Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Uncategorized

Good Books On The 2008 Crash

There seems to be an endless supply of firm opinions on why the economy collapsed in 2008. Conservatives blame lending to poor people, and liberals claim it was a lack of federal regulation. I tend to lean towards the latter column, but rather than taking my word for it, here are a list of good books that analyze precisely how things went south those long years ago. They may not aid us in preventing a future hit, but at least the effort is commendable.

In Bed with Wall Street: How Bankers, Regulators and Politicians Conspire to Cripple Our Global Economy

The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the Future of the World Economy (Economic Controversies)

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History

crypto · Culturalism · Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Uncategorized

Are We Wrong About Welfare?

An especially frightful bogeyman mustered by folks on the Plural Right to win elections is the idea of the welfare queen. This horrendous creature oozes about in life, deviously attempting to confiscate as much from the public dole as possible, and using taxpayer dollars to fund her luxurious lifestyle. She is often paired with her live-in boyfriend, a clownish drug dealer who uses his perch in a Section 8 housing complex to make tax-free money by selling controlled substances. Topping off the vignette are their countless children, who assist in generating those lovable food stamp checks which are annihilating the economy.

Effective as the idea may be for politicians, it betrays a fundamental unwillingness to understand the nature of the public support system, along with the actual status of people involved. Thus we must provide an overview of precisely what is available to welfare dependents, and for how long. Hopefully, a measure of clarity can help eliminate the misconceptions that inevitably fuel terrible corrective policy on the part of the State.

The first salvo ought to involve a popular 2012 study from Wisconsin distributed inside conservative circles. According to the authors, a family on welfare in the Badger State can rake in $35,000 annually post-taxes by yukking it up with a variety of government programs and not working. A similar 50-state analysis by the Cato Institute confirms such alarmism, noting how places like Hawaii grant payments of almost $50,000 a year to government dependents.

There is no doubt the proponents of such studies have justifiable concern about the nature of welfare. Unfortunately, they rely on rather self-serving conclusions to fit the bill of lolbertarian ideology. For one, the Wisconsin study relies upon an assumption that eligibility automatically equates to acceptance. In reality, analysts have concluded that less than 300 Wisconsinites would be able to draw the $35,000 amount of income, this in a state of almost 6 million people. Further complicating the matter is how most welfare programs require participants to be seeking a job or working, stipulations which undermine the suggestion they are simply mooching because they can.

Perhaps more critical to mention are the limitations on welfare programs themselves. In the case of SNAP benefits (food stamps), users without children are limited to 90 days in the service within a 36-month period by a federal law enacted in 2008, unless they can meet certain work requirements. When paid out, benefits average about $256.00 per month for a household or $127.00 a person, and come to around $1.40 for each meal. Higher payments materialize in the event of a household being extremely low income or with many kids, so not everyone receives the same amount of money.  It is worth noting that the Obama Administration promulgated an $8.7 billion cut to SNAP, despite its supposedly progressive credentials.

Section 8 housing also gets a bad rap due to the poor reputation of such communities, yet it too has strict standards for access, cutting out sizable swaths of the general population based on income and family status.  Quite crucially, the voucher system does not cater to illegal immigrants, as applicants must be citizens or possess eligibility for citizenship. The closely-associated LIHEAP program gives recipients help with heating and cooling bills providing they meet certain requirements. Strangely enough, President Obama also made repeated requests for Congress to cut funding to LIHEAP, instigating a move by the late Hugo Chavez to donate heating oil to Americans.  

Some critics will aim their guns at the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash support program to satisfy notions of dependency. Here again the issue is complex. TANF operates not as a long-term solution to poverty, but merely the helping hand to bring people back on their feet during hard times. Benefit checks in July 2020 ranged from just over $300.00 in Texas to $1,086 in New Hampshire, reflecting cost of living and state government decisions. The final point is important because individual states control the destiny of TANF money block-granted by the Fed, and are not obliged to offer a large (or elevated) amount. Furthermore, recipients are limited to 5 years on the TANF dole throughout their entire life, so it is hardly a career dependency model.

Welfare alarmism also flies in the face of the historical record. The 1996 welfare reform bill signed by Bill Clinton had the effect of eliminating the “entitlement” concept behind such programs by instituting stricter work requirements. Since 1997, spending on TANF has remained largely unchanged at $16.5 billion, and broader welfare caseloads have increased to 15 percent, while the assistance rolls remain down by 68 percent from the pre-reform highs, this even with the effects of the recession and Corona. As a percentage of the total federal budget, the programs amount to $361 billion, or 8 percent.

One final point to acknowledge regarding the 1996 reform lies with the impact on child support enforcement. Prior to the legislation’s passage, the State’s involvement in collection and insistence on men paying was decidedly more limited. Clinton’s bill changed that by requiring state authorities to more aggressively pursue orders on child support, and encouraging women to pursue it. So in a sense men replaced the State for a portion of the payments, arguably leading to the disaster of family courts today.

At the end of the day, I can appreciate the rage against welfare. Those of us who work feel indignant about folks who simply take checks and live on the dole. Of course the truth is that many of the “takers” are actually employed, yet simply do not make enough to survive. Perhaps our bigger focus should be on the creatures and organizations regularly taking trillions from the government to bail them out whenever the economy turns south.

Book Reviews · Culturalism · Uncategorized

No Clear Answer

In a futile effort to save more trees, I will at times use this digital scroll as a repository for random notes. Here we have an interesting tidbit from Edmund White’s biography on Marcel Proust, page 43. It actually stems from reference to The Guermantes Way, in which the Jew called Bloch asks a former French official by the name of Norpois what he thinks of the dramatic Dreyfus Affair. Norpois proceeds to avoid the question repeatedly by hiding behind rhetorical camouflage. The piece’s narrator then observes about Norpois:

“…the maxims of his political wisdom being applicable only to questions of form, of procedure, of expediency, they were powerless to solve questions of fact as, in philosophy, pure logic is powerless to tackle to the problems of existence…”

I cannot think of a better summary for our modern system of political grandstanders and toothless business leaders.   

Economic History · Uncategorized

Moderates Don’t Parallel

Warning: clichés may abound in this piece. Take a swig of mineral water and hunker down for the long haul.

I like to think of myself as being fairly rational. This is obviously a self-serving perception, but at least in relation to the blaring shrieks of our mainline political animals, the shoe fits. Stories which the media deems as “outrageous” don’t shake me much at all, because in almost every case there is a less radical idea behind the headline.

But exceptions exist. Still in this case I am capable of absorbing the information without becoming irate, although it is certainly disturbing. Officials in the German province of Saxony have announced they will be repurposing refugee camps to detain people who violate COVID quarantine guidelines. According to regional Interior Minister Roland Wöller: “I assume that these will be very, very few cases. At the moment, none is known.”

Oh, he assumes. How comforting. Now consider the context for a minute. German authorities are repurposing refugee camps (and presumably releasing the existing foreigners) while putting their own citizens in cages for the mere crime of visiting family or breaking some draconian curfew. Detention orders must be approved by a court, but we already know the history of Germany’s judicial system well enough. Don’t expect much civil libertarian opposition from judges.

The parallels to 1930s regimes are obvious, but that doesn’t get at the real issue. At least those models were open and unabashed about their intent towards dissidents or enemies, so one can prepare themselves. In the modern day, we have a German state run by the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party, two apparently moderate forces meant to defend freedom. A perfect pair to undermine peoples’ rights under the guise of consent and franchise.

What’s more, our brains have become so inundated with WWII dramas and propaganda that many cannot make logical connections unless the aesthetic is absolutely similar. Merkel’s pantsuits aren’t military uniforms, which means she is a believer in democracy, because that’s how democrats look. As for Trump, who a actually opposed the lockdowns and quarantine arrests, he’s an evil fascist, because feelings.

Pray fair the humanity.

Culturalism · Uncategorized

The Ward

I pass through your doors, and smell forever death. Not the rotting corpse, but its vivid anticipation. Fear.  Those bashful eyes, peeping above a mask blue to white, sensing weighted antimony. How long? Who is imbued with knowledge? A few beings hope, swaddled in great white jackets, speaking as if sure, while we wait clueless.  

Sudden. The denizen catches this  glance, dazzling more terror. Myself the cause I disbelieve. Something else must speak. Could empathy well within? Aye, yet never still the twin fashion. That poor soul 72, frail to the saunter. I cannot know his fear, walking as I do on water. When the invisible beings sneer I laugh, he alone quavers. He alone prays.

Ring, answer, answering.  How many cry after chance, for guarantee? Too late, none remain. Try with new sun. Alas, but can they afford to? I fall back to tempt myself. Give the slot, let them enjoy. Swift it perishes. How more will I earn depleted units? There are others who fear, others with currency. They craft mint paper bonds, strongest of manacles. Dismiss the moral shriek.

Finally, she beckons. Sit, clothespin finger, wrap your arm, feel it close to burst. Enough. Spears in the nostril. The vision floods. Wait now, a printed vein of trees. Sainted in truth. The white robe says be well. Past three masking shields, almost genuine. He says sorry for waiting, but I feel sorry for him.

Clear. An open passage shines. Depart high feeling, thoughts to know freedom. Two steps more. Disaster. I see his stare anew. Older, worn, tragic. Burdens for that soul to live, I carry the pain-thing forever. Brushes never rest.    

Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Uncategorized

Break Their Fall

The older I get, the less enjoyable or exciting any “black pill” realization becomes. It might speak to the sad state of affairs currently showcased, but in reality a cosmic manifestation of elitist gall is the culprit. Rather than hiding their malevolence, the dominant players of our time have settled into an open, unapologetic method of communicating intent. Thus we as observers are left to endorse rather blasé attitudes in the face of searing rain, at once feeling the discomfort but taking solace in the fact that its arrival could be predicted from a long ways off.

A perfect example of this lies in the wondrous implications of the Dodd-Frank legislation signed by President Obama in 2013. The landmark legislation was celebrated for supposedly raining in the excesses of Wall Street (a highly dubious claim), and is regularly cited by leftists to show the successes of 44. At the same time, the mammoth bill put forward some rather interesting features that drop hints about what is to come.

In reaction to the controversy over government-funded bailouts of banks, the legislation permits such institutions to maintain solvency by pursuing a strategy of “bail-ins,” an option which involves seizure of a large percentage of customer assets to keep the firm afloat. Due to protections bolstering derivatives on the totem pole of importance, users with regular checking and savings accounts might well be subjected to the experience of people in Cyprus, who lost tremendously after a financial crisis on the island.

What’s really lamentable about the whole matter concerns how little attention it has received. The stock market continues to return stimulus-induced profits, Congress is just barely approaching a COVID deal after months of haggling, and an incompetent geriatric is poised to become president in January. But this bit of legal scribbling, which stands to produce disastrous effects in the very real future, is remanded to the likes of The Epoch Times, an alleged “fake news” paper.

I suppose the natural response is to dive deeper into Bitcoin, yet even on that front the waters are becoming murkier. Mnuchin the Moocher has taken first blood, and I would not expect Yellen to be much different. The steady swill of power and corporate greed seems to overtake everyone, no matter the designs of their sacred oaths and professed beliefs.

Perhaps we should buy land.

Culturalism · Personal Finance · Uncategorized

Monuments To Nothing

As a teenager I rode the local commuter bus to college in the days before I could afford a car. It was an interesting experience, particularly due to all the interesting characters I would come across, from government-paid drivers ranting about the dangers of socialism, to the historically butthurt claiming fares were racist. On an especially rainy day, when the bus was emptier than usual, a guy about my age struck up conversation about philosophy and life. “Mark,” as he called himself, was concerned over the decay of society, a matter being expressed in various forms, but especially so with the bland nature of architecture, which he saw as communicating nothingness and unoriginality. We ended the discourse at my stop with a handshake, and ventured off into that somber world.

I only saw Mark once after that day, this time in passing, but his message has struck me as immeasurably profound with each passing year. Even a cursory look at new developments tells the undoubting tale: the objective is functionality, not art or community. Take a glance over here, for instance:

Pretentious vinyl siding rushes about the landscape’s face, displacing any alternatives, such as wood, stone, or brick. The colors are drab stains of white or gray, cut through only by the random placement of windows giving no evidence of skilled impression apart from the tablet-fed blueprints of Toll Brothers and their associated clan. The double back doors are imprisoned by cheap-looking baby gates drilled into the siding – a final insult for those unwilling to pay for the full wooden deck model. Those so fortunate to spend the additional $20,000 can relish their descent into a yard of astro-turf grass, green and cordoned as expected.

What prevails in these models is a stark sense of disinterest in creating the classical vignette of a close-knit neighborhood. The homes (or townhomes) stand there to serve as miserable and costly testaments to the need for proximity to a commuter route, and thus Wonder Bread on the table. Anything else is beneath slight importance. After all, with “smart” devices and the surveillance witch machine, why should anyone care about their fellow residents?

The basic necessities approach pales utterly in contrast to traditional German-American visions in the Midwest, which were driven by a sense that neighborhoods and buildings ought to forge ties between those within, and reflect the dynamism of community. While house models might have been similar to start with, the final touches insisted on showcasing the unit as representative of that family. The neighborhood as a whole was meant to inspire common pride and unity, as opposed to mainline consumerist isolationism.

In many respects, modern architecture highlights our civic and cultural slouching towards mediocrity. To have something unique, one must become a collector, or maybe restore the ancient structures yet remaining. Trying to select a custom model in new residential areas is next to impossible, because everyone is expected to be the same, and observe rules issued by the tyranny of a HOA. Conformity now holds paramount importance, with the vestiges of uniqueness best expressed by a new set of wheels—themselves paid for by overextended credit and bitter squalor. Defiance only comes on the heels of financial turmoil.  So we distance ourselves, obey post-liberal rules, and settle behind the big screen for the brain-melting ganache of Netflix.

Perhaps Mark was righter than he knew. I’d like to tell him so, but that would require a world build upon  community.

Uncategorized

The Eternal Disease

Some years back I made a video entitled “The Eternal War Problem.” As a visual message, it was designed to outline how national governments had stumbled upon the perfect trump card to ensure more centralized power and increased spending: the “War on Terror.” Obviously such a conflict can never truly be won, because somewhere a terrorist will always exist, no matter if the militant organization itself agrees to make peace. Even if baddies were to entirely disappear in one area, the feds could always claim the threat of an attack is too high, and thus justify continued surveillance.

As I walked through the mall today, it dawned on me that the government has a new, endearing option at its bureaucratic fingertips: the VIRUS. Prior to the period beginning around March of 2020, diseases and viruses existed as a fact of life. People took ill, some recovered, and others died. We hoped for cures as technology improved, but death was accepted as the undesirable dynamic down the road. The world did not stand still, notwithstanding how much pain can be felt inside human emotions.

Not anymore. It began with the lockdowns, shifted to mask mandates, morphed into face shields, and now glowers at “walking pods.” What’s bizarre about it all is that these ludicrous measures now seem normal, if not noble. Failing to abide by the strictures, even in open areas where coverings are not mandated, results in the snarling expressions of short-haired white females like those I experienced at the mall. “Shame on you for not being as scared as me,” their eyes seem to spit.

dats rite

Unsurprisingly, the government is smiling. Because corona will mutate, if not get replaced by another disease, there will never be a moment when restrictions can be relaxed. You might catch something, they will shriek, before dutifully reporting violations to Officer Murphy and his bourgeoisie defense patrol. A high-risk person might be in your home, on your toilet, or two miles away at Wendy’s; that doesn’t matter, but the wanton disregard for human life means harsh penalties and consequences.

The accepting nature of coronacels makes it far easier to compile a database on “non-compliant” souls. Whosoever pulls the mask from their stone face shall not become King of England, but rather the newest entry into Madam Mim’s Patriot Act cookbook. I can already see the smug faces of self-assured citizen security monitors, pleasantly noting “Serves you right,” as innocents are drawn up in manacles for public quarter. The same creatures who go home and watch The Man In The High Castle with dumbfound reactions of, “Nah, that could never happen here.”

Even easier for authorities will be the expansion of testing. If corona is a threat, than what else should be included? Are folks bound to lose all rights to their physical person because they could possibly pose a risk? Perhaps the swabs will enter other unique regions by federal order, with refusal netting high fines, if not a freezing of financial accounts altogether. Anything it takes to feel safe.

Do my words frighten you? Then grab a mask.

Uncategorized

OBEY

Long before the rise of Donaldo, the Plural Left decided to use appeals to dictatorship and oppression as a means of destroying their opponents. Their favorite method is comparisons between modern America and Nazi Germany, except that the GOP somehow replaces those spooky German steppers atop a cruel big business regime bent on crushing the rights of minorities through force and propaganda.  The last word has an interesting ring because it causes us to invoke the old newsreels of the 1930s, plus elaborate posters meant to sway public minds. Get in line and obey appears to be the thumping order, given by some totalitarian leader or leading general.

I agree wholeheartedly with their conclusions, albeit in the realm of caveats. There certainly does exist an empowered propaganda arm driving social opinions, but it hardly can be seen as conservative or even Republican in nature. Rather, organizations have closed ranks to promote their interests in a manner at this junction indistinguishable from the brush-washed images of times past.

Let’s start with access to information. The other day I happened to be visiting a relative’s house when I noticed the following messages on their Windows 10 login screen:

Indeed, people merely attempting to use a workstation now have live updates telling them what to read, always from approved sources. To the dumb and youthful, this will strike as a great way to get involved and fight the power, even if they are simply being indoctrinated. One might make a compelling argument that cultural Marxists have finally succeeded in extending pas the flailing universities to enter homes across America, despite supposed right-wing “resistance.”

From the springboard of social brainwashing, obedience-makers can begin to recruit delusional organisms into their political army. Check out the following email from Coursera, describes the Far-Left Rock the Vote group as “non-partisan,” and encourages students to cast their ballots:

Assuming voting is not enough, lemmings also enjoy the possibility of reporting small businesses for real or imaginary racism to the Yelp secret police:

Perhaps companies who fall prey to any negative claims can beg Yelp for forgiveness and provide the financial sacrifice necessary to clear their public name. Alternatively, they might get burned down by the aggressive proponents of social change. Either way, loyalty to the burgeoning mainstream prevails.

The attainment of love is set to require State or corporate approval as well. In no less than two dating apps I have found propagandistic messages promoting domestic terrorist groups and, in the case of Bumble, requiring users to agree. Yes, that’s right. There is no mere acknowledgement; every person using the app is mandated to concur with the owners, or otherwise lose functionality:

Looking at this deluge of brain construction, Upton Sinclair’s quote about Fascism coming to America under the guise of cultural norms deserves some adjustment. Forget about the Cross, as churches can simply be shut down due to a pandemic, and the American Flag is merely a hygienic item for BLM leaders. Whatever arrives upon our shores will be bearing a rainbow pennant with social justice PPV streamed on Netflix.