Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fed policy and asset inflation

In these recent weeks of market turmoil, I have been affirmed in my respect for Ron Paul's economy policies. One view I have not bought completely into, though, is that the Fed should be completely dismantled; that its very existence creates the kind of problems we are experiencing now.

I came across an article today that blamed the housing bubble and stock market nosedive on the Fed - but not on the existence of the Fed. Instead, the author blames the 1995 decision of Alan Greenspan to jettison the policy of monetarism, which required limiting new money supplies to the rate of GDP growth.

Dow’s 40% Nosedive May Actually Turn Into a Safe Landing. Interesting reading.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Failure to engage

The political news recently has been hot with Obama's statements about single-issue voters. He said these people vote just based on one issue (gun rights, for example) instead of looking at bigger-picture items like economic policy because they don't trust politicians to follow through with economic promises.

I think he has a good point. But I don't think that's the only or even main reason so many people are single-issue voters. A bigger reason, in my opinion, is that economics, foreign relations, and other "bigger-picture" policies are very complicated.

If you own a gun, or have one in mind, and the government proposes to make that gun illegal, it's a simple decision to oppose it. Move on to which policies will best maintain U.S. influence in the world, however: people who spend their whole lives studying these issues have widely diverging viewpoints. So how is your average voter - who has to work, maintain a household, often be a caretaken for children or disabled relatives, have some sort of social and/or religious life, and, oh yeah, sleep - supposed to come to an informed decision on these issues?

Our politicians and news media try to reduce everything to soundbytes. Maybe single-issue voters realize soundbytes are not a basis for an informed decision, and so only vote on issues where they understand the impact of their vote. Our society has failed to engage these voters.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


NPR recently ran a story on the hyperinflation in Zimbabwe. The economist being interviewed compared the situation in Zimbabwe today with Germany in the post-WWI period. The inflation rates being talked about here mean prices of all goods double about every two days. Wait a week to spend your paycheck, and you might as well use it for wallpaper.

Why would people continue using money that lost half its value every two days? Why not start bartering or using some other form of money? Apparently, the government enforces a law requiring all wages to be paid in the government-approved currency. And so it can continue printing money out of thin air to pay its own bills, and force its citizens to suffer the consequences in the disruption of the economy.

Allowing only one government-approved currency in a country has only this type of abuse in mind. Allowing competing currencies would force government economic policy to focus on keeping the dollar the best choice, rather than forcing citizens to simply accept the inflation that results from excess printing of money.

Hyperinflation is not an immediate threat to the United States, but the results of today's economic policies may not be seen for decades. I would feel much more comfortable with our long-term economic outlook if alternative currencies were allowed to compete with the dollar. I'm glad there is at least one Congressman working to make this happen.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

He made me rethink my political views

I have long supported the government doing good works for its citizens. I do not want to be a member of a society that lets some of its people starve, or that denies education to some of its children. Sure, some programs I disagreed with, but I believed the correct course of action was to oppose the "bad" programs and support the "good" ones. Paul was the first person I came across who brought together the stories across the spectrum of government programs and explained how government interventions always, on balance, have negative effects. His supporters in forums I read pulled together wide-ranging examples of how private organizations had solved difficult problems in society - it can be done.

Health care is a big issue in this election. Our government has set up a system where it pays for some health care, and has led many people to believe it should pay for health care. With the result that neither the government nor any private organization helps the millions of Americans who need health care but cannot afford it. This is absolutely unacceptable in a nation as wealthy as ours, and I oppose the other Republican candidates who essentially want to maintain this status quo. I think the government ensuring access to medical care for everyone would be good. I now believe, thanks to Paul's writings and speeches, that the government completely getting out of the health care business would be even better. (Paul envisions a transition period of several decades would be necessary.) Somewhat ironically, Bill Clinton's promotion of his book Giving helped solidify my view on this. Clinton described how exciting it was to help an NGO that helped as many people as specific government programs, gave them a higher level of help, and at one-third the cost.

The extent to which the federal government has damaged the powers of the States had not been clear to me before. The federal government is less accountable to its electorate, has more entrenched programs resistant to improvement, has more wasteful bureaucracy, prevents comparisons of competing programs (as is possible when States try alternative ideas), and in general has a lot of negatives that go with, and in most cases outweigh, the positives of uniform program rules and wealth distribution across the nation.

I have a strong personal aversion to being in debt (I even own my house free and clear) and have long had a "feeling" that the national debt was a bad thing. Paul's explanation of how the national debt is driving inflation up and the value of the dollar down finally helped me understand in concrete terms the very real and very serious consequences of spending money on popular programs and opposing unpopular tax increases: what every politician does to get elected and re-elected. Except, apparently, for Paul, who has been elected ten times on a platform of opposing spending, and has never voted for an unbalanced budget. I have seen some news reports of others running as "Ron Paul Republicans" and I hope I will be able to offer my votes to this wing of politics for many election cycles to come.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

He stands by his principles

Ron Paul was a practicing OB/GYN for many years and has delivered over 4,000 babies. He has never accepted payments from Medicaid, instead offering discounted or pro-bono services to his patients in need.

Ron Paul has five children, all of whom attended college. He did not allow them to take out federally backed student loans.

Ron Paul has served ten terms in the House of Representatives. He has never participated in the pension program for Representatives, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ron Paul's Congressional office returns a portion of its budget to the U.S. Treasury every year.

He has a long history of forgoing significant personal gain in order to follow his principles. This is the type of man I would like to see as President of my country.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The question of Israel

I emailed my rabbi asking his opinion on Ron Paul and Israel. My rabbi was kind enough to reply. For him, Paul's non-interventionist position toward Israel was a deal breaker, although he acknowledged there are other issues important to Jews when voting.

For myself, I do not see Paul's position toward Israel as something I disagree with but will put up with because of other strong points. Rather, Paul's non-interventionist foreign policy is one of the big reasons I like him, and that includes its application to Israel. Here's a summary of my rabbi's arguments for the U.S. giving preferential treatment to Israel, and my own reasons for disagreeing:

Non-interventionism is not always the right policy
Even before Pearl Harbor prompted the U.S. to enter its own military into WWII, we supported our ally Britain against Nazi Germany. Pearl Harbor was in part prompted by our economic sanctions of Japan opposing their side in the war. And the Holocaust was certainly something where intervention was the right thing to do.

However, we are currently not facing anything like the Holocaust - except in Sudan, where our current interventionist government is not doing anything anyway. (If you're not familiar with the horrors that have occured in the Darfur region of Sudan the past few years, I encourage you to read some of the resources offered at Save Darfur.) In the world today, absent a candidate willing to send military force into Sudan, non-interventionism is the best policy for the United States.

Israel is one of the most committed allies to the United States
They like our money and the implication of our military protecting their interests in the region, sure, and will use whatever influence they have to support the U.S.'s interests in return. However, I'm not impressed with the influence Israel has in international politics. If anything, the international community's negative opinion of Israel is spread to the United States because of our strong relationship, actually weakening America's position in defending our own interests.

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East
If America wants to promote democracy around the world, my rabbi argues we should support countries that are democracies. That's a nice sentiment, but the truth is Israel's form of government has nothing to do with our support for them. The influential neoconservative movement believes we need to put our military bases all around the world anywhere anyone will let us - especially in the Middle East which has all that oil the neoconservatives believe we can't live without. Many evangelical Christians, also an influential group in America, believe the existence of the State of Israel is necessary to set the stage for the Second Coming of Jesus. Combined, the influence of these two groups mean the U.S. would support Israel even if it were a bloody dictatorship.

Supporting Israel as a democracy while supporting an oppressive monarchy in Saudi Arabia and using the CIA to install a dictator in Iran (overthrowing a democratically elected government in the process) is not a way to spread democracy. The U.S. breaks everything it touches when it comes to international intervention. We need to start spreading our values by example, not at the point of a gun.

Withdrawing U.S. monetary support for Israel would be a death sentence for that country
Israel has peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, two important neighbors. Israel has one of the most technologically advanced militaries in the world. Israel has nuclear bombs. I do not believe losing a few billion dollars a year would cause a state with a GDP of $170 billion to collapse. Operating without that support would actually free Israel to pursue its own interests, rather than feeling forced to toe the U.S. line - a line at least some Zionists are not happy about.

Withdrawal of U.S. support for Israel would cause WWIII
Israel has nuclear bombs and, my rabbi believes, would be more likely to use them if it were not assured of U.S. military support. I think it equally likely that Israel would use nuclear bombs because it believed the U.S. would help it avoid the consequences. Because I believe these two situations have the same probability, if WWIII is going to happen, I would really rather not be the ally of the country that starts it.

Paul's assertion that the Israel lobby has undue influence in Washington is anti-Semitic
Paul is not criticizing the Jewish people and never has. He is a strong critic of the neoconservative movement, and that includes their interventionist position toward Israel. This is in no way, shape, or form antisemitism. More details on Paul's record regarding Israel can be found in this Haaretz article.

One of the beefs anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists have is the perceived out of proportion influence the Jewish people have in U.S. policy toward Israel. How could 1.4% of the population cause the U.S. to commit so many resources to a small country halfway around the world? Truth is, they don't. It's the neoconservatives and certain evangelical Christians driving U.S. policy toward Israel. But because they funnel their support through Jewish lobby agencies, they give the appearance of the Jews calling the shots and actually drive the growth of these hate groups. Removing the appearance of undue Jewish influence would force these groups to resort to less facially plausible excuses for their hate.

Jews need a place where they will always be safe.
During the Holocaust, Jews had no place to flee. A Jewish State would always be a refuge against future persecution. Genocide is not unique to the Jewish people, however. Even in the past century, we have had the Armenian genocide, the Khmer Rouge, the Holodomor, and I'm sure others I can't list off the top of my head. None of those other groups got their own state separate from that of their oppressors.

I live in a country that values separation of Church and State. The U.S. is majority Christian, but if I follow my partner's Jewish faith the government treats me no differently. If I adopt a child internationally, I would be under no pressure to convert that child to Christianity. But if an Israeli couple adopts internationally, they have to convert that child to Orthodox Judaism to have it gain Israeli citizenship.

I'm glad I don't live in a country that identifies itself with a particular religion, therefore I don't feel compelled to support Israel in identifying itself with Judaism. I support the right of the Israeli people to self-determination, I just don't want the U.S. government to be enforce its view of how Israel should be on that region.
My own view: even from the perspective of an American Jew, Ron Paul is the best choice to lead America.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A big tent

A comment by "Steve" on this LA Times article summarized one of my great hopes for a Ron Paul Presidency:
I have never seen so many people from all sections of our society come together for a common cause before like I see with the Ron Paul movement. In my meetup group there are doctors, lawyers, cooks, nurses, teachers, bus drivers, highway patrolman, 2 electricians, a WW2 vet and several Vietnam vets. Rich poor, young and old are coming together under the banner of freedom, it's the American way.

When I search Google News for "Ron Paul" recently, I see overwhelmingly positive coverage - most of it from people who disagree with his positions. I believe a majority of Americans agree with Paul's positions. Although he is not well-known enough (yet) to test this belief, the success of his meme is supporting evidence. More profoundly, I believe that the vast majority of Americans can respect Paul as a leader and be proud of America with Paul as head-of-state.

Isn't a united America, in all its diversity, a vision worth working for? To me, it's a vision worth voting for.