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Credit Cards and the Collapsing Country

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

The policy of credit card companies charging an annual fee for those cardholders with solid credit is a good proxy for the state of the nation, and also a microcosm of both the progressive (read socialist) movement in this country and the unintended consequences of an economic policy destined to fail — or succeed if you measure success by increased impoverishment.

Those two solvent, reputable, dare I say creditworthy institutions Bank of America and Citi are reportedly

starting to charge fees to reliable customers in response to a slew of new credit card industry regulations that will limit when banks can hike interest rates. Cardholders who get a new annual fee notice in the mail will be in a no-win situation.

“They can either pay that fee or they can close the account, and if they have had the account for a while and they close it, they are potentially going to hurt their credit card score,” said Woolsey (Director of Consumer Research at CreditCards.com).

This response to government intervention provides great insight into the problems with regulations the government claims will help the consumer. By preventing banks from increasing their rates in response to a lack of creditworthy borrowers in the markets, those who have proved creditworthy customers over time will be forced to subsidize those less reliable to make up the difference, proving yet again that there is no such thing as a free lunch. We could examine the further consequences for the macroeconomy of these creditworthy people being incentivized to become less creditworthy or if nothing else losing purchasing power as a result of this policy, but the above synopsis should do.

This policy reflects what happens every time the government tries to set prices – in this case the price of credit. Some people are aided, while others lose as a consequence. Further, as with the way in which government seems to favor the debtor over the creditor today, here the less responsible is favored over the more responsible. Adding insult to injury, the more responsible cardholder must subsidize the less responsible one. In essence, this is the basis of the welfare state. Those who generate more wealth must have a significant percentage of it expropriated to help out those who do not create as much wealth. We can argue over whether wealth generators are more responsible than the indigent, but I think you understand my point.

As I have mentioned before though, this liberal system in the end devours itself. First, it is economically unsustainable. At some point, those continually forced to subsidize the reckless and feckless will either go broke or go Galt. As a consequence, so too will the whole system (go broke that is). Second, from a moral perspective, the values engendered in rewarding people for being unproductive and penalizing those who create will pervert society, leading to its malaise.

As I have harped on continually here, the problem with the development of a capitalist system is that if not constantly fought for on both economic and perhaps more importantly moral grounds, it ends up sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Wealth begets wealth until it begets redistribution of wealth. Redistribution of wealth destroys the mechanisms that create it in the first place and weakens the moral fiber of a society. Much like organisms in nature that grow beautiful and strong only to decay in old age, capitalism seems to grow great only to end in grief.


Tax the rich
Feed the poor
Til’ there are no, rich no more

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An Open Letter to the New York Mets

April 22, 2009 1 comment


Dear Mets,

I have officially had it. With each passing day I am getting more and more numb to what I am witnessing on the field. Looking back on the past three years, I am truly embarrassed to be a fan of your franchise. You have cost me hundreds of hours and dollars each year with zero payoff to show for it. I am twenty years old and already have a gray hair on my head – I attribute this to you. I guess I should take back my prior comment that you haven’t given me anything.

What we have lived through over these past few years has been unbearable. We watched our team crumble in the playoffs to a vastly weaker opponent. Largely this was not your own fault, as the injuries to El Duque and Pedro in 2006 were simply bad luck. This was the start of a run that I assume the entire organization would largely attribute to “bad luck.” I call it failure.

Over the last two seasons, how many runners on third base with nobody out have been stranded by this team? How many opportunities to get that clutch hit with RISP to break the game open have you squandered? How many games has the bullpen blown in agonizing fashion? How many times have you seen a team come into New York clearly wanting to kill the Mets, without so much as a fight from our players? Is it any great surprise that the team’s season has ended on the last day of the season two years in a row, at home? It has gotten to the point over the last couple of years where from the 7th inning on, most of the time I have been able to predict exactly what is going to happen, as friends who have watched games with me can attest. This sense of impending doom, of waiting for the next shoe to drop hovers over this team every single day. The only thing that changes is which shoe drops.

Management has been as complicit in this failure as the players. The executives completely botched the firing of Willie Randolph. The executives botched the signing of Derek Lowe. The executives botched the signing of Manny Ramirez (invest with someone other than Madoff next time, or at least admit to the fans that this is why you didn’t so much as talk to his agent about him). The executives pushed Ryan Church to return from a concussion early, potentially putting his cognitive functions at risk; that is, they put his effective livelihood in danger for no good reason. The executives to add insult to injury have constantly put Church down, with many questioning whether or not he can make it in New York, or even if he is a better hitter than Daniel Murphy (even if Murphy is better, why would you denigrate Church?). I guess it wasn’t enough that he played Gold Glove defense and was your MVP before he got injured last season; or that this year he is batting .350. Even a marginal player like Figueroa has been treated poorly when he has had success at the big league level. Why do you seem to hate all of the good guys?

You also managed to pick the worst of the investment banks to sponsor your stadium…you couldn’t quite think to do what the Yankees did of simply having your insolvent banking pals advertise all over the stadium while still giving it a name loyal to the history of the team. And while you built a beautiful stadium, outside of the pictures hanging from the outside, you wouldn’t even know the Mets played there. There are more quotes and pictures from Jackie Robinson than there are of Mets in the whole stadium. Your facade while beautiful is Ebbets Field, while your fence is Giants-colored. You would think the team was embarassed by its history. Even if it is, our fans revel in our history, however checkered. Show some respect to the people that are the lifeblood of the franchise.

Despite vowing coming out of Spring Training this year for this team to come back with a team-first attitude and focus, so far it has been a bunch of individuals putting up great numbers, while collectively remaining inconsistent, unclutch (look at the numbers) and lifeless. The Mets continue to lose one-run games. They continue to strand astronomical amounts of baserunners. They continue to fail in the most agonizing of fashions – two dropped fly balls, and Beltran who apparently doesn’t know how to slide.

You Mets lack all consistency on a day-to-day basis. When you get great starting pitching (see Johan Santana) you can’t hit. When you club the ball, it is usually only for a few innings, and even when it is for a sustained period, you fail to pitch. This team is totally dysfunctional. Most frustrating of all is the fact that in every loss thus far (besides perhaps the Josh Johnson game which was again, lost on an error), the team has never actually been outplayed by an opponent; the Mets are their own worst enemy, always beating themselves. This is perhaps the only thing consistent about the last 2+ years.

And another thing. If you went to war, would you prefer to do it with Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino or Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes? To be sure, you have some pieces that are solid. Your bullpen seems to be much improved. You have a handful of guys that seem tough and willing to run through walls like Putz and Johan and Murphy and even Wright (though I still think he is softer than most of the Phillies guys). But you seem to lack the killer instinct as a group. Would you ever see the Mets go into a stadium like the Marlins have done on the last weekend the last two seasons and say, “We hate your team, and we are going to make your lives a living hell for the next three games.” Heck, watching David Eckstein hit against us last week, I was more scared of him due to his peskiness and pertinacity than I would be pitching to most of the Mets in a big spot, or fighting the Mets in a bench-clearing brawl. That little guy shows more heart than most everyone on our team combined.

What I am trying to get at is that while you have a few solid, hard-nosed players, the nucleus needs to be blown up. As a collective unit, this team continuously fails. They never put all of their talent together and play as a team. They are a bunch of talented individuals who cannot and will not ever gel. Unfortunately, the fans who want nothing more than for their beloved team to win have to live with this mediocrity, constantly stabbed in the back in the most painful of ways. We are sick of this. Fire the bums!

Sincerely,

A disgruntled Mets fan

What is Our Nation Coming To?

March 2, 2009 2 comments


When I started Mellon’s Musings, I did not anticipate how quickly things would unravel in the US and abroad. Perhaps it is because despite my best judgment, I did not want to believe it. Unfortunately, my worst nightmares are being realized. This time, things are different. When Rahm Emanuel said “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” he meant business, like Ari Gold negotiating on the High Holidays.

Glancing over the headlines of the week, it is clear that a creeping sense of socialism in this country is no longer creeping — it is a very real threat that no future administration may come close to being able to stop. If I am reading this situation correctly, we are at a true turning point in world history. The forces of freedom and liberty are fast being swept aside. We are heading into a Rousseaun era in which the United States and indeed all other states will degenerate in a large collectivist cesspool. Ayn Rand said, “We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.” How right she was.

As I forewarned, other states, besides just New York are beginning to come up with creative ways to tax their citizens. One policy analyst says, “The most common phrase you hear from the states is, everything is on the table.” A California legislator says “We’re all jonesing now for money.” States are weighing “solutions” to their shortfalls like making marijuana legal so as to tax it, or allowing gay civil unions in order to boost tourism.

But think this through for a second. If people are struggling to make ends meet, why should taxation to support government be the number one priority? Why does a state have a right to our property to support itself before we do? Why in the hell do they have these big budgets to support in the first place? If we are having trouble paying our own bills, then forget about the state’s bills. Let it wither away! If I sound angry, it’s because I am.

Meanwhile, on a national scale, things are no better. We continue to throw money down the bottomless pits that are AIG and Citi. If what we are doing is not nationalization, then I don’t know what is. We are nationalizing everything: banks, insurance companies, automobile manufacturers and the housing market. We are burdening future generations with insolvent and bankrupt institutions that should have been allowed to go under months ago. I thought this was America, but alas, we have car czars (call it the Presidential Task Force on Autos, same thing) and urban czars too. Lenin is blushing in his grave right now.

Then we have this whole green issue. I largely ignore reading what environmentalists have to say because it generally enrages me. Being at Columbia, everywhere I go everything is green anyway. It’s not that I have anything against nature…I like clean air and clean parks just like everyone else. But this stuff is not about a clean world. This is about politics. Al Gore has made a fortune selling global warming to idiots across the world. Scientists have made their careers off of pandering about this stuff. But the bottom line is, as I understand it, there is no consensus at all as to whether or not what we do on Earth even makes so much as a dent in the overall climate patterns that occur over thousands of years.

Even if we did, how could anyone honestly feel that their livelihood should be sacrificed to nature. If people want to reduce themselves to foraging for berries then they can go right ahead, but they should bear in mind that they wouldn’t be able to survive without that food taken from nature. I for one will continue eating what I want, driving cars, using my computer, television, lights and paper because I want to live my life. It is not the government’s job to tell me what I can and can’t consume.

If we followed this kind of philosophy from the start, we would still be cavemen. There would have been no Industrial Revolution. A million of the things that we take for granted today would have never come to be. If we didn’t use the fruits of nature, we would not be able to live. But I suppose the Democrats might prefer this.

Their cap-and-trade bill looks to me like Smoot-Hawley’s little grandson in terms of its disastrous implications and terrible timing. For a little taste of what we might be looking at, listen to what Obama himself had to say about it: “You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know — Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.” But forget about specifics. What this represents is a commitment to the environment over the people. It seems like a great idea to me to raise the price of all types of energies, while putting hundreds if not thousands of people out of business by imposing these costs on our economy in the midst of a depression.

There is also talk of funding roads with a tax based on how many miles we drive. The government would be able to implant some kind of chip in our cars to keep tabs on us. I mean is there any way possible that this could be considered Constitutional? What justification is there for this based upon the limited powers we are supposed to grant our government? This stuff is sickening. They are literally looking to make robbery legal.

More sickening are Gordon Brown’s musings on a “global New Deal,” led largely by President Obama and himself. This sounds like another brilliant idea — what better way to shepherd in socialism then to subject everyone in the civilized world to it. What is so ironic about it all is that Brown calls for a world “where we defeat not only global terrorism but global poverty, hunger and disease.” Yet socializing one’s nation creates these very things. It brings civil unrest and leads to poverty, hunger and disease for the masses. This also factors into the discussion of having a world government. We see the problems that have befallen the EU now that some states aren’t quite carrying their weight, yet with the world putting their blind faith in Barack Obama, there is more and more talk of global solutions to problems, and perhaps even a global regime. When all the paper currencies collapse, I won’t be too surprised if at the least we move to a global currency, so we can all enjoy the hyperinflation together.

It is dizzying how fast this is all unfolding before us. Dizzying and also sobering. I for one do not want to live in a world in which I have to pay for someone else’s mistakes. I don’t want to live in a world in which the government has a claim on my property before I do. I don’t want to live in a world in which the government determines that the environment takes precedence over my life. I don’t want to live in a world in which free speech is protected, yet I have to be afraid that everything I say is “politically correct.” Most of all, I don’t want to live in a world in which the rights of the smallest and most important minority, THE INDIVIDUAL, are sacrificed to the mob for the public good.

One of the reasons I look to Rousseau in all of this is that his love of the state of nature is reflected in the socialism of the day. Rousseau said of leaving the state of nature that “most of our ills are of our own making…we could have avoided nearly all of them by preserving the simple, regular and solitary lifestyle prescribed to us by nature.” Of imagination he says, “Imagination, which wreaks so much havoc among us, does not speak to savage hearts.” Rousseau marvels at the barbarian whose, “desires do not go beyond his physical needs. The only goods he knows in the universe are nourishment, a woman and rest; the only evils he fears are pain and hunger.” Of private property he said, “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” Clearly ’tis better to be a savage than a civilized human being.

This is the philosophy that is waging its war on whatever shreds of Lockeanism are left in this once great place. We need to fight this. People should be in the streets rioting over the ridiculous usurpations of power that the state is making right now, yet most seem to go on with their lives in many ways completely unaffected and ignorant of the terrors surrounding them.

But these ignorantly blissful folk are getting the government they deserve to be sure. This is the ultimate result of a democracy in which every man seeks to gain at the sake of every other man through the instrument of legal plunder that is the state.

Turning back to Rand, she said that “It only stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.” Barack Obama is the man collecting the sacrificial offerings and being served. I don’t want to sacrifice my life to him though. Deep down, I don’t think most Americans desire to either. But if the people do not awake shortly, they may find that one day soon they may not recognize the land they once called home, nor will they much appreciate the masters of the house.

Twenty Greatest Mets Follies

January 16, 2009 4 comments


Given that the world is collapsing politically, socially and economically before my very eyes (and outside of the Bank of America debacle and the Gaza war which I am temporarily holding off on writing about, there isn’t all that much other exciting stuff going on), yesterday I turned my thoughts to the back fields of Port St. Lucie, Florida, where pitchers and catchers are due to report for the New York Metropolitans in less than 30 days. While I assumed this might be a bright spot in an otherwise dark world, upon further review I realized that the Mets’ recent history (and actually their entire history) has been just as depressing as that of modern-day America. Thus, in my venting, without further ado I present to you the twenty greatest follies (from present to past) of the New York Mets; follies that put even the US government to shame:

1. The new Citi Field inaugural season patch getting lambasted by everyone from ESPN to the NYT (Stephen Colbert too!)

2.The fact that Citi Field is already rusting (thank you unions)

3. The fact that the Mets chose Citi as their sponsor in the first place

4. The fact that of all teams, only the Mets lost money to Madoff

5. The handling of the firing of Willie Randolph (they actually made us feel bad for him…sort of)

6. Calling yourselves the “team to beat” (Beltran said this no less), only to lose the division to the Phillies…again…they won the World Series too

7. Blowing leads of 7 and 3.5 games with 17 games to play during the last two Septembers, while being officially eliminated (at home) with losses to the Marlins on the last day of the season both times

8. Our entire bullpen last year (throw in Guillermo Mota there too even though that was 2007)

And this is just IN THE LAST TWO YEARS mind you. Lest we forget about:

9. Trading for Roberto Alomar and Mo Vaughn (note Mo’s Carnegie Deli sandwich)

10. Jeromy Burnitz circa 2002

11. The Arod “24-plus-one” mishap (for better or worse)

12. The whole Mike Piazza gay thing

13. Bobby Bonilla circa 1999 (read the comments); also, note that from 2011-2035 we will be paying him approximately $1.2 million a year; thanks again for that present, Steve

14. Generation K

15. Jeromy Burnitz circa 1993

16. The “Worst Team Money Could Buy” of 1992…oh and Bobby Bonilla circa this same year

17. The incredible waste of talent of the 1980s Mets, in addition to their 1986 “Let’s Go Mets!” music video

18. The entire decade of the 1970s (1973 excluded); this isn’t just about the Mets, I mean everything about the decade in general (especially this)

19. Every single overhyped prospect, including, but not limited to: Billy Beane (he should have been our GM, not our player), Gregg Jefferies, Alex Ochoa, Alex Escobar, Fernando Martinez (rushing to judgment here, but do you really have faith that he is going to be a star) and the aforementioned Generation K (outside of Izzy to an extent), not to mention all of the guys they missed out on

20. Last but not least, trading away: Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, David Cone, Scott Kazmir (for Victor Zambrano…wrong Zambrano guys), Mike Scott (who then almost singlehandedly cost the Mets the ’86 pennant), Lenny Dykstra, Jeff Kent and somewhat less painfully, Melvin Mora

I leave out the 1960s because that wouldn’t be fair, though the ’62 Mets (aka the worst team ever) further add to the franchise’s lore. I also exclude Shea Stadium (may it rest in peace) because I grew up there. Oh yea, and as for Armando Benitez (I’ll give Mel Rojas a break), much as I hate him, he got on my good side last time I saw him pitch.

Now with all that being said, imagine being a die hard Mets fan and a liberty-loving, staunch free-marketeer these days…welcome to my world. Still, I am reminded of the late great Met, Tug McGraw, who said, “I never smoked AstroTurf,” er…rather, “Ya gotta believe.” Hope always springs eternal in the lush, rolling meadows, of a little place I like to call Flushing.