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November 22nd, 2014

  

   "When the world hears of the Obama amnesty, millions more from Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East will be coming. And if they cannot get in legally, they will walk in, or fly in, and overstay their visas.

   "Why not? It works."  Rogue President

People love to argue about issues too big for them to individually do anything about.  Collectively they have clout, but political opinion is generally split right down the middle which maintains a national confusion.  As far as we can tell the United States has evolved into a welfare/warfare state spending far beyond its means.  Garrison Keillor calls liberal welfarism governmental "kindness."  Conservatives, on the other hand, appear to want to play down the welfarism but maintain a robust military presence around the globe.  The economy cannot stand too much of either....welfarism or warfare, particularly with a high rate of infrastructure decay in the U.S. begging for attention.  (See CBS's "Sixty Minutes" Sunday.) 

Something's gonna give.  Just what...and when...is anybody's guess.


Sane People Don't Hoard Nickel Coins
But a few odd-balls do on the off chance it may be profitable.  
    "The US Mint will probably catch on pretty soon and change the metal composition in nickels to all zinc or maybe even cheap steel.  There has been talk of discontinuing the penny and the nickel altogether and just rounding up or down to the nearest ten cents.  Greshamís law will kill the present nickel one way or another."  Hoarding Nickels  < Coin and paper currency have far less relevance today than in generations past.  Thanks to on-line banking and credit/debit cards people don't carry much cash any more.  But Larry LaBorde has dashed off a short essay that brings us up to date on the pros and cons of stashing some change in a bucket or jar.

    Fifty years ago some Americans put dimes, quarter-dollars, and half-dollars in cigar boxes in hopes of a payoff.  Today the 1964 dime contains $1.18 worth of silver.  Could the copper/nickel 5¢ piece contain enough metallic value to be worth accumulating?  


Heavy debt can be deadly.
Or, at least, terribly inconvenient.

    "The most cynical (but not necessarily inaccurate) view of debt . . .  is that banks loan out imaginary money they donít really have, which money is 'collateralized' by capital they do not really have, which is, in turn, based upon central bank printing presses which create money out of thin air which the central banks donít really have. But then when debtors have trouble repaying onerous loans, the bankers seize real assets."  

    Being in debt is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you are wallowing under a debt load you cannot pay off. The U.S. federal govewrnment is in just such a position.  As of Tuesday the official public debt, as published by the Department of the Treasury, was  $17,965,853,482,963.66!  This is just shy of $18 trillion, a dollar figure most Americans cannot begin to fathom - - so they don't worry about it very much.  

     Economists amuse themselves with notions that a public debt is no particular burden as long as it doesn't exceed a certain level of the Gross Domestic Product.  But a minority school of economists warn that the public debt is a time bomb poised to explode with enormous impact upon the living standards of modern civilization.  

     Some observers are suggesting that a "Jubilee" be declared and the debt just be written off.  Bondholders and other creditors would be devastated - but it would certainly ease the pain upon future taxpayers. 

     There is not room in present political conversation for talk of dealing with debt, but there will be in early 2015 when Congress returns to the subject of either raising the public debt ceiling or doing away with the ceiling altogether.  


 
   "As we near some sort of attempt at compromise regarding the future of Obamacare, you will hear from health care workers that we need to bring the focus of medicine back on the patients. The past few years, in which there has been a well-intentioned desire to control costs through bureaucratically oriented goals, the role of doctors and nurses has morphed away from patient care. They have found that their role as 'documenter of services rendered' through electronic medical records and coding for billing purposes has significantly taken away time spent with patients."  SURVIVING OBAMACARE < Keith Jackson brings to mind the old fashioned concept of medical care...that is, a truly patient-centered business in which more time is given the patient than the mountain of paperwork and the web of computing that's required of each visit.  Certainly, accuracy and good record keeping is important but when the doctors' offices have more people doing office work than nursing backup something is amiss.  

      Patients have complicated matters, too, by forgetting they are paying customers of a professional service they require.  As such they are entitled to know the actual cost of the service they buy whether or not most of it is paid by insurance....which they also buy, or receive through the generosity of others.  

Christmas ads used to begin after Thanksgiving.
Our staff curmudgeon says "Bah! Humbug!" to holiday hucksters.. 

    "I am begging family and friends to give me nothing for Christmas.  My closet bulges with more clothing than I will ever need between here and the grave.  My shelves sag with odds and ends that are collecting dust.  There is no room on my walls to hang anything, although I could probably make way for a Monet. My library is packed with my favorite books and I need no more.  What I yearn for is less booty!  I have come to long for those unencumbered days of yesterday when I really treasured the few things I had." Hucksterism Gone Wild

    This is from a kind of confession by our staff curmudgeon, penned in 2006.  He is a retired huckster whose attitude about the December gift giving orgy has not changed. He is happy to immerse himself in the music and cheerfulness of the Christmas season, but is sad to think of the woe caused by pressure to spend money on gee gaws just because somebody in a red velvet suit says it's the thing to do. Moreover, running into debt to do it is foolish. 


Student Debt
Another economic time bomb.

    "We now have a total of $1.22 trillion in outstanding student debt. Student debt is now the largest non-housing debt sector in the U.S. Student tuition has risen by 538 percent since 1985. This current generation is going to college at the most expensive time in history."  STUDENT DEBT BOMB < Anyone looking for something to worry about should look into the ticking time bomb called "Student Debt."  Student debt and automobile debt are growing at rates far higher than wage increases.  In both instances consumers are being conned into thinking the value of cars and college training are worth it.  But then come the horror stories of new car buyers going upside down on their vehicle debt, and college students entering the job market with thousands of dollars of debt on their shoulders which takes them years to pay off - if they ever can. 

     Debt overload is hardly a healthy way to start one's work career.


Fracking is expensive.  
Lower oil prices have an adverse effect on fracking development.

   "We should relax the rules on drilling in Alaskaís Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has 10 billion barrels of oil locked up. We should use as an economic weapon against OPEC the 700 million barrels in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We should allow the export of oil from the United States to enable us to cope with OPEC cutbacks. We should build the Keystone XL pipeline, and the other oil and gas pipelines between us and Canada now sitting in limbo."

   This is either the raving of a maniac or a conclusion reached after sober investigation into the "oil price war" presently affecting the energy production business.  THE OIL WEAPON


What to do if your heating source fails.
Hunkering down for a polar vortex.

     Do you have a plan in case electricity is unavailable for an extended length of time?  Folks in northern climes give more thought to this than those of us in the sunny south, but the weatherman says a polar vortex is bringing sub-freezing temperatures this way.  Mix a little moisture into the picture and visions of snapping power lines dance in our heads.  

     Daisy Luther has written an excellent guide to surviving at home in the event of power outages.  We recommend it.  STAYING WARM.



These programs have expanded through the years in good/bad times and under Democrat/GOP administrations.
The federal government cannot tax us sufficiently to pay for them.

 
  1.  Social Security

2.  All other income support programs such as disability insurance and and unemployment compensation.

3.  Medicare 

4.  All other health programs such as Medicaid.

5.   All programs for education, job training, and social services.  

 
    WAIT! Before you grab your keyboard and dash off a blistering denunciation of this list give us the favor of sixty seconds to explain.

     This list of federal programs reflects the yearning of the American public to erect compassionate programs to help citizens achieve life goals they may not otherwise reach without a variety of federal financial "safety nets."  The sad thing is - kindness and generosity of politicians in Washington is far greater than the money available in the national Treasury to pay for them.  Sad to say, the government cannot spend ten cents on any programs that it has not first collected from individuals via taxation, or by borrowing funds to be paid back in the future through taxation.  

      Liberal compassion is a lovely concept.  It has enormous appeal.  The idea of a benevolent federal government helping citizens with a variety of subsidies has won many an election for politicians.  It has also set the United States squarely on the road to financial ruin.  What to do about it will be one of the hot button issues in the next half of this decade. 

       William Voegeli has examined this dilemma closely in two books:  "America's Limitless Welfare State" and "The Pity  Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion."  Note:  Voegeli is not opposed to the concept of compassion.  It is the politically LIBERAL programs of taking whatever is wanted from the pockets of current producers and handing it to a rapidly expanding population of non-producers.  A welfare state must eventually respond to the iron laws of nature and implode.  

       Liberals consider themselves patrons of "the politics of kindness."  On the other hand, they regard conservativism as "the politics of cruelty, greed, and callousness."  

       When the ideological battle shifts into high gear it ought to be a pip.


   
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