Monday, December 30, 2013

From The 'We've Been Here Before' Vault-Second Edition

'Peabody here. You Americans should really
start learning your history!'
We love reading history, particularly accounts of consequential people who made momentous decisions and took courageous actions to let us live in a country as great as the United States of America.

From the Founding Brothers/Fathers, whatever you want to call them, such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington, to the ancient philosophers and leaders of Greece and Rome, we find their stories much more interesting than fiction for some reason.

Probably because what they did and said were 'true'. In many cases, what they did and said were far more 'unbelievable' than any novel we have ever tried to read and finish.

But one of the main reasons why we find history so interesting is this: We are doomed to repeat it.

Steve Turner, a favorite of one of our good friends in Washington, DC, Steven Garber, who runs the great Washington Institute in Falls Church, Virginia once said this about history:

"History repeats itself. Has to. No one listens." 
Sad, but true, isn't it?

Think of all the things mankind could have avoided had we just read the history of past fiascoes caused by hubris, egotism, megalomania and plain old human stupidity. The list is almost too long to imagine.

We have recently been reading the great biography, 'Alexander Hamilton' by Ron Chernow and heartily recommend it for you to read in the new year. Not only will it give you a fresh appreciation for the genius who was Alexander Hamilton, it will also give you a fresh appreciation for what even the most ardent advocate of a 'energetic executive' in the White House believed about the role of the federal government in our daily lives.

Namely, that it was set up to protect us from foreign invasion, promote free and uninterrupted commerce and bind us together as a nation of connected states, not a loose confederation of independent mini-nations within the confines of state borders as it was under the ineffectual Articles of  Confederation.

And....that was about it. Hamilton believed there were certain essential functions that could only be achieved by a strong national government. In no way could he or any other Founder have foreseen or even dreamed of a sprawling, purportedly omniscient and all powerful central government operating out of Washington, DC that now controls roughly 23% of our national GDP output each year and makes so many rules and regulations that there is not one single person in this country who can tell you what they all are.

'That looks positively like a top-heavy monarchical government!' they would marvel out of both sides of their mouths.

That all being said, we do find some comfort in the fact that history does repeat itself and that America somehow someway has found its way out of terrible situations in the past, many far, far more damaging to the nation and individuals alike than anything we have seen in the last 5 years. The Civil War; The Great Depression, WWII just to name a few.

Here's just one item we picked up while reading the Alexander Hamilton book by Mr. Chernow, just 1 of perhaps hundreds that have made our eyes bug out and say: 'No way that could have happened way back then in 1787; 1789; 1790 or 1796!'  

These accounts of verified history have made us appreciate the sacrifices and courage of the people who started our country and in particular, the genius of the people such as Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison and Mr. Jefferson who made it possible for us to live in the nation we live in today, good and bad, warts and all:

I. Care to guess what the percentage of the federal budget was for servicing the national debt in 1794, roughly 13 years after the cessation of hostilities in the Revolutionary War? The current payment of interest to service the national debt is roughly 6% of the federal budget.

Answer: 55%. 55% of the annual budget in 1794 was dedicated solely to servicing the federal debt.

That would be equivalent to close to $2 trillion being spent today on interest alone out of our $3.6 trillion federal budget. 

Don't laugh and say: 'That will never happen in America!' If interest rates returned to just what we consider historically 'normal', say to 5-6%, interest payments would soar to over $1 trillion...overnight. Just like that. 6% of $17 trillion national debt = $1.02 trillion in interest costs per year. 

Wait til our debt hits $22 trillion by will happen, no matter what we do in the next 3 years under President Obama.

Maybe we really should take heed of what the esteemed President Washington and Mr. Hamilton said over 200 years ago about the dangers of debt:

'(President) Washington (in 1794) had recently asked Congress for plans to retire the public debt and 'prevent that progressive accumulation of debt which must ultimately endanger all government'.*

'The debt of France brought about her revolution. Financial embarrassments led to those steps which led to the overthrow of the government and to all the terrible scenes (public beheadings at the guillotines) which have followed.'-Alexander Hamilton*

The difference between the great leaders we had in the past and the ones we have today is they actually had plans to deal with such tough issues as retiring the national debt. Hamilton, on his last legs before he retired as Treasury Secretary, submitted the Report on A Plan for the Further Support of Public Credit to the US Congress to extinguish the national debt within 30 years.

Today, we have no plan to 'extinguish' anything: the national debt; wasteful spending; obsolete federal programs; entitlement payments to super uber-wealthy people...nothing.

Isn't it about time we elect some leaders who will produce such plans?

Wouldn't the new year of 2014 be a good time to start by replacing all of the incumbents who have failed to do, well, ANYTHING productive on the issues that really matter to us as Americans?

* from Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, p.480

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Monday, December 23, 2013

From The 'We've Been Here Before' Vault.....

'Abolish debt! Redistribute wealth!
Oh my God! They killed Kenny!'
Try to guess when, what and where the following time in America existed:
'Money problems pervaded all others. America was virtually bankrupt as the federal government and state governments found it impossible to retire the gargantuan debt inherited (from those who came before them). 'The fate of America was suspended by a hair', one noted financial expert was to say. (a)
Many Americans were as debt-ridden as their legislatures. Even as the government at the time proceeded, turmoil erupted as thousands of indebted businesses, farmers and individuals, struggling with soaring taxes and foreclosures on their property, marched in the streets, shut down courthouses and thwarted land seizures by force.
Massachusetts passed debt-relief legislation first. Many creditors and property owners were disturbed by the mounting power of government and dismayed by the impotent federal government.
An extremist movement in Rhode Island beat the drum for abolishing debt and dividing wealth equally. The Massachusetts uprising shocked many who wondered how far the rebellious movement would go. 'Good God!' exclaimed one of America's foremost leaders, aghast that some protesters regarded America's land and property 'to be the common property of all'.(b)
'They profess to aim only at a reform of the constitution and of certain abuses in the public administration, but an abolition of debts public and private and a new division of property are strongly suspected in contemplation' stated another prominent American leader.(c)*
Was it:

A) During the Great Depression when the Communist Party advanced in the US;
B) During the Obama 'Hope and Change' campaign of 2008;
C) During the first year of Ronald Reagan's Administration in 1981;
D) During the Panic of 1857; or
E) During 1787, before the US Constitution was written, ratified and in force?

The correct answer is E: 1787 during Shay's Rebellion. Gouverneur Morris said the first quote (a). None other than Gen'l George Washington said the second quote (b). James Madison, Father of the Constitution, uttered the words in quote (c).

So nothing is really ever new under the sun in American history, or human history, is it?

'Abolish all debts'. 'Share the wealth'. 'Divide up all property in the interest of 'fairness'. 

These concepts are not new to America. They existed before the United States even adopted the US Constitution, which is our second constitution, the weak-kneed Articles of Confederation being the first.

Just think about this for a moment: The fledgling independent confederation of US states, numbering 13 at the time (Quebec was invited to join but said 'non') had just recently fought the War for Independence and prevailed in 1781 over the world's most powerful land army and navy, Great Britain, and lost close to 25,000 people or 1% of the population to combat related deaths and diseases caused by wounds or in British prison.

America losing 1% of our population today would amount to 3.1 million people. 5 times more than we have lost in all of the wars in our nation's history combined.

Yet, despite all of that sacrifice for freedom, there were calls for abolition of debt, which would have destroyed America's credibility in the world financial markets before we even got started, and a redistribution of property, which would have defeated one of the reasons to rebel for freedom in the first place.

What is the point of bringing all this up right now?

American politics has always swung in a pendulum. President Obama was elected in 2008 in a period of mounting economic crisis and disfavor with a two-term president. He promised 'Hope and Change'.

He has certainly succeeded on the latter point. We are just not so sure it is ever going to be 'change for the better' for all of us, are we?

For those who are wringing your hands now saying 'Woe is Us!' (and 'ME' in particular!), we just want to point out that we have seen similar and far, far worse times in America than what we have seen in the last 5 years.

Does anyone seriously believe conditions in America today are worse than the following:

  1. The Civil War?
  2. The Great Depression? (which lasted 12 years)
  3. Any of the Panics of (name your year) 1785, 1792; 1819; 1837; 1857; 1873; 1893; 1907? 
  4. World War II?
  5. World War I?
  6. 9/11 and the ensuing 2 years of economic and physical fear?
  7. 'The Malaise Years' under Jimmy Carter from 1977-1981?
True, the prospects of a continued march down the road President Obama has set us upon 5 years ago do not seem to be bright. The first waves of the Obamacare tsunami are now breaking over the beachheads around the country. The damage and turmoil it has brought to the health insurance industry, the medical care facilities, corporate health plans and individual policy-holders is just starting to be felt in tangible ways by millions of Americans across the land.

We recently heard that the Obama Administration has suspended the individual mandate for people who had their individual plans canceled because of Obamacare....and now find that the plans to replace those canceled plans are 'too expensive', again because of Obamacare. 

'I'm gonna tie the health care system down to
the track...and watch it get run over!'
What is this, some kind of Keystone Kops movie or a dastardly plan by Snidely Whiplash to force us all into a national health plan when all private insurance plans collapse?

What we do know about Shay's Rebellion in 1787 is this: It represented a latent strand of populist DNA that flares up from time to time in American history, only to be pushed back and defeated for periods of times at length, usually when economic times improve and everyone is working again.

We think the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 represented a similar flare-up of the populist movement in American politics during similar uncertain economic times. His election, though, had far greater impact on the actual economic outlook of America than did Shay's Rebellion, although Col. Shays' rebellion caused many investors in Europe to dump American bonds in the belief the new young republic was not going to be able to govern itself in its freedom.

If you start to see foreign and domestic investors start to dump US bonds, and sell them for pennies on the dollar, you will know we have really hit rock bottom, contrary to anything Paul Krugman or any of the other apologists for the Obama Administration can cook up.

You don't want to live through such a scenario, we do know that.

If you want to help restore some sanity to the political process, consider running for office yourself. At the very minimum, get involved at the local and state level and give as much time, energy and money to candidates who support your opinion and general outlook on self-governance.

You can then say you actually were part of 'American History' and helped move the pendulum away from the Shay's Rebellion side of the dial.

* adapted from 'Alexander Hamilton' by Ron Chernow, pp.224-25, Chapter 'August and Respectable Assembly'

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Friday, December 20, 2013

'The Democratic Republican Meritocracy' of Alexander Hamilton

Quick test:

Name perhaps the only two self-made men at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

A. Ben Franklin. And Alexander Hamilton

Every other delegate appears to be a scion of one of the foremost families of the various states. 70%+ of them were lawyers (of course).  Most if not all had significant wealth, property and slaves, even in the northern states, all inherited from their fathers and grandfathers. Many of whom received large tracts of land granted to them from the King of England through the Proprietors or the royal governors for deeds done in the name and glory of England and the British Crown.

Thomas Jefferson. James Madison. George Washington. George Mason. Elbridge Gerry. Luther Martin. All of them.

John Adams billed himself as a farmer but he was also a well-respected lawyer who must have done pretty well at that. He was so good that he was selected to be the defense lawyer for the British soldiers who killed American colonists during the Boston Massacre so he must have been pretty successful as a lawyer to have the skills (and guts!) to argue in their defense for a fair trial. (They got off)

But when you think about it, Alexander Hamilton (and Ben Franklin) embodied the very essence of what the 'American Dream' was all about in the first place:
'A nation where free people can make independent decisions and lift them up as high as they want to go, and can go, based on their own hard work and merit.'
Alexander Hamilton was born of an uncertain birth and grew up in poverty and the squalor of St. Croix amidst the horrors of the Caribbean slave trade. He held strong abolitionist sentiments his entire life as a result of that upbringing as he progressed from trade clerk to lawyer to soldier and then statesman.

Colonel Hamilton always chafed at the notion of deferring to French nobles who wanted to help the Revolution who had limited experience but lots of baubles and medallions on their blue and red French uniforms. He often wrote of America being a 'meritocracy' which, come to think of it, might have been a better word to use in many ways instead of solely limiting America to a 'democratic republican' form of government or 'participatory democracy'.

A 'Democratic Republican Meritocracy' might be a better way to describe what most people believe in in America today and in the past. And we hope always in the future.

To return to Hamilton though, many conservatives recoil in horror whenever the name 'Alexander Hamilton' is brought up.

'Why?' you might say.
'It is because of Alexander Hamilton that we have this explosive monolith of a federal government today in the first place! He was damn near a monarchist who wanted central power to be controlled with a strong executive out of Washington, DC plus he was arrogant, obnoxious and he probably got what he deserved when Aaron Burr shot him in their duel at Weehauken!
And he started us down the road to the Federal Reserve by advocating for the first national bank! Plus he was a Federalist! I hate those guys!
And he is no Jefferson! Or Madison either!'
Well, who is nowadays? Or ever was, essentially because America has not been the agrarian, tiny local government paradise that Madison and Jefferson dreamed it would become. Especially not since 1933 when FDR took office and the US was in the midst of the worst depression we have seen in modern times..until 2008 that is.

Besides that, Hamilton's vision of what the American government was going to become one day in the future 'won out'. Big time over the last 2 centuries. The Jeffersonian/Madisonian dream of a far limited government has been overrun by Big Statists since 1933 but especially since the 'Great Society' days of LBJ in 1965.

Perhaps both the right and the left need to take a closer look at Hamilton's own writings and feelings about the role of government in America. It is almost impossible to read them all since he may have been perhaps the most prolific political writer America has ever seen, both on a policy basis and advocacy basis, most popularly known under his pseudonym, 'Publius' when he penned many of 'The Federalist Papers'.

Here's just a few quotes from the great biography 'Alexander Hamilton' by Ron Chernow that should give cause to everyone to rethink what even the most expansive thinker in the Founding Brothers/Fathers thought about the proper role of self-government in America. It may help bring us back to our least some:
  1. 'Previewing his Treasury tenure (in 1782, a decade before he became the first Treasury Secretary), he advocated duties on imported goods as America's best form of revenue....(He said) officials can have no temptation to abuse this power, because the motive of revenue will check its own extremes. Experience has shown that moderate duties are more productive than high ones.'  p.170 
  2. 'In contriving the smoothly running machinery of a modern nation-state--including a budget system, a funded debt, a tax system, a central bank, a customs service and a coast guard--....he articulated a clear and prescient vision of America's future political, military, and economic strength...and crafted such ingenious mechanisms to bind the nation together.' (p4)
  3. 'Tis by introducing order into our finances--by restoring public credit---not by gaining battles that we are finally to gain our object (of independence)' (p.156)
  4. 'A national debt, if not excessive, will be to us a national blessing. It will be powerful cement of our union' (p 156)
  5. 'From the same situation (The Revolution), (both Hamilton and Washington) had drawn the same conclusions (about America's future): the need for a national army; for centralized power over the states, for a strong executive and for national unity.' (p 153)
If you want to learn more about Mr. Hamilton, we strongly suggest you buy Chernow's book for yourself for Christmas, as well as his book on Washington and any of the other great books on the Founders you can find. (We will help you if you don't know where to look)

One key thing to think about this holiday season is what would both Alexander Hamilton AND Thomas Jefferson and their followers think about the profligate, wasteful spending and the interfering rules and regulations we have allowed our own federal government to use today?

We think they would be horrified.

Alexander Hamilton was Gen'l Washington's chief aide-de-camp and just itched to get into battle for 5 years before Washington offered him a post at the climactic Battle of Yorktown. He was one of our most important cogs in the American victory over imperious, capricious British rule. It can hardly be said he did all of that work and made all the sacrifices of a citizen-soldier from 1776-1781 just to replace one monarchy with another.

It is really not the 'fault' of anyone in our past that we have the spendthrift, overly expansive government we have today. Not Hamilton. Not Henry Clay. Not FDR. Not even Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Great Society.

It is the collective 'us' living today. Conservatives, liberals, independents and libertarians all need to read about what our Founders such as Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had to say about what their vision was for self-governance in America's future.

Both of them were closer in thought and political philosophy than what you may have been led to believe.

Maybe then we can go about repairing the things that ail us.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Miscalculations and Missed Predictions In Obamacare

'I'll get you to like Obamacare,
my pretty... and your little
dog too!'
By now, we all know that the rollout of Obamacare has been a disaster.

But what many people don't understand or fully appreciate is why it has been such a disaster.

Let's take a look at why trying to revamp 1/6th of the national economy or close to $2 trillion annually probably wasn't the best thing to try to do in one fell swoop:
  1. Passing any bill on a purely partisan basis without any, zero, nada input from the other side of the political spectrum pretty much insures that when the political tides change (and they always change in America), that bill will be nibbled to death by ducks or flat-out repealed if the pendulum swings as far to the other side as existed when it was passed.
  2. 280 Members of Congress and the US Senate plus a President in the White House and maybe a total of 200 key staff writing and passing a bill have to darn near be modern-day Nostradamuses to be able to predict every contingency in a nation of 310 million people making health decisions every single day to the tune of $2 trillion annually in 2013.
  3. 310 million people is a lot of people. Surely, every single one of them can't be expected to make decisions on a daily basis precisely as the savants who conceived and concocted the PPACA in virtual secrecy before, as Nancy Pelosi infamously declared: 'We have to pass it to see what is in it!' (What the heck?) want them to behave.
  4. Proponents of PPACA expected the vast majority of businesses to just basically lay down and comply with their edit.
  5. Fast food chains and people with lower-wage hourly workers have been slashing payroll and putting workers on 30-hour workweeks to avoid being forced to cover them with corporate health care benefits.
  6. Proponents of PPACA assumed people with individual plans would just sit back and take the cancelation of their 'non-compliant' (sic) HSA plans and just say: 'Ok. I'll do whatever they say. They must be smarter than I am because they know what I need (such as maternity care at age 57) than I do'.
  7. Proponents of PPACA assumed that there would be 'winners' and 'losers' when it came to paying for the new 'ACA-compliant' health plans, whatever that means. 'Winners' would pay less, mostly due to massive federal subsidies paid for by taxpayers; 'Losers' would pay more, mostly because the insurance companies made a deal with the Obama Administration to 'play ball with scarecrow' to get 40 million new federally-subsidized customers and that included making individual plan owners pay far more in premiums. 
  8. Proponents of PPACA presumed that said 'losers' above would keep their mouths shut and just pay the piper without griping. They were wrong. These people forced President Obama to make good on his promise that they could keep their plans if they liked it and they are going to make sure every state insurance commissioner allows them to do as well or else said insurance commissioner will be voted out of office next election.
  9. Proponents of PPACA calculated that it would force health care costs down. What they forgot to do was implement any sort of structural health care reforms in the PPACA such as federal tort reform amongst hundreds of other cost-drivers which would have actually broken the back of medical cost spiral inflation instead of just swept it under the rug.
  10. Proponents of PPACA predicted that young invincibles (so healthy they can't conceive of every getting sick enough to need insurance) would come a'runnin' to sign up for health care once it was available. But these young people....still think they are invincible! So why sign up for health insurance? Pay the paltry $90 tax penalty or maybe not even pay that because there is really no direct enforcement mechanism to collect these tax penalties!

    Many of these young people thought Obamacare was going to be free or darned near free since virtually everything President Obama has promised in the past has been free to those who got the benefits (including Wall Street execs and Detroit labor unions and feckless auto execs)
You sorta get the picture, right? For Obamacare to have had a fighting chance, thousands of things had to go exactly right and in perfect hundreds of millions of people had to act and make decisions precisely as the mensas who conceived and passed the PPACA wanted them to act and make decisions.

Americans are a unique brand of people. For some reason, maybe because of the fact that we have a Declaration of Independence declaring our freedom and a US Constitution guaranteeing that freedom for all time, we Americans feel like we have an inalienable right to be able to make our own decisions, right or wrong, good or bad. We don't want our government telling us what to do and when to do it, certainly not on issues as important or as private as our health care and which doctors we choose to administer it to us.

I just had a colonoscopy and a skin lesion removed last week in 2 separate doctor visits. Think I didn't make sure I was comfortable with each doctor before going in for each procedure?

That is what is 'wrong' with Obamacare at its heart and soul. It has forced people out of their comfort zone with something that is very personal and important. When that happens, Americans tend to get to get rebellious and angry and they fight to change things for the better.

Don't expect this to just 'blow over' no matter how many speeches President Obama delivers on the merits of the ACA from his perspective. In fact, we predict that come the 2014 elections, there will be a groundswell of opposition to anyone who voted for or supported Obamacare such that the 2014 elections will rival the 2010 mid-term elections where a ton of incumbents were swept out because they voted for it in March of 2010.

Once that happens, and the US Senate has 50+ Republican Senators in it, and the filibuster rules have been diminished due to Harry Reid's extreme myopia, that is when you will start to see significant reductions and restrictions in Obamacare and perhaps progress towards restoring some sense in the US health care system.

It might be a very bumpy road for President Obama in the last 2 years of his term in the White House.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

'You Aren't Paying Your 'Fair Share'...You Are Paying MORE Than Your Fair Share!'

The CBO just came out with a very interesting study where this singularly interesting nugget of information is embedded in the chart above on page 13 in this report: The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2010.

'The top 40% of American income tax payers are paying 106% of all federal income taxes'

What? How can that possibly be? 106%? That is more than all of it!

You need to read the entire report because it is full of fun facts and figures you can use in your daily lives and daily debates about the future course of this great nation.

The bottom-line is that the United States is a pretty generous place to live in, regardless of what the Obama Administration and other denigrators of the current American situation want you to believe.

How can certain people pay more than 100% of the total income tax paid each year?

It is simple. There are things in the current income tax code such as the Earned Income Tax Credit that essentially 'pays' lower income folks a certain amount of money that is 'transferred' to them from higher-income taxpayers in any year they qualify.

The lower 40% of income-earners in America receive 9.1% of the income tax paid from the 60% in the higher income categories. That is why they are represented by a negative sign in the chart above.

The top 20% of taxpayers pay 93% (92.9) of all income taxes paid. The next 20% pay 13% of all income taxes paid. Add the two together and you get to the magical 106% number you might be seeing on the news lately.

Is this 'fair' or is it 'not fair'? Should it be 'more'?  Or 'less'?

That is why we have politics, don't we? We get to collectively make decisions as to how to build our economy and provide for the basic needs that any great nation would want to provide for its citizens.

However, it is important to note the facts when you do engage in the political game. This chart above pretty much proves that the progressive income tax system of America is in fact 'working' in the sense that it is helping lower-income folks by taxing higher-earning income tax payers.

This is over and above ANY welfare, health or social assistance program at the federal, state or local level that provides basic services to anyone at or below the poverty level in America.

It is also over and above ANY charitable or religious donation that any lower-income person or family may receive during the year.

It is also over and above ANY income that each person may be earning from a job in the private sector, no matter how meager the salary or wages may be. The economic engine of this nation is still the best avenue for anyone making a better life for themselves and their families. We are on the side of unleashing it and letting everyone participate to the fullest extent possible.

This is not to insinuate that anyone living at or near the poverty line has it made in the shade and everyone should be trying to trade places with them. We recognize the difficult life circumstances that millions of Americans struggle with every single day.
'Easy Street' or 'Dead End'?

We are, however, trying to point out the facts of the matter that seem to conveniently elude such people as our sitting President, Barack Obama and many who helped him get elected twice.

Apparently, they believe the 106% number should be far higher in order for America to be truly 'fair'.

Our honest question is this: 'How high should it be? 125%? 150% 200%?'

Or below 100%?

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

'Bill Gates Has Done More To Help People Than Mother Teresa'

Who has 'helped' more people: Bill Gates or Mother Teresa?
We have a friend, Jon Ham, who says when he stood up in class one day long ago to make this bold assertion, he was almost stoned to death.

'Bill Gates has done more to help more people on earth than Mother Teresa ever did!'

Now, before you throw your coffee cup through this computer screen at both Mr. Ham and me, hear us out.

He was making a very important point about free enterprise, capitalism and freedom that is not being made very well today by: A) Business people; B) Capitalists; C) Conservatives; D) Republicans and E) Freedom-loving Democrats, Independents and Libertarians anywhere.

Mother Teresa did wonderful things showing the rest of the world how to care for, in a loving manner, the poor, the sick, the frail and those with AIDS through her Missions of Charity Center founded in the slums of Calcutta and then expanded through 133 countries by 4500 sisters.

There can be no doubt that she did far more than 'comfort the sick'. She showed the rest of us how to live with compassion and love for others less fortunate than us.

However, when it comes to the brass tacks of 'helping' people live better, more healthy lives and you put it on the balance scale of numbers of people helped directly, Bill Gates comes out way, way ahead.

Mother Teresa personally may have been able to touch and comfort tens of thousands of people in her lifetime. Many were brief touches of her hand and a soft prayer over their wounded heads.

The development of Microsoft software for the PC by Bill Gates has positively affected the lives of billions of people on earth. From the IT professionals and techies who make their living installing and tweaking computer programs and systems for businesses, large and small; governments; charities; churches and personal home use to the people whose lives have been made exponentially better in quality the world over.

Let's take a closer look at his argument:

Prayers and gestures of sympathy go a long way in making us human as opposed to mere animals or beasts in the wild. Many species kick their poor and frail to the sidelines to protect the pack and out-and-out leave them to be attacked by the hyenas or jackals that follow them.

But even Jesus would offer that the person such as the Good Samaritan who helps others in need in physical, tangible ways by giving them food, water and shelter while helping bind their wounds does far more than the others who offer perhaps a shallow 'God be with you' and walk along their merry way without giving them food, water, shelter or medical attention.

The miracle of free enterprise and free-market capitalism is that the vast majority of its benevolent and ameliorative benefits are accomplished by entrepreneurs and business people who have this one primary and somewhat contradictory motive in mind:

'How Can I Make A Profit Providing A Good Or Service To Other People?'

In its narrowest form, this could be taken as looking like total greed. Which is the narrative that the Obama Administration and many in the news media would like to have the majority of American citizens believe.

In actuality, it is far from it. In a more positive light, it should be considered as 'enlightened mutual benefit' between the owner of the business and the people who work for him/her and the people who buy the product or service.

Entrepreneurs, risk-takers and businessmen and women put their money and investors' money to work plus their time, energy and reputations. Without them, no one would have a job.

And we wouldn't have any taxes paid on profits generated to pay for any entitlement or government program you may like. Think about that for a moment.

Think about the things people have invented and sold that have: A) made our lives better and easier than the desultory lives most of the human population endured during the Middle Ages and times when the Black Plague wiped out close to half of the populations around the world and B) provided jobs for hundreds of millions of people who could the provide better lives for their families and send their kids to colleges where they could learn to invent and develop new technologies that produce new and better products and services.

  1. Henry Ford and the Automobile-That is an easy one to see. Imagine a life without the mobility and freedom cars provide to hundreds of millions of people in the US alone every day.
  2. Orville and Wilbur Wright and the Airplane- Same. Thing. Just a little over a century ago, heavier-than-air flight was a mere dream for humans. Today, you can fly coast-to-coast in 4 hours with some new planes being developed that can do it in 90 minutes.
  3. Any medical device or procedure-If you have ever had any sort of significant operation, you are grateful that A) you didn't live in the Middle Ages and B) that the people who knew how to make the surgical instruments and life-saving machines knew what they were doing.
  4. Bringing fresh, safe food to market- We bought some amazingly sweet cantaloupe the other day at the local Fresh Market. It had just come in from Chile or somewhere in South America where is it summertime today. Imagine that. We have men and women business-types and workers who can actually go through all that work just to get you a fresh, sweet cantaloupe in North December.
  5. Plastic Tips on your shoelaces- We are always amazed when we look at anything we use and wonder: 'Who in the world would have thought not only to have made that thing but that he/she could make a lot of money doing so? Check out the plastic tips that wrap around the end of your shoelaces sometime. No real complicated but someone had to A) think about the need for it in the first place and B) how to make billions of them C) with machines D) at the lowest cost possible.
Mother Teresa was an amazing soul. We would not be human if we didn't have people such as Mother Teresa to show us how us how to love one another in truly self-sacrificial ways.

Every single person in America would not be living in the highest standard of living the world has ever known regardless of income status without the miracle compounding effect of free people being able to think and invent new products and services to make our lives better. Thank God we have air-conditioning in the South!

We know there are plenty of bad and dishonest businesspeople who deserve to be prosecuted and thrown into jail every single day. (How many Wall Street bankers have gone to jail as a result of their malfeasance of duty that led to the Implosion of 2008? None. Zero. Nada. They should have been forced into bankruptcy before the banks were bailed out by you, the American taxpayer and then allowed to start over from scratch)

But don't get sucked into the narrative that every business is 'bad' and every business owner is 'awful'. They are not. Perhaps 95% of them do noble and important work for us every single day.

Which is why the 'Bill Gates' of the world have cumulatively done far more to help people in tangible ways than Mother Teresa ever possibly could have done on her own.

Maybe try to have a little 'Mother Teresa' in everything you do this week at work. The results may surprise you.

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