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A Cautionary Tale; Irresponsibility and Corruption.

Economics is a simple discipline.  It’s people who EFF it up.

There is a school of thought that says by letting the value of the dollar slip again and again, we keep the price of our goods down, increasing foreign trade.  You don’t want a trade deficits, right?

Well, who the hell cares?  Markets come and markets go.  Exporting goods isn’t the only means of creating revenue in this country.  It is only when you form partnerships between chosen businesses and the government (subsidized pricing, protectionism, dollar devaluation) that everything goes to hell. The decline of the dollar helps only dishonest people in the larger scheme of things.

(Reminder:  I am a free market conservative.  I am not ranting about the 1% here.  I don’t begrudge anyone their money, honestly earned.  This is about crony capitalism and economic ignorance.)

What people don’t get is that foreign trade is not all we do as an economic power.  We do more business inside our own borders than anywhere else.  And the value of goods argument is a phony argument. There are trade-offs to having a strong dollar and a week one.  Better to let markets rise and fall as they naturally would.

A strong dollar is a strong dollar everywhere, including inside the United States. If deficits run too high, countries that sell us things will find themselves with full warehouses and have to adjust their prices or reduce their exports to the US.  It all works itself out on its own.  But when you have government patrons using phony arguments to prop up exports, the results are not as they are advertised.  The long-term damage to the dollar will kill many times more jobs and shrink far more incomes than trending trade (im)balances.

Same Ignorance, Different Scale

There is a similar scam being touted by local politicians throughout the country.  It has been a rising trend for years, but in some places it is becoming a real nightmare.

This story takes place in a once-sleepy Spotsylvnia County.  Located in Virginia, near Fredericksburg, it is a place steeped in Civil War history.  For a long time, folks who didn’t mind a 60 – 90 minute commute from Washington DC could find a nice place to put down roots at a price far lower than what they would pay nearer the city.

During the housing boom, pre-2008, the whole area including neighboring counties exploded with no planning at all.  As some counties began to see the writing on the wall and get a handle on their growth, Spotsy, as it is called by locals, continued on a reckless trajectory.  The Board of Supervisors, peopled by developers and builders and/or friends of developers and builders, has not met a residential or real project they didn’t like in years.  The exceptions, of course, are projects that might park a Walmart across the street form places like Fawn Lake and Bloomsbury Farm Estates.  But to shoehorn more retail and apartments and houses anywhere else?  No problem.  This has all been done with no consideration for the exponentially expanding traffic on the Interstate 95 corridor.  In fact, it is often done while pretending not to realize the problem they are intentionally contributing to.

Case in Point…

In recent years, it would be nothing unusual to spend two to two and a half hours making a commute from exit 166 to exit 126 on I-95.  3 hours is not unheard of.  4 hours on a summer Friday is common. This to travel 40 miles on a major freeway.  All of this is due to rampant development without a plan to provide the required infrastructure.  In a move demonstrating obtuseness on a scale few can imagine, this board of supervisors approved the construction of a raceway.  Old Dominion Raceway is owned by the same (get this) real estate developer who had his raceway kicked out of Manassas, Virginia. After being laughed out of two other proposed locations, he found friends on the Spotsylvania County board.  Arguments were presented by a few concerned citizens against the raceway, with traffic being a major consideration.  Arguments in favor were made by dozens of out-of-town members of the raceway industry telling touching stories of a boy and his go-cart to defend the raceway.  The level of misdirection on the part of proponents was also breath-taking.  One interesting exchange went something like this:

Board Member:  (to the raceway lawyer) How can we be sure you won’t contribute to the traffic problems on I-95.

Lawyer:  As you can see on our application, we won’t start racing until 7:00PM.  The rush hour will be clear by that time.

Board Member nods.

Here’s the obtuse part.  Traffic is still quite healthy at 7:00 PM.  To get to the raceway BEFORE a weeknight event, one would have to leave the DC area from the north and Chesterfield or Williamsburg areas from the south at 4:30 or 5:00, and incrementally later as you get closer to the target.  A quiz for the minimally aware:  What time does rush hour traffic start?  Just this raceway will add thousands of cars to already  packed roads and I-95.  It was amazing to watch the lawyer and board members pretend not to know this.  They all do, of course. But the commuters on I-95, the people who live in Thornburg, at exit 118 (new home of the raceway), and the general population in Spotsy don’t grease their elections, pay their honoraria or promise them jobs for after they leave the board.

And the beat goes on?

In late May of 2014, this same board of self-serving misfits voted in thousands of housing units and tens of thousands of feet of retail space in an area near exit 126.  This at a time when we are already seeing soaped up windows of closed retail stores.  They have been approving developments, left and right, for thousands of units for the last two years.

Here’s what the board understands completely.  You don’t serve your existing citizenry by allowing wild, unplanned development, especially in already congested areas.  You only hurt home values and cause more congestion.  It is sold as “progress”.  But what it is – is crony capitalism.  And Boss Hogg runs the show.

The real way you bring up standards and home values and income and quality of life in a community is by setting very high standards for development, especially in congested areas.  And in some areas, stop building altogether.  By just allowing unchecked development to run amok, you do to housing what the Fed does to the dollar.  You devalue it.  And for their pain, the citizens are rewarded with more traffic.

Don’t be an ass for these people, locally or nationally.

I called this a cautionary tale.  This isn’t just happening in Spotsy.  In Spotsy, real estate development is not the only business in town and foreign trade isn’t the only economic mechanism at work in America. And it isn’t just real estate or the dollar being destroyed.  Look at every single case of “government and the business community coming together for the common good” and you’ll find people trying to suspend the laws of economics, which are as real as gravity, and making a mess of our economy FOR THEIR OWN GAIN.  Whether it’s sugar subsidies, Obamacare, green energy “initiatives”,… the rule of thumb will ALWAYS be a harder life for the people who it is supposed to help and money for the winners picked by the government.  And it is happening everywhere.

Sadly, the people of Spotsylvania County don’t read the paper.  They already hate the existing traffic pattern.  But when all these plans come into being, they will be shocked. “How can this happen?”, they’ll ask.  But it won’t matter.  When the county board was planning, intentionally, to make their lives harder, the citizens were blissfully ignorant.  Don’t let this happen to you.  Read your local paper, watch local news and GO TO COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL MEETINGS.  When the citizens are looking out for what is good for them, less of this stuff happens.  It wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on the lunatics inside the DC Beltway while you’re at it.

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See?!?!?! This is why Republicans don't win more elections!

Well, I suppose I should concede that there are several reasons the Republican party snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

The one we’ll visit with here comes to us from John Alley of the Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason (FredCoR).  It seems Al Bedrosian (R – Roanoke County, Va) needs to go away for a little while.  Unlike most of his colleagues, some even from the other side of the isle who get elected spouting off about god-ditty-god-god, Al actually believes the undiluted fecal matter he is shoveling.  Worse, he wants to create a little county-wide theocracy in the heart of Virginia, birthplace of the Religious Freedom Statute and genesis of the First Amendment. Bedrosian not only believes that people need to pray to a god at county meetings, but they need to pray to the god of the Christian New Testament only.  His “reasoning” process is truly Orwellian, a label I usually reserve for my liberal targets.  By letting another flavor of prayer to be heard, or none at all in his presence, is denying HIM his religious freedom. Put another way, you must pray as directed by him and his ilk or we are thwarting THEIR liberty.  Put another way still, he believes laws should be passed that say you will be Christian or you are not permitted to pray at County events.  Would someone be kind enough to ask Mr. Bedrosian if non-christians should wear a big, yellow “NC” on the shirts so he can see who might be trying to sneak a prayer to the wrong god at county meetings and town picnics?  

Here’s the rub:  When politicians, sadly and all too often, Republicans, bring their gods into their political races and offices, they make voting for them difficult. (Full disclosure: I am a fiscal conservative.  I am registered republican and usually identify as such.)  Goldwater, who a lot of liberals now miss for his timeless even-handedness, warned against the rise of fanatical Christian movement and what it would do to the party.  To their credit, the average voter, in hopes of finding somebody who might just start to address the real issues, have looked past the religious pandering and voted for these guys anyway.  They are sometimes rewarded with bills that try to get Big Brother out of our way so we can live our lives.   Sometimes.  They are also often made to feel foolish when the god guy gets caught stuffing his tongue down a political aide’s throat in hotel hallways, among other activities.  

Statement released:  “Oh, I’m flawed.  I fired the aide and ruined her life. Now I am praying to god and asking my family’s forgiveness.”  

What he is really thinking:  “Hey, this is what people do.  I try to respect the artificial restrictions we place on ourselves, but she’s really hot.”

Bedrosian is simply the worst of the lot in making things difficult for Republicans seeking office.

To win and win consistently, Republicans and fiscal conservatives specifically, must accept a few basic truths.

  • Only a minority in the party actually cares what sky daddy the candidate prays to.  While certain individual candidates from very small homogeneous districts must – sincerely or otherwise – claim a deep and abiding faith in one religious brand or other, the American population as a whole has moved far beyond being impressed by religious credentials.  The more a candidate plays at religion, the less impressed the larger electorate is.  While old-school, the political handlers and statisticians say it is risky to run a  candidate who doesn’t pay lip service to a god.  I would submit that it is, nowadays, unproductive or in some places counter-productive to do so.  Keep your religiosity to yourself.  It doesn’t carry a single argument outside the choir loft. 
  • There are more non-religious colleagues in office than most realize, causing doubts about the veracity of religious identification by pols. Religiously non-affiliated people represent a rapidly growing percentage of the population.  As many as 25% of people, according to some polls identify as non-affiliated, 16-20% are agnostic or atheist.  Yet, we are expected to believe that 534 out of 535 members of congress and every single president and vice president are humbly faithful to some mystical interpretation of a god.  This among a cadre of the most bloated egos in the country.   While I acknowledge that an outsized ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a person in a position of power, it doesn’t lend itself to bended-knee pleading and impracticable beliefs.
  • Encouraging identity politics while trying to repair a country is a fools errand.  FDR was the first master of divide and conquer electoral politics.  He couldn’t subdivide the population often or quickly enough.  His particular favorite was economic class envy but he wasn’t immune to using sex or race as well.  The result was great for Democrats, not so good for the country.  Such divisiveness has never served the republicans well.  Only the former Democrats that switched to Republican in the 60s and early 70s ever benefited.  Also, an us versus them message is an anathema to the correct social contract conservatives need to draw in order to fix this ailing country.  The free market doesn’t give a damn for the color of your skin, your religious beliefs or with whom you wish to mate.  It only demands participation. And the free market is the last best hope to repair our economy, put people to work and dampen enthusiasm for those who insist only they or god can build your life for you.
Reasonable people can debate the previous two paragraphs.  But there is more to the impact of people like Bedrosian.  The most dangerous aspect of all this is that the people he is pandering to, are like the devoted of all faiths.  The more ludicrous the demonstration of faith, the more fanatical the proclamation, the more admiration the practitioner on display garners.  Padre Pio leaps to mind.  

Why is it dangerous, you ask?  When the secular realism that made the country great is set aside, and little tin-pot theocrats like Bedrosian gain a voice, resentment of others and from others is the most immediate result.  A fuse is lit.  Fortunately, our culture has often seen through such silly social power grabs, tarted up as religion and dampened the fuse with equal parts reason and ridicule, the end result being a return to some sense of normalcy. 

But in recent decades there has been growing attention given to people who spout about god and the state while financing diamond mines off of the social security checks of old ladies ,among other rubes.  The majority used to laugh.  Now the majority remain silent. You don’t want to be seen as intolerant, right?
 Well, two weeks ago the Supreme court actually said that a denominational prayer before a state function doesn’t throw into doubt the fair treatment of people NOT of that denomination.  And so starts the slide.  Small towns will bicker over whose god is the right god and who says the right prayers. Resentment will fester.  Allegiances will form while others will fade.  A with-us-or-against-us attitude among religious advocates will evolve.  You WILL start to see the treatment of other or non-religious change by the congregation in charge.  You WILL see a gradual legalization of unequal treatment by local or more numerous regional religious groups.  Laugh if you want, but in 1641 England slid into a bloody civil war over the use of the right prayer book.  Our political zoo, and a quick scan of any Facebook feed tells me we are not far advanced from that time, and in some ways, less so.

It has always been said that god has been the reason for the success of this country; not so. The various gods and various filtrations of god’s groups have always been happy to give “him” the credit.  The truth is that reason and science have advanced American exceptionalism, not myth.  That is not something reasonable, educated people can debate so easily.  If anything, religion has slowed our rate of advance here as it has everywhere throughout history.

If the Republican party doesn’t put a leash on people like Bedrosian, they will continue to lose elections that were theirs to walk away with.  More importantly, if reasonable people don’t loudly and directly reject his ilk, this nation will continue its slide into a cesspool of identity politics and national failure.
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The Tell: How Jay Carney signals to everyone that the Administration is unworthy of our trust.

I want to play poker with James Carney.  I want to see him throw a handful of blue chips after drawing two cards.  Then I want to watch that little turd’s left, upper lip fold back and his head drift down and to the left when he declares his bet.

Carney came to this White House via the Duh Biden campaign after carrying the party water at TIME magazine.  And that lip has been rolling back ever since; in a big way over the last two days.  The administration has elected to say that the email covering up Hillary Clinton’s depraved indifference to the safety of our people in Benghazi was actually about the protests carried out the previous day in other cities around the region.  Protests that no one cared a lick about by 10:00PM on 11 Sep 2012.
To his credit, it is clear that Carney doesn’t believe a word he is saying.  The rolling lip attests to that every single time.  To his everlasting discredit, he doesn’t have the nuts to stand on his hind legs and say. “This is indefensible bullshit and I’m not going to be the face of it!”
And so the lip curls.  If I were sitting across the table from him at that moment, I’d go all in and clean his clock.
But there is a larger question that the democratic party is betting you are too ignorant to grasp.  You see, they are happy to trot poor Carney out day after day to argue talking points.  If they ever get really busted on the talking points issue, they know they will get away with it.  They have no conscience or concern about lying to EVERYONE about ANYTHING.  It is the straight line between their neglect (Benghazi) or design (Fast and Furious).  In these cases, they will argue the secondary points all day long, even when they know they’ll lose; perhaps even especially so.  Because they know if they can play rope-the-dope with people like Boehner and McConnell, they get away with actually getting people killed, quite predictably, by their own actions.  With the IRS scandal, they keep discussion on minutia.  With Obamacare, they are happy to take the slings and arrows about the shitty roll-out, because the bigger story is the irrevocable damage the entire program will do the the economy and to us.  When conversation gets to close to the larger truths, Barry’s Bullshit Brigade will bring up lesser failures to dumb down the conversation.  And YOU let them.
This assortment of spunky, snarky, quirky non-leaders are counting on their mastery of the one-liner and YOUR laziness to carry them through their term in some semblance of peace so they can move on to their speakers’ fees and honorariums.  In Obama’s case he is praying that his heiress apparent – Hillary – will survive.  He will buy property in DC and spend his time interfering in her administration a la Putin, until he lacks breath.  But for all this to be so, you, dear reader must pull a Carney.  You must tuck your tail, curl your lip and say something inane like. “Oh, they all do it.”  But we all know, they don’t ALL do it; not on this level.  But these people do.
______________________________________________________________________________Update: It was just a few days after this went out that Jay Carney announced his resignation.  You have witnessed the power of!!!…And probably a hundred other blogs and commentaries.  But hey, I’m sure this is the one that brought him down.  Muah-haha!

Matt Jordan is a travel writer, political commentator and author of 16 20 24. Get your SIGNED copy here! A book on his travels in Mexico and Belize will be released in the Fall of 2015.

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