Be careful about student loan forgiveness.

Gene Czarnecki makes good points about resisting student loan forgiveness.  (See link below to letter in The Register.)  It seems a little known fact that more people default on loans with balances less than $5,000 than larger balances.  This is likely due to the fact that smaller balances are due from students who did not complete their degrees while larger balances are due from students who completed post-graduate degrees like medicine and law and who have the ability to pay off their loans.  So, if our government does anything to forgive student loans, we should consider forgiving only the first $5,000 rather than larger amounts.

Link to letter:  https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/readers/2020/11/23/letters-news-media-must-suppress-false-covid-19-beliefs/6346641002/

The battle among the crony capitalists!

I read the report in The Des Moines Register about the questioning of Tom Vilsack by Joni Ernst during the Senate hearings on Vilsack’s nomination for Secretary of Agriculture.  (Vilsack nomination moves to full Senate” 2/3/2021)  President Biden has ordered the development of a plan to convert all federal, state, local and tribal vehicles, including Post Office vehicles, to “clean and zero-emission vehicles.”  Ernst asked Vilsack if he will direct the USDA to buy Tesla trucks that run on electricity or Ford vehicles that run on 85% ethanol.  Vilsack, like a good politician, said it’s not ” an either-or circumstance.”  It will be interesting to see how Vilsack balances the interests of farmers and biofuels producers with the interests of the zero-emissions vehicle and power producers.  One thing is for sure: lobbyists will be in high demand.

Trump did not win the election. The election was not stolen!

People who believe the election was stolen from Trump should not be “canceled” or otherwise censored or shut down. The correct response to false speech is more true speech. A public, transparent investigation into election irregularities, by Congress or otherwise, should not be shouted down, and those calling for an investigation should not be attacked.

To the extent that people are censored by any means, it will likely only confirm for them, and those who agree with them, that they were correct. Censorship doesn’t change minds. Instead, it may well drive those who are censored into their own underground echo-chamber where they may become more radicalized. It is better to try to engage them in a debate, as calmly and rationally as possible, with good evidence presented to debunk false evidence.

With that in mind, I recently listened to most of a 3-hour audio podcast by David C. Smalley where he debunked, point by point, an 18-minute viral video that claimed the election was stolen. Below are links to both the 18-minute YouTube video that “proves” the election was stolen and the 3-hour audio podcast that debunks the video. I recommend that your first watch at least the first 5+ minutes of the video. Then listen to at least the first half-hour of the audio podcast. Watch and listen to more if you are so inclined. Then, if you agree that the election was not stolen, consider forwarding a link to this blog to others, especially to anyone who still believes that the election was stolen.

Link to 18 minute YouTube video viewed by 1.5 million people which details “evidence” that the election was stolen from Trump: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXtGItm1bvQ&t=11s

Link to David C. Smalley audio podcast where he debunks popular claims of those who believe the election was stolen: https://www.spreaker.com/user/smalleyandhyso/509-conspiracies

Governor Reynolds supports crony capitalists.

Governor Reynolds has proposed legislation to make, “…biofuels the clear choice for Iowa drivers…”, by mandating a minimum of 10% ethanol in all gasoline and 11% biodiesel in all diesel fuel sold in Iowa.  (See link to Register report below.)  If her proposal becomes law, it would make biofuels the clear choice – because then there would be no other choice.

This is a shining example of how government works when a law or regulation has concentrated benefits and dispersed costs.  Those who receive the concentrated benefits, (in this case farmers and biofuel producers), will lobby heavily to get their benefits, while the cost to any individual is so small that it doesn’t justify the time or money to lobby against the legislation.  Then, those who receive the benefits become dependent on them and continue to lobby to ensure that the benefits never come to an end. Don’t call it free-market capitalism.  It’s called crony capitalism.  

Link to Register report – printed 1/27/21:  https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2021/01/26/kim-reynolds-plans-require-10-ethanol-11-biodiesel-iowa-fuel/4259109001/

Money grab by States in anti-trust suit against Google.

As reported in The Des Moines Register, Iowa has joined 37 other states in an anti-trust suit against Google for discriminating against other search engines. (See link below.)

The purpose of anti-trust action against any company should be the protection of consumers, not the protection of competing businesses.  If consumers are not harmed, which is the case here, then anti-trust action should not be taken.  I have a strong feeling that the State governments joined this lawsuit in order to share in the billions of dollars of penalties or settlement – a money grab from a deep pocket.

Why should Google be forced to list links to other search engines in the results of their Google searches?  Why shouldn’t Google be allowed to pay smart phone makers to make Google the default search engine – which helps to reduce the cost of cell phones?  Where is the harm to consumers?  In fact, Googles actions arguably help consumers.

Link to Register report: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2020/12/17/google-antitrust-lawsuit-iowa-joins-case-with-38-states-over-internet-search-and-advertising/3939064001/

Register needs better reporting of COVID-19 Stats.

Here is the text of a Letter To The Editor that I just sent to The Des Moines Register:

On Friday, December 4th, you started your daily COVID-19 report with, “The state added another 70 deaths to the tally of people who died with COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the largest one-day increase since the pandemic arrived in the state.”   Later in the article, you clarified that of the 70 deaths “reported”, 61 actually died in November, eight died in October, and one died on August 26th.  Your introductory sentence was at best poorly written, and at worst intentionally misleading.  It does appear clear that we have recently been seeing significant increases in the spread of the virus and deaths from the virus, but you lose credibility when you make such misleading statements.

Here is a link to the article:

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2020/12/03/covid-19-iowa-70-deaths-record-increase-another-2926-coronavirus-cases-reported/3807381001/

Supreme Court correct to protect religion

Contrary to the letter from Donnabelle Richtsmeier, our Supreme Court was correct to overturn New York’s restriction on the size of religious gatherings.  (See copy of letter below.)

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”     The 14th Amendment reads in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…”  So, states cannot violate our federal constitutional rights.

No exception is made to allow our governments to violate our constitutional rights because of a pandemic. If that were true, what limit would there be on our government’s response to a pandemic?

The statement in the preamble of the Constitution, “promote the general welfare“ does not grant any specific power to our government.  If we gave our government the power to do anything that would promote the general welfare, there would be no limit on our government.  Our Constitution establishes a government with limited, enumerated powers. Restricting the exercise of religion is strictly prohibited.

Donnabelle Richtsmeier’s letter to the Des Moines Register:

I was astonished to learn that the Supreme Court ruled against the lower courts and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 restrictions that included limits on religious gatherings in places of worship. The justices certainly did not take into account current scientific evidence and advice from public health authorities that such measures could help stop the spread of the virus.

The Supreme Court is no longer a bipartisan group of judges whose job it is to interpret the Constitution in a fair and just way. It is a group bent on promoting their own philosophies and politics. In their ruling, they forgot the phrase in the preamble to the Constitution that states “promote the general welfare.” Certainly, efforts to protect citizens from COVID-19 is promoting the general welfare of the citizens of not only New York but the entire United States.

The framers of the Constitution wanted to guarantee religious freedom giving citizens the right to worship in ways suited to them, free from harassment or harm. The Supreme Court really took this out of context. Limiting the size of religious gatherings during this severe pandemic is in no way an attack on the freedom of religion. It is a way to protect the health of citizens and to save lives. The justices must put aside their individual prejudices and become a bipartisan group working together to uphold the Constitution in order to “form a more perfect union.” If they can’t do this, maybe it is time for some changes.

— Donnabelle Richtsmeier, Des Moines

Capitalism versus Socialism

Kurt Johnson

Here is a YouTube video that is anti-capitalism, and my comments and then a reply to my comments, then my comment again.

My original comment: Under free market capitalism no one is forced to buy anything from anyone, and no one is forced to work for anyone else. People buy things because they value the things they’re buying more than the money they willingly pay for the product. People work for employers because it’s a better job than their other alternatives. Of course in a free-market capitalist system anyone is able to save their own money and start their own business and become a capitalist. Nobody is stealing anything from anyone. There is so much wrong with this video.REPLY

Reply to my comment from the YouTube channel producer: COVID has shown that work under capitalism is not voluntary for most workers. Millions of workers do NOT want to risk their lives for minimum wage at jobs that do not offer PPE, paid sick leave and sufficient healthcare, yet they have been forced to make the choice between risking their lives at Taco Bell and Hobby Lobby vs. becoming homeless (in most states ~50% of renters are facing eviction) and/or starving (BEFORE COVID 1 in 7 americans relied on food banks, now there are lines of cars at food banks miles long and food supply networks are failing). TELLING workers that we can just go work for someone else isn’t going to save you from the end of capitalism. We intuitively know that we are being coerced and it’s only a matter of time, and extension of failures of the capitalist system, before workers finally become fully conscious of the nature of our oppression and the power of striking and work stoppages. Capitalism WILL fail, the only question is, can we as workers end it before it completely destroys our planet’s environment?

My reply to YouTube channel producer: All work is voluntary… – at least in the U.S. unless you are in prison or are being illegally forced. If you have no other means of support we do have a safety net which a person can subsist on. Nobody forces people to make choices between work and homelessness? Homelessness must be terrible, but it is a way to live. Most people do not choose homelessness. They choose to work. There is nothing wrong with getting food from food banks. I support several personally in addition to the taxes I pay. I believe that people have a natural right to use their bodies as they choose and also have a right to keep the private property that they justly earn. There is a proper place for government and taxes in a civil society, and we should provide a minimum safety net for those who are unable to provide for themselves. Ideally, the safety net is provided through private charity, but if by government, that government should be as local as possible. But the safety net that we provide is a gift, not a right. People have not natural rights that require the action or property of others. Our governments should not grant people what are called “positive rights” that burden others. People have natural “negative rights” that place no burden on others. Some of those negative rights are written in the Bill Of Rights in our U.S. Constitution. Our U.S. government was created to secure our pre-existing natural rights for ourselves and our posterity.

Trump is wrong on his nationalist, anti-international trade policy

Below is the link to an excellent article by Eric Boehm from Reason magazine’s August/September issue.  It gives specific evidence that shows how international trade makes us safer in a world-wide pandemic rather than the opposite.  There is a knee-jerk reaction when we have shortages to assume that we would be better off if we did not depend on other countries for our various needed products.  This essay shows that the facts indicate otherwise.

link to Reason essay by Eric Boehm:  https://reason.com/2020/07/11/trumps-trade-war-made-the-pandemic-worse-and-nationalism-will-slow-the-recovery/

Des Moines Police should minimize marijuana enforcement.

Hopefully, the Des Moines City Council and the Des Moines Police Department will follow the recommendation of the marijuana enforcement task force that was formed earlier this year as part of an anti-racial profiling ordinance.”  (See link to Register reports below.)

Included among the list of recommendations are passing ordinances that make enforcement of the possession of marijuana for personal use the lowest enforcement priority for the police, and if allowed by state law, to legalize or decriminalize marijuana for personal use.

It appears clear that our marijuana prohibition laws are enforced unfairly against black folks,  In every case, a conviction dramatically damages a person’s future prospects for work, housing, education, and more.  All because of our prohibition laws criminalize peaceful activities that do not infringe on the rights of any other person.

Our Iowa state legislators need to get a clue from other states and at least decriminalize the peaceful use of marijuana.  It will not only reduce systemic racism, but it is the morally right thing to do.

Link to Register reports:
https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2020/11/06/des-moines-marijuana-enforcement-task-force-finalizes-report/5867244002/

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2020/11/09/des-moines-effort-decriminalize-marijuana-hamstrung-iowa-law-des-moines-police-department/6191753002/