Thursday, June 28, 2012

The ObamaCare Ruling: Why its Over for America

I am in Montgomery, Alabama this weekend to speak at a homeschool convention.  On Saturday one of the speeches I am delivering is entitled, "Is Socialism America's Destiny?"  How fitting...

Somewhere on a country highway today I learned of the gutless assistance John Roberts gave the liberals on the Supreme Court in ruling that the federal government has the Constitutional right to tax all of us if we refuse to purchase something the government demands that we purchase.  Roberts said that the government cannot require us to buy health insurance but can "tax" us if we do not.

This means that if the government decides some day that a certain type of car is best in fighting global warming or that a certain type of school is best for our kids or that a certain type of food is best for our health that we will not have to buy the small car, go to the local school or buy carrots but can be taxed on these decisions to not partake of these goods.

Folks, I am sorry, but it is over for this country.

Let's look at it.

1913 - the creation of the power to tax income.  This destroyed the right to property and privacy.
1935 - (see Butler vs. the United States) - the ruling that the government can spend our taxes on anything it wants to in the name of the general welfare.  This converted plunder into a legal right.
1937 - the ruling that the government can alter private contracts concerning wages.  This eliminated the right to determine wages freely between willing buyers and sellers.
1973 - the ruling that allows women to end the life of the unborn - even though the Constitution protects the right to life.  This - arguably - ended the lives of millions of free human beings.
2001 - The Patriot Act - we are no longer secure in our papers, effects and communications with one another.
2005 - the eminent domain ruling that told us that we can lose our homes to any other private entity.  This ended the right to physical property in America.
2012 - the ruling that we are not free to decide what we will or will not purchase.  This ended the rest of economic liberty as we know it.

In 1849 Frederic Bastiat wrote:

"If the natural tendancies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendancies of these organizers are always good?  Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race?  Or do they believe that they themselves are made of finer clay than the rest of mankind?  The organizers maintain society, when left undirected, rushes headlong to its inevitable destruction because the instincts of the people are so perverse.  The legislators claim to stop this suicidal course and give it a saner direction.  Apparently, then, the legislators and the organizers have received from Heaven an intelligence and virtue that place them beyond and above mankind; if so, let them show their titles to this superiority."

Bastiat understood - as did the Founding Fathers - the arrogance of politicians and judges.  And now we are paying for what they always saw coming.

I believe Thomas Jefferson would say, "But of course" upon reading today's Supreme Court decision. 

The fact is, as we approach the 236th birthday of this dying experiment that it is somewhat of a miracle that a republic could have lasted this long.  The "makers" in our nation are now so outnumbered by the "takers" that we will most likely not be able to get back the liberty we have now lost.

Historians will record, with bewilderment, that the people who were given the gift of liberty on this Earth turned over their gift to the same forces that always destroy liberty to begin with.

I do not know how to tell the folks in Alabama this weekend that the only thing they are really accomplishing by teaching their kids the meaning of free markets and individual liberty is to buy their children a little more time before it is all over.  In effect, I am selling caulk to the guests on the Titanic.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Well, well - so much for gasoline conspiracy theories

A few months ago, gasoline was selling for more than $4 per gallon in much of the nation and just a few pennies below $4 in my hometown.

Today, there are parts of the country paying $2.99 per gallon (I saw $2.81 in Eufala, Alabama) and my local 7-11 is charging nearly that price.

So what happened?  I thought that 'BIG OIL' (the catch phrase used by all non-thinking hysterical liberals) could do whatever it wanted to us?  I thought the law of demand did not apply to gasoline?  I thought that a conspiracy was afoot to take advantage of all of us poor drivers who could do nothing to combat the omnipresent power of OPEC, Exxon-Mobil and the speculators in New York?

My, my, how sad it must be to be so economically ignorant. 

To you liberals out there, please tell me something.

If $4 per gallon causes very little change in human driving behavior, wouldn't that signal 'BIG OIL' to raise prices to $4.01?  If $4.01 doesn't do much but cause more grumbling why not try $4.09, then $4.32?  If 'BIG OIL' is in control it can do whatever it wants until we are forced to ride donkeys or walk to the store.

For the last time, oil prices change because of changes in supply and demand.  Period.  There is nothing else out there.  No bigfoot, no Loch Ness Monster, no UFOs, no government plots, no billionaire-CEO torture tests.  Nothing.  There are only the forces of the market that guide prices up and down.

Right now those forces (led by falling demand in debt-choked Europe) are guiding prices down.  So fill up, be happy and when prices stop going down please do us all a favor and save your silly arguments for when you meet people like President Obama, Nancy Pelosi or other folks who would fail my economics class.

Thank you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thank you, Ron Brandolini

By Jeff Kunerth, The Orlando Sentinel
The Mod 3 faculty lounge on the west campus of Valencia Community College seated 10 or 12 uncomfortably. The chairs were metal. The room was narrow and cramped, its walls painted concrete block, the floor covered in commercial-grade carpeting.

"It was utilitarian and stark like a train station in London said Ron Nelson, 69, a retired English professor.

What made the room special was the ongoing, free-floating conversation and intellectual debate among the faculty members who occupied the place in the 1980s. There were English teachers, accounting professors, mathematicians, astronomers, physicists, psychologists, and this one economics professor who seemed to stand out among them all — Ronald Brandolini.

"He was one of the shining stars in that group of people," Nelson said. "The quality of conversation was a lot better because he was there."

Ron Brandolini, of Orlando, died June 16 after a long battle with cancer. He was 65.

Brandolini, who came to Valencia in 1976, was the founding director of the college's honors program in the 1980s and served in that capacity for 20 years. During that time, he recruited top students and teachers for the program, elevating the program's stature throughout the country.

Honors students from Valencia went on to North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke, Ivy League schools and top-tier state universities.

"It was rated one of the highest community college programs in the country," said Ivan Applebaum, 76, a retired psychology professor.

Brandolini's intellect allowed him to converse on any subject with experts in their fields, but his personality made him accessible to teachers and students alike. For his students, Brandolini had the ability to translate the principles of economics into the language of everyday life.

"He would take events from TV and apply it to his lecture and make it interesting. His students would say, 'I never thought of it that way. It makes sense,' " said his wife, Nicoleta Brandolini, 43.

Brandolini liked to view things from afar and get the big picture, whether it was from the peak of Machu Picchu in Peru to the backyard telescope he programmed with a computer.

He liked to fish, but always let his catch off the hook. He knew how to invest, but never cared much about money. He liked to sit at home in a buttery-colored love seat, facing the entertainment center with the television off, and listen to music. Mozart. Springsteen.
Willie Nelson.  Elton John. The Drifters.

To his friends and family, Ron Brandolini had that rare combination of soaring intellect and common sense, far-reaching vision and fine attention to detail, self-confidence without the self-centeredness.

"He did not have much of an ego," Applebaum said. "His interests were in others, not himself."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Experiences with Home-Schooled Students

Note:  This is from the Op-Ed page of the June 10, 2012 Orlando Sentinel.  I have revised it to include information on an upcoming homeschool expo in Alabama.  For those of you thinking about homeschooling your kids - or know others who might be thinking about it - please share this and feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.

For the past 21 years I have taught economics to more than 14,000 college students here in Central Florida.

During that time I have made a concerted effort to glean information from my Valencia students as to their educational background preceding their arrival in college.
Drawing from a sample size this large multiplied by two decades multiplied by hundreds of thousands of test answers has put me in a good position to offer the following advice to any reader of this paper with children in Florida's K-12 public schools.

Get them out now before you ruin their life.

While this may seem to be a bit harsh, let's look at the facts.

First, my best students every year are in order — Chinese, Eastern European, Indian and home-schooled Americans, and it is not even close when comparing this group to American public-school kids.

Since it is highly unlikely that any of you plan to move to Beijing, Warsaw or Bangalore, you might want to look at the facts concerning public vs. home-schooled American students.
(In Florida, more than 60,000 students in about 42,000 families study in home education programs, which meet the requirement for regular school attendance and were protected under state law in 1985.)

All of us have seen or heard about the annual disaster that is called FCAT results. Thanks to government officials in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee, kids in government-run schools are failing miserably in a wide range of subjects while teachers face bureaucratic nightmares that strip them of their status as professionals and relegate them to servants of standardized testing.
It is also a fact of public education that incidents of bullying, teacher-student sexual misconduct, abusive behavior by teachers and incessant protection of poor teachers by education unions have put students in public schools in the unenviable position of dealing with issues that no learning environment should impose on them.

Moreover, the public education system in Florida and other states is one of the worst forms of monopoly power.

Everywhere in our lives as citizens we have free consumer choice as to where we shop for food, clothes, cellphones and more. However, if you are economically disadvantaged you rarely have this choice in education.

Poorer families in Florida are instead given the school district that their children are forced to attend. Rather than give poor parents choices so that competitive pressure is imposed on public education, we have lower-income families — mostly minorities — who are condemned to 13 years of inferior education just because they live in the wrong zip code.

Everywhere in America where vouchers or other forms of school choice exists, we see competition forcing the unionized public schools to adapt, or lose students.
This used to be the case in Florida, but those options are now lower than in past years and the victims show up in my classes woefully unprepared for challenging college course work.
It is routine that students from Florida's worst high schools make failing grades in college. These kids have been lied to by a system that tells them that a diploma from an "F" school will not impact them in college.

Meanwhile, the more than 2 million home-schooled kids around America (my two sons included) routinely appear in America's colleges with an education that prepares them for virtually anything.
The home-education movement has unleashed the forces of capitalism in such a way that anyone can find dozens of types of curricula for any grade level to help educate their kids in areas where one might not be an expert.

Home-school conventions like the one coming at the end of this month in Montgomery, Alabama offer thousands of options and professional speakers who can help guide willing parents through their child's formative years.

The home-schooled kids who show up in my classes usually arrive at the age of 16 or 17, score in the high 90's on their exams and then go off to places like Harvard, Penn and other world-class universities.

Friday, June 15, 2012

On Fathers, Quitters and our Future

Like millions of men around America who happen to have fathers and who also have kids of their own, this Sunday is a nice time of the year to reflect on what it means to be a good dad.  What follows is a story from my youth and some predictions for America's male population.

It was the summer of 1977 and I was in my first year of Little League baseball in the little hamlet known as Hugo, Oklahoma.  I had already played three years of Pee Wee baseball and thought I was getting pretty good until I found myself on the bench - game after game after game.  It seems that our coach did not think I was very good (he was probably right) compared to the older boys on our team so he allowed me to go home from every game in a uniform that need not be laundered.

I was getting pretty sick of this situation so one night - in the middle of a game - I left the dugout and walked home.  I had quit my team.

When I walked in the front door I saw my father sitting in his favorite chair after a long day at work watching television. 

He looked up from 'Bonanza' or 'Gunsmoke' or some show like that and said, "I thought you had a ball game tonight?"

" I did."

"Well, what are you doing home?"

"I quit.  The coach doesn't ever let me play so I quit."

The next moment in my young life - while now 34 years in the distance - was one of the more monumental ones I have ever experienced.  It was a moment where a man looks at his son and says something that will shape his son's character for a long time - perhaps forever.

My dad, "Big Jack" as my friends called him, put out his cigarette (slowly, as if something really profound was forming in his mind), looked up and said, "Boy, let me tell you something.  You get your glove and march yourself right back to the ball field.  You apologize to your coach and your teammates and don't you ever quit in the middle of anything again.  If you decide at the end of the season that you don't want to play baseball anymore then fine, you can stop playing then.  But don't you ever quit on your team again."

When I got back to the field my coach did not even know that I had left.  No matter.  I did what my dad told me to do and ate crow in front of my friends.

Seven years later, in June of 1984 I watched my father proudly co-sign my college baseball scholarship offer.  It was perhaps the greatest moment of my life as an athlete.  I felt a great sense of satisfaction from this moment - a moment that would have never happened had my dad not so clearly informed me back in Little League that being a quitter is not acceptable.

This spring I finished up another year of coaching Little League baseball for my youngest son.  I have been doing this for both of my boys for several years and have learned something about men and their sons today.

We are in big trouble. 

I half-joke with my brother that it is a good thing America has vastly superior military technology because if we had to fight it out man-to-man with some foreign invader there are probably somewhere between 4 and 14 nations that would wipe the floor with us.

What I see today on the baseball field, in my classrooms and in society as a whole is a nation of sissies.  I mean good old-fashioned whining, crying, spoiled sissies.

Out of every 10 students who complain about my classes (never face to face), eight or nine of them who gutlessly crawl to my boss with words like "unfair", "too hard" and "unreasonable" are males. 

When they email me to cry about their grades they never understand anything I tell them about personal responsibility, a work ethic, showing up on time, studying or anything else.  I have no idea where my college-age daughter is going to find a real man to marry.  The young men I routinely encounter dress like bums, have the vocabulary of a pine stump and have no intestinal fortitude whatsoever.

There are a few exceptions, of course, but not many.  I wonder, who were their dads?

With the 11 and 12 year old kids I coach I spend so much time trying to get them to stop crying  at every little difficult bump they encounter that it feels like I am more of a therapist than baseball coach.

I had two kids quit my team this spring with fathers who claimed I was "unfair" to their sons.

Unfair?  These two kids had one hit (combined) out of more than 50 times at bat.  When the second one quit the team his father actually had the nerve to contact the Little League to find out "where his trophy was".  This is the same "father" who erupted on me because I asked his son to walk 10 feet to tell the scorekeeper something during a game.

I wonder, what will these kids - these kids who were allowed to quit - be like when they are 19?  What will they say about an 'F' on a test?  What will they do when they don't get a job, or lose out on a promotion or have to face any other tough moment in their protected little lives?

The real world - outside of America - is becoming an increasingly harsh place when it comes to good jobs and a stable income.  Inside America, I am afraid that we are raising a nation of soft, uncompetitive crybabies that will be wiped out by their Chinese and Indian competitors.

So, on this Father's Day weekend I want to say "Thank you, Dad" for kicking my tail out the front door that summer night when I was an 11 year old.  It was the best thing you could have ever done - and something fathers all over America should be doing if we are going to have a republic filled with mentally-tough men, capable of dealing with the harsh realities of a life where fairness does not enter into anything.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Curse of Alexander Hamilton

What follows is the speech I gave to the Foundation for Economic Education ( in Irvington, New York.  I hope you will take the time to watch it, share it and spread the word.