Raising the Minimum

Organizing for Action wants to raise the minimum wage.

David —

Let’s do something about this:

Even though our economy is on its way back, millions of Americans — people who work full time — are still living well below the poverty line.

That’s because they earn the minimum wage — something designed to help make sure that any American willing to work hard and play by the rules has enough to make ends meet. That’s not the reality right now for way too many people.

If a living wage is something you can get behind, then you should join the fight to raise the minimum wage.

President Obama is helping to lead on this issue — and dozens of allied organizations have been working hard to get a minimum wage increase passed by Congress.

There’s a lot to do, and OFA supporters are going to play a big role in making this happen.

If this is something that matters to you, add your name today and help fight for a better bargain for working Americans:

http://my.barackobama.com/Raise-the-Minimum-Wage

Thanks — more soon,

Jon

Jon Carson
Executive Director
Organizing for Action

Actually, thanks to the president’s signature piece of legislation, Obamacare, a lot of people have had to be content with part time work. But I think raising the minimum wage is a terrific idea. Why not increase the cost of labor so that companies have to raise prices or hire fewer people? Maybe we can get unemployment back above 8% again. Maybe, if we raise it enough, we can have another recession. Many people on minimum wage are young people just entering the job market. If we make it harder for them to find jobs, they can live at home with their parents. We could offer them unlimited unemployment benefits and get an entire generation dependent on the government for survival. Sounds like a plan.

What I am going to say now may seem mean. I hope not, since that is not my intention. I think that if you are living on minimum wage and are not just entering the work force, then something is wrong. You should take stock of yourself and consider what skills and experience you may have that will get you a job that pays better than minimum wage. If you do not have such skills or experience, then you need to find out how to get them. You should also take a look at your work ethic. Do you show up for work on time? Do you perform the duties of your job, and maybe a little more? Are you someone your boss can depend upon? If not, than you must become the sort of person that people can rely on. Whatever you do, I think that you can do better than minimum wage.

This is the difference between Jon Carson’s outlook and mine. People like him want you to work for minimum wage and look to the government for any improvement in your pitiful life. I think you can do better than that. I think that if you apply yourself, you can earn a living wage.

 

The Election of 1792

The election of 1792 was, in many ways, a repeat of the election of 1789. There were the same candidates and the same result, Washington winning by a unaminous vote of the electoral college and John Adams being re-elected Vice President. George Washington really didn’t want to run for a second term. Although his first term had been very successful, Washington had not enjoyed it. He wanted nothing more than to retire from politics and go back to his home at Mount Vernon.

One thing that had especially exasperated Washington was the growth of partisan politics in the new republic. None of the founding fathers had anything good to say about political parties and they all warned of the dangers of factions. Despite these warning, the first party system was already forming around Washington’s two chief cabinet officials; Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Both of these men were very intelligent and ambitious. Both of them had grown up without a father, Jefferson’s dying when he was 14 and Hamilton’s abandoning his family. In all other ways, however, the two men were opposites and rivals.

Alexander Hamilton favored a strong federal government. Since he had been born outside the thirteen colonies, he had never developed any intense loyalty to any one state, instead viewing the United States as a whole. He believed that the United States should become an industrial power and wanted a national bank to finance investments and improvements to the infrastructure for that end. Hamilton was also something of an elitist, believing that the people should be guided. Thomas Jefferson was a Virginian. He, like almost everyone at the time, was loyal to his state first and then to the nation. He wanted a weak national government, and believed that state’s rights were paramount. He believed that the United States should have a primarily agricultural economy and distrusted banks. His opinion was that only a republic of sturdy independent farmers could endure. He professed to have great love for the people. Even in personality the two men differed. Hamilton was hyperactive, always making plans and working on projects. Jefferson was more laid back, in some ways even lazy. In foreign policy, Hamilton favored an alliance with the British on the grounds of common culture and trade. Jefferson wanted to support France as a fellow republic after their revolution. The two men caused Washington quite a lot of trouble with their endless bickering, especially when the newspapers they were financing starting to attack each other. Soon the followers of Hamilton were calling themselves Federalists while Jefferson’s supporters were the Democratic-Republicans.

The one thing that Hamilton and Jefferson did agree on was that Washington should run again. The country was still too young and things were still too unsettled to go without Washington’s guidance. Washington reluctantly agreed. All thirteen of the original states were able to participate in this election and Vermont and Kentucky had been added to the Union so there were 132 electoral votes. All 132 electors cast one of their votes for Washington, giving him a unanimous vote for President. With their second vote, they gave John Adams 77 votes, making him Vice-President again. George Clinton received 50 votes.

Missing the Point

I found this picture posted on a Facebook group called Americans Against the Republican Party.

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This graphic was titled, “Welcome to the real world, not GOP fantasy land”.

I think the person who put this together is missing the point on several levels. For one thing, many of these rankings are debatable and some are subjective. How did they rate levels of democracy or press freedom? Different countries use different criteria for things like infant survival, crime rates, etc making direct comparisons not as easy as one might expect. There are no citations given, so who knows if any of the rankings are actually true? Even taking them all at face value, no one but a fool has ever said that the U.S. is the best at everything.

If the U. S. is number one, it is because we have the largest economy, somewhere around 25% of the world’s total, and the largest and best military. Because of these facts, American has more influence on world events than any other nation. In soft power, the U. S. has more diplomatic and cultural influence than any other nation. The President of the United States is the closest thing we have to a leader of the whole world. Whenever there is a crisis anywhere in world, all the other nations look to the United States for leadership. We have become, at this time, the indispensable nation. Without America the world would be less prosperous, less peaceful, and less technologically advanced. If America should fail, the world would become an uglier place very quickly.

I am writing all of this not to brag about my country. These are simple facts. America is number one at this moment in power, wealth and influence. We do have many flaws and are far from being a perfect nation. No one who has any sense would deny it. The people who made this picture are attacking a strawman, arguing that the Republicans live in a fantasy land in which American is first in every field.

I have to wonder, when did patriotism become a partisan issue? How is is it that Republicans seem to be the only patriotic party. I would not believe this to be the case, but Americans Against the Republican Party evidently believes it to be. They themselves certainly seem to want to belittle their country. I said that America has its flaws and I do not believe we should whitewash or deny them. I think America is a great country despite its flaws. These people, however, seem to take a certain glee in putting down America. I think that in the not too distant past both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives believed themselves to be patriotic and that America was an exceptional nation. Now it seems that many Democrats go out of their way to assert that America is not very exceptional at all. We have people who consider themselves liberal who feel that patriotism is somehow vulgar and beneath them. How did this happen? Is it because the radicals from the 1960’s have managed to infiltrate so many of our institutions?

I am a patriot. I love my country. I love it not because it is wealthy and powerful, although I am glad it is. America and Americans have done great things and I am proud of that, but that is not why I love my country. I love my country simply because it is MY country. There are some who might feel that this sentiment is old-fashioned; a antiquated impulse that sophisticated people should have abandoned. I don’t think so. Homo sapiens is a pack animal and it is only natural and right for us to love our own; our family, our tribe, our nation. This instinct can be taken too far, of course. It can be perverted into the kind of poisonous nationalism that inspires war and genocide. But, any natural human instinct can be perverted. There some some people who derive sexual gratification from hurting or killing others. The sexual instinct in such people is perverted, but that doesn’t mean the sexual instinct itself is bad. So it is with many other natural instincts of humanity. Patriotism may be perverted, but patriotism is itself a good thing. As Sir Walter Scott wrote:

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name

Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.

Do these people who are so quick to deride their own country really have dead souls? I wonder.

 

 

John Stossel and the Decline of the Roman Empire

Ever since the fall of the Roman Empire, people have speculated on the cause of that fall. In general, those who have indulged in such speculation have seemed to believe that Rome had some fatal weakness that made its fall inevitable. They have often gone on to point out that their own country has flaws rather similar to Rome’s and that the fall of their nation’s power is likewise inevitable. We, Americans have not proven to be immune to the temptation of comparing ourselves to the Romans and wondering if the decline and fall of the American Empire is just around the corner. John Stossel ponders this question in his latest column at Townhall.com.

Unfortunately, the fall of Rome is a pattern repeated by empires throughout history … including ours?

A group of libertarians gathered in Las Vegas recently for an event called “FreedomFest.” We debated whether America will soon fall, as Rome did.

Historian Carl Richard said that today’s America resembles Rome.

The Roman Republic had a constitution, but Roman leaders often ignored it. “Marius was elected consul six years in a row, even though under the constitution (he) was term-limited to one year.”

Sounds like New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg.

“We have presidents of both parties legislating by executive order, saying I’m not going to enforce certain laws because I don’t like them. … That open flouting of the law is dangerous because law ceases to have meaning. … I see that today. … Congress passes huge laws they haven’t even read (as well as) overspending, overtaxing and devaluing the currency.”

The Romans were worse. I object to President Obama’s $100 million dollar trip, but Nero traveled with 1,000 carriages.

Tiberius established an “office of imperial pleasures,” which gathered “beautiful boys and girls from all corners of the world” so, as Tacitus put it, the emperor “could defile them.”

Emperor Commodus held a show in the Colosseum at which he personally killed five hippos, two elephants, a rhinoceros and a giraffe.

To pay for their excesses, emperors devalued the currency. (Doesn’t our Fed do that by buying $2 trillion of government debt?)

Nero reduced the silver content of coins to 95 percent. Then Trajan reduced it to 85 percent and so on. By the year 300, wheat that once cost eight Roman dollars cost 120,000 Roman dollars.

The president of the Foundation for Economic Education, Lawrence Reed, warned that Rome, like America, had an expanding welfare state. It started with “subsidized grain. The government gave it away at half price. But the problem was that they couldn’t stop there … a man named Claudius ran for Tribune on a platform of free wheat for the masses. And won. It was downhill from there.”

Soon, to appease angry voters, emperors gave away or subsidized olive oil, salt and pork. People lined up to get free stuff.

Rome’s government, much like ours, wasn’t good at making sure subsidies flowed only to the poor, said Reed: “Anybody could line up to get these goods, which contributed to the ultimate bankruptcy of the Roman state.”

As inflation increased, Rome, much like the U.S. under President Nixon, imposed wage and price controls. When people objected, Emperor Diocletian denounced their “greed,” saying, “Shared humanity urges us to set a limit.”

Doesn’t that sound like today’s anti-capitalist politicians.

Diocletian was worse than Nixon. Rome enforced controls with the death penalty — and forbid people to change professions. Emperor Constantine decreed that those who broke such rules “be bound with chains and reduced to servile condition.”

It might be useful to consider a few dates. Gaius Marius was consul in the years 107, 104-100, and 83 BC. The Claudius who ran for tribune is probably Publius Clodius Pulcher. He was murdered in 52 BC. Tiberius reigned as Emperor in the years AD 14-37. Nero reigned from 54-68. Commodus reigned from 180-192. Diocletian ruled from 284 to 305 and Constantine ruled from 306 to 337. The Roman Empire is generally considered to have fallen when the German warlord Odoacer forced the last Emperor Romulus Augustulus to abdicate in 476. This is not actually a very good date for the fall of the Roman Empire since government’s authority had collapsed outside of Italy about half a century earlier. Still, it seems that the excesses and follies of various Roman leaders which caused the fall of Rome took a long time to effect that fall.

Actually, Romulus Augustulus was not the last Roman Emperor. There was still a Roman Emperor in the East at Constantinople. The Eastern Roman Empire, usually called the Byzantine Empire survived intact up until the Arab invasions of the seventh century. Even then the Empire survived in Greece and Asia Minor with its capital at Constantinople until the Turks finally captured Constantinople in 1453. It is true that the average citizen in Constantinople in 1400 lived in a very different society that the Roman in 100 BC. He spoke Greek, not Latin, was ruled by an autocratic Emperor, not a republic, and was a Christian, not a pagan. Still, that citizen of Constantinople never doubted for an instant that he was a Roman a true descendant of the people who had once ruled the world.

The traditional date for the founding of Rome is 753 BC. Modern historians do not take the legends about Romulus and Remus very seriously, but 753 is probably as good as any other date for the beginning of the Roman state. If we consider Rome as having begun in 753 BC and ending in AD 1453 than Rome, as an independent state in various forms lasted for an incredible 2206 years. That is an existence longer that any other nation with a continuous history except for China and ancient Egypt. Rome was a major power from about 300 BC until AD 1100 or 1400 years. Rather than asking what caused the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, perhaps we should be asking how the Roman Empire lasted so long.

Are there lessons to be learned from Roman history? Perhaps. We should keep in mind that Ancient Rome was a very different society than modern America. The Roman Republic became the Roman Empire, in part, because Roman political leaders stopped following the unwritten Roman constitution. We may be able to learn something, though There are signs that many contemporary American politicians view our constitution more as a hindrance to get around than a basic law to follow. I don’t think that our situation in America is like fifth century Rome. There are no Visigoths ready to sack New York or Washington DC. I think it is more like Rome in the late second century BC, a republic whose institutions are starting to break down. I am afraid that there is a Julius Caesar or Augustus somewhere who is fated to fundamentally transform the American Republic into the American Empire.

Through North Korean Eyes

If you live in North Korea, chance are that you will never get a chance to travel abroad and learn what life is like in other countries. Fortunately the North Korean government is aware of this problem and is doing its best to educate its citizens on how ordinary people live in places like America. Since I do not speak Korean, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the translation, but I think you will find it entertaining.

 

I would write more about this but it is time for me to go out and get my cup of snow to drink.