Saturday, November 3, 2007

The genius that is

Sorry, dearly devoted readers, for the dramatic pause between posts. I've been keeping up with what's been going on in the Republican Primary Race but didn't feel an unquenchable desire to contribute anything for awhile.. 'til now that is. See, I firmly believe that Ron Paul, and true conservatives like him, actually have a chance to win elections... over the last six months I had become quite frustrated with the lack of accurate information surrounding these truly conservative issues, which meant that the chances for successful candidates on a conservative platform were unlikely. Hence this blog... my own little way of spreading a little information around so that I can feel like I had done something. Well, as the months progressed, it seemed like accurate information was starting to get disseminated more frequently and from multiple sources, so the need for this series of posts was, I thought, diminished. But a funny thing happened. The Ron Paul campaign blew up.

See, about a month ago, Ron Paul announced they had raised a huge chunk of change (5.3 million or so) in the third quarter. And what was even better, they still had over 5 million in the bank to spend on advertising and running their campaign well into the primaries. This put him in line with the big boys. For someone who has "such low polling numbers", this was big news. This contradiction of low awareness and high fund raising caused quite the stir, and the subsequent backlash of repeated interviews in the mainstream media has been quite entertaining to watch. They all were asking why this guy was getting so much support all of a sudden. I mean, it didn't make any sense (to them). So why did this cause me to have to pick up the blog again? If he's still getting mainstream media attention a full month after his fund-raising figures were announced?

The problem is that the mainstream media are still asking the same stupid questions, over and over again... and in the classic definition of insanity... expecting a different answer. "Why are you getting so much support?" "Because the message of liberty is popular!" "Who will you vote for if you don't get the nomation?" "Anyone who can honestly say they will support a non-interventionist foreign policy and personal liberties here at home." What the mainstream media fails to recognize is that none of the other candidates are actually offering a platform based on individual liberties (at the cost of government largess). So, it's not just the candidate (one we can actually trust to deliver on the message), but the message itself that appeals to people. Funny how that works, isn't it? Well, it's time the media (and the nation blindly looking to the media to tell it what's going on) to listen to the answers and move on. Start asking why the other candidates can't find any constitutional authority for their initiatives for example. Start asking about the failed "managed care" system we have or the criminal devaluing of the currency currently underway by the "Federal" Reserve. Start asking why "they" hate us and "who are these islamo-fascists" we are supposed to hate back... to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tax payer money spent in this unending religious war.

But they won't. They still think the campaign is a gimmick... one that can be covered only for it's oddity and then back to the regular programming. Okay, so that covers why I'm writing again. Now you're asking what's this got to do about

It's simple really. Someone, somewhere thought that it would be cool to create a money bomb - a single day campaign contribution total that would knock everyone's socks off. Millions of dollars raised in a single day by tens of thousands of people who wanted to be heard. But they needed a day that would be a rallying cry of the masses... and what better day then a day that has become a fashionable nerd culture classic - "Remember, Remember the Fifth of November!" It's a actually a real live holiday (from the UK) that was made popular in today's "youth" culture through a graphic novel and recent movie adaptation based around the fictional bombing of Parliament on Guy Fawkes day - called "V for Vendetta". This is a graphic novel my brother introduced to me many years ago and it was profoundly moving... essentially a comic book that struck many political chords with me in a way I hadn't experienced before. In the end, it's about a massive popular revolt against an oppressive and evil government. Very fitting indeed that the grassroots effort that has organized this money bomb chose this particular day, for this particular candidate with this particular message. The genius is that while many people see the day as a great opportunity, others find it too controversial given the uptight nature of people when it comes to "terrorism". What no one seems to realize is that if a marketing campaign isn't controversial, someone didn't do something right :) The more the subject of the November 5th campaign is discussed, the bigger the November 5th campaign will be. Let the controversy go on!

I was immediately hooked and started thinking of ways I could help reach the goal of $10,000,000.00 raised in a single day. The site - - is just collecting those who want to make it clear that they are intending to donate. I've signed up and I'm now trying to get as many people to sign up as I can. Even if you don't sign up, please consider donating this Monday, November 5th. Even if you don't know if you are going to vote for Ron Paul or not, help get the message heard. All donations must go through

And tell a friend or sixteen to Remember, Remember the Fifth of November.
-Andrew Douglas

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

On the issues - The War

I've been meaning to do a blog post on the war for some time... unfortunately Ron Paul beat me to it:

Surrender Should Not be an Option
by Ron Paul
Sep 04, 2007

Faced with dwindling support of the Iraq War, the warhawks are redoubling their efforts. They imply we are in Iraq attacking those who attacked us, and yet this is not the case. As we know, Saddam Hussein, though not a particularly savory character, had nothing to do with 9/11. The neo-cons claim surrender should not be an option. In the same breath they claim we were attacked because of our freedoms. Why then, are they so anxious to surrender our freedoms with legislation like the Patriot Act, a repeal of our 4th amendment rights, executive orders, and presidential signing statements? With politicians like these, who needs terrorists? Do they think if we destroy our freedoms for the terrorists they will no longer have a reason to attack us? This seems the epitome of cowardice coming from those who claim a monopoly on patriotic courage.

In any case, we have achieved the goals specified in the initial authorization. Saddam Hussein has been removed. An elected government is now in place in Iraq that meets with US approval. The only weapon of mass destruction in Iraq is our military presence. Why are we still over there? Conventional wisdom would dictate that when the "mission is accomplished", the victor goes home, and that is not considered a retreat.

They claim progress is being made and we are fighting a winnable war, but this is not a view connected with reality. We can't be sure when we kill someone over there if they were truly an insurgent or an innocent Iraqi civilian. There are as many as 650,000 deaths since the war began. The anger we incite by killing innocents creates more new insurgents than our bullets can keep up with. There are no measurable goals to be achieved at this point.

The best congressional leadership can come up with is the concept of strategic redeployment, or moving our troops around, possibly into Saudi Arabia or even, alarmingly enough, into Iran. Rather than ending this war, we could be starting another one.

The American people voted for a humble foreign policy in 2000. They voted for an end to the war in 2006. Instead of recognizing the wisdom and desire of the voters, they are chided as cowards, unwilling to defend themselves. Americans are fiercely willing to defend themselves. However, we have no stomach for indiscriminate bombing in foreign lands when our actual attackers either killed themselves on 9/11 or are still at large somewhere in a country that is neither Iraq nor Iran. Defense of our homeland is one thing. Offensive tactics overseas are quite another. Worse yet, when our newly minted enemies find their way over here, where will our troops be to defend us?

The American people have NOT gotten the government they deserve. They asked for a stronger America and peace through nonintervention, yet we have a government of deceit, inaction and one that puts us in grave danger on the international front. The American People deserve much better than this. They deserve foreign and domestic policy that doesn't require they surrender their liberties.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Video - Ron Paul in a "nut"-shell, part 2

So, the same guy who made the first part in this series posted up this next video. I'll let it speak for itself.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

On the issues: Monetary Policy

Okay, I'll admit it's not the sexiest topic to discuss, but I think it's important to provide some insight into what exactly is America's monetary policy and the impacts our current policy has (hint - it ain't great).

Definitions -
U.S. Dollar: a good question is what is the value of a dollar, or what does legal tender really mean? So, how much is that dollar bill in your pocket worth? As much as I am obsessed with getting as many of those little green pieces of paper as I can, I honestly couldn't have told you much about this whole topic despite having college level courses in economics... that is until I started researching Ron Paul and his "crazy" ideas. I knew, from my schooling, that we ended the Gold Standard like 100 years ago or something and that was meant to allow us to control the amount of currency in circulation to prevent things like the depression. Sound about right?

So here's the first problem - if we aren't on the Gold Standard, what gives our money value? The shortest answer is, nothing. In the 1970's, Nixon finally severed all ties between the gold in our reserves and the dollar. Prior to this, the dollar could have theoretically been exchanged at any time for a fixed fraction of an ounce of gold. So, what was the gold value replaced with? Nothing but a faith in the American government. Or rather, how many goods and services people were willing to give you in exchange for that dollar bill. It frankly isn't worth the paper it is printed on as, if you went to the Fed with a dollar bill to exchange it for something of value... all they'd be able to do is give you... a different dollar bill.

The second problem is that it's a fiat currency. I'm not making fun of the money, I'm just saying that the government has created the money (fiat essentially means "by decree"), in this case out of nothing, as a form of legal tender. What's legal tender again? It's money that can legally be used in the repayment of debt. I hate to point out the obvious, but it's also the only way you or I can pay our income taxes. As funny as it sounds, the Federal Reserve System (we'll get to that in a second) and the personal income tax were both created in the same year - 1913. Coincidence??

Problem 3. Who makes the money? Well, some people would say, the U.S. Mint or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. They'd be technically accurate as the BEP prints the bill, and the mint makes the coins and since the bill is technically worth nothing anyway, the Mint or the BEP must have created it right? Well, no. They only create the money that the Federal Reserve "essentially" tells it to. So, let's talk a minute about how the Federal Reserve creates money (out of thin air.)

Federal Reserve System: AKA the Fed, is designed to control the value of the dollar and other "national goals" such as encouraging economic growth or controlling inflation by managing the amount of currency in circulation and by determining the interest rate the Federal Banks charge other banks that borrow money from the Fed. The Federal Reserve was created in a kinda shady way back in 1913. As you'll see, it is neither Federal nor is it much of a Reserve. Some say it's about as Federal as Federal Express. It's not exactly true, but it's pretty darn close.

So who's the Fed? The Fed is essentially a private or independent entity created and overseen by (to some degree) congress. It is, in essence, the Banker's Bank, made up of 12 regional Federal Banks overseen by a board of governors appointed by the President and confirmed by congress. I guess I should point out that the list of candidates for these positions is suspect and from what I've found is essentially created by the Banks themselves... but regardless, the banks have to do what the board of governors says. However, these Banks are "owned" by shareholders, and while we don't know really any specifics (boy they sure do love their secrecy...), the shareholders are other private banks. In fact, banks that are member banks must purchase/own stock equivalent to 6% of their "capital and surplus". That may seem like a lot, but the Fed allows them to really only keep 3% of their assets with the Fed... the other 3% is "callable" by the Fed at any time... hmmm. Wait. It gets better. The revenue from the fed is then used to pay the shareholders 6% dividends each year. That's 6% of their 6%, not 6% of their 3% that they actually have in the Fed. Nice racket if you can get it, right? Just wait till we find out where the Fed gets the vast majority of it's revenue!

Okay, so that's not too bad, right? Why is the fed really evil? Well, it comes down to it's manipulation of the amount of currency in circulation (using what they call Open Market Operations) and fractional reserves.

Fractional Reserve Banking: One of the Fed's responsibilities is setting Reserve Requirements for other banks. Let's see what this means with a practical example: If a fictitious bank named "Local Bank and Trust" had checking and savings and various other accounts with a combined balance of $1,000,000, the bank is only required to keep a fraction of that - normally around 10% - in reserve. They should then be able to lend 90% of that, right? Well, Yes and No. See, through the magic of fractional reserve banking, the amount of money that will eventually get loaned back out is actually more like $10,000,000. See, the original $900,000 that is lent out is then spent, right? When it's spent, it goes into someone else's bank account and shows as a deposit. The bank that accepted the deposit can then lend that money out at 90% of what was deposited... etc. When you total it all up, the banks are lending way, way, way more money than they have in assets.

Open Market Operations: When the Fed decides that it needs to increase the supply of currency in circulation, it "buys" government bonds and securities. When it decides to decrease the supply, it "sells" government bonds (it rarely ever does this). "Buying" these securities and increasing the money supply by a little bit of new money is one thing, you also get to factor in the magic of Fractional Reserve Banking to multiple that new money by about 10 times.

Anyway, how does the Fed get the money to "buy" these bonds? That's easy, they just make it up out of thin air. Well, the money isn't backed by anything so that makes sense. But wait. It gets better. Because this new money is actually backed by government bonds, these are actually liabilities that the government (ie, the American Taxpayer) have to pay back to the Fed at interest. So all the money that the Fed makes out of thin air, they then get paid back at interest... So, how much money are we talking about? From the current balance sheet of the Fed, it looks like they are holding a little under 800 billion dollars worth. And who benefits? The commercial banks that own stock in the banks. Who suffers? The people who have to pay the government to pay the interest on the money that the Fed created out of thin air!

So what's the solution? Some advocate removing the fed's backed paper money and replacing it with U.S. Notes that are actually owned by the government instead of the fed. That's viable to an extent, but because it's still just paper money, the government is apt (especially in times of war), to increase the money supply, thus devaluing the currency. How apt is it? Well, pretty much every (if not absolutely every) fiat currency ever created has eventually gone the way of the dodo.

Ron Paul's suggestion is that we migrate slowly away from the fed by first legalizing competition for the Fed's notes. What that means is that you allow hard money, gold and silver backed currencies for example, can be bought and sold without having to pay sales taxes or pay capital gains taxes. This will force the Fed to restrict the money supply using it's various means such as requiring higher reserves and stop creating more debt at interest for the American taxpayers to pay back. We can get rid of the Fed... it'll take time. There's no doubt that there are hard times ahead regardless... but doing something positive for the economy now, before inflation and the business cycle of booms and busts caused by the Fed's activities completely wipes out the middle class of this country, is essential. The only candidate to even understand these concepts let alone talk about them in public? Ron Paul.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"We love Americans. We hate Bush"

Sorry for being away for a bit. My wife and I were traveling around Europe and into Russia so blogging was the furthest thing from my mind. But a funny thing happened as we came into contact with dozens of people from all walks of life, all different countries and with as varied political leanings as you could find... we found that one thing united them all - every single one of them hated Bush. We would ask our Russian and Estonian guides about if they had any antagonism towards Americans - and without fail they would say "No, we love Americans. We just hate Bush." Whether it's the Brits, the Germans or any place in between, they all are frustrated with the man in charge.

And I found myself agreeing with them. It's not because I like their politics - Europe's socialistic tendencies frighten me... some of whom pay income taxes as high as 50%, and yet they still have to pay VAT and various other nickel and dime type rip-offs. What connected me to them was that we all agreed that he's walking around like we're the big man on campus... and I ALWAYS hated that guy. I certainly don't want to be that guy. What surprised me even more was how influential the US is to these people. They are essentially being forced into a US government led war, not just in Iraq but the middle east as a whole. They are being told they are either with us or they are against us. Their countries are being held hostage by leaders who dare not defy the will of Bush. Despite that, for some odd reason American culture, American people and American freedoms are still held in high regard. How long that can last when we continue to elect people who feel that the US has a moral obligation to police the world and launch preemptive wars (without declaring them) against other sovereign nations? Tell me, how can we not take our duty as voting American citizens seriously and finally elect someone who treats others the way we'd like to be treated?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Utopian View of Big Government

Now, I've only got a few minutes before the water boils for Mac n' Cheese but I wanted to throw a couple of pieces of info at you all.

1. The Washington Post actually posted a not-so-bad article on Ron Paul here. The not so good news is that it still paints him as a "long shot" candidate. If you haven't figured it out yet, "scientific" polls this far away from the primaries are completely useless. But if you think Ron Paul needs more media attention, the best way to do that is to donate to his campaign as it'll be hard to ignore him when the new quarterly numbers come out at the end of this month. Anyway, what does this have to do with Big Government?

It seems like any time there is some public exposure to his campaign, there are those that object to his "Free Market or Bust" economic philosophy (there is also a lot of sentiment out there, cultivated by the media that he's a nut... which couldn't be further from the truth). So the argument goes - if he became president, corporations would be able to run over the American consumer as there would be no government to protect us. I never really understood that point of view so I did some research to try to figure out where the idea that the government did a better job of protecting people than... you know... people... in the free market, came from. And I ran across this interesting podcast. One of the things they identify in the podcast is that people have an inherent distrust of corporations, insurance companies, etc... but at least some people don't have this same natural distrust of government. When something goes wrong - say, a plane crash - society tends to blame the free market, capitalism and corporate greed and demand that their government step in to protect them from those evil corporations. In my mind, nothing could be scarier than handing over more responsibility to the government, so why do people insist on it?

Obviously, the reason why they distrust corporations is because they see them as only looking out for themselves (which is certainly true), but what they don't see is that government is also only looking out for itself. Instead of governments greed being clearly being quantified in dollars and cents, it's measured in political power. See, money is power, political power is... uh... power. And we all know power corrupts. The money is just a means to an end. So the question is, do you trust the market (and therefore the consumers in the market) to look out for their own self interest, or do you put your trust in a government body that is driven by political self interest. From my close, personal, daily experience with the federal government over the last 10 years... I choose people in a free market.

You could argue that you could try to have both - which is what we have now in a way. The problem with government's involvement in anything is that they tend to consolidate power into just one place - and without competition or market forces in play to make sure that power is used correctly in the consumer's best interest. Where there is power, there will be corruption of that power. Let's say we need the government to regulate fuel consumption because the market isn't doing a good enough job (this is a common complaint, though the we don't actually have a free market, purely capitalistic society - what we have today is corporatism - government involvement in business certainly does lead to problems). Because the government now holds the keys to the cupboard, businesses that want to have inefficient cars will lobby their congress people to get them special breaks, tax incentives, etc. to get away with being inefficient. If the government didn't regulate fuel consumption, why would businesses bother lobbying congress? There's no power there. The free market can regulate fuel consumption quite well - witness the sharp decline in SUV sales in response to climbing gas prices that sent auto makers back the drawing boards. When gas prices go up, the market reacts. When the government gets involved, the market collapses :)

Okay, so the water is thoroughly boiled now

2. In my fanatical pursuit of Ron Paul news and interviews, I've really only found one mainstream media outlet that gives Dr. Paul a fair shake - and it's one that I really didn't have much respect for previously so it pains me to say this: Tucker Carlson on MSNBC has had Dr. Paul on pretty regularly lately and, while he responsibly grills the congressman, he always walks away impressed. Here's the latest entry. So what does this have to do with Big Government?

In the interview, Tucker tries to back Dr. Paul into a corner regarding how a smaller federal government would mean taking away services that people have come to expect their government to provide. In particular, hurricane/disaster relief (for example Hurricane Katrina) would require much more of local/state governments and personal contributions/charity. This sounds to some as if Dr. Paul is cruel or callous. Far from it. His response is classic - it's just as cruel (I'd argue more cruel) to say that the people who have just suffered from a natural disaster are now in the incapable hands of the federal government. FEMA is the disaster... and people want BIGGER government?

I love it when a politician is so consistent in their moral and philosophical views that instead of caving in the face of an opposing view or a "harsh" reality, they present the issue so that it's seen through their moral compass and present it in a way that makes it impossible to argue any further. Wait... has any other candidate done that?? :)
-Andrew Douglas

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why I Was Wrong - Government's Slight of Hand

I write, today, more disgusted with myself, with my party and with my president than I have probably ever been in my entire life. It started out innocently enough really. On a day when members of congress decided that those campaign promises to expose corruption and "earmarks" weren't really all that important as they only represented about 25 billion dollars [editor's note: I had originally put 2.5 billion, but it's actually 2.5% of nearly 1 trillion dollars]... Less than 24 hours after the White House's press secretary admitted on MSNBC (finally) that, yeah, the Immigration Legislation really does require everyone in America to have their "Real ID" in order to get a job because your employer would need to verify that you are legally allowed in the country or else face a $75,000 fine... In the face of media's "scientific" polls which continue to refuse to even include Ron Paul in the list of candidates to choose from despite him getting second place in the Utah Straw Poll.... I finally took the time to watch this:

Now, there are 4 parts to that, so be sure to get through it all because the first part is really just a funny introduction. If you start weeping for our Constitution and our liberty by the end of part 3, you may want to close your eyes for part 4. This is as fundamental a flaw in our government and the current administration than either the War in Iraq or the blatant disregard for fiscally and Constitutionally responsible government spending. And the sad thing is, I was duped... I was, to my own discredit, a neo-con, without even knowing what a neo-con was. I bought into Bush's campaign speeches of no nation building and humble foreign policy, but instead of backing that policy once he got into office, I backed the man. And when the man said that the Patriot Act was just, I believed him. And when the man said that the War was just, I believed him. And I became that which I now know to be evil - someone who would forsake freedom for safety.

This is why Ron Paul must win. This attack on our Constitution and our liberties must end. Period.
-Andrew Douglas

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Foreign Aid is Stupid

I'll be honest. I'm no expert on this subject - specifically International Trade. It's a dizzying complex set of scenarios that requires a deep understanding of both macro and micro economic principals to even begin to get a basic grasp of the problem set. I only know enough to be dangerous in this area so in this particular case, I'm going to be relying fairly heavily on sources that have some credibility. If you think my sources are poor, please provide alternatives. To keep it simple for stupid (me), I'll be breaking down the discussion into a kind of Frequently Asked Questions for Foreign Aid.

Q: What exactly is the U.S. Foreign Aid policy, how much do we spend on it and what do we hope to get out of it?
A: This little document right here is a real page turner. In it, it describes the history, policies and objectives of our current foreign aid program. To put it succinctly - it's money spent out of the federal treasury to foreign nations in which we hope to achieve the following results:
  • Promote transformational development, especially in the areas of governance, institutional capacity, and economic restructuring;
  • Strengthen fragile states;
  • Provide humanitarian assistance
  • Supporting U.S. geostrategic interests, particularly in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel; and
  • Mitigating global and international ills, including HIV/AIDS.
"Promote transformational development?", "Geostrategic interests?", WTF?

So how much is the bill then, doc? In 2004, it was greater than $20 billion with a b NOT including Iraq reconstruction (another $20+ billion) or food aid apparently. Let's see... combined that would put us at least a 50 year high, since the early 1950's - and even if you exclude Iraq, it's at a 30 year high adjusted to today's dollar. Beat that Cold War!

Q: What constitutional authority does the Federal government have to spend money on foreign aid?
A: Absolutely none, whatsoever. Common defense? Nah, not really. General Welfare? Nope. The section where the members of Congress get to play Santa Claus to all the world's children must have been left on the cutting room floor of the Constitutional Convention.

Q: Do the people that get the foreign aid, want it?
A: Yes and No. Let me explain, a lot of the people that get the foreign aid are the corrupt political leaders of 3rd world countries. They certainly want it. The people in those 3rd world countries rarely actually get the aid. But do they want it? Signs point to no. You absolutely must read this article:,1518,363663,00.html

Q: So, why do we do it if it doesn't work?
A: Ron Paul nails it once again -
It is money that goes to help foreign elites, who in turn spend much of it on contracts with US corporations. This means US tax dollars ultimately go to well-connected US corporations operating overseas.
Q: You're just a cold hearted SOB aren't you?
A: Absolutely not. Charity given at the point of a gun is not charity. The government collects taxes from all of us and then sends it over seas. That's not charity, it's robbery.

Q: So how can we help those countries that do have poverty, educational and medical needs?
A: Individuals helping individuals is always best. Dumping billions of foreign dollars into an economy, dumping thousands of tons of food, and giving foreign governments weapons doesn't do anything but destabilize economies and give more power and control to the elites. Give what you can and tell our government to stop hurting these countries with our reckless foreign policies. Oh, and you could throw some support Ron Paul's way, too... if you're so inclined, as he's the only one running for Prez that will make it happen.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Right construction of "General Welfare"

The term "General Welfare" is mentioned in two places in the Constitution - the preamble which we all know:

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

and it also specifically grants the privilege to execute this duty to Congress in Article 1, Section 8:

The Congress shall have the Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States....

The history and the debate over what is actually authorized under the general welfare clause is something that has been discussed ever since. See, both sides, Left and Right, can use "the Founding Fathers intention" argument as there was significant disagreement between them (Hamilton and Madison in particular) in terms of what it meant. The ultimate decision of course comes down to the Supreme Court to determine whether the laws made by Congress pass muster, so to speak. In fact, when FDR was implementing his New Deal, he had to make significant changes in the Supreme Court in order for them to back his grand vision, because up to that point they had used a strict constructionist view. I'm not going to be able to solve this debate in this post, but I'll briefly describe what I think was covered by this phrase and how I think "General Welfare" should be handled in the future to prevent abuses of it by anyone.

In my personal view (and in the view of many others), General Welfare simply means that there should be no special privilege given to any group (implying an exclusion of others) by the federal government. Instead, measures taken by the federal government under the general welfare clause must be applicable to everyone. Many people are slightly more liberal, including at times the Supreme Court, that the test for General Welfare should simply be "local" versus "national", which is fair enough I suppose, but it leads to additional interpretation of "What does local mean?". For example, do you consider subsidies to farmers as a local issue because of uneven distribution of farmers and the fact that not everyone is a farmer? You could certainly argue the case that the food supply is a national issue though and therefore should be allowable under the General Welfare clause. But then, what about natural disasters like Hurricane Andrew. It was very localized (as opposed to something like Hurricane Katrina that had a very wide path, and so I'll leave it out of the debate for now :) ). I was actually in Miami at the time, and volunteered in what little ways I could. The devastation was horrendous. What kind of nation are we if we don't take care of the localities that are hit by these natural disasters? Do you see the slippery slope that's created by a loose interpretation of the General Welfare clause? This is the very core of the debate between the Left and the Right. The problem though is that the Republican party has slowly fallen victim to that slippery slope and so representatives elected by those people who want a strict view of General Welfare used for the purposes of legislation have a very hard time keeping the Right to the Right.

The same argument can't be said of the Left. It's incredibly difficult to convince someone on the Left that a strict constructionist view has it's merits because it's such a steep slope to climb. So what can those on the Right do? Well, I think a consensus view that does bridge the gap between the far left and the far right is as follows:
Measures taken by the federal government to provide for the General Welfare must be accessible universally and without qualification.
Hmmm. So under that strict interpretation, you could, for example, have a system that allowed for something like a Universal Single Payor Health Care system, right? Well, I would argue that doesn't work, but that's not the subject of this debate. What it does do is it solves the issue of local versus national. It solves my need to have a strict construction of the Constitution, it solves the left's need to be needy (sorry lefties :) ), and, to my way of thinking anyway, it brings the two sides together in an equitable way.

Now, there are some problems here. For one - lefties aren't going to like how this clears up the gray area that Congress has used for decades to pass laws that are not Constitutionally authorized. For example, Social Security in it's current form would be considered unconstitutional because I, as a 30 year old (or so) have a different set of qualifications then someone who's in their 50's (and really, everyone who is below retirement age or who isn't a "survivor" has yet to "Qualify" for it). By all means, I'm open to debate on the definition, but whatever your alternative is, it must provide for a cut and dry determination so that even the lawyers in Congress can't weasel out of it.

I think it's important to cover what's not up for debate. Foreign aid doesn't provide for the General Welfare (as so eloquently argued by Ron Paul). Disaster relief is, almost by it's very nature, a local issue and not a national one. And special interests and pork barrel spending are explicitly excluded as they do not meet the definition of General Welfare in any sense.

So, am I Right or what?
-Andrew Douglas

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Video - Ron Paul in a "nut"-shell

Why does the media insist on presenting this man as a nut? Are these ideas really that crazy?

On the issues - Health Care

I'll be breaking down my point of view on the issues that I think are important in the coming election. You may notice many of these refer to Ron Paul. I think he's got an incredibly good head on his shoulders, and even though I may occasionally disagree with him, I'll say right now that I support his candidacy.

Now on to the issue of Health Care. There was an interesting comment on this post and I just had to reply. See, Phil (the commentor) felt that Ron Paul's ideas would lead to a crisis in our health care system. Well, for one, Ron Paul does not have any plans to break the promises the government has made to care for those people who need these programs today, but he does plan to reform the system that is so obviously broken... and that's a good thing. So here's my reply:

Essentially the plan Ron Paul (and others) have for medical treatment is to give control back to the people. The problem we have now is that insurance companies (which are essentially government funded in a number of ways, not the least of which is that the government gives significant tax breaks to companies to pay for insurance but doesn't extend all of those tax breaks to individuals - so they are often left with no option but to use the insurance their employer provides) control what medical providers can provide, at what cost and even what medical provider you are "allowed" to go to. This is not a free market and therefore market forces can't work to keep prices low and quality of service high.

You create a free market by giving people the appropriate incentive to get off their arse and take their medical treatment into their own hands - or rather, by making them responsible for paying for their medical treatment themselves. That may sound harsh, but hear me out because there is a reasonable solution to this: health savings accounts. For those unfamiliar with it, what it means is that you purchase a high-deductible insurance plan for "the perfect storm scenario" so that you will only ever have a maximum amount of out of pocket expenses in any given year. Okay, so once you have this plan, that's actually fairly cheap, you then pay money into a health savings account - think of it like a separate checking account that you use to pay for all your medical needs. The list of "medical needs" includes things that most insurances don't even cover such as over the counter medications and other non-traditional treatments. If you hit your high deductible for the year, then the insurance plan kicks in. If you don't spend all the money in your account for the year, it rolls over for the next year. Don't have enough money this month? Don't pay into the account this month. It's okay! And the money left in your account can work for you in a lot of ways. One way is that it can be invested however you like. Another is that it's tax free so you get to keep more of your money. But then, let's say you retire or have your kids going off to college or something and you find yourself needing money from your health savings account. That's okay too, but you just have to be aware of the tax issues that comes from that.

Now, health savings accounts are already out there - but they don't get a chance to compete on the same level. For example, because of the way that I get to declare the insurance I pay for my family that I purchase through my company, not to mention the fact that my employer is contributing to the insurance for me... it would be a significant disadvantage to leave my companies insurance plan and move myself and my family to a health savings account. I'm essentially stuck with my employers medical insurance plan. But once you level the playing field and give the appropriate tax incentive to employers and individuals, then health savings accounts become a viable alternative to a lot more people. I'm not saying the plan is perfect for everyone - but make ppo's and hmo's compete with health savings accounts and you'll see a dramatic improvement in prices AND quality of service.

How? For one, you'll see that once medical providers start getting paid in cold hard cash (through the health savings accounts), and without the troublesome paperwork and hassle of insurance companies, medical providers will be able to reduce their prices because their costs have dropped. The other thing is that they will also be in direct competition with each other to do so. When it doesn't matter which doctor you go to because the price is going to be the same, why would they offer a lower price? If a doctor is always going to be able to charge the same price, what incentive is their to provide a higher quality of service?

The other part of it is that you should also make doctors compete against nurses. What I mean by that is that nurses are fully qualified to handle a large number of medical issues, but because of the licensing and regulation issues, they can't hand out prescriptions (such as birth control pills)... I mean, come on, those kind of silly monopolistic policies have encouraged high prices for the most basic services. Obviously though, (and I'm paraphrasing Ron Paul here), you wouldn't go to a Nurse if you needed brain surgery.

Couple more points that I won't elaborate on here but I think are helpful to mention:

1. If you want socialized medicine provided by the federal government, that's perfectly fine. I disagree with it but if the federal government is going to provide that service, we should follow the Constitution and explicitly amend the Constitution to allow the federal government the right to do so. If we don't follow the Constitution (which we didn't do for Social Security or medicare/medicaid), we have no rule of law. Get me 3/4 of the states that want it and it's yours, but even then I would also argue I should have the option to opt out of it.
2. Our monetary policy is causing a lot of the inflated costs of medical care. What other presidential candidate is even discussing this?
3. On the issue of states providing services such as socialized medicine - let the states compete in an open market and if they can't deal with things like a huge influx of people because the costs are too high, then that should tell you something. Socialism doesn't work in practice. But let's say a state got it right (we'll call it Utopia), if everyone happily left a state (we'll call it Dystopia) that didn't provide medical care or social security to go to Utopia because they got it right, Dystopia would want to compete by providing a valid option for their citizens. Why is that a bad thing?
4. Others have said it but I'll reiterate - obviously a capitalistic system requires a moral society of which charitable giving, volunteer-ism, etc. are part and parcel. The thing is, when you give people freedom to make their own choices and you give them the ability to truly take personal responsibility, they are significantly more likely to be charitable than when you culture an environment where everyone expects to be given to from the nanny state.

Alright, enough ranting. I think it's important to debate these issues - instead of debating who has the best hair of the "first tier" candidates... and differences of opinion are welcome. Thanks Phil for giving yours!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why I'm Republican

I remember the '84 election debates. I was no more than 7 at the time. I remember them partly because of a joke I made at Geraldine Ferraro's expense, but I also remember thinking that this Reagan guy really was impressive. I certainly wasn't a political wiz kid or anything, but I think I've always been a bit Rightist, and what he said, what little I understood, made perfect sense.

You could certainly categorize me as "enterprising" - bartering and cajoling my parents into that extra quarter for my allowance in exchange for more chores, pushing boundaries in school and to get the best education for myself even when no one thought I could do it (how many high school drop outs do you know that graduated with a bachelor's degree 3 years later?) and preferring to work in small business where I could control my own destiny. So maybe it's my entrepreneurial nature that's driven my political affiliation, but it could very well have been my socially conservative parents - my father was a pastor after all - that drove me to the right. I just know that it's been that way from the beginning.

But that's not to say I haven't questioned my own positions on issues. I think it builds character to have thrown out your fundamental beliefs and to intelligently and methodically rebuild your core ideals on as solid a framework as you can. So what is it that keeps drawing me to the Republican platform? Why am I not embarrassed to say that I'm a Republican in public, even today? Why am I so frustrated at the way the Republican party is splintering, faltering and ultimately failing?

The answer is staring you in the face. I believe in the ideals of a Republic. Yeah, it's history lesson time. News Flash: we do not live in a direct or "pure" democracy. The union of independent republic states that the founders defined was not majority rules at all costs. It was that every individual has the right to be free, to do whatever it is that makes them happy as long as that doesn't impede on anyone else's equal rights. It means that the majority can't take away those rights even if they tried. Constitutionally, the government was created to protect those individual's rights. But unlike some Libertarians, I don't believe that the government is an "evil" that must be endured. I don't think that was the intention of the people who formed the government anyway. Instead the government has an essential purpose and embodies our freedom so long as we make it stick to our rules. What's evil about the government we have today is that it's forgotten those rules, extended it's own power and has therefore lost it's purpose to protect the individual.

These are fixable problems though! The point of this blog is to break down the problems, apply logic and the Constitution and hopefully have some interesting discussion in order to find solutions to these problems. Hopefully I'll be able to express myself well enough so that you'll see why I'm Right... why I consider myself a Republican and maybe, just maybe you'll see that, party affiliation aside, we can all agree to hold to the ideals of the Constitution and our founding fathers.

-Andrew Douglas