"How many 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 Reed

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(Caveat Emptor)
News and opinion from all over the political universe.  Much of it to be taken with grains of salt.

Curmudgeon's   Archive.   

Magical Money  

Posterity's Debt To Me
The Battle for Honest Money
From Riches to Rags
Fiddler's Broken Wrist
Jack-lantern Wealth
Chance of Gold Confiscation
1932


Poobahs of Positivism
IOU-nothing
Blood In the Streets
America Descending
Just Plain Stealing?
A thing to fear
Heavenly Sex
What Fools, We Mortals
Unvarnished Truth
Hucksterism Gone Wild
Religious Violence

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               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 the extemes of Islam jihadists?  How could he have been brainwashed to the extent he was willing to commit suicide in order to murder and maim strangers? 
    
  
     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. 


      "I do not think there is any possibility over the next two decades to de-fund the federal government," writes Dr. Gary North     "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 federal government."

      Ye 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 reckoning occurs. 

        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 sooner.) 

          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 armaments.  



   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 edition.    

       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 writes, "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

        The newly crowned Miss USA kicked up a brouhaha when she answered a question about whether healthcare was a right or a privilege.  She said it was a privilege but amended her answer in an ABC television interview saying it "ought to be a right." 

          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
A couple of octogenarians put in their 2¢ worth.

“Why in the hell should I even care?  I'm not going to be here much longer; just leave things alone, don't worry.  Let others deal with our future.  Our opinions aren't worth a rat's behind anyway.  We are no longer the nation of laws that our founders established.  We have become a nation of politics and politicians who believe in BSing their way along and letting results be determined by those who BS best.  It seems this had its beginning around 1913 when we listened to the BSers and instituted the progressive income tax.  The influence of the left has been extremely effective since then.

"Our Founders warned about that; they knew it could bring the eventual demise of our Constitutional Republic and introduce socialism, an ideology where we conduct ourselves politically and financially in a manner that’s destined to fail…as it has everywhere on earth up to this point."

   The second paragraph nudged a pet peeve of ours - - the persistent attraction of the Marxist left to nearly fifty percent of the American voters.  Like Mr. and Mrs. Glass we know that our opinion doesn't amount to much (unless filtered through the AARP and other official geezer organizations) but we're not very happy with the course the Ship of State has taken and we're not reluctant to say so.

    The Glass's comments were sent in an email to Susan Harris at American Thinker.  Grieving for America


    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 PROSPECTS
      A 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. 

  Reports 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 transactions. 

  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 ever.

  There's a 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 of wealth.

  Fiat currency 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."  )