knell the Constitution still retained sufficient restraining power to beat back the onslaughts against its original intents that it would take another fifty years before the final assault destroyed any restraint on Federal spending. It was these ideals and ideas which began with Franklin Delano Roosevelt with Social Security and Unemployment Insurance that brought on the end. With Lyndon Baines Johnson and his Great Society, the Constitution gave out its last gasp and the financial difficulties that accompany unrestrained, undisciplined, expansive spending slowly led to the financial difficulties currently plaguing the United States. Perhaps a return to the ideals and ideas first instituted with the original Constitution could forge the necessary restraint that would lead the United States back to fiscal solvency and responsibility. By showing such restraint and self-discipline the Americans would be rewarded with a growing economy and a positive and promising outlook for the future. That is the power of the United States Constitution and the promise the writers left to their countrymen into the future.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 21, 2013

Where in the World is Everything Going?

Talk with ten different supposed authorities or futurists about where the world is headed and you will get at a minimum thirty or more scenarios. One of the reasons behind this odd little phenomenon is that many of them will answer claiming the world will be either ‘A’ or possibly ‘B’ while others will simply claim it will be ‘A’ unless such and such otherwise it will be ‘not A’ just to assure that their answers are complete and guaranteed to be more accurate. Unfortunately we will likely not be much different because there are a small number of factors which will decide both the eventual near future and the pace at which an inevitable future will arrive. First off let us discuss the eventual path mankind will take with the sole proviso being that man does not self-destruct in the mean time. One of the principle observations which stand as a driving force behind the predictions from numerous futurists is Moore’s Law which noted that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years. There is an obvious limiting factor which will eventually cause reality to conflict with this postulate, namely that molecules and atoms of silicon and germanium, the two elements currently utilized to manufacture the wafers for ICs, have a set size and nothing will ever be made smaller than this size. Thus we know that there eventually will be an end point beyond which progress will depend on some new dimension. This point is still well into the future, so we will continue to have the capability to produce more complex, faster, more energy efficient integrated circuits which will further expand the scope and capabilities of the hardware engineers and programmers will have at their disposal and also the price and size of memory modules and devices will also continue to shrink in size while increasing in capabilities. This allows the limit of the capabilities of our systems, be they robotic, calculative, measuring, artificial intelligence or any other performance oriented components or units to similarly increase in capability limited solely by the development of software to drive them. When one also includes the possible advances in Physics, Chemistry, and to an extent also discoveries in biology, especially bioengineering, then there may even be other hard to imagine, let alone measurable, advances made. One such example would be the introduction of a truly functioning and easily programmable quantum computer. All of this simply provides a backdrop with which to measure the full extent to which progress can expand and develop in order for there to be related advances in our societies and affect our way of life.

 

One way of measuring the advancement of mankind over the ages is to formulate a chart which maps the speed it would take for somebody to go from New York to Paris and then on to Rome. In 1700 one would be talking about close to a whole year to make such a voyage. In 1800 the same voyage would take a matter of many months. By 1900 we would shorten that voyage to around six to ten weeks depending on variables. Go to 1950 and the same trip, trip now and not voyage as even the terminology would have changed, would take merely days and not even a whole week. It would be possible with some planning to complete this trip in less than two full days. Now go on this trip in 2000 and the whole thing would take a matter of hours. And today that trip is not that much quicker than it was twelve years ago but the jet aircraft we would be taking carry more people further and slightly faster on less fuel and the number of choices one has to choose from would make covering this exact trip something that could be done in hours even if one had not made plans and found such a trip required on no notice. And if we were actually measuring the fastest possible available way of covering this trip, if all one must do is cover these distances then the astronauts in the ISS (International Space Station) have been making this trip in a very short, likely under an hour, multiple times every single day for the last few years. The real point of this demonstration is that the same or a similar equation also represents the number of people who can be fed per acre of farmland. Without the advances in crops and animal raising for food such as bioengineered crops and cattle and modern fertilizers, irrigation, and just managing all the individual needs of the farm tailoring everything on an as needed basis as revealed via scans made by UAVs (Unmanned Arial Vehicles) with cameras and other high-tech sensors has increased yields even further as well as allowed herd management and tracking and finding any stray cattle which also helps to minimize losses. Without many of these advances we would have actually had much of the world starving exactly as was predicted to occur in the early seventies where it was supposed to strike us by the late seventies. Obviously, if you have been to a modern supermarket, we have sufficient food to feed the world with the only real problem being distribution and poverty. Hopefully these are problems which will soon be unpleasant memories and not problems still faced anywhere in our future world.

 

The future becoming a place of abundance and free from want is an eventuality which will come to be. Those who are pushing for it to come immediately may have their hearts in the right place, but the immediate problem is more due to politics, people, hatreds, fears, and other items from mankind’s darker side. These are the types of hurdles which will most affect whether or not our societies develop into something more altruistic and benevolent or whether malevolence, hatred and violence will continue to plague much of mankind. One of my barometers as to how the world is coping and advancing beyond its darker and more limiting inclinations is to look to Europe and gauge the level of trust, interdependency, mutual reliance, interscene violence, and general moods. Before World War I the levels of cooperation, unity, interdependence, and peace were virtually nonexistent. The common state was one of aggression, violence, distrust, and lacking in most areas of cooperation. After World War I Europe entered a brief period of relative calm with one troublesome situation which was of their own designs. The imposition of overly harsh punishments placed on Germany was the eventual cause of the nationalistic militarism which came with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. This led directly to World War II and all the great conflagrations from Europe all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Granted, all of the violence did not directly result from Germany and a large portion was caused by Japan, but the Eurocentric violence was caused fairly directly by Germany. Since World War II and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union and their satellite governments, Europe has attempted and succeeded until recently in generating large amounts of cooperation between most of the European nations. Due to some nations’ internal political structures and cultures having a more expansive societal security net which allowed for what was a heavily dependent citizenry by comparison with the countries with a stronger work ethic and laws with less generous benefits offered governmental economic stabilities radically differed under pressure. This has led to recent problems as these differences were magnified by the recent worldwide economic problems. This now stands ready to tear at most of the cooperative financial agreements which are the skeletal structure that supports the body of the European Union. If the world economy does not pick up steam and become more vigorous, then it is more likely that these problems between the separate nations of the European Union will only grow worse and eventually destroy the EU. Once that eventuality takes place we can expect Europe to return to the natural tendencies which have plagued Europe for centuries. The then almost unavoidable and inevitable conflagration will begin with strong nationalist themes forming amongst the unemployed and least wealthy who will be unable to afford a decent standard of living and likely find their families hungry and under threats caused by fiscal problems resulting from high inflation making the currencies worthless. This will be the result of these countries being expelled from the EU and no longer allowed to use the Euro as their currency and their former currency will lose value against the Euro until it reaches a stable level of worth. This will isolate each of these countries as their currency will be so devalued against the Euro that they will be unable to afford anything imported and will be completely reliant on domestic goods. The other side of the problem is the domestic goods will garner a higher price if exported rather than sold domestically and the outside world will be able to buy virtually anything and everything produced within the newly EU outcast nations. Eventually such trade will bring these countries’ economies back to health provided that none of them decide that war would be a faster route to recover their lost economic stability. European history has shown that during economic upheavals the populations tend to turn xenophobic and nationalistic while also favoring militarism. This had kept Europe in a near constant state of wars for centuries and the world may see this return. If that occurs, then who knows what will result.

 

The other threat to a promising future of technical genius and great developments will be the less developed nations who are now at the cusp of nuclear abilities.  Almost any nation which wishes to invest in the development of nuclear weaponry will have the technical ability to do so and would only be limited by lack of natural resources. Obviously, lack of natural resources is simply a matter of purchasing power and the wherewithal to open clandestine trading to acquire the uranium or other fissile materials. If North Korea can find the available resources necessary to manufacture a nuclear weapon under the sanctions and embargoes placed on them, then any nation has the capability of gathering the tools, expertise, and other materials to do the same. The development of a sufficient ability in rocket development to design a relatively efficient and able rocket delivery system would also not pose an insurmountable problem. Such a spread of nuclear weapons giving a number of countries possession of deliverable nuclear weapons stores and their not having the relative inhibitions, which almost if not all the current nuclear powers possess against using such weapons, then without such cautions they might be tempted more easily into their use. Such a situation could very easily escalate and eventually cause widespread devastation on a scale never before witnessed. This is another scenario which would at best delay a technical age of plenty and permanent lack of want which could lead to an end of mankind’s violence against his fellow men. That is the race we face, which comes first, all of mankind attaining a level of technical advances and improvements which remove any areas of serious want and mankind entering a new era or mankind falling prey to our evil and darker side and causing an end to any society, not just our advanced society. This race is one where the first nations who cross the line which divides human society from their warlike past into a pacifistic future cannot simply continue on as if everything is just fine waiting for the rest of the world to reach a similar point of development. Upon attaining such advancement they would be best served to do whatever was necessary in order to speed the rest of mankind enabling them to also reach such a point. Unfortunately, changing their societal norms will take far more than simple technological advancement, it will take sociological advancement, something almost as intangible as a wisp of smoke and just as easily brushed aside by the slightest waves of violence. So, which will win? Sorry, you are going to have to tell me as I have my fears and hopes but no knowledge which will triumph in the end.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

August 22, 2012

America’s Choice; Pay Now or Pay Later

There was an old commercial for automotive lubricants where the mechanic holds up a can of oil with a car with smoke pouring from under the hood, up on the lift and says, “You can pay me now” (nodding to the can), “or you can pay me later,” (looking back at the car in the work-bay). Well, the same thing goes for America and her spiraling debt. The election will be a referendum on whether the people choose to take the necessary steps now to bring their budgets back into balance with a fair amount of pain and suffering or whether they prefer to continue blithely on until the financial emergency brings their entire economy and likely both their government and way of life crashing down around their ears. The first route will be uncomfortable until the economy grows sufficiently to allow for increasing spending, the next time hopefully wisely and with extreme caution showing that America had learned her lesson. The second route America will wake up one day with a splitting hangover and realize that the part is over as the creditors begin to claim whatever resources exist and just simply take them with no regard to people, the environment or whatever damage they do in extracting their money’s worth right out of the ground or by clear-cutting American forests. Along with this catastrophic collection on payment the American people will find that their dollar will be next to worthless beyond their shores and that they have little of anything with which to produce the products on the home-front. It will not be a pretty site and it will be from that bottoming-out that America will need to pull on their work boots and climb out of a deep and dreary hole of indebtedness.

Believe this or not, but this is not an advertisement for one side or the other for the Presidency as sufficient others will be making that argument. The Presidency is only one third of the problem, there are two other parts of government that are required to take the correct actions to try and salvage a solution from the critical crisis mode situation America faces. Those are the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the last session of Congress the House of Representatives passed at least three slightly different forms of a budget which actually did begin to address the problem and make a beginning point for responsible management of the budget. The Senate, on the other hand, figured that they had not passed a budget for over two years, why change now as everything is going so swimmingly. So, if the American voters can retain the level of sanity and sobriety in the House of Representatives as they have shown they are capable of committing, they will only have to find people to send to Washington to the Senate and bring about some fundamental changes in that body. The problem with this is that at any one election only one-third of the Senate is up for election so that limits the number of seats which can be changed to just over thirty. Since some of the Senators who are running for reelection are already on the correct side and have attempted to force the Senate to actually perform part of their Constitutionally ordained job, those Senators simply need reelecting. It will be the Senators who have joined with Harry Reid in blocking any attempts at making a budget and by such actually limiting and directing where government spending would be allowed. Instead, Harry Reid and his accomplices have been running the government on this item known as a continuing resolution which simply allows spending to continue at the current rate, often with a percentage increase, for a set period of time, usually a few months, and then repeating as necessary. The advantage for Harry Reid and his accomplices is that they can also pass other legislation to allow or even instigate other spending items which would normally have needed to be placed within a budget but without having a budget are each passed separately and thus debated completely out of any context to actual spending. This allows the conspirators to spend additional funds on those items they favor, usually vote buying types of spending better known as subsidies, without having to debate them in context of a comparison to previous spending levels thus making sneaking larger increases more easily hidden from direct scrutiny. This is especially true as they can add these extra spending allotments multiple times such that they do not appear to be as large as they end up becoming through a method of accumulation. The voters need to ask every Senator one simple question this election, “Will you vote to pass a budget or are you going to continue the deceitful practices of issuing continuing resolution to fund the government?” For any incumbent, just check their voting record and whether they voted in favor of any of the budgets passed by the house should become readily evident. If they opposed every budget vote, then do not give them your vote and send fresh blood to the Senate. And if the person you send does not support doing the hard work and crafting a budget in cooperation and debate with the House of Representatives, then when reelection time arrives, replace them. America cannot continue to proceed without an annual budget and simply voting to spend piecemeal which will always result in superfluous spending and dangerous deficits as we have seen of late.

There is one more place America needs to give careful scrutiny. Fortunately, not every American will find any disasters waiting to happen, already upon them, or potentially just down the road a bit. This problem is at every local level of government, the State, County, City, or Township. Even school boards may need to have a review to determine if they are using the funds well and what improvements may be made. Many States along with a fair number of Counties and Cities find themselves in deep debt or on the verge of large deficits. The American voter must take responsibility for these problems and elect responsible and adult people who will make the difficult choices and find the places where the budget can be cut, slashed in some places, and everything be brought back into a harmonious balance.

We in America have had it fairly good for quite a long time and had sufficient wealth and growth that it often appeared that we could accomplish anything as long as all it required was throwing money at the problem. We have reached the end of the gravy train and in many cases our train ran out of tracks quite a few miles ago. Now we are forced to park the train until we can lay sufficient tracks for it to once again roll forward. The difficulty is so many of us at all levels of income have grown comfortable with receiving gifts from government whether we truly needed the help or not. The time has come where we now need to look at these government outlays and decide if they are still in our best collective interests. If anyone can continue without dire difficulties without the government subsidy or with a far smaller subsidy, then we need to make the appropriate adjustments. This is going to take an honest and mature approach inspired by selflessness in place of the selfishness which got us to where we currently find ourselves, between broke and destitute. Another place we are going to have to change our attitudes is towards what we define as the responsibility of the Government and what is our responsibility to our fellow men. It is not necessary for government to be the giver of all assistance. There was a time not all that long ago where churches, synagogues, temples and organizations ran the food banks, soup kitchens, holiday food drives for those who might not have enough for a special holiday meal, clothing drives, and virtually anything and everything else one can think of to help the needy. This is what is meant by repair the world and giving charity. Paying taxes is not charity despite what many appear to believe.

Charity is given freely and from the heart while taxes are paid while facing the potential of a gun in your face. Americans have a proud history of being the most giving people in this world but we have slowly slipped from that high and proud perch as we have ceded more and more responsibility to government to do for us instead of picking ourselves up and doing for ourselves. We need to return to that America. Doing so will have numerous benefits beyond relieving the financial pressures on governments which do not have the funds to continue in the fashion we have become accustomed. We will also find that by returning meeting this need to the people we will get another gift, the gift of pride and respect and a warm heart when we take the actions to assist those among us who are in need. We need to insist that government not only return this responsibility to we the people, but that they also strike away those regulations which were placed between the people and the free giving of charity. What went along with the government taking this responsibility from us was a series of regulations over the years that had the singular purpose of protecting the government’s ownership of charitable actions. This was not done out of altruism or anything even close to resembling honorable. This was a selfish act by our elected officials who saw that by forcing the needy into dependence on government they could lock up the vote of that section of the population and thus assure in certain districts that those who gave out the goodies would forever keep their seat of power. We need to take that power back as it properly belongs to we the people.

Taking back our responsibility for caring for our brother will have benefits beyond making balancing the budget a little easier to accomplish. Taking back this right to care for each other and to make the world better through our own actions will bring out the best in us and could potentially show the rest of the world how honest, righteous, generous, and good people act and live. Another advantage comes in that we will find that by returning charity to the local people we will also make the act of charity more efficient than having it come from Washington. What many do not realize is that no matter how efficient the government agency might think it is; it cannot break the 80% barrier. The reason behind this upper limit is the IRS which has to allocate one dollar out of every five it takes in from taxes to processing and taking in those very same taxes. A government study once reported, if my memory serves me, that for every five dollars spent by the government the best efficiency managed to get three dollars to the target recipient while the worst got a mere seventy-five cents and the overall average for government was just short of two dollars out of five. One must keep in mind; these efficiency numbers for the government are about funds after the IRS has already wasted one out of every five dollars, so their 100% would actually be 80%. This means these numbers need to be multiplied by 0.8 to get the real efficiency. Compare that to even some of the poorest functioning charities with large overheads such as the United Way which gets and efficiency rating of about 53% while the Salvation Army gets an impressive over 95% efficiency. Oh, if all charity had their efficiency, but then the Salvation Army is a unique and wonderful organization. The average charity has an efficiency rating somewhere between 66% and 80%, both a far cry better than the government even on a good day. So, higher efficiency, a warm feeling in one’s heart, and a closer and healthier community if only we demand to replace government as the proprietors of charity, as it should be. Given time and enough efforts, we could eventually take over virtually all entitlement spending by taking the responsibility onto ourselves. That would free the government to do only that which it was tasked to do by the Constitution. This would allow for tax rates to return to levels not seen for over one hundred years, possibly even do away with income taxes, definitely FICA, and likely all taxes on the people and even on business and run the government off of fees and import and export taxes, as was done, as I like to put it, in the beginning.

The aim, dream and inspired actions of the American voters should be to return to that period of, In the beginning we had a Declaration of Independence which defined that mankind was a noble and proud group of individuals who were endowed with rights which they could choose which ones the government could assist in implementing, but they would always belong to the individual and the individuals could reclaim them at their fancy. Then we drafted a Constitution which tasked the governments among the people with the responsibility of defending those individual rights and never to impinge upon those individuals for it was the individual who was empowered and the government was to be their servant, not their master. The sole problem was that from that point we elected men to high office and they became full of themselves and eventually begot themselves the fill of the individual’s monies. That was not their place and we should never have allowed such theft in the first place. When did we give away that right that was ours and not belonging to the government for an individual is entitled to every ounce of their labor and is free to use the fruits thereof as they see fit without the taxman taking a cut for the government for such is theft by power. We must reassert that we do not agree to permit government to take on the role of a thief and get away with such usury. The time is now for us to reclaim our full rights and place government on notice that their sole job is to protect our rights from the foreigner and from the usury of themselves and we will be watching with more attention this time, let them be forewarned.

Beyond the Cusp

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