Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Third Party Voter

I am a Libertarian. Of course, that doesn't mean that I endorse every single principle that a majority of libertarians endorse, but I agree with the fundamentals of the party - since the Libertarian Party stands for Liberty, Life, and the right to property.

I hear many say to me (and I used to say it myself) that a vote for a third party is a vote for XYZ - whichever candidate the objector is trying to villify. The reality is that a vote for a third party is a vote of principle. I will admit that I have only voted for one Democrat in all my voting years - that was Atty. Gen. Frank Kelley of Michigan. I have voted Republican in many elections, mostly because I falsely believed that they were for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and freedom.

You see, Democrats used to be for protecting the working poor. Although I disagree with many of the programs that they implemented, and how they have become an eternal black hole in which trillions of dollars have been sucked into, without benefit to society, I believe that they were well-intentioned - wrong...but well-intentioned.

Lately though, the Democrats have been about welfare for the middle class - expanding government intervention into the health care industry, increasing funding and the power to government schools, increasing spending on getting middle class kids who used to pay for their own education to borrow or get grants in order to go to college. Entitlement after entitlement is going to the middle class - all while the new tax laws continue to impoverish them.

Many of us in the liberty movement felt that the GOP was the best alternative. We thought that when a Republican claimed to be for the little guy, they meant it. They lied. Looking at the last few years is all the evidence I need: bailouts, subsidies, corporate welfare, sucking off the lobbyist teat, just to name a few...

While the GOP talks a good game about privatizing government services, they are doing so for the wrong reasons - and in a more cowardly way than one can imagine. Most of us who are for limited government first look to see if a particular program is constitutional or not: education, corporate subsidization, etc. After that, we try to determine if the proper function can be privatized. Two things are necessary to justify privatization: 1) more efficient use of the taxpayer money, and 2) saving the taxpayer money.

The second should be a natural conclusion of the first. Businesspeople know that to increase productivity is to lower costs. Privatizing should lead to more efficient, less bureaucratic, ways of doing things. Private agencies are entrepreneurial, creative. They can find ways that the government agency is prevented by bureaucracy of finding.

So, what's set me off today? The realization that the Michigan Republican Caucus at the State House is not interested in efficiency, nor in the lower middle class workers providing the services within the private agencies. They are merely looking for a way of "slashing costs."

Republicans no longer examine an issue to see if bureaucracy might be causing the dysfunction. They no longer do any kind of cost-benefit analysis on their programs. They just want the status quo - plus a little privatization to make us libertarians and conservatives think that they are "on our side." But they are not.

The State of Michigan recently settled a lawsuit that an advocacy group brought on the state. Part of the settlement included lower case loads, and better oversight of the children in foster care. This was an opportunity for private agencies to "show their stuff." We've already found more efficient ways of spending the taxpayer's money; we had to, the state had already stacked the deck bureaucratically several years ago. But, now with the new rules, we have no choice but to follow the bureaucratic dictates - it is LAW!

Some senior people within DHS found some extra money (I know, is that possible?) and they convinced the powers that be to increase the daily rate paid to private non-profits to care for the children. This was a happy day for our workers, they have been working for about 2/3s of what their state counterparts were making. This increase would have allowed us to hire more staff (thus lowering the caseloads and improving the services to the children and families), as well as getting the pay up to acceptable levels (although still only about 80% of what the entry level state employee makes at DHS).

Now, the GOP Caucus has joined with the UAW to try to take this increase away. Of course, this is while NOTHING is being done about the annual pay increases at DHS, or the continuing hiring at the state level. In other words, the State agencies, who have historically been deficient at providing the services to children and families, continue to be paid better for less work (they pass the work off to us, the Private non-profits), are not the target of GOP "budget cutters;" their target is private industry.

So, why should I vote for Republicans? Can't think of a reason! I'll be voting third party, because the two major parties are only concerned with their own self-promotion. That's bad for Michigan, and bad for the country.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not Right, Not Left, Not Libertarian

My last article here was a very angry response to an alleged moderate Democrat's misrepresentations about who it is exactly that is against the health care bill. I'd like to clear up some things for anyone who might care.

I was a right-wing conservative for years - since the early 1980s. I sat back and watched as the GOP spent us into near-bankruptcy, but on their pet projects, not on those of the Democrats. Several years ago, after watching the Bush Administration spit in the face of every American, I finally embraced a full-fledged Libertarian view. I now belong to the Libertarian Party.

As with any political party, there are disagreements. I have them with my party, just as I did with the GOP. Granted, not to the same extent, but they exist nonetheless. I'd like to clarify, for anyone who cares, my economic and political positions as of today.

I'd like to take a paragraph on each issue and do my best to establish a basic understanding of my positions. Later, I might try to expand on my views in order to better clarify them, and maybe to learn them better myself.

Because my first article here was on immigration, I'll just say that I am not for open borders per se I think that for the sake of national security, there needs to be strong border security. That is not the same thing, however, as having a illiberal immigration policy, which I oppose. I believe that we should liberalize our immigration policies so that anyone who wants to be here, should be able to come. As long as they aren't another nation's criminals, there's no reason that they cannot be here.

Regarding charity and welfare. I support voluntary charity; however, I think many Christians who embrace libertarian and free market ideas fail to see that the bible specifically commanded farmers not to "maximize profits," but instead to allow the poor to "glean" in the fields. Landowners were commanded, and it was enforced in Israel, to not harvest the crops growing in the corners of the fields, nor to go over the field a second time. This left behind an ample supply of crops for the less fortunate to gather for their sustenance. So, while I believe in a free market, I also believe in biblical charity, which was not just "giving it away," but empowering the less fortunate to "work with their hands that they might have bread to eat."

Regarding war and peace. War should be a last resort and should only be done in self-defense. While it is true that we have not taken over any countries (other than the one upon which our nation sits) with our imperialism, we have taken over markets, which by definition is property. Our nation needs to stop this immediately. We need to bring troops home to defend our borders, not our "interests" in other parts of the globe.

Regarding free trade. I oppose government trade agreements, mainly because someone always get favored out of the deal - and it's rarely the American worker. I do, however, favor an individual, or a company, having the right to freely trade with other individuals or companies in other countries, without having to pay bribes to the government in the form of tariffs or taxes for the right to do so.

Regarding health care. I do not want "a public option" as understood by the Democrats. I also do not want the status quo of the insurance companies, as supported by the GOP. I favor a plan that would maximize the benefits of the markets, while providing incentives to those who are working to be healthy. One example, that would be a government run system might look like this: provide every American with a basic catastrophic plan, to pay for the long-term illnesses and hospitalizations that eventually come to all of us. Then set up a "Medical Savings Account" (MSA) of several hundred dollars each quarter. Everyone would have to see the doctor every quarter (3 months). If the doctor gives them a clean bill of health, they get a check from their MSA equal to the 3 months of deposits, minus the cost of the doctor visit and any other medical needs they may have had (like prescriptions). This would give the individual the incentive to eat healthy and exercise. The money saved from this would go into the pockets of the individual rather than in the pockets of the insurance companies.

Regarding the military industrial complex. Dismantle it. To quote Burton Cummings of the Guess Who, "American Woman...we don't need your war machines." Our society does not benefit from "creating wealth" by manufacturing bigger and better weapons. We create wealth by encouraging entrepreneurship. Small business is what is needed in this country, not more heavy-handed corporations.

Corporations are a fact of life, however. We rely on them for things like automobiles and the fuel to power them. We should do, as a nation, whatever we can to encourage these corporations to remain in America (cut taxes to zero would help) so that American workers, even Union workers if they so choose, will produce those automobiles, dishwashers, etc. that we need for a higher standard of living.

And still speaking of corporations, pollution should be taxed. If a corporation pollutes the environment, it should pay handsomely for it. That pollution should then be cleaned up with their money. It is government's responsibility to protect its citizens, and there is no reason that that government should sit idly by while large corporate interests lobby both parties (so get off your high horse you Democrats) so they can destroy our environment and our future.

And speaking of the environment. Give incentives for small business to create a market for recycled goods. I often think of an entrepreneur here in Michigan who started a company that took recycled newspapers and created insulation for houses with it. If memory serves me, he has about 6 manufacturing plants making this blown-in insulation. He's a millionaire and he has a large number of employees. That's American ingenuity. We could do that with plastic and every other non-biodegradable substance we use in this country.

Regarding alternative energy. Karl Hess, the radical left libertarian of bygone days, showed how efficient small scale wind and solar farms could be. Rather than subsidizing the Corporate interests called "public utilities" (that's a joke), encourage entrepreneurs to build local power facilities that would buy energy from small producers (many people with solar panels and windmills report having excess power), and sell it, for a profit, to those who decide not to have their own energy source. If the cost got too high for their liking, they could choose, based on economic benefit, to install their own. This is the basic free market. We only produce for ourselves what we cannot buy at a reasonable cost. In our current Big Corporate Public Utilities model, we don't really have that option. We are slaves to those corporations.

This concludes my initial thoughts. I'm sure I'll have more in the near future. Stay tuned and let me know if you like any of my ideas. I'll expand on them at a later date.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Democrats for Freedom, Don't Count on It!


Okay, now I'm madder than a hornet after someone has stirred my nest. I am trying my best to be bipartisan/non-partisan. At Facebook, I have joined the Republican Liberty Caucus, as well as the Democrat Freedom Caucus and the Blue Dog Democrats. I want liberty minded people of every party, as well as middle-of-roaders, to help keep this country free, and even to make it freer. But damn it, partisanship is alive and well on planet Earth, and at Facebook.

It seems like the supporters of the Blue Dogs over there like to believe the news media when it is reported that conservatives and libertarians never had a dog in this fight for freedom until Obama got elected. As they used to say on Saturday Night Live, "How conveeeeennnnniiiiieeeeennnnntttt!"

Democrats have been led to believe that people who didn't vote for Obama are racist, homophobic, rich, stupid, or all of the above. No mention is made of the 40% of the American people who consider themselves independents and libertarians; who vote on principle and not on party. Nope! The news media told them that those of us who want less government involvement in our lives, and more freedom for everyone; including blacks, gays, undocumented workers from Mexico, etc., must all be racist and homophobic. I mean, what freedom lover wouldn't love Obama, right? Wrong!

We stand on the edge of a precipice, where the government has already nationalized a couple of industries, and is ready to nationalize several more. The automobile and banking/investment industries are now the property of the United States Government. Soon, the energy and health care industries will be as well. I don't know about you, but this is scary as hell. And some of the people that I thought we could count on are too busy playing partisan games to give a rat's ass about our freedoms and liberty.

I personally am damned glad that there are folks out there letting the politicians know what they think of them. And it's not all just some "right wing nut jobs" either. Some of the folks are registered Democrats. One in particular was trying to get Steny Hoyer to listen. All Hoyer could do was ridicule him:

Protester: Hey, I'm a registered Democrat!

Hoyer: Yeah, me too.

What the hell is that about? Hoyer doesn't give a damn about what "the flyover country" thinks about what he's shoveling out to constituents. He's got lobbyists to keep happy, and he'll be damned if some "local yokel" is going to get in the way of a good government take-over.

Do I sound pissed off? I hope so, because I am. You know, I'm not so mad about them trying to develop some National Health Care plan, because I have an idea myself for how to do it. The folks that I've talked to think it's a pretty good idea; but our Democratic Congress, and their Imperialistic Leader won't listen to a word of it. Nope, in spite of calling for bipartisanship on the issue, he has shut down discussion and debate. It's his way or the highway. He even said the other day that he didn't want to even hear what anyone else had to say, instead blaming us for the mess that we're in.

Well, that ignores the fact that you and I have high premiums because the government of the United States, Republican and Democrat combined, have foisted requirement after requirement upon health care providers until those of us who have to pay for at least a portion of the premium can't afford it anymore. Take maternity coverage. Why does my insurance plan have to include it? My wife is 51, and I'm 50. We won't be having any more little rug rats. What do we need it for? Why can't I drop that coverage, and let myself off the hook for the savings?

Parity for Mental Health Services is another one. And guess what? I am a Mental Health professional! I don't want parity. I want ala carte. I want people to buy, with the help of their employer, only the coverage they want and need.

Oh, and guess what else? You know those HMOs that everyone bitches about? You know, "Managed Care;" what an awful thing that is, right? Guess who created HMOs in the first place? The CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES! The same idiots that's going to give it to you again.

But, we can't have people protesting now, can we? After all, we are just sheeple, meant to blindly follow all those smart people that we elect. BULLSHIT! These are our freedoms, and I'll be damned if I'm going to lay down and take whatever these morons decide to give me.

No damn way. And you Democrats, you better do better than bitching about Bush...libertarians and paleoconservatives (like Ron Paul) have been doing that for 8 years. Now we are bitching about your guy. If you've got any integrity left, you should join us in keeping this country free, and then work with us to make it freer, for the folks who've been largely left out for too damn long.

Otherwise, you get what you deserve!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Free Enterprise in One Easy Lesson

Anyone who knows me knows that of late, I have embraced a more local, rather than global, perspective. That does not necessarily mean that I buy nothing from major retail giants, I do, or that I don't support free trade, I do; what it means to me is that I believe in the freest market that can possibly exist - the one between me and someone else.

Due to the most recent government-induced fiasco which we call a recession, many people have jumped on the anti-capitalist bandwagon. In some respects, that's a reasonable thing to do - if you believe that capitalism and corporatism are the same thing. In some way, they are; but I prefer a more simple definition of capitalism - the right of an individual to control his or her own capital, i.e., finances.

I have had reasonable success lately when discussing free market economics with people by focusing on the most local market in my life - me! I explain to people what I mean by free enterprise, the freedom to engage in a voluntary exchange of goods and services. It is with this in mind that I call upon all freedom-loving Americans (and anyone else reading this blog from other countries) to practice this free enterprise fully and unashamedly. Our country was based on this model, and many of us as young whipper-snappers practiced it in order to get "spending money." Others used the principles to build a thriving business that would employ perhaps dozen of their friends and neighbors.

The purest form of free enterprise happens each and every winter here in Michigan. In spite of the obvious climate changes that we are experiencing (not man-made, I might add), we still manage to get some snow; sometimes, a lot of snow! For some people, like me, the thought of putting on multiple layers of clothing and boots and gloves and hat, grabbing a shovel and busting my hump for the next hour or so is not very appealing. Thankfully, I have a couple young sons who have strong backs and a willing heart (especially if Dad or Mom offers them a few bucks for doing so) that will shovel the walk for me. Not everyone of my neighbors is so lucky.

And so, my sons, if they desire (and they do), go off to offer their services to our neighbors. Those neighbors who take them up on their proposal pay them a few bucks each. They boys, 13 and 10 respectively, shovel the driveway and the walk. The neighbor is happy they didn't have to shovel, and the boys are happy they got a few dollars for their labor. That's free enterprise, plain and simple - what economists call "a win-win situation."

So, what's that got to do with the price of tea in China? Everything! That's the point of the story - them politicians have been lying to you when they say that free market economics doesn't work.

You see, my sons didn't demand a "minimum wage" from their customer/employer. They simply agreed on a price. The customer figured that they could afford to pay the boys that amount, and the boys were happy to oblige. No losers here, only winners. The boys could have asked for more, but the customer might have told them they'd do it themselves. Or, the customer might have offered more, not really knowing whether the boys would actually do the job for that. It was a voluntary exchange, neither was forced to do anything they didn't want, or have, to do.

There was no health inspector there, employed by the state to ensure the health and safety of my boys. I saw to that because of their age. Were they older, they would take care of that aspect. Isn't it common sense for an individual to not do something hazardous to their health? My boys didn't need OSHA ordering them to wear protective gear, or steel-toed boots, or work gloves (they wore those willingly - man those shovel handles can cut up an unprotected hand).

They also didn't need a Weights and Measures inspector to ensure that the shovel met the minimum government standards for shoveling a 28'X16' parking area, or a 25' long sidewalk. The boys used the shovels that they had, and they completed the job. Were they stronger, they might have bought a bigger shovel in order to move more snow in a shorter amount of time. They didn't need the government to tell them that.

Did our neighbor need a Federal Trade Commission to make sure that they were actually not being overpriced? I don't think so. They could have told my boys to go packing and waited for the next batch of them to come along and make the offer. But he didn't. He chose to let my boys shovel, and chose to pay them what they asked; he knew they were good workers, and he was willing to enter into a verbal contract with them.

Did my boys need a Federal Department of Education to check to see if they had the proper education for doing the job? Did they belong to the local labor union, and was the National Labor Relations Board notified of their working without a contract? How many other of the thousands of Federal agencies did they manage to perform the job without the help of? Or, the customer not need?

The answer is obvious. The scenario hilarious. Yet each night, hundreds of thousands of Americans watch the news, and believe the gobble-dee-goop put forth by those pinheads that Americans are being forced, against their wills, to work for these evil capitalist corporations, who take advantage of them - as if they were slaves. But, they are not slaves. They are free men and women - free to walk off the job at any time and refuse to work for what they are not willing to work for. There is no law that states a man or a woman HAS TO work for a company. It is a voluntary exchange of values.

Please remember what free enterprise is: stop believing the lies of the media and the politicians. The Federal government needs to be completely dismantled. The individual states would do best if they shrank by 50%. If these two things happened, nearly $5 Trillion would be saved each year. We wouldn't have to work until mid-July just to pay our taxes; we might only have to work until the end of January to pay them. That would leave 11 months worth of our pay - OUR GROSS PAY - to line our pockets. Of course that's only if our employer/customer chose to pay us that much, but if they didn't, we could chose to work for someone else. We have labor to market, they have money - somewhere there has to be a meeting point.

Free markets, Free Enterprise. The sweetest sounding words imaginable. I hope you think so too.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The War on Drugs Part Deux

In trying to keep these articles short and sweet, I failed to point out some obvious reasons that the War on Drugs is not only failing to eliminate drugs, it is also threatening any vestiges of liberty we have in this country. In this Part Deux, I will hopefully open some eyes to the totalitarian tactics of the government in fighting this nonsensical war.

First, let me point out that the Constitution has been undermined by the War on Drugs. Bill Bennett, the so-called Czar of Character, showed little of that character while serving as Drug Czar. He implemented a nice little money-maker for the Feds called "Asset Seizures." What this entails is that the Drug Enforcement Agency, and a whole slew of local police organizations, seize the assets of suspected drug dealers, and then sell them - all before a conviction is ever obtained! This is a direct violation that states that "no person shall be deprived without due process of law," the so-called Due Process clause in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

Second, our police departments have become more militaristic, all in the name of fighting this war. Rarely is the general public informed of the number of innocent victims of police "no-knock raids." One such raid found the police breaking down the door of a residence, engaging in a gun fight, and having a cop killed. Afterward it was discovered that the man whose door was kicked in was not even the suspect, nor was it the suspects house. The police went to the wrong house, and one of their officers was killed. Guess what happened next? The man who owned the house was charged with second-degree murder! Now, that's justice in America.

Third, along the same lines as the second; I recently read a story about a young man who had a small quantity of pot. He was a college student, and he had a handgun (with the necessary fascist paperwork). The police broke down the door and shot him. Both the young marijuana user and the police officer were charged in the incident - the young man with a felony, for having pot; the officer with a misdemeanor for shooting an unarmed and non-violent pot smoker. That's more justice in America for you.

These incidents are by no means isolated. These type of things happen everyday; violating people's fourth and fifth amendment rights, shooting non-violent drug users, violating trespass laws and the like. All in the name of the War on Drugs.

This insanity must come to an end. We cannot have a free country based on the concepts of liberty while the government is allowed to determine what is and what is not good for us. I am an adult, and I should have the right to self-determination. If I choose a less than beneficial way, that is between me and my god. When Government gets involved in these type of things, they have declared themselves to be god. If only they would stop a 10% when demanding their tribute...

The War on Drugs

Our public schools are drug-free zones now. At least that's what the sign says on the fence that surrounds the schoolyard. That's really good to know; that the school children aren't sitting around in class smoking weed. It calms my anxiety about the children knowing that for about 6-1/2 hours a day they are imprisoned within that fence, unable to leave the building, and unable to access drugs that might affect them detrimentally.

Of course, what most people are unaware of is that a large percentage of children within the walls of that school are actually consuming large quantities of amphetamines and other mood stablizers each and every day, with the full knowledge of the school's staff. In fact, many of those children are consuming those drugs because the staff demanded that they do. Horrifying, isn't it?

These children suffer from a disorder that the Mental Health community calls Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The primary treatment for the disorder is pharmaceutical, and this requires the oversight of a physician - usually one trained in psychiatry, but that is not necessary from a legal standpoint. In fact, it is estimated that about 70% of all patients who are prescribed amphetamines for ADHD received those prescriptions from a primary care physician, not a psychiatrist.

Adderall is the most recent popular drug used in the "treatment" of ADHD. Consider what the manufacturer says about its own drug: "Adderall XR was generally well tolerated in clinical studies. The most common side effects in studies included: children - decreased appetite, trouble sleeping, stomachache, and mood swings; adolescents - loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, stomachache, and weight loss; adults - dry mouth, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, headache, and weight loss." These are symptoms from a LEGAL drug!

On the other hand, our nation has been in a "War on Drugs" for at least 70 years. Marijuana, one of the most popular "illegal" drugs in America, was first criminalized in 1937 through a tax stamp act. Since then it has only gotten worse. More Americans today per capita use Marijuana than did in 1937. How is that possible? It's been illegal all that time, and more people use it now?

Let's consider some of the side effects of marijuana as compared to Adderall. Decreased appetite? Anyone who has ever smoked pot knows that quite the opposite is true. More recently, cancer patients who have been allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes report that they regain their appetites by smoking weed.

The next on the list is trouble sleeping. I don't know about anyone else, but I slept like a baby after using marijuana. I can't say that I ever experienced a headache from it either. Dry mouth? Well, most of us are familiar with the term, "cotton mouth." So, I guess marijuana is that much better than Adderall.

The War on Drugs has cost this country billions, and perhaps trillions, of dollars thus far, with no end in sight. While the media certainly reports on "major drug busts" and Hollywood loves movies about cops who stop the evil drug importers (oops, I mean smugglers), the Drug Enforcement Agency has little to show for its years of Gestapo-like tactics. Major "Drug Lords" in Mexico and South and Central Americas continue to import their products into the U.S. largely unabated. Except for the death of some DEA agents, and a whole lot of collateral damage, including innocent civilians in the war, there is little or nothing that the DEA has to brag or complain about. On the other hand, a whole bunch of users and small town retailers (oops, er, I mean "pushers") get arrested and jailed or imprisoned on a daily basis. The average citizen would be amazed at the percentage of our current prison population that is incarcerated for no other crime but drug possession.

I heard on one of the cable TV news networks once that we, as a nation, spend about $14 billion on the enforcement of just marijuana laws. That number doesn't count all the other illicit drugs. The guest on the TV news program stated that we could save at least that much, and perhaps generate an additional $7B in tax revenue on the sale of marijuana. I seriously doubt that this included that billions we would save by immediately letting those non-violent marijuana users out of prison, and cleansing their record so that they can return to have a normal life.

The government doesn't want to do that. It would cost them too much power and too much money. Too much money, you ask? Yes. The War on Drugs is one reason that politicians can weep and moan about how they must raise taxes - they absolutely have to protect us from those non-violent tokers - the ones that got naked at Woodstock and listened to music for days on end. Why, that would give people too much freedom, and who knows; they just might enjoy themselves. We can't have that now, can we? Not unless we are talking about alcohol - good old beer and wine - that is. Now, those are "safe."

I just got back from a day long visit with some old high school friends. I graduated from a very small school in East Central Michigan, in what is affectionately called "The Thumb Area." We only had 21 graduates from our class back in 1977. In these past 32 years, we have lost two of our classmates already, and another is about to die - he's in the hospice program. All three died as a direct result of drinking too much alcohol.

On top of that, I had two very dear friends, they were several years older than me, but they were married to my ex-wife's sisters. Both men died before they were 50 years old - again, directly related to alcohol. Should I start to recount the number of my uncles and aunts who have died for the same reason, or about my father-in-law who had every major organ in his body shut down due to years of alcohol abuse? I'm sure everyone reading this article could give anecdotal confirmation of what I speak.

I didn't even mention the number of alcohol related domestic violence incidents reported everyday in America; or, the instances of child abuse from father's who were drunk and didn't want to be bothered by their children. We all have it pounded into our heads by our government the number of alcohol-related deaths on the highways of America each year. The list is endless. Alcohol, when abused, is dangerous and deadly. If any drug should be illegal, it would be alcohol.

Wait a minute! Didn't we already try that? How did that work out anyway? Was it successful? What? What did you say? Al Capone? Who's he? Sorry, just kidding!

Most people don't know that the main reason for the FBI's existence was because so many big city cops were on the Gangsters' payroll during prohibition. Most of us know of Elliot Ness, and J. Edgar Hoover - famous men who unsuccessfully fought Prohibition. Yet, today we fight a similar war - and we are losing.

Because of this, we should ask ourselves seriously. Is there a reason to continue this war on marijuana? Our last three presidents have admitted using drugs at least once in their pre-politics life. How many of us can look our children in the eyes and tell them, with a straight face, that we never smoked a joint? I can't. I bet most of you can't either.

Let's stop the nonsense. Let's legalize marijuana. Other countries that have decriminalized it have found that reported use has gone down afterward. What with the medical marijuana movement, wouldn't it be simpler to legalize it and let cancer patients and the like have the freedom to obtain and use it. At least we won't be hypocrites any more.

Drug free school zones and the social acceptance of alcohol are two very large indicators of that hypocrisy. Marijuana is far less dangerous than Adderall, and alcohol (when used in excessive quanities). Legalize it, and give Americans their freedom.

The Lie of the American Dream

Many people have been led to believe that the American Dream is to own your own home. In order to assist Americans in realizing that dream, the U.S. Government has set up program after program to help facilitate the borrowing of trillions of dollars for the sole purpose of buying a place to live. The conventional wisdom is that we have to live somewhere, so why bother paying your landlord's mortgage when you can pay your own? After all, when it is finally paid off, it will belong to you. At least that's what we are told.

There was a time in America when you could buy a home on a 7 year note. After that note was paid off, you could sell it, if you desired, and move to a more upscale home. In those days there was a large supply of what was commonly called "starter homes." These homes were small, usually 2 Bedroom, 1 Bath homes; perfect for the young couple just starting a family. By paying off that mortgage, it was believed, they could then buy a larger home, perhaps 3 or 4 Bedrooms, depending on how many children they had.

As time went on, the banks became more and more greedy. Inflation, which was rarely heard of at that time, began to inch upward - at first slowly, then at faster rates of speed. This inflation was being caused by two things: 1) lower interest rates, and 2) the resultant additional borrowing.

With lower interest rates, more money was borrowed to buy homes. Government helped by offering programs where the home buyer would need less and less money as a down payment, and thus would require more and more to be borrowed. Mortgages also began to be offered for longer periods of time - first 10 years, then 20, and finally, the big 3 - 0. Thirty year mortgages were the standard rule. Factor in the 0 - 5% down that the government guaranteed, and interest rates dropping to as low as 4 - 6%, and the sellers saw a larger demand with a static supply of homes - thus, prices rose.

As prices continued to rise, so did borrowing. This was helped along by something called "equity." It's a bit of a misnomer to tell the truth. Equity means to treat someone or something the same as something else - e.g., treating everyone equitably. In the banking world though, it came to mean the value that you had in your home, based on the principal amount compared to what your home was "worth." This equity also became something that you were allowed to borrow against - without penalty. Alas, more borrowing.

What no one really thought of at the time (well, not the regular Joe on the street anyway) was that you weren't really gaining any value on your home due to the fact that if you sold it, you would have to buy another home of equal or greater value. In fact, tax law was set up to make you pay taxes on whatever amount that you didn't spend on the new housing.

So, it wasn't like the days of old, where housing prices remained stable. A young couple could start out with a starter home worth say $10,000, and later sell it for about the same amount. The intention was to purchase a larger home for a growing family. The second house might cost $25,000, but you were older, and presumably earning more money, being further along in your career. It worked quite well.
Lower interest rates kept housing prices high, but they could have been higher. You see, that scenario created more demand, but the housing industry was more than happy to oblige by creating a larger supply through building more houses. This kept prices somewhat stable for awhile.

The Americans got greedy. No one wanted a starter home, and so many older neighborhoods either went the way of the wrecking ball, or they became the government research project - how good is that low income mortgage assistance program working anyway? So, the starter homes were bought up by lower income people, sometimes very low income people. These people might possibly have been ignorant of how economics works - work, save your money, buy what you need. Instead, they believed the government and banking industry version of economics - get on the dole, borrow and live above your means.

This recent housing bubble was just another in a long line of housing bubbles. Every so often the equity bubble bursts, and all the value that we think we have in our homes disappears. Sadly, this is devastating when you consider that some people have spent two to three times the original price to pay the banks for the privilege of living in "my house." That also doesn't count how much we must pay in property tax for the same privilege.

They get us coming and going. Once we start down that home-ownership road, there's no turning back - unless you are gutsy enough to file bankruptcy and give your house back to the bankers. Anything short of that and you are enslaved for years to come - perhaps the rest of your lives.

With this revelation, what am I telling my children and my friends about buying homes? Don't bother. Rent. That way, if a better job comes along somewhere else, you can up and move. Paying off the remainder of a lease is a hell of a lot cheaper than having to keep paying a mortgage on a house you can't sell, and don't live in any more. And even if you were living in it, and could sell it, you'd have to buy one that is just as expensive anyway - so why bother selling?

In the next article I write, I'm going to talk about the great opportunity we all missed out on with this bursting of the housing bubble. Instead, we asked the government to bail us out, as well as our mortgage bankers. So the enslavement continues. And it will continue to do so until we smarten up and stop buying into their lies.