The Ultimate Resource: Human Beings

Posted on January 26, 2014. Filed under: Business, Economics, Government, Government Spending, Law, Liberty, People, Philosophy, Politics, U.S. Constitution, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Ultimate Resource: Human Beings

“Multitudes of people, necessity, and liberty, have begotten commerce in Holland.”

~David Hume (1711-1776) “Of the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences” (113).

The thesis of this argumentative essay is sustainable development requires the growth of the human population to promote division of labor or labor specialization, the expansion of the market and individual economic and political liberty with limited government intervention into the economy. Many of the advocates in the sustainable development movement are environmental activists, socialists and collectivists who argue for the opposite, namely limiting the growth of the human population because they believe natural resources are scarce. These advocates argue for government intervention into the economy and use the precautionary principle as a tool to stop economic development they consider harmful to future generations.

Humans throughout time have struggled to survive and obtain scarce resources such as food, water and energy. Only in the last 400 years have most humans been able to gradually rise above a subsistence level of existence and increase both their numbers and standard of living. In the sweep of time humans have progressed from the age of hunting and gathering to the age of farming and shepherding to finally the age of commerce.

Regarding the first two ages, Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs and Steel wrote: “Around 7 million years ago, all humans on Earth fed themselves exclusively by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants. It was only with the last 11,000 years that some people turned to what is food production: that is, domesticating wild animals and plants and eating the resulting livestock and crop” (86).

Food production resulted in food surpluses that enabled the human population to grow in numbers and specialize in their activities. Diamond described the consequences of this development: “In short, plant and animal domestication meant much more food and hence denser human populations. The resulting food surplus, and (in some areas) the animal-based means of transporting those surpluses, were a prerequisite for the development of settled, politically centralized, social stratified, economically complex, technologically innovative societies” (92).

Diamond identifies four sets of factors that he argues constitute the “big environmental differences that can be quantified objectively and are not subject to dispute” (408).  The fourth set of factors is a large area or population. Diamond describes this important set as follows:  “A large area or population means more potential inventors, more competing societies, more innovation available to adopt – more pressure to adopt and retain innovation because societies failing to so will tend to be eliminated by competing societies” (407).

Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations published in 1776 wrote: “The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor” (3).

For a nation to increase its wealth and develop economically required a large and growing population to enable a division of labor or labor specialization. According to Smith the division of labor’s increase in work and production resulted from several factors:

This great increase in quantity of work, which, in consequence of the division of labor, the same number of people are capable of performing, is owing to three different circumstances: first, to the increase dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species to another; and lastly to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labor, and enable one man to do the work of many. (7)

Individuals exchanging goods and services encourage the division of labor which is limited by the extent of the market (Smith 13-21). For Smith an individual’s freedom, security and work ethic are of critical importance:

The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations (508).

The writers and philosophers of the 18th century Enlightenment shared Smith’s optimism in economic progress. One such optimistic thinker was Marie-Jean-Antonine Nicholas Caritate (1743-94), known as Marquis de Condorcet. He predicted that in the next 200 years there would be a substantial increase in world population and life expectancy resulting from greater productivity in agriculture and manufacturing, improvements in food and housing, and advances in medical technology that would diminish disease and illness (Skousen 70).

Condorcet also anticipated Malthus by allowing that there could be a scenario where “the increase in the number of men surpassing their means of subsistence” could result in “either a continual diminishing of happiness, or, at least, a kind of oscillation between good and evil.” Condorcet predicted a smaller family size when individuals “will know that, if they have a duty not to give them existence but to give them happiness” (Sen 213-214).

The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was an English economist and demographer who agreed with Condorcet’s analysis but disagreed with his views concerning declining fertility rates. Malthus formulated a simple theory that food production grows slower than the growth in population. In the long-run food production will lose the race to population growth and as a result people will starve and die (Skousen 71-91; Lomburg 60).

Malthus’ pessimistic doomsday theory was first published in 1798 as an essay under a pseudonym and then updated in his book, An Essay on the Principle of Population, in five subsequent editions through 1826. Malthus’ first law of nature is that population tends to grow geometrically (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 …). His second law of nature is food production tends to increase arithmetically (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 …) (Skousen 71-72; Kahn).

Malthus’ first law of nature was empirically wrong because population did not grow geometrically. The world population did, however, grow from about 1 billion in 1800 to more than 7 billion today. The causes of this growth are chiefly a sharp decline in infant mortality and an increase in life expectancy due to rising standards of living, improvements in hygiene, sanitation and health care and advances in medicine (Skousen 76-78).

Malthus second law of nature regarding food production is simply false for both plants and animals are far more fertile than humans. Malthus argued that there was not enough fertile land or natural resources to sustain life (Skousen 81-82).

Malthus’ preventive checks on population growth included delaying marriage, birth control and celibacy. Positive checks on population growth included war, disease, epidemics, plagues, pestilence and famines (Buchholz 49-50).

For Malthus famine was the last resource that haunts humans everywhere and always:

Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction; and they often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and ten thousands. Should success be still incomplete; gigantic, inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow, levels the population with the food of the world. (Malthus 139-140)

What Malthus clearly missed and Condorcet did not is affluence or high standards of living is an effective way to limit population growth in the long-run. The world’s population is determined by the combined effects of fertility and mortality rates. The world’s population continues to rise because of generational lags between fertility and mortality changes and population changes (Huber 142).  When Malthus first wrote his essay in 1798 the world population was about 1 billion. A hundred years later in 1900, the world population had grown to 1.6 billion. By 1950 the world population had increased to 2.5 billion. By 2000 the world’s population had increased to 6.5 billion. Today the world’s population exceeds 7 billion people. According to the United Nations’ long-term projections the world’s population will be somewhere between 7.5 billion and 9.5 billion in 2050. However, population is projected to start shrinking to about 6 million in 2100 and 4.3 billion in 2150 (Huber 148).

In the 215 years since Malthus first published his essay, the west has grown steadily wealthier as free market capitalism expanded globally. Both fertility and mortality rates dropped resulting in fewer children and a longer life expectancy (Huber 141). The economic wellbeing of a country’s population depends upon raising per capita living standards through the expansion of economic activity measured by total aggregate production and consumption. This, in turn depends upon the rate of growth of the population (Friedman 391-392).

Rapid population growth rates are almost entirely a problem for developing countries. “The forty-two countries where per capita income is below $2,000 – nearly a billion people – average population growth is 2.2 percent per annum. Their average fertility is 4.9 births per woman” (Friedman 392).

Rapid population growth rates in emerging countries such as China and India are less of a problem. “In the thirty-eight countries with per capita income in the $2,000 to $5,000 range, population growth averages 1.4 percent per annum, and the average fertility rate is 3.” (Friedman 392)

Rapid population growth rates are not a problem for developed countries in Europe, North America and Asia. “Among the thirty countries with the world’s highest incomes, the average population growth net of immigration is just .3 percent per annum. The average fertility rate is 1.7 births per woman, well below the population replacement rate (Friedman 392). In the United States over the last 200 years, the fertility rate has dropped from about 8 children per woman to 2” (Huber 147).

The last 100 years has by far seen the largest improvement in life expectancy of the world’s population. In 1900 the estimated world life expectancy was just 30 years. By 1950 people lived for an average of 46.5 years. By 1998 the life expectancy increased to 67 years. The world population’s life expectancy had more than doubled in just 100 years. This improvement in life expectancy was largely due to a significant decline in infant mortality in both developing and industrialized countries by more than 50 percent. Less people died at an early age and more people die of old age (Lomborg 50-59).

The declining infant mortality rates and increasing life expectancy were due to rising standards of living that provided better food, clothing and housing and higher disease resistance. Better water supplies, sewers, public hygiene and quarantine measures also suppressed the spread of infections. Higher living standards, better hygiene and advances in medicine also defeated infectious diseases (Lomborg 55-56).

Malthus’ pessimistic doomsday vision has nothing to do with reality when it comes to food production and daily intake of calories per capita in developed and developing countries. Since 1961 the world’s food production has more than doubled and in the developing countries has more than tripled. Calorie intake globally has increased by more than 24 percent and in the developing countries has increased by 38 percent (Lomborg 60-61).

What caused this significant improvement in food production and consumption? The Green Revolution was the cause. A number of technologies including high-yield crops, irrigation and controlled water supply, fertilizers, pesticides and farm management skills produced more food during the Green Revolution that began in the 1940s and continues into the present. Norman Borlaug is the “father of the Green Revolution.” His vision was to get more food out of each and every hectare of land. Borlaug focused on developing high-yield varieties of cereal crops including wheat, corn (maize) and rice that are resistant to disease and drought, germinate earlier and grow faster (Borlaug; Briney; Fogel 54; Hazell 1-3; Lomborg, 62-64; Courter).

Despite the growth of the world’s population to over 7 billion, the Green Revolution’s dramatic increase in world food production has continued the long-term trend of lower food prices. Food prices in 2000 cost less than a third of their prices in 1957 (Lomborg 62).

The United Nations General Assembly established and chartered the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1983. Gro Harlem Brundtland, three-term prime minister of Norway, former environment minister and first vice-president of the Socialist International, was chosen to chair the commission (Friedman 390).

The Brundtland Commission’s report published in 1987 introduced the concept of “sustainable development” and the need for intergenerational equity and continuity by meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Friedman 391; World Commission on Environment and Development 8). The Brundtland Commission called for both reduced population growth and changes in the life-styles of the more affluent. The report stated:

Sustainable global development requires those that are more affluent adopt life-styles within the planet’s ecological means – in the use of energy, for example. Further, rapidly growing populations can increase the pressure of resources and slow any rise in living standards; thus sustainable development can only be pursued if population size and growth are in harmony with the changing productive systems of the ecosystem. (World Commission on Environment and Development 8-9)

Environmentalist Paul Hawken writing about the “movement for equity and environmental sustainability” (13) provides a more expanded definition of sustainable development:

Sustainable development encompasses economic and social development. It takes full account of the environmental and social consequences of economic activity and is based on the use of resources that can be replaced or renewed, meeting the needs and improving the quality of life of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own environmental, social, and economic needs (288).

Where did this movement come from? According to Hawken, “The movement has three basic roots: environmental activism, social justice initiatives and indigenous culture’s resistance to globalization, all of which have become intertwined” (12). One tool of this movement is the precautionary principle used to stop economic development, globalization of the market and technological innovation, considered harmful to sustainable development. Hawken defines the precautionary principles as follows: “The principle of taking pre-emptive action to forestall long-term environmental damage despite scientific uncertainty of such damage occurring. Where the potential damage is severe and irreversible, as in the case of climate change, a lack of scientific proof is insufficient reason to justify inaction to prevent such damage occurring” (266).

Hawken summarizes the detailed analysis and final verdict of “The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report” on the planet’s carry capacity: “the earth is wearing out and will soon become exhausted, incapable of supporting life as we know it” (173). If you believe in this movement, the planet is on the brink of disaster (173).

Humans and the planet need a second opinion. The skeptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg reached a different conclusion regarding the real state of the world. Humans have never been healthier and living longer with more food to eat, higher incomes, more leisure time, and on average are better educated. “Things are not everywhere good, but they are better than they used to be” (87).

Is this progress sustainable? Can the progress humans have made be maintained and improved? Lomborg answers in the affirmative. He concludes his exhaustive analysis as follows:

Our consumption of the essential resources such as food, forests, water, raw material and energy seem to have such characteristics that it will leave the coming generations not with fewer options, but rather with ever more options. Our future society will probably be able to produce much more food per capita, while not threatening the forests – or perhaps even allowing us to allocate more space and money to reforest the Earth to achieve higher living standards. (159)

Economic growth provides both material and moral benefits. The material benefits of a rising standard of living include less infantile mortality, malnutrition, hunger and disease, a healthier life and greater life expectancy (Friedman 3). In his book the The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Benjamin Friedman argues that economic growth provides moral benefits: “Economic growth – meaning a rising standard of living for the clear majority of citizens – more often than not fosters greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness, and dedication to democracy. Ever since the Enlightenment, Western thinking has regarded each of these tendencies positively, and in explicitly moral terms” (4).

Peace and prosperity require individual political and economic liberty. Individuals require incentives to work hard and take risks free from government coercion and intervention. This requires a framework where there is respect for the rule of law, private property, fair and sensitive rules in the market and economic liberty (Simon 11).

The United Nations’ Brundtland Commission wanted to control population growth for they view low standards of living as being caused by excessive fertility rates and limited resources. Many economists disagree that the long-term problem is population growth and scarcity of resources. For example Julian Simon concludes:

On balance the long-run effects are positive. The mechanism works as follows. Population growth and increase in income expand demand, forcing up prices of natural resources. The increased prices trigger the search for new supplies. Eventually new sources and substitutes are found. These new discoveries leave humanity better off than if the shortages have not occurred. (579)

The economics of population and resources demonstrates that the world’s long-run problem is not too many people or too few resources, but the lack of political and economic freedom (Simon 11). Powerful evidence comes from pairs of countries that had the same culture and history and much the same standard of living when they split apart after World War II – Communist China and Taiwan, East and West Germany, and North and South Korea.  In each case the centrally planned Communist country began with less population “pressure,” as measured by density per square kilometer, than did the market-directed economy. And the Communist and non-Communist countries started with much the same birth rates. But the market-directed economies performed much better economically than the centrally planned economies (Simon 11).

The cure for hunger and poverty comes from the individual and their desire to improve their condition. However, the path to prosperity can be a long and difficult one.  In his book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are So Rich and Some So Poor, David Landes eloquently expresses the need for a strong work ethic:

The people who live to work are a small and fortunate elite. But it is an elite open to newcomers, self-selected, the kind of people who accentuate the positive. In this world, the optimists have it, not because they are always right, but because they are positive, and that is the way of achievement, correction, improvement and success. Educated, eyes-open optimism pays: pessimism can only offer empty consolation of being right. (523-524)

Unlike the pessimist Malthus who believed famine was the last resource of nature, the optimists believe the ultimate resource are human beings.

 

Works Cited

Borlaug, Norman E. “The Green Revolution: Peace and Humanity.” The Atlantic online. n.d. n.pag.Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97jan/borlaug/speech.htm&gt;.

Briney, Amanda, “Green Revolution: History and Overview of the Green Revolution.” About.com. 23 Oct. 2008. n. pag. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://geography.about.com/od/globalproblemsandissues/a/greenrevolution.htm&gt;.

Buchholz, Todd G. New Ideas from Dead Economists: An Introduction to Modern Economic Thought. 2nd rev. ed. London: Penguin, 2007. Print.

Courter, Gay. “Freedom from Famine: The Norman Borlaug Story” YouTube. CactusBumm. 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjeqOnsZp6w&gt;.

Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997. Print.

Friedman, Benjamin M. The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print.

Hawken, Paul. Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. New York: Viking-Penguin, 2007. Print.

Hazell, Peter B.R. “Green Revolution: Curse or Blessing.” International Food Policy Research Institute. 2002. 1-3. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/pubs/pubs/ib/ib11.pdf&gt;.

Huber, Peter. Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists, a Conservative Manifesto. New York: Basic Books, 1999. Print.

Hume, David. Essays: Moral, Political and Literary. Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1985. Print.

Kahn, Salman. “Thomas Malthus and Population Growth.”  YouTube. Khan Academy, 28 Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Dec., 2013. < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1ywppAJ1xs&gt;.

Landes, David S. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are So Rich and Some So Poor. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1998. Print.

Lomborg, Bjorn. The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Print.

Malthus, Thomas R. An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1st ed. London: Macmillan reprint, 1909. Print.

Sen, Amartya. Development As Freedom. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. Print.

Simon, Julian L. The Ultimate Resource 2. New York: Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. Print.

Skousen, Mark. The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers, 2nd ed. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2009. Print.

Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, The Modern Library Edition, New York: Random House, Inc., 1937. Print.

World Commission on Environment and Development. Our Common Future. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Benghazi cover story

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Central Intelligence Agency, Columns, Congress, Crime, Foreign Policy, Homicide, Law, Liberty, People, Philosophy, Politics, War, Weapons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Benghazi cover story

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Transfer_Remains_Ceremony

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak at transfer of remains ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base for Americans killed in Benghazi.         Credit:www.vosizneias.com

The Benghazi cover story was an awful, offensive, crude and disgusting online video that insulted believers in Islam lead to a spontaneous protest that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

On Sept. 14, 2012 during the transfer of remains ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made remarks to the families of the four Americans killed in Benghazi. She briefly reviewed the careers and lives of the deceased: Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Clinton said, “We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”

On Sept. 16, 2012, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on all five Sunday morning TV news shows. The interviewers on all five shows asked Rice to provide the Obama administration’s explanation for the murder of the four Americans in Benghazi.

On ABC’s  “This Week,” in response to a question by Jake Tapper,  Rice answered, “But our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.”  Rice repeated this explanation on all five shows.

On Sept. 25, 2012, President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He also repeated Rice’s explanation for what happened in Benghazi. Obama said, “That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video.”

According to an Associated Press story by Paul Schemm and Michael Maggie: “Within 24 hours of the attack, both the embassy in Tripoli and the CIA station chief sent word to Washington that it was a planned militant attack,” and “there was no sign of a spontaneous protest against an American-made movie denigrating Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.”

The terrorist attackers numbering about 150 are suspected of being members of the powerful militia organization Ansar al-Shariah. Their members espouse a jihadist al-Qaida-like ideology. They fought in the Libyan civil war that overthrew the 42-year dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi.

Gregory Hicks was deputy chief of mission and charge d’affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya on Sept. 11. He was called to testify before the House Oversight Committee that is investigating Benghazi on May 9. Hicks said, “I thought it was a terrorist attack from the get-go. I think everybody at the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning.”

On Oct. 27 CBS’s 60 Minutes Lara Logan said, “Contrary to the White House’s public statements, which were still being made a full week later, it’s now well established that the Americans were attacked by al-Qaida in a well-planned assault.”

Logan’s reporting coup was an interview with a new source, a British security officer, who uses a pseudonym. He said, “On his first drive through Benghazi, he noticed the black flags of al- Qaida flying openly in the streets and he grew concerned about the guard forces as soon as he pulled up to the U.S. compound.”

Also interviewed was Lt. Col. Andy Wood, chief security officer in Libya, and Hicks. Wood said, “Al-Qaida — using a familiar tactic — had stated their intent in an online posting, saying they would attack the Red Cross, the British and then the Americans in Benghazi. They made good on two out of the three promises. It was a matter of time ‘til they captured the third one.”

Wood added, “I made it known in a country team meeting, ‘You are gonna get attacked. You are gonna get attacked in Benghazi. It’s gonna happen. You need to change your security profile.’”

On Oct. 28  Fox News interviewed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). He said, “So I am calling for a joint select committee. … The people who survived the attack in Benghazi, have not been made available to the U.S. Congress for oversight purposes. I’m going to block every appointment in the United States Senate until the survivors are being made available to the Congress.”

The truth was known from the beginning that the terrorist attacks were planned and well-organized by a militia group called Ansar al-Shariah and had absolutely nothing to do with a YouTube video. The Benghazi cover story was a lie repeatedly told to deceive the American people during an election year.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Count down to government shut down

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Banking, Business, Credit, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government Spending, Health Care, Law, Liberty, Monetary Policy, People, Philosophy, Politics, Tax Policy, U.S. Constitution, War | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Count down to government shut down

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Senate_Must_Act

House votes to fund federal government but defund Obamacare                Credit: http://www.ktvu.com

The nonessential parts of the federal government may be shut down on Oct. 1 until Congress passes either a fiscal year 2014 budget appropriations bill or a continuing resolution.

Fiscal year 2014 begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2014. Since the Democrats want to increase government spending and taxes and the Republicans want to decrease government spending and taxes, neither party will agree to a budget appropriations bill.

Instead of a stalemate, Congress could pass a joint continuing resolution that appropriates funds for government departments, agencies and programs at current, expanded or reduced levels until a formal appropriations bill is signed into law or until the resolution expires. A continuing resolution would have to be passed by both the House and Senate and then signed into law by the president.

The House passed a continuing resolution on Sept. 20 that would fund the federal government at current levels for the first 11 weeks of the fiscal year 2014 and keep the federal government open. If this continuing resolution is not passed by the Senate, some nonessential parts of the federal government would need to be shut down.

The House resolution had two amendments. The first would strip out funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare and thereby stop its implementation. The second would direct how federal government spending is prioritized in the event the Treasury hits the borrowing debt ceiling limit in the near future.

The 230-189 vote was mainly along party lines with 228 Republicans and two Democrats voting in favor and 188 Democrats and one Republican voting against the continuing resolution.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) held a victory rally after the resolution passed and remarked, “The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare. The House has listened to the American people. Now it’s time for the United States Senate to listen to them as well.”

House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor put several Democratic Senators, who are up for re-election in Nov. of 2014, on the spot. Cantor called out Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Cantor said, “It’s up to Senate Democrats to follow House Republicans and show some responsibility.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Sept. 19, “I will do everything and anything possible to defund Obamacare.” Cruz promised to filibuster any attempt to strip out the language of the House continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare. A filibuster is the use of irregular or obstructive tactics by a Senator to prevent the adoption of a measure.

Cruz began his filibuster by saying: “I rise today in opposition to Obamacare. I rise today in an effort to speak for 26 million Texans and for 300 million Americans. All across this country Americans are suffering because of Obamacare. Obamacare isn’t working and yet fundamentally there are politicians in this body who are not listening to the people. They are not listening to the concerns of their constituents. They are not listening to the jobs lost, the people forced into part-time jobs, the people losing their health insurance, the people who are struggling. A great many Texans, a great many Americans feel that they do not have a voice. So I hope to play some very small part in helping to provide that voice for them. …I  intend to speak in opposition to Obamacare. I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare, until I am unable to stand.”

Cruz delivered on his promise by standing and speaking for more than 21 hours on Sept. 23-24.

According to a Sept. 15 NBC/WSJ poll, 44 percent of respondents call Obamacare a bad idea and 31 percent believe it’s a good idea.

In a national survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted on Sept. 14-15 by Rasmussen Reports, 51 percent favor a government shutdown until Congress cuts health care funding. The Rasmussen survey also found that “58 percent favor a federal budget that cuts spending, while 16 percent prefer one that increases spending. Twenty-one percent support a budget that keeps spending levels about the same.”

According to Rasmussen, “74 percent of Republican and 62 percent of unaffiliated voters would rather have a shutdown until the two sides can agree on what spending to cut,” while “63 percent of Democrats agree with the president and would prefer to avoid a shutdown by authorizing spending at existing levels.”

“Republicans are simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice they must face: pass a clean bill to fund the government, or force a shutdown. I have said it before but it seems to bear repeating: the Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada).

The Democrats are determined to fund Obamacare, shut down the government on Oct.1 and blame it on Republicans.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

 

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The Missiles of September

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Economics, Government, Government Spending, Law, Liberty, People, Philosophy, Politics, War, Weapons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Missiles of September

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

abort_launch_button

Did Russian President Vladimir Putin abort President Barack Obama’s plan to launch the missiles of September?

In a surprise move on Sept. 9, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “We are calling on the Syrian leadership to not only agree on placing chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on its subsequent destruction and fully joining the treaty on prohibition of chemical weapons.”

Lavrov added, “If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Syria was ready for, “full cooperation with Russia to remove any pretext for aggression.”

Also on Sept. 9 in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Obama said, “It is potentially a positive development. I have to say that it is unlikely that we would have arrived at that point where there are even public statements like that without a credible military threat to deal with the chemical weapons used inside of Syria.”

Diane Sawyer of ABC News asked Obama, “If Bashar Assad yields control of his chemical weapons to an international authority, are we back from the brink? Is the military strike on pause? Obama answered, “Absolutely, if in fact that happened.”

In his televised speech of Sept. 10 on Syria, Obama said, “This initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies. I have, therefore, asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue the diplomatic path.”

In response to Obama’s speech, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said, “Twelve years after we were attacked by al-Qaida, 12 years after 3,000 Americans were killed by al-Qaida, President Obama now asks us to be allies with al-Qaida. Al Qaeda. Americans by a large majority want nothing to do with the Syrian civil war. We fail to see a national security interest in a war between a leader who gasses his own citizens and Islamic rebels who are killing Christians.”

Paul added, “Some argue that American credibility is on the line, that because President Obama drew a red line with chemical weapons, America must act or lose credibility. I would argue that America’s credibility does not reside in one man. If our enemies wish to know if America will defend herself, let them look no farther than our response to 9/11. When attacked, we responded with overwhelming force and with the military objective of complete victory over our attackers.”

On Sept. 9 Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning” interviewed Bashar al-Assad. Assad denied ordering the use of chemical weapons and said his own troops were attacked by Syrian rebels that used chemical weapons.

Rose asked what repercussions the United States could expect in the event of a strike. Assad replied “You should expect everything. Not necessarily through the government. The government is not necessarily the only player in the region . . .  Expect every action.”

Rose asked, “Including chemical warfare?” Assad replied, “If the rebels or the terrorists in this region have it, it could happen. I don’t know . . .  Nobody expected the 11th of September.”

Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Kuwait, wrote in an article titled “Containing the Fire in Syria” in YaleGlobal Online, “So what are the options? First, to recognize that as bad as the situation is, it could be made much worse. A major western military intervention would do that. And lesser steps, such as a no-fly zone, could force the West to greater involvement if they proved unsuccessful in reducing violence. The hard truth is that the fires in Syria will blaze for some time to come. Like a major forest fire, the most we can hope to do is contain it. And it’s already spreading. Al-Qaida in Iraq and Syria have merged, and car bombs in Iraq are virtually a daily occurrence as these groups seek to reignite a sectarian civil war.”

On Sept. 8, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on “ABC This Week,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said “I think a military attack is a mistake. One, because I think the administration is proceeding with the wrong objective, and two, because they have no viable plan for success.” Cruz added, “They are beginning from the wrong objective because this attack is not based on defending U.S. national security… I don’t think that’s the job of our military to be defending amorphous international norms.

“Just because Assad is a murderous tyrant doesn’t mean his opponents are any better. … Either the strike is really significant, it weakens Assad and the result is the rebels are able to succeed, and if that happened there is al-Qaida taking over, or Al Nusra taking over, and extremist terrorists getting access to those chemical weapons. That hurts U.S. national security,” Cruz added.

In 2007 then Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Biden’s view was that if President George W. Bush ordered an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities without Congressional authorization, it would be unconstitutional and an impeachable offense.

In poll after poll the American people oppose military intervention in and war with Syria.

In a CNN/ORC international poll of 1,022 adult Americans conducted Sept. 6-8 and released Sept. 9, eight in 10 Americans believe the Assad regime gassed the Syrian people. However, 39 percent favor and 59 percent oppose Congress passing a resolution authorizing military action in Syria for 60 days. Should Congress fail to pass a resolution authorizing the president to use U.S. air strikes against military targets in Syria, 27 percent favor and 71 percent oppose the use of air strikes unilaterally by the president.

The reality is the American people, their representatives in Congress and the United State Constitution aborted the president’s plan to launch the missiles of September.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Obama’s red lines

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Government Spending, Law, Liberty, People, Philosophy, Politics, War, Weapons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Obama’s red lines

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

President Obama has a credibility problem concerning red lines.

On Aug. 20, 2012, in a press conference from the White House, Obama said, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.” A YouTube video titled “US President Barack Obama in ‘red line’ warning to Syria over chemical weapons” captured Obama’s statement.

On Sept. 4, in a press conference in Stockholm, Obama said, “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line. My credibility’s not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line. And America and Congress’ credibility’s on the line.” A YouTube video titled “President Obama: I Didn’t Set The Red Line, The World Set The Red Line” captured Obama’s latest statement regarding a red line.

On Aug. 31, Obama announced that he would be seeking from Congress a resolution authorizing military action against the Assad regime for using chemical weapons on the Syrian people.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) appeared on “Face The Nation” on Sept. 1 and was asked, “How would the United States look if the president says I have decided to take military action,  I want Congress to give me authority, Congress does not give that authority?”

Paul answered, “I think it would show that he made a grave mistake when he drew a red line. I think a president should be very careful about red lines he is not going to keep.   But, then again, when you set a red line that was not a good idea and now you are going to adhere to it or show your machismo, I think then you are trying to save face and adding bad policy to bad policy.”

On Sept. 3 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Syria. Paul praised Obama for asking Congress for a resolution to use military force. However, he pressed Secretary of State John Kerry as to whether Obama would still order military action should Congress vote down the resolution.

Kerry said, “The president still has the constitutional authority, and he would be in keeping with the Constitution.”

Paul replied, “I disagree. I do not believe he has the constitutional authority.”

“This power is a congressional power, and it is not an executive power. They didn’t say big war or small war. They didn’t say boots on the ground or no boots on the ground. They said declare war. Ask the people on the ships launching the missiles whether they are involved with war or not. If we do not say that the Constitution applies, if we do not say explicitly we will abide by this vote, you are making a joke of us. You are making us into theater. So we are playing constitutional theater for the president. If this is real, you will abide by the verdict of Congress,” Paul added.  A YouTube video titled “Rand Paul Grills John Kerry: Will Obama Honor Congress’ Vote or Make ‘Constitutional Theater” captured the exchange between  Paul and Kerry.

Paul paraphrased the words of James Madison, the father of the Constitution, who wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1798, “The Constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war and most prone to it.  It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the legislature.”

Paul agrees with Madison who wrote in 1793, “The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature . . . the executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.”

Obama would be well advised not to cross this constitutional red line, since in poll after poll the American people have indicated they do not want military action in Syria.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Ron Paul’s economic plan for restoring America to peace and prosperity

Posted on October 20, 2011. Filed under: Banking, Business, Columns, Credit, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government, Government Spending, Macroeconomis, Microeconomics, Monetary Policy, Philosophy, Tax Policy | Tags: , , , |

My choice for president is Ron Paul. Why? The American people are asking three important questions of all the candidates.  Can I trust this candidate? Was the candidate right on the economic issues in the past? Does the candidate know what needs to be done to get America growing and working again? For Paul the American people find the answers to these questions to be yes.

I greatly respect the character, honesty and integrity of Paul. As an economist and former financial advisor, I am equally impressed that Paul not only predicted the recent financial crisis, he understood its’ causes. In an article entitled Predictions, dated April 26, 2002, Paul said, “In the next decade the American people will become poorer and less free, while they become more dependent on the government for economic security.” He knows what needs to be done to lead the U.S. economy back to high rates of economic growth and employment–reduce the size and scope of the federal government.

 

Source: Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011, Historical Table 1.2

In just three years, President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party-controlled House and Senate ran up massive budgetary deficits and debt totaling more than $4 trillion. TheUnited Statesis broke. The American people are searching for a fiscally responsible president that will balance the government’s budget and establish the necessary economic conditions for the creation of more than 30 million full-time jobs.

Federal government spending outlays are largely for warfare and welfare entitlements. This spending encourages businesses and individuals to become dependent upon the government for contracts and handouts. From less than 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product prior to 1930, federal government spending outlays have increased in percentage terms by more than eight-fold to more than 24 percent of GDP.

On Oct.17 in Las Vegas, the day before the Republican debates, presidential candidate Ron Paul unveiled his economic “Plan to Restore America to peace and prosperity by limiting the size and scope of the federal government. Paul would stop foreign wars and bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, eliminate all foreign aid,  reduce the federal government’s budget by $1 trillion in the first year, abolish all corporate subsidies, reduce the federal labor force by 10 percent and permanently close the Departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development. For most of the remaining departments, their budget outlays would be frozen.  The federal budget would be balanced in three years in fiscal year 2015.

Paul would also shut down the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), currently part of the Department of Homeland Security, both of which were created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The airlines would have the responsibility for security and screening passengers that are boarding their aircraft.

In the tax policy area, Paul would extend the Bush tax rate cuts, eliminate estate taxes, allowU.S.companies operating abroad to repatriate their capital without additional taxation and reduce the highest corporate tax rate in the world from 35 percent to a more competitive 15 percent. Paul wants to reform the existing income tax code by going to a much simpler and fairer tax system. He would eliminate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In the past, Paul has indicated his support for the FairTax. This tax reform proposal would eliminate the IRS and replace all federal income taxes including the corporate, personal, payroll (Social Security and Medicare), capital gains, alternative minimum, gift and estate taxes with one broad based national retail sales consumption tax on the sale of all new goods and services. The FairTax has a progressive tax refund feature called a prebate. Every month, each American citizen including children would receive from the federal government a prebate to pay for the upcoming month’s sales tax on life’s necessities such as food and clothing.

If the personal income tax is eliminated, how does Paul’s plan pay for the federal government? A 15 percent corporate income tax and payroll taxes would simply not bring in enough revenues to pay for an even down-sized federal government.

Recently, Paul indicated that he is against Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax reform plan, particularly the proposed new national sales tax. Under Cain’s plan, the existing income and payroll taxes would be eliminated and replaced with a flat 9 percent business income tax, a flat 9 percent personal income tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax. Cain argues that his proposal is a bridge to the eventual passage of the FairTax.

Is Paul still in favor of the FairTax? If the answer is no, then how would Paul’s plan pay for government spending or outlays exceeding corporate income and payroll tax revenue or receipts? Paul’s plan does not answer this question. I hope Paul again reiterates his support of the FairTax. Paul could come out with a modified FairTax proposal, call it FairTax Less, where the actual FairTax tax rate declines each year as government becomes smaller and the budget is balanced.

Those already receiving Social Security, Medicare and veteran entitlements or approaching qualification for these programs will not be affected.The plan honors the promises the federal government has made to seniors and veterans. However, Paul provides those younger than 25 with the option to leave these programs. This is a very popular option with the young, as well as many Americans that would also like this option.

Paul calls for a full audit of the Federal Reserve System, the U.S. central bank. However, his proposal does not call for ending the Fed. The proposal does support legislation that would permit competing currencies to stabilize inflation and strengthen the purchasing power of the dollar.

Like most of the other Republican candidates for president, Paul would immediately repeal both the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obama Care, and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which would add several more regulatory agencies and hundreds of regulatory rules.

Small and medium-size businesses and community banks have pointed to these two new laws as creating massive business uncertainty and higher business costs that will be paid for by the consumer. Businesses are not growing and creating enough jobs each month to reduce the unemployment rate below 9 percent. Today, more than 25 million Americans are searching for a full-time job.

Paul would also repeal the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was passed in 2002. The law is considered by many as a very costly intrusion into corporate management. Sarbanes-Oxley has not prevented fraud but has dramatically reduced the number of new public companies created and putU.S.companies at a competitive cost disadvantage with foreign companies.

The Plan to Restore America does differentiate Paul from the other Republican presidential candidates for having a very specific plan to cut government spending and balance the budget. The Republican Party establishment candidates, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, will be hard pressed to come up with a comparable plan.

Instead, they and their cheerleaders in the party establishment and media will first ignore the economic plan, and then attack it. Yet, the fiscal year 2012 Republican House Budget has an estimated deficit of about $1 trillion and will not balance until the late 2030s. Both the Republican Party and Obama’s Democratic Party proposed budgets for fiscal year 2012 which are fiscally irresponsible, with estimated deficits of $1 trillion to $1.2 trillion.

The Tea Party will cheer Paul’s plan and most likely vote for him. Many Democrats, Republicans and independents who are searching for a job and a fiscally responsible president will vote for him. Paul now needs to break into the national polls with the same impressive numbers he has received in many straw polls he has won across the nation. Once this happens, he will be the front-runner.

Paul has money, organization, message, momentum, and ambition or MOMMA. The only open question is, does he have enough of each to win the nomination. I think he does. By mid-March the only candidates in serious contention for the presidential nomination will be the Republican establishment candidate, Mitt Romney and the Republican constitutional candidate, Ron Paul.

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