FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #45: “The bluest of cities in the bluest of states have the most activist governments, the deepest recessions and the most abject poverty.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 21st, 2010

Blue States Bleeding Red

We call it the Great Recession.  It started with the subprime mortgage crisis.  Then the dominoes started falling.  And unemployment rates started to climb.  So many people lost their jobs that it wasn’t only banks and auto companies staring into the abyss of bankruptcy.  Our city and states were, too.

But not all our cities and states.  Some were hanging in there during the Great Recession.  There was a pattern.  Sure, it was a rule with some exceptions, but a general rule all the same.  And if you looked at one of those red/blue electoral maps, you could see the states (and the cities) having the biggest financial troubles.  You just looked for the blue.

The blue states are the ‘Democrat’ states.  The red states are ‘Republican’.  And the states that are in the news with financial troubles tend to be the blue states.  The New England States.  The Mid-West states.  And the West Coast states.  The rate of business failures and high unemployment rates have hammered these states.  Taxable income plummeted.  Without the income to tax, tax revenue plummeted.  And these blue states are bleeding red.

Blue States and Unionized Public Sector Employees

These are the Big Government states.  Home for most of the nation’s liberal democrats.  Although liberal democrats make up only about 20% of the national population, most of them live in these states.  And when you pack a lot of this 20% into these small areas, their influence can reach a majority.  And they can control these cities and states.  And do.

These liberals are the guilty rich (anti-capitalist inheritors of great wealth).  Crony-capitalists (anti-capitalists who eschew the free market and bribe politicians in exchange for governmental favoritism).  Big Union (anti-capitalists who eschew the free market and seek legislation that favors them).  The celebrity rich (anti-capitalist movie stars, musicians, painters, artists, etc., who don’t live in the real world).  University professors (anti-capitalists who still have posters of Che Guevara up in their classrooms).  The mainstream media (anti-capitalists who want to shape opinion instead of practicing journalism).  And, of course, the poor and government-dependent.

And then you have public sector employees.  Unionized public sector employees.  And their ranks are growing.  They don’t work very hard.  But boy are they paid well.  And talk about fat benefits.  Pension plans that most can’t even imagine.  They have made themselves a privileged class.  And with their boss having the power to tax, that privileged class will be remaining privileged for a long time to come.  Unless a Great Recession comes along.

Much of Flyover Country not having any Budget Crises

What is flyover country?  It’s that are area of the country liberals fly over when traveling between the West Coast, the Big Union Mid-West, New England and, of course, Washington D.C.  It’s that area in between.  The red states.  You see, liberals fly over the red states because they don’t like them.  Or Republicans.

Because America is a center-right nation, and the liberals have concentrated in the blue states, that has left most of ‘fly over’ country conservative.  And what do conservatives NOT like?  Big Government.  So liberals don’t go where they’ve not welcomed.  For Big Government is the heart and soul of liberalism.

So the red states don’t have Big Government.  They don’t have masses of government-dependent people.  And they don’t have large public sectors.  Or public sector union employees.  Which means they don’t have huge Big Government budgets.  Or budget crises.

The Public Sector Out Paces the Private Sector in the Blue States

But the blue states do.  Their Big Cities are packed with government-dependent people.  And they have a huge public sector to cater to these people.  And a public sector union that pays this public sector very well.  They have pay and benefit packages that are to die for.

Of course, a public sector doesn’t make anything.  They have no goods or services that they can sell in the free market.  They have but one source of income.  Taxes.  And when times are good, taxes are good.  But when times are poor, so are taxes.

Part of the liberal democrat’s strategy to remain in power is to get as many people as possible dependent on government.  This helps make Democrat voters (people who vote Democrat because they are afraid of losing their government benefits).  And justifies their huge government budgets.  So they keep adding people to the public dole.  And keep growing their budgets.  It’s a foolproof plan.  As long as the private sector grows along with the public sector.  So the private sector can keep paying the taxes to support the public sector.  And the privileged class.

Big Government – The Road to Bankruptcy

But it doesn’t always work.  When businesses fail they don’t have any income.  So they can’t pay any income taxes.  And when a business fails people lose their jobs.  And their incomes.  So they don’t pay any income taxes either.  But it doesn’t end there.  Without any income, they can’t buy anything in the free market.  So other businesses see their sales decline.  And have to lay off employees.  And these laid-off people can’t buy anything in the free market.  So more businesses see their sales decline.  And they lay off people.  And on and on it goes.  Where does it stop?  Usually in a bad recession.  Or even a great one.

You add all of this up and what do you get?  Big cities with growing budgets (and growing pension obligations).  And shrinking tax revenue to pay for it.  Costs exceed revenues.  Ergo, bankruptcy.

And some of the states with the most generous public sector pay and benefits are California, Illinois and New York.   Some of the bluest of blue states.  And coincidentally, these are the states facing some of the biggest budget crises.  Actually, it’s no coincidence.  It’s the ultimate consequence of Big Government.  Bankruptcy.

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LESSONS LEARNED #28: “Politicians love failure because no one ever asked government to fix something that was working.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 26th, 2010

THE TELEVISION SHOW Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. aired from 1964-1969.  It was a spinoff from the Andy Griffith Show.  Gomer, a naive country bumpkin who worked at Wally’s filling station, joined the Marines Corps.  And there was much mirth and merriment.  To the chagrin of Sergeant Carter, Pyle’s drill instructor (DI).  Think of Gunny Sergeant R. Lee Ermey’s Sergeant Hartman in the movie Full Metal Jacket only with no profanity or mature subject matter.  Sergeant Carter was a tough DI like Sergeant Hartman.  But more suitable for the family hour on prime time television.

Gunny sergeants are tough as nails.  And good leaders.  They take pride in this.  But sometimes a gunny starts to feel that he’s not himself anymore.  This was the subject of an episode.  And Gomer, seeing that Sergeant Carter was feeling down, wanted to help.  So he stuffed Sergeant Carter’s backpack with hay before a long march.  While the platoon was worn and tired, Sergeant Carter was not.  He was feeling good.  Like his old self.  Until he found out he was not carrying the same load his men were.  He asked Pyle, “why hay?”  He could understand rocks, but hay?  Because if he outlasted his men while carrying a heavier load, he would feel strong.  But knowing he had carried a lighter load only made him feel weak.

This is human nature.  People take pride in their achievements.  They don’t take pride in any achievement attained by an unfair advantage.  Self-esteem matters.  And you can’t feel good about yourself if you need help to do what others can do without help. 

AN OLD CHINESE proverb goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Let’s say I am a fisherman in a small village.  I catch fish to feed my family and sell/trade for other family needs.  There’s a man in my village who asks me for a fish each day so he can eat.  I’m a caring person.  So I give him a fish each day.  So a pattern develops.  Each day he shows up when I come in from my fishing.  He takes the fish and goes away.  It works out well for him.  He doesn’t have to work.  He can live off of my kind charity.  Then I move.  Without me being there to give him a fish each day, he no longer can eat.  And dies.  If I only had taught that man to fish. 

Kindness can lead to dependency.  And once dependent, you become lazy.  Why develop marketable skills to provide for yourself when someone else will provide for you?  The problem is, of course, what happens when that charity ends?  If you’re unable to provide for yourself and there is no longer someone providing for you, what do you do?  Steal?

Dependency and a lack of self-esteem are a dangerous combination.  And they feed off of each other.  This combination can lead to depression.  Behavioral problems.  Resentment.  Bitterness.  Envy.  Or a defeatist attitude.

These are often unintended consequences of government programs.  A failed program, then, has far reaching consequences beyond the initial economic costs of a program.

LIQUIDITY CRISES CAUSE a lot of economic damage.  If capital is not available for businesses to borrow, businesses can’t grow.  Or create jobs.  And we need jobs.  People have to work.  To support themselves.  And to pay taxes to fund the government.  So everyone is in favor of businesses growing to create jobs.  We all would like to see money being easy and cheap to borrow if it creates jobs.

But there is a downside to easy money.  Inflation.  Too much borrowing can create inflation.  By increasing the money supply (via fractional reserve banking).  More money means higher prices.  Because each additional dollar is worth a little less. This can lead to overvalued assets as prices are ‘bid’ up with less valuable dollars.  And higher prices can inflate business profits.  Looks good on paper.  But too much of this creates a bubble.  Because those high asset values and business profits are not real.  They’re inflated.  Like a bubble.  And just as fragile.  When bubbles burst, asset values and business profits drop.  To real values.  People are no longer ‘bidding’ up prices.  They stop buying until they think prices have sunk to their lowest.  We call this deflation.  A little bit of inflation or deflation is normal.  Too much can be painful economically.  Like in the Panic of 1907.

Without going into details, there was a speculative bubble that burst in 1907.  This led to a liquidity crisis as banks failed.  Defaults on loans left banks owing more money than they had (i.e., they became illiquid).  They tried to borrow money and recall loans to restore their liquidity.  Borrowers grew concerned that their bank may fail.  So they withdrew their money.  This compounded the banks problems.  This caused deflation.  Money was unavailable.  Causing bank runs.  And bank failures.  Business failures.  And unemployment grew. So government passed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.  The government gave the Federal Reserve System (the Fed) great powers to tweak the monetary system.  The smartest people at the time had figured out what had gone wrong in 1907.  And they created a system that made it impossible for it to happen again.

The worst liquidity crisis of all time happened from 1929-1933.  It’s part of what we call the Great Depression.  The 1920s had a booming economy.  Real income was rising.  Until the Fed took action.  Concerned that people were borrowing money for speculative purposes (in paper investments instead of labor, plant and material), they put on the brakes.  Made it harder and more expensive to borrow money.  Then a whole series of things happened along the way that turned a recession into a depression.  When people needed money, they made it harder to get it, causing a deflationary spiral.  The Great Depression was the result of bad decisions made by too few men with too much power.  It made a crisis far worse than the one in 1907.  And the Roosevelt administration made good use of this new crisis.  FDR exploded the size of government to respond to the unprecedented crisis they found themselves in.  The New Deal changed America from a nation of limited government to a country where Big Government reigns supreme.

ONE PROGRAM OF the New Deal was Social Security.  Unemployment in the 1930s ran at or above 14%.  This is for one whole decade.  Never before nor since has this happened.  Older workers generally earn more than younger ones.  Their experience commands a higher pay rate.  Which allows them to buy more things.  Resulting in more bills.  Therefore, the Great Depression hit older workers especially hard.  A decade of unemployment would have eaten through any life savings of even the most prudent savers.  And what does this get you?  A great crisis.

The government took a very atypical moment of history and changed the life of every American.  The government forced people to save for retirement.  In a very poor savings plan.  That paid poorly by comparison to private pensions or annuities.  And gave the government control over vast amounts of money.  It was a pervasive program.  They say FDR quipped, “Let them try to undo this.” 

With government taking care of you in retirement, more people stopped providing for themselves.  When they retired, they scrimped by on their ‘fixed’ incomes.  And because Social Security became law before widespread use of birth control and abortion, the actuaries of the day were very optimistic.  They used the birth rate then throughout their projections.  But with birth control and abortion came a huge baby bust.  The bottom fell out of the birth rate.  A baby bust generation followed a baby boom generation.  Actually, all succeeding generations were of the bust kind.  The trend is growing where fewer and fewer people pay for more and more people collecting benefits.  And these people were living longer.  To stay solvent, the system has to raise taxes on those working and reduce benefits on those who are not.  Or raise the retirement age.  All these factors have made it more difficult on our aged population.  Making them working longer than they planned.  Or by making that fixed income grow smaller.

FDR used a crisis to create Social Security.  Now our elderly people are dependent on that system.  It may suck when they compare it to private pensions or annuities, but it may be all they have.  If so, they’ll quake in their shoes anytime anyone mentions reforming Social Security.  Because of this it has become the 3rd rail of politics.  A politician does not touch it lest he or she wishes to die politically.  But it’s not all bad.  For the politician.  Because government forced the elderly to rely on them for their retirement, it has made the Social Security recipient dependent on government.  In particular, the party of government who favors Big Government.  The Democrats.  And with a declining birth rate and growing aged population, this has turned into a large and loyal voting bloc indeed.  Out of fear.

A PROGRAM THAT straddled the New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society was Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).  Its original New Deal purpose was to help widows take care of their children.  When program outlays peaked in the 1970s, the majority of recipients were unmarried women and divorced women.  Because this was a program based on need, the more need you had the more you got.  Hence more children meant more money.  It also reduced the importance of marriage as the government could replace the support typically provided by a husband/father.  Noted economist Dr. Thomas Sowell blames AFDC as greatly contributing to the breakdown of the black family (which has the highest incidence of single-parent households).

With the women’s liberation movement, women have come to depend less on men.  Some affluent women conceive and raise children without a husband.  Or they adopt.  And the affluent no doubt can provide all the material needs their children will ever need.  Without a husband.  Or a father for their children.  But is that enough?

The existence of ‘big brother’ programs would appear to prove otherwise.  Troubled children are often the products of broken families.  Mothers search for big brothers to mentor these fatherless sons.  To be role models.  To show an interest in these children’s lives.  To care.  When no such role models are available, some of these troubled children turn to other sources of acceptance and guidance.  Like gangs.

AFDC has compounded this problem by providing the environment that fosters fatherless children.  And another government program compounds that problem.  Public housing.

POOR HOUSING CONDITIONS hurt families.  They especially hurt broken families.  Without a working husband, these families are destined to live in the cheapest housing available.  These are often in the worst of neighborhoods.  This is an unfair advantage to the children raised in those families.  For it wasn’t their fault they were born into those conditions.  So, to solve that problem, government would build good public housing for these poorest of the poor to move into.  Problem solved.

Well, not exactly.  Public housing concentrates these broken families together.  Usually in large apartment buildings.  This, then, concentrates large numbers of troubled children together.  So, instead of having these children dispersed in a community, public housing gathers them together.  Where bad behavior reinforces bad behavior.  It becomes the rule, not the exception.  Making a mother’s job that much more difficult.  And because these children live together, they also go to school together.  And this extends the bad behavior problem to the school.  Is it any wonder that public housing (i.e., the projects) have the worst living conditions?  And some of the highest gang activity? 

Government didn’t plan it this way.  It’s just the unintended consequences of their actions.  And those consequences are devastating.  To the poor in general.  To the black family in particular.  AFDC and public housing enabled irresponsible/bad behavior.  That behavior destroyed families.  As well as a generation or two.  But it wasn’t all bad.  For the politicians.  It made a very large constituency dependent on government.

THERE ARE SO many more examples.  But the story is almost always the same.  Dependency and a lack of self-esteem will beat down a person’s will.  Like an addict, it will make the dependent accept poorer and poorer living standards in exchange for their fix of dependency.  Eventually, the dependency will reach the point where they will not know how to provide for themselves.  The dependency will become permanent.  As will the lack of self-esteem.  Conscious or not of their actions, Big Government benefits from the wretched state they give these constituencies.  With no choice but continued dependence, they vote for the party that promises to give the most.  Which is typically the Democrat Party.

But how can you fault these politicians?  They acted with the best of intentions.  And they can fix these new problems.  They’ll gather the brightest minds.  They’ll study these problems.  And they will produce the best programs to solve these problems.  All it will take is more government spending.  And how can you refuse?  When people are hungry.  Or homeless.  Or have children that they can’t care for.  How can anyone not want to help the children?  How can anyone not have compassion?

Well, compassion is one thing.  When the innocent suffer.  But when government manufactures that suffering, it’s a different story.  Planned or not the result is the same whenever government tries to fix things.  The cost is high.  The solution is typically worse than the original problem.  And the poorest of the poor are pawns.  To be used by Big Government in the name of compassion. 

Of course, if Big Government were successful in fixing these problems, they would fix themselves right out of existence.  So as long as they want to run Big Government programs, they’ll need a stock of wretched, suffering masses that need their help.  And, of course, lots of crises.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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