A Confederacy of Dunces.

October 24, 2016

We've entered the ninth inning in this ugliest of elections. This hot mess. This goat rodeo.
A campaign less indicative of the electoral process than a dark and steamy bog. Into which one cautiously treads. Hoping to locate the source of some unseemly emanation. The belching sounds and sickening odors that simultaneously stimulates one's curiosity while repelling the senses.
The candidates have left no stone unturned. Having sparred over everything. Marital infractions. Evil transgressions. Business bankruptcies. All the while providing no real innovations as to how they might enrich the nation's electorate. Revive a flailing economy.

Three debates. Each requiring a shower afterwards. To wash off the putrification of entitlement and mediocrity. While the theme song from "The Crying Game" echoed in the mind.
Joseph Schumpeter taught "creative destruction." Explaining how it served to tear down non-productive economic components. Redeploying those assets to ostensibly more innovative utilization. Boosting productivity, employment and wealth creation. Adding Americans to the ever-critical role calls of an ownership society.
Today's candidates decline to discuss how the Fed's zero-interest-rate policies and quantitative easing programs have failed to stimulate real business investment and economic growth. Have contributed to the systematic misallocation of capital. So harming entrepreneurship and productivity.
Instead, Trump and Clinton have railed against free markets. Which is rather like crusading against vegetables. For its hard to argue the merits. Yet, argue they have. Proposing restrictions on free trade. Proffering new entitlement programs for everyone from preschoolers to college students.
How does an indebted nation pay for such largess?
Mrs. Clinton will invoice the wealthy. Forcing them to pay a larger (not fairer) share. Which will essentially dissuade society's most productive members from the requisite risk taking that creates growth in the first place.
Hillary threatens to expand upon an already harmful hyper-regulatory environment. One that has seen Dodd-Frank and myriad other regulatory constraints shackle American entrepreneurialism to a bureaucratic dungeon. A Guantanamo Bay for businesses.
Nothing new, unfortunately.
Since taking office, the Obama administration has created 20,642 new regulations. Imposing more than $22 billion last year alone in new regulatory costs. Bringing the total new regulatory burden of the last eight years to more than $100 billion annually. With U.S. federal government regulations amounting to an estimated $2.028 trillion in 2012. And compliance costs allocated disproportionately to the nation's biggest employers -- small businesses. All of which has cost entrepreneurs nearly $12,000 per year for each employee -- just to remain federally compliant.
All of which has coagulated the nation's lifeblood -- entrepreneurialism. Sadly evidenced by the fact that 2015 marked the first time in 35 years that more American businesses died than were created.
Insanity, you scream?
Nietzsche knew better. He said, "In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule."
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), government spending and regulations continue to serve as a drag on economic efficiency. Reducing growth and productivity. Making it difficult for entrepreneurs to perform their societal roles.
Someday, Keynesians and other bureaucrats -- be they bankers or politicians -- may recognize that governments and central banks do not create wealth. Entrepreneurs do. Conceiving ideas that engineer life-enhancing technologies. Free us from disease. Liberate us from foreign autocrats. That make the world smaller. Safer. Better.
Today, however, our political class gleans no such epiphanies.
Neither candidate has seriously discussed reforming the nation's onerous tax codes. Which would make it easier to create and grow new businesses. Which would make it easier for foreign and domestic companies to locate operations in the U.S. Would make it easier for entrepreneurs to hire American workers. Allocate capital to domestic vendors and service companies. Helping to finally push our flailing GDP growth rate above an anemic one-to-two-percent.
Trump would go a step further. With plans to punish U.S. companies that allocate capital to the highest and best use, if such utilization happens to occur overseas. Which strikes me as ludicrous. That anyone in any government capacity should seek to tell shareholder accountable companies how to allocate capital.
For decades, tax receipts have risen. Even as society has less than ever to show for it. There remains scant anecdotal evidence of the government's pragmatic tax expenditures. In fact, the U.S. government spends money like the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Impulsively. Carelessly. Until bankruptcy.
Yet, we're to believe the federal government should have a broader role in the economy's asset allocation process? Enabling public sector officials who've never balanced a budget to dictate how otherwise financially competent corporations can spend shareholder capital?
Comedic. If it wasn't so ludicrous.
Meanwhile, the Fed -- which remains unaccountable to the public it allegedly serves -- continues to expand its balance sheet by throwing good money after bad. Even as is fails to move the economic needle. And harms the real economy by adding to the national debt and depriving small businesses of available credit. While pedagogic politicians and members of the blathering punditocracy make matters worse by blaming free market for the sins of the Fed and the political class it serves.
The CBO has repeatedly said that the nation's growing debt burden will sooner than later devolve into the next financial cataclysm. While those very real debts remain the one dilemma the political class refuses to confront. Even as it chases every other unicorn under a banner of social justice.
Consider that in June of 2008, the national debt was $9.492 trillion. June 2016? Same debt had ballooned to $19.38 trillion. A $9.9 trillion increase in eight years.
And what have we gotten in return for those massive imbalances?
Unprecedented numbers of welfare recipients. Record food stamp distributions. The most contentious period of social unrest since the 1960s. Zero improvement in middle class earnings. A Social Security program projected to go bankrupt in 2028. Medicare and Medicaid programs that are forecast to perish by 2030. No foreign policy amid an increasingly chaotic geopolitical environment. Crumbling national infrastructure. Widespread malice towards the nation's police force. And the growing sense that the nations' political elites have no clue as to how they might solve this array of problems. Only worsened by the lack of will to try.
Recently, D.C.'s caustic political environment has spilled over the ramparts into the hinterlands.
As the nation appears to be entering a period of ugly, political backlash. With the election a scant two weeks hence, we've read of prominent Trump supporters from the tech and real estate worlds being "excommunicated" from their respective communities.
Is it not widely understood that this nation remains firmly grounded in the principle of First Amendment freedoms. The ability to support, speak for and campaign on behalf of any philosophical or ideological tenet remains the foundational aspect of our national circulatory system.
The idea that some would "exact their revenge" upon political rivals as soon as they smell blood is not only unAmerican, but wholly repulsive. Something akin to those distant, autocratic regimes we once only read about. Who inflict vengeance upon political enemies after besting them at the ballot box.
Yet, hostility is communicable. And what begins on the podium emanates to the classrooms, boardrooms and back alleys. Because eventually, people begin to resemble their leadership.
Regardless of opinions on the candidates -- both are lamentable -- fact remains that nearly half of the electorate determined to place each on the ticket. After which we can support or campaign against them. We should not plan to permanently denigrate the reputations of those supporting the other side. Nor to physically or financially malign them, their families and their business interests.
Such are the habits of a banana republic. Not this greatest of all nations.
In lieu of all the trumped up claims of fascism (pun intended), these recent character assassinations wreak of a fascistic tendency to purge the opposition. It doesn't help that the candidates and their coteries of boot-licking sycophants watch idly as their supporters set to rip each other apart.
Ugliness only begets more ugliness.
Remember the gentility of the Reagan/Carter election? One in which ideological swords were crossed. But one basically knew that both candidates were essentially decent, well-intended human beings.
Today's corruption, banality of ideas and lack of civility is not confined to our presidential candidates but exhibited by D.C.'s entire confederacy of dunces. The nation's capital has been relegated to a theater of the absurd.
God help us all. That we may survive and prosper despite the best efforts of those that lead us.

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