Indiana Crumbling Roads: All from one bad winter or is there more to it?

When discussing taxation with friends from the right or left eventually the question arises, “Without taxes, who would pay for the roads?” After increasing taxes last year meant to pay for your roads, many Indiana residents and local politicians are still left asking who will pay for the roads?

With the seventh highest gas tax in the nation and recent estimates of $730 million just to bring the streets of Indianapolis to fair condition, the first question we need to answer is how did we get to this point?

Slight of hand was used on Indiana residents in that the taxes collected for infrastructure have been used for everything except. The majority of road taxes go to the general fund. We have essentially been robbing Peter to pay Paul. The problem is Peter and Paul are both Indiana residents still driving on crumbling roads. Knowing this, you would think the latest bill increasing our taxes would surely allocate all of the new funding to repair our roads. Well Indiana, this time it’s ‘shame on us’. There are still portions of the collections going to the general fund.

State Rep Ed Soliday (Valparaiso), the author of the Bill, responded to criticism saying, “Because of advocacy of radical, reactionary groups like Americans for Prosperity our infrastructure was allowed to fall into disrepair…..”. State Sen Luke Kenley (Noblesville) said, “If you’re going to use it, you need to pay for it.” The audacity of these men who steal funds from one area in order to pay off another, all in the name of balancing a budget so they can claim fiscal conservatism. Their initial actions are one level of impertinece. Pointing their fingers and the blame to citizens and groups trying to hold them accountable are outright lies.

We cannot deny that something needs to be done and inevitably Hoosiers will foot that bill. Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett has issued an emergency declaration allowing Public Works to use $13 million of the city’s “rainy day fund”. This is all that is remaining from the original amount of $52 million set up in 2016. While Hogsett is lauding how they’ve prepared for this day, I’m asking myself how throwing $13 million at a $730 million problem can be called prepared? What happened to the other $39 million? It was spent on more pressing matters.

New ideas (meaning not new at all) are being discussed to find a solution, such as commuter taxes and toll roads. Citizens are even coming up with their own remedies. I don’t pretend to know what direction we need to go to fix the issues as it seems we are passed any rational approach. My purpose in this writing is to make clear what brought us to this point: If we forget our past we are doomed to repeat it. Should we ever get this infrastructure situation under control we must remember what got us here to begin with.

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How Theft Became Legal in the United States

The story of Robin Hood is about a man who steals from individuals and gives to others yet his character is looked at as one with virtue. How can a man who steals be considered virtuous? The reason is because we are told that the men he stole from were the real bad guys and that Robin is the purveyor of justice. This same narrative is prevalent today in the form of civil asset forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture allows police to confiscate possessions from individuals just based on suspicion alone of the possessions being involved with illegal activity. This means that officers can legally take your money, your vehicle, your jewelry, or any other possessions they deem to be connected to illegal activity without a crime being committed. They don’t need a warrant. They don’t need a judge. After they take your possessions the burden of proof now lies with the victim to show the items weren’t connected to illegal activity. This means paying for a lawyer and court costs with the potential to STILL lose the case and their possessions. 

Officers and agents tell the American public that they are Robin Hood stealing from the real bad guys to support themselves, the good guys. This is how they convince the public to allow them to commit legal theft. We read of stories about corrupt officers abusing their power and we applaud when they are brought to justice but when a law abiding citizen has his entire life savings literally stolen from him by the government many don’t even bat an eye. What happened to due process? What happened to being a nation of laws? 

Some states, like New Mexico, have recognized the potential and actual abuse of asset forfeiture by law enforcement and passed very restrictive state laws. The problem is that while state level governments may try to curve the issue there is a glaring loophole that local and federal law enforcement use to keep their illicit profits booming. The loophole is called equitable sharing which allows federal agencies, not held to individual state restrictions, to bypass those laws, continue to cease property under civil asset forfeiture, and then funnel the property back to the local authorities. So instead of our government being okay with legal theft they’ve decided to step it up a notch and enforce legal racketeering. In our current political atmosphere it can be hard to hear numbers like $5 billion in seized assets and still feel your stomach turn but here is another way to understand just how out of control this issue is becoming. In 2014 the total amount of burglary losses in the entire country came to $3.9 billion dollars according to FBI reports. Even when you account for seized assets being returned to victims, such as Ponzi scheme cases, and remove those dollars the federal government still raked in over $4.5 billion and this still doesn’t even account for local and state forfeiture amounts. 

Some states like, my home state of Indiana, are trying to do the right thing by introducing legislation to not only close the federal loophole but also to require convictions of individuals in order to carry out asset forfeiture. Others, like Arizona, are ramping up their efforts of this disgusting practice by introducing legislation that allows police to use asset forfeiture against violent protestors. The language in the bill was so vague that a protestor needn’t even become violent but only be suspected of possibly becoming violent to become a victim of the state. It also included language to go after those who organize a protest that turns violent or damages property to suffer from this law. This means your political enemy could plan a legitimate protest. You could then plant a couple of miscreants among the protestors to cause commotion, violence, or destruction of property at the protest and the organizer, whether they were present or not, could have their assets at risk and even be charged under the RICO statute. Thankfully the Arizona house shot down the bill that passed in the Senate but just it’s introduction is setting a terrible precedence of what’s possible for lawmakers to introduce. 

This ideological abuse from government makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from Milton Friedman. He said, “The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.” What he means by this is that we, the people, must use our voice in the form of voting to pressure politicians to making the best decisions. We must become so opposed to this issue that politicians will believe their reelection to be impossible if they don’t change the current circumstances. We must tell every neighbor, every friend, every relative of the consequences of this law. We must tell the world about Tony Jalali, the 130 victims from ‘Funk Night’Lyndon McLellanVu Do, and the countless other stories of citizens being abused by our current police state. We must make every politician know that these laws will not be tolerated and those who support the abuses without demanding real reform will not remain in office. 

Greedy Big Pharma and How Big Government Fuels That Greed

While researching for my last article on monopolies I found that the biggest threat from monopolies came when the government itself enforced and backed those protectionist policies. The biggest difference between a true, free market monopoly and one backed by government force is that of competition. Competition never goes away in the free market as shown by my example of when Standard Oil controlled 90% of the oil industry. However, when a government grants a monopoly, it is literally illegal for others to compete and, as with everything in government, is backed by the barrel of a gun. Classical economists, including the father of modern economics Adam Smith, usually understood monopolies as those with grants of exclusive privaledge from the government. The fear arose from policy rather than the businesses themselves. Today, our laws suggest we have flipped this narrative around and are afraid of big business more than the policies protecting these big businesses. In a world of antitrust laws it perplexes me how the same government, which is so afraid of big business killing competition, will implement policy fulfilling that exact fear. 

There are several examples of protectionist policies but one that seems to rarely get challenged, until recently, is patent law. Patent law can be traced back to the 1400s in Venice and, sure enough, they were formed as a means to protect their local economy. Venice had lost it’s stranglehold on the Eastern trade routes after one of several wars with the Turks. The Venetian government thought they could pull in skilled artisans from other countries by offering a grant of protection to the individuals. Patent law proponents today, however, don’t usually argue from a point of protection but rather from one of ingenuity and reward. The problem with this argument is that research doesn’t back it up. They will even use the IP industry itself as an argument to maintain the laws. That’s akin to saying we can’t simplify the tax code too much because individuals would lose jobs in the tax preparation industry. This argument just doesn’t make any sense to me. 

The negative affects of IP law are becoming quite clear in recent times. One of the best examples of this is prescription medicine. We see stories in the news about the price of Daraprim going from $13 to over $700 overnight or the price of Isuprel being raised 500%. Rare diseases can bring annual costs of medicine to insane levels from their beginning but one of the biggest tools the free market has to incentivize the best pricing is competition. The biggest fear from monopoly is price setting. Once a business gets rid of it’s competition then it can set whatever price it wants for the product or service it sells. Patent laws give this power to businesses on a platinum platter. 

Many lawmakers are aware of the problem of life saving drugs getting priced out of availability but what are their solutions? Bernie Sanders has been one of the most outspoken reformers for prescription drugs but his solution is what his solution always is, heavier government involvement. This is the definition of insanity. Government got us in to this mess by giving these companies their monopolistic power to begin with so why do we think more government will solve the problem? Bernie’s plan says that drug companies convicted of fraud will lose their monopolistic power and it also says every major company has been convicted of fraud in one way or another so why not make it simple and just remove the power altogether? His plan also calls for transparency from the drug companies. He wants them to publicly breakdown every situation that would cause their cost to rise in order to justify when they do raise prices but this just adds more red tape which by definition will cause their cost to rise. Regulations like these cost businesses over 100 billion dollars last year and these costs will inevitably get passed to you, the consumer. I disagree with other parts of his plan but my concern in this article is patent law. Take this power away from the corporations and let them be subject to the free market. This alone would not be the ‘end all be all’ solution but it would be a huge step forward. 

Another objection will be that Big Pharma needs to make more money in order to maintain their research and development in order to make the next life saving drug. Leaving aside the fact that 9 out of 10 of the top pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing (the majority of marketing going as payoffs to doctors) than they do on RnD. Many researchers have discovered that trade secrets and first mover advantages are more valuable to recouping investment than the patents themselves. At the same time over-regulation by the FDA is a substantial cause of this high cost of RnD. According to a CBO report ‘Innovative Drugs’ on average take 12 years to create because of regulation and other factors. By their estimates, half of the cost of the drug comes from lost interest and earnings from the capital that is tied up during this period. At the same time the National Institute of Health spends upwards of 30 billion dollars a year financing research. I am rarely one to suggest more spending in any federal agency but I have to believe that cutting red tape and freeing up man hours within the FDA could save substantial amounts of money that would be better served doing actual research. 

As a free market advocate my goal is not to say a certain business is making too much money but rather to see what the free market actually allocates in the form of prescription drug pricing. Government intervention creates artificial prices. The market allows the people to determine what they’ll pay. As Ludwig von Mises said, “The capitalist system of production is an economic democracy in which every penny gives a right to vote. The consumers are the sovereign people. The capitalists, the entrepreneurs, and the farmers are the people’s mandatories. If they do not obey, if they fail to produce, at the lowest possible cost, what the consumers are asking for, they lose their office. Their task is service to the consumer. Profit and loss are the instruments by means of which the consumers keep a tight rein on all business activities.” In an area that can have such a profound effect on one’s life I must agree with Mr. Mises that the people must have their vote. They must have their voice. 

How the Left Created Betsy DeVos

“A bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district- -all studied and appreciated as they merit- -are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.” When Benjamin Franklin penned these words, he was far from the minority with his opinion on education. In fact, many founders believed in public funded education such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and others. A society of the uniformed will only last as such for a finite period by either becoming informed or ceasing to be. But what would our founders think of our system today? 

Gallup poles consistently show that Americans overwhelmingly believe their local schools are above average but at the same time believe public schooling in the nation as a whole are average or worse. I think it’s fair for me to infer, based on these numbers, that most Americans agree with having public education but that the system overall isn’t as good as it should be. Worldwide comparisons back this notion up. According to the OECD America leads the world in annual spending per student but is only slightly above average for performance. We already spend more than any other country but are middling in performance so you’d be hard pressed to convince me that throwing more money at the situation is the answer. Some like to point to Denmark as the shining example, like how well they pay their teachers, but other countries like Poland have shot up the ranks in recent years yet pay their teachers very little. At the same time, other areas that set Denmark apart, like their more lax stance on homework, contrast that of other high scoring countries like China who enforce spending almost 5 times as many hours dedicated to homework. 

One way in which I think we can learn from Denmark is how they’ve abandoned the world wide method of coercion and instead implemented the free market idea of consumer choice. Education is a product in the form of labor from a teacher. The students and their parents are the consumer. Many opponents of this thought will point to failed voucher systems but it has never been truly tried because of heavy regulation and tight control over what the system entails. At the same time this can’t be the ‘fix all’ solution that some proponents claim it to be. 

The biggest contributor in the US of that exertion of control over the educational system is the Department of Education. Technically speaking a state can control their education however they wish with a few federal discrimination laws they must adhere to along with other certain guidelines and policies from ED that must be met. This is especially true when any state is accepting federal funding. The federal government collects taxes from the people.  They in turn offer money  to the state governments in the form of incentives which means they comes with a catch. While the states do fund the vast majority of public education, the federal government still funds over 8% of all public education in the country. Potentially losing 8% of 100’s of billions of dollars is nothing to sneeze at and states and their politicians certainly don’t want to be the ones cutting  spending on education. The reason I say the federal government is the biggest contributor when it comes to control is because they are the only player with their hand in everybody’s pot. Indiana may have more control over Indiana’s education but they don’t have any control over the 49 other state’s education. The reason this matters is because of the differences I pointed out with Denmark and other high ranking countries. What works for one area may not be best for another and when one centrally controlled agency (an unelected, president appointed agency I might add) sets one system of standards that all must adhere to then how can we expect any other results than the ones we currently have? Read about NCLB and ESSA for more info on these standards. 

Why, then, do we have a Department of Education? There is a history before the modern ED of today but formally the Department was started in 1980 under then president Jimmy Carter. The original function was to collect data from schools which they could in turn give out advice to enhance any deficiencies from this data. This turned in to forcing the states to pay to collect this data and then forcing the states to adhere to these policies in order to receive federal funding in return (incentives). From the beginning there was opposition from Republicans. In fact it was apart of their official platform until President Bush Jr. passed NCLB. The most outspoken defenders of the department has always comes from the left though since NCLB there has been little opposition from either side. Even after a historic senate confirmation vote over appointing Betsy DeVos, where for the first time the United States vice president cast the tie breaking vote, we still won’t hear a peep from the left about whether or not we should have a Department of Education. This is the insanity of the two party system within American politics. The left will pump up federal power in one area of government. The right will take control and abuse that power in the eyes of the left. The right will do the same and likewise complain of the abuse when the left takes control. All the while both sides are continually making the presence of the federal government ever larger with no end in sight. The right solution would be to start shutting down these agencies and restricting the reach of the unconstitutional practices of our beurocrats but alas…. I’m a realist. As much as I applaud the idea of shutting down areas of government incompetence, I understand this isn’t something you can do overnight. Our politicians are professionals at making the masses dependent on their policies. Another role ED has is guaranteeing student loans and also directly giving out student loans. Shutting down the department means figuring out how to deal with the massive amount of loans and grants the agency deals with which is no small feat. There is no longer an easy answer here. All of this said though means whenever you hear your friends on the left complain of our new Secretary of Education, you can tell them to thank themselves and the politicians they continue to elect for creating and then protecting the agency we have today which is now ran by Betsy DeVos. 

The Antitrust Inquisition and True Government Monopolies

Public fear of big business is nothing new in this country. From legitimate concerns in the 1800s over corporate influences in politics leading to several Citizen Authority clauses throughout many state constitutions and state laws to illegitimate concerns such as Big Agriculture preferring illegal aliens for cheap, seasonal farm labor. People who own big businesses gain big wealth and class warfare is as old as wealth itself. On one side you might have some rich and powerful individuals who can be very indignant to the less fortunate and look at the poor as simply lazy. On the other side you might have individuals who feel that any person with wealth is evil and manipulative, only using their money for greedy endeavors to further their own interests. Of course there are going to be instances on both sides to back these narratives up but as a whole both are terribly misleading. 

With few exceptions, such as the Roman Empirebusinesses throughout history were usually limited on growth because of geographical constraints and the inability to mass produce products but the Industrial Revolution changed this for everyone. New technologies in travel and also in production allowed global markets to become a reality. Along with these new founded global markets came the ability to amass wealth as had never been seen in history. This also led to the standard of living of the average person to consistently increase for the first time in history. The world grew richer but with incredible change, new fears always arise. One of these fears in America was that a specific business within a specific industry would become so powerful that it could become the exclusive player within this industry, controlling all aspects. If said industry is vital to our way of living, such as electricity is today, then the fear is that this one player can set any price they choose and the public at large can either pay the company’s demand or lower their standard of living. This is called a monopoly.  My question is how valid are these fears? Do we need government to protect us from these greedy price setters? 

Let’s take a look at one of the biggest, true monopolies and probably the most famous in American history, Standard Oil. Part of Standard Oil’s fame came, not only from the powerhouse it became in our country as a corporation but from the affects that came in the form of antitrust laws (laws that break up and limit monopolies). Allegations against the firm included predatory price-cutting, inflating prices after competition was gone, and even creating company towns which basically became indentured servitude. Standard Oil was founded in 1870 and they most certainly did use unscrupulous business practices to rapidly grow, some of which I absolutely condemn. Price-cutting was included in these practices but does this really hurt the consumer? It’s hard to logically explain to me how a company offering cheaper prices on a product than any other competitor can match is a bad thing for the average citizen. Just imagine paying $200/month for your electric bill when another company comes in and offers you the exact same electricity and service but instead you only have to pay $50/month. Somehow people will have you believe this is bad for you. But the biggest move for Standard Oil was not from these less than savory practices but instead from the Crash of 1873. SO had controlled about 80% of the refining capacity in Cleveland alone by that year but 1873 allowed them to buy up failing business after failing business caused by the ’73 Crash. By 1978 SO went from 80% of Ohio to about 90% of the oil refined in all of America. Once refining was accomplished they started focusing on other areas in the industry such as production and distribution. Was all of this just the result of a greedy man or was this the result of innovation and maximization of resources? 

Standard Oil was able to cut costs in ingenious and revolutionary ways in order to sell a superior, cheaper product. Some examples of this include how Rockefeller self-insured his refineries instead of following the norm which as to pay insane premiums for fire protection. He heavily invested in state of the art equipment to not only limit these disasters but also to maximize output at an exponentially greater level. He would purchase the land to build these refineries in very strategic areas that were easily accessible by water or railroad which put him in a position to have shippers compete for his business rather than him compete for theirs. SO would produce their own barrels to ship the oil and eventually made whole railcars fitted with giant tanks to replace the barrels. Before SO’s innovations, up to 40% of byproduct from crude oil refineries would literally be thrown out as waste, usually straight into the ground or rivers, but under Rockefeller’s tutelage the first “complete” refineries were formed, not only making the industry more effective, but also creating a more environmentally friendly practice. These are just a few examples of cost-cutting initiatives that came from SO but being a scrupulous, greedy business man was only a shadow of the genius that Rockefeller was. 

So then, did fear come true that once they controlled a vast majority of the industry they could then hike prices in order to take advantage of the necessity of their product? No. With free markets and people born every day, competition will always be right around the corner. Companies developed such as the Pure Oil Company and the Texas Company, which continuously made SO strive for more innovation and even better pricing. In 1901 the Spindletop Strike was the largest gusher yet discovered in America. When SO was founded it had about 250 competitors. Within a year of the Strike over 1500 competitors were in the industry, pushing SO to become even smarter than had been in the past in order to keep that control, only this time the competition was well aware of what they were going up against, forcing them to remain at the top of their game. It is clear that government intervention was not necessary to keep the industry competitive but that never stops the government. Writings from Henry Demarest Lloyd and even more notable Ida M. Tarbell turned the public opinion into that of disgust and distrust for the giant conglomerate. While I do not condone everything SO stood for, such as the accusations that thugs were used to oppress competition that wouldn’t sell to SO, I also know that writers such as Tarbell often had their own ax to grind. Tarbell’s own family was among those prior competitors who couldn’t sustain business at the rate and efficiency of SO. These writers also left out that Rockefeller took care of his employees much better than anybody else by offering better pay and vacations which was very seldom for employers to offer. But much like today, writers can get the public into frenzy over a topic and once this happens, legislation will always be right behind. 

Enter antitrust laws. Before Tarbell’s writings there was the Sherman Act of 1890 which became the first antitrust legislation. But after the uproar from the public, Congress broke up the SO Trust in 1911. In 1914 the Federal Trade Commission Act (creating the FTC) and the Clayton Act were passed. These laws are very vague , and apart from some revisions, are still the three core antitrust laws we have today. This vagueness is why I call the title the Antitrust Inquisition. It basically leaves decisions up to courts to look at each case and arbitrarily decide what is or isn’t an illegal trust or merger. This is also why, even though the Sherman Act was passed in 1890, the rules of the Sherman Act didn’t force SO to break up until 1911. Even today there is no direct definition of a legal or illegal merger. The laws include very subjective terms such as “unreasonable” trade or “every contact, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade”, and even “unfair or deceptive acts or practices”. There is not a standard definition for unreasonable, restraint of trade, or unfair practices within these laws. Each business is simply subject to that court’s interpretation of these words. This creates a ‘pick and choose’ situation where business innovation is held hostage by fear of government bureaucracy. 

At the same time this government, which so vehemently speaks out against monopolization, has been setting up their own monopolies at will. The effectiveness of SO was literally a major reasoning tool that influenced the decision to keep AT&T as a protected monopoly up until 1982. The biggest difference between a government imposed monopoly and a true, free market monopoly is the allowance of competition. In the free market there will always be some new mastermind lurking in the shadows developing their own strategies and tools in order to capture their piece of the pie. However, under a government monopoly, it is literally illegal to try and compete which means no amount of innovation can attack the power held by that company. A great example of this today is electrical companies. You can only use the company that the government has set up in your area and this is the definition of predatory price-setting as we can’t even know how inexpensive electricity could get with free market competitors doing everything in their power to get the prices as low as possible. In spite of government protection, smaller companies are still showing ways to threaten the big, power players. Imagine if they were completely free to explore the best options possible. 

U.S. Steel is another example of the free market working, even against a true monopoly. At it’s height U.S. Steel controlled about 67% of steel production. According to antitrust logic this killed competition and allowed them to run rampant with their pricing. Reality has a funny way of weeding out truth. Even at their height, competition never ceased. Hungry up and comers wanted their piece and developed ways to get it. Better business practices were developed that U.S. Steel simply couldn’t keep up with. Throughout the decades following their control, the federal government had imposed many policies to support U.S.S. such as tariffs on imported steel, trade restrictions, subsidies, and tax credits. All of this protectionism did little to save the business as by 2009 The Corporation was producing less than 10% of all steel used in the United States. I wrote about one of these instances and the effects of government protectionism in my article here

All in all, I can understand where the fear would come from with companies holding so much power over an industry but when we look at the facts we should be much more concerned about government imposed monopolies rather than free market innovators who have the ability to raise our standard of living. Competition will always be our ultimate system for checks and balances. I do not take this position to the extreme of removing all regulations involved in business but that we must use our lessons from history to understand how important the limited role of government and what the affects of that role can be, especially when it comes to restraining consumer options. Check back for my part 2 of this topic wick will look at another example of government protectionism in the form of patent laws. In short any business that is truly providing the best options for it’s consumers will not need protection from the government and when they do then we are probably better off without that company existing. 

Trump’s Redistribution

“I don’t mind trade wars when we’re losing $58 billion a year”, was Trump’s retort during a debate on Feb 25th of this year. At least he admits raising tariffs WOULD start a trade war. But what exactly does that mean for the average American?  What is a tariff? What other issues could come from this economic policy?

Luckily for us, we have answers. Not only do we have the answers but we have empirical evidence and countless studies to take these questions from long-standing debates between economists to real life examples of the effects of these decisions.

First off let’s find out what exactly a tariff is. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a tariff is a tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports or exports. So in layman’s terms, it is a tax specifically aimed at imports or exports. Tariffs in America go back to the founding of our country. In fact Tariffs were the first source of revenue for our newly formed federal government. Usually when tariffs are spoken of today in America they are aimed at certain imports while at the same time subsidizing that industry within America’s borders. So if Canada is shipping a certain type of lumber to America for less cost than the American lumber industry can sell it for then the government will tax those Canadian companies while at the same time giving money to the local American companies. Some people like the idea of “protecting” American jobs but all this does is lower incentive for the American companies to become better and more competitive while at the same time raising the cost of those goods to the American public at large.

With 2016 coming to a close, it is still a debate whether we are still recovering or have fully recovered from the 08 Recession. Either way, the effects of tariffs on our country’s economy should be front and center when discussing whether Protectionism is the right policy to pursue. Many proponents of tariffs claim that the policy saves American jobs but they never want to discuss at what costs those jobs are saved. In 2003 CITAC (The Consuming Industries Trade Coalition) did a study on the steel tariffs imposed by Bush in 2002 to find out if the act did,in fact, save jobs as originally promoted. The results of the study showed that approximately 200,000 non steel related jobs were lost as a direct result of the tariffs. Other American industries that relied on steel were forced to pay higher prices for steel which resulted in higher jobs losses than the total number of jobs in the entire steel industry. This means the American steel sector of our economy could have completely gone away and we would have sustained less job losses than what we lost “protecting” those jobs.

The issues of tariffs is not a partisan one either. Obama imposed tariffs on Chinese tire manufacturers in 2009. China had long been the dominating force for low-end tires bought in America. American tire companies countered this with going almost exclusively to high-end, premium tires, which they now dominate market wise. Yet when these Tariffs were introduced, national production of low-end tires did not increase while imports of low-end tires did increase. Instead of buying from China, companies started importing from S. Korea, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand, and Taiwan. So while Obama claimed to save 1200 American jobs, it’s hard to look at these facts and understand how he came to that conclusion. Obama got this number from a Peterson Institute study and while the study showed that the tariffs did, in fact, save 1200 jobs Obama failed to mention that the study also showed that over 2500 jobs in other industries were lost to save those 1200. Industry leaders offer a clearer insight on the affect of the tariff. “The tariffs didn’t have any material impact on our North American business”, is what we are told by Keith Price, a spokesman for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. He continued, “The stuff coming in from China is primarily low-end. We got out of that market years ago.” John Frisbie, U.S. China Business Council President, said, “We disagree that the tariffs on imports of low-end Chinese tires have had any positive effect on American jobs or the American economy. All evidence suggests that the beneficiaries have been other low-end tire producers in Asia and Mexico.”

Affects to other industries, such as the American chicken industry, have not been studied as far as I can find. You may be asking yourself what chicken exports from America could have to do with tire imports from China. It’s very simple. One of America’s biggest exporters to China is the American chicken industry. As a response to Obama, China enforced a tariff on the American chicken imports to their country. Once one country takes a jab at another, then the other country feels a need to respond. This could potentially turn into a Hatfield and McCoy situation only instead of two families duking it out we have two super powers going back and forth. When this happens it is called a trade war. For a comprehensive look at tarrifs in America’s history and it’s relation to real wars click here.

It’s hard to understand with this amount of evidence why anybody would ever pursue such policies but when you step back it’s actually quite easy to understand. Obama telling America that he saved 1200 jobs or Trump campaigning to bring jobs back to America are incredibly effective tools to rally up your base. At the same time the unions or industries benefiting from tariffs have money to spend on getting their point across and also lobbying policies while the free trade side doesn’t have any motive other than it being the best choice for our economy. Wanting what’s best for our economy is admirable but it doesn’t pay bills in and of itself and so there aren’t free trade lobbyists or commercials explaining to the public why this issue is such an important one. Instead free trade advocates simply write blogs and hope enough of America reads them to understand the real consequences of this terrible, over and again tried, failed policy.

The Semantics of Abortion

In case you haven’t noticed, high emotions are the normalcy when discussing the topic of abortion. Which side of the aisle you land on usually falls down to your perception of whose life is ultimately affected by the procedure. Before we can look at this question we must first understand the language used while discussing abortion. Many try to boil the argument down to when is the fetus considered life. Others have taken this sentiment further and prefer to debate when the fetus is considered a person.  The problem with these questions is that the former delves deep into language in which a scientific consensus of a definition does not exists. The latter delves into philosophy rather than science and good luck getting a consensus from a philosophical discussion.

Abortion has been around for millennia but I’d like to look at the progression from the start of our country to today. If we go back to the beginning of our country we see that this nation was founded on law and set up with an unprecedented structure.  Up until Roe v Wade, the common thought was that once the baby was in the time of quickening (the baby could move) then abortion was no longer legal. This was the law of Great Britain before the revolution and this was the law retained by our founders after we became a sovereign nation. This would indicate that as soon as it could be shown that life existed in the womb (quickening) then it was no longer legal to terminate the life.  Logically, I believe this is a sound approach. The fetus cannot be considered anything but human and once we determine this fetus is ‘life’ or ‘alive’ then we now have a human life. To abort at this point cannot be considered anything short of taking a human life. James Wilson (one of six who signed both the Constitution and Declaration) stated, “In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and in some cases, from every degree of danger.

With today’s technological advances I think we can make the case that, not only would the founders principals have differed, but even more recent rulings such as Roe v Wade would be very different. Roe v Wade changed the debate from that of the start of life to the viability of the fetus. In 1973 it was believed that a fetus could not be viable before 24 weeks of a pregnancy. With technology ever improving doctors now believe fetuses can be viable up to 22 weeks into the pregnancy. Other advances are claiming to be working on pushing that viability date to within 10 weeks of the pregnancy. This legal assertion only confuses the debate in my opinion because the needle is constantly shifting yet the Roe v Wade decision remains the same. Also viability is completely irrelevant IF we come to an agreement on whether or not the fetus is a human life. An elderly person on a breathing machine is no less of a human being than one breathing on his/her own.

I ask myself where has the responsibility gone from the individual in America? We have become so ingrained with instant gratification and a ‘greed is good’ mentality that ‘deserving’ has become more of a birthright rather than a plateau to reach. Just turn on the television and watch all of the advertisements telling you how much you deserve the brand new fill in the blank. The struggle is now a punishment of circumstance instead of a goal to overcome. Pride is focused on the ends instead of the means. Google ‘Impulse Society’ to find out we now have rehab centers for technology addicts. I do not want to assume any woman’s motive for abortion but I am not wrong by saying abortion can be an easy fix. Two studies from 1987 and 2004 from the Guttmacher Institute show that 69% and 73%, respectively, of women having abortions surveyed cited “can’t afford a baby right now” as a major reason for their decision.

There are many other topic points we could get into but personally, I feel like if society could come to an agreement on one of the two questions mentioned in the first paragraph then the argument would be put to rest. Since my view is that the latter question is a philosophical one and therefore a much more difficult question to approach. I feel the former question is where our energy should be focused.

When I first started to write this article, my initial thoughts were to look at all of the major arguments for and against abortion and basically weigh in with my opinions. After thinking deeper into the subject I came to the above conclusion of finding the right question to ask. I will not hide from the fact that I am pro-life and I believe that the life of the fetus begins at conception. Therefore abortion can’t be considered anything other than the murder of an innocent human being. I very much realize that the issue is much more complex than this. The semantics of ‘life’ or ‘person hood’ or ‘baby’ keep many arguing against a wall instead of seeking to understand each other.

I’ve been taught that with any big problem the best solution is take it and break it down into several smaller problems. Solve the smaller problems to solve the bigger problem. I see the abortion question as the big problem that everybody is trying to tackle. I think we can simplify the debate by coming to an agreement on what question to ask: It is illegal to unjustly and intentionally take a human life? The fetus cannot be anything but human. Therefore find the consensus on when the fetus is considered life and I think logic will dictate the rest on its own.