Sunday, January 29, 2012

Decisions, the basis of economics.

Economics is a confusing and convoluted field. There are countless studies on economic subjects that rigorously follow the scientific method and because of this these studies can be quite reliable and verifiable. However you must then ask, how does any individual study relate to the economy as a whole? If I can accurately predict what flavor of hard candy 5 year olds from a single small town in Utah will buy on Tuesday afternoons would that really have any greater meaning in the overall economy?

Our economy is a huge cluster of variables and is one of the most, if not the most, complex systems any human being will ever interact with. This complexity makes it very difficult to approach economics, on the macro scale, with the same kind of scientific rigor that is used to study chemistry or physics or biology. This inability to produce hard and fast answers doesn't mean that economics is an invaluable field of research.

Lets look at the simplest unit of economics, the cost benefit assessment. Everything that we do involves a cost benefit assessment. Start at the beginning of your day, your alarm clock goes off. Do you hit the snooze button and get a few more minutes of sleep? Getting those few extra minutes of shut eye may prevent you from having a second cup of coffee before you leave the house. Is the cost of missing the second cup of coffee worth the benefit of the extra few minutes of sleep? Hitting or not hitting the snooze button depends on the cost benefit assessment you probably didn't even realize you were making. While out shopping you find a shirt for $30.00 that you really like and that would look great on you while you are on vacation the next week. But buying that shirt means you would have $30.00 less to spend on a nice meal while you are on vacation. The shirt, of course, is something you could wear once you got back from vacation while the meal is something you would only enjoy for a short period of time. Vacations though are about splurging and that extra $30.00 could be the difference between a really great meal you would remember and eating the same fast food you eat every day at home. Once again, you are forced to make a cost benefit assessment.

As you can see these assessments we make every day may or may not involve the exchange of money for goods or services, but on a basic level they are all economic decisions. We always want to make the right choice so that we gain the greatest benefit at the lowest cost, it doesn't matter of the cost is money, time, effort, or anything else. It also doesn't matter if the benefit is spiritual, physical, emotional, or monetary in nature, we want to get as much as possible for as little as possible. This is the basis of all economics.

But things start getting complicated pretty quickly. Think back to the $30.00 shirt. When making the decision to buy or not buy the shirt were we thinking about all of the costs and all of the benefits? If we were buying the last shirt in that size on the rack would we force someone else to make a cost benefit assessment on waiting for the store to restock or using their $30.00 to buy something different? If we buy the shirt would our reduced spending while on vacation force a worker at the resort you are going to into deciding if they should buy the name brand or the store brand cereal for their child because you couldn't tip as well? If you didn't buy the shirt would a cashier at the store have to decide what to do when the bonus they would have received for selling their quota in shirts didn't come through? Every cost benefit assessment we make changes the cost benefit assessments that others around us will make. Every single last decision we make creates a butterfly effect that spreads out and effects people in ways we can't imagine.

Of course we can't make decisions if we are hobbled by having to worry about things that we can't predict and so most of the time all we worry about is the personal cost we will pay and the personal benefit we will received based on our decisions, and this is the way it should be. Most of the time. Occasionally though, through personal knowledge or historical evidence we can reasonably predict the ripple effects of our actions. This is why some people choose to pay more for organic produce. This is why some people who enjoy consuming alcoholic beverages choose not to drink. Sometimes the cost or benefit to others, or our society, or to our environment effect our decisions because the cost to us may be greater than just the money we spend on a shirt or the few minutes of sleep we might miss.

This is where you get to the nitty gritty of many of the economic arguments you hear coming out of your TV or that you read in political blogs such as this one. How much do we need to think about the rest of society or the rest of our economy when making decisions for ourselves? Lately it seems that the trend has been to concentrate more on our own personal costs and benefits and ignore how our decisions effect others. Some would even try to deny that their decisions have any great impact on the world around them. Obviously this isn't true even if we don't see the effects our decisions have on others or other parts of our economy. Sometimes ignoring these collateral effects increases our personal costs in the future. Maybe if enough people bought shirts instead of spending their money at a vacation resort they might find there was no one there to serve them or to cook their food or to clean their rooms. This would be impossible to know at the moment you are buying a shirt, but if you could know it wouldn't you take it into consideration?

Economics as a subject of research and discussion is valuable for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons we value it is that it can help predict for us some of the unintended costs of our decisions. Because of this we can make better informed decisions. Well, we can make better informed decisions as long as we are willing to take the available information into consideration. No one can force anyone into considering anything more than their own, personal, short term, costs and benefits if they don't want to. I just hope they can see how it could be to their advantage to consider a broader range of information when it is available to them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to not answer a question

In the video above you can see House Majority Leader Eric Cantor not answer a few questions about the 2012 State of the Union address. He is asked if the members of the house and the senate can focus less on their differences and more on the job at hand as we ask our members of the military to do when we send them out on a mission and as President Obama suggested that our elected officials do in his speech. Eric Cantor replied with a statement about supporting our troops.

Eric Cantor is asked if it is fair that Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary and he responds by saying that no one wants to pay taxes and that small businesses are the backbone of our country.

Eric Cantor is the House Majority leader and apparently he is so mentally challenged as to not be able to understand the simple questions asked of him in this interview. We have seen Mitt Romney's tax returns and Newt Gingrich's Freddie Mac contract and I think it is now time that we get to see Eric Cantor's IQ test results. The answer to the question of "is it fair that Warren Buffet's secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does" should be yes or no or even, "it's complicated". The answer can not be "small businesses are the backbone of our country" as that has absolutely nothing to do with the question. It would be like being asked "how are you today?" and responding with the Gettysburg Address. If Eric Cantor can't answer a question as simple as "is it fair" then he should be recalled on the basis of stupidity.

Of course we need to take a look at Charlie Rose as well. Why didn't he, upon not getting an answer to his question, ask the question again? Ask if Mr. Cantor needed the question clarified? Stay on the question until he, and us, got an answer? Our media seems willing to let any politician say anything without challenging them. Guess what, the media's job is to help hold these people accountable and the media, in general, is failing. We have elected officials not answering the questions they are asked and a media more worried about getting the next commercial in on time than they are about doing their jobs as journalists. This is America people, we deserve better than this. At least we used to, now we accept what ever comes through the screen at us without question. Maybe idiotic representatives and lazy journalists are what we deserve these days. God bless America, and God forgive us for letting what we ask you to bless go to hell in a handbasket.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Biology and the Economy

Global warming, agricultural run off, and nuclear power plant disasters are good for the environment. I have the feeling that you are giving your computer screen a strange look right now, but stay with me for a minute.

As climate change causes warmer temperatures to march northward several species have been able to extend their range up the map without losing any of the Southern parts of their homelands. Armadillos are a perfect example. I can remember seeing armadillos as a child, but only on trips to a zoo or on family vacations into the very deep South. Now I occasionally spot armadillos right here in the Nashville area and scientists have found them living in parts of Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas, quite a bit further North. Global warming has greatly benefited the armadillo and several other species of plants and animals and if you were able to speak with an armadillo I am pretty sure they would be very much in support of loosening regulations on industrial carbon dioxide emissions.

If you are one of those people who is bright green and single celled, you probably love agricultural run off entering our waterways just as many types of algae do. Sure algae can be slimy and look disgusting to our eyes, but it is enterprising and innovative and works hard to take advantage of the situation it is in. We gave the algae agricultural run off and it made lemonade! Not to mention how altruistic algae can be; see it doesn’t just take, it gives as well. It produces oxygen and takes in carbon dioxide (at least during daylight hours). Sorry armadillos, you and the algae will have to work out the carbon dioxide thing amongst yourselves. It allows itself to be eaten by a wide range of critters, and when it dies it breaks downs and puts a lot of those nutrients it used to grown right back into the water so the next generation of algae can continue to prosper. Quite often a massive algae bloom will out compete other plants and cause fish to die off in a large scale, but you can’t blame the algae because the fish hadn’t planned ahead.

Nuclear disasters are one of the greatest things for the environment though. Don’t believe me? Just look at the area surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Since this reactor melted down and exploded in the 1980s, there has been an explosion in life around the power plant. Plants and animals are thriving, everywhere you look there are trees and flowers and birds and deer. Rare species like lynx and wolves are finding a pleasant home around Chernobyl, and it is quickly becoming one of the more biologically diverse areas in Europe. Many of the trees there grow deformed and twisted because they can’t figure out which way is up and many of the animals show lots of genetic abnormalities. But hey, it has to be better than living with humans (they were all evacuated at the time of the disaster and it still isn’t safe for them to come back almost 30 years later).

So why do people complain about things like global warming and agricultural run off and nuclear power plant safety? Because, while armadillos and algae and the plants and animals around Chernobyl may have benefited from these environmental disasters, the environment as a whole is damaged by these things. While these species might think eliminating these issues would harm them and they don’t need to be concerned about other species in other parts of the world, we understand that other species, including our own species, are harmed by things like global warming. We understand that protecting the environment means that sometimes individual species might not be favored. This doesn't mean that they will be forced into extinction, but it means a sustainable balance will be met. Now, do me a favor and in your mind replace the word “environment” with “economy”.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not writing to talk about the environmental impacts of things like agricultural run off. No, I am writing to show the way many people think of the economy today as opposed to how we should think about it. I am writing to think that it benefits all of us to reach a sustainable balance in our economy instead of rigging the system to favor just a few individuals.

In the US we tend to be armadillos. We look at things like government regulations and tax laws as harming us and preventing us from reaching our maximum potential the same way an armadillo looks at a stable climate as being a barrier to colonizing Canada. But while it may be painful to the wealthy to pay a higher tax rate, while Wall Street may chafe under tough regulations, these things benefit our over all economy and in the end help all of us. Some of us are like the armadillos still living in Southern Texas. We may still be in the South, but knowing that other armadillos are making their way North excites us and we don’t want anything standing in our way of moving to Kansas when we get the chance! Sure, we look around and see water levels dropping in our own neighborhood, and food is a bit scarce, but one day we will go North too and we don’t want the see the climate cool off and hurt our chances of being the first armadillo in Greenland.

Sadly global warming might just cause an environmental catastrophe that will not only make it possible for future generations of armadillos to relocate North, but might also make it impossible for the Southern armadillos to survive. Our economy is in a similar situation except that the people who are gaining the most from our broken economic environment are also the ones controlling it. Add to this they have many of us convinced that with enough hard work our own economic situations can move North and so we should support everything they are doing to make themselves richer even if it is hurting us now. Well our economic environment is getting hit with global warming, agricultural run off, and nuclear disasters all at once and while some are most definitely benefiting our over all economy is suffering and may be at risk of collapsing.

We talk about things like redistribution of wealth and a fairer tax system and strong government regulations and many think it is just lazy people wanting to take from the rich so they won’t have to earn for themselves. That’s like an armadillo telling a polar bear to stop complaining and get off his lazy butt so he can build a boat and not have to worry about the ice melting under his feet. This isn’t about hurting the rich or helping the poor, this is about saving our economy from a disaster so we can all survive.

Sure, many think there are other ways of protecting our economy. Strangely it seems that all of their plans revolve around doing what we have been doing that got us into this mess in the first place. Some seem to want to speed up the process. Well if it didn’t work out well for the economy as a whole the first time, why do they think it would now?

We have to stop thinking about the short term, stop thinking about individual aspects of the economy, stop thinking only about how things are going to effect us personally, and start thinking about rebuilding our economy so that it can be prosperous and efficient and stable and beneficial to as many people as possible for as long as possible. Some people claim they are thinking in this way and that’s why they want to cut government spending dramatically. Well if that causes slower job growth or even more job loss, they won’t be protecting their grand kids from government debt, they might very well be giving their grand kids a completely failed economy. Think big, look for the connections. See how what you do effects others, not just how you are effected. Capitalism is a system that requires we work together on many levels. If we are all just in it for our own personal gain, the system will fail, plain and simple. If it fails, you better hope you can live where it is hot, or in a river full of fertilizer, or enjoy glowing in the dark, because only those few who do may be able to survive. No one will be able to thrive. And do you really want to live in a hot river full of fertilizer with a view of a collapsed nuclear power plant?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The South Carolina Primary

Well things are looking up for President Obama after today's South Carolina primary. A week ago Mitt Romney had won Iowa, New Hampshire, and was expected to easily win South Carolina which would give him a perfect record so far. But we recently discovered that Rick Santorum actually won Iowa and today Newt Gingrich took South Carolina, but don't read this as though things are just looking bad for Mitt Romney. No, this makes things look bad for all of the republican candidates.

If Mitt had actually managed to make it three for three today, or more accurately 2 for three, he would have been seen as the presumptive nominee and could have turned all of his attention toward attacking Barrack Obama. As it stands now he has to continue to worry about the other republican candidates who will be tearing him down every chance they get. The four remaining candidates all seem to think they still have a dog in this hunt at the moment and so they will continue to tear at each other allowing voters to find more and more reasons to dislike all of them while President Obama gets to stay out of the fray and avoid getting dirty. But all of the mud slinging the republican presidential candidates will be doing doesn't just cost them opinion points with the voters, it also costs a lot of money. At this point it is hard to see how any of these candidates will manage to have any money left in their coffers, or in their super pac's coffers, by the time the general election campaign starts up. So they will have to raise more money, but since 4 of them will be competing for every dollar between now and the republican convention it is easy to see how their contributors might start having a bit of donor fatigue. None of this looks good for the republican candidates, especially when President Obama has been an amazingly effective fundraiser and already has a campaign bank account it would be difficult for any of the republican candidates to match in the best of circumstances.

So keep it up Newt and Rick and Ron and Mitt, we are learning more about each of you every day and we will be much better informed voters by the time November comes around. I just wish one of you could be categorized as either unlikable, crazy, or both, then we might have a more interesting general election to watch on TV.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The myth of solitary capitalism

I have a lot of conservative friends. I also have some liberal friends who agree with much of what my conservative friends say and think. One of the things I hear a lot of people saying these days is that they don't want to pay taxes, or at least they don't want to have their taxes raised. They rationalize what they are saying by stating that they worked hard for their money, they earned it, so why should they have to give it to someone else? Let's take a look at this idea.

Imagine you are ridiculously wealthy, maybe you are, I don't know. You came by your wealth by working hard and being smart with your money. Capitalism has rewarded you and you consider yourself a staunch capitalist. Now let's imagine that someone offers you 200 billion dollars, in cash, to live by yourself on a deserted island. You agree and hop in their boat, a couple of days later they drop you off on an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean. The island has plenty of clean, fresh water to drink. The trees are filled with delicious fruit. You have every thing that you need to live. You wave to the boat as it pulls away from the beach and hear the captain of the boat tell you to have fun and try to not get too lonely because no one will ever come back. You are completely alone with your 200 billion in cash.

Things are very different for you now, but you may not realize just how different. You see you have just stopped being a capitalist. It isn't that you have had a sudden change of heart about capitalism, you may still be a fervent believer in capitalism. The thing is that it is impossible to be a capitalist if you are alone. Sure, you could look around the island and figure out a product you could make with the items you have on hand. It might be something really wonderful, but with no one else around who is going to buy it from you? You can build a house out of the available wood and make you a roof out of palm leaves but you can't do anything to increase your wealth. With no one around to want to live in your house you have no way of transforming it into wealth. Your house has value, but only to you, capitalism demands that it be worth something to someone else and there is no one else. You aren't even rich any more. Sure, you have 200 billion dollars, but where are you going to spend them? Can you use them to hire someone to make you tropical drinks while you sit on the beach since there is no one around to hire? On your island, by yourself, your money has no value, oh sure, you could pile it up and sleep on it as a makeshift mattress but it has no value to you, and since it has been removed from a capitalist system it has no value to anyone else either.

You see capitalism requires a society to exist in for it to exist. No one can be truly self made if it requires at least the simple existence of other people for you to have any wealth. Sure, you worked hard for your money, no disagreement there. I can easily accept that you are smarter than most people and handled your money well. The simple fact remains that your money and work and intelligence is worthless unless it exists within a society.

Because of this it is in your best interest to have the society you live in be stable and prosperous. Because if your society fails you fail. This is why we pay taxes.

The phrase "redistribution of wealth" can't be spoken today without starting an argument. I believe the reason for this is that many people have a false perception of what the phrase means. It does not mean that the government will take money from a wealthy individual and give it to a poor individual. We found out recently that Newt Gingrich paid almost a million dollars in taxes last year. The government did not take his million dollars and hand it over to one or two or even three people making them really well off without having to work for it, strangely this seems to be what many people think redistribution of wealth means.

What redistribution of wealth actually means is that money is taken from individuals, wealthy or otherwise, and is given to our society as a whole. Money is being moved around so it is an obvious redistribution, but it doesn't go to specific individuals. It goes to repairing roads that we can all drive on. It goes to keeping up our schools so that we can have an educated population who can participate in our society. It goes to fund scientific research that helps save lives and makes living easier for all of us. Obviously all of these things can create jobs along the way, but that isn't the main reason why we do and should do it. In other words redistributing wealth makes a stable society possible and therefor makes capitalism possible. Paying taxes doesn't make you poorer, it allows you to become wealthier. Redistribution of wealth doesn't favor those who don't work hard, it makes it worth while for all of us to work hard. We all, even those in the top tax brackets, receive more benefits from the taxes we pay than they cost us to pay. Sadly the urge to not pay taxes has reduced our tax revenue rates to the point that we are having a hard time doing all of the things that we need to do to have a stable society. The reduction in tax revenues is forcing us to borrow money to keep our society as stable as it is so people can continue to get wealthy. Reducing taxes has got us to the point where that on a personal level we aren't saving money any more, we are costing ourselves money.

No one, and I mean absolutely no one has become wealthy based solely on their own hard work and intelligence. We all, in part at least, have gotten to where we are because of the society in which we live. Ignoring this fact could make it impossible for any of us to get anywhere.

Why things aren't that simple

The above image comes from libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's facebook page. Please click on the image so you can read it clearly and understand how it isn't quite as clever as Mr. Johnson seems to think it is.

OK, did you click on the image? Good. I'm not going to argue with the numbers listed for our national debt and budget, they seem pretty accurate to me. What I have a problem with is the comparison Mr. Johnson seems to be making between the national budget and a family budget. First of all the annual family income listed, assuming we are talking about a family of 4, seems quite low. If a family actually found itself in a situation where its income was so low as compared to its expenses the family would probably try to cut corners, but they wouldn't stop there. Maybe in this family the mother doesn't work? I bet if most American families found themselves in the situation described by Mr. Johnson they would not only try to cut expenses, they would also try to increase their revenues. Mom might decide to take a job. Maybe if Dad is the person working he would try and get a part time to job along with Mom taking a job.

It is doubtful that they would try to cut their budget by more than half , what would be required according to Mr. Johnson's example, because it is doubtful that they could afford to cut that much. To do so might involve getting rid of their car, which for many people would make it impossible to go to work. To cut their budget they would probably have to drastically reduce what they spend on food, and it is obvious from their total expenditures being only $38,200.00 that they aren't living too high on the hog. Because of this they probably couldn't afford to cut their food budget very much without sending their kids to bed hungry.

Now let's look at the family's total debt. I wonder if the $142,710.00 in debt they have is actually credit card debt. It seems like it would be more likely that most of this debt is explained by a mortgage. Why do they have such a high mortgage (I know, some of you are in parts of the country where this would be a very small mortgage, but stay with me on this)? Maybe they wanted to live in a good, safe neighborhood where their kids could play in the yard without hearing gun shots in the background and where the schools are safe and effective.

From the information on Mr. Johnson's facebook page it looks like he wants to manage our federal budget the way a family would handle their budget. I am all in favor of this. This would mean making reasonable spending cuts, but not cuts that would significantly harm members of our American family. Sadly there is no way reasonable spending cuts could lower our national debt quickly and so, just like our hypothetical family, we would need to look at increasing our revenue. Of course our nation can't take a second job and so the only option our government has is to increase taxes, and increase taxes in a major way, especially on those who can most afford to pay them.

Strangely Mr. Johnson doesn't want to make reasonable cuts and increase taxes. He wants to take care of the entire situation with spending cuts and no increase in revenue. So he wants our nation to go hungry and become homeless to conquer its debt problem, he just doesn't want to have to sacrifice any of his money, or the money of the corporations and wealthy individuals his ideas seem to mainly support. He thinks lowering taxes, i.e. cutting the family's income, and reducing regulations, i.e. allowing the family to let the grass in their yard grow out of control or keep a pet lion in the back yard, will solve our problems when cutting income and reducing regulations obviously won't help the family reduce their debt at all.

Mr. Johnson is comparing our national debt to a family's debt, and both problems could be solved using the same real world solutions. Sadly Mr. Johnson doesn't seem to want to solve the problem of our national debt, he just wants to protect the finances of those at the top of our economy. This hardly sounds like family values to me.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

An open letter to the Occupy movement.

Dear Occupiers,

While I have several friends who are involved in the Occupy movement I have kept my distance. It isn't that I don't agree with the overall aims and goals of the movement. Anyone who has read my blog with any regularity can see that I am very much in favor of addressing income inequality in our society and taking the control of our government out of the hands of the 1% and putting it back into the hands of the 100%. No, I have stayed away because the Occupy movement has failed to express a cohesive plan on how to achieve these goals which allows individuals to claim or appear they are speaking for the movement when their primary goals and aims differ greatly from mine or even from a majority of the occupiers. I do not support anarchy nor violence nor libertarianism and since all three of these concepts are quite common in the Occupy movement I have not been able to support the movement itself.

I have, however, been amazed at how effective the movement has been at maintaining itself and a constant stream of activities which have allowed it to stay relevant in the minds of many Americans. This steady building of relevancy is a difficult thing to do, especially when opposing groups are so willing to fight you on every front using every method they can. Many of these attacks on the occupy movement have in fact backfired on the attackers. No one will ever forget the brave US Marine who was injured during a police raid on Occupy Oakland or the image of a police officer nonchalantly spraying pepper spray in the faces of his fellow citizens. But last night an episode occurred that might not work as well for the movement's PR.

A group of Occupiers from San Diego were in route to Washington DC on a Greyhound Bus. In Amarillo Texas a bus driver, who apparently isn't a fan of the Occupy movement, forced the Occupiers off the bus and left them stranded. This was a horrendous thing for the driver to do and I can only hope that Greyhound takes some sort of action against the driver. That being said I was a bit shocked last night to see my twitter feed explode with tweets from Occupiers listing the drivers name and the bus number and Greyhound's phone number asking people to call and complain about this particular driver. A mass of calls of this sort would, understandably, lead most companies to fire the individual who was receiving the complaints and this is where I think a lack of thoughtful leadership within the Occupy movement created a problem.

You see, what this person did was horrible, but at the same time who this person is should matter more to the movement than what he did. lists the average annual salary for a Greyhound Bus driver at $38,700.00 per year. So while this person strongly disagrees with the Occupy movement he is also very much a part of the 99%. Your movement welcomes all sorts of contradictory ideals into its ranks and yet last night I saw tweet after tweet calling for action that would probably get a member of the 99% fired from his job at a time when jobs are far from easy to come by.

I know you had a limited number of characters to express your dismay with the driver's actions on twitter, but if the tweets going out had said specifically that you, as a movement, did not want this man fired, that you recognized he was part of who you are and is one of the people you are hoping to help by changing the system I think it would have shown the world, and people like this driver, that your movement is worthy of support. Instead it seems, to me at least, that you are willing to harm one of the people you claim to be standing up for if he gets in your way.

Just something to think about,
George Oeser

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bigotry, the new jobs plan.

Here in my home state of Tennessee we have a republican controlled house, a republican controlled senate, and a republican governor. When all of this came about in 2010 we were told by all of these republicans that they would focus on creating jobs for Tennesseans. So what have they done to get their fellow Tennesseans back to work? At first glance, nothing. But on closer inspection I think I have figured out how our law makers are trying to reduce unemployment in Tennessee.

There have been several bills introduced by our legislators that have received national attention. Last year my hometown of Nashville passed an ordinance stating that any company doing contract work for the city must have an anti-discrimination policy that includes gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons. The state legislator quickly responded by passing a law that made it illegal for a city or a county to institue any laws offering legal protections in the workplace for members of the LGBT community. They also tried to pass a bill making it illegal to even mention homosexuality in Tennessee schools from the 1st through the 9th grades. This bill passed the senate but failed in the house. Never fear it is being brought back for our members of the house to vote on again this session along with a bill to amend the state's anti-bullying statute so that you can verbally harass anyone you want as long as your religion says they are bad people.

Of course these pieces of legislation don't go far enough to reduce Tennessee's unemployment rate and so we have a newly introduced bill that will force transgender persons to use public restrooms that correlate to the gender listed on their birth certificates. Are you starting to see how Tennessee's elected officials are working to reduce unemployment?

First off we will gain numerous jobs by hiring the huge number of police officers we will need to check individuals birth certificates as they enter public restrooms. This will obviously help to bring down our unemployment rate. Above and beyond this you have to remember that the unemployment rate is stated as a percentage of the population. If you can lower your states population you should be able to reduce the unemployment rate as well. By instituting a series of laws that make it very obvious that the state of Tennessee hates the LGBT community, and if it wasn't for that pesky Lawrence v. Texas US Supreme Court ruling they would probably pass a law to throw us all in jail or string us up in public executions, they are hoping that all of the LGBTers out there will pack up and move out of the state. If you are gay and unemployed then your moving to another state will reduce the unemployment rate here. If you are transgender and currently employed your leaving the state will allow a good, God fearing straight person who is unemployed to fill your position further reducing our unemployment rate. What about people moving into Tennessee to fill all of these vacated jobs though? Well lets face it, when the rest of the country sees how crazy and bigoted and hateful we are in this state very few people will want to move here so we should be able to achieve a net gain in jobs.

I know, this all sounds a bit crazy, but our elected officials stated they were going to focus on job creation and so this is the only explanation I can come up with for their actions. Well I can come up with one other explanation but I won't say what it is. I mean my mother might wind up reading this.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rick Santorum and the wonder of believing your own spin...

Today Rick Santorum was in Concord, New Hampshire speaking to a group of college students. The event was a town hall meeting and so members of the audience were allowed to ask questions of Mr. Santorum. It was an interesting view into the workings of his mind.

Mr. Santorum was asked how two men or two women getting married affected him personally, a question which he never answered. He instead wound up on a rhetorical path that at first glance might seem rather interesting, that is until you realize where this path leads. Mr. Santorum asked the students, if they are OK with two men getting married were they OK with three men getting married. This swift switch from gay marriage to the unrelated question of polygamy is a common tactic among those who are opposed to gay marriage, as they see it if you start letting 2 men get married then you have to let everyone get married no matter how the relationship is structured and who it includes. This is a completely ridiculous argument but I rarely hear people explain why it is so ridiculous.

If allowing two men or two women to get married means that you automatically have to allow polygamy then polygamy must already be legal in the US. You see, if allowing two men to join in marriage raises the question of, if two men why not three men then you have to ask, if a man and woman can get married then why not a man and two women? Obviously if you allow heterosexual couples to get married then you have opened the door for heterosexual polygamy. To carry the Christian conservative's argument all the way out I suppose you would have to ask, if a man and woman can get married then why not a man and a female dog? Don't forget that Rick Santorum has compared gay sex to bestiality before and so it is only fair to use the same arguments he does. Also Mr. Santorum, in his argument, stressed that heterosexual marriage is special because it leads to procreation. Guess what heterosexual polygamy leads to procreation too. Seems that Mr. Santorum is pretty good at arguing for the form of "traditional" marriage most represented in the Bible, one man and many women.

Yes, heterosexual polygamy must be permissible in the US because heterosexual marriage is legal in the US, at least that's what the right wing Christians seem to believe. Of course polygamy isn't legal in the US, we have laws preventing more than two individuals from entering into legal marriage. Read that again carefully. We have laws to prevent more than TWO people from entering into legal marriage. Polygamy laws are not about gender, they are about numbers. Gay marriage is about gender, not about numbers.

For once and for all these two arguments are not related and if you hear anyone making the comparison between gay marriage and polygamy ask them why they support heterosexual plural marriages. You might not get a good answer out of them though, after all they must have failed math since they can't tell the difference between numbers and genitals.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Iowa Caucuses

Well they were interesting... sort of. I think the big lesson to take from the caucuses is just how divided the GOP is right now. Normally the Republican presidential nominee is pretty much locked up before the anything happens in Iowa, but this year there is some uncertainty. I think that's a really great thing as it could keep more of the candidates in the race longer and allow voters to form stronger attachments to the candidates they support. This, of course, could make it harder for them to support a candidate in the general election if their candidate doesn't win the primaries, but hey, if there is one thing you can say about Republicans it's that they don't like to compromise, and darn-it they shouldn't have to compromise in a presidential election either.

So here is my suggestion to all of my Republican friends. If you don't like the Republican who gets the nomination, simply get your favorite candidate to run as an independent. If they won't just write them in when the general election comes around. This way you don't have to compromise and not only will you be able to say NO! to Obama but you can say NO! to what ever waffling, wishey washy, soft on communism, gay loving, tax and spend Republican gets the nomination. Or maybe you should just say NO! to the whole mess of them and stay home and not vote at all, that will show em!