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Counting the Cost – Religion and Politics

I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that what one has, he or she should be allowed to keep, assuming he or she hasn’t “stolen” it from another. I also hold by the idea that when people give you things, most particularly when they do so willingly, but sometimes, even when they claim they were not willing so to do, those things become yours.

It’s obviously true that when folks take what you have in ways that are illegal, such as by theft, those things don’t become the property of the person doing the taking. That being said, when there was agreement at the time a transaction occurred, unless someone reneges on what he or she promised or lied about what they were giving or getting, once a “transaction is complete,” those things “traded” become the property of the one or ones to whom they were traded.

This is important because it talks about the idea that when somebody possesses something, that thing belongs to him or her, and others taking it short of agreement to give it to them is unreasonable and unacceptable. As stated, there are obvious exceptions to this idea.

This becomes more complex when considering how government “plays into this equation.” Unfortunately, government can “legislate its way into ownership of” things to which it has no natural or proper right.

Government’s ability to do this is limited by the form of said government. In the United States, government on various levels is not supposed to be able to take from those governed without the “consent of the governed.” That idea has been “bent” by the idea that those in authority are there “at the behest of the governed.” This concept is broken, since the government is supposed to operate under a set of guiding rules, laws and principles set forth in founding documents (read here, The Constitution and Declaration of Independence) and other enacted laws. This is conceptual basis of a Republic—that there is a set of base laws upon which the society is founded, and that government is responsible to live within them, as are the governed.

In the current day, it has become fashionable to insist that, the things belonging to the the more affluent in society, are “owned of them” as a result of impropriety of one sort of another. Where this can be the case, it is rarely true. If it occurs, they tend to be “found out” and appropriate action is taken.

All of this having been said though, what I have herein uttered is precursor to other  thoughts.

The primary intent of this piece, is to talk about a couple of horrible misconceptions held by a good many (particularly younger, but some not so young) individuals.

The first of these can be more or less summed up in the idea that, “If we just took the wealth from the wealthy, we could magically afford to pay for a series of programs that would help those less fortunate, and it would be reasonable to do this.”

Even if I believed it would be reasonable to “help the less fortunate” in this way, and I don’t, there’re some things folks who believe it need to know.

To begin with, taking the combined net worth of the top 15 richest people in the United States, you would be lucky to hit one trillion dollars.

That sounds like an exceptionally large number, until you consider the Congressional Budget Office numbers for just fiscal year 2020, which talk about an outlay of 4.7 trillion dollars. As if this were not sobering enough, consider this. Again, according to the CBO, the anticipated revenue for the same period, is 3.6 trillion dollars. That means that the U.S. Is operating at a deficit (spending more than they’re taking in) to the tune of 1.1 trillion dollars.

Considering what we’ve said about what the 15 richest people in the U.S. are worth, it should be clear that if you confiscated every penny of their wealth, you could still not manage to pay for just the stuff on which money is being spent for which no revenue exists.

Now comes the first “kicker.” The U.S. on a federal level has consistently spent more than it brings in for decades, if not longer. A part of the way they do this, is to borrow from others—mostly other countries. And have we repaid the loans we’ve take out? Why, no! In fact, we’re lucky to pay the interest on what we’ve borrowed.

So not only are we using money we don’t have at present, we have done this for decades (and not paid back what we owed).

This means, we owe even more than we will spend this year—substantially more (probably ten times or more additional).

Add to this the idea that the budget for virtually every government program increases year-over-year. So we can expect spending increases without new programs. This doesn’t stop the federal government from adding to its list of programs—far from it!

Yet the hue and cry of very many (again, particularly young, inexperienced, and in some regards unknowledgeable) people, is to insist on the need for yet more, yet more comprehensive new programs.

To this point, we’ve only considered spending on a federal level.

To be fair, another thing most folks have no idea about, is just how much money spent on a state level, is provided by the federal government. For example, where Medicare is supposed to be a federal program, Medicaid is suppose to be a state program.

Funding for Medicaid though, largely comes from the federal government. It would be nice to take the time to discuss what that means to supposed state control of Medicaid, but that is a matter for yet another post. Sufficed it to say that the entity that regulates Medicare goes by the acronym CMS, yet their own website “expands the acronym to” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That’s because they “oversee Medicaid” on a federal level. That would be one thing if they didn’t have the “right to” shut down Medicaid providers, based on refusing to use funding to “support them.”

The point of all of this? If you think increasing taxation on the wealthy will result in sufficient funding for more programs, you should know you’re massively in error. Doing so would barely provide a “drop in the proverbial bucketcompared to what’s already owed by the federal government alone. And that’s if you taxed them at one hundred percent.

As usual, thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Business For LinkedIn Philosophy Politics Religion Religion, Politics and Philosophy

Successful Society – Religion and Politics

One of the more annoying things that happens to you when you settle down, and start providing housing for yourself and others, is finding that “science experiment” in the refrigerator. It’s hard to decide whether it’s more annoying when someone else “creates it,” or when you do. Nonetheless, when you find it, it must be dealt with, and the resultant stench alone is enough to make it an undesirable chore to dispatch it.

It’s not hard to end up with spoilt food in the house, and it doesn’t take long for it to happen either. Obviously, the more perishable the food, the faster it will turn into something inedible. Even more “stable” foodstuffs however, will still relatively quickly transform into waste.

This matters to the main subject of this piece for at least one reason. It is that, even with relatively sophisticated storage media, many foods will only last so long before they’re no longer good for consumption. That means, one of the more important things that happens in a society (and that helps to make that society successful) is the production of food.

Even if there is a surplus of food each and every day a society is in existence, it is still  essential that there be people around to do the work of producing more. And we’re not just talking about preparation. There are many things that must occur before that stage. There’s farming. There’s the keeping of livestock. There’s feeding and watering (and yes, obviously at least watering applies to plants as well as animals). There’s protecting from things that would eat what you’re growing. There’s adjustments to environment. There’s reaping. There’s delivery to markets.

Then comes the preparation for consumption.

After that, there are yet more necessary things. There’s warehousing, there’s aggregation in many instances, there’s delivery, and often at least one more “preparation cycle.”

Even with all I’ve listed here, we’re likely not at the “halfway point” in terms of who’s involved in just getting food to consumers (if we’re considering total persons involved).

All of this must happen in some measure on an ongoing basis. There are parts that may be “seasonal.” There are other parts that may not need done every day. In the long run though, most if not all food production is “cyclical.” It must be done over and over again.

Food producers are not alone. Houses fall down, they are burned to the ground, they become untenable.

Cars get old and cease to function for various reasons—as does public transportation.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that for just about everything, this is the “way of things.”

What this means is, there must always be people who do the things that need done.

As I said in a previous entry on my blog, reckoning the value of the various aspects of keeping a society supplied is far from an easy task. This is the reason money or currency came into existence.

A person need not “keep tabs on” what I’ve done for them in order to be aware what they ought to do in return for me. Further, I may not have done anything for person x, but I may need his or her services. If I can hand him or her a “promissory note” that says they will be able to get some thing or things they want at their leisure, and others are willing to accept that note as payment in kind, life becomes a great deal easier.

The next problem then is, what about people who don’t work or at least, who don’t do things for which others are willing to give them such promissory notes?

The simple answer, is charity. That is, others helping them to continue to at least survive.

Thing is though, there’s a “problem” with which we must deal. It can be summed up in two words, human nature.

It turns out there are a good many folks who will take advantage of the work of others, and not work to provide anything tangible to anyone. If you think that doesn’t matter, try being one of the people who day in and day out, continues to produce so society at large has the things the denizens thereof want and need.

You see, it’s not a question of, “Can I provide for those who refuse to work?” The question is, “Should I do so?” And that’s not because I desire to see others suffer or die. It’s because, when you have able folks who refuse to help to provide for the needs of a given society, there will always be a “drain on” those who do. To make things worse, that number is far larger than most folks realize.

The question one might ask oneself is, “Am I doing that unproductive person any favors by providing for him or her, when he or she refuses to do anything for others?”

Then comes the question of “value.” How is it decided what something or someone is worth? As Dr Thomas Sowell is prone to say (paraphrasing here), “Value is an agreement between the provider of a given good or service and the consumer of that good or service.” Put simply, if the buyer and the seller don’t agree on the value—or as many would term it, the “price”—of a given commodity, the transaction need not occur (and generally, it will not happen in that scenario).

The concept of value applies equally to labor, for there are a good many folks who have no other contribution they can make to the functioning of the society in which they find themselves. Their labor, therefor, is the thing that must be valued, and for which payment must be made. How much is that labor worth? That is something that must be decided not by the “employer” hiring the “emloyee” and the person hired, but by those “buying” the resultant product(s) of that labor.

A baker cannot charge so much for his or her exertion, that if the cost is divided over the number of loaves produced, the bread so expensive that consumers are unwilling to pay for it.

The point is, though they’re not all that causes society to be successful, two things to contribute to the success of a society are, the labor of the members of that society, and the willingness to accept the value of the labor of others, and compensate them accordingly.

Barring society having these two attributes, it will commonly fail.

Thanks, as usual, for reading, and may your time be good.

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Business For LinkedIn Health and Fitness Philosophy Politics Religion Religion, Politics and Philosophy

On Essential Personnel – Religion and Politics

I did something last night that I would pretty much never do by choice. I bought yet another television. Why? Suffice it to say I have progeny who do a fine job of destroying things.

After the grand unboxing of the cheap, relatively nondescript item in question, I set about making it function. It was (and is) a “smart device,” among other things.  That means it “mooches off” one or another existing Internet connection.

So I set about trying to get it to “see” a connection, only to find it would not navigate menus.

Like most folks, after a bit of messing about with the problem, I started to contact technical support for the product, but in the course of time, I realized what was happening and I was able to “fix the issue” and move on without their help.

People familiar with my “writing style” (such as it is), know that lots of times, they will find themselves wondering how my ramblings will ultimately align with the subject of the piece. This is no exception.

To throw yet another wrench into the works, allow me to explain that, when I tell people what I “do for a living,” I’m prone to tell them, “People pay me to be confused for them.”

This relates to my statement about my recent acquisition, because I’m well used to “being confused” and “working my way out of” that  confusion. That’s pretty much exactly what I did, figuring out my “navigation issue.”

My penchant for puzzles means that people are often willing to both hire me, and pay me relatively well for what I do. A part of that is also working in things about which (at least behind the scenes) they care enough to keep me working. Put another way, I tend to use my “conundrum unravelling skills” to do things people really want done. I have—as they say—a set of “relatively highly marketable skills.”

You might think that makes me “essential personnel.” The reality is though, the second budgets are tight, they start looking at who will be laid off, and believe it or not, I’m relatively high on the list.

So am I “essential?” You decide! Based on what I just said though, I would think most folks would come to the conclusion I’m not. I bring this up for one rather simple reason. I want folks to know that, when I deem others non-essential in my view, I’m not “throwing them into a camp” I don’t “live in” every bit as much as those folks I’m discussing.

Another “fun fact” about me, is that I’m definitely not “getting any younger.” Put simply, I’m getting old (I’m over fifty).

One of the benefits of living even a fairly long life (folks have lived to be twice my age, so I’m not considered all that old, but I’m surely getting there), is that you see things that your children, and even many younger adults have not seen.

I readily recall a time when one didn’t have to be so careful about cars on relatively-quiet streets as to constantly be “watching one’s back.”

I can also recollect a time when even television (much less, various forms of “on-demand streaming”) wasn’t really the center of most folks’ life. The horror! That I would even say such a thing!

I remember too, when there was less urban and even suburban “sprawl.” When the distinction between cities in even pretty major metropolitan areas was a good deal easier to see.

Finally, sight of the past allows me to harken back to a time when restaurants were much  fewer and farther between than in the modern day.

Oh, McDonald’s, for example, existed, but I didn’t actually sit in one that I recall, until I was eighteen or nineteen years old. Yes, you heard that correctly, I never really paid attention to McDonald’s until I was basically out of my teenage years or at least, very close thereto.

As is often the case, at this point, you may be questioning the relevance of this revelation.

The point here is, with a little over fifty years of life under my belt, so to speak, I can remember a time when dinnertime meant going home and someone cooking. And not just now and then, or even most of the time, but almost every night.

Armed with this knowledge, you may now be wondering just how “essential” workers at McDonald’s truly are. Yet, even in a time when “stay at home” is the present expectation, I can drive up to my local (or not-so-local) burger joint (or other fast food), yell my order into the little “speaker” and fly through and pick it up (if I don’t order online).

My point should be obvious. Using the fact that people are “at work” to indicate they are “essential” is just a bit far-fetched if Burger King employees are still at the job site.

The fact is, there are very few people who are actually “essential” where work is concerned. Street sweepers? Not so much! CEOs? Not really! Fast food workers? Nope. Department store employees? Again, no. Here’s where it gets painful for me personally. Software Developers? Absolutely not!

I could do this a while and if I held your feet to the fire, you would have to agree with me.

For the last few months, we have been talking about a “pandemic.” The fact is though, it’s not been serious enough to keep workers who cannot work from home, from going to their jobs—at least far from completely so.

The “cherry on top?” Even with these really pretty much non-essential people at work, and folks regularly using their services, the resultant spread of the virus in question is negligible. Obviously, no sensible human wants to see anyone else get ill much less die. The numbers though, speak for themselves.

Before you go crying about how these folks are “essential workers, you can tell because they’re at work in the present environment,” or how they’re “held hostage” (when they could quit their jobs or refuse to report to work if they chose to. You might want to consider what I’ve said here.

The reality is, they’re at work because people want them there, and frankly, because they want the paycheck.

One more thought, if things were so terrible, who on Earth would be willing to go to a job rather than stay out of the fray, paycheck aside? Is the paycheck worth your life?

Just because the news media, and maybe your friends and relatives, decry the current situation, doesn’t mean it’s what everyone is saying it is.

Okay, thanks for having read, and may your time be good.