Thursday, December 15, 2011

Which Candidate Fits You Best?

This a simple but clever concept. Give your view on a variety of issues and then weight the issues by how important they are to you. At the end, find out which candidate most perfectly fits your view of the world.

My 1-2-3 were Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry. The Ron Paul part surprised me. Jon Huntsman and Barack Obama brought up the rear. No surprises there.

You can try it out here:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/candidate-match-game

Let us know what your results are by commenting!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Do You Have a Clue?

Hopefully, as a Naked Dollar reader, you do.

I received the following over the transom out of Pew Research:


Can You be Trusted to Vote Intelligently? 

This is a terrific multiple choice 13-question test. And it shows results in a number of ways.  It clearly indicates that the majority of Americans don't have a clue about what's going on in the world.  No wonder our politicians take such advantage of us.  It's astonishing that so many people got less than half right.

These results say that 80% of the (voting) public doesn't have a clue, and that's pretty scary.

There are no tricks here - just a simple test to see if you are current on your information.  This is quite good and the results are shocking.

*I believe it was Winston Churchill who opined that " . . . the biggest argument against democracy is a 5-minute conversation with the average voter . . ."

Test your knowledge with 13 questions, then be ready to shudder when you see how others did!

Test your news IQ - Pew Research Center

http://pewresearch.org/politicalquiz/quiz/index.php

Monday, November 28, 2011

Is It Right To Call Obama a Marxist?



Liberals love to throw around the word "fascist," so much so that it retains all the impact of calling someone a "poopy head." I've always found the word a peculiar epithet for liberals to adore, as fascists believed in top down, government-led control of the economy. If fact, the word "Nazi" stands for National Socialist Party. As economic systems, the only difference between fascism and true socialism is that fascists would allow for private ownership of industry - as long as the politicians called all the shots. Industrialists were allowed to enrich themselves as puppets of the state.

Socialism, fascism, communism...it's all splitting hairs. Socialism is nothing but communism light, with free elections, some tenuous property rights, and less cult of the state. Fascism has the tenuous property rights of socialism but also the cult of state of communism. But ALL believe in centralized control of the economy, with government consuming inordinately large chunks of a society's economic output.

There, I just cut through the confused clutter of a thousand poli sci classes.

Conservatives, of course, like to do their own name calling, with "socialist" and "Marxist" being their favorite zingers. And while these terms are often applied too loosely, they are at least generally applied to those who believe in large and dominant central governments, so unlike the liberal use of "fascist," at least conservatives are getting their insults right.


And often, it's not an insult, it's just a statement of fact. Words like "socialist" actually mean something, they're not just vague putdowns. To be precise, someone who believes an economy should be controlled by a dominant centralized government must be one the big three: socialist, communist, or fascist. I know of no other model for big government. If one of my readers does, please inform us. Liberal is not a model, for the record, it's a characterization, mostly for those who believe in the socialist model. And for those who are going to write me and say, "theocracy," I would argue that economically, these are socialist societies. With a sharia twist, perhaps, but socialist still.

So, I ask you for a moment to separate all these words from the silly insults they have become. No one, outside of the comical characters of the Occupy movement, likes to be called a socialist, because the word has been sullied. Same with the others, fascism and communism. All three have become epithets. This happens sometimes when a concept becomes thoroughly discredited by history. It's kind of like how liberals everywhere now call themselves "progressives," even though there's not a whit’s difference between the two. "Liberal" doesn't poll well anymore. 



So, if we were going to describe President Obama - as opposed to insulting him - what label best applies? I think we can safely rule out labels like "capitalist" and "libertarian." Clearly, Obama is a big government guy, so he must be one of the three, but which? As I said, as economic models the differences between the systems are not enormous, but there are a few.


A thought experiment is sometimes helpful in these exercises. A few weeks ago, I asked Naked Dollar readers to imagine Steve Jobs in a different time and place. My thinking was that the results would not have been quite so glorious (you can read it here).


Let's reverse the game. Let's take a historical figure, Lenin, and place him in modern America. What would be the result? I pick Lenin because more than any, he was responsible for the implementation of communism. Marx was an isolated theorist holed up in the British Library. Lenin was a man of action.


Well, let's start with what Lenin wouldn't be doing today: leading an armed revolt to assume power. This strategy is only effective when you are revolting against a tyrannical and corrupt power like the tzars or Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. So how to achieve Marxist ends within a benign democracy, where there are no trodden masses to support a revolt?


The answer is from within the system, for unlike 1917 Russia or 1958 Cuba, our system allows anyone to accumulate power if they play their cards right. In the U.S., growing government power is a game best played slowly, but also faster when the opportunities present. Lenin would have understood this. Do it in a way that few notice what's being imposed on them, like the proverbial frog in pot of water that slowly boils. You boil to death before you realize there's a problem.


In short, the entire liberal movement has operated by this playbook for the last 70 years, to great effect. Obama is merely the movement's apotheosis. So, intellectually, it's safe to call Obama either a socialist or a communist. The constructs of these ideologies are what he believes to his core.


But what about in practice? Communist? Sorry, no. I don't doubt Obama would like very much to rule without the inconvenience of Congress, the Supreme Court, or even voters. In a rare moment when he allowed a thought bubble to escape, he professed envy on the Chinese leadership that could just do whatever it wanted, without messy democratic constraints. But the fact is he can't, so we can't call him anything more than a communist wanna-be.


Socialist, perhaps? This is certainly closer to the mark, and Obama is especially animated by the class warfare aesthetic that adorns socialist movements everywhere. But socialists, like communists, want the government to own the means of production, particularly the biggies like banks, airlines, car companies, and so on. (Communists, on the other hand, want all those and the corner deli, too.) Interestingly, we haven't seen Obama, even in the midst of crisis, move to take over any industries. He merely wishes to control them. His levers of power are Obamacare, Dodd Frank, the EPA, and so forth. Not textbook socialism.


Which brings us to fascism. Obama certainly doesn't embrace any of the weird eugenics of fascists-past, nor is he quite so militaristic, so labeling him a fascist wouldn't be entirely accurate. But we are discussing economic models here, and, ironically, fascism may be closer to the mark than the others. Obama is willing to allow the appearance of private property but the reality is that an army of technocrats set the rules. Call it socialism by fiat.


Or perhaps we should call it Obama-ism, because anything so incredibly destructive probably deserves its very own ism.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Occupy Wall Street DOES Way In on B-Ball Strike, but...

You can't make this up.

In my previous post, I asked why OWS wasn't protesting against rich basketball players who earn an average of $5.5 million, but are striking for more.

Well, it turns out the OWS crowd has weighed in after all - on the side of the players. Being in the top 0.01% isn't enough.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - Selective Outrage

The average person on Wall Street makes $300,000 per year. Nice, but not enough to put you in the top 1%. That takes $350,000. (Note, by the way, that you do not live like a rich person in New York on $300,000, either.)

The average NBA player, on the other hand, makes $5 million a year. This isn't just top 1%, it's maybe top 0.1%. And yet, they are on strike for more. That doesn't qualify as wild-ass greed? Shouldn't the OWS crowd be chanting and protesting outside the gates of their mansions? Shouldn't Obama be calling them out?

Also, by delaying the start of the season, they are depriving scores of everyday folk from earning a living: the hot dog vendors, the ticket takers, maintenance men, etc. 99 percenters all. Where's the outrage?

I suspect the NBA is exempt since:
  1. They are unionized (even if they are the richest union in the world)
  2. They play a sport officially liked by Barack Obama
  3. They aren't known to vote Republican
  4. They are largely minority, rendering them untouchable
As I ponder also why OWS has not encamped outside George Clooney's house, I note that 1, 2, and 3 also apply.

Friday, November 4, 2011

We're All Lucky Jobs Was Born in America


Like anyone, I love Apple products, and I agree that Steve Jobs is the Henry Ford/Walt Disney of our age. A corporate and a cultural hero.  

But...you knew there was a "but" coming, right?

BUT. He was other things as well, like a complete tyrant. A belittling, abusive monster around the office and in his personal relationships. Not a nice guy.

What to make of this? Does all the adulation deserve an asterisk? My Psych 101 prof would have called it cognitive dissonance.

It was after I read the one thousandth fawning hagiography of Jobs that I recalled an op-ed piece I happened upon six or seven years ago. I wish I could remember who wrote it, but I found it an instructive way to view this. The thrust of it was this:


What a great country we live in that we can harness the incredible talents of a man like Jobs for the maximum possible social utility. If Jobs had lived in another time and place, 1930s Soviet Union, say, his talents might have been harvested in far different ways. Like organizing the gulags more efficiently. Or figuring out how to better terrorize the Kulaks.

You see, a man with talents as outsized as Jobs was not going to live a life of obscurity, no matter what circumstances of his birth.  Steve Jobs, tyrant, lived a life of greatness thanks to the greatness of the system in which he lived. And while free market capitalism made Jobs rich, it created orders of magnitude more wealth for society in general, not to mention all the fun.

One wonders about the "what ifs" of those born to less fortunate political systems. What might Irwin Rommel have accomplished in America? Leni Riefenstahl? Or even, if I may be so provacative, a Josef Stalin? If you plucked Stalin from the USSR and gave him a life in, say, New York today, what might happen? He wouldn't kill millions, to be sure, and he likely wouldn't be lovable, but what would he accomplish? Something great? We'll never know.


Steve, nice or not, RIP.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Occupy This (Boston)

So, a Naked Dollar reader was inspired by the last post to go visit the "Occupy" protest in Boston and report back. We'll call him "Charlie," since his name is Charlie.

Here's the scene...



Charlie said virtually no one was in any of the tents, but hey, it was a nice day...



And some pretty tasty food was being served...



A close up...



This made it fairly easy to count the number of people who were actually there. Charlie says this picture includes just about all of them...


I count about 20. But busy, busy. Things to do, free food to eat. First up, some consciousness raising. Somebody important to listen to. Meet CT Butler...




CT's big thing is "consensus," which is kind of funny because the Occupy folks don't seem to agree on a whole lot, other than they are generally pissed and they want more free stuff. Perhaps CT is building consensus in this picture? It could be, since his bio says he's built consensus in other places like  "Eco-villages, anarchist networks, Native American tribes, and covens." What do you suppose the coven agreed upon? What to wear for Halloween?

The first line of CT's bio reads that CT has, "lived an alternative lifesytle (sic) since he left college at the end of the Vietnam War." Wonder how much in taxes he has contributed in all that time? Achh, what am I saying. Taxes are for the unenlightened. The grubbers. CT also spent some time as Chair of the "Cambridge Peace Committee." Also, his button has a panda on it, so he must like pandas.

Just in case you think I'm making any of this up, here's CT's website:

 http://www.consensus.net/long_bio.html


Charlie listened to CT  for a while and said he didn't really make a lot of sense and was actually kind of boring, which may account for why the guy in the yellow hat looks like he's sawing lumber.

So who was else was hangin'? Let's meet some folks, like this gal...


Dreadlocks are perfect for long camp outs because they're not actually meant to be washed. This next guy has a lot of flair on his hat...



Wish I could make out what they all say. And then there's this guy...


Maybe we'll let him just speak for himself.

So, Charlie's son goes to Andover. He tells me that Andover actually rents buses for it's students to go down and seek enlightenment at Occupy Boston. That's right, screw Chaucer and Shakespeare. We've got CT Butler!

Interestingly, Charlie had almost the same reaction to Boston that I had to New York. We were both amazed how few people are actually involved. You won't see that in the media. But we both also went girded for a fight, ready to take on any and all unreasoned arguments. What we found instead was a handful of pathetic lost souls, nothing worth fighting at all.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy This

The Naked Dollar visited Zuccotti Park today, site of the largest and now famous Occupy Wall Street protest. I am here to report what I saw. I will come back to the picture above, which was most definitely not an "Occupy" rally.

The approach looked like this:


Zuccotti park isn't a park at all, it's a plaza. I paced it off; the entire protest is about 100 yards long and forty yards wide. Okay, time to go in. The first thing I saw was the "library:"


Naturally, I was curious what books were inside. Adam Smith? Hmm. More likely lots of Alinsky and Marx. I couldn't find an opening so I unzipped one of the flaps (libraries are supposed to be welcoming, right?). Here's what's inside:


I think there's one bin of books there. The two people inside were passed out, so I didn't engage.

Here's "Legal," whatever that means:


And inside...


Some hard work going on, but hey, it was 9:30 in the morning. Here's the infamous "southeast corner," where the "infiltrators" are camped out...


The infiltrators are the homeless, ex-cons, druggies and the like who have sniffed out free meals and other handouts and have made themselves quite inconvenient. (The left only likes these people when they are an abstraction, a convenient revolutionary focal point. They don't actually want to see them at their fun camp out.)

And just in case you thought this was a mainstream movement, there's this:


And this...


This is a thoroughly Marxist crowd...but incoherent at the same time. Every protester seems to have his or her own priorites, like the owner of this sign...


These guys look comfy...


And unions seemed to dominate the crowd...



Another...


There's a trail of sorts that you can walk that loops around the entire affair...


Here's what I know, because I was there. It is a fetid place populated mostly by young, white kids who are apparently looking for meaning in their lives, but just don't have the education or intelligence to look in the right places. Incoherence and economic illiteracy was everywhere on display. (I didn't see it myself, but my favorite was a woman who had a sign that said, "Nationalize the Fed." When a journalist pointed out that the Fed was, in fact, owned by the government, she said, "Check your f**king facts!")

I counted perhaps 100 people who were up and about. There were around 120 tents as well. A random sample that I peeked inside of suggests that maybe half of these were occupied with about 1 1/2 people each. That's another 90 people, so let's call it 200 all together. Now, how many should we subtract for...


  1. paid union workers
  2. paid ACORN workers (that story just came out)
  3. drug addicts, ex-cons, and homeless people just hangin'
  4. media
  5. tourists like me?

I'll bet the true activists numbered around 50. Granted, there are days when they get more.

And now, to my point. Go back and look at the first photo of the Washington Mall. That picture is of a Tea Party rally. The small circle contains enough space to fit not just Occupy Wall Street, but every other "Occupy" in country.

Get my drift? This is a small number of, frankly, pathetic people, and yet the media, and certainly the Democratic Party, for whom this is catnip, is in thrall of them. The day after the Washington Mall Tea Party rally the New York Times reported about it on page A21, but we get daily, breathless, coverage of this smattering of lost, incoherent souls in Zuccotti Park.

Enough.

Name that News Source


(1) U.S. economy grew at a 2.5% annual rate in third quarter, nearly double the second-quarter rate, government says.

(2) New Weekly Jobless Claims Hold Steady at 402,000; Economy Shows Modest 3rd Quarter Growth

These are two different headlines from CNN's and Fox's websites. Can you match them to the source - who posted (1) and (2)?

This is a rhetorical quiz. I wonder what CNN's phrasing might have been like if Bush were president? Hey, and whatever happened to the whole $4 gas story, anyway? When it hit $3 under Bush, it was all you could read about.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Corzine the Destructor


Has anyone else noticed what a serial failure this guy is?

1998 - Loses piles of money for Goldman Sachs and gets forced out by Hank Paulson.

2000 - Buys a Senate seat for $65 million. Highlight of Senate career: engineering John Edwards as John Kerry's running mate.
 
2002 - Wife dumps him for cheating.

2003 - Decides it would be a great idea, as a public official, to shack up with Carla Katz, who happens to run a municipal employee union with whom he negotiates. Gives her major dough, forgives loans.

2005 - Jim McGreevey resigns in disgrace, Corzine buys Governorship. Raises already sky-high New Jersey taxes, escalates government spending, trashes economy.

2009 - Loses governorship to unknown lawyer.

2010 - Named CEO of MF Global, a money manager. Decides it would be a good idea to get into leveraged bond trading, stock drops 80%, Moody's cuts ratings. Rumor has it he's out.

What will Jon Corzine trash next?




Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Naked Dollar Is the First to Have Wayin "W"


While I still toil in the financial industry, I have also recently co-founded an internet start up called Wayin with my golf buddy Scott McNealy (I knew golf would pay off some day!). Scott is the former co-founder and CEO of Sun Microsystems, so Wayin has good tech DNA.

This is a short video that describes the service.

You can also see Scott explain it here.

Basically, we are creating a unified, mobile solution for sentiment collection. It also makes possible interactive television. And it's just a fun way to share photos. Check it out, you'll see. It's a free app for iPhone and Androids, and it's a website: http://www.wayin.com/.

Incidentally, it's a great way to promote your business. Start a channel and start asking relevant questions. There will be a "box" soon on channels that you can use to drive users to your site.

As for the "W," we hope that will soon be ubiquitous, like the Facebook "F" or the Twitter "T." You will see it at the bottom of this and every post. Here's what happens when you click it:

  1. You get the chance to "wayin" on the photo in that particular post. For instance, the last article generates a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" for Herman Cain.
  2. You can launch the photo/question into Wayin itself.
Soon, you will also be able to create your own question using the same image.

If it sounds complicated, it's not. We're in the start up phase now, so Scott and I could use all the help we can get. Give it a shot!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Herman Cain for President


The Naked Dollar supports Herman Cain for president.

The others are wanting, and we all know why. But it isn't simply that Cain is the last conservative standing: I really, really like this guy. He's the opposite of Rick Perry. the more you know him, the more highly you think of him. And I have friends who know him personally who tell me he's the real deal.

I think Cain's ideas are spot on, and he articulates them brilliantly. I love the fact he came from nothing and achieved so much, but none of it on the back of racial preferences. He has fantastic private sector experience. He ran the Kansas City Fed. He has a degree in math and a masters in computer science. No dummy.

But more than that, he is the personification of the American Dream, and it's something he believes in to his core. He even won the Horatio Alger Award.

He has never held an elective office. So? You want another career politician? Cain has run things, big companies. This should translate well into running the executive branch, certainly better than some senator who's run a staff of thirty. He understands the economy and that government can't create jobs, only destroy them.

He has no foreign policy experience, that's true. But neither did Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama. The majority of our presidents have had no foreign policy experience. You trust that you're electing someone with intelligence who will figure it out. I have few doubts about Cain on this score.

Can he win the nomination? Yes. Conservatives have flirted with Bachmann and Perry and are largely dismissing them. Few will get comfortable with Romney. I haven't. That leaves Cain.

But here's the thing. Cain has the highest positive intensity score of any candidate by a wide margin. It's apparently the highest ever measured by Gallup. You can read about it here. His only issue is low name recognition, but the data suggest that as he becomes better known, his support will continue to grow. Just today, Cain pulled even with Romney in a national poll.

Can he beat Obama? Hell, yes. Obama enters the race in a weaker position than almost any incumbent in a century. He is hemorrhaging support from every quarter, and the economy won't recover in time to bail him out (because his own policies are keeping it down). And Cain will eat into the only strong support that Obama still has: the black vote.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Romney on the Stump


I went to a Mitt Romney breakfast this morning...lots of heavy hitters in the room. I asked Romney the following:

Our tax code is a job-killing monster, and less well understood is that it is an enormous source of political corruption. I read you policy PDF, and while you make some tweaks to the system, you seem to leave the monster in place. Would you comment?

Romney's response was an very skillful dodge, a wink and a nod. He said he'll do a few things on day one, like lower the corporate rate to 25%, and that "longer term" he'd work towards a "flatter, fairer system."

Here are my problems with this approach:

  1. Presidents don't have a mandate to do something unless they actually say they're going to do it (Obama has learned this).
  2. As a new president, you have maybe 18 months to do the big things. If the real fix isn't part of the initial policy push, you miss the window.
Romney fears that if he's overly specific now, he leaves himself politically exposed (coddles the rich, etc.). Sure, liberals and the MSM will go nuts, but so what? They're going to eviscerate the Republican candidate no matter who it is and no matter what he or she stands for. Have no doubt that serious opposition research is being done right now into every deal Bain Capital ever did.

But also, as I've written before, Republicans only win when their base is fired up. "Trust me, I'll take care of it once I'm elected" - does this fire you up?

Having said all this, Romney is markedly better on the stump than four years ago. He speaks asperationally about America in a way that is very Reaganesque. You end up wanting to like him, which wasn't the case last time.

We'll see how this all develops. I have a crush on Herman Cain at the moment.

Monday, September 12, 2011

No Doubt


I was with a friend the other day who knows Obama quite well - someone who spends a lot of time with him. I was genuinely curious about some things, but here was part of our discussion:

SJ: We took a man who wasn't even qualified to run a small division at General Electric and we decided that he could somehow be president of the United States. My question is, when Barack Obama is alone, when he is lost in his own thoughts, do you think he ever has moments of self-doubt, that maybe - just maybe - he's gotten in over his own head?

Friend: No.

There was no hesitation. Washington and Lincoln, our two greatest presidents, were famously plagued by self-doubt, and yet this just-turned-50 phantom who has never run anything, has never fought in a battle, who taught briefly and organized communities briefly, is supremely confident he is the right man for the task.

My friend did add that maybe Obama had some doubts about some of the people he had surrounded himself with, i.e. they aren't his equals.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Best Tell That Dems Are Truly Panicked About 2012


With everything else going on, no one talks about the Supreme Court much these days. But we all know how critical it is, particularly with major elements of Obamacare likely to be adjudicated upon in the next couple of years. Right now, the court has four conservatives (specifically, Consitutionalists) and four liberals (specifically, liberals). The ninth, Anthony Kennedy, is someone who's judicial philosophy at times seems guided by a random number generator, but lately he has tended conservative.

The court, in other words, is almost dead even with votes frequently hinging on Kennedy, whom no one understands. Now, consider the ages of the justices:

Ginsburg         78
Scalia              75
Kennedy          75
Breyer             72
Thomas           63
Alito                61
SotoMayor        57
Roberts            56
Kagan              51

The conservatives are going nowhere until at least after the next election. They will opine from hospital beds if they need to. On the liberal side, Sotomayor and Kagan will be with us until gravity forces the universe to collapse back on itself. Breyer and Ginsburg are more interesting, but particularly Ginsburg. At 78, she is the oldest member of the bench.  She has also been fighting pancreatic cancer for some time.

Ginsburg is a proto-liberal. Her background includes time on the legal ramparts of feminism and the ACLU. Neither she, nor the Democrat establishment, will tolerate her seat falling into the hands of someone who thinks the constitution actually trumps social justice.

It is said that the Republicans have a weak field. As you know, the Naked Dollar believes that the Republicans could nominate a toaster and it will beat Obama, who may be the weakest incumbent of our lifetimes. Yesterday, for the first time, the prediction market odds on his re-election dropped below 50% for the first time. The scenarios for his successful re-election get fewer with each passing day and each new bit of horrible news.

Despite their capacity for self-delusion, these facts will seep into the liberal firmament. The necessary response will be for Ginsburg to yield her seat, probably around next spring. That's when you'll have confirmation that panic has set in. (Note: if Breyer resigns as well, the panic will have morphed into full-blown hysteria.)

Mark it on your calendars.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Will Obama Be Worth It?


I have a friend who voted for Obama using the following logic:

  1. McCain would be a terrible president, leaving the conservative movement in disarray as people continue to confuse Republicans with conservatives. Hillary then gets elected and our collective pain gets stretched far into the future.
  2. Obama would be worse, but he would focus our thinking. The pain will be worth it. Carter gave us Reagan, after all.
Obama, in other words, is some sort of perverse medicine we need to take to crystallize our national thinking and banish collectivism forever into the intellectual wilderness.
 
Whether my friend was right remains an open question. About point one, there can be no doubt. While John McCain would not have been an O-style disaster, he would have been pretty bad, and since he's a Republican, people would have blamed - incorrectly - the conservative movement for the country's problems.

No doubt you know of this confusion. It's not unlike liberals saying, "You have no credibility criticizing Obama's spending because Bush spent a lot, too!"

Leaving aside the fact that Obama has ratcheted the problem to a whole new level, I don't know a single conservative who was pleased with Bush's spending habits, particularly with things like the prescription drug entitlement. But the public is frequently confused between the conservative movement and the Republican Party. That they grew far apart accounted for the birth of the Tea Party, a development that makes the Republican establishment highly dyspeptic.

So, there are reasons not to be too upset with the last election. The wrong Republican was nominated. Conservatism would have lost relevance for decades, potentially.

But will the damage be worth it? We can't know, at this point, but I grow increasingly optimistic that the answer will be yes - by a hair. I believe that in a year and a half the Republican party will control all the White House and both branches of Congress, and they will have a mandate for some long overdue, radical change. A new tax code. Entitlement reform. Repeal of the twin job-killing monsters Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Big stuff, and much needed.

Whether Republicans will actually do these things is probably a bigger question than whether they will have the opportunity. This all depends on who moves into the White House.

Whether any of this will offset the incredible damage Obama has managed to inflict in a such a short period of time is still debatable. He is a wrecking ball. Can you imagine if the House hadn't shifted last year? We'd be dealing with things like cap & trade, too.

At least we have a definitive answer that Keynesianism doesn't work. Hopefully, that lesson, and all the others, will be internalized for at least a generation or two, at which point we'll be seduced into making the same mistakes all over again by some new group of charlatans.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Best Cartoon in a While


Even the teleprompter approach isn't working anymore.

This presidency is in full meltdown. Not a single bullet left in the chamber.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What do You Mean, You Don't Want a Bridge?


So, this guy Chuck Todd is a political analyst for NBC. I want you to read the following statement that he made on air last week:

"The old rules no longer apply. There are two more lessons we learned last night. First, the old rules to twist recalcitrant arms no longer apply. Tea Party and conservative House members don’t really care about important committee assignments. They don’t place a value on fundraising help. And earmarks and extra pork for their districts? Forget about it. As the Washington Post recounts, GOP Rep. Jeff Flake -- who opposes Boehner’s bill -- “praised the lack of horse-trading of the type that marred passage of Obama’s health-care legislation. ‘It is the most refreshing thing in the world to see what’s going on in there,’ Flake said. ‘This kind of negotiation a couple years ago would have cost about $20 billion.’” It is refreshing. But it’s also a curse if you’re trying to get things done."

You can hear the lament in Todd's voice. In the "good old days," i.e. a year or two ago, Boehner would have taken his difficult members into the smokey room and asked them what they wanted. Ways and Means? Maybe a nice bridge? Done. Thank you for your vote.

The Democrat definition of compromise is when Republicans do what they want. Compromise itself becomes the endgame, the virtue, but only when it needs to be. It wasn't much of a virtue during the Obamacare debate, when the GOP was roundly ignored. Todd and others loved the Republicans of old because, basically, they could be bought when it became necessary. The smokey room is all about doing out money and power in exchange for betraying the voters who put you into office. Bribery, in other words.

And now, here come a bunch of newbies who don't know how the game is played. Such insolence! Why, these people are, are....terrorists! Yes, that's it. Terrorists!

Compromise is not a virtue when the deal sucks. Decades of compromise have led us to where we now find ourselves.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Social Security - the Greatest Scam Ever Sold


Today we have a guest blogger, a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous. Here are his thoughts on Social Security:

The myth of the Social Security Trust Fund is one of the most pernicious bald-faced lies in political and financial history.
The "Payroll Tax" has been spent in real time as normal revenue for generations, creating a debt--not an asset that can be drawn upon--that will not be paid or will be partially paid by taxing future generations.  I have known this for 25 years, but very few people believed me when I tried to explain it.  They trusted the lies about a Trust Fund that the government and the mainstream press were telling them, and they couldn't believe that I could be right when Al Gore said it was all true in a national campaign on national television.
Any attempt by financially responsible individuals, whether Republican or Democrat, to try to rectify the situation over the decades has been demagogued by the Democrats, who fraudulently scare old people by claiming that the reformers are trying to steal their money paid in over the years.  In reality, their money had long since been stolen by a free-spending Congress.  What the Dems didn't want was a cut in their own tax revenues, which are used to purchase re-election.  
Yes, there have been Republican leaders complicit in this scheme over time, and Republican legislators have helped spend the money.  But the attempts to reform have generally come from conservative Republicans and the absolutely dishonest scare-tactic propaganda has always come from the left.  

It is inconceivable to me that only journalists from the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Forbes, and The National Review were able to stumble upon this truth over the last 30 years.  All the investigative journalists at the NY Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, etc. have chosen to ignore or soft pedal this very important and verifiable fact.  Draw your own conclusions as to whether they are stupid and incompetent or committed to liberal orthodoxy.
It is not hyperbole to say that the myth of the Social Security Trust Fund makes Bernie Madoff look like a lousy three-card monte dealer on a  street corner in Des Moines, Iowa.
Make sure you save your own money for retirement.  Link to a good article about this below, which is what got me on my high horse this morning.
http://blogs.forbes.com/merrillmatthews/2011/07/13/what-happened-to-the-2-6-trillion-social-security-trust-fund/

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Latest Prediction Market Odds

Those of you who have followed the Naked Dollar know we like prediction markets, which can be found at Intrade. These are continuously trading contracts where speculators make markets on the odds of certain binary future outcomes, e.g. the U.S. gets hit by a Cat 5 hurricane this year or not. If the contract trades at, say, 42, it means the "market" thinks there is a 42% probability of the event occuring.

Prediction markets are interesting because they give a "best available" probability on all sorts of events. They are particularly interesting for politics; since they involve actual money, they tend to be more accurate than polls.

Here are some current probablities and whether I am (hypotheitically) long or short:

Obama re-elected                                  57%   (short)

Romney nominated                                34%   (long)
Bachmann nominated                            16%    (neutral)
Huntsman nominated                              9%    (big time short)
Perry nominated                                    17%    (long)
Pawlenty nominated                                8%    (short)
Cain nominated                                       2%    (long)

Euro dropped by any nation by 2013       25%   (long)

Note that the event doesn't have to actually happen to make money since the market is continuous. For instance, if the probability of Cain's nomination rises from 2% to 4%, one doubles their money (assuming the trade is unwound at that time).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why Republicans Don't Need to Nominate a Moderate to Win


Independents. That vaunted group that the politicos obsess over. Those discerning people who carefully weigh the issues and the candidates before descending from the mountain top to let know the "answer."

As readers of The Naked Dollar know, we think that's a total pant load. Most independents are such because they don't follow matters very closely and they never, ever want to be in a position where they have to defend their view on anything. If you are a Republican or Democrat, someone at a dinner party might say, "How can you defend tax cuts for the rich?" or "Do you really think the U.S. should cede authority to supra-national organizations?"

Rut-roh. Suddenly you have to defend positions you don't really have your arms around. Can't we talk about the Casey Anthony trial? Better to be bland, so know one exposes the fact you haven't read a paper in...how long has it been?

I wrote about this more expansively in this piece:

Elections and the Gravity of the Cocktail Party Middle

It is received wisdom that to win back the White House, Republicans must nominate someone who will appeal to "the middle," i.e. independents. Never mind that Reagan won by large margins twice. Never mind that Ford, Dole, Bush the Elder, and McCain - all moderates - all lost.

Bush the Elder won the first time running as a conservative, the heir to Reagan's mantle. When it turned out he was center-left, he lost.

Bush the Younger won twice running as a conservative (albeit a more marginal one than Reagan).

40% of Americans consistently identify themselves as conservatives versus 20% for liberals. It should be no surprise that conservatives win.

But back to the role of independents. About forty percent of the electorate does not affiliate with a party. Surely, this is the battleground, no?

No. An excellent new piece by Alan Abramowitz (here) explodes this myth. It turns out the vast majority of independents are closet partisans. In fact, according to the National American Election Study, in 2008 fully 87% voted for the party towards which they were clear leaners based on their views on various issues. This means that only 13% of independents were truly up for grabs.

Also, independents don't vote as often as party-affiliated voters. In 2008, despite being 40% of the electorate, they represented only 33% of the people who actually showed up on election day. This is consistent with The Naked Dollar's view that independents are the least engaged slice of the electorate. Some group to fight over!

(Note: as always, there are exceptions to rules. There are intelligent, engaged independents out there. If you are one of them, don't take it out on this blog. But you are not legion.)

Abramowitz also points out that presidential elections don't always go the way of independents, either. In fact, if you examine the last three elections that were decided by less than 5 points, none of the winners were supported by a majority of independents. Gerald Ford, George Bush (2000), and John Kerry all carried independents and all lost the popular vote.

So, what's the key to winning a presidential election if it's not winning over independents? Simple, you have to energize your base. In 2008, Barack Obama was highly successful at this while Republicans were dispirited and exhausted. In 2004, Bush was successful in turning out the base, especially in key states like Ohio. Over and over, it's the party with the more motivated base that wins. The important thing to remember is that only about half of eligible voters actually vote in presidential elections. You want to make sure it's your half.

So what does this mean for Republicans? It means they don't have to nominate a moderate (i.e. Romney). In fact, they shouldn't, if they want to win. While it's possible that white hot anger over the rampant radicalism and general ineptitude of the Obama administration will be enough to turn out Republicans on election day, it's not a given. The GOP should nominate someone who excites the base. That means that Michelle Bachmann should be taken seriously and Rick Perry should think about throwing his hat in. And it also means Herman Cain can't be written off as a novelty candidate. No one has excited the base as much as Cain thus far.

While the evidence on this is incontrovertible, it does not mean the GOP will embrace it. The Naked Dollar puts this down to timidity; simply, Republicans are frequently afraid to nominate someone they think will get mocked and belittled by the liberal elites in editorial rooms (read: Bachmann).

They should get over it, because the Republican nominee will get crushed by the media irrespective of his or her moderate credentials. Just ask John McCain, the media's best friend, right up until the day he got nominated. The same will be true for Mitt.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Greece Crumbles But U.S. Will Pay


So roughly $8 billion of the IMF bailout of Greece will be paid for by the U.S.

One problem: we don't have the money.

Which means we will borrow it.

Which means our kids will pay tomorrow so Greek workers can retire at 50 today.

Actually, that's quite analogous to what's happening with public sector unions in the U.S. right now.

(Best recent SNL joke: "You know what Greece's #1 export is? Hard working Greeks.")

Monday, June 27, 2011

Keynes Schmeynes

Note: the following was my rebuttal to a letter written to my local paper by one Robert Schewior, Ph.D., who took issue with my congresswoman's call to cut government spending in the name of economic growth. Dr. Schewior stated that every Econ 101 student knows - knows - that increasing government spending increases a nation's wealth. Uh huh.

Father of a Thousand Textbooks, All Wrong


Robert Schewior - Ph.D., Economics - wrote a rebuttal last week of Nan Hayworth's call to cut government spending to save our economy. It's a good thing Dr. Schewior told us about his credentials otherwise I'd have to dismiss his argument as tired academic tripe.

No wait, I'm going to do exactly that. His arguments are thoroughly discredited Keynesianism, the sort of nonsense no one takes seriously anymore outside of faculty lounges and the Obama administration. In fact, I went back to college to teach as an Adjunct Professor of Economics (there, slipped in my own credentials!) just to debunk this sort of nonsense, the sort of intellectual gruel that was force fed to me as an undergraduate. This edifice of 20th century economic thought fell to pieces the moment you left campus, but no one seemed to notice.

(Hey, wait, my parents paid good money for that degree! Well, I had a lot of fun, anyway, and I figured out pretty quickly that my economics profs would have trouble running a lemonade stand.)

Dr. Schewior, being a good Keynesian, believes that there's a simple, immutable formula that says the more money the government spends, the higher national income will rise. There's even a multiplier effect! If this were true, I submit that Greece wouldn't need a bailout and the old Soviet Union would have been the richest country on the planet. Hoover and Roosevelt boosted government massively and yet the Great Depression lasted a decade. Japan keeps spending and spending and remains an economic basket case. Even George Bush tried a dose of Keynes in 2001 and 2008 in the form of rebate checks, to no effect. And now Obama has tried one of the most massive Keynesian experiments in human history, the trillion dollar stimulus, and the economy has worsened. Doh!

The ever-dwindling number of Keynesians miss an obvious point: the money has to come from somewhere. The three options are print it, tax it, or borrow it. Printing it causes inflation. Taxing it means the private economy has less to invest and spend. Borrowing it, the most popular option, crowds out private borrowing and creates a liability our children must meet. Any way you slice it, government can't create wealth, and it can't stimulate the economy. "Aggregate demand," as the economists like to say, remains zero.

Actually, less than zero; government spending is a net drag on the economy. Think about it, when was the last time the government allocated money better than the private sector? The Obama stimulus is a great example. All that was stimulated was more government, not any sort of real investment. Government, at all levels, used the trillion dollars to go on a hiring binge, creating even more liabilities down the road in the form of pensions. How many bridges do you see being built? How many roads repaired? Government, remember, is run by politicians, and they never spend money without first considering its vote-buying potential.

Nan Hayworth has it exactly right: we need to decrease the size and scope of government if the economy is to grow again.

Don't let your kids major in economics if you value critical thinking.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What Happens When your Town Truly Runs Out of Money

No more people to tax, no subsidies, no bailouts. Welcome to Central Falls, RI, also know as the Island of Mayor Moreau. A glimpse into our future unless public pensions - teachers, cops, everybody - are curbed. Misery for all, but mostly the teachers and cops.

Read about it here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Real Reason Anthony Weiner Had to Resign

Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner: compare and contrast.

  • Both were involved in sex scandals with young women, although Clinton's actually involved real sex, in the Oval Office no less
  • Both lied about their activities at some length, although Clinton lied under oath

Arguably, President Clinton's actions were more deplorable, if that's possible, than Weiner's, and yet only Weiner had to resign.

Here's why:

The pictures. Weiner making 80s porn-face. This is in-your-face ickiness, and there's no way to dance around it. The left can rationalize just about any sex scandal but they can never, ever, brook such an egregious violation of taste.

Bill Clinton is very fortunate to have lived his political life in the pre-digital era.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why Political Sex Scandals Aren't Just About Morality

The Digital Weiner

Let's say we lived in a world where there was zero personal judgment of others. Anything goes, particularly where matters of sex are concerned. (We could call this world "France," but we'll leave that for another day.) What we do behind closed doors is nobody's business, period.

Morality, is, after all, a relative judgment, and if no one is getting hurt, we shouldn't care.

One often hears this argument from people when a politician with whom they are sympathetic is caught with his zipper down. I remember this chorus was particularly loud during the Monica Lewinsky follies, but Republicans occasionally make excuses for their guys, too.

The problem is that when politicians fool around, people are potentially hurt, and those people are you and me. No, I'm not talking about the uncomfortable ickiness of having to explain what the headlines are talking about to your eight year old. No, I'm talking about hard matters of policy, because if we did live in this world, there would still be a reason that politicians, in particular, should be held to a different, higher, standard. A practical, non-moralistic standard, and one I have been arguing for years. Kyle Smith, in today's New York Post, was the first columnist I have seen mention it.

The reason is called extortion, for any politician who fools around, particularly when they are leaving a digital trail, has set themselves up for it.

Don't think it's likely? I argue that it's already happened. What else can explain why this person...



...didn't fire this person...


The Kennedys hated J. Edgar Hoover. Bobby, in particular, had strong feelings, and running the Justice Department, he was forced to work closely with Hoover. Hoover had actively supported Nixon in 1960 and was arguably a tyrant, having run the FBI as his personal fiefdom since its founding. Why didn't JFK simply fire Hoover?

The answer is one of two things. The first possibility is that Hoover, undoubtedly possessing evidence of JFK's and RFK's varied affairs, was blackmailing the administration. The second is that the Kennedys simply feared that Hoover had the goods. Either way, America had to live under an unchecked, tyrannical FBI director for longer than it should have, all because the Kennedys couldn't keep it in their pants.

There you have it, an actual real life example of why the personal behavior of politicians matters.

And now we are in the digital age, where evidence is so much easier to obtain. Think about it: ack in the day, someone had to sneak around with a camera and catch you in the act. That required real work.

Now, we have emails, texts, tweets, and digital photographs, each potentially damning and impossible to control once the "send" button is hit.

And how much easier, today, is it to set a "honey" trap. Even just ten years ago, the services of an attractive girl would have been necessary, and she would have had to be willing to bed the target. Today, all you need is a photo!

How? Simple. Just follow these easy steps:

  1. Find a picture of a random hot chick on the internet.
  2. Create a fake facebook or twitter account using the picture of the girl.
  3. Start friending politicians and flirting with them online.
  4. Steer the flirtation in a sexual direction (assuming the pol doesn't do it first).
  5. Inform the politician that he will vote a certain way on a crucial bill or he will be exposed and his career ended.
Do you know how easy this would be to do? I'd be shocked if it wasn't happening already. Consider that a woman recently discovered that her ex-husband was trying to hire a hit man to kill her by creating a fake facebook account (as a slutty looking high school girl) and friending the ex. He's on his way to jail.

Don't get me wrong, I think character in one's personal life does matter, and there are plenty of politicians who manage to keep to the straight and narrow. Fidelity is not unheard of, and we should desire it in our leaders. But there are plenty of people, mostly liberals of a more libertine bent, who don't put much stock in this argument. Fine, that's their prerogative. But I can only assume that they don't think extortion is a desirable course of events. Extortion is not a moral position that one is for or against, it's just a dangerous potential subversion of the democratic process.

Here's to hoping we can start holding our leaders to a higher standard.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Palin Fixation


Thousands of emails from Palin's term as Governor are about to be released, and the media is swooning. The Washington Post and the New York Times are going so far as to enlist their readers' help so they can root out the good stuff faster. Rest assured, they will find quotes that will make her look bad, particularly if taken out of context. Think about it, how would you like your entire email history scrutinized by people who hate you and have a platform from which to project that hatred? None of us would hold up very well. Trust me, this will be the "big story" that knocks Weiner out of the headlines.

All this is quite fascinating. Sarah Palin has not announced she is running for office, nor will she. And yet the media feels they must traipse around the country following her every move. It's beyond a fixation, more of an obsession. Call it Palin-oira.

When Palin was selected as McCain's running mate, the mainstream media sent 40 full-time reporters up to Wasilla, Alaska to turn over every possible rock. How many reporters do you suppose were sent to Indonesia, Hawaii, or Chicago to vet the presidential candidate from the other party?

To my knowledge, none. Barack Obama was accepted as a matter of faith, and thus we elected a man with virtually no resume about whom less was known than any president in our country's history.

Frankly, this misappropriation of media assets is a gross dereliction of duty. The Fourth Estate is meant to play a vital roll in our democracy, one of skeptic and fact checker. That the mainstream media now only sees this roll as one meant to be applied in only one direction is as sadly obvious as ever.

With Palin, they desperately hope she will run, and they are getting played. That part, at least, I find amusing.