Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

For "a human being, the question 'to be or not to be,' is the question 'to think or not to think.'" Ayn Rand

23 December 2011

The EPA's Newest Environmental Vendetta Against Coal

The EPA has proposed lower emission limits on power plants for 84 pollutants, including mercury, arsenic, nickel, selenium, cyanide, and acid gas.  The mercury emission limit has been given the most attention and will be tightened to 1.2 pounds per million BTUs produced by a power plant.  The most affected electric power plants will be those that generate half of our electricity using coal.  In 12 states, coal-fired power plants generate from 70 to 98% of the electricity used.  Coal-fired electric generation plants will have to add expensive further scrubbing equipment and the expenses of operating that equipment.  The EPA claims this will cost the electric power companies $10.9 billion a year, though industry estimates run somewhat higher.  Some older coal-fired power plants will not be worth the added investment.  Several plants are scheduled to go off-line in 2014 as a result of this EPA proposal already.  Plants totaling 2,290 to 3,950 megawatts may be lost in Illinois alone.

The EPA claims lost jobs, more expensive electricity, and less reliable electricity will be justified because the stricter regulations will save 11,000 lives and up to $140 billion in health benefits per year.  The claim is that there will be 4,700 fewer heart attacks a year and 130,000 fewer children suffering asthma.  6,300 fewer children will have acute bronchitis.  These EPA claims have been widely called into question.  With 2,423,712 American deaths a year, 11,000 fewer deaths is a change of less than 0.5%.  Studies will have great difficulty in proving the cause or even the existence of such a decrease were it to occur.

Great fanfare has been given to the required reductions in mercury.  Environmentalists like to say that power plants generate half of the mercury to which we are exposed.  Let us examine this claim.  The U.S. and China generate about the same amount of electricity from coal.  The U.S. coal-fired power plants are estimated to produce between 41 and 48 tons of mercury per year.  The middle of this range is 44.5 tons.  The Chinese power plants, which do not scrub their emissions, are thought to emit about 400 tons of mercury a year.  This is about 9 times as much as U.S. power plants emit per kWh of electricity.  While coal is mostly used in the U.S. for electricity generation, in much of the world it is used extensively still for heating and it has industrial applications also.  World consumption of coal is about 7,229 megatons.  The U.S. consumes about 858 megatons.  Assuming conservatively that the total generation of mercury from coal use is about 4 times that in the U.S., the world total output of mercury from coal use would be about 1500 tons a year.  Thus a total elimination of mercury from coal-fired electric power plants in the U.S. would result in a decrease in mercury from coal use of only 3%.

This does not tell the whole story.  Forest fires in the U.S. generate about 44 tons of mercury per year.  Forest fires consume about 5 million acres of forest a year in the U.S.  But forest fires in the world consume about 123 million acres of forest a year.  This implies that about 1080 tons of mercury are generated by forest fires worldwide in a year.  Cremation of human bodies generates another 26 tons of mercury from tooth fillings a year.  This means that the 44.5 tons of mercury from U.S. electric power plants is only 44.5/ (1500 + 1080 + 26) = 0.017 or 1.7% of these sources of mercury.

It gets worse.  Volcanoes, subsea vents, geysers and other natural sources are thought to emit between 9,000 and 10,000 tons of mercury a year.  Compared to this and the other sources of mercury discussed, the mercury output of U.S. coal-fired power stations is then about 44.5 / (1500 + 1080 + 26 + 9500) = 0.0037 or 0.37%!  So totally eliminating mercury from coal-fired power plants will only reduce the world's mercury output by 0.37%.  It is very difficult to understand how this will change the number of deaths or illness in the U.S. due to the effects of mercury unless our primary exposure to problems from mercury is of a very local basis.

It turns out that the EPA change in mercury limits is not based on health studies of the local effects of mercury from electric power plants in the U.S.  This is because Americans primary exposure to mercury is from eating fish.  There are 200,000,000 tons of mercury in ocean water.  The 44.5 tons of mercury from U.S. coal-fired power plants is only 0.2 millionths of this amount!  Despite this natural exposure to mercury, the blood mercury concentrations for U.S. women and children dropped steadily from 1999 to 2008 according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Levels are now way below the safe level established by the EPA, which safe level was well below any level of known harm.

The EPA mercury limits are based on a study of Faroe Islanders who eat huge quantities of whale meat and blubber and little in the way of fruits and vegetables.  The whale intake is very high in mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls and low in selenium.  Fruits and vegetables provide anti-oxidants thought to decrease the effects of low concentrations of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls and selenium helps to negate the effects of mercury.  Meanwhile, the EPA ignored the Seychelles Children Development Study of 17 years that found no measurable cognitive or behavioral effects in children who ate from 5 to 12 servings of fish a week!  There is no effect even though these fish are swimming about in 200 megatons of mercury.

The EPA claim of 130,000 fewer children suffering asthma also makes no sense.  In 1995, 7.5% of children had asthma and this was up dramatically from 1980 when only 3.6% of children had asthma.  Despite this, air pollution in 1995 was much lower than it was in 1980.  Air pollution has steadily decreased since 1980, yet in 2009 asthma affected 10% of American children.  The Centers for Disease Control are baffled by the cause of this increase in asthma in children.  Despite this lack of understanding, the EPA claims that this 130,000 decrease in child asthma will occur to a reduction of fine particles that will be a side benefit to removing more mercury from power plant emissions.

The lowered mercury output level to be required of electric power plants is not rationally based on health concerns.  It is another javelin the Obama Administration has chosen to throw at the heart of the coal-fired power plants and at fossil fuel use in general.  It is a product of their alarmist viewpoint that fossil fuel use, particularly coal use, is a primary cause of catastrophic man-made global warming.  This is the real reason that Obama and his henchmen are willing to kill power plant jobs, drive up the cost of electricity, and kill coal-mining and transportation jobs.  This is the reason they are prepared to cause rolling blackouts such as undeveloped countries experience, despite the impossibility of continuing many industrial or laboratory operations under such conditions.  They will kill off many industries and companies in this way.  This is the reason they are willing to make many families suffer the cold in homes they cannot afford to heat or the heat in homes they cannot air-condition.  This is the reason they choose to ignore the deaths of people who will die because they are too cold or too hot in their homes.

They are doing this for the same reason that they are determined to kill the Keystone XL pipeline.  This is the same reason they oppose many oil and gas drilling projects across the United States.  This is the same reason they throw taxpayer money at any fraud who claims to have a scheme for renewable energy or energy conservation, especially if he is a campaign contributor.  Jobs and economic well-being take a backseat to their fanatical and misplaced belief in the false hypothesis of catastrophic man-made global warming due to man's CO2 emissions.  This irrational fanaticism is the death of many American jobs.  Fanatic irrationalism has fatal consequences.  I hope one consequence will be that Obama is not rewarded with a second term.

19 December 2011

The Legitimate Role of Government - Summarized

In determining the proper role of government, we have to start with some foundational observations. Man must use reason to identify reality and to choose the values he will pursue. He must be free to use his mind to then pursue those values, which is the pursuit of his happiness.

The advantages of a society accrue optimally if a man is free to associate with others of his choosing for the purposes of his choosing. When that is the case, his ability to use his reasoning capability is amplified and he is better able to achieve his chosen values. People are complex and highly differentiated, so while they share some basic needs universally, such as their equal, sovereign individual rights, their choices of values beyond that level quickly diverge in many ways. Yet, as long as they have freedom of association, they can trade and cooperate to develop ideas, goods, and services with selected others to enhance and enrich their lives in the pursuit of their personal happiness. For some this may place great emphasis on material goods, for others the goal is more intellectual, and for others the goal is to have much time for recreation. This divergence of choices is all well accommodated by the private sector, given a legitimate government that only protects the People's equal, sovereign individual rights. This ideal of legitimate government was defined in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution was to so limit the power and scope of government that it had no function but to protect our individual rights.

Because Americans have ignored these basic concepts of individual human nature, the advantages of society, the nature and need for individual rights in society, and the role of legitimate government, we have a government that dictates the choice of values to the individual and which ignores his own personal values. In the pursuit of decreeing values and micromanaging the lives of every individual, this government has become complex and tyrannical. The complexity of the government has made it unmanageable by our elected politicians. It has made it a threat to everyone and to every interest, since it is incompetent in identifying our personal values and has pursued many extortion schemes. Special interests must respond with lobbying to protect themselves from these misunderstandings and extortion schemes.

Other special interests observe that the government is much too complex for the People to understand what is going on and for them to control it. Since the government is out-of-control, it is easy for the clever and invested special interest to manipulate the levers of power in the government to provide their special interest with favors, such as restrictions upon competition with them or subsidies and grants. Soon, the big government that claims it is trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number is doing nothing of the sort. It is actually doing the greatest harm to the greatest number. In order to help Peter, it is robbing Paul and preventing Joe and David from pursuing their personal values.

This government is not providing for the General Welfare and has become the tool of rapacious special interests. This is the inevitable result of government that has lost the understanding that its only legitimate function is to protect the equal, sovereign individual right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The protection of our individual rights is the only way government can enhance the General Welfare and escape becoming a tyranny controlled by special interests.

13 December 2011

Federal Go-It-Alone Immigration Foolishness

It was only in 1875 that the Supreme Court decided that immigration policy was a federal responsibility.  In 1882 and 1891, Congress passed immigration acts.  The 1891 Immigration Act set up the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration to admit, reject, and process immigrants.  In 1893 the Office of Immigration had 119 employees at Ellis Island with a total staff of 180 employees.  Many of those other employees staffed other points of entry for immigrants.  How many employees remained for the task of finding and deporting illegal immigrants?  Clearly no more than a handful, if any.  So who did such work as was done to find illegal immigrants?  The answer has to be that this was the work of local and state governments.  The federal government defined and determined who could enter the USA legally, but it lacked the manpower to hunt down illegal immigrants.

By its own admission it still lacks the manpower to hunt down illegal immigrants and to deport them.  Logically, the states and local governments have continued the role they have always had in using their police power to do the task the federal government does not do now and really never has done.  Yet, I heard an Obama administration official just today claim that the federal government is the quarterback and states such as Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia have no role in finding illegal immigrants.  The Obama administration wants to be the quarterback who will hike the ball to himself and pass the ball to himself.  What a concept!

Of course, the federal government should do just what the 1891 Immigration Act said it should.  It should admit, reject, and process immigrants.  But, as the quarterback, it should understand that state and local governments are on the same team and have a vital interest in the law abidance of immigrants.  Of course they are tasked with protecting their local citizens from murder, theft, and other illegal activities of immigrants, as with anyone else.  Since the main reason there are immigration controls at all is a combination of concerns to keep criminals and terrorists out of the country, to control the effects of immigrants on wages and jobs, and to limit the number of people not yet well assimilated into the population and not familiar with the concepts of individual rights and limited constitutional government, these same concerns must be concerns of local and state governments.  To the extent these concerns are rational, then local law enforcement must not be denied a role in finding and removing illegal immigrants.

I am not anti-immigration at all.  I believe we allow too few legal immigrants.  I would like to see a large increase in the number of professional immigrants allowed into the country.  I also favor easy entry on work visas for less skilled workers, who upon completion of a few years of law-abiding work would be readily accepted as permanent residents should they choose to apply for such status.  I very much would like to see our immigration policies made freer, easier, and more welcoming.  Whatever the policy on immigration is, however, the laws should be enforced.  The only way the laws will be enforced is if the vainglorious quarterback becomes a team player and works well with the states and local governments.

This being the case, the only rational decision the Supreme Court can make on the Arizona illegal immigration bill called Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act or SB1070 is to overturn the lower court ruling that much of it is unconstitutional.  The Arizona law does not interfere with the federal government deciding who can legally emigrate and who cannot.  It simply requires that people within the Arizona borders obey the law, whether local, state, or federal law.  This is entirely the proper function of the state government.  It is a straight-forward excise of protecting the local people.  If it is not viewed as protecting the people to keep illegal immigrants out of the state, then the federal policy for deciding who can legally enter the country is clearly wrong.  Unfortunately, federal policy is rather poor, but it is not entirely without rational basis and the states are obliged to enforce the federal law as though it were rational and justified.  If the federal policy is too egregiously wrong, then the states are still obliged to rationally protect their citizens even if that brings them in conflict with the federal government.

Consider the defense of America from foreign invaders.  This is clearly a federal responsibility also.  Despite this federal responsibility, the states have a National Guard and while they do not set defense policy, they do provide manpower to make it possible to defend the country.  More to the point yet, if a company of enemy troops were to sneak into Tulsa, Oklahoma and attack the people there, would we not expect the Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Jenks, and Catoosa police forces and any local National Guard units to converge upon that company of foreign troops and protect the people of Tulsa from the invasion force before the federal government could get troops there to provide the protection.  Of course we would.  The fact that the federal government has the responsibility to set immigration policy is irrelevant to the need for local government officers to see to it that the law is obeyed locally and the people are protected.

The most severe problems of illegal immigration are diminishing due to a combination of factors.  According to an article in the 13 December Wall Street Journal, there are now 21,500 agents along the Mexican border, an increase of a factor of two since 2004.  The slowdown in the U.S. economy has made us much less enticing, especially since the Mexican economy is growing faster than ours.  Another big factor is that Mexican families are becoming smaller and the population growth is now at a replacement level.  In 1970, the average Mexican woman had 6.8 children.  In 1990, that number had fallen to 3.4 and now it is the stasis rate of 2.1.  According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. reached a maximum in 2007 of 12 million.  That number is now about 11 million.  Mexican immigrants are about 60% of the illegal immigrants.  In 2000, a total of about 750,000 Mexicans came to the U.S., counting both legal and illegal immigrants.  That year, the U.S. Border Patrol caught 1.64 million people along the Mexican border.  A net of only 150,000 Mexicans are believed to have made it into the U.S.  last year and 340,252 were apprehended at the Mexican border.  Deportations hit a record high in the last fiscal year of 397,000.  While the problem is diminishing, 11 million illegal immigrants is still a huge number of illegal immigrants.

07 December 2011

Domesticating Free Pigs or Free Americans

This is a particularly interesting story applicable to how Progressive Elitists are carrying out their plan to make Americans forget to assert their equal, sovereign individual rights to life, liberty, property, the ownership of their own minds and bodies, and the pursuit of their own happiness.  It is well worth thinking about.  The story follows:

There was a chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the professor noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back and stretching as if his back hurt. The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country's government and install a new communist regime.

In the midst of his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked: "Do you know how to catch wild pigs?"

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line.

The young man said that it was no joke. "You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn.

"When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. "They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side.

"The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again.  You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn.  They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity."

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America .
The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare, medicine, drugs, etc.  While we continually lose our freedoms, just a little at a time.

05 December 2011

Obama Friend Advocates Chinese Central Planning

Andy Stern, who until recently headed the SEIU labor union and made weekly visits to see Obama, has just recently written an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal in which he strongly advocates Chinese central economic planning as the winning economic model of the future.  He informs us, from his perch as a senior fellow at Columbia University's Richman Center, that
the conservative preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only model -- so successful in the 20th century -- is being thrown onto the trash heap of history in the 21st century.
 Given that this does not correctly characterize the economic system we actually had in the 20th century because it clearly forgets the anti-trust effort by Teddy Roosevelt and the tampering with free markets by Wilson, Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman and the many Presidents and Congresses throughout and since, we can only wonder what a real free market would have accomplished.  Unlike Stern's implication, the present stagnation of the system we now have can hardly be taken as an indicator of free market failure. 

Apparently, both he and his friend Obama believe that even with a private sector saddled by the EPA, FDA, IRS, SEC, FAA, FCC, NLRB, FDIC, FHA, Fanny Mae, Freddy Mac, government student loans, the Energy Dept., the HHS Dept., the Transportation Dept., the Agriculture Dept., the Interior Dept., HUD, Education Dept., ObamaCare, Sarbanes-Oxley accounting, Dodd-Frank Too Big to Fail Regulations, the Federal Reserve, farm subsidies, ethanol subsidies and mandates, renewable energy subsidies and mandates, export subsidies, and many more controlling and planning agencies, subsidies, and mandates, we are still essentially an out-of-date free market economy.

This does not even note the similar controls and interferences of state and local governments, all of which have been growing madly over time, especially in the last decade before the Great Socialist Recession started due to the housing and debt market bubble encouraged so vigorously by the federal government against the housing restrictions and expense-adding practices of many state and local governments.

Andy Stern tells us that the Chinese model of single-party top-down control is much better.  He does not tell us a thing about how one can square that model with our concepts of individual rights and constitutional limitations on government.  He does not do this, because as a power-lusting aristocrat of academia and labor union leadership, he has no concern about such issues.  He objects to our spending time thinking about the next election when we should be adopting a Chinese system of government controls.  The Chinese do not waste time on elections.  No, the government takes care of the people.  After all, he saw cranes everywhere building buildings for government and for public housing.  Never mind that the pointless growth for growth's sake directed by Stern's popular local communist leaders in China is about to collapse in a pile of debt and useless "investment" that will make the Japanese planned economy failure of the 1990s look small in comparison.

He swoons over the next Chinese five-year plan (their 12th five-year plan) which aims for 7% annual economic growth, $640 billion invested in renewable energy, building six million homes, investment in IT, clean-energy vehicles, biotechnology, and high-end manufacturing and environmental protection.  Somehow, though most of the prior Chinese 5-year plans were abject failures, Stern is sure they have figured out how to beat a free market while promoting social equality and rural development.

In reality, the rural Chinese are restricted from moving to the cities and rural China languishes neglected and in a high state of unrest.  Almost all investment in those areas which have seen investment is controlled by the Communist Party and if you want their money, you had better be well-connected to the Party.  American renewable energy companies are heavily dependent upon government subsidies and mandates to use the expensive and unreliable renewable energy.  In China they are supported with subsidies, with the added problem that Chinese renewable energy companies have no local markets and are heavily dependent upon the failed hypotheses in the West that we are about out of oil, gas, and coal and that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are going to cause environmental catastrophe.

The Chinese high-speed rail system does not work well and is losing money badly despite many potential riders, who cannot afford the service however.  Similarly, the high speed rail systems Obama and Biden have backed will not have enough riders and will have to be heavily subsidized or they will have virtually no riders.  The IT bubble we had burst in the early 2000s was really a combination of IT, optical communications, and biotechnology, all of which were heavily pushed by the federal, state, and local governments in the United States without proper regard for the development of actual markets.

The Chinese have the GDP growth advantages of starting at a very under-developed level and can play rapid catch-up by copying the technology already developed in the West and especially in the United States and they have a very large population.  It is not reasonable to laud their system as the equal of ours when their per capita GDP is still so low compared to ours.  Their GDP growth numbers may be largely meaningless in any case.  There are reports of complete cities built with the effort counted toward GDP, but which are unoccupied and of low-quality construction.  You have to ask how much of the Chinese dry-wall exuding noxious fumes of H2S went into their home market construction.  One has to pay attention to the surveys that say that successful entrepreneurs want to emigrate to the West in huge numbers.  There are many reports of companies seeking high rates of growth getting in way over their heads with borrowed money and owners running to escape their creditors.  Remembering that their creditors are essentially one and the same as the Communist Party, this is the equivalent of running from the Mafia loan shark in many cases.

The return on investment for much of the construction in China does not look good.  This is not a surprise.  The Chinese Communist Party's five-year plans do not pay much attention to return on investment and that will mean their claimed growth will not be sustainable.  They are not planning anywhere near as well as the Japanese did and yet the Japanese plans failed.  At the moment, Chinese exports are falling due to a combination of depressed buying power in the West and more inexpensive labor competition from Southeast Asian and Latin American countries.  The Chinese currency, while still undervalued, is appreciating.  The Chinese also face a major problem with their rapidly aging population, thanks to their ill-conceived one-child policy.

Oddly, Andy Stern expresses no concern about the miserable working conditions of Chinese workers and their very low pay.  He is not infuriated that they are not allowed real labor unions.  He is not bothered by the recent increase in strikes and labor disputes, which the Chinese Communist Party uses the police to suppress.  Apparently, Andy Stern desires communism more than labor union representation.  We must remember Obama saying he always sought out Marxist professors, that Van Jones was a Communist Party member, and that Obama's Communications Director Anita Dunn had wet dreams about Chairman Mao.  Her husband, Bob Bauer, served as Obama's personal lawyer, then his White House Counsel, and now serves as a Democrat Party adviser on election and campaign finance law.  Obama's Manufacturing Czar Ron Bloom is another admirer of Mao.  Mark Lloyd, the Diversity Czar of the FCC, admires socialist Venezuelan Hugo Chavez for his control of that country.

Obama and most of his friends are essentially Marxist-Leninists.  Most of America's labor union leaders are Marxist-Leninists, as is Stern, and this makes one very uneasy about the 36.2% of government workers being led by such union leaders.  Obama and his friends, including those in the labor unions, want a top-down imposition of value choices and controls supported by a huge central planning bureaucracy which can supply a home with power for many an academic Marxist-Leninist and their well-indoctrinated graduates.  They want to impose this system with a flurry of Executive Orders, because it is too messy to have to win elections and fill Congress with one's supporters.  The present, hardly free market system, is still much too free for their taste.  Andy Stern is truly Obama's close friend and ally.  He has made his agenda very clear in his Wall Street Journal Opinion.  He has also revealed Obama's plans in the process.

04 December 2011

Politicians Use Big Government to Enrich Themselves

For a politician, the temptation to increase the power of government is huge.  The more power the government has and the wider the range and scope of its activities, the more power the politician has both to acquire wealth and to satisfy his growing lust for power.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Absolute power makes a man wealthy.

Presidents, Senators, and Congressmen can threaten an industry, or an entire sector of the economy, or even a single business with legislation which will hurt its profitability.  This threat may go no further than talk, or it may be approved by a committee of Congress, or it may become law.  At any stage of the process of producing a potential law, politicians can line up as saviors of those threatened and hold out their hands for campaign rewards or they can wait for a company or industry to approach them asking how the industry or company can save itself.  Savvy companies and industries often shower politicians with benefits such as hiring a relative or providing campaign contributions to head off any such attack upon them.  Politicians are very wily about using this process to extort money from private companies and the wealthy.  The Democrats have been very effective in using their power to hurt Wall Street to extract huge campaign contributions from Wall Street financial firms using this technique, resulting in Obama's huge contributions in 2008 and further large contributions to many of  the Democrats in the 2010 election.

Alternatively, a company or industry may be seeking to use its relationships with politicians to win subsidies or to win protections from competition.  Immoral companies and industries will pay for this.  For instance, many health insurance companies and drug companies were eager for ObamaCare to pass, since it would bring more business to them if many more people were to use more medical benefits.  There are large agricultural businesses eager for farm crop and land use subsidies.  Corn growing farmers and ethanol refiners are often strong lobbyists for the ethanol subsidies that make no environmental or energy sense.  The so-called green energy companies stand in line for billions of dollars of grants from the Department of Energy.  Peter Schweizer's book Throw Them All Out shows that a number of wealthy Obama supporters won $16.4 billion of Department of Energy green energy grants as a huge return on their campaign contributions.  Wall Street companies are eager for special assess to Federal Reserve money or for protection against losses under Too Big to Fail.  Congress' and the President's ability to change the rules of business also entice labor unions to make huge contributions in exchange for favors.

There are other ways this process of stirring the pot with threats against industries and companies can yield wealth for our legislators.  If they simply talk about making a change of law that will hurt or help a company or industry, they can drive that industry's or company's stock prices up or down or they may affect the cost of a commodity.  Knowing that they are about to talk down or talk up a company, they can use that information to make almost certain money on purchases or short trading of its stock.  They can talk about taking harmful action, but then back off, having bought much stock when the price was depressed.  A last minute provision or even a last minute complete bill such as ObamaCare or the Dodd-Frank financial industry control bill may have stock value implications that Senators and Congressmen or a select few of them know about.  They can use this information to make a stock investment killing.  In the case of bills that give major rule-making power to executive agencies, those government insiders with information on those rulings can make a killing.  For members of the Executive Branch, this is illegal, but it is also commonly not discovered.  Congressmen are often informed about how these rulings are going and there are no laws against their using this insider information.

Now, it is not the fact that they are becoming rich men and women which is the worst of this.  It is the fact that each of these possibilities to become rich are actual incentives to cause them to do harm to others that goes way beyond their having campaign advantages or having an advantage in making money that most investors do not have.  These power and wealth incentives mean that bill after bill that is claimed to be passed for the general welfare is actually passed despite its hurting most Americans.  Or, if it is not passed, it is only because companies or industries or wealthy people have been successfully extorted.

We need to bear in mind that all of these nefarious activities are the result of big government.  They are inherent in the size and scope of government which allows it to be such a business and labor market threat that such activities are not just enabled, but they are inevitable.  One hears talk of campaign finance reform, but that inhibits freedom of speech and has rightly been ruled by the Supreme Court to be a violation of the Constitution.  There is now talk of banning Congressional insider trading either entirely for serving members of the Congress or at least when Congress is in session.  There is also talk of making Congressmen set up blind trusts.  Congress has to pass any such reform bill and history tells us that they will only pass a bill with many loopholes and that will only happen if there is a major popular outcry.

All this mischief and grief occurs because we have allowed the government to greatly exceed its very limited constitutional powers.  This is why we have a government that panders to special interests and which has every incentive to ignore the general welfare.  The General Welfare is served by protecting our equal, sovereign individual rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.  Government is the problem, because it has become gigantic government.  While the People retain the nominal control of this government, the reality is that its activities are too complex and too all-pervasive in our society for most of the voters to follow them and to understand them.  Government by the People can only be effectively managed by the People when that government is of highly limited power and scope.  That was the condition that the People wisely mandated with our Constitution.  Because we have ignored these wise limits, we now have a government of the special interests, by the special interests, and for the special interests.  Abraham Lincoln's description of our federal government, while much preferred, has become a practical lie.