Ep. 77 – Is the Opioid Crisis A Government Created Plot?

President Trump recently declared the opioid epidemic a ‘public health emergency’ in the United States. While this focused national attention on America’s deadly drug addiction, the opioid crisis hasn’t spiraled out of control because of a lack of government intervention. It’s spiraled out of control largely BECAUSE OF GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION. Bad government policy like the war on drugs has lead to the creation of illegal black markets where the deadly narcotic drug fentanyl is being laced into the drug supply at an increasing rate. Drug addicted users who believe they’re buying painkillers, cocaine, heroin, or other opiates, are actually getting heroin laced with fentanyl, cocaine spliced with fentanyl, or fentanyl death pills (pain killers disguised to look like Oxycotin, Percocet or Xanax, but are actually made with fentanyl). The results of the dangerous drug combination has been deadly, In the past three years, the fentanyl death toll has risen by 540%.
If that’s not bad enough, government rehab programs offered through medicaid enables drug users to live a drug addicted lifestyle free of charge. Medicaid takes care of the bill. Not only will they provide free methadone, enabling users to substitute one dangerous addiction for another, in some states Medicaid will pay for the cab ride over to the methadone clinic. And if that’s not enough, in some cases, Medicaid gives known drug addicts a free card loaded with unlimited government funds and will even transfer the funds directly into the users bank account. This makes it easy for those suffering from heroin addiction or opiate addiction to fund their lifestyle without any income.
If the powers that be wanted to win the war on drugs they wouldn’t be talking about creating more poisonous policy, they’d be getting rid of bad policy that nurtures this opioid epidemic. But solving the drug problem would threaten the power and profits of those who thrive of off keeping Americans down, which makes you wonder if this opioid crisis we’re facing is not accident. With the problem spiraling out of control, it’s time that we seriously ask, is the opioid epidemic a government engineered crisis?
[amazon_link asins=’0970312598,193543926X,0806114576,0805067892′ template=’ProductGrid’ store=’propagandarep-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e2e4be9f-c939-11e7-bcb5-917b258298f3′]On today’s episode of the Propaganda Report podcast, we explore that question, talk about how those in power exploit America’s drug problem for their own benefit, look at the problem through a libertarian lens, and we take calls from those who are currently struggling to overcome addiction, those who have lost loved ones to drug overdose, and those whose stories of survival remind us that even in the darkest of times, nothing is more powerful than hope.
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Propaganda Report Mini: Republicans Caught the Squirrel-Now What?

Another propaganda tidbit from today’s paper…
Not only do we have the richest society in human history, we also have the most advanced technology and enjoy the fruits of what remains of the labor of the 125 billion people who came before us on this earth. In other words, there is no reason for us to spend wealth saved from the past or borrow wealth from future generations. Total US government spending will approach $7 trillion in 2017 of a roughly $19 trillion gross domestic product. Our governments absorb, confiscate, redistribute, spend, squander, burn, etc., nearly 37% of all that is produced in this country. Yet Republicans can’t seem to figure out how to stop the bleeding and now that their false promises are being exposed, they’ll be left holding the bag. My guess – they let the squirrel go and before long return to their preferred no-accountability status as the minority party. #LoseOnPurpose
Congressional Republicans Face Ideological Rifts Over Spending Bills
To avoid government shutdown, GOP needs support from Democrats and from within the party; ‘no real simple solution’

…Some lawmakers say that with Republicans now in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, there is less reason to look at easing the spending limits, as lawmakers did under previous deals because of a more divided political environment.

This reminds me of Monica’s First Law of Democracy, or the Contrary Law of Democracy: whatever party you voted in will do the opposite of what they stand for because the real reason they are there is to keep you quiet!

“My concerns with the past years is that, in a bipartisan fashion, we’re kicking the can down the road and adding to the debt,” said Rep. Dave Brat (R., Va.) “When you win the House and the Senate and the White House and you’re the small-government party…if we do more status quo, the same old thing after winning, we’re going to lose our brand in rapid order.”

They are much better being the minority party who can sell their votes to the highest bidders just like everyone else while convincing small government constituents that someone is in DC fighting the good fight in order to make sure no one actually does!

Still, Democrats do retain some leverage in the complex process. A budget resolution can pass both chambers with just a simple majority, as well as certain legislation tied to it. That is the process Republicans hope to use to pass partisan overhauls of the health-care system and tax code. But the spending bills that actually fund the government require 60 votes in the Senate and the Republicans hold only 52 of the chamber’s 100 seats….

Trump is working hard to reduce this to a simple majority, which would undermine a fundamental distinction between European and American-style government: minority power. Undermining minority power will come back to bite the GOP (not that they care) if in fact they are destined to return to their natural position as the also-rans. #WTWOF

Republicans “ought to take an honest look at where we are in some areas,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.). Under the current limits, some government programs “are likely to be cut to unacceptable levels,” he said.
Some Republicans, especially those focused on the military, have been among the most vocal champions of raising spending above the current limits, which they say have impinged on the country’s military readiness.

So the welfare-warfare superstructure marches on and debt continues to explode. Permit me please to pose this simple question: If our obscenely wealthy society can’t make ends meet, what society do we have the audacity to burden with an imperative for surplus? Hint: They’ll be running in from school in just a minute. #TaxationIsTheft #GovernmentDebtIsTaxationWithoutRepresentation

401ks, Baby Boomers & "Privatizing" Social Security

mousetrap-dumb-money-imageThis is a follow-on to my recent post on Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s handler-apparent.
The Champions of the 401(k) Lament the Revolution They Started
The dominant vehicle for retirement savings has fallen short of its early backers’ rosy expectations; longer life spans, high fees and stock-market declines

Ms. Ghilarducci wants to ditch the 401(k) altogether. She and Blackstone Group President Tony James are recommending a mandated, government-run savings system that would be administered by the Social Security Administration and managed by investment professionals. While both are Democrats, they believe their solution has bipartisan appeal.
“There are a lot of governors and mayors who are Republicans, and the first wave of the crisis will affect states and cities,” Ms. Ghilarducci says.
She says she has already reached out to President-elect Donald Trump’s advisers to float the plan.

You might think that as a libertarian, I would be for anything with the word “private” in it, but I am actually staunchly opposed to government-mandated spending directed into private coffers. This is the essence of cronyism, is tantamount to fascism and is referred to lovingly by the late Irving Kristol as “the conservative welfare state:”

The basic principle behind a conservative welfare state ought to be a simple one: Wherever possible, people should be allowed to keep their own money—rather than having it transferred (via taxes) to the state—on condition that they put it to certain defined uses.

Unfortunately, the conservative welfare state creates hyperinflation and mispricing in targeted industries and directs individual decisions in a direction they would not go in a free market, which per force reduces that individual’s utility. In addition, the providers of these government-mandated services are often highly-regulated and exploit legislated barriers to entry to keep competitors out of the industry giving them the room to make out-sized profits and deliver inferior returns driven down by artificially high demand and reduced competition.  In my opinion, this approach should be avoided at all costs in all industries, and particularly in retirement planning as it might be doubling down on what was possibly a trap from the beginning to convert middle class pensioners into the dumb money when 401ks replaced defined-benefit plans the country over.
Before the 401k revolution, pension funds made up 44% of the market, if I recall correctly. The little guy with a pension was represented by the smart money and was insulated from much of the risk of the market. Once the government made regulatory changes that made defined-benefit pension plans too costly to maintain in many cases at the same time they introduced 401ks, the little guy’s savings was retirement money was shifted from professionally-managed, guaranteed-return investments to being the “dumb money” in the market. Not only did he not have defined benefits but he bore the brunt of market risk and as an amateur couldn’t even assess it properly for the most part–these are the guys who sell at the bottom and buy at the top, or at least that might have been the intended consequences.
This new plan to send social security down the same path also looks like a trap cooked up by the investment industry to shore up their investor base just as the first Baby Boomers are forced en masse to liquidate their 401ks.
Pulling Retirement Cash, but Not by Choice
Baby boomers’ mandatory withdrawals from 401(k)s, IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement accounts start in full force this year, touching off a massive shift of cash

The largest generation in U.S. history has to start pulling its retirement money this year, kicking off a mandatory movement of cash that could total hundreds of billions in the coming decades.
U.S. law generally requires anyone age 70½ or older to begin annual withdrawals from their tax-sheltered retirement accounts and pay taxes on those distributions.
The oldest of the nation’s 75 million baby boomers cross that threshold for the first time this month, according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate of when that demographic group began.
The obligatory outflows from 401(k)s and IRAs are expected to ripple through the U.S. economy, stock market and a money-management industry that relies heavily on fees from boomers’ tax-sheltered savings plans and assets.

I have read that Bismarck invented the welfare state in the wake of the Industrial Revolution: People were finally able to take care of themselves and did not need the paternalistic protection of the Kaiser so he taxed them until they did and doled it back to them piecemeal so they would keep coming back.
What’s the solution to underfunded Social Security and too little retirement savings? Let the free market decide. Let companies decide how they want to offer incentives for high-quality loyal employees and let individuals decide how they want to plan for the future. Also, let interest rates be determined by the free market so individuals can earn some risk free return for long-term savings. If you think this free market approach would be worse than we have now, think again. The consequences of poor planning will scare society straight in short order, and even if some people fall through the cracks and have to go on welfare in old age it certainly won’t be worse–as it is we basically force the entire population into that position by taking everyone’s money during their working years and squandering it instead of investing it!
Update (1/20/17): Here’s a relevant quote I read in a recent WSJ article:

Some of the better presidents used the inaugural to make courageous stands. Rutherford B. Hayes proposed a constitutional amendment limiting the chief executive to a single six-year term. John F. Kennedy and Grover Cleveland urged self-reliance. “The lessons of paternalism,” Cleveland said in 1893, “ought to be unlearned and the better lesson taught that while the people should patriotically and cheerfully support their Government, its functions do not include the support of the people.”


Meet the New Valerie Jarrett

scaramucci_romney_spacey_bush_twitter_328.jpegIn Davos, Anthony Scaramucci Translates Trump Message to Global Elite
Financier-turned-Trump adviser seeks to soothe nerves about the president-elect at the World Economic Forum; ‘one of the last great hopes for globalism’

“This is my 10th year here, but my first year here with a food taster,” Mr. Scaramucci quipped at the beginning of a conference session Tuesday afternoon nominally on the “Outlook for the United States” but really about President-elect Trump—and a little bit about Anthony Scaramucci….
Mr. Scaramucci depicted the system of global trade, whose apostles and architects compose the core of the Davos audience, as in need of repair. President-elect Trump “could be one of the last great hopes for globalism,” he said….
“If you guys get a little bit upset about the tweeting or some of the things that he’s saying, I want to put your mind at ease,” he said. “Directionally, this is a super-compassionate man.”
“He’s not necessarily communicating in a way that the people in this community would love,” Mr. Scaramucci said, “but he is communicating very, very effectively to a very large group of the population in Europe and in the United States that are feeling a common struggle right now that maybe many of us here in this room do not feel.”
Mr. Scaramucci gave a capsule history of European civilization, from Solon to Charlemagne to von Metternich, and suggested that Mr. Trump was following a similar path to the ancient Athenian statesman. “What did Solon make a decision to do? He empowered the lower classes,” Mr. Scaramucci said.

Let me get this straight…Trump-the-Populist, Trump-the-Nationalist, Trump-the-Anti-Globalist’s guy is a member of the World Economic Forum and has been to Davos TEN YEARS IN A ROW???!!!  In case you are not acquainted with “Davos Man,” read this:
Davos 2017: Aristocrats Face the Pitchforks
The disconnect between the Davos community—among the principal beneficiaries of globalization— and the rest of the world is striking

If the highly integrated, early 21st-century global economy had an aristocracy, it would be roughly the group of people who gather this week in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.
There, the heads of governments, central bankers, chief executives of major banks and global corporations, leading academics, the gorgeous media and entertainment stars, meet each January to survey the global landscape they have constructed and ruled to discuss how to improve it.

In addition to the cognitive dissonance of this guy being that guy, I also thought the words Scaramucci was using to talk about Trump sounded like code–“you might not like the way he talks, but trust me it’s genius,” or worse, “don’t worry, he’s one of us.”
So I wondered who this guy “The Mooch” was, especially since he will have the title held by Valerie Jarrett, widely considered to be Obama’s globalist handler in the White House, Director of the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs. Could this guy be Trump‘s globalist handler?
Scaramucci went to Harvard Law School and even played basketball with President Obama, he used to be an Obama supporter, and he even got some notoriety having a little tête-à-tête with Obama for our amusement. (I’m quoting the account of the incident here in case it disappears.)
Watch A Hedge Fund Manager And Obama Go From Laughing To Arguing

Obama: Great to see you.
Scaramucci: Actually I went to law school with you back in the day.
Obama: You’ve done very well! Congratulations, that’s great.
(Laughter in the audience)
Scaramucci: And if I fouled you on the hoop court – it wasn’t intentional.
Obama: I remember that!
Scaramucci: You would remember if I fouled you – I’ve got a low center of gravity

Around the time of this exchange, he paid Bill Clinton $175,000 to speak at a business event, but soon after that Scaramucci served as a National Finance Co-Chair for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. Given all these heady credentials, I was surprised to read evidence of low horse-power (kinda reminded me of Jared Kushner) as Scaramucci failed the bar and got a notoriously low score on the Series 7 (a no-brainer exam–trust me, I took it myself). He was hired then fired then re-hired by Goldman Sachs. (How did he get re-hired after turfing it out of the box? It’s a “hilarious story” no one’s really telling.) And finally….wait for it…he’s a card-carrying member of the CFR, the Council of Foreign Relations, “The Mothership” where we find out what we should be doing and how to think about the world according to Secretary of State Clinton.
And how ’bout this? I have witnessed first hand influencing-peddling that really looks a lot like this. We shall see if it amounts to anything.
Trump Aide Sells China an Entree to Wall Street Hedge Funds
In buying Anthony Scaramucci’s SkyBridge Capital stake, China’s HNA takes an important step in building a global asset-management business

Anthony Scaramucci, a loyal Trump surrogate known as “The Mooch,” is selling his controlling stake in SkyBridge Capital—which manages roughly $12 billion—to Chinese conglomerate HNA Group and investment partner RON Transatlantic EG in a deal that values SkyBridge at around $200 million, according to people familiar with the situation.

Even if HNA gave Mooch more than SkyBridge was worth (I don’t know if they did, but that’s how it would be if they were buying influence), the deal would work out for them if a massive change in government policy funneled Social Security money into hedge funds, which is a very real possibility, especially if the new president is on-board.
For more on what might be on deck for 401ks, read my recent post here.
Wonder if this guy will bear any resemblance to the original? I sometimes wonder what’s in a name what with Donald Trump playing the trump card, Shepherd Smith shepherding the sheeple and Anthony Weiner–well, you get the idea…

At Last! The "Conservative Welfare State" We Always Wanted!

When I tell people about the father of the modern GOP, Irving Kristol’s book, Neo-Conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, about his successful efforts over the years to transform the Republican party into a “truly political party” that did not worry so much about balancing the budget as controlling it, they are often shocked. But it’s true and he lays it all out in his book (which I summarize here.)
Well friends, as the “conservative” Heritage Foundation first envisioned, and Republican Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney first implemented, President-elect Trump’s choice for Health and Human Services, Tom Price, is ready to bring home the crown jewel of the “conservative welfare state” laid out with crystal clarity by Irving himself:

The basic principle behind a conservative welfare state ought to be a simple one: Wherever possible, people should be allowed to keep their own money—rather than having it transferred (via taxes) to the state—on condition that they put it to certain defined uses.

My whole review of Kristol’s plan is a must-read, but the above passage is on point for today’s reveal. The Wall Street Journal today reported that Donald Trump put up Georgia Congressman Tom Price to head the Department of Human Services. I found this an interesting choice because if he actually effects an end to federal funding of abortion, as he says he wants, I will be amazed. The Malthusian overpopulation theory is the cornerstone of the globalist justification for a world government and I don’t see that concept losing ground anytime soon, especially given the massive funding increase coming down the pipe for all that and more, which Price would oversee.
As I read more, however, I saw immediately that Price (and perhaps Trump himself) are here to finally implement the vaunted “conservative welfare state.” Compare the above quote with this one from Price:

Mr. Price has championed his own legislation, the Empowering Patients First Act, since 2009, taking a position on a number of hot-button issues for conservative health policy thinkers. In its latest iteration, the proposal includes refundable, age-adjusted tax credits for people to buy insurance if they don’t have access to coverage through an employer or government program. People in a government program, such as Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare, would also be allowed to opt out of it and get tax credits toward the cost of private coverage instead.

This is my whole problem with “repeal and replace” rather than “repeal” – it serves the neoconservative big government agenda all too well. Mandate social spending, just force the taxpayers to do it and make sure it funnels through your cronies‘ coffers. Nice.
It’s an insidious trap for libertarians to embrace “privatized” government programs. If government requires taxpayers to spend money a certain way or if government itself is the only customer, it’s a government program that now folds in profits and privileges bestowed to private cronies–it is not free market.

More from Kristol:

If the Republican party were capable of thinking politically–i.e., thinking in terms of shaping the future–it would realize that its first priority is to shape the budget, not to balance it. Then it could go to the electorate with the proper political questions: How do you want the budget balanced? By more taxes for more governmental services? Or by lower taxes, lower governmental expenditures and incentives for the citizen to provide for his own welfare.

The conservative welfare state may be the flipside of President Peace Prize’s humanitarian wars, or like a caller once said to me, “The Democrats will never get our guns. It’ll take a Republican to do that.” The parties are best at giving their constituents the opposite of what they want because only they can keep the rabble on their side quiet.
All this time I had been worried about Killary silencing the anti-war left in service of the Endless War, but what I should have been worried about was a President Trump getting right-cover for even Bigger Government and paradigm-shifting debt. As yesterday’s Journal foretold–it’ll take a Republican to lead us into the coming debt-to-GDP no-man’s land:

Republican lawmakers may stomach larger deficits from a Republican president, but signs of tension are emerging as President-elect Donald Trump looks poised to stand by promises to slash taxes while spending more on big-ticket items, such as infrastructure and the military.

Bank stocks are already rallying at the prospect of ever-increasing national debt and rising interest rates…funny how it always ends up that way.

Our Tax Dollars Destroying Jobs

131212130959-incredible-bionic-man-horizontal-large-galleryThe Wall Street Journal today ran a story about gigantic touchscreens appearing in hundreds of McDonald’s in California, New York and Florida. The article was about the technology and the implication, of course, is that we free marketers should rejoice in progress even at the expense of jobs. My problem with this assumption is that much of today’s job-replacing technology is not a result of free market forces. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not a bleeding-heart Elizabeth Warren-type when it comes to jobs (or when it comes to anything!), but I don’t want government action resulting in unemployment, which in itself is a terrible injustice to the eager-but-idle laborer, and more selfishly, I don’t want to increase government dependency at the expense of the taxpayer and to the detriment of a responsible populace capable of self-governance.
As a free marketer, I object to government expenditure on technology from the Department of Defense fostering driverless vehicles to research grants at universities subsidizing corporate R&D. I object not only because redistributing wealth in this way is stealing (Taxation is Theft!), but also because this practice accelerates the adoption of technology at the expense of available labor.
Private enterprise develops and employs new technology in direct response to the availability of labor, which is reflected in the cost of labor. If the cost of labor rises to the point where new technology is cost effective, the technology gets developed and employed and labor goes to its next best use. I am all for that. The process is continuous and organic and results in the constant redeployment of resources in response to the gorgeous efficiency of the pricing mechanism.
To the extent government-subsidized technology contributes to driverless technology or touchscreens* and results in a premature and systemic loss of jobs, it is a travesty in that we taxpayers are funding our own unemployment and dependency.
At the same time, the government’s attack on the price mechanism in wages is giving the corporate sector moral cover for adopting these technologies. The threat and reality of exorbitant minimum wages overall and especially in the restaurant industry is driving these shifts from labor to technology across industries–who can blame the long-suffering industrialist for responding to impossible labor laws? Some have even claimed that corrupt labor unions have also contributed to this phenomenon in decades past by intentionally conspiring to justify the flight of manufacturing oversees or adoption of labor-eliminating technology by pushing for industry-destroying wages and benefits.
As a proponent of free markets and limited government, I always strive to identify the government policies behind so-called market failures or other social ills. The phenomenon of automating jobs in the presence of low work-force participation rates is a case in point.
Here’s the article in today’s paper that brought this to my attention:
Long a Novelty, Gigantic Tablets Are Sneaking Into the Workplace
These devices create new ways for people to collaborate, whether in the office, a McDonald’s restaurant or on a cruise ship
* A quick investigation into the advent of touchscreens reveal they were invented at CERN and the Royal Radar Establishment, both government institutions, and by George Hurst who had a long history of working at government-funded institutions.