We’ve Come To The End Of Cake

Today I’m going to come as close to political as I ever do in this blog.  You’ve been warned.  If it’s going to annoy you, you may leave now.

This election has swirled around a lot of crazy things, starting with “War on women” a concept that might as well have been invented by a Martian with no understanding of human psychology or anatomy.  I can just imagine the march on the women’s towns, guns blazing…  I can, unless I realize that most men love or at least like women, and that women are not an army of same-minded robots.  Then there was the war on Big Bird and finally the rather ridiculous injunction to vote for revenge – though what in heavens name requires revenge no one knows.  Of course human nature being what it is, all of us can come up with several reasons to seek revenge on several people.  We are none of us never wronged, and we, all of us, tend to see the wrongs against us as a much greater injustice than those we commit against others.  This appeal to humans’ baser instincts might be effective.  It is also a recipe for every man against every other.

My grandmother used to say “A house where bread is scarce, it’s every man’s hand against the other.”  Bread isn’t scarce in America, save in the areas ravaged by Sandy, where we are seeing once again how centralized operations do a magnificent job for the little guy on the ground – by which I mean they are hungry, cold and in the dark.

However, I am here to tell you that we are broke.  Not only are we broke, we are stone cold broke.  No, unlike the belief of the hopeful diarist at DU the other day, this doesn’t just mean we can print more money.  If you think that, you’ve confused the thing with the symbol.

If you print more money in an economy that is not generating more goods, you just make the price of goods go up.  This is known as inflation.  It devours the substance of those who have saved by making that saved money worth less; it makes us an undesirable borrower; in its extreme instances it makes it impossible for industries to accumulate capital for investment and expansion.

In fact, that’s what we’ve been doing for a good while now, and how we’ve got in the trouble we’re in.

So, we are broke.  Our country is broke, our cities are broke, our states are broke too – though broke might be too kind a word to explain the state of California.  We need another word Uber-broke, perhaps.

But why are we broke, you say?  Aren’t we the richest nation in the world?  Didn’t we put a man on the moon?

Yes.  We put a man on the moon with intense concentrated effort that was – at the time – suited to a governmental push.  (These days, with new tech, I pin my hopes on private space programs.)

Yes, we’re very rich, both in material and in terms of human capital.  That means nothing.  Some of the countries with most resources in the world are the most miserable.  Venezuela comes to mind.  The reverse is also true.  Think of Singapore or Japan.

We are broke for the reason nations go broke: we forgot that everything has a price.  We forgot this both individually and collectively.

Collectively we forgot that our wealth was finite and that everything we did meant something else didn’t get done.  We empowered tremendous bureaucracies to do things like wage war on poverty, which might be even crazier than war on women, because at least we know what women look like while poverty and the definition of poverty changes from area to area and from decade to decade.  Of course that was not all we did.  We’ve had many many wars against wraiths and phantoms.  We’ve gone to war against drugs – for instance – by which we mean a war against drug use, which is an individual behavior.  We’ve gone to war against racism – not just the expression of racism, which would still be repugnant as it violates freedom of expression – but thoughts of racism.  We’ve gone to war against illiteracy.  We’ve gone to war …  I could list it forever.

Never mind.  All that money that got channeled into these programs – minus the 90% that went to feed and clothe and retire the bureaucrats who were front line soldiers in these wars – didn’t go to expanding the economy.  It didn’t go towards colonies on Mars.  It didn’t go towards the development of new agricultural methods.  It didn’t go towards whatever purpose the people who earned it would have put it to.

But at least we’ve been successful, right?  The poor are no longer with us.  Oh?  Not really?  I see.

One of the things that money hasn’t gone to is to have kids and raise kids.  As the mother of two I’m here to tell the rest of you it’s one heck of an economic sink hole.  My husband and I, even when we’re both making decent money have times of barely scraping by.  Kids have open expenses: clothes, food, schooling, health.  They also have hidden expenses: without kids, Dan and I would be living in half the house, and probably in a more urban and cheaper setting.  Kids pushed us to the more expensive neighborhood, where they’d be safe playing in the yard.

Most people simply can’t afford kids.  And those who can, by working two jobs, don’t see the point of having kids for strangers to raise.

And therein comes how, individually, we forgot that everything has a cost.  Back in the fifties the idea of negotiated pensions and comfortable retirements must have seemed great.  Heck, it seems great to me.  Given a chance I’d bargain to have my publisher promise to pay my upkeep for thirty years or so at the end of my productive life.

No one is offering me that bargain, because my employers must make the money they pay.

And again, here comes the rub.  If you thought “so do all employers” you forgot that a lot of people work for the government.  The government doesn’t make money.  It can only confiscate it from those who make it.  As such, it can lose touch with what is reasonable to promise employees.

Yesterday I found myself listening to one side of a conversation with someone who wants to vote in a way that will assure she can retire at fifty with her pension because she was promised, and 10% has been taken out of her paycheck her entire working life.

Well, yeah.  And I want a pony and a magic unicorn.

The money isn’t there.  The state in question is stone cold broke.  We can argue till the cows come home about where the money went or if it was a good idea.  Most of it went up some government’s hole and got lost in the gigantic game of bureaucratic pass-around.  What it got nominally used for is irrelevant.  As is whose fault it is.

The money isn’t there.  And part of the reason it isn’t there is that all these programs, union or not, private or public depended on one thing: More people.  In the early twentieth century, everyone knew that every generation would be bigger than the last.   It is baked in all the sf books, even Heinlein’s.

Except we made it hard to have and raise children.  And it didn’t happen.

The multitudes that were supposed to keep us safe and warm in retirement aren’t there.  (This also has an adverse effect on investment but that’s something else again.)  The money we paid in was spent on the current generation of older people.

Importing a whole lot of illiterate or uneducated immigrants won’t solve this problem.  Their wealth creating ability is limited.

Which is when you must step back and examine things.  SHOULD you have guaranteed retirement pensions for twenty, thirty years of your life?  Why?  And don’t tell me you paid into it and you’re entitled.  Why are you?  Other generations weren’t.  And just because you paid into a Ponzi scheme that promised you a return of several billion, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to get it.  Not even if you were forced to pay.  It just means things suck and life isn’t fair.  (My generation by and large never expected to be paid social security.  Apparently we were more credulous about other plans.)

Look at it realistically: How much does a thirty year vacation cost?  Why should you have it if we’re broke?  Aren’t there bigger needs for that money?  More importantly, doesn’t each individual family have bigger needs and know them better.

This applies not just to retirement, but to everything the government is promising us: free health care, free child care (what do you think schools are anymore?), free this, free that, and a pony on top.

What you have to ask yourself is “where is the money going to come from?”

No one is lending to us anymore.  We’re printing money and lending to ourselves.  This is sort of like cutting off your leg and making a roast.  That money is devaluing the money in every saving account throughout the land.  It’s making all of us poorer.

But then, if we’re broke, don’t we need free healthcare?  And free contraceptives?  And free—  Do I want people to die?

I’m all for free everything.  What, you think I’m stupid?  I’m no more industrious than the average person.  Okay, I like writing, so I’d probably still write if I won the lottery, but I promise you I’d also spend a lot of time listening to music, reading, and walking around in pleasant surroundings.  I’d love to have stuff just fall in my lap.  And I want all my friends to have free stuff too.  Most of them work way too hard.


Where is the free stuff going to come from if we’re broke?  No, don’t tell me rich people should pay more.  Most of us have some idea of the imaginary rich person with a money bin like Uncle Scrooge’s.  I’m fairly sure government employees think that way too.

It’s not true.  Most rich people invest their money.  They start companies.  They invest in other companies.  The money is in motion.  Yes, they still live very well but… here’s the sad news: if you confiscated all of their money – all the money of everyone making over say 100k, ALL OF IT, you’d run our country for a couple of months.  And that’s at present rate.  Forget giving out more free stuff.  Also, if you tax rich people and companies to the hilt, they move.  France is learning this now.  (The countries who’ve made it illegal for the rich and businesses to leave, like… oh, North Korea, for some reason don’t get richer.  Go figure.)

And if we consumed all that in a grand spree, after that we’d be even more broke, because there would be no money for investments.

Look, guys, it’s none of our faults.  Most of the policies that led to this were created a LONG time ago.  Some of them – the Universal Rights Of Man – were spearheaded by the Soviet Union as a weapon against the free world.  Marxism has been distorting the minds of people longer than any of us have been alive.

It was the idea that wealth is finite, fostered by Marxists, that led to policies that discouraged having children, because children were viewed as a drain, not as wealth creators.  (Yes, every human is a wealth creator in potential.  When there were only a dozen humans in the world, they were all much poorer.  If that’s counterintuitive to you, you must study real economics.)

The best things in life aren’t free, not unless the best things in life are air, whatever water you can find, and the occasional lame squirrel.  Everything must be paid for in money, or in what money represents: work, effort, knowledge and yes, blood, sweat and tears. As for the “But France has a pony” argument – yes, other countries have “free” healthcare and stuff.  It is free for them because they were willing to stifle their development and innovation and, yes, their population.  It still worked, because we do this thing called Foreign Aid.  This is where we bought France a pony.  And we stood by to keep other kids from stealing her pony.

That is not just crazy, but it’s also on the way out because – again, guys, from the top: we are broke!

This means when all those kids er… countries for whom we’ve been buying candy and toys don’t get them, they’re going to get mad at us.

Because of this, though I disapprove of adventurism abroad, the only program I’d keep is defense.  We must be ready to keep what we have, little though it is.  And we must build more.   And we must spank anyone who tries to attack us quickly, effectively and without remorse.  And then we must come home and work.

The time of walking around waging war on FOREIGN poverty is gone too.

When government offers you free stuff while at the same time demanding you pay taxes on the penalty of jail, all it’s doing is taking your money, removing its cut, then giving it back to you.  (“Nice economy you got here, shame…”) Which means in the end you’re poorer, but bureaucrats have more power.

Of course, perhaps that’s what you want.  Perhaps you want to vote for revenge.  One thing that free government stuff is good at is killing people.  What am I talking about?  Oh, from guaranteed income (yes, it’s been tried) that let people spiral into depression and addiction, to well… free health care where they make the decision of what the treatment will be and you have no say, to the “free contraceptives” in the Soviet Union, which, in the end, were JUST free abortions performed in substandard conditions, because the Soviet Union was so broke it could not produce enough condoms, let alone anything more sophisticated.  (Or where did you think everyone adopted from Russia came from?)

Perhaps you’re making a calculation that the people before us got all the good stuff, and if their life is shortened a little, there will be more stuff for us.  It’s sort of a rational decision, except that the maw of government rarely gives back that which it devours.  You too will eventually be caught by the bear, after you throw the baby from the sleigh.  But … it’s a strategy.  Immoral and possibly imprudent, but it will give you “revenge.”

But if that’s not what you want, think carefully before you vote for free stuff.  There is no free stuff.  Everything that involves the work, effort or knowledge of others must be paid for.  Either out of your own pocket or out of the pocket of others – which in the end makes us all poorer because that money isn’t used for mega-squid farms and colonies on Mars.

Yes, you were promised.  Sorry.  They lied to you.  They can continue to lie, but things will only get worse.  You might think you’re saving yourself at the expense of future generations, but unless you’re VERY OLD now, you won’t die before the collapse comes.  At the rate we are going, you’ll be around when all the free stuff stops because there IS NO MONEY.  Only you’ll be older and less able to cope.

Better to rip off the bandaid now.  Prioritize those who need to be taken care of – say those over sixty – and let the rest of us build at least a very little head of steam before the time comes we can’t work.  Me?  I’ll be here at eighty with my hands on the keyboard.

And if your goal isn’t revenge on past generations – when you go to the polls, remember that we are broke.  Whatever they promise you, those are just promises.  Like money printed out of nothing, it means nothing.

You can choose to embrace sanity now, or it will surely be forced on you later, at great cost in blood, sweat and tears.

There is no cake.  The cake is a lie.  We’ve come to the end of cake.

245 thoughts on “We’ve Come To The End Of Cake

  1. Then there was the war on Big Bird

    I think that was just the public being given a big bird.


    This is fabulous! And oh! so very accurate! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  3. I am one of those “promised” a pension and it’s hard to wrap my brain around the idea it might not be there when I need it.

    1. Yes. I’m one of the fortunate who always knew I had a keyboard to pry my living out of the world, till the end and that I was working without a net.
      BUT I do understand. I took my degree mostly because it was ALMOST guaranteed employment, either in diplomacy, or for government or teaching. And then I moved here. Took me years to recover my bearings and realize my degree was worthless. I don’t know how old you are, and I’m sorry you won’t get what you were promised, but we are BROKE. Start making plans now. It’s what we’re scrambling to do, anyway.

      1. We’re in pretty good shape. We were fortunate in our choice of parents 🙂 so our house is paid for and we have savings. Of course, that house could turn into an albatross (taxes) and the savings enough to buy a loaf of bread but there’s not much you can do about that. We vote down every extra tax and bond we can but the rest of our area is still in love with spending.

        1. We do too– and our area is in love with spending too. Plus the money never ends up where it is supposed to go. For instance our V&T railroad won a bond, and now two counties are fighting for the money. It is sitting there doing nothing— etc. I don’t see any use is giving more money because it is “for the children.” or other slogans. As I said before, the money turns into a slush fund for a corrupt employee or politician.

          1. Plus the money never ends up where it is supposed to go.

            Au contraire mon frere. It ALWAYS goes where it was supposed to go. But where it was supposed to go is usually not where they promise — and voters suppose — it will go. For example: More money for educating children = more money for teachers’ unions to use for bribing politicians while indoctrinating children.

              1. Cyn – only because I have been saying it (or at least muttering it under my breath) for some three decades or so. They take our tax money and promise us jam tomorrow

                ‘I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!’ the Queen said. ‘Twopence a week, and jam every other day.’
                Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, ‘I don’t want you to hire ME – and I don’t care for jam.’
                ‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.
                ‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’
                ‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.’
                ‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
                ‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’
                ‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’
                Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There


      2. It is hard for those who live near a Bank
        To doubt the security of their money.
        It is hard for those who live near a Police Station
        To believe in the triumph of violence.”

        Also, the money vacuumed out of the paycheck makes it even harder to budget, let alone save.

    2. Welcome to the real world. I grew up in Omaha. In the 60s, the Federal Government started handing a lot of rules and regs to the packing houses (THE number one employer for what had been the separate town of South Omaha, and was still mostly a separate town). They were too expensive for the packing houses to implement in their existing facilities. So “The World’s Biggest Stock Yards” closed up, because the World’s Biggest Meat Packers went elsewhere.

      My dad had left the Packing Industry years before, and by then was a US Mail carrier. But the father of my best friend in high school lost his job *and* his pension – after working at the same company for 37 years. Because that company couldn’t afford to build a new facility or retrofit. So it closed up. So did most of the others that weren’t the two or three biggest names in the country. Unemployment in South Omaha about 1970 was so far into double-digits as to make today’s numbers seem like utopia. Mind you, most of these people had lived through the Depression – they said the job market was *worse*. Because even in the Depression, they could go to the packing houses to get hired as day labor. Not any more.

      And that is *exactly* where this whole country is headed. It’s like giving the keys to your house to the next door neighbor who cleaned out all your furniture and sold it the *last* time you gave him your keys when you went out of town. Once is, “OMG, how could he do that?” Twice is “OMG, how stupid can you possibly be?”

      It doesn’t make a *bit* of difference what you were “promised” – it’s what can possibly be delivered.

          1. OMG (and yes, you know what I mean and I’m not invoking the divinity.) They were kulaks, despoiled by the government. Let’s stop the crazy train before it reaches Holodomor.

          1. I agree with the sole proviso that Delphi, unlike Enron (or Worldcom, for that matter) was a deliberate act by the government to grant preferences to one politically connected claimant over another. Crony capitalism.

            1. Moi aussi! Moi.aussi! I lost 10% of my 401K retirement when the GM bonds I had were reduced to 10% of par. In my home we refer to car czar Steve Rattner as RAT Rattner, but it stinks right up to the top.

              Truth from legacy media is rare as hens teeth these days. As 60-yr old Democrat pollster Pat Caddell said in his recent video, which is worth googling to hear: The Media is the Enemy of the American People”.

              I thought we had a free press. Have they morphed into politicized megaphones? Just what exactly are those Marxist professors at J-schools teaching? “Advocacy” journalism? .

              Keep up the good work, Sarah. Great column.

      1. Yes, if it doesn’t get brought to a screeching halt (nigh-on impossible, but barely possible), and reversed, then it will certainly be worse than the depression, if only for this reason: More people live in cities, percentage-wise, than during the Depression. Back then, a larger fraction of the people lived on enough land to feed themselves if necessary, or at least come a lot closer to it. Now, the majority live in cities, or in apartments, or on such small plots of land that they can only grow enough for a partial summer supplement.

        1. I suspect that living in a 12th floor condominium with piped in water is less attractive to New Yorkers these last few days.

        2. Cities have really changed over the last fifty, sixty years. (Just by looking at properties of different ages, I’m not old enough to know this from personal experience.) The properties around our house have huge lots behind the houses and this wasn’t one of the “wealthy” neighbourhoods. Just blue-collar railroad and factory workers. There is enough land there for a decent garden and if the zoning were changed a few chickens. Anyone living on one of those properties could supplement bought food for the summer at least, and probably into the winter if they canned/preserved.
          The “wealthy” new subdivisions going up now have just barely enough land for the houses to sit on. There is no room for even a tiny garden and livestock would be out of the question.
          Not only that, but they are taking some of the richest farmland in order to build these new houses. I can’t blame the farmers for selling at the prices they are being offered and the way their taxes go up once they slide inside city bounds. I CAN blame the city councillors for being so short sighted.
          I see articles in the paper about other major cities expanding the same way, and can’t help thinking how shortsighted this is. Good farmland is hard to find, hard to keep good, and will be badly missed once it’s gone.
          All this to say, I agree that if Depression-like times come back, people are going to be hurting more for food. Without backyard gardens of their own, or neighbours, and farther to go to get to the farmeres, wtih more people crammed into bigger cities…Not a good situation developing. Most people don’t even have the skills to grow a garden, and wouldn’t begin to know where to start learning. It’s one thing to misguess the frost with some annual flowers, it’s another with you summer food supply on the line.

          1. I believe that recently some idiot bureaucrat in the Atlanta suburbs successfully prevented a home gardener from sharing his produce citing a depression era court case which restricted growing for personal use under the commerce clause. Perhaps they had been traumatized by zucchini season…

        3. Even if you have enough land to make a bit of a go there are now laws in many communities that limit your ability to do so. Chickens (and other birds) are not allowed in many places, nor are goats. If the laws were changed due to circumstances there would then be a run on available small live stock.

    3. I was assured that with my publication record and grades, I’d have a wonderful, tenure-track position almost as soon as I finished grad school. Instead I landed a one-year research job and a nice list of faculty positions that I’ve applied for but never heard back from. Academics changed while I was in the archives, tenure-track is an endangered species as are long-term contracts, and no one is hiring pilots right now. So much for guaranteed anything. No pony, no ice-cream, no government retirement. *shrugs* At least I was able to salt away the core of a decent IRA back when I was flying, so I’ve got the beginnings of retirement savings, unless inflation eats it all. “Adapt, improvise, and overcome.”

      1. Yeah, companies have been ending defined benefit plans, but we have to contribute to our own pensions now (‘course, we’re all putting everything in the stock market, particularly with inflation fears, and that’s got its own problems.)

        I do recall one friend blasting “big corporations” for only caring about their stock prices. I reponded: you have a 401K, you invested in stock mutual funds (which makes you part of the largest group of investors in the stock market: pension funds) and I bet you put your money in the fund with the best return, don’t you.

        1. Not necessarily. I once had quite an epic argument with the company which administered our 401(k) funds because they would not offer anything but stock funds and they would not offer stock funds which held stocks in commodity companies.

          Me: “Why won’t you let me invest in commodity producers? I don’t want to buy gold or porkbellies. I want to buy DROOY and ADM. Or at least funds which hold them.”
          Him: “We don’t feel it’s appropriate to invest retirement funds in those kind of stocks.”
          Me: “So it’s okay for me to make money if it validates your theory of investment, and it’s okay for me to lose money if your theory of investment is out of sync with the market: what’s important is that your theory isn’t challenged?”
          Him: (Awkward silence.)

          1. In about February or March of 1999, I asked my plan administrator if I could get into a less-aggressive position. He said, “You’re in it for the long haul. Don’t be jumping in and out every time bad news causes the market to take a dive.” About six months later, you started hearing noises about Netscape and Sun Microsystems and a bunch of others who “invested” their money in politicians deciding they couldn’t beat Internet Explorer in the marketplace, so they’d get their cronies in the Clinton Administration to take Microsoft on in court. By May the next year, I’d lost 60% of my retirement savings.

            Lesson 1) Financial gurus are no smarter than you.
            Lesson 2) Don’t go into business with the government; you’ll lose your shirt.

            I don’t expect to ever retire. I sure as hell am not going to rely of Social Security. Of course, I never did figure on that. It always sounded like a scam to me.


        2. Corporations care about their share prices because that is what their investors care about. Investors care about the value of their investments for several reasons, depending on whether they are private or institutional. Private investors care because they are relying on their investments for their long-term plans, either starting businesses, paying for heirs educations, having the ability to make charitable contributions and, of course, retirement. Institutional investors care about the return on investment because their jobs depend on private investors in their funds, and those private investors are concerned about …

          The economy is a giant Rube Goldberg device, designed to deliver a swift kick in the seat of the pants to those who are careless about pulling the wrong lever … and tasty treats to those who plan carefully which levers to pull. Separating consumers from investors, individuals from corporations, is a way to ensure wrong levers will be pulled.

  4. Well done Sarah. You say it without cussing like a sailor. Ain’t no cake..*grin* I always end my blog entries now with “Remember..TANSTAAFL!”

  5. Awesome rant.

    Many of us saw this day coming a long time ago. And that’s not because we were smarter or better read than the average person – EVERYONE talked about the demographic problem of the baby boomers, of social security going bankrupt, of all these government programs, back in the early 1980s.

    The problem is that it never felt real, and most people didn’t want to sound like lunatics. When everyone else on the block is talking about flipping houses, retiring at 40, and getting 50 years of free medical care, to say out loud “you are all on DRUGS and the emperor has no clothes” make YOU sound line the crazy one.

    So, no, those of us who saw this coming weren’t smarter than the rest – we were just more willing to say politically unpopular things.

    Of course, there’s no reward for being first with the bad news – we’ll get taxed just like everyone else to pay the cops their gold plated pensions (my town’s chief of police makes $175,000, I recall). We’ll work until we’re 70 or 75. We’ll have our savings taxed to try to keep the Blue Model Army clanking forward for one or two more years.

    Cassandras get to say “I told you so”, but that’s about it for the benefits package.

    1. Yes, it’s the same reason publishers weren’t ready for ebooks. Everyone talked about it for twenty years, but no one ACTED like it was real. Hence, the ones who did — Baen — got made fun of.
      We ARE herd animals, even when the herd is hurtling off the precipice. Of course, SOME of us were born defective and DON’T follow. My mom reminded me yesterday “you always were contrary.” Guilty as charged.

      1. > My mom reminded me yesterday “you always were contrary.”

        A good friend and I joke “we had the same father”.

        Looks like you and I had the same mother. 😉

      2. At the Anime Con this past weekend I ran into quite a number of people who read their books on electronic devices. These were people who are comfortable working with cutting edge tech — some do so in the workplace and others simply enjoy it. They have no trouble thinking in terms of the future applications. And, oh, if only the economy was not so boxed in by the government that they were not limited in their chances to explore! What new things to make life better or at least more enjoyable, how many new jobs are being lost?

    2. The public employees are going to demand their pensions regardless of what it costs the rest of us. They don’t care if we have to eat dog food so long as they have their steak. Sorry, but no. My wife and I have no pension. Since we didn’t trust Social Security, we deferred spending and saved. We’ve built a nice nest egg that, if it doesn’t get wiped out by inflation, will let us survive even without Social Security. In the past couple years, there has been testimony in Congress about how people are too stupid to manage their own finances. They propose to seize all 401Ks, IRAs and other private retirement funds and issue “annuities” instead. Since it would be unfair to only pay the annuities to those who actually saved, the money will be redistrubuted to everyone. And they expect us to trust them this time. Go ahead, pull the other finger.

      I’ll go so far as to say this – if they actually try to implement such a wealth grap, things will get very ugly very quickly. Politicians will be swinging from lamp posts and I’ll bring some rope to the necktie party.

      1. Larry – I refused to do a 401K cause I could see even in the nineties that the government would eventually grab that money. They have to if they want to sustain their current spending.

        Most of those politicians see the money as belonging to them and not to the people they represent–

        You touched one of my hot buttons Larry.

        1. > Larry – I refused to do a 401K cause I could see even in the nineties that the government would eventually grab that money.

          Amen to this.

          I decided to empty out mine and pay down my debt. Getting rid of debt pays you back every single year – whatever the interest rate is. The markets may or may not. Now, normally I’m a huge fan of the stock market – it’s a place where entrepreneurs go to share some of their successful creation of wealth with others, in return for access to capital.

          But these are not normal times: these are times of Too Big to Fail banks, government picking winners and losers, socialism, and tax hikes.

      2. Imagine if every family in the country had a spouse, parent or child who was on a government payroll. Imagine the resistance to adjusting costs and pensions to reality. This is one of the reasons Greece could not avert its fiscal and ongoing financial disaster.

        1. I have: I found the stupid recipe in a box, too.
          To show you how ridiculous I am about things, I have both a Violet Proto-Drake and a Mr. Pinchy the Magical Crawdad.

  6. Sarah, as someone who grew up in the 1970s, but was *raised* in the ’30s & ’40s, I completely understand. Apart from running the business, Brad & I both have our “day jobs” (basically part time jobs that cover all the expenses that the business doesn’t). We’ve gotten 2 kids grown and out of the house (for now). We’ve only got the younger one (8) left at home and if we didn’t have him we’d probably just be living on the road. We *know* the country is broke. Lucky for us, we were raised by folks who lived through the Great Depression, and know how to “Use up, make do or do without”. Now, if we could get folks other than our kids and siblings to understand….

  7. You have a very strange idea of Marxism. You seem to equate it with Communism, especially the Leninist version, which is not at all the same thing. Ask Trotsky.
    Where, in “The Communist Manifesto” does it say wealth is finite? I thought that was a theory of the free market thinkers? The L’aissez faire people? they assumed that markets would regulate themselves, because of the finite nature of wealth. Friedman, not Keynes.
    But if you’ve run out of money, it’s because you voted in politicians who appointed corrupt officials who gave the people bread and circuses to keep them happy while they were robbing them blind. Not to mention throwing away fortunes on trying to control the oil supply and on pointless wars. Were they communists?
    Communism stands for collective responsibility. It’s everybody’s fault.
    I live in a country that hasn’t perfect systems, but at least everyone can expect basic health care and a small sum to ensure that they don’t starve or freeze to death in their old age. And that was set in place by socialists. They’re not communists or Marxists, either.

    1. Marxism is the economic theory upon which communism was founded. That wealth is finite is the ONLY thing that makes redistribution moral. If you take that way, you’re playing favorites and having fun.
      No, I’m not going to search the text now for the passages that IMPLY that — but dear lady, in my country of origin I studied Marxism (and the communist manifesto) for three years in highschool. TRUST me communism is built in.
      AND WHEN HAVE MARKETS BEEN ALLOWED TO REGULATE THEMSELVES? Are you under the impression we live in a free market or have in the last hundred years?
      As for Trotsky — bah. He lost a war between wolves. Don’t pile the Academic bullshit. COMMUNISM HAS KILLED 100 million people. IN ALL ITS VARIATIONS it brings devastation. Should we give Naziism another chance because it wasn’t perfect? Do you think giving power to third parties over economic exchanges makes them more fair? WHY? Show your work.

    2. You know, under communism you’d have to share those drugs, not just keep them all for yourself!

      The only people who say “Communism got Marxism wrong” are people who are A) “liberal” or “progressive” or B) teach in public schools or institutions of higher learning — The Venn diagram would show B almost totally contained in A.

      Oh, I’m sorry – that’s a *math* term.

      Yes, Marxism says that money is finite. Would you redistribute some that *wasn’t* finite? What good would it do?

      Marxism/Communism/Socialism has killed more people in the 20th and 21st centuries than most major plagues in human history. Because it’s flawed.

      “But they’re not doing it the right way, that’s why it failed!” said the guy trying to teach people to fly by throwing them off a cliff. The spattered bodies at the bottom are just as dead, because the basic premise is WRONG.

      1. You know, under communism you’d have to share those drugs, not just keep them all for yourself! The only people who say “Communism got Marxism wrong” are people who are A) “liberal” or “progressive” or B) teach in public schools or institutions of higher learning — The Venn diagram would show B almost totally contained in A. Oh, I’m sorry – that’s a *math* term. Yes, Marxism says that money is finite. Would you redistribute some that *wasn’t* finite?

        If you make a widget that everyone wants, a capitalist will figure out the best way to make the most of them the cheapest way to increase his profit. When another capitalist figures it out, the first must lower their costs to be competitive. Thus, the greatest number of people get the widget which is produced the most efficiently.

        If a socialist takes over, they will just seize the widgets and pass them out to make sure everyone has one. Profits disappear because no one will pay for what they will get for free. Suppliers of the widgets have no incentive to produce or innovate, so they fall out of the market. Widget production must then be nationalized and the costs go up because the suppliers of raw materials are now selling to the government…unless their supply companies also get nationalized.

        1. And eventually, no one will work at anything (except the black market) without being forced, and you will get slavery, in all but the name.

          1. Try reading Worker in a Worker’s State by Miklos Haraszti. Eventually you will see things such as the government directors, who never worked in the field, setting production rates that have nothing to do with either efficiency or safety or product quality.

            1. That already happens in factories where the managers have never worked the line. It’s far less common than it has been in the past, but it still happens from time to time.

        2. Scott, what’s sad is that NO ONE has been able to make socialism work.

          We have at least one clear description of the failure of Communism under optimal conditions. I refer, of course, to the Book of Acts, 4:32 – 5:11, Ananias and Sephira. NewLiving translation.

          1. There is no doubt that they are practicing the economic system of communism:”All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had…There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them, and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.” From each according to his means, to each according to his need — Marx would have been proud to call them brother.

          2. They had as close to an incorruptible body of rulers as possible, who were proving their uprightness with miracles every day.

          3. And they had pretty close to the ultimate Auditor; when Ananais and Sephira try to cheat the system, Peter knows about it instantly, and the punishment is swift and sure: the cheaters are struck dead on the spot.

          And yet there were still cheaters, the apostles couldn’t hold it together for very long, and none of the other churches outside Jerusalem seem to have even tried it. If the 12 Apostles backed up by God couldn’t make communism work, how in the h*ll would any lesser mortals have a shot??

          1. Actually, communal living can work just fine in
            1. Small communities where everyone can see what you are doing
            2. With strong social bonds and common idealism so the participants don’t have it forced down their throats.

            Monasteries, for instance.

            1. Actually, communal living can work just fine in 1. Small communities where everyone can see what you are doing 2. With strong social bonds and common idealism so the participants don’t have it forced down their throats. Monasteries, for instance.

              Common idealism is more important, I think, than the size of the community because work ethics and personal pride can be so different between people. I had a pastor once that called for communal living in a suburban setting. For instance, he said, why, on a street with 10 different houses, do we need 10 different lawn mowers. Can’t we get together and work out a schedule so we would only need 1 or 2 mowers and just rotate among the homes?

              First of all…people are not just pieces on a game board or numbers on a spreadsheet. While his math makes sense, it completely removes the reason socialism/communism fails over and over again…human nature. There will be varying levels of involvement with that mower. Someone’s got to administer both the equipment and the schedule. Invariably, you’re going to have a slacker or two that doesn’t take as good of care of the equipment as the rest of the people, people will start arguing over mowing slots, etc. It all gets so…organically messy…which tends to wreak havoc on game boards and pristine spreadsheets.

              It is far better for me to save my money, engage the vendor of my choice after researching the available hardware, buy a unit and take good care of it myself.

              1. My mom keeps being harassed by the locavores in their valley. (Background: the valley had zero traditional Indian presence, or even non-migrating animals, because it has no iodine. Stay there too long, you die.)

                They insist that the valley can grow everything it “needs” locally, including meat, and after banging her head against the fact that they don’t understand that you can’t just decide to slaughter a cow– you need one of the right age, and it needs to be “finished” or made fat, etc– she decided to play dirty.
                “Alright, then I want my 30 pounds of meat in steaks and roasts.”
                “I don’t want any hamburger. Just steaks and roasts.”
                “But…that’s not how it works.”
                That is my point. The food economy makes it so people can decide if they want steak, or roast, or if they’ll take hamburger and a beer instead. So, in your system, since it isn’t sold, how does that happen?”
                “The organizers decide-”
                “Yeah, and they get first choice, because it’s such a hard job. Always happens.”

              2. In practice, size is vital. Everyone has to see everyone else contribute. Not only to shame the freeloaders, but to ensure that the workers don’t fear the existence of unrefutable freeloaders.

              3. And what if one of the people on that block owns or works at the store that sells lawn mowers? How is he likely to take it?

              4. Or you could still get by with one or two mowers, if everyone just paid one or two kids to do the job every week.

              5. No, both are required. Small communities not only ensure freeloaders can be spotted, they mean that people know freeloaders will be spotted.

            2. It also helps when all the participants take vows of poverty, which is rather like fish vowing to not climb upon the shore.

            3. The Shakers also managed to hold on for a long time. So it may be that giving up all concept of “Family” may be one of the requirements.

              On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Alcott “Fruitlands” which went from May with great hope and promise, to December, with rack, ruin, hunger, and illness. (It may have been January, but December sounds better.)

              Of course that was compounded by the fact it was founded by city (I want to call them boys, but they had half grown, and full grown children of their own) men who of course knew better how to run a farm than the farmers in their midst.

              1. Monasteries lasted even longer. Giving up Family is crucial, it seems.

                To be sure, you need attacks of reform on a regular basis. semper reformanda

          2. Interesting interpretation. Their attempt did not work. Later Paul and the other missionaries ended up having to take collection to help support the believers in Jerusalem because they had fallen into need. (Acts 11:22-30 and others)

    3. You have rather completely misunderstood, or at least misrepresented (oh dear, quite the quandary: are you mentally deficient of deceitful?) the views of Laissez-faire economists. Please cite any quote from Friedman expressing the view that wealth is finite.

      It is absurd to assert that socialists are not communists or Marxists; from whence do they derive their philosophy, then? It is all of one continuum, a continuum including Fascism and Nazism as well.

      As for “Communism stands for collective responsibility” – in what dictionary, encyclopedia or real-world application?

      Communism (from Latin communis – common, universal) is a revolutionary socialist movement to create a classless, moneyless, and stateless social order structured upon common ownership of the means of production, as well as a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of this social order.[1]

      I doubt you pay your words sufficiently for the labor you try to make them do. There’s glory for you!

      I marvel that you think it rational to proclaim you live in a country that hasn’t perfect systems — which of this planets polities does that exclude? Sadly, I think you will find your expectations are likely to be disappointed, depending , of course, on whether you consider “basic health care” anything more than aspirin, band-aids and euthanasia.

    4. I don’t recall seeing a lot of your posts, and I’m fairly new here myself, so if you knew this, great.

      But a word of advice: trying to distinguish between variants of socialism around here is much like trying to distinguish among variants of Nazis at a Holocaust Survivor’s Picnic. Yes, some were worse than others, and some were almost tolerable if you didn’t look in the basement. Some may even have been morally preferable to others. It matters not. They all function under a basically unworkable set of assumptions: they are all equally culpable for the results.

    5. I might also add that here, in the US, everyone does get health care (very good health care) and those poorest also get a small amount of money to live on (I might also add that “poor” in the US is the same as wealthy in much of the rest of the world).

      Unfortunately, too many people have decided they are willing to be poor in order to get these benefits.

      1. I will forestall the inevitable response to this accurate but perhaps o’erbrief statement. (If you were trolling, my apologies for cutting the line.)

        1) People who are below a certain asset/income level are in fact guaranteed health care. It’s not uncommon for people who are in excess of this to game the system to qualify, either, but that’s neither here nor there. The level of care they are guaranteed, while not equivalent to that available to the wealthiest in some regards, is in fact quite good on almost any scale compared to the rest of the world or the average American.

        2) People who don’t meet these requirements aren’t guaranteed health care, but if they need it, they have the option of meeting them to get it. This also happens quite a bit.

        3) Everyone regardless of income or assets (or even legal status) is guaranteed emergency/stabilization care.

        So while there are people (too poor to buy health insurance/pay for medical care, too rich to qualify for subsidized insurance) who technically aren’t *guaranteed* health care in the general sense, everybody *does* get health care.

        1. And if people really really wanted free health care for the poor or desperate, with no strings attached, they wouldn’t have encouraged most of the Catholic physician and nursing orders to disintegrate back in the Sixties and Seventies, or regulated health care to the point that lots of Catholic hospital and medical systems had to go from free to everybody, to private corporations run by corporate drones.

          But no, the Great Society was going to take care of everybody, and it was much more important for the sisters, brothers, and priests who were health care professionals to stop practicing for God and start making themselves relevant and political. And to sleep with each other, of course.

          (There are still some orders doing very valuable free work in health care areas, especially the ones that serve old people and people with cancer, and the ones that work in foreign countries that are full of poor people and empty of regulations, though full of crooks. But you seldom hear about these orders’ existence, unless you live near one of their facilities.)

    6. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”

      Who gets to make those value judgments? Ultimately, it’s someone with a gun.

      1. I really really NEED a trip to Europe. And a much better wardrobe. And a computer upgrade . . . (I’m hearing “Oh lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz . . .”)

        In my world, I have the option to actually work hard, save up, and buy what I need AND what I want, instead of having to live with what someone else thinks I need. If there’s any available. If I’m willing to stand in line.

        1. My friend all got Porches and I must make amends. Really. And it would do wonders for my self esteem. Wait… self esteem? You mean like at the Nuremberg rallies? No thank you.

      2. And I always say, “Need is a piss-poor determinant of deserts. Don’t tell me what you NEED, tell me what you’ve EARNED.


    7. And when you look at the numbers, the only way they are “guaranteeing basic health care” is by enslaving the people whose labor provides it. The end result is that the current slaves aren’t providing very good health care, and new slaves are getting scarce.

      1. Exactly. What makes anyone think that any government run health care system is going to encourage sufficient students do all the work to pursue to obtain the certification? Particularly when all they will get to do is diagnose and a government board in Washington will have predetermined best practices. Is this having your health care between you and your doctor? NO! As the law is presently written what you get in insurance and what you get in treatment will all be being decided by the government.

        1. My kid wants more than anything to be a doctor, but he’s taking an extra year and another major in Chem engineering to see where things stop because CACS didn’t mention something else — these geniuses want doctors to be paid like teachers. Because, four years at a low-demand college and eight to twelve years of grueling effort deserve EXACTLY the same compensation. And besides, doctors are supposed to do it out of altruism.

          1. Well sure – we want our doctors, like our Supreme Court Justices, to have empathy. That way they will look genuinely regretful when they explain that Obamacare doesn’t think it a reasonable expense to find out what is wrong with you, and besides, they wouldn’t know how to treat it anyway. Have a red pill.

  8. In re: children are expensive

    a) all investment is expensive; that is why you do it wisely, prudently and tend your investment’s development so that it will pay off when you need it.

    b) back a couple decades ago I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation to determine that, had it been adjusted for inflation, the child/dependent exemption would have been about ten times what it actually was, amounting to something like $40,000 for a family with two kids. That is a sizable income to shield against taxes and allows one parent to stay home, raise the kids, prepare and feed proper meals and perform all sorts of socially and personally beneficial tasks. They have indexed the exemption since that calculation, but without adjustment for the value lost during that highly inflationary interval.

      1. Don’t it seem those are the same people demanding higher wages for teachers (strike through, insert: educrats)?

        1. Use to be, before I had children– now I mostly see it on line, and since I avoid liberal stomping grounds, it’s from the “angry college guy” flavor of libertarian. (AKA, Anarchists That Understand Being Paid Is A Good Thing.)

        1. If the economy is a closed pie, Social Security makes even less economic sense than if you believe the pie can be increased. Like the White Queen, these people are able to believe six impossible things before breakfast … and then they try to eat our lunch.

  9. The nation isn’t broke, the GOVERNMENT is. Unfortunately, there’s not much the individual can do about that. It’s going to take group action to regain what we’ve lost — a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. The TEA party is a good start, but it’s only a start. We STILL have a long way to go. Making the wrong decisions now will hurt us tomorrow and for many tomorrows to come. Government has gotten too big, too intrusive, too invasive. We need to do a MONSTROUS cleaning job, from top to bottom. We need to pare all the duplicative agencies. We need to consolidate some of the remaining ones. Most of all, though, we need to stop spending more than we take in, and start paying down our debt, instead of growing it.

    The “Baby Boomers” are a problem, but they’re not all the problem. As a Boomer myself, I can’t defend most of the stupidity my fellow Boomers have inflicted on all of us, but I can and will point it out. One of the biggest problems with the Boomers is their infatuation with Socialism. I cannot understand it. I also cannot understand the infatuation with “the environment”, or the conceit displayed by “environmentalists” to consider every animal “sacred” except humans — the only ones that can actually DO something. There must have been something in the water from 1946 through 1960 to produce so many STUPID people. I do my best to educate those I can talk to, but most of my friends don’t fall in the category “stupid”. Every little bit helps, and I keep pushing.

    1. Infatuation with socialism – they have perfected the skill of saying things which sound very nice. Like the image of the greedy rich against the struggling poor, presented as if we were talking about little match girls freezing to death behind the window of a wealthy family eating from a full table, so of course you have to help all those poor people otherwise you are not a nice person – and there is the added benefit that if you vote for the government to do it you don’t actually have to do anything yourself but you can still feel virtuous.

      That, at least, seems to be the way things are done in my country. Big on the sounding nice part. Short on facts and figures. If you don’t like them you can sound downright mean, who wouldn’t want to help the poor and protect the environment and make sure old people and children are taken care of. So if you don’t actually bother to look at things, and think, voting for the people who say all those nice things can be the easy reflex action because most people want to think they are nice, and caring – and of course if you actually are one of the poor it’s also very nice to hear that all those rich people have the obligation to take care of you, so you also will then vote for the people who tell you that.

      1. … there is the added benefit that if you vote for the government to do it you don’t actually have to do anything yourself but you can still feel virtuous.

        Isn’t that the argument Scrooge makes in the beginning of A Christmas Carol? And yet, who gets denounced as Scrooge-like? Yet one more reason conservatives tend to be individualists; no number of people loudly insisting that 2+2=5 will cause us to agree (except, of course, for very large values of 2.)

        1. Yes! All the hypocrites I’ve met who think beating their chests and shouting “I care!” actually means something. *rolls eyes*

        2. Heh.

          I have been reading what the web versions of local papers write about USA presidential elections. And the comments sections. Most of the stories and comments praise O, but there are a few contrarians to be found in the comments. One particular commenter listed a lot of easily confirmed figures from your last four years – national debt, unemployment numbers and so on. He didn’t write anything else, just a long list of those. Well, that particular newspaper has buttons for each made comment, ‘well argued’ yes/no and ‘I agree’ yes/no.

          That list had gotten a lot of ‘well argued’ ‘no’ votes.

          I’m not sure whether I should laugh or cry.

          1. “Well Argued” and “No”?

            Isn’t that equivalent to poking fingers in your ears and chanting “neener-neener”?

  10. I was amused at your use of the word “spank” in regards to defense; I’d be more inclined to use words like “annihilate” or “exterminate”, though I’ve been told that using that approach only make things worse for everybody (“Congratulations! You’ve just wiped out every lifeform larger than a cockroach! What are you gonna do next?”)…

    1. For ordinary bad actors, the general meaning of the word, “spank” is sufficient. For those who are congenitally evil, your other solution is more appropriate.

  11. IF you subsidize something, you get more of it. We’ve been subsidizing poverty and bastardy since the 1960s. It is time to stop.

  12. As a life long SF reader, writer and imaginer (is so a word!), I like to think of where we ought to be, at some future time, and then figure out how to get there. After the last four years, I tend to wind up whimpering under the covers. Which is probably where I’ll spend tomorrow night.

  13. Brava! Encore!

    A few random thoughts as I read this:

    War on women nonsense – was it you, Sarah, who posted the link on Instapundit (along with some appropriately derisive comments) to the idiot girl dressed as a giant vagina? I couldn’t watch it all, and all I could think was, we need to respond with a woman dressed as a giant brain.

    Voting for revenge – I was willing to let it go the first time as an off-the-cuff clumsy attempt at a joke, but he used it again, so that’s not a mistake anymore, that’s intentional.

    Printing more money – I’m kind of frightened that the QEs have been aimed at intentional inflation, to pay off the debt cheaply (not that anyone has ever paid off the debt – politicians never let a surplus go toward the debt). It’s not the first time this kind of thinking has been used – I recall, in times past, inflation be requested by a debtor population wanting cheap dollars to make debt repayment easier – never mind what it does to the savers and the lendors and anyone else who wants to take out a loan but finds they get double-digit interest rates.

    1. Yes, it was me. That video… OMG that video. And talking of women as “vaginas” as in “A gay man will have to marry a vagina” — you know, I have gay friends who if they were forced to marry a woman (I don’t think there’s anyone thinking of making them do that) MIGHT marry a woman they got along with as a friend. They wouldn’t marry HER VAGINA. WHO THINKS LIKE THAT? This is the end-zone of kids being dehumanized by schools until they dehumanize themselves.

      1. Proof that some people need lessons in political hygiene … and sometimes they just need to put a sock in it.

        George Will famously dismissed “conservatism with a heart” as conservatism thinking with the wrong organ; leave it to the Left to go lower yet.

        I STILL cannot figure who the heck they think they’re influencing; does anybody ever say: “I thought Paul Ryan’s fiscal proposals were pretty sound, but when I saw that giant papier mache puppet of him I realized we need to accelerate the spending of money we haven’t got”?

      2. Actually, a lot of Muslim marriage and sex religious/law theory presupposes exactly that the man is primarily contracting constant access to the private parts of the woman. Which is just about as much as you need to know about that.

    2. Laurie, you recall correctly. The Populists of the 1880s-1890s demanded “free silver” (increasing the coinage in circulation by going back to using silver as well as gold) in order to inflate the currency. The deflation following the Panic of 1873 hit farmers especially hard because of the increasing amounts of crops required for mortgage repayment. Thus William Jennings Bryan’s “You shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold” speech, attacking the Republicans’ determination to maintain a purely gold-based currency. (Silver miners in Nevada and Colorado also approved, for some reason. 😉 )

      1. Texas Red, you heerd the same bell that commenced me to salivatin’ when Laurie sed thet. I contemplated that the Dems has bin pursuin’ the same dum fiscal will-o-the-wisp fer nigh onter a century but I din’t see fit ter bring it up. They jes’ seem fit and determint to grab thet goose and stick their heds where them golden eggs come from, tryin’ ter force out more.

        1. Well, dang, I was hoping someone would say I was just being paranoid. _I_ thought I was just being paranoid.

          1. Oh, sure – you’re just being paranoid. Doesn’t mean they ain’t out to getcher money.

            Cheap money means bubbles awaitin’ to burst. We’ve done the internet, housing, we’re working on higher ed, any guesses what is next?

            1. I would cheer an end to the higher ed bubble – I live in the same city as my old alma mater and I’m not happy with its direction. It used to be a very good science and engineering school (very strong space physics program; I have several NASA rocket scientist/engineer friends), but now, most of its graduates are *horrors* in the social sciences (an oxymoron, IMO). Plus they’ve even got a tram and a fancy gym with spa equipment like treadmills and stair steppers (in my day, we had to walk everywhere, and that acted as our gym). I don’t have a gym membership now and I’m not interested in paying for one for a future social sciences grad. So I’m sending my money to support the campus library instead.

            1. Nah, it’s paranoia to think one group is after you when you should be worried about a second group that *is* the one that’s really after you. [Wink]

  14. Pingback: Wild Cookery!

    Thank you (and great post, by the way). If there is one message that seems utterly lacking in modern society, it is that. The fundamental economic illiteracy of the American populace is truly breathtaking, even among those who should know better. And even those who do know better often succumb to the wish of what should be rather than accept the cold equations [hat tip to Tom Godwin] of reality.

    My mother — a truly remarkable, intelligent, and extremely well-read person — has gotten a bit liberal in her old age (she was much more conservative when I was growing up). She and I had a discussion about Obamacare a few years ago. She was arguing that no medical insurance company should be allowed to deny coverage. I pointed out that insurance companies — to stay in business — have to take in (or have on hand) more money than they spend, a point she conceded. Therefore, I continued, if such a policy is in place, the insurance companies have to either raise premiums sharply to cover those with high risk/high cost conditions, thus making coverage unaffordable for many people, or they will go bankrupt, and nobody will have coverage. Full stop. She digested that for a minute and stopped arguing with me and hasn’t brought it up since. ..bruce..


    Thank you (and great post, by the way). If there is one message that seems utterly lacking in modern society, it is that. The fundamental economic illiteracy of the American populace is truly breathtaking, even among those who should know better. And even those who do know better often succumb to the wish of what should be rather than accept the cold equations [hat tip to Tom Godwin] of reality.

    My mother — a truly remarkable, intelligent, and extremely well-read person — has gotten a bit liberal in her old age (she was much more conservative when I was growing up). She and I had a discussion about Obamacare a few years ago. She was arguing that no medical insurance company should be allowed to deny coverage. I pointed out that insurance companies — to stay in business — have to take in (or have on hand) more money than they spend, a point she conceded. Therefore, I continued, if such a policy is in place, the insurance companies have to either raise premiums sharply to cover those with high risk/high cost conditions, thus making coverage unaffordable for many people, or they will go bankrupt, and nobody will have coverage. Full stop. She digested that for a minute and stopped arguing with me and hasn’t brought it up since. ..bruce..

  17. Good one boss! I’m liking the past couple of years, ever since you ‘came out of the closet’ so to speak (I’m talking politics, sheesh! buncha pervs here..yes, I’m looking at you wolf!).
    Well parsed, gracefull and pithy..as usual!

  18. Regarding the ‘revenge” vote one forbidden thought comes to mind,what if it refers to his mentor the “Reverend Wright” white privilege rants?, we have seen a lot of that revenge, played of unsuspecting and naive white boys and girls with deadly results

  19. Sarah, we ARE broke.

    On Oct 12, 2012 AP published 12 years of US Treasury debt . It’s verifiable via the US Treasury’s web page “Treasury debt to the penny”. According to AP, US debt nearly doubled in the past six years, from a little over $8 trillion to $16 trillion.

    Here’s how and when it happened. The 107th to 110th Congresses happened on Pres. Bush’s watch. The 111th and 112th Congresses happened on Pres Obama’s watch. According to the White House website for its 2013 budget proposal, the 113th and 114th Congresses will each add an AVERAGE of new monthly debt in excess of $100 billion.

    **** NEW DEBT ****.
    $103 Billion – Average PER MONTH, 112th Congress.
    $143 Billion – Average PER MONTH, 111th Congress.
    $63 Billion – Average PER MONTH, 110th Congress.
    $45 Billion – Average PER MONTH, 109th Congress.
    $48 Billion – Average PER MONTH, 108th Congress.
    $23 Billion – Average PER MONTH, 107th Congress.

    Truly, I hesitate to call these numbers debt because I don’t think the future taxpayers will pay it off, unless of course, the dollar is devalued. But remember when a US neighbor devalued their currency down – the Mexican peso forced up prices south of the border 20+ years ago, and that started the migration of a jobless hungry population to north.

  20. You Hoyt are reasonable and numbers are real to you. Most people are not reasonable and inumerate. They can’t even make change! We are doomed. You might also say inflation is a tax on all savings I’d like to note as a sort of aside. Neither party intends to stop spending. It will go until there is a black swan event that disrupts the flow. It’s so complex there is no predicting the fail point.
    It’s going to end with blood in the streets this time.
    Try to make sure it is not yours.

    1. Guillotines were necessary because swords and axes take training and strength and firearms were unreliable and expensive. A high-caliber frangible bullet costs less than a dollar in quantity and applied to the back of the skull will be 100% fatal.

      However, I still advocate my Instant-Executioner machine. It’s absolutely guaranteed to be a painless and instantaneous death. Attend:

      1) Sedate criminal to the point of unconsciousness.
      2) Insert criminal in human-sized punch-press. Adjust for human’s thickness. (This won’t take a lot of fiddling – even the cranium won’t slow a big punch-press down.)
      3) Activate punch-press.
      4) Hose remains of criminal into strategically placed drain(s) in punch press.
      5) Repeat.

      If I were to be executed and “death by sexual exhaustion” were not an option, this would be my first choice.

      1. I don’t know – between that and 12-gauge loaded with bird shot to the back of the head, close call.

      2. Alinsky advises making them abide by their own rules. I think that means we can harvest their internal organs. That would probably be facilitated by keeping them in medical comas, so I am against killing them … quickly, anyway.

        1. High velocity is not important with a frangible bullet delivered at close range. Basically it’s the firearm equivalent of a large sledgehammer. It’s about energy transfer. For that you just need a lot of bullet mass and reasonable velocity. High-velocity rounds of lower caliber (despite the v being squared) aren’t as effective at the desired effect, instantaneous destruction of a large portion of the cerebral tissue.

          1. Ah, but small caliber, high velocity rounds entering the skull don’t just enter and stop. They bounce around causing all kindsa damage before they do stop.

            1. They can, or they can get stuck or egress the cranial cavity. The aforementioned chemically-propelled sledgehammer doesn’t require playing those odds. Just a steady hand and reasonable aim, which are both required for your way as well.

                1. The fellow who did the slaughtering at the meat locker where I worked after school used a cheap .22 to do the killing: he did the ears-eyes-x thing. If he used a hundred cartridges to kill 99 animals, the boss docked him for the waste.

                  Well, not really, but it really is surprisingly effective. Doesn’t work on primates, or at least not well. I’d go for the optic cavity shot, assuming the person was being judicially executed and could be restrained.

                2. Remember, the reason that a back-of-the-head shot works so well is that you destroy, or at least sever, the medulla, which controls your autonomic functions.

                  1. ABC’s 20/20 documented the Chinese had perfected this as far back as the mid-90s. Accompanied by appropriate drugs to limit clotting, this head shot maximizes the number of harvestable organs.

                    1. If one reduces the Instant-Executioner to accommodate only the head, it too achieves this worthy goal unless you are worried about corneas.

  21. Nope, not annoyed. Printed it off for my parents to read, in fact. Not to convince them, because they hardly need that, but because I thought they’d appreciate it.

  22. Because of this, though I disapprove of adventurism abroad, the only program I’d keep is defense. We must be ready to keep what we have, little though it is. And we must build more. And we must spank anyone who tries to attack us quickly, effectively and without remorse. And then we must come home and work.

    And this is why I keep harassing Ricochet.com to ask you to guest blog on your tour….

  23. That was awesome. BTW, thanks to Stephen Green (VodkaPundit) @ PJTV for turning me on to this.

  24. I sometimes wonder if we’re heading toward a future where the government will demand a redistribution of (grown) children instead of a redistribution of wealth. There are huge swaths of our culture where people haven’t had kids, haven’t interacted at all with the next generation (except to ban them from buildings and restaurants) and have traveled, eaten, and consumed instead of producing the next generation.

    So, fast forward 30 years or so. My husband and I will have at least 5 kids to share the burden of aging parents. But if there are more non-parents than parents, will they attempt to vote our kids away from us, after we invested money in raising them that THEY squandered on consumption?

    I could see a world where there was a ‘draft’ for caretakers for old people who hadn’t bothered to contribute at all to the next generation.

      1. What are home health care workers are, if not rent-a-relatives for the elderly? Paid for by the taxpayers so Boomers don’t a) have to take Mum & Pop in and b) worry about their kids willingness to take them in when they are decrepit.

        And if it keeps young taxpayers from being able to save and build wealth, so much the better.

  25. Well, the cake tastes fine so far. I turned 66 this August. I am still working full time. Thanks to a mailing from Social Security, I realized I can start collecting Social Security while still working. This is so incongruous I had never considered this possibility. A phone call or two, and things were done. They were very nice. They even backdated my application so I could get benefits starting from my 66th birthday. My wife, who is 2 years older (not working), also applied at the same time. Man, they gave her 6 months back benefits.

    Great country. First come. First served.

    1. They did tell you that additional income will have tax ramifications which will complicate the question of whether you should start taking SS, right?


    2. Hmm.

      joel here has put a permanent decrease on his SS payments, above and beyond the decrease he gets for still working.

      Perhaps the government is trying to minimize the damage with this mailings: the more the elderly sign up early, the less damage they do.

      1. By and large, the payments scale in such a way that the actuarial value of the payments should be roughly equal based on average life expectancy at the various ages where payments adjust. I wouldn’t get too outraged on that front.

        However, if the gentleman is still working, it’s very much to the government’s advantage to have him start taking them as early as possible since the tax break for SS payouts phases out based on your overall income level. That’s the real beetle in his beer.

    3. My hubby who turned 65 said no thank you to the SS benefit. However, did you know that you have to have Medicare to continue your veteran medical benefit? Yep–

  26. GR8 job Hoyt ! I’ve been in the pension actuary field for decades, I understand numbers. Howz this number? Our federal over-spending each year by money-printing that supposedly would be repaid by future taxpayers……running $1.2T or more/year now for 4 years in a row, each year this is giving $20,000/year to 60million people, or $30,000 to 40million people. That’s the enormity of overspending each year. It must be reduced or we are freaking toast. Hey, and check out nypdrecruit.com to see that a 22-yr old will work 20 years making about 100k/year after 5 years with free healthcare til lifespan of age 82, and get pension at 42 for 40 yrs inflation-adjusted……total of the 3 about $5M or $6M just for working 20 years. Divide that out. Thanks to govt unions. And that is common around the country. That’s like quietly saying F-U to the private sector taxpayers each year, don’t you think?

  27. Sarah,

    That was a very nice, basic economics lesson. Nothing is free. It all has to be earned by the production of goods and services. Meanwhile, our government, particularly the Obama government, is determined to make it harder to produce the goods and services we need so as to expand the pie. In fact, government is working hard to reduce the size of pie because they do not understand there is a relationship between wealth and production.

    Somehow, we have built a permanent government class who actually believe government adds value. Mostly, though, government subtract value. But, as long as they believe they add value, they will reduce production and that will reduce wealth.

    Arrrrhhhhgggggg. Why cannot people understand basic economic concepts. Even Bernanke believes printing works.

    1. As my dad used to say – getting something from the government is a lot like a transfusion, taking blood from one arm to put into the other, and spilling a lot of it on the way.

    2. Printing does work, if what you want to do is stimulate spending by raising the fear of price inflation.

      1. I think a whole lot of the stock market’s “recovery” is because people are stashing their money there out of fear of inflation.

        1. I think most of it is because the Boomers still have most of the money and they have to put it somewhere. Most of them just put it in IRA or 401(k) which for all practical purposes means most of it goes into the stock market.

        2. Back in the Clinton Administration, the NY Post’s John Crudele claimed that the Treasury was using well-timed option purchases to boost the stock market and cut off downturns.

          I mistrust any stock valuation that doesn’t take inflation into account; many a rise in the DOW is merely the result of inflation — and insufficient to cover that.

  28. You’re probably right, but then again, maybe modern technology is going to bail us out again, like it always does.

    Most modern factories/farms that produce the basic essentials in life by now are almost fully automated and only need very few humans to produce what before took legions of staff.

    You could probably by now live your entire life without ever using a hand-crafted product, and most things you consume have never been touched by humans inside the packaging already.

    If you just need to keep someone supplied with sufficient food, clothes and gadgets, that probably can be done now at a ratio of 1 to 10 man years (one year work to create supplies for 10) if they are not overly picky. As long as you can keep human involvement out of this equation this will scale quite a way yet and we can sustain a huge amount of ‘citizens of leisure’ easily, at a far higher level of comfort than even royalty in the middle ages would have enjoyed.

    So, the pension demand is not entirely pie in the sky, it can be done, we have the technology. Whether we have the culture to pull this off, is an entirely different question 😦

    1. I think we are in a race between technology and stupidity.

      Stupidity is presently in the lead – and has succeeded in handicapping technology for the past several years – but technology’s third-order curve is not linear, whereas stupidity can barely accelerate and has used almost all its tricks already. My money is on technology, at maybe four to three.

      If stupidity wins, we run out of easily recoverable resources before technology can get to the finish line, and our civilization goes Mad Max, with outposts hanging on for greater or lesser periods of time. Think postcolonial Africa, but slower, and everywhere.

      If technology wins, we get a post-scarcity society. We still have the resources, we still have the civilizational level. The basic principles are known: we just need to get them online in practical technology that we can use. We could coast in on fumes and glory, we really, really could.

      But as Hoyle observed, on each planet where intelligent life evolves, on a civilizational timescale there will almost certainly be one chance, and one chance only.

        1. If technology wins it will be possible again to go elsewhere. I’m betting the view from the orbit of one of Saturn’s outer moons is spectacular. Or, Hell… a little patience and we could build a nice Barsoom Game Park on Mars. We’ve already got advance scouts making us some nice maps and doing a little preliminary surveying.

      1. California has metastasized and is invading neighboring states, where those fleeing the disaster push to enact the enlightened policies which are bringing California to its knees. This is known as bad luck.

        As Friedrich Schiller cautioned: “Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens,” which Dr. Asimov quoted as “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”

        1. Yes – we have seen this phenom in Nevada now–
          They invaded Washington and Oregon and have ruined those states— We are now seeing these same type of people trying to bankrupt us.

  29. — Most people simply can’t afford kids. And those who can, by working two jobs, don’t see the point of having kids for strangers to raise. —

    The steady decline of our birthrate is the most ominous of all ongoing developments. Birthrates are the most reliable indicator of whether a society is rising or falling. Even in societies that have “made the demographic transition” from agricultural to industrial, the birthrate tells us whether its people believe in their own futures. And what can we reasonably expect from a people that doesn’t believe in its own future?

  30. Sarah, part of the problem is that the welfare state discourages having children. Without the welfare state, your children ARE your pension, at least in part. With the welfare state they are just a cost center.

  31. Sarah — heard your speech on PJ Media. Good stuff!

    Re: your accent, remember that Kipling grew up speaking some kind of Hindi, and Manly Wade Wellman grew up speaking Umbundwe (missionary parents in Angola — yeah, that was a new factoid on me, too). There really seems to be something special about many writers who grew up speaking something other than English!

  32. Sarah, you’ve stated the situation marvelously. I think the outcome of today’s election will show if we have a populace in America capable of comprehending just how bad our problems really are.

    I wish I was more optimistic. Instead, I just bought more ammo.

    1. How do you figure that? If I drill an oil well, say, there’s a producing well where once there was just a plot of land. That land is more valuable with the oil well on it. The landowner is richer because his land is more valuable. I’m richer because I have a producing oil well. Society as a whole is richer because it has that oil. Wealth DOES increase. America’s poor are vastly richer than kings a thousand years ago.

      I suppose that given a finite universe with a finite duration, there is some upper limit to possible wealth creation, so in that sense it is finite, but that limit is very far above anything we can even imagine.

        1. Wealth is not a physical commodity like gold or coal, but a value that humans put to physical commodities. Not only physical commodities but also more abstract ones like skill, knowledge, and time. So even if the physical universe is unbounded and intrinsically uncountable, humans are not. Unless we will somehow be concerned with wealth in the Kingdom to come, I hold with the statement that it is finite, but dynamic.

          1. So even if the physical universe is unbounded and intrinsically uncountable, humans are not.

            Saying that humans are finite, which is undoubtedly true, has no bearing on the finite or infinite quality of the values we ascribe to the totality of human existence. Besides which, merely saying something is dynamic isn’t enough for the topic at hand. It may very well be, somehow, that wealth is finite, but the unbelievably huge amount of dynamism involved may be so great as to make wealth, for our practical purposes, infinite. In other words, there’s no way we can plausibly reach the upper limit of that wealth so it might as well be infinite.

              1. No need to be nasty. I’m simply trying to hammer out the wording. I have no problem with the concept.

                1. Nasty? Simply observing a self-evident fact. The imagination of any human being is finite, but the imagination of the human race is without boundary.

                  Rather than engage in ad hominem accusations you might try grasping the crux of the argument and addressing that.

                  You will understand if some of us here remain dubious about your good faith as a result of the pettifoggery. As words have multiple meanings their reason is shaped by context; for your clarity I’m employing the second meaning of the term:

                  Definition of PETTIFOGGER
                  1: a lawyer whose methods are petty, underhanded, or disreputable : shyster
                  2: one given to quibbling over trifles

                  1. Again, that assumes an unbounded set of humans. All I did from the beginning is disagree with the use of one word.

                    1. Objection noted. Your argument remains unpersuasive. Further discussion is a waste of time and constitutes squandering of wealth.

            1. Infinite means that it cannot be counted. The very nature of wealth is to quantify things, so actual wealth at any point cannot be infinite.

              Even if we are talking about the sum potential wealth of all humanity, it is finite, unless humanity will create wealth into the future with absolutely no end.

              1. no. In economic terms “infinite” is “more than we can consume.” “Boundless” if you prefer, but honestly, why would you give credence to Marxists idea of a finite pie for the sake of… a word?

                1. How is it my fault that economists have poor diction? I give no credence to Marx or his theories. I nit-pick because words are priceless. As both an engineer, bibliophile, and hobby theologian, the correct use of finite and infinite is dear to me.

                  1. The problem comes because, if one were discussing such things with them, they would take your bare statement that wealth is finite and use that to “prove” their notion that this means that rich people inevitably cause poor people, because the fact that they are rich means that the poor do not have as much to draw their existence from.

                    Again, it’s a problem of definition, and Marxists use a definition which is inaccurate to sell their ideas. They use “finite” to mean, “closed and unexpanding”, therefore, the total to be divided amongst everyone is limited TO “the pie”. It falls upon those who would prove otherwise to hammer home the point that wealth is, in fact, open-ended, and can always be expanded, and the notion of those who would say otherwise is merely something to put limits on everyone’s potential success.

                  2. Words have multiple meanings. Economists employ a field specific terminology, just as do theologians and engineers. Ignoring the field specific meaning of a word is to eschew good faith argument. The problem is not with economists diction, it is with somebody who would ignore the contextual meaning of a word.

              2. Infinite means that it cannot be counted.

                The argument may come down to semantic differences between the definition of wealth and potential wealth. I would agree that it might be possible, however unlikely, to convert the dollar value of current human existence into a finite sum. However, this does not take into account the potential that exists in every human to create more wealth to be counted.

                Somewhere, there’s a soon-to-be an ex-couch potato that has an epiphany, gets off his ass, and makes something (software, song, whatever) that people start wanting and are willing to pay for. While the money he starts making (and spending) could be added, second to second, to that finite total of existing dollars, that total doesn’t account for the new wealth created by the addition of ideas turned into viable commercial entities.

                1. Again, that assumes that humanity existence will be infinite. If it has an end, a point I hold to, then there will be a finite sum of all wealth. It very well may be a monumental task, and the number well beyond anything dreamed before. However, wealth will be a bounded set and therefore finite.

                  1. If you would argue the defined meanings of words are precious, you might try adhering to the definitions:

                    Definition of FINITE
                    1a : having definite or definable limits
                    b : having a limited nature or existence
                    2: completely determinable in theory or in fact by counting, measurement, or thought
                    3a : less than an arbitrary positive integer and greater than the negative of that integer
                    b : having a finite number of elements

                    4: of, relating to, or being a verb or verb form that can function as a predicate or as the initial element of one and that is limited (as in tense, person, and number)

                    The only definition which supports your argument is 1b, and even then it is arguable depending on whether the Universe is a closed cycle or is perpetually renewing.

                    Wealth has no definable limit, as it is measured by human creativity and imagination.

                    1. That is the exact definition I am following.

                      I have contended from the beginning there are limits. We had a definite beginning, that is a bound one end. I hold we will not continue on without end. So, either by natural cause or supernatural eschaton, there will be an opposing bound. If humanity is a bounded set in time, so the is all wealth. Therefore 1a, 1b, 3a, 3b, fall under this as a bounded set.

                      Also, since wealth itself is a matter of assigning values, any actual wealth at a point in time will be determined as per definition 2. The sum of these instantaneous points of wealth would be akin to the total economic integral of humanity; bounded at the ends by our birth and death.

                    2. But if you’re including the supernatural, you also must allow for the two facts that a) we may very well be infinite (luminous beings are we, not this crude matter) and/or we will have a different set of things we value and a different way to express wealth after we shuffle off this mortal coil.

                    3. Your argument is based upon the premise of limits, a premise which you have not supported and which does not stand. The presumption of limits to human potential is invalid.

                    4. The beginning limit is without doubt. And if nothing else, the end of humanity will occur naturally from the Law of Conservation of Energy and the Laws of Thermodynamics. There are the bounds.

                    5. The beginning limit is conjecture, unproven. Entropy is also theory, premised on a interpretation of reality – sequentiality – that is itself unproven. Your premise is based on a limited perspective on the multidimensional reality and is unproven.

                      You attempt to define boundaries but fail to establish and support your premises. Your arguments are tautological but undemonstrable.

      1. To be fair, as a bald statement, (unless you hold to an infinite universe), then yes, wealth is static. However, there is no practical limit that we are likely to reach in 1000 years or more, even with a renewed population growth. And that’s assuming there is no FTL technology, so that we are limited to one solar system for all practical purposes.

        Um… back of the head estimate, in today’s dollars – total Solar System wealth would be somewhere in the range of 10^40 dollars. Since we’re only looking at 10^14 or so extant on the Earth at this time, we’d have to work hard to use that much up in 1000 years.

        1. There is no inherent reason that we couldn’t figure out how to harness the energy of the vacuum, which for all practical purposes is infinite. Matter is just frozen energy at the basic level: the rest is engineering. I am not worried about running out of resources in the long run. I am worried about running out of easily extractable ones in the short run to the point that it cripples our civilization and makes it impossible to jump to the next state.

        2. Wrong estimation. What is a computer but sand, a little metal (and growing less) and human ingenuity? I give you the iPod, iPad and PC.

          Of course, they are doing everything possible to suppress human ingenuity short of shooting people in the back of the head.

          1. We use lightning to make sand think. Don’t ever blow your whole stack betting against us.

      2. It does increase, hence it is not static. It is not infinite since, by definition, it is countable.

    2. At any given time there is a fixed amount of wealth. However, now that we’ve shown that layabout Zeno the back of our hands, this need not concern us, because the only thing static about that situation is the “given time.” Whoops! It’s gone already. Here we are at a new one… with more wealth.

    1. I’ve voted and I’m poll watching in about an hour and a half. And then I’m going to work VERY HARD on not having a coronary.

      Reading the news isn’t helping. This is not the usual shenanigans — this is THE CHICAGO MACHINE. Can one win against that? Who knows. If we can’t it’s over, though, because it only gets more entrenched. Zimbabwe living standards, here we come.

      1. I voted early for a couple of reasons– mainly there are less people so I don’t get sick. (People can literally make me sick). The second reason? because I could.

  33. I live in Illinois, the second most broke state in the nation. Today I got a chance to vote for a constitutional amendment that would make it harder for Government to raise employee pensions. Yes. Talk about trying to close the barn door after the horse has already run away. Our system is beyond broke. Here’s an example. In Illinois public servants can get multiple pensions. Judy Baar Topinka is the State Comptroller, formerly State Treasurer and formerly State Representative/Senator. For each of those she would draw a state pension. A FULL pension for each. I read a newspaper article that it would be over a million a year! A controversy broke when two top Union officials retired with full public pensions when they had actually only worked for two months for the State. Turns out they worked two months, took a “leave of absence” and then worked at the Union Hall for the rest of their career since work for the Union Hall counted towards your Illinois state Pension. No wonder our state is flat broke and the best we can do is say, well now we will make it harder to increase the pension size? That’s not reform, that’s a bandaid on a shark bite! The Democrats own the Gov. Mansion, Senate and House. It’s all on them and they are not doing a dang thing to get Illinois’ fiscal house in control. They DOUBLED our taxes last year and it wasn’t even a drop in the bucket. No idea what they will try next.

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