Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Declaration of Dependence

How many of us still “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”?

As July 4, 2012 approaches, it’s the essential question. After all, 53% of Americans voted for a president in 2008 who doesn’t seem to hold these truths. In several speeches after he was inaugurated, he left out the three essential words “by our Creator” when quoting from the Declaration of Independence. One was in a speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus during which he paused and fluttered his eyelids, as if he were suffering an involuntary tick lasting a second or two - and then proceeded to leave out those critical three words. It didn’t seem like an accidental oversight to me. It seemed deliberate. Click the link here and watch for yourself. What percentage of Americans will vote for him again in four months? It’s the essential question of the age.The words are revolutionary. All the signers at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence agreed with them and placed their lives and property in danger when they signed because if they lost the ensuing revolution, they would be hanged and their property confiscated. They knew that. They believed in a Creator with a capital C. They believed in liberty. They were willing to die for those beliefs. How many of us are willing to die for them now? My guess is not so many.The principle upon which our country was founded is that our rights come from God, but it looks like Americans today don’t believe that. They tend to believe instead that our rights come from government, and an increasing number don’t believe there is any such thing as a God. Most sit back as secularists chip away at religious freedoms in schools, in the military, and virtually every public place whether local, state, or federal. Provisions of Obamacare now require churches to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, which those churches consider murderous. This has sparked a major backlash among Catholics - the largest Christian denomination in America. Catholics initiated their “Fortnight For Freedom” campaign last week in which they declare their unwillingness to obey this Obama’s mandate.Secularists think they can create a perfect society without God because people are inherently good. They think government is the vehicle for their utopian creation. Believers, however, hold that all men are sinners, and don’t see any possibility of utopia this side of heaven. They see government as a necessary evil which, if allowed to get too powerful, can create hell on earth.Then there’s the Declaration’s right to liberty, which the World English Dictionary defines as: “the power of choosing, thinking, and acting for oneself; freedom from control or restriction.” What follows, of course, is taking responsibility for those choices. Liberty also carries the right to fail in our “pursuit of happiness.” The Declaration doesn’t guarantee it - only its pursuit.Conservative Americans believe liberty is the most important right. Leftists believe equality is more important. If some Americans succeed in pursuing happiness - or property, as it was originally written - leftists like President Obama believe government should confiscate it and distribute it to Americans who didn’t pursue it, or if the did, were unsuccessful in their efforts to obtain it. Leftists do this not only make them happy, but to persuade them to vote for leftist candidates who will pursue more redistribution. This is what America is becoming. Leftist redistribution schemes stifle our fabled American initiative and inventiveness, and consequently stifle our economy too. We’re losing our liberty - our freedom from government control and restriction. That is what’s bringing Europe down, and it will bring us down too if we allow it to continue. We’re seeing lately that Americans don’t want liberty so much as they want government to take care of them. That’s the trend.America used to attract people from all around the world who wanted to experience liberty - to build a life for themselves without government control. People who came here did that. Now, more than thirty percent of immigrants go right on welfare - twice the rate for native-born Americans - and many of them are illegal aliens as well. To get a second term, President Obama is appealing to people who see government as protecting their sexual liberties - and then making them dependent on government programs in every other aspect of their lives from cradle to grave. Those putting an X next to his name on November 6th would be endorsing a “Declaration of Dependence,” and spurning independence.On this Fourth of July, we should ask ourselves: Are we still a liberty-loving people, or have we become afraid of it?

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mainstream Media Racism

Our liberal Mainstream Media (MSM) has few qualms about stoking racial resentment. For example, we all know who the late Rodney King was. Why? Because we were bombarded with reports of his beating by members of the Los Angeles Police Department. Having seen the video countless times as every other American over forty has, I’m persuaded the police were much more violent than the situation seems to have called for - beating King with a nightstick after he was prone and kicking him as well. That’s very difficult to justify. Their acquittal led to the worst black riots in LA history, killing 53 people, injuring 2383, starting 7000 fires, damaging 3100 businesses, and numerous black racist assaults against whites and Koreans.

We all know who Trayvon Martin was too. Why? Because we’ve been bombarded with coverage of his death. We’ve seen countless images of him as a sweet, 12-year-old boy with soft eyes who died after buying some iced tea and Skittles. We’ve been told that his killer, George Zimmerman, is a “white Hispanic” racist who killed the sweet little kid because of he was black and he was wearing a “hoodie.” Later, it emerged that Trayvon was six foot three, was on suspension from school for drug offenses when he was killed, and had earlier been in possession of burglary tools and a bag of women’s jewelry. He also had a Twitter account on which he called himself “NO_LIMIT_N***A” (without the asterisks). He’d evidently claimed to have assaulted a bus driver on this account and chose a more recent picture of himself looking anything but the sweet little boy with skittles. You won't see it in the Mainstream Media though. Are any pictures available showing George Zimmerman as a nice young man? Probably, but you won't see those either.

The facts of the King case have been thoroughly aired, but not so the Martin case. That the MSM chooses to magnify some information about that unfortunate killing that serves their agenda and ignore other information that contradicts it is the problem. News anchors like Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer, Scott Pelley, and their ilk on CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, etc. would be indignant with the opening statement of this column and deny it vehemently, but it’s nonetheless true. They so over-report or sensationalize white-on-black crimes and so under-report or ignore black-on-white crimes, that Americans of all races get distorted views of what’s really happening out there.

More than 90% of blacks are killed by other blacks, but the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson don’t show up to protest those killings. Why not? Because they make their livings propagating the notion that young black men are under siege by a white power structure and not their own malignant subculture. In this, they’re assisted by the MSM who smugly think they know best what Americans should hear about and not hear about. Sharpton has his own show.Black-on-white crimes outnumber white-on-black crimes by a wide margin. According to Heather MacDonald writing in National Review Online:

There were two and a half times as many white and Hispanic victims of black killers in 2009 as there were black victims of white and Hispanic killers, even though the black population is one-sixth that of whites and Hispanics combined.

If you relied only on the MSM for your understanding of the problem, however, you’d likely conclude that it’s white racists who kill the most blacks. Young black men are far more dangerous to other young black men than white racists, but that’s not what the MSM depicts. And why is that? Because it doesn’t fit the collective world-view of the coastal, urban, elite, liberal, cocktail-party set that comprises the MSM. When Senator Barack Obama described red-state America as comprised of people who “get bitter and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy towards people who aren’t like them as a way to explain their frustrations,” he mirrored MSM condescension toward the broad middle of America. He was speaking to elite liberals in Marin County. To them, we’re ignorant rubes. We’re not as sophisticated as they are, so we can’t possibly understand that we are the problem. Young black male killers? They’re our victims. If MSM reporters really want to look for racists, they'll find more looking in the mirror.

Making things worse, young black men see the same skewed MSM reports and believe them. As a result, many feel justified when they target whites, Jews, or Asians. Some sing about it and the Hollywood elite glorifies their (c)rap “music” with televised award ceremonies. They even get invited to the White House.
The Mainstream Media are steadily losing audience share because they’re not the only show in town anymore. Americans are getting more balanced reports from alternative sources which reflect more accurately what they see around them, and that’s going to continue. Meanwhile, we’ll just have to deal with the widely-held misperceptions resulting from decades of skewed MSM reporting.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Government Fixes

I’m learning first-hand lately why so many business people are frustrated with government.

Not knowing much about the stock market, I persuaded my wife to invest our savings, which were in cash, in a house. Watching how the Federal Reserve is printing trillions of dollars with its “quantitative easing,” I figured cash wasn’t a good thing to hold.The house was a Fannie Mae foreclosure and we negotiated the price down as far as we could. When Fannie Mae took it back from the previous owners last fall, it hired a fly-by-night outfit to winterize it and that’s where the problems began.We wanted to carry a small mortgage on it so we could fix it up and rent it out, but we couldn’t get a low-interest mortgage loan because Fannie Mae, to whom our local bank would sell the mortgage, requires that the house be appraised.

We couldn’t get it appraised, however, because the seller is also Fannie Mae, and they couldn’t get it de-winterized. An appraiser has to come in and see everything working, but the fly-by-night outfit they hired to winterize it screwed up. The boiler cracked. Pipes burst. Fannie Mae didn’t want to spend the money to fix all that so we couldn’t get it appraised and qualify for the mortgage under Fannie Mae’s rules for mortgages - which banks must obey.Okay. Stuff happens, right? We negotiated the price down still further to cover the repairs and bought the house with cash. I figured we’d use a home equity line of credit on my existing home (which had been paid for) to fix up the investment house enough that it could be appraised, and then we’d qualify for a Fannie Mae-approved mortgage on it in just a few months.That was my plan, at least, until I discovered we couldn’t do that. Why? Fannie Mae regulations again. They say we have to wait a year before we can put a mortgage on the investment house we just paid cash for. After the sub-prime mortgage debacle - which Fannie Mae largely caused - they made another regulation to prevent house-buyers from taking out second mortgages. Didn’t matter that we wanted a first mortgage, Fannie Mae regulations prevent banks from writing any kind of mortgage until after we’ve owned it for a year.

Meanwhile I have this home-equity loan on my previously-all-paid-for primary residence with a variable interest rate. It’s only 4% - and that’s not bad - but it’s variable. The payments are easy now, but what will happen to interest rates in a year? Nobody knows, and that makes me nervous. All that Federal Reserve dollar-printing is bound to kick off major inflation and I’m worried that it will drive up interest rates before a year has elapsed.

So, I’ve applied for a fifteen-year mortgage on my primary residence and locked in a rate. I won’t need the fifteen years, but I might just take them anyway. If inflation does go up to 12% or higher like it did under President Carter, I’ll pay off the 3.25% mortgage with inflated dollars over the whole term. My local bank is savvy enough to understand that possibility, but like most banks they’re going to sell my mortgage immediately to Fannie Mae, so why should they care? Fannie Mae will be left holding the bag. That means government will be left holding the bag. That means the taxpayers will be left holding the bag, and I’m a taxpayer. No wonder Fannie Mae has to be bailed out so often.There’s an old Yankee expression that goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Government, however, has a different outlook: “If it ain’t broke, we’re gonna keep on fixing it ‘til it is broke.” That’s the thinking it's been applying to the housing market. Now it’s “fixing” health care.

The house has aluminum siding, but the trim and the porch need scraping and painting, so I tried to hire a local contractor to do that. He looked at it and said that he doesn’t want to scrape it because the house was built in 1920 and government requires him to pay take a $500, several-day course in how to scrape any lead paint which might be on there, then buy a special license for hundreds more. He doesn’t want to do all that and who can blame him? If he goes ahead and scrapes it, he could be fined $37,000. But, he said, the homeowner can do it himself. So, guess what I’m doing this summer? The contractor will come in and paint it when I’m done.

I hired a heating contractor to install an energy-efficient boiler and he told me I would qualify for government grants if I bought the right one. I went online though and discovered that it’s all been spent. None left for me. I had to pay into that program with my taxes, but it won’t get anything back.

I’m going to add insulation in the attic and replace a few windows too. There were government programs to help if I bought the right windows and I did, but guess what? I’m too late. Money’s all gone for that too. Oh well.
 By August, I should be done with all the work and it’ll be ready to rent. What are the chances that between now and then I’ll be stalled again by more regulations I don’t know about yet? Pretty good is my guess.

Government is going to fix our economy? I don’t think so.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Greater Depression Looming?

Baby boomers like me grew up hearing endless stories of the Great Depression. My father’s family was poorest, lacking food and fuel, both of which my father said he had to scavenge. I’d listen to them and ask questions like, “What caused it?” Now I realize that few if any of them knew themselves, but wouldn’t admit it because they figured they should know. Their attempts to answer only added to my confusion.

My own research indicated that, aside from Dust Bowl droughts in the midwest, infrastructure remained intact. Yet economic activity slowed down or stopped, putting many out of work and into breadlines. That’s what baffled me. Why couldn’t it just crank back up and relieve everyone’s misery?

It was around that time that Uncle Joe became a professor of business and economics so I asked him. He offered a long answer about stock market bubbles, margin calls and runs on banks that produced a general lack of confidence. I pictured a car in the driveway that was undamaged, but had a dead battery and needed a jump start. My uncle was a Keynesian and believed strongly in Franklin Roosevelt’s attempts to jumpstart American’s economy through deficit spending. He had no doubt about the prevailing myth that FDR “got us out of the Depression” with New Deal spending. I bought it too - then. Now I’m persuaded that FDR only prolonged it. Worse, the social programs he introduced which were expanded under Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have created a huge entitlement bubble which is about to burst. The effects of that bursting will be worse than the Great Depression stories with which I grew up.Unemployment - worst since the Great Depression - dominates American consciousness. It’s even worse than May’s 8.2% figure because another 88 million Americans of working age are not working and not looking for a job either. How do they survive? Entitlement checks and other government assistance, mostly, and working in the underground economy too - the statistics for which are difficult to determine by nature. So what do they do? Watch daytime TV? Go on Facebook? Eat Chitos and fatten up? What happens when the checks stop?And they will stop or be cut back hard, one way or another. They have to. We’re borrowing 40% of the money to back them up now, so what happens when our credit dries up? Print more dollars? How long will that go on before the dollars people get when they cash the checks are worthless? It’s a scenario I don’t like to imagine, but I know it’s on the horizon.

What will it look like? We’re about to get a preview in Greece. As one pundit put it, Greeks expect Germans to work until they’re 67 so they can retire at 50. Germans expect Greeks to grow up and pay their own way. Greeks borrowed so much to finance their welfare state that their credit is drying up. They’ll go into default in weeks, and lately they’re electing governments who blame “the rich” for their problems, not their own laziness and profligate spending. Soon they’ll have to trade in their Euros for drachmas, but what will the exchange rate be? How many drachmas will the leftist government print after that? What happens when Greeks spend them and discover they’re worthless?
Just suggesting small cutbacks on their entitlements caused Greeks to riot in the streets of Athens, throwing Molotov cocktails at police and setting buildings on fire. What will happen when they’re actually cut off? Civil War? Some are predicting it. Will Greece survive as a nation-state? If not, who will move into the breach?When conservative Governor Scott Walker wanted teachers and other public employees in Wisconsin to pay just 12% of their health insurance and just 5% of the cost of their pensions, they stormed the state capitol and trashed it. Union thugs from all over the country poured into Wisconsin demanding that Walker be removed. California, Illinois and New York are on the verge of bankruptcy too.

Greeks lived as though the gravy train would go on forever, but crunch time in the form of default is only weeks away for them. Americans are living much the same way. Most cannot imagine their government entitlements being cut back or eliminated. Very few politicians besides Ron Paul want to tell them either for fear of losing reelection, but the problem doesn’t go away just because we’re ignoring it. Some of us know crunch time is pretty close for us as well.

This time, the causes are pretty clear. Obama’s resurrection of Keynesian economics has not only failed, it has made things worse by accelerating American decline as measured by an out-of-control debt that rivals Greece’s.That Governor Walker staved off the government unions in Tuesday’s recall election is a sign that maybe Americans are waking up to the fiscal crisis we’re in, especially given that Wisconsin is a left-wing state. Maybe there’s hope that America will step back from the precipice in November and avoid another Great Depression.

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