Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sub-Prime Abortion

Yesterday’s vote turning down the Paulson-Pelosi-Bush Bailout Plan was like the woman who turns away from the abortion clinic at the last minute from shame. She may still lose her nerve and sneak back to the clinic, but for now the idea that abortion is not a morally acceptable form of birth control wins the day.

The baby here, of course, is free market economics. What many have recognized and few have had strength of voice to express out loud is that if businesses aren’t allowed to fail, then capitalism is forced to fail. Capitalism is based on competition. Competition means there are winners and losers. The natural disinclination among most people to losing propels them to excel. If this were not the case, the love of sports would not be a common denominator among all people worldwide. If there’s no gold to go for, how many people really want to play hard or even watch?

Of course, along the line we’ve softened the blow of losing in many ways. Bankruptcy law, social safety nets, and subsidies are examples of western societies’ taking care that no one starves from losing economically. It’s debatable how good or bad such programs are, but none has quite the stifling effect that the Bailout Plan could have on the free enterprise system. When there is absolutely no risk, there will be no gain. And forcing taxpayers to buy out up to a trillion dollars in bad loans caused by government social engineering is plainly wrongheaded. It is a clear turn to socialism, communism, or fascism, however you want to take it.

We are in for some tough times. A lot of us have been living off the bubble with easy money on the come in the form of home equity loans, variable rate mortgages, low or no down payments, and 125% loans. The bubble has enabled a lot of conspicuous consumption of luxury cars, homes, and vacations, not to mention a lot of private school tuition.

But if we want our children to have the same opportunities in America to make a go of it with sweat equity and application of talent to stand on their own two feet and prosper, we all will just have to suck in our guts and adjust while the market works things out.

I believe it wasn’t politics at all that resulted in yesterday’s failed vote. I believe it was the little voice of shame in Democrat and Republican representatives alike yesterday, no doubt strengthened by the watchful eyes of their constituents, which caused Congress to turn back from the abortion of free enterprise.

Let’s hope they’ll keep their nerve and not abort the American free enterprise system in a subsequent vote.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sins of commission and omission

There’s hardly man nor woman who has sat in Congress in the last thirty years whose hands aren’t dirtied by the government backed and instigated sub-prime mortgage mess and the many-tentacled problems that have grown therefrom.

Ignorance of the long term effects of laws is no excuse. Country club Republicans, afraid of appearing racist or heartless in the face of those who trumpet socialism under the guise of “social justice”, sat by while bad financial policy was set year after year, creating and yet obscured by the real estate bubble. Why should they have acted? After all, their net worth was growing quite nicely along with everybody else's. No sense in being a party pooper.

In country music lyrics it’s known as “calling it in”. It’s a common phenomenon among the governmental and public corporation classes these days. Nobody wants to deal with the public and be held accountable. That laziness, that narcissistic bent, is evident in all facets of a taxpayer’s interaction with the big entities that call the shots. It’s voice mail and outsourcing, it’s activist judges who negate referendums, it’s pork that gets attached to legislation, it’s golden parachutes that release decision makers with no personal consequences for their greed and corruption.

America does not have to worry about sliding toward socialism. We’re there. And for now perhaps our 401ks and our mortgages and our credit card balances are safe. But in the long run, we’re gonna pay. And the next generation will pay even more.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Obama mixed up his metaphors.

He had the porcine theme right, but if Barack Obama really didn’t mean it as a passive-aggressive dig toward Sarah Palin, then he must have meant to say: “Even a blind hog finds some lipstick every now and then.”

In this case, either presidential contender could play the pig just about interchangeably. Although Obama’s world view is socialist and McCain leans more toward capitalism, the problem is that neither one of them has known much of anything in their entire adult lives but working for the biggest, blindest hog of all: the government.

Forget about Joe Biden. He’s just like them.

Enter Sarah Palin. She is unambiguously and unashamedly the lipstick in this analogy. They represent bureaucracy. She represents life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s not just her good looks and her sparkling, sassy style that make her so refreshing. It’s not that she can skin a moose or run Wasilla or all of Alaska. What makes Sarah Palin so appealing in particular is the thing that we’ve heard the least about her: that she has run a business. Not just any business: a small business.

Frankly, I don’t care whether the business was a success or a failure, though I presume she and husband Todd did well at it as she seems to have done with every other thing ventured in her life.

What matters is that she has within her the fire of free enterprise, the entrepreneurial spirit that makes individuals recognize they can do it better than what they’ve seen already and then by God, risk what it takes to prove it by setting themselves into business. If anything encapsulates America, it’s that.

After the start of enterprise, anything can happen. Many businesses fail in pretty short order. Some survive. Some are just a living, many prosper, and some, like Google, fly like a rocket. But for whatever their duration and their range, they all create jobs, pay taxes, and are the glue that holds the economy together—not government, not huge impersonal public corporations, not unions, not politics.

And each small business owner at some point must do it all: hire, fire, buy, sell, live and die by the sword of their own efforts and their ability to motivate others to work toward a common goal and be judged by the bottom line. The millions of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S-corporations out there are what is going to propel us back out of a slow economy just as they have done after every downturn before.

That’s why we need Sarah Palins making their marks in American government today. Without the lipstick, government’s just a big ol’ mud-wallowing blind hog.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ode to Charlotte Pike

I was once married to a woman who would go out of her way to avoid driving down Charlotte Pike. She felt it was a dirty street, seedy, and dangerous.

We weren’t exactly a match made in Heaven.

The truth is, I would much rather ride down a Charlotte Pike or a Nolensville Road or even Dickerson Pike than West End or Hillsboro. Franklin Road is kind of half and half. It’s more like Charlotte out to Woodmont, then it might as well be Belle Meade Boulevard, culminating in the capital of conspicuous consumption, Brentwood. Actually, there are exceptions on every road: there’s the new upscale Nashville West development, egregiously out of place on Charlotte; and on West End, there’s a lot with Springwater and Hog Heaven, a distillation of Charlotte Pike unto itself. But I digress.

In general, the reason I like the Charlotte Pikes of the world is that they are real. Charlotte Pikes are full of local businesses, mom and pop shops or sole proprietorships, a few of which are franchises, but many of which are one of a kind like Fabu or New Life Record Shop or Spuds, Bobbie’s or McPherson’s or Bro’s. These and the many others that make Charlotte Pike a visual cacophony are businesses in which individuals invest their lives and their reputations, their families and their brotherly love. They rely on their neighbors for their livelihood and they give back to them in many ways, from providing part time jobs for their teens and elderly to sponsoring little league teams. Unlike a fad store out of New York or, say, Portland, they are not likely to be here today, gone tomorrow. They tend to last for decades if not generations.

On the contrary, although Hillsboro Pike is full of businesses, not so many are locally owned with the owner working on site, at least outside Hillsboro Village. The road is broader, cleaner, and the curbs and sidewalks are well planned and handicap accessible. The buildings, with the possible exception of that weird monstrosity that’s gone up at Hobbs and Hillsboro, blend together nicely with their modern, somatic aesthetic. Frankly, even the women are prettier on Hillsboro Road, from the coeds at Vanderbilt to the soccer moms in Green Hills. Not without a price. There’s a lot of cosmetic surgery and bottle blonding going on in that neighborhood, let me tell you.

But give me the natural girls, the grit and grime and corn dogs and pawnshops of Charlotte Pike any day. If it’s a place some people feel uncomfortable, I’m just as happy not having them there with me.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Parents of Teenagers, Unite!

If I’ve ever heard a stupid question, it’s “Can’t you control that teenager?”

And if I’ve ever heard a stupid statement, it’s “They’re the perfect family.”

The only perfect family I’ve ever seen is from a distance. The people who utter quotes like the ones above have very limited family experience, if any.

Those of us who have raised teenagers certainly know better. If we’re wise, we forgive and forget the horrifying aspects of the job as soon as possible. You’d have to be in serious denial if you’ve done any hands on work in raising kids through the teenage years and can say it went just according to plan. Maybe God’s plan, but not the one you as a parent dictate.

Not that it should be any other way. A teenager who is compliant and cooperative all the time would worry me a lot more than one who tests the boundaries. As far as I can figure it, rebellion is the first line in a teenager’s job description. As soon as they make a law allowing parents to lock kids in a cage from ages thirteen through nineteen, then maybe we can talk about control. You might counsel a teenager, you might set limits and do your best to enforce them, and you should certainly try to set a good example, but woe unto the parent who thinks they’re going to tell a teenager what to do and not be prepared to flex a little—or a lot—with the flow of reality.

So the attacks on the Palin family are not just despicable gutter sniping, they’re absurd. As the McCain campaign has wisely retorted, life happens. In fact, that is exactly what has happened in the Palin family, and what’s so bad about that? Maybe the newest generation is coming to the Palins on an inconvenient schedule, but life is full of surprises, some more dramatic than others.

Our own native son, Fred Thompson, responded to just such a dramatic turn in his own young life by marrying the mother of his inconvenient child and starting early on the task of raising a family. Whatever you think about his politics, you can’t fault him for stepping up to the plate when the pitch was thrown and hitting a home run. His girlfriend didn’t run to an abortionist and he didn’t disappear from the scene.

It sounds to me that Bristol and Levi are stepping up to the plate. Good for them and may God bless them and their baby. May God help them when that baby becomes a teenager—they’ll need it!

And for those of us who have shepherded kids through the rocky grounds of being teenagers salute the parents of Bristol and Levi for standing by their children despite their inconvenient pregnancy.

Because you can’t control them. And there is no perfect family.