Thursday, October 31, 2019

Texas Ballot Propositions


There’s only one more day of early voting, and then Election Day is this coming Tuesday, November 5th. So it's about time I worked through my plans for the ballot. And I’ll share that with you, in hopes that you will be a more informed voter.

Our ballot contains 10 statewide propositions for changes to the state constitution, plus one Metro bond proposition, and four places on the school board of trustees—only one of which is contested.

Below is a chart I put together of opinions I’ve gathered as I've come to my decisions. Mark Ramsay and Terri Leo Wilson are our State Republican Executive Committee District 7 chairs. The Republican Party of Texas (RPT) put out information, but only supported those bills that represented planks of the party platform. TCC is Texas Conservative Coalition. TFR is Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. Doc Greene is the host of American Voice Radio, a daily two-hour podcast. He attended our Cypress Texas Tea Party meeting last Saturday, where we discussed the ideas, and he gave his opinions, along with TCC, TRF, and the rest of us, so I wrote them down. I also have opinions from Empower Texans, and Grassroots America/We the People. And I added conversations with my son, Political Sphere, an attorney in a rural county, where he often brings me a different perspective. The final column is my choices.

Below the chart are links to several of the sources and analysis, followed by my analysis of each proposition and the rest of the ballot.




Sources

·         Empower Texans 

·         Grassroots America/We the People 
·         Republican Party Texas (supports only those that represent a plank of the party platform—the link shows the propositions, plus associated planks and information on those it supports): 
·         Texas Public Policy Foundation, by James Quintero and Shelby Sterling 
·         Texas Legislative Council (Lt Gov Dan Patrick, Speaker Bonnen, Exec Dir Jeff Archer—summary of both sides): 
·         Texas Conservative Coalition analysis
·         Texans for Fiscal Responsibility short analysis 



My Analysis

Proposition 1: The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.

The law currently disallows holding multiple paid public positions, with the exception of municipal judges who are appointed. Currently about 95% of municipal judges fit this category—serving multiple cities or towns at the same time, which allows for costs to be shared by the municipalities. The proposition changes the law to include not just appointed municipal judges, but also elected municipal judges. It’s a minor change. It affects mainly rural areas and helps them meet needs at reasonable cost.

Those who oppose the law say they fear corruption. Some say they like the concept but don’t approve of the way the law is written. I don’t know how to judge that. My son the lawyer has read the bill, would normally favor an advantage for a rural area, and is leaning against it. So, to be safe, I am leaning against the proposition, but I’m open to more input.


Proposition 2: The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.

The short answer is, this would incur new debt, and it would obligate future taxpayers for the length of the bond. Paying for infrastructure is a basic purpose of the general budget, so creating a constitutionally provided new fund seems unnecessary and likely to be used less efficiently.

On the other side, there are those who say bonds are the best way to pay for infrastructure improvements, because they spread the debt over time (with interest, of course). They also point out that some areas “might” have trouble getting clean water. If they aren’t even certain of the need, it doesn’t seem like a good purpose for additional debt. My son, who lives in a rural economically disadvantaged area, where he advises the county commissioners court, points out that this allows the water board to give better loan rates, so that would be helpful. However, even he is giving it only a maybe. So I’m against it.


Proposition 3: The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.

This is something we understand here, after Hurricane Harvey. Houses that were essentially destroyed, or in need of tens of thousands of dollars of renovation to even be habitable, were being taxed at a rate that assumed no disaster had occurred. So, at a time when homeowners were doing all in their power to pay what it would take to recover their property, the government was coming in and saying, “But we need the full tax amount in order to help with recovery.” Not very convincing. My son points out that smaller government entities set their budgets based on assessed property values, and if a September storm comes and temporarily wipes out property values, that government entity will not be able to meet its obligations, which will be even higher with the disaster recovery added on.

The key deciding factor for me is, government isn’t entitled to tax on value that doesn’t exist. I would rather have the burden of recovering from lost tax revenue on government at such a time than on those who are dealing with several feet of water in their homes. I’m voting for this one.


Proposition 4: The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.

Texas doesn’t have an income tax. It should never have an income tax. This constitutional amendment is intended to keep some future legislature from coming in and imposing an income tax.
Note the wording. Vote for the bill to say no income tax.

While I don’t find anyone actually opposing the bill, my son, acquainted with tax law, points out that there will be unintended consequences, because the law considers profits by LLCs, partnerships, and other business entities other than corporations as income that cannot be taxed, essentially making the franchise tax unconstitutional. Only corporations would be taxed on their profits, then. I’m still voting for it.


Proposition 5: The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.

The state has been taxing sporting goods sales, for the purported purpose of supporting Texas Parks and Wildlife. But the money has been going into the general fund, instead of being used for its stated purpose. This amendment simply requires that tax revenue to be spent for its intended purpose. There is no new tax, only better accountability for a tax already being collected. I’m voting for it.

Those against it tend to be against auto-allocation in budgeting. That means the legislature has no choice but to allocate certain funds or amounts to certain purposes. If the legislature could keep their word and allocate funds as promised (perhaps with exceptions under extreme conditions), then we could give them flexibility. But when they fail to do so, what do we do? My son suggests one other way would be to grant people standing to actually sue over the issues such as deterioration of parks, for example. But, since that’s not on the table, I’m still voting for this proposition. And we’ll have to deal with auto-allocation as a whole separate issue sometime.


Proposition 6: The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Back in 2007 voters approved the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Of that original bond, there remains $150 million not yet allocated, plus $286 million appropriated but not yet spent. Those in favor of the bond say this will last only through 2021 and then the whole research institute shuts down.

However, cancer research is not an essential function of state government. Private donations can be sought to continue the helpful research. Choosing not to take on additional taxpayer debt encourages seeking private donations, and prevents the costs of borrowing. So, while I’m in favor of cancer research, I believe that’s a private obligation, not a government purpose. So I am voting against the proposition.


Proposition 7: The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.

Funding of public schools in Texas is complicated. In short, there’s a Permanent School Fund (PSF), which is invested money, sort of an endowment. And there is the available school fund (ASF), used in current annual budgeting. Both of these are managed by the General Land Office (GLO), which has lands and resources invested that the proceeds of which go toward education, and by the State Board of Education (SBOE). This proposition would double the current cap of $300 million of GLO money that can come from the PSF to the ASF, and would also allow an additional $600 million SBOE funding toward the ASF.

This is a matter of investing less and using more in a current year—purportedly in years when the proceeds are positive enough to provide beyond the current cap. The GLO and SBOE would be required to coordinate to make the best use of funds.

Proponents look at the increased flexibility. For those that look at this as a question of state vs. local spending, it should be noted that the state makes many, many demands on local school districts, which it had better fund in order for them to meet those requirements. Unfunded mandates are bad when the federal government does that to the states, and they’re bad when the state does that to local districts.

Opponents point out that increased spending in a current year could decrease available income in the future, because the money is spent rather than invested. They also point out that increased spending does not guarantee improved outcomes from the schools.

I hold the rather radical view that more (and eventually complete) movement toward the free market would improve outcomes and lower costs in education, as it does with everything else that is not a proper role of government (protection of life, liberty, and property). But our state has a dedicated constitutional purpose of funding public education. So, facing that, the question is, what is the best way to fund it? If we could guarantee that decisions would always be wise, I’d be in favor of this proposition. But since we can’t guarantee that, I am uncertain. Many conservatives that I trust are favoring the proposition, so I am leaning toward voting for it, but I am still open to more information.


Proposition 8: The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.

We learned a lot from Hurricane Harvey. One of the things we learned was what areas were problems that need fixing before future storms, such as maybe a new reservoir in the Cypress Creek area of Spring, in the northwest part of the county. The special fund would allow for such projects, and would make smaller entities more able to meet matching fund requirements placed on disaster mitigation funds from the federal government. Now that we know what the problems are, let’s take care of them.

Many people are against this bill. I don’t fully understand their arguments. They’re not against funding the infrastructure; they seem to be against this particular approach, outside of general revenue. Some of them are against any use at any time of the Rainy Day fund. I think, if Harvey wasn’t a rainy enough day to access those funds, nothing is. I may be going against the crowd, but I’m leaning toward voting for this proposition.


Proposition 9: The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.

The question is whether to carve out a particular industry to benefit: precious metal providers. This would make it so that, as long as the metals are kept in a depository, they could not be taxed by local government entities—regardless of whether the owner plans to use them for commercial purposes. Currently personal property not held for producing income is not subject to property tax, but it could be subject to local taxing units. Government can only exempt tangible assets from taxation if the exemption is provided for in the state constitution, which is why it’s coming up for vote. Proponents say this would take away some uncertainty about the taxation of precious metal depositories and would do little to change taxing revenue. And, they say, it would prevent business from going to other states where precious metal depositories are not taxed. Others point out that the convenience of using a local depository for precious metals would outweigh the concerns about any possible tax. Also, they point out that this allows government to pick out winners and losers.

Compare to bitcoin mining. The mine for this is a machine, possibly called an antminer. This machine is very much like a precious metal depository; it works to “dig up” value. But this type of business would not be exempted as a depository.

People have mixed views on this proposition. I’m leaning against it.


Proposition 10: The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.

When a police office retires, he is not allowed to take his car with him, or other items of value. Currently, a service animal, such as a drug-sniffing dog, is considered a thing of value. A retiring officer would have to purchase the dog in order to keep it. But the dog is only of value to the organization when it is connected to its owner/trainer. When that person is no longer there, the animal isn’t of value to the department. This allows the department to gift the dog to the officer, which makes sense. So it changes ownership but not possession. The federal government already allows service dogs to go with their handling officers upon retirement (of the dog or the person). It makes sense to allow local law enforcement entities to also allow it. Everyone I checked with supports this one. I’m voting for this proposition.


Metro Transit Authority, Proposition A: Bonds not to exceed $3.5 billion for new bus system, HOV lane improvements, next phase of MetroRail, and other improvements.

The actual wording takes up an entire column of my ballot.

It’s harder to get analysis on this than on the statewide propositions. Metro has been mailing out colored flyers. But I don’t know anyone who favors it. The essential things, such as HOV lane improvements, don’t require a $3.5 billion bond, indebting us for the next couple of decades (plus whatever other bonds they add on before this one is retired). MetroRail has never been a good investment, so putting more money into that isn’t my idea of wise spending. Let them come back to us with a request for actual needs in a cost range that matches those needs. I’m voting against Proposition A.


CFISD Trustees 

The only other items on my ballot are four Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District (CFISD) board of trustee positions. Positions 1, 2, and 4 are unopposed. Position 3 has three candidates: Gilbert Sarabia, Ryan C. Irving, Jr., and Natalie Blasingame. I have heart Gilbert Sarabia speak twice, to Cypress Texas Tea Party, heading into this election. I voted for Natalie Blasingame in 2017 and 2015 (she didn’t win either time), but I haven’t heard a word from her this election cycle. Ryan Irving is a 19-year-old student, and he hasn’t reached out to anyone I know; I don’t think he’s ready. CFISD provides more information about the candidates here. And you can listen to their candidate forum here.

Gilbert Sarabia was not able to attend the candidate forum (for a very valid reason—his mother was on the verge of dying). But I did still like Natalie Blasingame. I reread what I wrote about her in 2015, and I still agree with those things. So, while I was leaning toward Sarabia, I think I will once again vote for Blasingame.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Why Put Capitalism on Trial?


This past Friday, the STA Money Hour economists talked about Capitalism on Trial. Usually their radio show is about managing your investments and retirement, so this seemed different and caught my attention.

Luke Patterson was doing most of the talking; along with him was Max Gaines. Patterson started this segment by pointing out that we have nearly 16 million new eligible young voters, who were not old enough to have voted in 2016, the last presidential election. What is on the mind of these new voters?

Not the stock market, not tax cuts, and not deregulation, but rather things like climate change, and income inequality, and forgiving of student loan debt, and more free stuff.
If even half of these voters show up to vote, that could be a problem for Donald Trump. And the alternative—all of them: Warren, Sanders, Biden, even Buttigieg—are extreme (what he calls left, and what is southern statist tyranny on the Spherical Model) and open about their socialist plans.

The economic sphere is the center of the discussion this election. As he puts it,

Profiteering, capitalism, free markets are absolutely on trial—I think fundamental this election. The way of life in the United States I think is also on trial—what we want, and how we want to do things.
So, Patterson goes ahead and makes the case for capitalism. He sets up the defense with this information about what capitalism has done for the United States:

There are now 46.8 million millionaires around the world. That’s up 1.1 million from mid-2018. That’s according to a report released this week by the Credit Research Institute. Thanks again to the value of both financial, like stocks, and non-financial, like real estate assets. The report reveals that there are a lot more millionaires—again totaling 46.8 million millionaires around the world.
From the Credit Suisse Research Institute
Global Wealth Report 2019, p. 11
You’ve got the United States that’s a big part of that. About 25% of the global market capitalization, and the United States is the millionaire capital of the world, according to this report. This year the United States extended its unbroken spell of wealth gains, which they say began after the global financial crisis of 2008. The country now accounts for 40% of dollar millionaires worldwide and 40% of those in the top 1% of global wealth distribution.
The United States, and its system, makes a lot of millionaires. A lot of wealthier people.
This is just the beginning point. The opposition might even say this is a bad thing—creating more inequality, because they don’t understand wealth creation and they think someone gaining wealth means they’re taking it from someone poorer. So there’s more education to do to defend capitalism. Here’s more from the radio broadcast on how US wealth creators compare to other countries:

Luke: And on a per capita basis, there is no country even close. Not even China. Not even close to the United States. They are so distant in second, they’re not even second.
logo found here

What’s more, the biggest gain in the number of millionaires this year comes from—I’ll give you two guesses, Max. Is it Denmark, Switzerland, someplace in Western Europe, China? Gaining the most millionaires this year, with all those people, with a 6% annual GDP growth? Is it China that is creating the most millionaires? Who do you think it is? Western Europe? China? Gaining the most millionaires this year? With all those people, with a 6% annual GDP growth? Is it China that is creating the most millionaires? Who do you think it is?
Max: You’re putting me on the spot.
Luke: I think you know the answer. Give it to us.
Max: I’m not going to say Denmark.
Luke: No. No, you won’t. But it’s the economic system that’s being, I think, promoted by many on the left, as sort of the system to aspire to, the Western European style system.
He’s tells us the answer eventually. But first he’s making clear how the opposition is characterizing capitalism:
Again, capitalism, profit taking, and corporations, and billionaires especially are evil, and our system broken, and so it should be eliminated and rebuilt under a socialist system. That’s what they’re advocating for.
They don’t even apologize for it anymore. It’s not something that they’re saying, well, you know, it just needs to be tweaked around the edges, improve the capitalist system, or make better the things that need improving. They’re not saying any of those things. They’re saying, Listen, this thing is broken. It’s rotten from the inside. It has to be eliminated and criminalized, called out for being evil—to rise up, squash it, and rebuild under a socialist system.
Here’s the essential information, and the answer to his quiz question:
But, as it stands, according to this data, the biggest gain in the number of millionaires this year comes from none other than the United States, which added 675,000 new millionaires in the past year. 675,000 of the 1.1 million.
Hear me on this. This exceeded the extra newcomers in the next nine countries combined.
So, the United States created, this year, 675,000 new millionaires. This exceeded the next nine countries combined: Japan, China, Germany, The Netherlands, Brazil, India, Spain, Canada, Switzerland.
Let’s let that set for a moment. And repeat it. The number of millionaires created in the US this past year exceeds the number of millionaires created in the next nine countries combined. That’s not a small difference.
But, so what if capitalism creates millionaires? Shouldn’t they just feel guilty for that? Don’t we need fewer billionaires and millionaires? Unfortunately, the opposition believes that.
As Patterson says,
So capitalism is on trial. You’ve got Elizabeth Warren. She proposed the Accountable Capitalism Act (nice word), which obliges large corporations to obtain a federal charter requiring directors to consider the interests of all stakeholders—not only shareholders and customers, but also groups representing societies, such as their employees, local communities, civil society, including non-representative anti-business NGOs.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware—where, by the way, more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500 corporations have their legal home—has written a book arguing that corporations should be run for the benefit of their workers. The Financial Times also launched a new agenda: “Capitalism: Time for a Reset. Business must make a profit, but should serve a purpose too.”
People are buying into this nice-sounding irrationality. He adds,
In a recent letter by the Business Roundtable, 181 corporate CEOs disavow the profit motive. The corporate directors, accountability shareholders, the CEOs champion a new view now widely held by them. It says that profit could only be justified for virtuous conduct, that profit should merely be a byproduct of making certain contributions to society. It’s a proposition that the Business Roundtable already implicitly accepts.
So there’s the central debate question: shouldn’t making contributions to society be a higher value than making a profit? Patterson makes this assertion:

In fact, the profit that a business earns is a pretty good approximation of its contribution to society. One might think of it in terms of a simple equation: revenue (what people pay in a competitive market) minus cost (the value of resources used to provide a product or service) equals profit—which is a first order indicator of a business’s contribution to society.
Here's the equation more visually:
revenue – cost = profit

Profit isn’t bad. As Patterson says, “profit is one of the most powerful signaling devices in the free market.”

Back in 2013 I was taking an online Hillsdale College class on economics, and also reading Poverty of Nations. So I wrote a number of economics pieces, for example, herehere, and here. Professor Gary Wolfram, the Economics 101 teacher at Hillsdale, had pointed out that the decentralized free market system makes it possible for the market to prepare and provide what he wants to buy his wife for her birthday even before he has thought about it. It’s amazing. The wide variety of choices, at costs we’re willing to pay (exchange for the fruits of our labor) are far beyond what is available practically anywhere else in the world. He also said—and I’ve heard others point this out as well—capitalism is based on providing goods or services to people—to serve others. The only way to make a valuable exchange is to think about what will make the customer so pleased that they are willing to exchange their own profits (the fruits of their labors) for whatever it is you’re offering them.

Back to the defense of capitalism. Here’s Luke Patterson again:

In their search for profit, businesses create the dynamic for economic growth and prosperity, rising living standards. Is this not a contribution to society of the most dramatic kind imaginable? The contribution to society, the profits making people wealthier, bringing more people out of poverty? Is that not a contribution to society?
He later goes into some detail about estimates of costs surrounding Medicare-for-all, which is just one of the promises of “free stuff” that Elizabeth Warren fails to show how she will pay for. She says she’ll never take from the middle class. But studies show there isn’t enough wealth in the upper class to take from to pay for this giveaway, which takes profits, and even prices, out of the equation.

Here’s what we can know for sure: the free market creates wealth. It doesn’t just move money from some people and place it in the hands of others; it creates actual wealth—new surplus resulting from work. The free market has indeed lifted more people out of poverty than any other system.

It’s not just luck. It’s not just “Well, things are going OK for now, but that can’t continue.” It’s not just, “Sure, socialism has failed every time it’s been tried, but it just wasn’t ever done right.”

I know, for certain, that I am a better expert on what kind of healthcare I am willing to pay for, what foods I’m willing to buy, what kind of transportation will meet my personal needs—or anything else we make payment exchanges for—than some bureaucrat in a faraway office.

Prosperity requires the freedom to make those exchange decisions for ourselves. The person who earns the wealth should be the one to decide how, when, and whether to spend it, save it, or invest it. Any path that allows anyone else to make that decision leads to poverty.

So, when we’re talking economics with young people, we need to make sure that, if they insist that they care about the poor (which they think might include them), we let them know the way to lift the poor is more free market, combined with careful philanthropy—not more government control.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

This Is Child Abuse


The case of James Younger, the 7-year-old being transitioned into a girl by his mother, against the will of his father, was ruled on earlier today. (I wrote about this case here.)

Jeff Younger and his son James
Image from SaveJames.com website


Earlier this week a jury ruled against the father, who was asking for sole conservatorship to prevent the mother’s transitioning their son—ruling that there should be a sole conservator, but it would not be the father. That was devastating news. (I’d like to know what went on in jury deliberations to get them to this decision. I think there was one dissenter, but a unanimous jury was not required.)

But today the judge, Kim Cooks, of the 255 District family court in Dallas, seems to have overruled the jury’s decision. There will be joint conservatorship, and the father, Jeff Younger, will have a say in medical decisions for the boy—which means the mother, Anne Georgulas (a pediatrician I do not recommend to any parents who love their children), cannot go ahead with chemical castration by puberty blockers or surgery without the father’s permission. Also, the father will not be required to pay court costs. 

The judge did, however, put a gag order on the father, so he is not allowed to talk about the case with the press. He has been manning a website, SaveJames.com, to get the word out and keep people apprised of the case, and this means that website will need to be taken down. (I downloaded court documents and some other materials while they were still available.)

After the Tuesday jury verdict but before today’s ruling, Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted this: 

FYI the matter of 7 year old James Younger is being looked into by the Texas Attorney General’s office and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
I hope this means we can prevent any future case that puts a child in such peril. No Texas child should be abused in this manner while sane adults can step in and prevent it.

The mother had been asking for total conservatorship, supervised visitation for the father, without allowing him to say anything that did not affirm that the child is a boy—and she was insisting that he pay for the medical procedures to alter the boy’s body—twisting the knife, you might say.

Today’s ruling is at least a partial rescue and is good news.

It’s hard to know all the details of a case, but one detail we know for certain is that this is a very young biological male, in reality, whose mother is pretending (along with him?) and telling him that he is female. We know that she is willing to do away with his future ability to procreate or engage in normal sexual activity, and risk his physical and mental health in order to keep up the pretense.

There is so much that is disturbing in this case. One mitigating factor the judge may have taken into account was that the mother is not the biological mother; the couple used an egg donor. It’s unclear from stories I’ve read whether she carried the child—actually, children; James has a twin brother—or used a surrogate. But Jeff Younger is the biological father. To take all rights away from a biological parent and give them to a non-biological parent is troubling at best. In this circumstance it would be horrifying.

Family courts are messy places. Stories for another day.

James with his mother, presumably from her
physician website, from a tweet found here
Some information came out during the trial that makes me further question the mother’s sanity. She “realized” her son was a boy when he was three. The evidence? He requested a “girl” toy at McDonald’s. I don’t know what the toy was, but sometimes toys are interesting in ways that appeal to both genders. For example, some years ago there were little fairy dolls that you pulled a strap and they spun up into the air and fluttered down. They were pretty cool. It was the same principle as a non-girly version I had as a child, sometimes called a whirligig. It might have been made more intriguing to a girl when the fluttery thing looks like a fairy, but it’s still a pretty cool toy. And, at three, when children are exploring their world, they don’t even know that some distant marketing person decided an item might best attract either girls or boys.

What other evidence did the mother have? The three-year-old boy loved the movie Frozen.

Disney princess movies may always have been more attractive to girls, but that doesn’t mean boys don’t like them. My brothers, at age 4, enjoyed Snow White. It had messy dwarfs, woodland animals, and heroes, and was just visually worth watching. My grandson, at age 3, dressed as the snowman Olaf from Frozen for Halloween. We all sang along to the soundtrack. There was a reindeer and a hero, as well as a scary villain and a snow monster in the movie—not just princesses. Plenty to pull in every young viewer. Disney knows that; they make movies that way on purpose.

What kind of a mother jumps on evidence that thin to decide, for the entire life of her child, that he is not a boy as his biology clearly shows, but is a girl? An insane mother. Maybe one who had a fantasy about having a girl and a boy, and who now (with the dissolution of the marriage, and her apparent inability to bear a child naturally anyway) has no way to achieve that fantasy except by altering one of her existing children.

The father presented evidence that the mother has manipulated the boy. She withdraws affection except when he is behaving as a girl. When he is locked in his room for bad behavior, she tells him there are monsters who eat little boys.

The boy has always been happy to be a boy with the father. Could that be because he is trying to please the father? Yes. Just as much as he acts like a girl for the mother in an attempt to please her. This has been his life since he was three. What else does he know?

A week ago I mentioned the Candace Owens interview with Walt Hyer. He lived as a trans-woman for seven years, in his 40s, before transitioning back (as much as that can be done) into a man. His story began with a grandmother who used to take care of him. She thought it was fun to dress him up as a cute little girl, and she fussed over him, and gave him positive attention. This was their little secret, until he took a dress home with him to show his family, expecting their positive attention as well. He was too young to know different. The parents curtailed contact with the grandmother, but an extended family member used the information as an excuse to sexually abuse the little boy. These childhood issues were never resolved. He was actually seeking resolution to these issues when he began exploring transgenderism. If he had had a doctor who counseled him to resolve the real issues, rather than to transition, it would have saved him his marriage and family, his job, and a great deal of pain.

This little boy, James, whose mother calls him Luna, is being abused by this woman—and a society that allows her to continue. He will have to have therapy to deal with the confusion at some point. But his mother isn’t going to seek it. Will society even allow him to ask for help, once he’s of age to seek it on his own, to resolve the gender confusion?

I don’t know Jeff Younger, but I do know that a caring father would be going crazy dealing with what he has dealt with. When he would see his son on a video chat, the boy would be dressed up as a 6-year-old drag queen, long eyelashes and sparkly gown and all. And his only chance of being able to see his child depended on his remaining calm while witnessing the abuse. I saw a comment to an article suggest fleeing the country with his children, and disappearing. Matt Walsh, of The Daily Wire, said such a move “would be not only morally justified, but heroic.”  Any sane parent would understand the natural protective urge.

What kind of mother dresses a 6-year-old as a drag queen? Who teaches their child—son or daughter—that such a sexual look is appropriate? Who thinks that a person can’t be a girl without a dress on, or without nail polish?

If there is a person who exemplifies being controlled by societal stereotypes, it would be this mother.

This is, I believe, an important turning-point story. It exemplifies the corruption of the “woke” viewpoint.

These issues are not about any given person doing what they choose; they are about the demanding tiny minority exerting control over anyone who disagrees. I came across a good discussion of this assertion here. Note that, under Obamacare, all doctors were required to perform any transgender surgery a patient requested—with no conscience or religious exemption. Fortunately, that “transgender mandate” was struck down by a district court judge just this month. 

The data shows that gender dysphoria issues are often resolved through therapy and/or time; transition, claimed to be necessary in order to prevent suicidality, actually increases the likelihood.  It also deprives an otherwise healthy person of the possibility of procreation or normal sexual activity, and encourages surgically removing healthy body parts, against the medical axiom “First, do no harm.”

Image of tweet found at SaveJames.com/blog

Pretending that biological males are females denies real females their rights of privacy, and their accomplishments in sports.  It erases actual femaleness, harming all females.

Pretending that biological females are males also denies the value of being female, asserting that it is better to be a pretend male than an actual female. It isn’t progress for women that leads to this thought.

Sane people need to speak the truth, louder, while we still can.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Over-Civilization


Back in early September, Candace Owens interviewed her fiancĂ©—now husband—George Farmer on her weekly PragerU podcast. They answered questions from viewers as a way for us to get acquainted with him.

Candace Owens and George Farmer
screenshot from here


There’s a segment where they’re talking about one of the things she learned from him, which was about hunting—he does big game hunting—and which has been fascinating for her. He was talking about the difference between what liberal Westerners think compared to the Africans, who benefit from the hunting. It keeps predators down. When it’s an animal such as an antelope, which is mainly what George has hunted, the village cuts up the meat to share. So they get income from the hunters, and they get the food. It’s in their interest to keep the animal populations healthy so this can continue.

The conversation goes on to talk about how out of touch with nature some people are—maybe particularly in New York and California. Candace Owens suggests they should, “Go out and see the lions. Pet them. Talk to them about their feelings. And see what happens.”

George Farmer then brings something to the conversation I’ve been thinking about since: “Let’s put it like this; they’re not having a debate about which bathroom to use in Africa. Right? Because, at the moment, it’s about survival.” And this leads to more on this and related subjects. I’ll just share some of the transcript here:

CO: We’re so over-privileged… We talk about this a lot, the idea of over-civilization, where your society has become so civilized that it starts going backwards, and you start treading just towards stupidity. Like if you’re debating bathroom signs, you are way too privileged—way too civilized, if you are even talking about bathroom signs.
I mean, go to Africa. This is like one of you and I—we’re really big on just watching clips on the internet and just cracking up for hours. The best clip, I mean, the one that never gets old, is this African reporter who’s breaking a story, and interviewing someone, because they cannot grasp the concept of being gay or being a lesbian.
GF: Oh, yeah, that’s brilliant.
CO: And the interviewer is, “Welcome here to the show,” and he’s got this woman who’s a lesbian. She’s a girl and she’s a lesbian, and he just turns around to her, and his question, in this African voice is, “Why are you gay?”
"Why are you Gay"
screenshot from here
[I looked for the video. I think this is it. Being interviewed is a transgender male—i.e., a female who presents as a male, who is attracted to females. The interviewer doesn’t understand the motivation for making such choices.] 

GF: It’s the supposition, something that we’ve talked about. You’re absolutely right, the word over-civilization is a great word.
I’ve been to the Far East as well. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been— This is making me sound edgy and trendy. I’m not, as you well know—but, I went to Bhutan, which is this kingdom in the middle of the Himalayas. It’s the last Himalayan kingdom. And it’s a Buddhist kingdom. It’s basically sealed off to the world. It’s very difficult to get into. And they perform a—they are part of a Buddhist theology which involves tantric Buddhism, which is a form of sexual Buddhism. And, this was about six years ago—seven years ago. And I said to them, I said, “What’s the feeling about the gay rights movement in this part of the world?” And they looked at me as if I was an alien. They had never even heard of this. And I said, “Well, you know, relationships between men, and relationships between women.” And they just said, “Well, he’s my friend. Please explain,” kind of thing. 
And it was just bizarre. Because it was a case where, we’ve got to a point in the Western world where the debate’s become self-fulfilling. We start talking about these issues that become issues. The issues develop their own issues, etc., etc.
I’ve written here on this blog[i] quite a bit about LGBT issues. But this idea that, in some parts of the world these issues don’t even come up was surprising to me. I’m wondering what the social research would show, if the question of LGBT issues occurring in a society focused on survival were asked, or in a society that had never had the idea brought in.

In J. D. Unwin’s research[ii], in which he showed the power of what he calls absolute monogamy on a society—using data on every society in history he had any social data on—he had a sort of throwaway comment about homosexuality. He didn’t research it, but it appeared to him that it was a phenomenon that shows up in a society that is in decay. By decay, he means a society that does not embrace absolute monogamy.

I don’t know if we could get the right question studied today. For one thing, so much of the world is connected that the Hollywood culture has affected all but very few pockets. And you’d have to be able to do the study without introducing the idea where it hadn’t previously been thought of.

There are countries where homosexuality is illegal, and those societies eliminate the issue by executing any instances of it. Nazi Germany did that. Iran does that. But we’ve assumed that instances pop up about as often as average—about 2% of the population—and just stay hidden when the consequences are so dire.

But those examples aren’t survival societies or even fully separate-from-the-outside-world societies. If these things appear naturally (nature, not nurture), you’d expect the same natural incidence regardless of circumstances.

If (and this is what George Farmer is suggesting, but not something I have data on) the incidence is near zero in a society focused on survival, that’s interesting. Even more interesting is the near incidence in a society that simply hasn’t had the idea introduced by the outside world. If these zero-incidence places do exist, that leaves causation to something other than nature. Which I think we knew the umpteenth time it turned out there’s no gay gene[iii], according to DNA mapping.

But we don’t know exactly what part of nurture (possibly combined with some personality trait or combination of traits we’re not sure of) is causal. If we knew that, could we prevent it? Or find a way to heal from it? (Assuming the person wants healing; I’m not suggesting anything by coercion or even pressure.)

I don’t think we’d want to voluntarily become a subsistence society focused on survival. There are way too many advantages to thriving economically and socially. But it would be interesting to know what it is about a survival-focused society that leaves no room for wondering about LGBT issues. If you’re going to survive—as a species—you need to reproduce. We know how that happens, and LGBT behaviors obviously do not get us there. As the African interviewer said on the video, “Why are you gay?” Why would you make a lifestyle choice that offers no chance of procreation?

Those who have these issues often do not feel like they have a choice. But if, under the surface, there are psychological issues combined with life experiences that lead to these LGBT issues—many of which could be described as failure to accept the body one is born into—then it would be a kindness to learn how to help[iv].

About the assertion of over-civilization: I don’t think it’s possible to have too much civilization. But, then, I am defining it a specific way here at the Spherical Model[v]. When Candace and George use the term over-civilization, I think they mean that we are disconnected from what is essential. We over-complicate and over-emotionalize all kinds of things that, if we had a better perspective, would simply not be issues. The fact that we never seem to face life-threatening issues—our privilege of being so safe—leads us to weaken, and decay, and invent problems that aren’t relevant to thriving.

I believe if we actually lived fully civilized lives, without the decay that so much of the sexual revolution has characterized, some or all of the symptoms of decay would stop afflicting us.

The simple but not easy solution is for a critical mass of society to honor God, life, family, truth, and property ownership. It’s what we find in the Ten Commandments. It’s still true.


[i] I compiled “The Defense of Marriage Collection” in 2013.  That’s a start, but these issues continue to come up regularly on this blog.
[ii] Joseph Daniel Unwin, Ph.D., “Sexual Regulations and Cultural Behavior," an address given to the Medical Section of the British Psychological Society in 1934, published in 1935 (Library of Congress No., HQ12.U52). I mentioned his work here and here.
[iii] I wrote about this in September, here
[iv] I’ve written here about the work of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, Jr., who has developed what he calls reintegrative therapy, which is intended to deal with underlying issues from childhood that lead a person to dissociate from who they are, and to then heal that underlying issue. The therapy is to gain a person greater peace but has in cases led to decreased or apparently erased feelings of same-sex attraction. It is my supposition that reintegrative therapy is based on principles that could also help people with gender dysphoria, although I haven’t heard Dr. Nicolosi assert that.
[v] At the Spherical Model, I describe civilization this way:
   Families typically remain intact, and children are raised in loving homes, with caring parents who guide their education and training, dedicating somewhere between 18 and 25 years for that child to reach adulthood, and who then remain interested in their children’s success for the rest of their lives.
   Civilized people live peaceably among their neighbors, helping rather than taking advantage of one another, abiding by laws enacted to protect property and safety—with honesty and honor. Civilized people live in peace with other civilized people; countries and cultures coexist in appreciation, without fear.
   There is a thriving free-enterprise economy. Poverty is meaningless; even though there will always be a lowest earning 10% defined as poor, in a civilized society these lowest earners have comfortable shelter and adequate food and clothing—and there’s the possibility of rising, or at least for future generations to rise.
   Creativity abounds; enlightening arts and literature exceed expectations. Architecture and infrastructure improve; innovation and invention are the rule.
   People feel free to choose their work, their home, their family practices, their friendships and associations. And they generally self-restrain before they infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. Where there are questions about those limits, laws are in place to help clarify boundaries of civilized behavior. When someone willingly infringes on the rights or safety of another, the law functions to protect that victim as well as society from further uncivilized behavior from the offender.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

What Does Warren Mean by a Wealth Tax?


Elizabeth Warren said in Tuesday night’s debate that she’s shocked, “shocked!” that anyone thinks she’s punitive. Ben Shapiro responded on Wednesday,

Elizabeth Warren (left) from debate October 15, 2019
screenshot taken from clip on the Ben Shapiro Show, episode 878


She’s shocked people think she’s punitive? She is punitive. She’s deeply punitive. And by the way, she’s not just punitive; she’s immoral. There was one point during this debate where Elizabeth Warren actually suggested, during the debate, that the rich are “not like you and me.” Elizabeth Warren is worth $10 million.
What was it she said?

So, understand, taxing income is not going to get you where you need to be, the way taxing wealth does. That the rich are not like you and me. Really really billionaires are making their money off their accumulated wealth, and it just keeps growing. We need a wealth tax in order to make investments in the next generation.
There’s a logic leap here. If wealth keeps accumulating, that means the economy is growing; it doesn’t mean a particular person keeps getting more of a finite economic pie. The more a rich person accumulates, the more gets invested—now and in the next generation.

It’s time for a lesson on economics and on government.

Let’s start with where in the Constitution the federal government is granted power to tax: Article 1, Section 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.
Before we go on, let’s define terms.

Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, on taxes


·         Tax—a compulsory payment, usually a percentage, levied on income, property value, sales price, etc. for the support of a government
·         Duty—a payment due to the government, esp. a tax imposed on imports, exports, or manufactured goods
·         Impost—a tax, esp. a duty on imported goods
·         Excise—a tax or duty on the manufacture, sale, or consumption of various commodities within a country, as liquor, tobacco, etc.; a fee paid for a license to carry on certain occupations
There’s one other part of the Constitution granting power to tax. It’s the 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
When it was added, people were promised it would only affect the very rich, and even for the rich it would never go beyond 7%. That lasted about three years; it about doubled to 15% in 1916. Not enough, the government decided. Woodrow Wilson more than quadrupled it to 66% by 1917 and then to 77% by 1918%. (I wrote about this starting here.)

If you have made any income above the poverty rate in your lifetime, then you know it isn't just the very rich who are taxed. And obviously the government does not keep its promises. To boot, it does not limit its taxing purposes to paying debts and providing for the common defense and general welfare (i.e., things that benefit all of the states at once, such as coining money, having a postal system, or possibly infrastructure such as an interstate highway system—nothing to do with charitable giving to the poor).

As practically unlimited as the 16th Amendment made taxing authority to the federal government, it is still limited to income or to specific circumstances—such as imports or the other things listed. Income wasn’t taxable in the original list. Government revenue had to come through tariffs (import fees) or the other listed ways.

We don’t have a state income tax in Texas, which is a boon to the economy. Governments have to get revenue from other sources, property tax being a primary source, also sales and other local taxes. Up until 1913, the federal government was similarly limited.

But the 16th Amendment does not grant the right to tax wealth.

Let’s define another term, from the Spherical Model website:

·         Wealth is not some mystical entity endowed by either government or birthright. Nor is it something that the haves enjoy by depriving the have nots of their fair share. Wealth, simply, represents the accumulation of the results of labor.
And one more:

·         Capital is always a representation of surplus work that is invested to find ways to produce more wealth.
To summarize, wealth is the accumulation of surplus—working to create more than is needed for subsistence, and storing it (saving it) for later use. Rather than simply storing it, the wealth can be used to invest in ways that produce more wealth.

Most wealth is not stashed in a jar buried in the back yard. It is put to use. It is either spent—used to buy goods and services, which thus brings wealth to the providers of those goods and services, who then use that income to either spend or invest elsewhere. Or it is saved. One of the least productive ways would be in a low-interest savings account. This keeps it liquid—available for use at short notice—but while it sits there, it brings additional income. Where does that come from? Investing. The bank is loaning money to home buyers, businesses, and others who contract to repay with interest.

Another way wealth is invested is in stocks and bonds. These are slightly larger risks than keeping the money in a bank savings account. But they have the potential to bring in greater returns, greater income.

A more direct way would be to invest capital directly in a company with the hope of having the business become a success and bring a greater reward to the investor. Higher risk, but also higher potential returns.

You have probably heard this aphorism: what you subsidize, you get more of, and what you tax, you get less of.

So, if—as Elizabeth Warren suggests—you tax wealth, you get less of it. Obviously. You would directly confiscate money for which income tax has already been paid. So you’re essentially taxing savings. You directly diminish savings. Which means you directly diminish the uses for those savings: capital investment. Economic growth.

What gives the federal government the right to “tax” your savings? So far nothing. The Constitution does not grant that power—not even the 16th Amendment does that.

That didn’t stop Obamacare from “taxing” us by forcing us to buy medical insurance (at exorbitant rates), which they could get away with only by insisting (at times) that the penalty for not purchasing it was a tax and not a coercion to purchase a service. What was being taxed—and thus discouraged? Breathing. Being alive. That had never been done. It isn’t accommodated for in the Constitution. But that didn’t stop the government—with the support of a wobbly Supreme Court—from asserting it as a power.

So, when we have Elizabeth Warren, Democrat candidate for president, saying she wants to “tax” wealth, let’s be very clear on what she’s saying. She is saying the federal government can come to any person in the country who holds savings and take whatever part of that savings or property that it wishes. She is saying you do not have a right to either your income or your savings or maybe any property. If she decides you have “too much,” she can take whatever portion she wants and can do with it as she—in her infinite wisdom—sees as a better use than however you were going to spend it or invest it or enjoy it.

She says it will not affect any but the very rich. Just as Woodrow Wilson said. (They both were college professors, labeling themselves progressive capitalists—but without the progress or the capitalism.)

The only legal mechanism for the government to confiscate wealth is by constitutional amendment. Except for the very limited eminent domain power, which requires just compensation, the federal government cannot confiscate real property. And there has never been a mechanism for confiscating savings.

But those who ignore the Constitution in all other things are just as likely to ignore this lack of power and reign tyrannically any chance they get.

However, they don’t actually get the money they say they will take.

Just as we know no one in their right mind ever paid the ridiculously high top income tax rates imposed by the progressives in the last century, no one in their right mind would pay the wealth-tax-only-on-the-very-wealthy that Warren “has a plan for.” 

Government gains revenue when it lowers tax rates to more reasonable levels. When they’re too high, people don’t make the income, or they move and make the income elsewhere, putting it out of reach of the government’s clutches. Similarly, if Warren were to attempt to take any chunk of wealth held by those “evil” billionaires, they would move their wealth out of the country. The US would then have less tax revenue, a more sluggish economy overall from lack of investment capital, and essentially no revenue from the “wealth tax.”

But she would have made the covetous poor feel so much better by pretending to stick it to the rich.

That’s what it’s about. Not about gaining revenue for ridiculous unconstitutional projects she has a plan for, not even for paying current debts and obligations. It’s about saying what it takes to get voters to give her power—which she is so very willing to assert the moment she gets it.

As are all of the Democrat candidates.

If we value the freedom, prosperity, and civilization guaranteed us by our brilliant Constitution, we must prevent those who trample it from ever holding the reins of power.