George Sarant

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Archive for July 2011

ECONOMIC MISMANAGEMENT

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The ideology of the left recognizes little distinction between the state and society, and this view pervades the current administration. Decisions that properly belong in the private sector are being second-guessed or usurped by government officials. The most egregious case involves the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) and the Boeing corporation. Boeing has substantial facilities in Washington state and recently expanded by creating a second production line in South Carolina for its 787 Dreamliner. You would think that expanding capital investment and jobs is a good thing for everyone, but not for administration bureaucrats.

The general counsel of the NLRB has issued a complaint against Boeing on behalf of the International Association of Machinists union, which if successful, would actual compel the company to move its South Carolina operation back to Washington State. The reason for this is that South Carolina is a non-union, right-to-work state, i.e. you aren’t forced to join a union to work. Never mind that, as it turns out, this expansion will also lead to an increase in jobs in Washington State as well. This is an outrageous and fundamental abuse of government power for which there is no possible justification. It is an entirely political move, which is not surprising, given that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka boasted during a February news conference that he’s “at the White House a couple times a week, two, three times a week.” and that he has “conversations every day with someone at the White House or in the administration.” It is just as bad when a crony-capitalist corporate executive has similar influence.

Politicians are inept enough at running the government, never mind trying to run the economy. This is the sort of state direction you would expect in Russia and China, where state-directed capitalism prevails, not the United States. But apart from the sheer stupidity of trying to manage business decisions, badly, either we are a free society or we aren’t. Either individuals and corporations are free to make decisions about their own affairs or they are not. It is not the business of the state to arbitrarily favor one group over another, or determine how they will conduct their affairs beyond established law and regulations. No wonder the economy continues to falter.

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Written by georgesarant

July 31, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Posted in economy, government

BYPASS THE CONSTITUTION?

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The overriding philosophy of the left demolishes the distinction between state and society, in the belief that broad political direction of things is justified by what are, presumably, higher ends. From this standpoint the constitution becomes a nuisance to the extent that it explicitly limits government power. Thus today we have people on the left calling on the President to extend the debt limit on his own, allegedly based upon the 14th amendment. This would empower the President bypass the congress, where there are sharp disagreements reflecting the will of the people, and unilaterally dictate an expansion of the debt limit. This is typical of a left that chooses to ignore the constitution and substitute the rule of men.

We share a constitutional republic with people we often disagree with. Civil society is only possible if we agree on the basic rules. But things begin to unravel if a significant element does not. The constitution limits power; by any reading that is clear, as inconvenient as that may be to some. If the constitution is superseded by Ideology, the result is arbitrary power. In its extreme form this becomes revolutionary- consider those who want to eliminate Fox News, which is reflective of a totalitarian mindset.

The irony is that it is the liberals that are most protected by the constitution. They are far outnumbered by conservatives, and any devolution to arbitrary power would not serve them well. Those who would go so far as to employ the force of the state to get their way are laughable, for this ultimately means violence in the service of some idea. But when it comes to the means and ability to employ force, use guns, and fight, such capabilities are found on the right, not the left. Thus those on the left who would upend the constitution for their own aims should think twice before abandoning its principles.

Written by georgesarant

July 28, 2011 at 6:44 PM

MAKE THE DEAL

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There are times when a strategic retreat makes sense, even losing a battle in order to win the war. That is the position the Republicans are now in with regard to the debt ceiling-budget battle. Although polls indicate that most people agree with conservative positions on these questions, when it comes to assigning blame on the impasse, 39% blame the Republicans, not Obama. Given this reality it makes no sense to continue insist on legislation that is not going to go anywhere given the Democratic Senate, although the Republican House membership must be credited with some great ideas. The question is how to ultimately get them implemented.

It is in everyone’s interest to get this default issue behind us, and take the McConnell plan, or something similar. That puts an end to the immediate crisis until the next election, at which time conservatives will be in a much better position to capture the Senate and Presidency. At that time the President will have no cover, no basis to blame Republicans, and will have to take the fall for the lousy economy. It is important to keep the long-term picture in mind. Most goals can be reached, but after 2012, if cooler heads prevail.

Written by georgesarant

July 23, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Posted in economy, Politics

THE STAR SYSTEM

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The “star” system originated in the 19th century entertainment industry, but it really flourished in Hollywood and became entrenched., In the past the great studios exercised a good measure of control over excess, but they are long gone while the stars, such as they are today, remain. But the star system is no longer confined to Hollywood in America. It is now ubiquitous. That is obvious in professional sports, but it has also spread far afield, i.e. to the business world. Thus CEOs now find themselves on the cover of business magazines and treated like superstars, at least in terms of their pay packages.

This has resulted in a “winner take all” society where those at the top are disproportionately rewarded, deservedly or undeservedly, because they are in a position establish their own terms. The more advantages you have the more advantages you can obtain. This is one consequence of our free enterprise system, which I support, but I find such outcomes troubling given the resulting disparities.There is room for only a few at the top of the pyramid. I don’t subscribe to the “share the wealth” school of thought because it ultimately just makes everyone poorer. What I do find unacceptable is the undue awe and deference given to such people, which is almost entirely based upon money and notoriety.

We would be a far better society if those who possess an admirable degree of honor, integrity, character, and other intangible virtues were more highly regarded. There was a time when this was the case, when a man like George Washington was held in highest esteem by his contemporaries and succeeding generations, but this has been lost. We should hold the virtuous in highest regard, but this will only happen if our educational system emphasizes these characteristics. Instead today the emphasis is on building “self esteem,” which there is far too much of and results in all sorts of selfish behavior.

Too few of the “stars” in society display any sort of virtue that can be separated from ego gratification. They are famous because they want to be, and various public relations people manage their image. Apart from real disasters, most of what you read or hear in the news is placed by such representatives behind the scenes. The star system would collapse if no one paid attention to them, which would require a degree of maturity, as evidenced by the fact that those most impressed by celebrities tend to be teenagers.

True virtue is quiet and steady and is reflected in the way people live their lives. It is the basic decency of unsung heroes that makes life worthwhile. For in truth most of the people you have heard of today aren’t worth knowing about.

Written by georgesarant

July 11, 2011 at 3:29 PM

Posted in morality

REFLECTIONS ON THE RICH

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I have known a fair number of very rich people during my life and the one thing that strikes me is that they are not that “different” from others, notwithstanding F. Scott Fitzgerald. They are often more acquisitive, but basically just have bigger or more expensive versions of what everyone else has, i.e. houses, boats, watches, etc. They are certainly not any smarter than others,nor are they particularly talented. They are frequently very focused on getting more, and in the process may work hard. But so do a lot of other people. In truth the one thing that characterizes them above all else is luck.

The older I get the more I realize how important luck is in life. Opportunities, connections, circumstances, etc. have to come together in just the right way out of random possibilities, but this is often forgotten. For example, CEOs believe they deserve to be in charge, never mind that any number of others could have risen to that position had things been slightly different. It too frequently follow with “star” status that there is a sense of entitlement, and a total loss of humility. Movie stars are no different. To be sure many are talented, but the aspiring actor pumping gas may be just as talented, but hasn’t been at the right place at the right time. There are some exceptions, such as professional sports, but even there circumstances matter.

I bring this up because of the issue of taxation. I don’t begrudge them their wealth, nor do I think there ought to be any kind of leveling to establish “fairness,” as the left would have it. But I do object to their having undue governmental influence. Unfortunately politicians are in awe of the rich, even though there is less there than meets the eye. They can’t legally contribute any more than anyone else, and their fundraising prowess is actually based upon leaning on others, i.e.suppliers, business associates, etc., becoming a fundraising “bundler.” This gets them special access to elected officials, who are constantly raising money for re-election; access they don’t deserve.

Low taxes on the rich is a position largely held by Republicans, who as a result are saddled with the impression of “favoring the rich.” Yet a majority of the richest people in the US favored Obama in the last election, so it is not as though the Republicans owe them anything, and it is time for them to put an end to this stereotype. Given the disastrous amount of spending and debt we are facing, the very richest people can pay more, given how fortune has favored them.

This need not involve confiscatory tax rates, but rather ending all sorts of deductions and loopholes that are in the tax code. I would also add that certain contributions ought not to be deductible. For example, large donors, usually with large egos, frequently get facilities named after themselves. Why should plastering their name all over get them a tax deduction? If their egos are such that they need to see their name on things, let them fully pay for the privilege.

That said, the actual conservative position is not to intrinsically favor the rich because they are rich, but rather to maximize economic benefit for society as a whole. For the question is what is preferable- to have them control and spend their own money, or have the government do it. In seeking confiscatory taxes the left wants to control the money themselves through the government in order to “improve” society in areas they think are deficient. But government is ineffective and inefficient at just about anything it does. When it comes to their money, the rich, on the other hand can do only one of two things- either they invest it or they spend it.
If they invest it they precipitate economic growth, which benefits everyone. On the other hand, if they spend it, even on luxuries, they are still contributing to economic activity and creating jobs. For example, when someone wealthy buys a yacht they are creating and sustaining jobs for all the people involved in its production.

What they don’t need are any favors from the government, and that is what must end. In addition, I believe the income tax should be graduated, but with a low ceiling, for the simple reason that money breeds more money. Someone wealthy has far more access to funding and loans than others do. This would not impact small business given a credit for investing in new enterprises. In fact the best thing that rich people could do for the economy is to behave like rich people, spending an investing, rather than trying to influence public policy. That especially includes annoying wealthy offspring who often feel compelled to engage in “public service” due to their fortunate circumstances, which inevitably involves public spending at the expense of everyone else.

Those who have created fortunes are far more obsessed with making money than other people. Americans tend to be indulgent of the wealthy because most of them want to become rich themselves. Personally, like the ancient Greeks, I think the pursuit of money and possessions at the expense of everything else in life is folly, for in the end you cannot take them with you and your ownership is nothing more than temporary. There are many more satisfying and appealing aspects to life and better ways of using one’s time. But I suppose it is necessary for some people to keep the wheels of commerce turning to maintain economic prosperity for everyone else.

Written by georgesarant

July 6, 2011 at 6:37 PM

Posted in Uncategorized