Thinking About Things: Money, Demographics, and Politics

This is my inaugural column for The Chesapeake Observer. My topic will always be “Thinking About Things”. I do not know what I will be thinking about any given day, week, or month. In general these days I intend think about the ongoing breakdown and accelerating dysfunction of our political parties and, more broadly, our entire political system. I intend to think and write about these things (among others) in small bites, and in a reasonably orderly way. I expect to stay grounded in facts to support views. --Money: Where It Goes-- The expenditures of our country are hiding in plain sight in this mesmerizing website. The captivating first page will tell you at a glance that federal spending is approximately $4.5 trillion; federal tax revenues are approximately $3.5 trillion; the US national debt is more than $22.5 trillion; the ratio of federal debt to GDP has increased from 34.7% in 1980 to 105.6% today; and much more. And you can see that total student loan debt is more than $1.6 trillion while total credit card debt is just a smidgen over one trillion dollars. Such numbers are at the center of most policy issues. ... Read More

The Ugly Face Behind the Mask of Socialism

As American politics becomes more polarized, a number of candidates jockeying for position around the leftward pole label themselves “Socialists.” Others, not quite so ideological, travel with them by supporting policies found in the socialist package. Polls of voters also show surprising numbers in favor of socialism, though digging deeper reveals that the respondents’ understanding of socialism is weak. In particular, few seem to understand the cultural devastation and poverty that full-blown socialism has produced in practice. The classic definition of socialism is a system based on abolition of private property with government ownership of the means of production, free provision of many goods and services, and a planned economy. Socialists today advocate policies that are part of the classic definition -- such as wealth taxes, Medicare for all, universal guaranteed income, free college education and other services -- but they do not mention the abolition of private property and control of incomes and industry. As a result, a 2018 Gallup poll revealed that 37% of the American population had a positive view of socialism, rising to 51% for the 18-29 age group. C. C. Pecknold stated it well: “Socialism is in vogue because no one is sure what it is. The classic definition … no longer applies. More people today believe that socialism means ‘equality’ than ‘government control.’ Six percent told Gallup that socialism is ‘talking to people’ or ‘being social.’” This vagueness about the meaning of “socialism” has generated positive attitudes toward a system with consequences that should appall its current supporters. These consequences can be illustrated at both a micro and a macro level.... Read More