Saturday, January 21, 2012

Declining Marriage & Morals in America

"The New American Divide" article in today's WSJ gave me pause about marriage and morality.

Americans are marrying later. Fewer are getting married at all. Divorce is still rampant. Couple that live together prior to marriage divorce at higher rates. Non-married mothers are almost as numerous as married mothers. Abortion still an epidemic.

According to the article, since 1960, marriage for white upper-middle class is down 11% (from 94% to 83%). For white working class, marriage is down 36% (from 84% in 1960 to 48% in 2010).

There are many reasons for this. One impacting all aspects of American society, more than just marriage, is declining morality. How many couples are celibate prior to after being married? Virginity has become a joke in the media -- the mocking of Tebow case in point. Women are too free with their bodies, starting at an increasingly young age.

Blaming it on the media is easy. The real issue is in the home with lack of parental supervision and real parenting. Too many children are unsupervised throughout the day. Human nature dictates curiosity into the world of vices.

Even in towns and neighborhood in Mormon-dominated Utah, we see increasingly poor decisions. Return missionaries taking advantages of young, naive girls. Married men increasingly involved in pornography and extramarital affairs. Overt homosexuality trending up. Mormon culture is not too different than non-Mormon culture, sadly. Too many are not living their religion. Too many lie, cheat and justify unrighteous behavior.

Decisions of a moral nature impact society at it core. Children raised by single mothers is devastating to the woman and to the child. In most cases, there is little chance these children will amount to much. The mothers works, the children are at home. The mothers bring home little income. The children's education is weak -- the public schools stink and education in the home non-existent. The viscous circle continues all because a woman thought that she needed to have sex with a man she was not married to.

It use to be that for a man to have sex, he needed to either be married or he paid for it. Men are made to have sex and to be married. It is what makes humanity work. Women get protection and can minimize economical risk. Children get stability and balance. Certainly it is never perfect but traditional families are still the best way to build a successful and prosperous society. The numbers back this up.

Unfortunately, with the decline in marriage and morality, these problem will continue to spiral in the wrong way. What's right will be spurned; what's wrong will be justified.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Romney Blowing It Over Taxation Issue

Romney either is getting bad advice or is personally unable to take advantage of a teaching moment. When he is confronted over releasing his tax records, he stumbles and mumbles. It has gotten so bad that something as stupid as this is costing him significant primary votes.

Romney, unlike most of us, earns most of his income through dividends and capital gains. Those are taxed at a lower rate (15%) than wages (25%). Capital gain taxes come after corporate taxes (35%). Business owners are effectively taxed in the 40-45% range. From the 1/20/12 WSJ Opinion page -- "How Much the Rich Pay":
The nearby table from the CBO report shows that in 2007 the average income tax rate paid by the 1% was 18.8%, compared to 4.2% for Americans in a broadly defined middle class from the 21st to 80th income percentiles. The poorest 20% on average paid a net negative income-tax rate of 5.6% because of the checks they receive for tax credits that are "refundable." These are essentially transfer payments redistributing income from the rich and middle class to the poor.

The main point is that the average effective tax rate on the richest 1% is already twice as high as that of the middle class. No matter how many times Mr. Buffett asserts it, secretaries and plumbers do not on average pay a higher tax rate or less in taxes than do CEOs. Here is what the CBO concludes: "Taken as a whole, the federal tax system is progressive."
Romney needs to be proactive and educate the American people. He is losing points because Gingrich, a phony to the core, gives the appearance that he is willing to take on the biased MSM. Unless Romney gets tough, he will have wasted 8 years of his life.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA: Battle Over Money Not Ethics

The House bill (H. R. 3261) referred to as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill, or completely known as the bill "To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes" has pitted the Southern Californian Hollywood immorals against the Northern California Silicon Valley immorals.

The motivation is stop web sites from posting including selling copyrighted material -- music, video, etc. -- without the approval of the artists or content providers. Whereas most of the offending sites are based outside of the USA, the proposed law would require U.S. search engines, advertising networks and other providers to block access to those sites and payments sites could not transfer funds to them. The law also would hold those US firms that facilitate this -- knowingly or not -- responsible and liable.

There are dolts running around who hate the legislature because it impacts their ability to access content for free. In their mind, there is no such thing as copyrighted material. These are those that have never bought a CD in their lives; why should they, music is free.

Others; e.g., the content providers, want to stop all leaks of content and do not want to give away what has value.

Illegal file-sharing via peer-to-peer or file lockers, cannot be justified as being fair to the content providers. For example, Megaupload based in Hong Kong generated around $175 million per year in selling copyrighted material -- material they do not own nor pay rights, royalties or remuneration for.

The problem is real but another massive law is not going to solve this issue. Search engine firms are pro-active and shutting down sites selling or sharing unauthorized materials. Fiddling with DNS by filtering out specific domains on a massive scale does not seem prudent. Content filtering companies offer this service today.

Like most legislation, SOPA (and PIPA) are motivated by specific groups. And the bottom-line is that it is financially motivated. This one sounds like certain Democrats providing paybacks to their Hollywood supporters. it has nothing to do with what is right or best for the nation.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Destiny of the Republic

One of the better books of 2011 is Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic. It is the story of James Garfield's unlikely rise to the Presidency of the United States, the political factions of the 1880s, a short yet meaningful presidential tenure, a traumatic assassination ordeal, a crazed assassin, backwoods medicine and modern medicine.

James A. Garfield -- a poor Ohioan, raised by a widowed mother who through her prayers and his ability to recognize providence, was able to become a leader, educator, scholar and state politician. He help raise seven children (five survived to adulthood) who all went on to lead productive lives and heritages of their own. Garfield never sought the Presidency but achieve it he did. After taking the office oath in March 1881, he spent the first couple of months with a deathly ill spouse (Lucretia). In July, he was shot. He suffered at the hands of incompetent doctors for nearly 10 weeks before dying. His presidency stood for anti-corruption/anti-spoils that dominated American politics. He also was able to help bring about a national healing; sixteen years after the Civil War, America became less North Vs. South, and more "we."

Charles Guiteau -- a mentally deranged man who lead an interesting life of his own, in a convoluted way, felt it was God's will that he kill Garfield in favor of the Stalwart-style of politics he seemed to prefer. He felt by killing Garfield, fellow Stalwart Chet Arthur would give him a place in his new administration. Though well read, he was a vagrant. He was hung a year after he shot Garfield, after a failed insanity defense.

Roscoe Conkling - he is arguably the definition of corrupt American politics. Though a Senator (NY), he was the man "behind the scenes," but wanted everyone to know how important he was. He was the leader, along with Ulysses Grant, of the Republican Stalwart faction. He liked the spoil system of politics. Few have had a higher regard for themselves than Conkling. Interesting, his man, Chester Arthur, was placed as the VP to be Conkling's puppet. After Garfield's death, Arthur did not fulfill this expected role.

Willard Bliss - the medical doctor that appointed himself President Garfield's doctor following the shooting. His meddling and old school ways of medicine was what killed Garfield. It is likely that if left alone, Garfield would have recovered. (Thousands of soldiers had survived shoots with the bullets still inside.) He did not believe in the septic school of medicine as pioneered by Joseph Lister and his proponents. Garfield's autopsy and post-analysis clearly place a great deal of blame on Bliss. Interesting, this was Guiteau's main defense -- he had merely shot him, it was Bliss' medling with unclean hands and tools that killed him.

Alexander Graham Bell - One of the challenges the medical people were hung-up on was trying to find and remove the bullet in Garfield. Bell we dedicated, oh he was dedicated, at building something that would identify the bullet so surgery would be more precise. He invented the metal detector, a device he called the induction balance. He tried it on Garfield but due to the mind-set of Bliss, he would only allow him to search the area Bliss thought the bullet was lodged. It turned out the bullet was on the left side, not the right side that was the focus of so many probes.

Great characters. New insights and information that few are aware of. This is a great book. Tough to put down. Like all good history, the lessons of the past have direct applications to today's problems. Thanks for the research and good writing Candice Millard.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Republican Presidential Nomination Process in 1880

I was fascinated by what occurred in Chicago at the Republican Convention during the summer of 1880. A process long since abandoned.

At the time, the Republican Party was split into two factions: Stalwarts and Half-Breeds. The Stalwarts were proponents of the spoil system and opposed to reconciliation with the South. Key players were Ulysses Grant and Roscoe Conkling. Half-Breeds were reformers spear-headed by current President Rutherford Hayes, John Sherman (brother of General William Tecumseh Sherman), and James Blaine (current Secretary of State).

All of the Republican candidates were well known, part of the established bureaucracy. The Stalwarts' candidate was Grant, targeting a third term after four years off. The Half-Breeds' candidate was less clear.

James Garfield was not a candidate. He disliked the limelight. Although a state politician, he was mainly an educator and scholar. He was there to nominate a fellow Ohioan, John Sherman. After an impressive nomination speech for Grant by one of America's most creepy and repugnant politicians, Senator Conkling (NY), Garfield gave his nominating speech for Sherman.

Garfield was not a fan of Sherman. He thought there were better candidates. However, he gave his speech, and a great one it was. After dozens of ballots, there was no clear victor. The division was too great. The hatred between groups intense. One voice proposed Garfield. Garfield was not interested. After more ballots and backroom jeering, Garfield had 399 votes, 20 more than were required to win the nomination.

Garfield never agreed to become a candidate. Yet in a matter of hours, he became the Republican Presidential nominee. Interesting, over the next few months leading up to the election in November, candidates did little campaigning personally, leaving it up to the Party. Garfield beat Winfield Scott Hancock to become America's 20th President.

Electoral vote 214 (Garfield) 155 (Hancock)
States carried 19 19
Popular vote 4,446,158 4,444,260
Percentage 48.3% 48.2%

The Republican Party nomination process and resulting candidate Garfield is refreshing. They got the right man for the job. Garfield was a great man, served only to honor his Party and country.

In today's political world, this can never occur. Our system is set-up to promote Party insiders and the wealthy. The best man can never win because he would never put himself (and his family) through the process.

If here is one thing I have learned from American political history, any man that seeks the Presidency is not the man (or woman) for the job. Their egos and corruption should automatically disqualify them.

Whomever wins the Republican Presidential nomination this summer and whoever wins the election this November, America will not be better off. Sure, I will vote for the Republican candidate but I know he will be deeply flawed, corrupted and ego-maniacal. At best, we will replace one self-aggrandized puppet with another.

My belief is that a true, conservative Republican will help us realize less government control over our freedoms, less taxes, and more mature fiscal and monetary policies. History has proven that this has rarely been the case and probably will never be again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Private Equity Investing and Mitt Romney

The harsh truth is that capitalism is not altruistic. Those that manage private equity investing or venture capital firms are not responsible for the average worker in their firm's portfolio. Their mandate is to maximize the return for the investors.

The average American cannot relate to having a surfeit of money. They cannot relate to finding help with identifying investment opportunities for their millions. But there are those that can and do.

Newt Gingrich and "his" PAC are bent on a new form of class warfare. They are trying to build points by attack Romney for the negatives that occurred during his Bain Capital days. As part of its effort to maximize investor wealth, for all the good Bain Capital did, it also shuttered American factories and outsourcing workers’ jobs overseas.

In a competitive world, right or wrong, financial decisions are frequently made without the emotional baggage of worker feelings. Just about every bankrupt business has great, competent workers that get caught up in harsh realities.

Jimmy Stewart made employees and community work in "It's A Wonderful Life." But real life is sometimes not as Hollywood portrays it.

In private equity and venture capital investing, their are more losers than winners. More companies do not make it than do. It is probably 10-20% that actually make money.

If an investment firm has as it objective to maximize investor wealth without the loss of one job, I would bet that firm is not a very profitable one.

Few like the fact the the rich get richer. Few like the fact that when everyone seems to be losing money, others are making it. Few like it when one person loses his job while another gets one (especially if it is in another country).

It will be challenging for Romney to defend his record at Bain Capital because it is not something most Americans can understand and relate to.