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Archive for May, 2013

Benghazi Investigation Entirely Misses the Big Picture

By now, unless you have been living under a rock you are aware of the scandals plaguing the Obama Administration – the Justice Department illegally acquiring the phone records of the Associated Press, the Internal Revenue Service illegally targeting the President’s opponents for tighter scrutiny, and Benghazi.  Now, in all fairness to Obama, to date, no improprieties have been proven in any of the above cases.  But, while the scandals involving AP phone records and IRS treatment of the President’s opponents should be investigated, the Benghazi investigation entirely misses the big picture on that issue.

With regards to Benghazi, currently congressional Republicans are focusing their investigation on whether the Obama Administration botched security at our consulate in that city thereby causing the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and 3 other Americans and whether it lied about it in an effort to cover it up.

I say, who cares?  The bigger issue and one that no one seems to be asking is, should we have been meddling in the internal affairs of Libya in the first place?

When Obama sidestepped Congress and unilaterally chose to intervene in the Libyan Civil War, the mission was supposed to be a United Nations sanctioned “no-fly zone” over Libya so Gadhafi could not use his air force to slaughter Libyans on the ground.  However, in very short order, the mission morphed into an all-out air invasion complete with coordinated strategy between NATO forces and anti-Gadhafi fighters and bombings of Gadhafi’s fighters on the ground.  The point man chosen by Obama to serve as a conduit between anti-Gadhafi fighters and the U.S. military was Ambassador Stevens.

What was lacking is the same thing that has failed to happen with all U.S. military engagements since World War II.  Congress did not debate whether American military forces should be employed and it did not vote on whether to grant a declaration of war.  Why is this important?  Because the Founders of the United States knew that the decision making power to send Americans into harm’s way and the consequences of that action for the country was too important to give solely to one person – the president.

Libya was not a national security issue for the United States.  We were allegedly there on a humanitarian mission to help Libyans.  The question is, is that a justified use of our military?  Should its role be to police the world?  Congressional debate could have addressed these questions, prevented our intervention in Libya, and possibly changed U.S. foreign policy in the future for the better.

Additionally, our intervention in Libya has made that country “a center of jihadist terror”.  Consequently, weapons, terrorism, and chaos are emanating from there to the rest of North Africa and the Sahel regions.  Gadhafi may have been a bad guy to his people, but our intervention in his country is having adverse effects on all the people of the region.  With 535 members in Congress, someone would have questioned, during debate in that body, what would happen as a consequence of our intervention?  Perhaps the consideration of that inquiry would have prevented our ill-fated intervention and Ambassador Stevens would still be alive today.

In the final analysis, what needs to be investigated is whether we should have been in Libya in the first place?  This investigation then should lead to a reconsideration of our current foreign policy.  Given that our current foreign policy has our military forces engaged in at least 74 other conflicts around the globe this seems more important than finding out whether the Obama Administration botched security at our consulate in Benghazi causing the death of an American ambassador and 3 other Americans and whether it lied about the matter in an effort to cover it up.  It’s time Congress looks at the big picture.

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The Jeffersonian

Brooks and Shields have an interesting discussion about trust in government on PBS NewsHour tonight. I won’t try to summarize it here. It’s not long and it holds your attention, so go ahead and listen to it.

Here’s the interesting thing: for all their perceptive comments about why our national government has lost people’s trust, these two analysts still believe that we would be better off if people trusted government more. That seems to be a mainstream view, that things were better back when more people trusted their government to do the right thing. We even have a polling question asked through the decades to gauge public confidence: “Do you trust government to do the right thing most of the time?” Before Vietnam and Watergate, seven in ten people answered the question yes. Fifty years later, two people in ten answer yes.

I would say if government is untrustworthy, this…

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Focus on Minimum Wage is Misplaced

In spite of the abysmal unemployment problem in the United States, President Obama was in Texas last week touting his plan to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour.  Recently, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit have seen fast food workers walk off the job and strike demanding higher wages.  Specifically, in Detroit, the Michigan Workers Organizing Committee, a coalition of labor, religious and community organizers is calling for a national minimum wage of $15 an hour.

The common denominator for everyone who wants to raise the minimum wage is the claim that the current government mandated floor price for hourly workers is too low for them to make a decent living.  Then there are the recipients of low wages, who claim their value, after years of faithful service to an employer, is much higher than the wages they receive.  For them, raising the minimum wage is the only way they can potentially get what should be coming to them – a higher rate of pay.  At the end of the day, proponents of raising the minimum wage assert that it is simply a matter of fairness to give those at the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder a little more.

Well, there are a lot of problems with the above reasoning.  In the first place, only two percent of wage earners in America work for minimum wage.  While workers under 25 years of age account for just 20 percent of hourly paid workers, they make up close to 50 percent of those earning the federal minimum wage or less.  In other words, very few workers are affected by the minimum wage and those that are tend to be young, first time wage earners.  You know, the teenager working at McDonald’s after school.  Naturally, older folks with familial responsibilities should find it hard to live making the current minimum wage.  The system is not really set up for them.

Then there is the economic problem caused by the minimum wage, namely unemployment.  Now, I know that there have been studies on both sides of the issue.  But, it is an economic fallacy to believe that the minimum wage does not cause unemployment.  Basic supply and demand tells us that as the price for a good or service increases, demand decreases.  Conversely, as price falls, demand increases.  By its very definition, the minimum wage is a price fix for labor above the market rate.  Thus, as the minimum wage level is greater than the equilibrium wage or wage level where demand equals supply, fewer workers will be demanded and a consequent surplus of workers will result.  Put another way, unemployment caused by the minimum wage is the difference between the amount of workers demanded and the amount supplied at the minimum wage level.  To decrease unemployment (surplus of workers) wages have to drop, just like the price of a good, to reach the clearing equilibrium price.  Naturally, this is impossible under federal and state laws, so unemployment persists until the minimum wage is overtaken by the market wage rate.

Instead of raising the minimum wage to help the working poor make ends meet, the focus should be on the cause of price inflation – the Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed).  Since 1971, when President Nixon ended the convertibility of the dollar to gold that foreign creditors enjoyed, the Fed has monetized over $16 trillion in U.S. government debt and created trillions more dollars out of thin air helping the American banking cartel increase its profits.  The result has been an 82 percent loss in the value of the dollar and consequent general price inflation.  For instance, in 1971, a basket of groceries that cost $30 would cost $173 today.  It’s no wonder minimum wage workers are hard pressed to make ends meet.

In the final analysis, only a return to sound money will ultimately help those currently working for minimum wage.  It wasn’t perfect, but a return to the pre-1971 gold exchange standard would eliminate the need to constantly raise the minimum wage, cure our chronic youth unemployment problem, and be a “matter of fairness” for all wage earners.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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The Jeffersonian

Alright, folks, since I don’t read other people writing on this subject, I have to raise it myself. Does anyone else see a connection between the war in Syria and the war in Iraq? The Iraqi war started ten years ago, and continues now. The Syrian war started two years ago. Do we not want to think about this question, because of our complicity? What do people in Iraq and Syria think about these two conflicts and their connections?

About three years into the Iraq war, King Abdullah of Jordan expressed his fear that the war across his border with Iraq would cause a breakdown of peace in the region. The sectarian war so close by threatened to spread, with bad consequences for his country and other neighboring regions. Jordan has managed to escape the breakdown he predicted, but Syria has not.

The civil war in Syria started in 2011…

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