Archive for July, 2011

On the Budget: Default

July 28, 2011

Speaker of the House Boehner has moved heaven and earth to get a compromise bill, one that the president promises to veto and the house republicans refuse to agree to.

The issue before us is, shall we extend the debt limit? The answer is,  “No.” They have already had that vote in the house, and it failed.

Now the question is, what must the government do to get an increase in the debt limit? I believe the answer is and always should be, “Never.” We must start cutting, right now, and continue cutting until we can lower the debt limit all the way to 0. There is no reason why our country should be in debt, none whatsoever. As the wealthiest nation to ever grace the pages of history, we should, instead, have vast fortunes at our disposal, ready to spend should there be any who dare threaten our security.

Baseline budgeting says that government should increase spending every year. This is absurd. You can only increase expenses as you receive more income, and you should instead be looking at ways to cut expenses.

If the democrats in the senate and President Obama believe that the American people have an inexhaustible supply of money and wealth they can exploit, then it’s time to default. It’s time to show the democrats the absurdity of their ways. Let the country go bankrupt. Let all the programs they have built on the backs of the American people evaporate. Let us start over from scratch, financially.

As the wealthiest country on the planet, our burden will go away with a default, our burden being the idea that the American people have an inexhaustible supply of money.

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Medicare and Money

July 28, 2011

Many people do not understand what money is or why it is even at the forefront of thought in all economic decisions, even when it comes to whether or not your grandma should get cancer treatment.

Let me help you understand.

First, money is valuable because it is valuable. People are willing to trade their time for it, and because people are willing to trade their time for it, you can buy people’s time with it.

All economic goods, from food to medicine, is all the product of someone’s time combined with their ability and the tools and resources they have available to them. The ability is largely dependent on an individual’s natural talent, but much more so on how they have spent their time to refine that talent. The resources they have available to them are available because someone took their time and ability and applied it to get them there.

All of these factors depend, ultimately, on time.

Since humans live about 70 years and then they die, we all have limited time. If we were ageless or immortal, then we probably wouldn’t care about how long things take to do. If it took 1 second or  1 year or a billion years, it would be the same to us. But we are mortal. Each of us will, eventually, die, and so our time is inherently precious to us.

Money represents our time. It is, in essence, a small part of our life. If you treat money as if it were a fraction of your life, or someone else’s life, then you will start to treat it reverently and carefully. You will find you are much more frugal, choosing more often to do without rather than spend someone’s time to meet your needs.

Now, consider grandma’s cancer. Grandma has cancer. She will, eventually, die, either from the cancer or from something else. She has limited time left. She has spent a great deal of time already doing whatever it was she chose to do with her life. Her bank account may reflect the amount of time she used up for her purposes versus the amount of time she used on behalf of others. She has also accumulated other resources, like her children and her grandchildren, maybe her property, and such. These all represent the investments she made with her time.

The decision was made some time ago to invest people’s time into researching cancer treatment and diagnosis. Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff were trained to run hospitals, built with the time and expertise of countless millions of people, both those who put it together and those who brought resources to the building site as well as those who created those resources. We cannot discount the efforts of the architect and board who made countless thousands of decisions after spending time to deliberate about the best way to build this particular hospital. Land was set aside, land that could’ve been used for growing food or building a grocery store or an office building, or even a road that could’ve saved 2 minutes on everyone’s commute every day of the week.

As your grandma enters that hospital, and as the doctor takes time out of his schedule to see your grandma as opposed to anyone else, then as the doctor makes decisions, in consultation with your grandma, further taking up open spots both in terms of who will get what medicine and who will get what time in which facilities, people’s time is consumed.

This is represented with the hospital bill. All those times are represented with a simple dollar value.

If the treatment is more expensive than what people are willing to pay for it, then the doctor has no choice but to refuse to see your grandma. Why? Because there are other people who are more willing to bid for his time and the hospital’s resources.

This is capitalism 101: You cannot force people to do things. They must voluntarily trade their time and money, or there is no deal. If one side says, “I will only do X if you give me Y”, then you can’t get X without paying them Y. Of course, you can negotiate and haggle, but in the end there must be mutual consent to the terms.

(Note that I am not talking about crony capitalism. I am talking about the same capitalism that the guy who sells hot dogs from his cart practices every day. Crony capitalism is not capitalism at all, but socialism disguised, because it relies on government force to work.)

Let’s reword all of the above in terms of money rather than time.

Grandma has cancer. The doctor says, “I will diagnose and treat you, but it will cost several hundred thousand dollars.” If Grandma doesn’t have several hundred thousand dollars, she cannot get treated.

Medicare has distorted the medical field. It does this in a number of ways, but the simple fact that it covers the cost of Grandma’s cancer treatment means that the cost is never considered, either by grandma or the doctor. This means that the doctor, the medicine companies, the hospitals and staff are free to charge almost as much as they want. If they are unhappy with how much money they make, they petition the government to give them even more money,.

This is unhealthy, obviously. Grandma should be in complete control of her health care. She should only be allowed to spend the resources that are given to her. If you wish Grandma could receive more treatment than she can afford, then feel free to send here a few dollars. At the end of the days, Grandma will have to make a decision: Is it best for me to spend the money I have on the best treatment I can get? Should I settle for a cheaper treatment and save my money for the future (or save it for my children?) Or should I forego treatment altogether, enjoy as many of my final moments knowing that there will be more money for others in the future?

Obamacare was proposed because the socialists know that you need some sort of cost control measure. They want to enforce lower prices by refusing treatment altogether for Medicare recipients. That will work, to a degree. However, it won’t be a proper solution because it doesn’t discourage people from charging as much money as they can. Instead, they just have to campaign really hard to get their treatments approved. This is already happening as we see, because certain drugs that are denied to people are already part of the political debate. Such a thing never happened before.

Capitalism says that you allow the individuals to decide for themselves, based on what they have available to them. This sounds harsh, but it means that people who want to have good treatment in their final years will save their own money, doing their best to maximize their wealth in their final years.

It also means, and this is the key component, that they will seek the best treatment they can get at the cheapest price possible. This will drive doctors, hospitals, and drug companies to invest in providing the best care possible cheaply. You will see, under such a scenario, advertisements encouraging people to use particular hospitals or particular treatments, not because they are necessarily superior to all the others, but because they keep their costs deliberately low while providing better service.

If we can put these economic forces to work, we can dramatically decrease the cost of health care. I wouldn’t be surprised if cancer treatment became as cheap as pineapples and bananas are in the supermarkets. Of course, we today think of these things as cheap commodities, but at one point they were the most expensive produce in the world, worth more than their weight in gold.

Imagine if cancer treatment for grandma cost only $10, without a single penny in subsidies from government. It is possible, and it will happen, because everywhere capitalism is introduced, prices fall, supply increases, quality increases, and demand is met.

 

Why Memorials?

July 4, 2011

As I read about William Whipple receiving a plaque commemorating his role in the signing of the Declaration of Independence and service to our country at that critical time, I am reminded why it is so important we honor and recognize our ancestors and the work they did for us.

My older brother-in-law explained why Koreans spend so much time honoring their ancestors and parents. He framed it in this way. Suppose you want to receive honor from your sons and grandsons. You have to teach them to honor their elders. If you do not teach by example, what will they learn? Therefore, we honor our ancestors so that we are honored.

This is the Golden Rule in Confucian terms.

More importantly, I feel, is the role of remembering our history and the sacrifice that our forebears have made. By understanding the price we are not required to pay, we appreciate the price we do pay for its small measure. By understanding the price they paid, we understand the value they placed on the things they sacrificed for.

For members of the LDS church, our mausoleum of heroes extends whatever national figures our nation, wherever we reside, reveres. Added to the list of people worthy of remembrance are the Saints who persevered through persecution of the worst sort. They were chased out of their homes, churches, and temples by mobs. When we did stand up to the mobs with arms and armies, the Mormons became the target of an extermination order signed by the Missouri governor at the time. And so the Latter-day Saints packed their bags once again to build the city of Nauvoo. After the prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, once again they packed their bags and traveled to the most remote spot they could find, a land whose notable feature was a vast salt lake, and deserts with ground seemingly impossible to farm. The thousands of Saints that joined the church in England had to travel straight through from their homeland to Salt Lake City. These were not people accustomed to frontier life like the first generation of Saints were. These were people who lived in cities and towns, and were familiar with those comforts.

Along the trail, thousands of tiny graves were erected, often with nothing more than a piece of wood with a few initials. I visited the graves of some of my ancestors at the Winter Quarters temple. There was no time to make proper headstones. Oftentimes, a rock is all that marks where the body was buried.

July 24th marks Pioneer Day, the day when the Mormon Pioneers finally arrived at the place that the prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young saw in a vision. That’s the day when we celebrate our “Independence Day”, the independence and freedom to worship in a way that pleases us, or rather, the true and living God we worship.

What is most curious about the LDS faith is our reverence towards the same country that drove us out of our homes. We believe, as many people do, that it was not mere chance that the Founding Fathers did what they did. They were inspired by God. To me, July 4th is a religious holiday, a day when I celebrate the fact that God decided it was time to bring freedom to the world, and that he chose the group of people I call my own. I have a sacred duty as an American to protect my freedom and the freedom of my countrymen, as well as to spread that freedom as far and wide as possible.

Their ancestors, political or otherwise, were likewise inspired to do what they did. Who can say what the American revolution would have looked like without hundreds of years of English and European history, the experience of the Greeks, Romans, and others, and countless hundreds of philosophers and scientists?

Where was the roots of all of this? We can name many sources, but among all the most ancient sources, one source of our liberty shines brighter than all the others. Moses, in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt by the hand of God, is our ultimate example and inspiration.

Where does freedom come from? Can it be given, or is it earned? What are its conditions? My experience in this short mortal life is that we live each day, either increasing or decreasing our freedom. The choices we make have a profound and far-reaching effect on what freedoms we enjoy today and tomorrow. Which decisions maximize our freedoms, and which minimize it?

This is what the commandments of God are. They are yardsticks that help us measure our actions in a simple way. When God pronounces blessings for the obedient, and curses for the disobedient, he does so in the natural results of our actions. Violate His laws, and feel His wrath, whether it be by missing out on some of life’s most pleasant rewards, or altering our state and condition, both as an individual and as a society, such that we can never experience the reward.

I give as a simple example, God’s loving commandment “Thou shalt not steal.” By honoring other’s property, our property is honored. We do not have to take measures to protect our property, because our property needs no protections when no one will violate it. We are allowed to enjoy the full benefits of our property, because no one tries to limit our use of it, or claims it as their own.

Another simple example: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” If we are faithful to our spouses, our relationship can grow into the beautiful relationship that we see some older couples enjoy, where their lives have joined into one beautiful union. Our children will honor and respect us, and be more likely to follow our example and raise children of their own, so that we will have grandchildren and great grandchildren to brighten our later years. And we know from scientific studies that those who stay married see their children enter to the upper class, as they are more likely to earn more money and earn more advanced degrees.

Our freedom is predicated on our own individual willingness to obey God’s commandments. No government, no entity or individual, can force us to obey all of them. We can only build a peaceful society if we build it from within by our daily actions, and keep those forces who would destroy that society out. That is why we have government. The moment we no longer have individuals and organizations that try to interrupt our happiness is the same moment when we will no longer need a group of people to actively protect our rights.

Our Founding Fathers understood that our freedom is predicated on our personal righteousness. They knew that each generation would have to learn this for themselves. They knew that should any generation forget this, and embrace some other way besides the Laws of Nature, that we would lose our freedoms.

Today, as it has always been, our freedom is under attack. We don’t have armies of British soldiers attempting to extract taxes, interfering with our commerce if we refuse to comply. We don’t have slaveholders who eat the bread that is grown with slave hands. We don’t governments who oppress the people based on the color of their skin. We don’t face a vast international empire whose sole purpose is to impose autocratic rule in the name of Communism.

We do, however, face threats foreign and mostly domestic. Our national debt is identified by our military leaders as our biggest threat to our freedom. We have those whose lives depend on bankrupting our future set against those who want to end debt financing of our government operations altogether. We have those who believe they need government to survive, versus those who believe government should be a small fraction of what it is today. We have those who believe that they can impose immorality in the forms of abortion and homosexual marriage, and that by destroying the fabric of our culture, our religion, and family, that we will not lose our basic freedoms. And of course, we have a handful of nations who are building weapons that could do us great harm, combined with international terrorist organizations that are plotting to murder us while we live, work, and play.

I propose we do what our Founding Fathers did this July 4th. Let us reaffirm that government exists to protect our rights, not to infringe upon them. Let us reaffirm that our liberties come from God, not government, and depend on our personal righteousness. Let us reaffirm that we rely on God, and pray in faith knowing that he is merciful to those who humble themselves before him. And let us remember that the price of freedom is not cheap, but it requires sacrifice, and that whatever sacrifice we are called upon to make is a small fraction of what our ancestors made.

All X Are Y

July 2, 2011

To understand the stupidity of linking groups with behavior that isn’t directly related, take a listen to Obama’s former pastor telling his church youth that all whites are liars over and over.

Now, if you’re one of those people who believe all Mormons are liars (because they are Mormon), and your skin color happens to be white, you’ll get a feeling for how I feel when I hear that sad lie repeated again and again.

Now, ask yourself, as a white person, do you think that Rev. Wright is right? Of course not. He just looks like a bigoted fool.

If you repeat the lie that all Mormons are liars, do you know how you look like to me and others who are wiser then yourself?