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Thursday, August 11, 2011


The last decade and more I have spent with books on just about any subject, with emphasis on politics, governance, social systems, religions, economics, and other. CSPAN 1, 2 and now 3 are my regulars, plus the Wall Street Journal editorial pages supply a broad education that I consider to be as close to reality as is possible in the mass media.. Some times I feel that I begin to get a glimmer of how this “free enterprise system” works; then I watch the goings-on in Washington D.C. in complete bafflement. How can we mess things up so badly? Good grief already, just keep your hands and your legislation off this free enterprise system--it may just work to our total amazement! I’m currently into a book “Basic Economics” by Thomas Sowell who writes op ed pieces and is carried in the Bismarck Tribune once a week. It’s a 600 page plus book and is a bit more than basic, I would say. Sowell carries the subject well and spends very little time criticizing the actions of specific presidents, but he does examine the causes that prompt actions and decisions, and then examines the effects versus the intended effects. As I am nearly through the book it is clear that the United States economic system is far, far from the free market free enterprise system that we think we have. How can we mess this up so badly?

In one of my readings this came up--I don’t recall where or who said it: The top 5% of working people put in more working hours than do the bottom 20% of working people. Today an op ed in the Bismarck Tribune by Roger Cohen writes: “Time for the U.S. to awaken”; talking about jobs and employment he says Germany has an unemployment rate of 6% and attributes that to “government and corporations have cooperated to keep jobs”. That really sounds good, and by implication Cohen is saying we should/could do the same here in the U.S. Let’s examine this: Germany has a segment of population that does not work although they are working age and are fit to work; they are no longer counted in the employable numbers--they are on some government program or another and no longer go to a job nor do they look for work because there is none for them. How convenient to the national statistics.

This same numbers game is done in France, as well. How about the United  States? American unemployment rate is 9.1% which, according to President Obama, is really good considering how G.W. Bush messed up. However, not mentioned is the non-working people in the U.S. who are no longer carried on the unemployment statistics. What is our real number? Some estimate that our true unemployed number is in the low 20% range. Is that where some of the deficit is going? To keep an additional 11% of our able-bodied people in idleness?

Why work if the benefits of not working are as good as working? Why get out of the house and brave the elements when the food stamps arrive through the mail in a magnetic stripe card? The heating allowance comes in the mail? The unemployment check comes in the mail? The tax preparer does a free return to the IRS who will send a check in the mail for Earned Income Tax Credit. Medicaid is in place for you. Why work?

Freebies abound! There are meals--and taxi rides--and food pantries to go to if you find the time. The Wall Street Journal article by James Brovard on June 22 says food stamps cost has risen from $33 billion in 2007 to $77 billion in 2011; the increase in people went from 29 million in 2007 to 44 million persons in 2011 which is close to 15% of our total population. It is clear to see how the top 5% of working people work more than do the bottom 20%.. Our congressional  Democrats and the President are saying we have to raise taxes on the high earners because the people at the lower end are needy! Our “needy” are doing quite well: according to another writer; our needy people have a color television, cell phones, microwave ovens, blackberries, air conditioning, and a car. Not too Spartan for someone classified as “in poverty”.

The vote on raising the budget ceiling is coming soon. My sense is the Republicans, with public and moral support from the Tea Party, should hold out for significant spending cuts that cannot be circumvented or delayed. If this cannot be locked in before the deadline in August then Secretary of the Treasury Geithner should leave office. Secondly: the payments of bills by the treasury will be arranged to make the timely payments to our creditors; certain bills and obligations may be deferred on a cash flow basis. This is no different than a business would do when cash flow gets tight. This will force our congress people to get their act together! This will bring the President to the table!

The President has been absent from this crisis so far, and his lack of involvement to date needs to come to the attention of the American voters. The campaign of 2012 has just started.


Hal is a ND native who grew up near McClusky. Hal and his wife Lois live in Bismarck  and have four children and eight grand children.

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