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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When America Sneezes

Disaster was narrowly averted today by swift action of the Federal Reserve and Federal Government.

In the past week, concerns have been expressed over the potential of the United States entering another recession. At first, response was weak. Over the weekend it found reinforcements, causing several major foreign exchanges to plunge in value and causing the New York Stock Exchange to drop almost 500 points in the first hour or two of trading.

It was only after the Federal Reserve dropped a primary interest rate by 3/4 point, the largest such move in years. Additionally the U.S. Federal Government pledged to spend $150 billion to stimulate the economy.

Is this necessarily a good thing? Maybe, but maybe not.

The Federal Government spending to encourage consumer and business spending is hypocritical. Why? Because they are spending our money taken through taxation instead of letting us spend it ourselves. This is, essentially, the point of the broken window fallacy.

In the broken window fallacy, a young boy breaks the window of a baker who, naturally, has to replace the broken pane. His neighbors get to talking about the issue, debating whether the young boy should be punished. On one hand the broken pane creates work. The glazer to make and install the glass is the first beneficiary. The money then passes to the glass supplier for the materials, to the clothier when the glazer buys a new shirt, and to the grocer when the glazer buys food for his family.

This is the way the government thinks. Giving money to welfare for example improves the income for the grocery merchants and maybe the landlords if they are given cash benefits for such.

The other side of the coin is this. The baker has to shell out the money to pay the glazer and thus has less to spend on supplies for his business, clothing for his own family, and even food. This is also the effect that government taxation has on the average citizen.

Government action over the years has not effectively lowered the taxes on the poor, only those who are already well off (of which virtually every politician is before they ever enter politics) and has very little to no effect on overall poverty. Why? Because, in truth, the poor have no more money than they did before. Some of them are just fed a little (and I do mean a little) better.

The problem in our society is not lack of government spending. It is bankers siphoning off profit for themselves by making economic slaves out of everyone else. A slave is forced to labor for the comfort and profit of another. The bible describes this relationship well when it says the debtor is slave of the creditor.

An example of this is overdraft fees. It costs the banks around $2 to process the average overdraft. The bank then charges the consumer $30-50 for covering the overdraft. If they return the item, most of them still charge the fee of $30-50. It is completely up to the arbitrary decision of a faceless banking bureaucrat who is seldom accountable for his/her decision.

Another example is the banks charging higher interest rates the lower the economic level of the borrower, allegedly because of the higher risk indicated by a lower credit rating. The net effect is the bank makes more money on low income citizens per dollar loaned than lending to "more worthy" borrowers.

The government spending programs are also frequently financed by borrowing from these same international bankers, making the government itself slave of its creditors. The fundamental base of economic problems is not consumer unwillingness to spend, it is their inability to spend because they are paying so much of their income in taxes, bank fees, and interest rates.

Word to the wise, think for yourselves. The government, big business, and banking industry stopped being our friends before World War II. Until we wake up to the truth and start working on things ourselves things are only going to get worse.

By the way, I will be returning to more frequent posting starting tomorrow. I had some financial issues and am having my Internet connection restored tomorrow morning.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Cost of Standing Up

Most people don't consider the effects their actions have on others. As advocates and activists, we have to consider everything. Every idea we generate, every cause we fight for, will have effects far beyond our simple circle.

Take for example Colorado's institution of the CICP (Colorado Indigent Care Program). Initially the program was to be a safety net for those who for one reason or another were indigent, unable to pay for their medical care.

I have been speaking to a young lady who's experience tells another tale.

Recently she broke her arm when she fell while running for a bus. It was a homeless man who helped her up and out of the street to prevent her getting run over. Chalk one up for a marginalized citizen being there for another when needed, first of all.

The problem is this, she was turned away from several facilities because her broken arm was not life threatening, thus in their definition, not an emergency condition.

Excuse me?

They went further by stating the would not treat her without prepayment.

Say what?

That's right, she was turned away because she did not have insurance, cash up front, or a CICP card. Education time, boys and girls.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, EMTALA) is a United States Act of Congress passed in 1986 as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. It requires hospitals and ambulance services to provide care to anyone needing emergency treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. There are no reimbursement provisions. As a result of the act, patients needing emergency treatment can be discharged only under their own informed consent or when their condition requires transfer to a hospital better equipped to administer the treatment. (Source: Wikipedia.org)

This law is not abrogated or mitigated by ANY state or subsequent Federal law.

Of course, in at least one case, it doesn't surprise me. University Hospital (one of the above guilty parties) had another incident years ago. A man was working for the hospital and had a heart attack. His supervisor from the hospital came to his INTENSIVE CARE room and informed him he could either take early retirement from the hospital or he would be fired immmediately.

Understand, University Hospital is a part of the University of Colorado educational system. If student nurses and doctors are seeing their instructors and residents making illegal decisions like there is nothing wrong with them, they too are learning to ignore the law. This is not the kind of scenario I would want my niece to learn from, and she wants to be a pediatrician.

God help us if this kind of criminal conduct is allowed to pass unchallenged.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Good Riddance

It sounds like a joke.

People taking pictures, lists, even fully paid mortgages and publicly shredding the documents in what is quickly becoming an annual tradition.

They call it "Good Riddance Day."

The Good Riddance Day movement is, for all intents and purposes, a type of reverse New Year's resolution. Instead of developing new, improved selves and habits, we are supposed to let go of past mistakes and bad habits. This year one man's list included giving up his addiction to shoplifting.

It sparked me into thinking about things we as a society need to give up in order to move onward into the future.

We need to give up racism. This is probably one of the biggest wastes of human energy in the United States. From wasted energy committing racism to the wasted energy seeing racists behind every tree, car, and building corner. Both extremes must go. They are useless. No - they are worse - they corrupt and distract us. They are not useless, they are malicious. The sooner we say good riddance to them, the better.

We need to give up consumerism. This does not mean to stop shopping for food, clothing, etc. What this means is for us to think about what we are buying. Are we buying something because we need it (like food), because we really want it (like a computer), or simply because it is the lastest thing (like an 8GB iPod when we already own a 4GB iPod that we only have 2GB of music on)? If we settle for a $12 pair of store-brand pants instead of $50 Levi pants we free up considerable money that we could save in the bank, invest in mutual funds, or afford other things that we really want, like taking our significant other on dates more frequently (yes, mental and emotional goods are important too).

We need to give up credit use, both personally and nationally. Right now we owe so much as a nation it would take an entire year's income from everyone to pay it off. This is not just an economic issue, but an issue of national security. Some of our biggest creditors are China and Saudi Arabia, two countries who have proven to have less than our best interests at heart.

We need to give up or put off pork-barrel projects until, if and when, we can actually afford them. Our government is one of the most wasteful structures and organizations known to modern man. It needs to be put on an economic diet, for the health and safety of us all.

We need to give up selfishness. Think of those who are less fortunate than you. When you see one of the red meters in places like downtown Denver, Seattle, or whatever town or city you are in that let you donate to the homeless programs of your community, put a dollar or two of change into it. If you see someone who is homeless and they ask for help getting lunch, take them to McDonald's or Taco Bell and buy them lunch if you are worried about them spending the money on drugs or alcohol. And for God's sake, turn off the TV when your kid asks for help with their homework. Stop being so selfish with your resources like time and money. If you give just a little, you help improve our entire society, and it really doesn't hurt you. In fact, you just might end up feeling good about yourself for a day or two.

We need to give up road rage and recklessness. Is it really worth risking killing yourself or someone else, just to get to work five minutes earlier or to "get back" at someone you think cut you off on the freeway? There is a man sitting in the state pen right now in Colorado who thought that it was. He is serving time for murder for causing a road rage related accident on a freeway in Aurora, Colorado that killed two people.

The list could go on and on. Think about all the things wrong with your community, your state, and our nation. Make a list if you have to. Then shred or burn it. Let all those things go. Then join with your fellow citizens and lets make the necessary changes in our society to make those things relics of the past.

Lets work toward the day when our children ask questions like "what was war" or "what do they mean by pollution". Together we can make it happen. We just have to let go of the past and say good riddance to it.