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Lawson and Price debate

October 9, 2010 Leave a comment

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The Worst-Case Scenario had its second three-man mission last night. David Westbrook, David Hilburger, and I traveled to the Durham Transit Station in downtown Durham, NC to cover the debate between Democratic Congressman David Price of NC’s 4th district and his Republican challenger Dr. B.J. Lawson. The debate was hosted by the Independent Weekly, who organized the event carefully and ran it fairly. David Westbrook was able to film the entire debate and upload the video in four segments. I asked a question in the fourth video beginning at 0:50, which neither of the candidates was willing or able to directly, concisely, and completely answer. Over-all, though, the consensus is that the night was a smashing success for BJ, at least among the crowd of overwhelmingly Tea Party and FairTax supporters.

The four videos are embedded below along with the list of questions asked in each video and the time at which the questions are asked.

4:02 Price Opening Statement
6:08 Lawson Opening Statement

8:36 Question 1: “America has for over a decade, spent more per capita on healthcare intervention than any nation in the world yet has miserable comparative health outcomes, longevity, and quality of life scores. What impact will this years healthcare reform legislation have on this fundamental disparity, and what more if anything do we need to do as a nation to address gaps in coverage, availability, and outcomes?”

12:46 Question 2: “If you are elected during your term, America will likely enter its second decade of war in Afghanistan. Do you believe our nation and our current administration is on the right track or on the wrong track relative to the war, and what leadership would you bring as our US representative on this matter?”

Question 2 is continued in part 2.

2:25 Question 3: “As our nation tries to emerge from the deepest economic downturn since the great depression, what should the federal government do through spending incentives, and or tax policies to induce job creation, and to encourage a return to normalcy and growth, and has the additional national debt from the stimulus package been an appropriate price, or too high a price according to the results you have seen?”

6:59 Question 4: “More than 70% of the governments 30 billion dollars in farm subsidies goes to the largest 10% of farm businesses. Would you support cutting or revising federal farm subsidies?”

10:49 Question 5: “The Triangle has been blessed, or cursed, with rapid growth. The projections show more than a million new residents of Durham, Wake, Orange, and surrounding counties in the coming decade. What is working in our federal transportation policy, and what needs to change? What do you see as the relative roles of and funding for highway and roads, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian systems in our transportation future?”

00:04 Question 6: “Immigration and citizenship have become a new battleground in American Politics and the culture wars. Some argue that residency and eventual citizenship should come through only currently legal channels. Others not that immigration quotas are far more restrictive than under historic norms. Please let us know your views on the key components of immigration reform.”

TOWN HALL QUESTIONS BEGIN AFTER QUESTION 6

5:08 Town Hall Question 1: “With entitlements representing 57% percent of the total federal budget, what would you do to reduce such entitlements or generate revenue to offset them?”

9:29 Town Hall Question 2: “I would like to know your thoughts on offshore oil drilling.”

12:33 Town Hall Question 3: “In lieu of the recent supreme court decision to treat corporations like a person and the flood of campaign ads paid with money that doesn’t come from individuals and doesn’t disclose where it comes from. Would you be in favor of a law that makes requirements for clarifying the donors for such ads and from where the money comes?”

00:51 Town Hall Question 4: “The chair of the joint chiefs of staff has said that the greatest threat to national security is not Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan, but the federal debt. By 2013 the interest alone will exceed the entire defense budget. 100 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities loom on the horizon for my generation over the next century. How will you, item by item, eliminate the 1.3 trillion dollar deficit that we had in 2010 to prevent federal default, troop defection, and severe social unrest in my future?”

5:44 Question 7: “Biotechnology is a major driver in the regions growth. One recent steady comparing six southern regions found that the triangle mustered 2031 university research dollars per regional worker. More than 75 times the equivalent figure for Charlotte and tops in the southeast. In 2005 the federal government spent less than 100 dollars per capita on NIH funding versus 1600 dollars on defense spending. Where do you stand on the desirability and appropriateness of today’s federal research investment?”

9:22 Closing Statements


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Candidates speak at Wake GOP kick-off rally

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

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More than a dozen Republican candidates and several hundred supporters gathered last night at Broughton High School on Saint Marys Street to prepare for the height of campaign season. Most candidates, like B.J. Lawson (of the 4th Congressional district), Renee Ellmers (2nd), and Bill Randall (13th) were rallying voters in anticipation of the mid-term elections on November 2nd. However, one special guest who did not speak but conversed with many activists and concerned citizens is former governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson. Mr. Johnson is, in his own words, “laying down the groundwork for a presidential run” in 2012.

After enjoying free sweet tea and ice cream, Republicans settled down to listen to featured speakers. Renee Ellmers discussed her strong personal appreciation for the grassroots support she and other Republican candidates have been receiving throughout 2010. She expressed great confidence in her supporters’ ability to oust the 14-year Democratic incumbent Bob “Who are you?” Etheridge in November.

Ron Paul-endorsed candidate B.J. Lawson chose to focus his time on opposing 14-year Democratic incumbent David Price and his plan for amnesty for illegal immigrants. Lawson excoriated what he considered to be dishonesty on the part of Price and amnesty activists in downtown Durham, whom he accused of purporting to discuss citizenship for immigrants and in fact simply playing party politics. Lawson decried the activists for speaking Spanish at a Durham rally the previous night and mocked Price for saying “Yes” to the promises of immigrants whose speeches he could not even understand. At the immigration rally, Price had claimed that he was not advocating amnesty while simultaneously declaring his intent to give citizenship to illegal immigrants. This prompted Lawson to release a video discussing the issue. Some Lawson supporters criticized him for the speech and video, and there has been talk among the more libertarian wing of his base about whether he may be allowing racial prejudices to dictate policy views.

Finally, Tea Party enthusiast and Congressional candidate Bill Randall cautioned against the GOP becoming over-confident. He explained how many districts of North Carolina have been carefully gerrymandered to favor Democrats for over a century, with some districts having more registered Democrats than Republicans, Libertarians, and independents combined. The best strategy for the GOP, he said, is to focus on key issues where government itself has failed in recent years, such as the continuing economic collapse, and avoid making a big deal out of polarizing issues which are not critical to the election.

Afterward, I had an opportunity to speak in person with Governor Johnson about his views and his upcoming presidential campaign. He explained to me that he would like to see all drugs legalized at the federal level, though he expects that he will only be able to legalize marijuana and “do damage control” on other drugs. Drug use, he said, is a “health issue, not a criminal issue.”

By his own account, he tried very hard (and totally unsuccessfully) to implement a pure voucher system for schooling in New Mexico. As he explained, private schools cost less than public schools to run, so he suggested giving a voucher for three-fourths the current cost of public schooling to stave off the argument that vouchers take money away from public schools. Then, he said, if every single student chose to take the vouchers, public schools would still have 25% of their budget. Thus they could afford to pay bureaucrats to sit in empty buildings for years and do nothing productive whatsoever, “just like the federal department of education.”

The former governor and I encountered a point of substantial disagreement regarding legislation in New Mexico that would have prevented smoking in restaurants. According to his account, he was initially totally against the idea of such legislation on free market principles, believing that customers were fully capable of making their own decisions about whether they wanted to eat in a smoking environment or not. However, he explained that as he mulled the issue over more, he realized that the employees of the restaurant would also be exposed to the smoke, and it might be significantly more difficult for them to quit their jobs than for customers to simply not go out to eat. Ultimately, he said, he remained conflicted on the issue, and never actually had to make the decision to sign such legislation, but still cited workplace safety as an example of a case where he was not ideologically a libertarian.

I countered him by noting that workplace safety can be taken to arbitrary extremes, as there is always a function that describes the value returned by investing in increased safety compared to the value of the initial investment. We could mandate a zero percent risk of contracting health problems associated with work, and then of course it would simply be illegal to work. Somewhere along that infinite spectrum from immediate death to everlasting life is a totally arbitrary cut-off point which the government deems acceptable. I cited my own personal experience working with IBM. As I said to the former governor, “There’s a person whose job it is to take out my trash. I wish they didn’t do that. I wish I would take out my own trash and get a bigger paycheck.”

Mr. Johnson agreed with me that there is not a clear, objective reason for declaring a certain level of workplace safety appropriate, and furthermore displayed a real understanding of economics by agreeing that workplace safety regulations do, in fact, cut into workers’ paychecks. Nevertheless, he still said that he was divided on the issue of smoking bans.


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Congressional Candidate BJ Lawson is a master of economics, fears censorship of the internet.

July 19, 2010 8 comments

I got a chance to interview BJ Lawson again at the Carrboro Famers’ Market on Tomato Day. He was there to talk to consumers about the value of consuming organic produce instead of industrial and processed foods whose only assurance of “safety” is the FDA. Thanks to the Triangle Conservatives for informing me of this opportunity. I encourage all of you to check out their group for information regarding local politics, even if you don’t agree with their opinions.

Click to watch the video, or scroll down to read the transcript of the interview.

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JC: Do you think you can beat David Price in a policy debate? Can you, you know, show that you’re better than any opposing candidate on serious economic issues? Can you out-talk him? Do you know more economics than he does?

BJ: Well, I do think David Price is limited by what he’s allowed to say, frankly, and I think one of the frustrations most Americans have is that our government is lying to us and continues to lie to us. So … my offer to the voters: an honest conversation on the issues that are affecting us. So for example in economics, it’s clear that we’re in a crisis that was caused by and is caused by too much debt, yet the only solution that Washington wants to give us involves more debt. You can’t cure an alcoholic with another drink, so just to even be honest about recognizing the cause of our economic problems and then talking about how we transition to a freer economy where we create wealth in our communities is a discussion we desperately need to be having. Mr. Price, unfortunately, is limited by what he’s allowed to say and what his Congressional leadership will let him say, so he’s gonna be in a tough position in a policy debate because he’s not allowed to be honest.

JC: All right, so you talk about debt, and I’ve heard you talk about before reducing government spending, so what I want to know is, you’re in a debate, and David Price says this: “All economists agree that it takes money to make money. Capital gets reinvested into new industries and ventures to generate more wealth and turn the world’s motor. However, during a recession, individuals and banks reduce spending, keeping their capital saved rather than invested and lent. While saving has personal prudence, it is macroeconomically unwise. The decreased consumer spending and bank investment causes factories to slow or shut down resulting in unemployment and rising prices. The government can utilize the multiplier effect by taxing income and savings to fund construction and production projects. These projects aren’t always managed perfectly, but they reinvest capital which would otherwise be stored and not producing output. There’s no advantage to having wealth that isn’t being employed, but funding projects generates new jobs and ensures a cyclic flow of wealth. Shouldn’t we build up our projects when capital lies dormant in a recession?”

BJ: Ah yes, the paradox of thrift. So, were David Price to quote the paradox of thrift by Keynes, we’d also have to remind him that Keynes’s other philosophy was, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” And what we’ve reached in our debt – in our economy – is a point of debt saturation where, effectively, if we try to have the government continue to take on more and more debt beyond our ability to service it, we’re compounding the problem. So, at a very real level, what we need is not more capital in government hands to be mal-invested and given out through crony-capitalism, but we need to get more capital that can be put to work in our local communities. That means freeing up the market to create our own jobs, our own businesses, and not relying on the government as a source of debt finance stimulus, which is simply tying more weights to our ankles and ultimately slowing us down.

JC: But what you’ve just given me is a whole bunch of fiscal policy that assumes completely constant monetary policy. You talk about the federal debt, and you ignore the fact that the Federal Reserve has the ability to reduce the real value of the federal debt by modifying the currency. Can’t we fund projects and modify the value of the currency? Yes, it will reduce the value of savings, and I recognize that that’s disadvantageous to the individual, but we are in a recession. There are disadvantages to the individual. Reducing the value of the currency would increase economic flow if combined with a good fiscal policy.

BJ: So here’s the problem with our monetary policy is that we’re reaching the mathematically constrained end-game for our faith-based currency. What we’ve got is a system of debt-based fiat money that, as you know, can be expanded at will by the Federal Reserve and given out through crony-capitalism, as we’ve all experienced. That system, however, is mathematically limited because, when you’ve got a system of money where your money itself is based upon debt, and new money coming into circulation comes with a burden of interest to pay it back, you need, over time, an exponentially-increasing amount of new money to service the existing debt.

JC: What you’re talking about is when the federal debt becomes so large that the real interest, disregarding what the Federal Reserve claims the interest is, the real interest on the federal debt exceeds the maximum power of taxation at the peak of the Laffer Curve. It becomes impossible even if government spending goes to zero to ever pay off the debt because the interest on the debt exceeds the power of taxation.

BJ: Exactly. And I don’t know if David Price understands that.

JC: Do you think we are at that point?

BJ: Well, we’re clearly at the point where we have tipped over into the diminishing marginal utility of debt, where more debt added into the economy is actually reducing our GDP instead of increasing it. That’s the beginning of the end-game. So until we’re willing to have an honest conversation about the reality of dealing with the crisis of too much debt, and the need to purge mal-investments, to get that back into the economy down to a sustainable level, all we’re gonna be doing is stimulating ourselves off a cliff.

JC: All right, you’ve convinced me on your fiscal policy. Then David Price comes back with a statement about monetary policy again. He says: “During a recession, many companies, especially small businesses, experience a reduction in profits. Because they are businesses, they must scale back their operations to compensate. Yet long-standing social custom coupled with union negotiation makes it almost impossible to reduce wages and hours. Thus the only way a company can scale back operations is through layoffs. In layoffs, not only are some individuals punished for lack of productivity out of proportion to their actual decrease in productivity, but there’s a decrease in specialization of labor, which results in higher prices for consumers. This reduces total economic output, creates an unemployment panic, and compounds the recession. But there is another way. The Federal Reserve can inflate the currency, lowering real wages without lowering nominal wages. The recession is still there, but there are fewer layoffs, the burden of lost productivity is shared instead of focused in certain individuals that didn’t necessarily actually have their productivity go to zero even though they became unemployed and their income went to zero, and there’s no unemployment panic. So shouldn’t the Federal Reserve combat sticky wages by loosening the money supply?”

BJ: Theoretically one might be able to make that argument, but again we’ve reached the point where that process no longer works. How can we lower-

JC: But did it work before? I mean- … it works in some cases?

BJ: ¬†Well, I mean it depends on your definition of “work”. If by “work” you mean, “Can we steal from savers and investors and encourage crony-capitalism that benefits the politically well-connected at the expense of everybody?” Yeah, you could argue that it works.

JC: But why does it benefit the politically well-connected at the expense of everybody if I take a real paycut, but everybody in my company stays employed, and a few individuals whose productivity only went down by ten percent don’t lose all their income?

BJ: Right, but people are on the treadmill of trying to compete to maintain a standard of living against a currency that’s declining in purchasing power. The crony-capitalism and the politically-connected gets into who has access to the first dollars off the printing press if you will, the electronic printing press. The people who have access to the money first when it’s created in an easy-money regime – they’re the ones that benefit, because they’re getting the first fruits of the harvest before prices go up. Unfortunately, though, as we’ve talked about, we’re at the point of debt saturation where we’re already seeing interest rates at zero percent. What is left? The Fed is out of bullets, and to say that we can continue to reduce interest rates or be any easier with easy money ignores the fact that there’s too much debt in the system. For every lender, there’s got to be a borrower, and there aren’t a whole lot of credit-worthy borrowers who are interested in levering up in the current environment. So we’re at the point where the tried-and-true forms of Keynesianism, so-called “Keynesianism”, are no longer effective when you reach the point of debt saturation.

JC: Okay, now the federal government is trying to control the internet. Are people like me the target of the federal government’s attempts to control the internet? Are they mad that I don’t have to buy big books to understand what’s happening in the world? And would you fight tooth-and-nail, not just – I don’t want to say, you know, “Vote ‘No’!” on the bill; you can vote ‘No’ on the bill; the bill’s gonna pass anyway. Would you talk to Ron Paul, and talk to Barney Frank if you have to, and stop the federal government from having any – any- regulatory control over the internet.

BJ: It’s a – that is a critical issue. Yes, I will, and you can get a pretty good picture as to how dangerous the current situation is when you consider that the Department of Homeland Security just this past month over the July 4th weekend put out a very short, like fifteen-day request for comment on a proposal for a policy to provide universal internet user identification. So you can see how the screws are going to be clamped down, and it isn’t even going to require additional acts of Congress to happen. The bureaucratic processes are already in motion to start clamping things down, and we need to fight it.

JC: Is it unconstitutional that the Department of Homeland Security even has the authority to make any kind of regulation? Shouldn’t Congress be in charge of all that?

BJ: Indeed, and you get to another important topic which I call the “Write the Laws!” act, where we look at Congress essentially delegating its Constitutional authority to write legislation to unelected bureaucrats and lobbyists. So you end up with regulatory capture and rules that are written by the politically connected with no legislative recourse for we the people, for us the people.

JC: Cool. Thank you.

BJ: Thanks for coming out.

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Worst-Case Scenario interviewed on immigration by NC Politicin at the 2010 Tax Day Rally in Raleigh

July 12, 2010 1 comment

It may not be quite correct to say that they ‘found’ me. I had never met them before. I was having a (somewhat heated) conversation with one Tea Partier about his claim that illegal immigrants were stealing from American citizens (not so – it is the government that is doing the stealing), when this big guy with a news media-sized camera walks up to me, sticks a microphone in my hand, and says, “Talk!” So I did, and once the camera was there, about five other guys decided it was their debate, too. Needless to say I was the only one representing the open borders argument.

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The Raleigh Tax Day Tea Party Rally in Five Minutes; One-on-One Interviews

May 20, 2010 4 comments

A summary video of the Tax Day rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, including one-on-one, issue-by-issue interviews with the 4th District Congressional candidates.