Trillion-Dollar Coin? Insanity!

This is insanity. It’s truly come to this?…serious talk about the feasibility of minting and depositing a coin stamped “ONE TRILLION DOLLARS” to avert a debt-ceiling default? Again, insanity. Perhaps the scheme would work, technically, but it should be prevented from being necessary to even consider!

The national-debt crisis grows ever deeper as the debt vs. GDP swells grotesquely (even before the pandemic!), and even more importantly, interest on the debt cancerously eats up an ever-larger share of the budget, invariably crowding out needful things by slow creep (hence, the growing, already massive, silent debt crisis), and yielding a vicious cycle in which the debt can make itself worse and worse without any assistance from us. Where does this lunacy end?

Read this little primer I posted in January to better relate to our debt. This is the fruits of decades of abject, shortsighted failure of the Republicrat duopoly to rein in their entirely undisciplined fiscal practices with our tax dollars, and instead pander to their ever-bloated lobbies and bases (mainly different entitlements favored by the Ds and Rs, and war spending by both parties).

Don’t dare blame just one party. Democrat presidents with Republican Congresses, Republican Presidents with Democrat Congresses, either with mixed Congresses, either with their own party effectively controlling both chambers (as now)…it hasn’t mattered. The national debt has grown, factually and demonstrably, for decades, under every permutation of those — every single one. Even with record- to near-record-low interest rates, so has the percentage of the budget devoted to debt interest.

What if interest rates double, or worse, approach levels of the early ’80s? That accelerates the vicious cycle much faster than any current projections, introducing upward nonlinear growth of our debt, even with small yearly deficits (which aren’t happening).

Plotted by PGPF from public-domain CBO data.

These Republicrats will drive us straight to economic ruin through their base-pandering shortsightedness and hapless ignorance of the greatest economic crisis our nation ever will face, staring us right in the face. And it’s not just the extremes of D and R either; the so-called “moderates” are ignoring it too. Only a very few outliers (e.g., Justin Amash, Ron then Rand Paul) ever bring serious attention to the debt, and they get swamped in a tsunami of everyone else’s drunken-like spree of profligacy.

Republicrats in Congress have shown they simply won’t behave themselves as they’re supposed to — adults managing a budget — refuse to control federal net spending to zero-deficit yearly levels, and certainly won’t bring about budget surpluses needed to draw down the debt. They’re not going to force themselves to balance the budget. Therefore, they need to be forced to do so externally, by The People.

The only way I see out of this is for an Article 5 Constitutional Convention of States to go around these spineless fiscal children in Congress and enact a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, which would force Congress to balance the budget yearly. This at least would stop the debt-growth bleeding via ending yearly deficits. [While we’re at it, enact a Congressional term-limits amendment as well.]

Worried about wars or pandemics under a BBA?

From the PPGF:

Most amendment proposals go further than requiring a balanced budget or budget surpluses. Some of the most frequent additional elements are:
* A requirement that the President submit a balanced budget to the Congress;
* Provisions that allow some flexibility in times of war or economic recession provided that a supermajority (typically three-fifths) of the members of the Congress vote in favor of a waiver;
* A provision requiring a supermajority vote of both houses of Congress in order to raise the debt ceiling;
* A cap on total spending (as a percentage of gross domestic product or GDP) unless waived by a supermajority of both houses;
* A limit on the total level of revenues (as a percentage of GDP) unless waived by a supermajority of both houses; * A provision to prevent the courts from enforcing the amendment through tax increases;
* A provision assigning the Congress the responsibility to enforce the amendment through legislation.

Some of these (especially the last item) would water it down to something near uselessness. Others, such as a declared-war provision, might be beneficial in that it would, in effect, enforce what’s already in the Constitution: making sure all wars are formally declared, or they can’t count as BBA exceptions.

A balanced budget needs to be forced on Congress, because it will not come from Congress. Otherwise…disaster! Maybe not this year or next, but in the lifetimes of our children (and maybe us middle-aged people too).

This Date in 1992: Bizarre, Loud, Wet, Worthwhile

How many folks can claim to have attended performances by all of these in their lives: Jimmy Buffett, Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine, Asia, Bee Gees, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Secada, Paul Simon, Weird Al Yankovic, Julio Iglesias, Andy Garcia, Rosie O’Donnell, Michael Winslow (the “Man of a Thousand Voices” from Police Academy), Sinbad, Crosby/Stills/Nash, Celia Cruz, and Bobcat Goldthwait?

29 years ago tonight…

How about all those motley characters and more in one marathon show: the Hurricane Andrew benefit at Joe Robbie Stadium. That was a 10-hour run of performances from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. A cameo appearance onstage by TV meteorologist Bryan Norcross, who was a hero to many for his Andrew coverage, got a loud, emphatic standing ovation. The show also featured assorted sound-system cut-outs, an over-bass’d Secada briefly sounding like a hybrid of the Terminator and Incredible Hulk while in the middle of “Just Another Day without You”, and some distortion feedback about half the time Barry Gibb hit the high falsetto on “Staying Alive” to cap off their half-hour set.

Long equipment changes between acts and short sets got folks impatient and irritated early, until some of the headliners started playing and sound glitches declined. Then in the middle of Gloria’s long MSM set, a heavy warm-cloud rain shower drenched everybody who wasn’t beneath the upper deck, including folks like me on the field. Then it all resumed. [I had a seat about 15 rows before the stage, courtesy of gifts from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce to journalists, including the woman to whom I was married at the time.] That was just part of the weirdest but perhaps most worthwhile show I’ve attended.

I was only there for Jimmy Buffett, and because it was free for us, save the effort to drive there, but the uniqueness of the experience made it highly worthwhile. Buffett was perfection on Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season (and of course Margaritaville), Gloria was as easy on eyes and ears as she’d ever be again, and Secada clearly proved a very talented performer onstage despite the glitch, and I’m surprised he didn’t have more big hits in his career. Weird Al should have been given a lot more time. The rest were tolerable, or good excuses to hit the latrine. Best: the show netted about $1.3 million for hurricane-recovery efforts. Nobody who was there will forget the experience, for better and worse!

Left-Wing Civil War: Battle over Role of Genetics

…between somewhat-sane “progressive” thought and the patently irrational, unscientific, batshit-crazy “woke” social-justice lunatics!

Please read this full long-form piece, “Can Progressives Be Convinced that Genetics Matters?“, published in an intensely left-biased media source (New Yorker). It addresses one liberal behavioral geneticist at UT, Paige Harden, on short sabbatical in Montana (who clearly is drumming up publicity for her new book, natch), and the “woke” attack mob still farther to her radical left.

That story is entertaining and revealing to read, and so is the phenomenon on other fronts as well, such as the battle between the social-justice radicals and the New Atheists over the science, logic and reason (even as a Christian, I’m also a scientist, and I agree with the New Atheists when they fight the woke cult on that!). The “SJWs” also have been going after radical feminists who refuse to yield to their redefinition demands regarding “transgender” rubbish, and what it means to be a woman (I sympathize with the “woman is a woman” feminists there, because of biology). See, I can agree with some liberals on some things! And to deny scientific truths and impugn science when it doesn’t conform to your social agenda is…unscientific.

Genetic differences and roles in ability and behavior are real, and deeply documented scientifically, but the anti-science faction of “woke” radicals to her left wants nothing to do with acknowledging such, and has given her hell over it. The New Yorker writer’s innate leftist bias is evident in tone, and it seemed the writer was diminishing this scientist’s standing slightly by referring to her physical attractiveness (yeah, I certainly agree she is, but that’s immaterial to the substance of the issue, and should be left to the reader and not the author to note). Still, especially for a piece from that outlet, I found the story remarkably evenhanded and balanced.

Conservative writer and author Robert Bidinotto did as well, in his commentary on Facebook, which he made open publicly and which I reproduce here (again, read the New Yorker piece first). His response is between the ellipses here:

ONE INTRAMURAL BATTLE ON THE LEFT is over two kinds of determinism: biological or environmental? Here’s an interesting article on the latest genetic research about the contribution genes might play in various personality traits and success in life. But precisely because such research may lead to conclusions that many leftists don’t want to reach, this particular genetic researcher, Kathryn Paige Harden, is under fire from the left — even though she, too, is a devout leftist.

Reading this long piece, I was struck by how leftists within the psychological research community — whether environmental or biological in their theoretical orientation — *want* their research to ratify their *political* values and agenda, and are eager to attack any research that doesn’t. Theirs isn’t a scientific search for truth; it’s ideological confirmation bias masquerading as science.

I was also struck that *all* sides in their debate were determinists of one sort or another. They all view individuals as playthings of forces beyond their control, whether biological or environmental. Their only argument is over *which* forces, circumstances, and influences “cause” people to be what they are and do what they do. The one principle absent from this entire discussion is *human volition* — free will. The idea that individuals might have any *choice* in how their lives turn out is never mentioned.

This is the root of the left’s view of individuals as helpless “victims,” powerless pawns of circumstance — not as active agents in shaping the outcomes in their own lives. And that view, in turn, is what leads them to regard an all-powerful, paternalistic government as the necessary “moral” agent to help victims overcome circumstances and have equal outcomes. However, these folks never bother to ask themselves: Without free will and choice, how can we determine what is or isn’t right or wrong? Why is equality moral, and inequality immoral? How can we choose the moral path if we aren’t free to choose in the first place? And how do *we*, the researchers, manage to freely reach such conclusions, then act on them, if our biology or environment compels us to think and act as we do?

In the absence of volition and choice, their determinism logically implies that they aren’t cognitively free to decide why their claims are *true*, to prove why their political prescriptions are *good*, or to choose the actions they say are *moral.* Without free will, none of that is possible. In fact, leftist determinists *can’t claim to *know* what they’re talking about,* since knowledge depends on the freedom to think in order to reach valid conclusions. So, my response to their claims is: “There, there, now…I know you just can’t help believing and saying all that crazy stuff you claim to believe.”

Bidinotto’s commentary is very reasonable as far as it goes, though he overlooks the “overrated bootstrapping on the right” part discussed in the article. But I agree with him that both sides of that debate long have overemphasized determinism (whether genetic or environmental) at the expense of free will and conscious, rational decision-making.

We might be predisposed to a choice, but aren’t inexorably bound to make that choice. We’re not preprogrammed robots, and conscious decision-making does exist. Sure, poor kids statistically are predisposed by environment to “succeed” less economically, and vice versa for rich kids. Poor kids who do, and rich kids who don’t, are seen as aberrations, and irrelevant exceptions too few in number to matter. But are they (we)? Is there something they (we) can tell us about how much effort and will matter within and despite your genetic or social circumstances?

We don’t put enough effort into studying the “exceptions”.

Sure, bootstrapping fails if the capability isn’t there genetically. To wit, there’s no way in hell I ever did, could, or will play basketball like Michael Jordan, play piano like Van Cliburn, fluently speak 5+ languages like Melania Trump, shoot rifles like Chris Kyle, nor perform theoretical astrophysics like Stephen Hawking, regardless of effort. Regardless of effort! [Cue Eastwood’s famous movie line about how a man must know his limitations.]

So…where the nature determiners and nurture determinists have it wrong — yes, the both of them — is that one can bootstrap toward the limits of one’s innate capabilities, and that bootstrapping absolutely does matter inside those natural genetic constraints.

It’s how a poor inner-city kid in dirty, roach- and rat-infested rental duplexes can become a multiply formally published atmospheric scientist, which quite obviously the kid was genetically capable of doing, or he wouldn’t have. I’m that kid.

Opportunity, luck, whatever you want to call it, lands on everybody in some form. But not everybody chooses to accept “lucky” opportunities and make the most of it. That I have seen, over and over and over. A few of the very smartest kids I knew, rich or poor economically to start, ended up in poverty, prison, or dead.

Within our inherited and often unknown limitations, I firmly believe effort, work, determination, bootstrapping, whatever you want to call it, absolutely matters. Why? I’ve lived it. I can’t fiddle like Charlie Daniels did, or bench-press 700 pounds like Larry Allen did, but I damn well am capable of doing severe-storms meteorology like Roger Edwards, however much or little that’s worth.

How do we nurture the nature of more people like that, like me? Paige’s research could be used to great benefit that way, if the woke left in particular that gives her so much unscientific, unjustified crap would step out of their dogmatic determinism (or better yet, just step aside and let the adults handle this).

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