journalists voted for Trump? Close to zero. Virtually the entire press
corps is of one mind and slants the news to the point of verticality.
In the absence of Trump, they are almost as heavily Democratic. Most
don’t know they are doing it. It’s just that they are so
obviously…right. They are not
reporters. They are advocates." ~Fred
May 25, 2017
Mnuchin and Mulvaney would like Congress to raise the public debt ceiling before July 28th.
Steve Mnuchin is secretary of the U.S. Treasury. Mick Mulvaney is White House budget director. They'd like Congress to deal with the debt matter before leaving for their August vacation.
If action isn't taken by the end of the federal fiscal year Mr. Mnuchin will run into the problem of not having funds anough to pay federal government bills. With mainstream news media focused on everything BUT the nation's staggering debt. . .nearly $20 trillion. . .not many citizens are alarmed. After all, the debt load has been increasing for years and the country seems to bear up under it quite well. People are used to spending money they don't have in their personal lives. What's wrong with the national government doing the same thing? In fact, we've grown so used to the federal government living beyond its income we don't even call it "borrowing." Exchanging IOUs for cash is called "issuing bonds, notes, etc."
Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. president to see the public debt top $1 trillion. Today it is almost twenty times as great. It's a difficuilt number to comprehend. Even more difficult is absorbing the fact that it can never be paid in full. As interest on the debt grows it will create a significant drag on the economy. The debt will hang like a millstone around the necks of future generations guaranteeing them a lower living standard than would have been the case if the federal government had lived within its income of taxes and other levies.
If the national government can't live within its means why should anyone expect average citizens to do it? It was shocking to read a recent statistic that indicated a high percentage of households would have trouble coming up with $400.00 to meet an unexpected emergency and would be forced to borrow - usually through the use of a credit card. This smacks of the bad old days when masses lived from payday to payday. As former U.S. Senator Fritz Hollings famously remarked many years ago, "There's too much consumin' going on!"
Although not many people expect, or even WANT the federal government to live within its means, there are a few rays of hope among members of the younger generation. A grandson recently told us he was seeking to sell his automobile, a late model with all the bells and whistles, and acquire an old model. "Something mechanically sound but older." He has realized that a car is merely a means of personal transportation and does not necessarily have to have rear television cameras and other expensive features. More important, the youthful ego no longer needs the flashiest car in the neighborhood and no longer entertains the idea of remaining in permanent hock in order to own one.
A friend in the banking industry once used the expression "perma-hock" to describe the condition of the average household. Being in permanent hock is the way business is done at the personal level, City Hall, the state capitol, and Washington, DC.
History shows debt is not a bad thing if sparingly used. But woe to the individual - or nation - that overdoes it.
From our notebook....
There is so much to talk about the gossip-mongers in mainstream media hardly know which story to emphasize. They are currently distracted by the melee at a Monday night concert in Manchester, UK, Trump's visit with the Pope, the release of a proposed FY 2018 budget, the suspense centering on medical insurance, and more. They really want to get back to the allegations of Russia's entanglement with the 2016 U.S. presdentil election and the firing of James Comey.
We tend to follow the financial questions on the grounds that while money may not be "the root of all evil" it tends to be a big deal when it comes to the operation of governments at all levels from the local community to Washington, DC. The scramble to grab as much of the booty as possible appears to be the root of most political conflict.
"Experts" at the political left are already predicting that President Trump's spending plan, based on an economic growth rate of 3 percent per anum, cannot work. (Obama didn't reach 3 percent in his entire two-term administration.) They are complaining that certain entitlement programs will be cut and "too much" money is being earmarked for the military.
Defenders of the Trump plan point out that the unemployment rate is under 5 percent and therefore, with more people working, there will be less need to increase the food stamp and other hand-out programs.
No one is talking about actually balancing the federal budget. Also, suggestions that budget surpluses be run to gain some headway against the ballooning public debt will be met with jeers and derisive laughter.
This is the state of 21st century U.S. politics.
It turns out the young
man who killed 22 people and injured 60 others by blowing himself to
pieces in a Manchester , UK crowd Monday night was born and raised in
Manchester. What was it about his life that turned him towards
extemes of Islam jihadists? How could he have been brainwashed to
extent he was willing to commit suicide in order to murder and maim
The root of mayhem created by Islamic extremists is religion. They have read into their Qu'ran explicit instructions to convert all the world to Islam and they have chosen violence as a means of forcing people of other faiths, or no faith, into their fold. As the bloodbaths of religious clashes of the past clearly reveal - these conflicts never result in peace and happiness.
When one considers the fragility of the peace idea and the threat of war among religious faiths it's safe to place your bets on religious animosity stirring up murder and other violence. It's surely an effort to convince everyone that the conflict is approved by God as a means of finally settling questions about the unknowable.
Terrorists with ties to ISIS don't care whether or not they die for their violent misdeeds. In fact, many of them blow themselves to smithereens in the belief they will be instantly transported to heaven and bountifully rewarded for their "martyrdom." To suggest oblivion will be their reward would be considered blasphemy and dealt with accordingly. Jihadists can be extremely rough on skeptics.
They can also be brutal to homeosexuals and others who don't follow their strict social code. We hear of recent public beatings of homeosexual men in Indonesia and elsewhere under Islamic dominance.
do not think there is any
possibility over the next two decades to de-fund the federal
government," writes Dr.
"Yet I do think there is hope. There is going to be
a Great Default. Washington at some point is not going to be able to
pay its bills. The unfunded liabilities of Medicare and, to a lesser
extent, Social Security will eventually force the bankruptcy of the
Gods! What's "hopeful" about the United States suffering a Great
Default? And why should a septuagenarian like Gary North be
concerned? He'll bne well into his nineties when a day of
It's likely that North, like some others of the geezer generation, is
concerned about the future even though he personally will not be around
to witness it.
North points out that applications for Medicare are increasing at the
rate of some 10,000 per day and the cost is now running at about
$1,000.00 per month for each enrolee. That's impossible to
sustain and we're already facing the problem of either taking care of
the medical needs of the old folks or cutting back on their
subsidies. That would be politically dangerous, owing to
the growing number of elderly voters, so sharp cuts may be necessary in
other federal budget items.
Social Security is another running expense that is facing the problem
of sharply increasing demand. Overlooked in the debate about its
future is the fact than most of the cash in the Social Security Trust
Fund has been spent by Congress and contains mostly IOUs. (Gov't
securities.) If the Trust Fund is drawn down too quickly the
strain on the U.S. Treasury will cause it to run higher deficits than
it does at present. (Note: The public debt is already set to
bounce over the $20 trillion mark this fall. If not
North suggest that the industrial-military complex may have to get
along with less money if the nation is going to continue to take care
of the needs of its rapidly growing elderly population. This will
not sit well with people who make their money building
When did opinion become news?
It's routine for NPR news
anchors to ask guests "What's your opinion of. . . ?"
This morning, shortly after 5AM we heard an NPR voice call in someone
from Isreal for comment about the visit of President Trump. The
first thing asked was his opinion.
There was a time when reporting the cold, hard facts of an event was
one thing and the voicing of personal opinion was another.
Newspapers, for example, traditionally used the editorial/opinion pages
for commentaries and usualy reserved other space for news, features,
and ads. The number of ads contolled the size of the paper.
Tuesdays usually brought a rather thin paper to the doorstep while
Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays brought a much fatter
We have no quarrel with the free expression of opinion. We don't
object to privately owned media choosing to editorialize from any part
of the political spectrum. But
generously tax supported entities like NPR or PBS should balance their
strong political liberal tilt with opposing opinion.
An Austrialian journalist, Max Newton, once remarked that it was a
common yearning among journalists to want to be part of the story and
influence the outcome. But
who's to say the political left should
be the main choice of the voting majority?
Jeff Deist of the Mises Institute is strongly biased toward dead economists, particularly those of the so-called "Austrian school."
"The mood in the West is not friendly to intellectuals," Deist
"much less dead intellectuals. We prefer social media and short videos
to books and lectures. We want someone else to provide
easily-digestible ideas, concepts, and news, rather than seeking
original sources for ourselves. We don’t have time for context or
nuance. With limited knowledge of history, we tend to fetishize new
over old, modernity over tradition, and data over theory. In our
hubris, we imagine ourselves in a new era where old knowledge and
wisdom no longer apply."
Ignoring history just because it seems so dull in this era of glitz and
frenzy is a mistake. It is the chief reason society keeps repeating so
many mistakes. It prompted the late philosopher George Santayana, among
others, to point out that those who ignore the lessons of history are
doomed to repeat them.
For as long as we can remember we've heared the study of economics
called "the dismal science." It's for that reason the popular
information media treat it in a slap-dash manner, converting economic
data into contentious political issues. Can you imagine, for instance,
PBS offering a prime-time debate between a Keynesian economist (Paul
Krugman, perhaps) and Gary North of the Austrian school? Not many
viewers would be interested in getting to the basic distinction between
the theories of John Maynard Keynes and those of, Frederich Hayek, yet
the future of world depends on understanding the conflict between their
two distinctive schools of economic thought.
People make important economic decisions every day, but as tuned in as they are to everything that's going on they have little interest in the history of why matters play out as they do. For instance; Why did the purchasing power of the 1914 U.S. dollar decline to less than 5¢ in one century? How much further could it fall?
That one topic could make a dramatically interesting TV documentary.
The Right to 'Free' Medical Care
In his campaign for a nomination to the U.S. presidency Senator Bernie
Sanders came down clearly on the side of medical services being a
"right." He doesn't like the idea that medical care be accessible
only to people who can afford it.
Other voices say that medical services are an economic good that must
be paid for by SOMEBODY. Forcing one segment of society to give
up part of their wealth (money) to pay other people's medical expenses
is hardly fair, they claim, although there should be no barrier to
people with means voluntarily contributing whatever they wish to
support others who cannot pay for services.
It was thought in the 1960s that forcing workers to contribute to a
federally managed Medicare fund would be a boon to older Americans, and
it was until the aging population expanded dramatically and abuses put
a strain on the fund. We were reminded of this recently when
taking a phone call from a peddler who wanted to send us a "free
backbrace." Knowing that there's not much in the medical services
world that is "free" we impolitely hung up. Besides, we don't
have a bad back.
We favor the concept of medical services being an economic good.
As such, someone must pick up their cost. Insurance plans make
sense if users understand they work best when consumers pay premiums
and try to hold their need for medical care to a minimum. This
allows the insurers to accumulate the funds necessary to pay the big
bills of subscribers who require it. Sadly, many people believe
they are somehow being "cheated" if they don't consume enough medical
services to offset they premiums they pay.
Wouldn't it be helpful if a major TV programmer put together a clear explanation of how it all works? Presently, the clash of opinion on rights and privileges is getting us nowhere.
Meet Don and Jeanne Glass of Arizona
We admit to being a tad older than Mr. and Mrs. Glass. There's little demand for the opinions of the elderly, but we still have the freedom to express them even if the demand for them is low.
BITCOIN's PROSPECTSA reference to BITCOIN poked its way into news of the ransomeware computer bug that recently infected some 200,000 computers in more than one hundred nations across the world. Ransomeware is insidious malware that locks up a computer and requires payment of money to the hidden hacker before the computer is unlocked.
indicate some $53,000.00 in Bitcoin
has been collected, among other other forms of payment. Bitcoin
accounts are highly encrypted but when funds in an account are
withdrawn - converted to dollars, pounds, euros, yuan, or whatever -
the transaction is harder to conceal. It's thought the underworld will
gravitate to Bitcoin as a means of concealing financial
Is it possible
Bitcoin may become a popular medium for everyday exchanges?
Possibly. Many of us can recall when the idea of paying bills and
making purchases via computers was strictly science fiction
stuff. One either carried cash, ran a tab at the grocery store,
or wrote checks. Cash was king. Today's economy, however, works chiefly
on the exchange of electronic data. Cash is less necessary than
hitch. Bitcoin, like dollars and all the othere currencies of the
world, are not wealth. They represent wealth but cannot
simultaneously be wealth and promises
in any form, paper, metal tokens, or digital data, has a poor track
record. The temptation to expand the supply is powerful and always
leads to over-supply and loss of purchasing power.
A Foot in the Grave
We grandly announced a revised blog would hit the Internet at the Wrisley.com address this weekend. We expected our staff curmudgeon to come up with a zinger of a commentary that would put to rest the gossip and allegations that pass for news these days.
No such luck. Although he did submit a morbid recollection from five years ago that might be instructive to readers who balk at the high price of 21st century funerals. Potiphar Gride sees waste in burying more than a million tons of steel a year in the form of caskets the size of small refrigerators.
Mr. Gride reports that sea burials have gained popularity, but warns that one's cremains must be dumped at least three miles off-shore. Consigning a body to the briny deep must be done at least twenty-five miles from shore.
Here's more: A Foot in the Grave.
(Gride is no fan of the circus that passes for national governance in Washington. He is particularly miffed because nothing has been done to "drain the swamp." )