Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A very old game, with very high stakes

Ezra Levant posted an essay on Facebook today about comments made by a high-profile Canadian:
Recently, Cherry gave an interview to a newspaper in France. The interviewer asked Cherry about immigration. Did he support a policy, espoused by some extremists in Australia, of zero immigration? Cherry's reply was shocking:

"Oh, I think Canada is full too! Although it's the second largest country in the world, our surface area has been reduced. Our immigration policy is disgusting: We plunder southern countries by depriving them of future leaders, and we want to increase our population to support economic growth. It's crazy!"

We've all heard Cherry's rants against European hockey players. But this is different - this was a condemnation of his fellow Canadians. Who just happen to pay his hefty salary through their CBC taxes each year.

What Cherry said wasn't illegal. But it was tantamount to looking every new Canadian in the eye - translation: Looking minorities in the eye - and saying, "you're disgusting" and "it's crazy that we let you in here" and "there's no room for you."
Levant's article initially attributes the quote to Don Cherry, a plain-speaking common-sense man loathed by the Left in Canada, before revealing that the man being quoted is actually David Suzuki, noted environmentalist and darling of the Left. He used Don Cherry's name to illustrate the hypocrisy of the leftist mainstream media in Canada, who would roundly condemn Cherry if he were to make such a statement.

However, the issue runs much deeper than David Suzuki or the media. David Suzuki just knows how the game is played, so he knows he can get away with anything.

It's the same game that has made Al Gore a billionaire since he left the VP job behind. It's the same game that is played by the too-big-to-fail banks and GM, the same game played by the Federal Reserve and the professional protestors who astroturf every G8 summit. It is the game that kept the Liberal party in power in Canada for most of the 20th century.

The game is called "bread and circuses". From Wikipedia:
"Bread and Circuses" (or bread and games) (from Latin: panem et circenses) is a metaphor for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace, as an offered "palliative." Juvenal decried it as a simplistic motivation of common people. The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the common man.

In modern usage, the phrase is taken to describe a populace that no longer values civic virtues and the public life.

The game is simple: keep the population distracted and buy their votes. David Suzuki plays a small part in the game but he plays it well; he is a key player in the circus that is man-made catastrophic Climate Change. He knows that as long as he stays relevant in the environmentalist movement, and as long as the movement is the big tent in the Circus, he will do very well for himself indeed.

The same game is played out over and over again. Every new government program beyond the basic minimum requirements for a functioning government is only a way to buy votes, period. Social Security? Buying the votes of the retired and soon-to-be retired. Affirmative Action? Buying the votes of minorities. Welfare? Buying the votes of the thriftless and lazy. All government "charity" is a vote-buy. That's the bread.

The US debt is in the trillions. Money is being printed and pumped into the digital system as fast as possible. Miraculously, the US debt has stood at exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00, $25 million below the debt limit, for eight solid weeks, while still taking on debt through some very shady accounting.

And yet, the American public is more interested in Trayvon Martin; he's part of the Circus. So is anything to do with Kim Kardashian. These people serve as distractions, filling other circus tents like the Racism circus tent or the Celebrity circus tent. These circus tents and the other ones - the Environmentalism tent and the Gender Wars tent and the War on (some) Drugs tent and the Abortion tent and the UFO tent and all the others - these make up the Circus.

The Circus keeps people distracted from the real problems. The Bread keeps people's immediate needs satisfied. It keeps the game-players in power and everyone's happy and we're making Important Efforts in Solving All Our Problems, Together, as long as we can keep the game going. It's perfect!

Except, it's not. All that Bread and all those Circuses cost a lot of money, sixteen trillion dollars more than the US government has ever brought in with all the taxes it has ever collected in over 200 years. Add in the debt it has already promised but isn't on the books yet - those pensions that have been promised to retirees, for which they've paid all their lives in a giant Ponzi scam - and the total coming due by 2019* is many times that 16 trillion. That is rather a lot of money by any standards.

And people expect to get paid. The Fed has a tricky balancing act - keep pumping dollars into the economy without triggering hyperinflation and bank runs. Every new dollar printed isn't a new dollar of wealth. There's the same amount of wealth as before, just divided among a larger amount of dollars. So, every existing dollar becomes worth slightly less. By the time the bill comes due, sure the number of dollars is correct but the value of those dollars is much less. People grumble and complain but the discrepancy adds up gradually, over time, in barely noticeable increments.

It's a lovely plan but it has the flaw that people are not stupid. They recognize that everything costs more, that $100 of groceries is a lot less than ten years ago. Then as more and more dollars are pumped in faster and faster, people notice that a hundred dollars in groceries is a lot less than last year. Then they notice that $100 doesn't go nearly as far as last month, or last week. Then, a few stock up on supplies ahead of time and the rest wait until it's too late and panic.

Make no mistake, that is the endgame of Bread and Circuses. Keep people happy and distracted - until you can't anymore. It's such a long, slow game, it can span many generations - it's been going on for over a hundred years in the USA, a pretty good run for a complex game. The repercussions are always so far down the road that they hit long after the policy makers are dead, so why should they worry, as long as they can keep the game going? Until they can't, and it all crumbles down around them, everything - the economy, military security, and the nation itself.

But there is another way out. Stop playing the Bread and Circuses game. That was what energized the Tea Party protests - the recognition that the nation spent too much and soon wouldn't be able to pay for it, even though people were already taxed to the maximum, condensed into a plaintive cry of "Stop spending, stop spending, stop spending, stop spending!".

How? It's kind of rough, but much less rough than going off the cliff. It's a financial restructuring.

First, stop printing money immediately. Then, repeal the 16th Amendment and repeal every single line of the tax code. Instead, institute a flat federal sales tax on every purchase. The Federal government's only revenue then becomes that flat sales tax and government-run lotteries (which are a voluntary tax).

Next, eliminate every single government department with the exception of State, Defense, Justice, Treasury, and about half of HHS (including eliminating Obamacare). Everything else, gone. No welfare, no medicaid, no social security, all gone. Instead issue every citizen a monthly stipend (identical *small* amounts for every man, woman, and child, but they must be citizens). The stipend would just be a nice bonus for those that don't need it and a crucial difference for those who do, but everyone would be treated equally before the law.

The federal government's bureaucracy would be much smaller so expenditures then become a fraction of prior expenditures.

The sales tax rate would have to be set so that the government's revenues exceed the (much smaller than previous) expenditures, with the surplus applied to the debt and no new programs introduced until the debt is paid off.

There is no room for pork in this option. The same basic template applies to Canada and Australia and the EU as much as it does to America. There is no room for the players of the Bread and Circus game. But it is also the only way to avoid the crash of America or the other democracies of the world.

(*) Why 2019?  The Baby Boom was roughly 1945 to 1963, with a median of 1954.  Babies born in 1954 turn 65 in 2019, so in that year about half the Baby Boomers will be retired, and those born at the start of the boom will only be 74, short of the average lifespan.  That's a lot of pension checks, and not as many people paying into the system as before.  That which cannot go on forever won't, and when the pension system goes bust it won't be pretty.