VAMPIRES, HOSTS and HOSTAGES in America

VAMPIRES, HOSTS and HOSTAGES

In the PUBLIC SQUARE

Commentary

By

Jay B Gaskill

VAMPING THE METAPHOR

“Obama argued at a press conference in Chicago that his escalating attacks on Romney, whom the campaign has dubbed a ‘vampire’ for making profits as workers were being laid off, are not petty politics…”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/05/22/obama-stakes-his-re-election-on-bain-attacks/#ixzz1vdG0aXVP

Vampires everywhere?

Earlier this year, I read a very entertaining and interesting book, Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith.  It will soon be released as a movie.  Note that our president has identified himself with Abe Lincoln (among scores of other iconic figures – see The Martian in the White House http://jaygaskill.com/dot2dot/2012/05/18/the-martian-in-the-white-house/ ). I suspect that Barack Obama sees himself as the Great Vampire Hunter of our time. This raises a question.

Who is the REAL vampire hunter?

Not only is the leader of the free world confused about vampires, it seems that our president doesn’t quite get capitalism.  He has polemically mischaracterized Governor Romney’s tenure as the head of Bain Capital, a highly successful venture capital investment company that has salvaged and turned around scores of failing companies by making them successful (among them Staples, Sports Authority and Domino’s Pizza); but to the Obamistas, this is a form of corporate vampirism.

Presumably the president and his economic team think that all businesses are equally entitled to succeed, and that the failure of investors to subsidize losers is somehow analogous to vampire bats feeding off a herd of wildebeests.  A less inapt metaphor might have been to talk about vultures, but that misses the essential point: Neither vultures nor vampires create new, healthy businesses.

A success-aimed investment strategy, like that which governed Bain Capital, necessarily requires that flawed, broken and inefficient models be cleared out of the way to make room for the new models that will thrive. We should note here that individual commercial enterprises are not like countries when they fail because their employees can and often do quickly migrate to new jobs with the more successful competition. Some economists refer to this process as creative destruction.  Without creative destruction, motorcars would still be hand made in small shops; and only the very wealthy could drive.

That Invisible Elephant

There is an elephant in the room. We are witnessing a very large scale systemic failure, much as the catastrophic failure of an immense bridge might appear in extreme slow motion. Without paying adequate attention, we have been living through the successive collapse of two models of human organization: one is done for, and one is well one the way to the end game:

[1] In the late 1980’s, the large authoritarian socialist states did not generate enough real employment and real prosperity to survive the pressures of competition; either they failed (as evidenced in the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union), or they began adapting (as in China’s blowtorch semi-capitalist economy).

[2] In the late 1990’s through the present, we have been witness to the slow, inexorable collapse of the mixed economy, socialist-Lite welfare-state experiments, especially in Europe and the UK. Without adaptive reform, these states will follow the Greek example and fail one by one.  No modern sate is exempt from this failure trend –the ongoing need to adapt or fail is as old as the human condition.

A Better Vampire Metaphor.

THE PLAYERS

The hosts in this metaphor are all the “breadwinner” enterprises, the (mostly but not entirely private) productive, profitable private commercial businesses that provide real goods and services that actually fulfill a demand that can be measured in real value tendered. There is an allied set of support services (think of legal, juridical and protection functions, mostly but not exclusively performed by public institutions).  Closely linked to the breadwinner enterprises there is an expanding circle of the breadwinner’s dependents (immediate family and extended family). And there is another loosely linked circle of recognized, not-family affiliated dependants. The status of this outer group depends on a fragile consensus among the productive breadwinner enterprises – “We are willing to pay for the care and feeding our grand parents, and even others similarly situated, but our sense of obligation is not unlimited….”

The vampires in this metaphor are all the political and other power manipulators (who mostly but not exclusively dwell in government) who sustain themselves and even thrive by sucking value from the breadwinner enterprises in order to perpetuate their status.  They earn the title vampires when their activities do not represent value added, especially in contrast with voluntary, well managed charitable actions, because this subset of “public servants” do what they do (a) without generating value in return; (b) by burdening the life conditions of the affiliated and not affiliated dependents with irrational rules administered by bureaucrats; and (c) by promoting symbolic faux values (e.g., think of a new, protected ADA category, the ‘morally challenged” to get the idea) that are designed to create ever new classes of dependants who “need to be helped” at public expense. The additional cost to the burdened breadwinners is analogous to vampires swarming a dying horse.

The hostages in this extended metaphor consist of the dependants that the breadwinners actually care about, plus elements of the core support services (typically public protection and national security) that have wide popular support among the “ordinary” people.

THE VAMPIRE-HOST GAME

The vampires are individually intelligent, but collectively stupid.  Over time, their individual blood-sips, all for the nominal cause of some new dependency, aggregate to much a much greater blood loss than the host organism can tolerate.  This is the condition of the overburdened, over-harvested, commercial economies in all of the gravely weakened mixed economy, socialist-Lite welfare states.  A potentially fatal host-disease has infected Greece. The epidemic is growing, and it will not end (if we are not careful) until the USA, itself, collapses.

Collectively the vampires achieved this unhealthy state of control over the affairs of state because by exploiting a political strategy of hostage bartering.  Opposition to increased bloodletting has typically been countered with the threat of cutting support to the dependants that the breadwinners care most about and essential services like public protection. Even a legendary vampire fighter like The Reagan was backed in a corner when the vampires threatened hostages at budget time.

The massive public debt in the Western economies is the byproduct of a series of expensive compromises with vampires to save hostages.

As I write this, the metabolism of the productive enterprises that support the breadwinning economy is behaving like a weakened host surrounded by vampires who are buzzing about, discussing strategies for its revival. Without the host, the vampires will starve; but hungry vampires will not be denied – this collective hunger makes them collectively stupid to a self-destructive extreme.  At the moment, the vampire elites are proposing saline injections, while “radical” voices can be heard in the distance, shouting “Stop sucking the blood!”

Meantime, the baby vampires cavort around the dying creatures, shouting “Occupy!” The vampire children are embedded among mobs of hostage pawns caught up in an agenda only dimly understood.

THE OUTCOME

All metaphors have their limits.  This one doesn’t take into account that minds can be changed (the vampire-host relationship is the result of policies that can be reversed); that rational self interest can lead to self restraint (reasonable vampires understand the need to let the host recover); and that there is an overriding moral component to all this.

The left has attempted (with transient and spotty success) to promote an ethic of “fairness” in which the very condition wherein some enjoy success, while others do not, is inherently and collectively unfair. Via this propaganda campaign (at least three decades old), the left still hopes that the American people can be propelled into a regime that compels leveled outcomes.  This is a thinly disguised sales pitch by vampires to their hosts – “Hold still ‘till we bleed you all the way to equality”.

But there is a more ancient – and more widely held – ethic, one that is much more likely to prevail: It is fundamentally unfair to take away your earnings in order to give them to someone else that did not earn them.  This is seen as particularly unfair – even repellant – when, as is so often the case due to the inherent dysfunction of welfare-state bureaucracies, only a small fraction of the extracted blood actually finds its way to the promised beneficiaries. After all, the vampires must be fed…at all times and under all conditions.

We live in a democratic, constitutional republic, not a vampire feeding pen.  Reasonable minds can differ over the allocation of public resources to benefit activities and people outside the host economy.  But there is little room for reasonable disagreement about one overriding imperative: Keep the productive, breadwinner economy healthy and thriving.

The question of the day is whether the American public gets it, as their current president clearly does not.

THE VAMPIRE TEACHING TOOL

Metaphors can be used polemically or they can be effective teaching tools.  The teaching value of the vampire metaphor is manifold.  When well explained, it helps illuminate a number of things misunderstood by the clueless subset of the left and right:

[1] …how a sequence of separate policy failures and defaults over the last five decades have made fiscal conservatives complicit in the accumulation of crippling sovereign debt;

[2] …why it is now imperative to dramatically lift the regulatory and economic burdens on business development and growth;

[3] …how to frame the urgent case for market-intervention restraint when misguided vampires attempt to selectively “help” politically connected, politically correct business projects at the expense of other more efficient and promising ones;

[3]…why the government vampires are congenitally incompetent at managing the breadwinner sector on which their parasitic livelihoods depend.

The pending collapse of all of the mixed economy, socialist-Lite welfare-state experiments is a valuable warning. If we choose to take heed, Europe will be our crash-test dummy. If not, we will be the crash dummy for the survivors.

JBG

This article is Copyright © 2012 by Jay B. Gaskill, Attorney at Law.  Forwards, links and quotes with attribution are welcome.  For everything else, contact the author via email– law@jaygaskill.com.  Jay B Gaskill is the California attorney who served as the 7th Alameda County Public Defender (in Oakland, CA) before he left his “life of crime”.  This article and others can be found on The Policy Think Site www.jaygaskill.com and the linked Blogs.

THE MARTIAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE

The Martian in the White House

A Political Meditation by

Jay B Gaskill

Attorney at Law

The Acton and Dystel agency distributed an Obama biographical description in a booklet in connection with Barry’s forthcoming book – Journeys in Black and White. The booklet begins with this line –

Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”

Andrew Breitbart and the affiliated journalists at http://www.breitbart.com/ did not and do not believe that Barry Obama was born in Kenya, just that he claimed to be.  From the Breitbart website –

Andrew Breitbart was never a “Birther,” and Breitbart News is a site that has never advocated the narrative of “Birtherism.” In fact, Andrew believed, as we do, that President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961.

The point of interest for them and me is Obama’s ever fluctuating image of himself.

LINKS:

The Policy Think Site — http://jaygaskill.com/TheMartianInTheWhiteHouse.htm

The Dot 2 Dot Blog —– http://jaygaskill.com/dot2dot/2012/05/18/the-martian-in-the-white-house/

Yesterday’s Krugman, Today’s Brooks

The current crop of liberals-in-charge have achieved the seemingly impossible: the alienation of working Americans (those who still can and those who still want to) from those politicians who pretend to still care about an honest day’s work as a value in and of itself.

As published on The Policy Think Sitehttp://jaygaskill.com/YesterdayKrugmanTodayBrooks.htm

Yesterday’s Krugman, Today’s Brooks

Be Still My Brain

Analysis

By Jay B Gaskill

The commentariat sometimes approach reality…usually obliquely

What reality, you ask?  Subsidized consumption does not cure the economic logjam caused by irrationally generous subsidies in the first place.  In effect, if you pay people and institutions for being less productive[i], you get what you have paid for…and almost nothing else.

Consider Europe. The EU allowed less productive countries to hijack the credit of more productive ones. Bankruptcy, an abrupt end of easy lending and depression loom. That dangerous impasse is the predictable outcome of what some are calling a “structural” problem and of what others might call undisciplined liberalism.

Consider the USA. The federal government has subsidized less productive enterprises and programs (using taxes, fiat money and an unsustainable expansion sovereign debt) at the expense of the more productive (mostly private) sector of the economy…for decades.  Bankruptcy, the abrupt end of easy lending and depression loom.

On each continent, conventional liberalism clings to an outmoded solution:

Subsidized consumption will cure all.

Not.

KRUGMAN ADMITS SOMETHING

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/07/opinion/krugman-those-revolting-europeans.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

In Sunday’s New York Times, Paul Krugman writes about Those Revolting Europeans, trying to defend his ever repeated doctrine that they (read ‘we’) just need to pour a lot more borrowed or fiat money on the problem (while accepting a “little” inflation in return); that surely, this time, the  Keynesian nostrum will cure things.

But in the middle of Krugman’s piece, a bit of reality breaks through.

“One answer — an answer that makes more sense than almost anyone in Europe is willing to admit — would be to break up the euro, Europe’s common currency. Europe wouldn’t be in this fix if Greece  still had its drachma, Spain its peseta, Ireland its punt, and so on, because Greece and Spain would have what they now lack: a quick way to restore cost-competitiveness and boost exports, namely devaluation.

“As a counterpoint to Ireland’s sad story, consider the case of Iceland, which was ground zero for the financial crisis but was able to respond by devaluing its currency, the krona (and also had the courage to let its banks fail and default on their debts). Sure enough, Iceland is experiencing the recovery Ireland was supposed to have, but hasn’t.”

That was a fascinating admission.  What Krugman is not telling us is that, unlike Europe, Iceland had no one to bail it out.  The exposed lenders were allowed to fail, and now the country is on the rebound. The Iceland example is usually cited by conservatives as a counter example to the liberal folly that seeks to cure improvident subsidies with more of the same, and rewards failure with somebody else’s money.

Failure is a good thing because it teaches prudence and presages a fresh, wiser restart.

Krugman concludes his piece with the observation that “breaking up the euro would be highly disruptive, and would also represent a huge defeat for the ‘European project”’.  Truth be told, the “answer that makes more sense than almost anyone in Europe is willing to admit” is the same kind of answer that almost any conventional liberal, Krugman included, stubbornly refuses to admit. Why? …because it “would also represent a huge defeat for the liberal project” to which Krugman and others, in spite of the accumulating evidence, have all tethered their rafts.

DAVID BROOKS ALMOST GETS IT

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/opinion/brooks-the-structural-revolution.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

The Following day, David Brooks writes in the New York Times.  In The Structural Revolution

(May 7, 2012), he points out that-

“…structural problems have retarded growth and wages for decades. Consumers tried to compensate by borrowing more. Politicians tried to compensate by reducing the tax bill, increasing deficit spending, ensuring easy credit for homebuyers and by helping workers shift out of the hypercompetitive, globalized part of the economy and into the less productive and more sheltered parts of the economy — mostly into health care, government and education.

“But you can only mask structural problems for so long. The whole thing has gone kablooey. The current model, in which we try to compensate for structural economic weakness with tax cuts and an unsustainable welfare state, simply cannot last. The old model is broken. The jig is up.

“President Obama is too minimalist. He doesn’t seem to believe America’s structural problems are that big, making his reform ideas small. Mitt Romney and Representative Paul Ryan understand the size of the structural problems, but their reform plans are constrained by the Republican Party’s single-minded devotion to tax cuts.”

The ever civil Mr. Brooks is to be cut some slack for his kindness to the present administration (for “minimalist” above, I’d substitute “clueless”).   But I would appreciate a bit more bright line clarity.  When any society choses to go the extra thousand miles to selectively burden its productive members in order to generally benefit its less productive ones, a painful breaking point always is reached.  That point is now.  We are witnessing the crackup of the postmodern liberal experiment.  The current crop of liberals-in-charge have achieved the seemingly impossible: the alienation of working Americans (those who still can and those who still want to) from those politicians who pretend to still care about an honest day’s work as a value in and of itself.

For every structural dysfunction, there is an underlying moral lapse.  I’m still waiting for that part of the conversation to reach the commentariat.

JBG

Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Forwards, links and quotes with attribution are welcome and encouraged.

For everything else, please contact the author by email – law@jaygaskill.com .

Published on The Policy Think Site, linked blogs and sites


[i] I am using the traditional definition of “productive” as it relates to those activities and services that make a profit by filling a market demand. The recent scandals relating to federal subsidies for failing (or less than economically viable) solar companies, represent the subsidization of the “less productive”.  The use of public funds to bail out such enterprises, post-failure, is one more form of subsidization of non-productivity.  Risky investments need to be allowed to fail as well as succeed; they are not a wise (nor a particularly moral) use of public resources.