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Striking a Nerve

Kevin Raymond September 26, 2011 Freedom by Friday 4 Comments on Striking a Nerve

Well, well I am glad that there is life out there after-all. Politics is not the main focus of this forum. But, let’s talk about it anyway since it does have major implications vis a vis the markets today. Whether you’re a Dem, a Republican or and Independent, one thing is for sure – we can all admit that this country (the US) is not where we want to be. It probably has not been for a long while. But, as Buffett said once, “we only find out who isn’t wearing a bathing suit when the tide goes out”. And, the tide is quickly receding on the American Era. Whether you want to admit that or not, is up to you.

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Can it change? Can we stem the tide? Can the American “dream” be reborn? Can Ron Paul be President?

America is changing as we speak. It is gaining momentum to the downside. First, look at our government. The people hate it with a passion. Regardless of party affiliation, the consensus is clear – it’s broken. It looks like a bad marriage on its last legs, just before the divorce. Blame is everywhere; dysfunction is the rule of the day. Ultimatums are thrown back and forth and the kids are powerless to do anything. It’s chaos with moments of sanity. The debt debate was a great example. These bozos didn’t just show up on Capitol Hill, we put them there and now it’s turned into a really bad “reality show” and the blame lays squarely on the shoulders of the electorate.

Take the Tea Party and the zero tax pledge. Well, that’s a really mature position. Never raise taxes again. Ever. Under any circumstance. If you buy into this and don’t complain when your social security check is halved and when you are waiting in line for three months for an MRI. It may not affect you, because you’re grandfathered in, but it will affect your grandkids. I’m all for reform of entitlements – Social Security was a safety net that was devised at a time when there were more workers than retirees. Today that equation is changing. It’s not politics, it’s math. So, if you like the Tea Party, be aware that their platform will eventually mean radical surgery to the entitlement programs as we know them. For those of you who want to comment on this, please be sure that you check your hypocrisy at the door.

Now, the Democrat Party has it’s own agenda. It wants to redistribute wealth through taxation and it wants to over-regulate. It wants to socialize medicine and eliminate “right to work” in favor of unionization. And, it wants to slice the defense budget in half.

The Republicans who are fond of talking up deficit reduction and tax reform are doing their part to spend us into oblivion as well. Two wars that cost in excess of $2 trillion dollars seem to be tidily tucked under the carpet, as is the future cost of treating the men and women who will return from these conflicts. Tax reform to them means lower taxes for everyone, a grand gesture, but one that will NOT pay for the very same entitlements that they are so fond of keeping whenever they are challenged by the very same constituency that claims they are in favor of cutting debt.

We live in a selfish country that wants cuts in spending…but for everyone else.

So, enter Ron Paul. He comes across as a sane individual who espouses a platform that for the most part makes sense. But, that is precisely the reason, as I stated before, that he will not get elected. Just one of his pledges, to decimate defense spending, will be enough to keep him off the ballot in 2012. Defense spending plays to the paranoia of the populace and it plays well and loud. Sensible politics left the Washington stage a long time ago.

Is there a solution? Yes, there is. But it requires sacrifice in the short-term and a major adjustment to reality. Something few people, other than the readers of this forum, are willing to make.

Entitlement spending must be cut through benefit reduction for those who earn a lot of money. Not just reduced, but cut completely. Social Security is a safety net for the greater good of society. To protect those who cannot afford, for whatever reason, to fend for themselves in their OLD age. The argument that we all pay in and we should all get back is great in theory, but in practice we cannot afford to get paid, but neither do we want to see OLD people, DISABLED people, and MENTALLY unstable people on the streets picking through garbage. If you want to see what that looks like – look no further than Russia today where more than 40% of the population wants to leave the country and where the people in all-caps above are doing exactly what people without any means of survival are doing. So, suck it up and let go of that $1,000 a month benefit if all that it’s doing is paying for your golf dues or that extra car.

Defense spending must be cut. Do we need to have military bases all over the world? Do we need to protect Europe and Japan? Do we need to re-arm the air force with new jets when we have already established over and over again that there is no superior military power in the air today than the US Air Force?

Cut the pork barrel spending that is put forth by lobbying efforts. Politicians are no longer looking out for the good of the people as a whole, but for specific constituencies that will pad their coffers and pay for election year spending. It’s not a secret that the politicians work for the lobbyists.

Tort reform should be part of any agenda to reduce health costs. Doctors make mistakes – everyone makes mistakes. People have accidents when you put them behind the wheel of a car. People make stupid errors in judgment and should be penalized. But, when lawyers have free reign to egg on lawsuits through infomercials aimed at people looking for a “free ride”, the system is broken.

Tax reform – real tax reform. Capital gains taxes should be tied directly to job creation. You create jobs, and your capital gains from that business should be lower when it is sold. Capital gains should not be able to be substituted as income tax as is currently the case when it comes to financial gains that are created through Wall Street and not helpful in creating jobs.

Savers should be encouraged by eliminating taxes on interest received. For long run financial security people should be rewarded for saving for their own retirement, not penalized.

There is so much more that can be done relatively easily to reform the current system. But, it will be painful for all involved as it must be when the patient is on life-support. We didn’t just find ourselves here over night and thinking that we will find our way out overnight is juvenile. There has to be balance and changes must occur over time or the shock to the system will make even the most ardent critics wince in pain. It’s easy to armchair quarterback and hindsight is great if you’re living in the past. The way forward is going to be difficult, make no mistake. But, if you truly want a better investment climate in the future for yourself and those grandkids everyone is always talking about then it’s time to walk that walk.

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