Monday, July 30, 2007

That’s Just Not a Human Right

You have basic human rights, but they may not be what you think. We Americans think our basic human rights are rights to free speech, to and from religion, to assemble, and freedom of the press. Although critically important, these are not human rights. They are political rights.

Our basic human rights are to nutrition, shelter, education, and healthcare.

Over the years, we’ve accused China of failing to provide basic human rights, to which they responded that United States failed to provide basic human rights. China cites the number of people in the U.S. without medical insurance and the number of homeless. We cite China’s lack of freedoms of speech and religion.

Both countries are right. They’re just arguing at cross points. In the end, it may be that China is better at providing basic human rights and the U.S. is better at providing basic political rights.

Before anyone gets the wrong point . . . political rights are critical. Without political rights it is nearly impossible to obtain basic human rights. We order to have a rational discussion we just need to differentiate.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Illegal Immigration . . . What’s the real issue?

In the wake of a federal court throwing out Hazleton, Pennsylvania’s anti-immigration laws, I think we need to step back and reexamine the issue of illegal immigration.

Fences and guns won’t stop people from immigrating to find work, whether they do it legally or illegally. Doesn’t a father who has children that are malnourished, under educated, poorly sheltered, or lacking in medical care have a moral duty to do something to help his family? And, following logically, doesn’t that father’s children have a moral obligation to follow him, if he demands it?

The real issue isn’t crossing borders illegally. It’s rational choice. Most people are tied to where they grow up. Most of us would prefer to stay in the community where we were raised. But, if staying is not a rational choice, we have to leave.

The only way we can solve illegal immigration is by making the villages and cities in other countries a rational choice. NAFTA was supposed to do the trick, but it didn’t provide for minimum wages or environmental controls. If children can be fed, sheltered, educated, and provided with health care, to a reasonable degree, most parents would choose to remain where they are.

How do we use this global economy we’re developing to make villages a generationally rational choice?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Capitalism Needs Help

The United States economy is alive and well, but capitalism isn’t. According to the theories of capitalism, an economy grows through competition. We are currently in a prolonged period of low competition. So, worldwide economic growth is slow.

Competition requires a huge number of firms competing in each market and ease of entry for new firms. Of course, ease of entry must also mean ease of leaving the market. Right now, however, almost every market is dominated by a few gargantuan firms.

A solid capitalist system protects us all. A central control economy, like the former Soviet Union, fails due to a lack of decision makers. It only takes one man to make a bad decision and the market can fail. The beauty of a capitalist system is the great number of decision makers. Even if some bad decisions are made, enough entrepreneurs will make good decisions to protect the market.

Three steps could promote the wide open markets envisioned be Adam Smith. The key is to make small firms competitive with huge firms. Right now, a large company has an advantage in research and development and providing health care and pensions to their employees.

The first step is national health care and national pensions. National healthcare and pensions will allow smaller companies to compete with large firms in providing basic benefits to employees. If the Government were to contract out healthcare and pensions to a multitude of firms, with mandatory goals, capitalistic innovation could be maintained. Plus, foreign firms could no longer hide behind national healthcare and pension systems in their home countries to undercut American companies.

The second step would be graduating the corporate tax code. A proper graduation of the corporate tax code would promote small business, and thus, greater competition. A nationally backed foreign firm could be taxed based on the size of the government funding it. Foreign firms, selling in the United States, would have to be smaller companies too.

Third, to account for expensive research and development, small businesses should be allowed to create R&D consortiums. Such R&D consortiums need to be protected from antitrust laws. Generally, beyond promoting small business, antitrust laws must be strictly enforced, however.

We believe small business is the engine of our economy, so why don’t we act like it? Properly configured and aided, a system of small business competition and innovation will propel our economy into the next age.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The War In Iraq is Over !

Yep, the War is over, has been for four years. When President Bush stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier, in 2003, and told us the War was over, he was right.

The Iraqi military had been defeated. Saddam Hussein had been overthrown. The War was at an end. That day, the Occupation of Iraq began. We’ve been occupying the country for over four years now, and it hasn’t gone well.

The American military and its troops are equipped and trained for blitzkrieg, not occupation. The war in Granada was a blitzkrieg. So was the war in Panama. During the Kuwait War, the United States swept in and forced out the vaunted Iraqi military in a matter of days. Having met its United Nations mandate, the U.S. pulled out.

Unfortunately, we still have not equipped or trained our military for an occupation. We cannot effectively hold territory and win hearts and minds. Our troops are still great at quick and forceful action, but cannot win hearts and minds. We need to redevelop some of our forces for occupation missions.

To implement a plan in Iraq, it is critical that we call a spade a spade. Words are important. If our Government, military, and the public start to call the operation in Iraq an Occupation, rather than a War, we could finally have an operation in Iraq that makes sense and could finally come to an end.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Minimum Wage Increases Today, but . . .

Good news … The Federal minimum wage is increasing today, for the first time in 10 years. Bad news … The Federal minimum wage still does not even come close to enough money to raise a family.

The Federal minimum wage increases today, from $5.15 per hour to $5.85 per hour. Based on the standard minimum wage work week of 35 hours, someone working 52 weeks a year would gross $10,647. Rarely will a minimum wage worker receive benefits. A two earner family, both working minimum wage jobs would earn $21,294 in gross earnings. Of course, FICA must be paid from all wages, reducing the couple’s net earnings to about $19,700, assuming no payment of income tax.

Unfortunately, the poverty line for a family of four in 2007 is $20,650 for the lower 48 states. Federal Register, Vol. 72, No. 15, January 24, 2007, pp. 3147–3148. So, two parents earning minimum wage, with two children, must still need to rely on additional government support programs.

Why, you may ask, is the Federal poverty line apparently wrong? The calculation is no longer accurate. In 1963, Mollie Orshansky, of the Social Security Administration, developed a simple formula to calculate the minimum income needed for a family: The cost of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture economy food plan for a family multiplied by three. At the time, food was about one third of a family’s spending.

Orshansky’s formula may have been fairly accurate in 1963, but it doesn’t work in 2007. Due to increases in the cost of housing, health care, fuel, etc., food is now much less than one third of family’s expenses. If food accounts for as much as 20 percent of a family’s spending, the poverty line for a family of four would be $34,416. (Based on the Government’s poverty line for 2007). The poverty line is 40 percent too low.

By 2009, the minimum wage will be $7.25 per hour. The two minimum wage earner family would be grossing $26,390 or netting about $24,400, still well below a realistic poverty threshold.

The question remains . . . Who benefits from government poverty programs? Aren’t the government support assistance programs really support to employers who underpay their employees?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

High Middle Class Standard of Living Causes Wage Stagnation

The American middle class enjoyed a significant improvement in its standard of living during the 1980s and 90s. But, it was too much.

There has always been an acceptable standard of living for the middle class. A middle class family should be barely able to feed, clothe, and educate itself, as well as providing for shelter and medical care. Whenever the middle class standard of living gets higher than this acceptable standard, wages stagnate until the middle class is brought back to its proper standard of living.

There were two primary reasons for a rising standard of living; the computer age and the rise of the two earner family. Now two earner families are necesary. Due to two incomes, middle class parents were able to add luxuries, such as travel and technology, to the acceptable standard of living. Wage payers have never been willing to provide their workers with luxuries.

So, wage payers now keep wage increases below inflation. When wages and inflation balance in the acceptable middle class standard of living again, wages will finally start increasing. Hopefully, the middle class will not slip too far below the acceptable standard of living.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Scooter Libby Question

I have a simple question about Scooter Libby's commutation: Tony Snow said Libby will have a hard time making a living as a lawyer due to his felony conviction. This is a man who was Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States. He's a lobbyist's dream.

Does Snow really believe Libby ever had any intention to return to arguing cases in court after leaving the Whitehouse?