Sunday, November 2, 2008

39 - Answer(s)

[Editor's Note: Due to the time sensitivity of one of the questions Tim is going to forgo a full suite of answers this week. He has promised me that he'll get to the other two soon. I'm not sure I believe him, but there's not much I can do other than threaten to break his thumbs. And since he needs those to answer questions I don't think that would be too effective an incentive.]

Q: Karyn Graves - Say a person doesn't particularly care for government run social programs, but really hates to see greedy execs getting away with handing out bad mortgages and then being 'laid off' with millions in severance. Which way should that person vote? Maybe you want to know which is more important? Let's say that having/keeping jobs that provide an income that is not exceeded by necessary expenses for the family is priority #1.
A: This answer is going to hit on a lot of topics. I don't have time to really plan out an answer properly, and as a result this may end up being a total mess. I'm going to just shoot from the hip, and hopefully by the end of it I'll have some coherent advice. I don't guarantee it, but I'll try.

Let's start off with "greedy execs" and "millions in severance". When I hear people talking about executive pay and generous severance packages, I cringe. Yes, it's fashionable to point out that executives are making more money than they probably deserve. But here's the way I look at it: why is it any of my business how much money a corporation chooses to pay its executives? Who am I to decide what an executive deserves to make? That's up to the corporation. If a corporation wants to overpay for talent then that's their decision. If they screw up, it's up to the board of directors and shareholders to correct the situation, not the government.

Here's something to think about: If the government is allowed to dictate executive pay, what's stopping them from dictating how much money that you or I can make? What if some day it's decided that I make too much money as an engineer, that it would be more fair if that money went somewhere else? Or that doctors make too much money? I don't think that the government should be in the business of deciding what's fair and what's not.

But the gist of that part of your question concerns the mortgage situation that was created when mortgage companies were pressured to give loans to people who couldn't afford them. Who pressured these companies? Congress, specifically members of the Democrat party such as Barney Frank and Barbara Boxer. The rationale given was that everyone should have a shot at the American Dream of owning a home. That's a wonderful sentiment, but not everyone can afford a house. But that didn't stop the pressure, so mortgage companies relaxed the rules governing how loans are given out. This resulted in such bizarre things as no-money-down mortages, and even interest only mortgages.

The end result was that more people became homeowners. Fine. But these people couldn't afford the mortgages unless the value in the homes increased. And it didn't. So people began to default on their loans, and banks began to go out of business. And then the government stepped in and bailed out those banks by putting liquidity back into the market. Time will tell whether this was a bright idea (I don't think so, but I'm not in charge).

The qualifier that you put in about jobs was interestingly put. If you're interested in "having/keeping jobs", then I would suggest that you join a union and then support the Democrat party. Unions are good for job security. Once you've got a union job it's harder to get fired, and you've got a strong position from which to negotiate future benefit increases.

That doesn't help the person who doesn't have a job, however. My personal belief is that more jobs should be created. To do that you need to incentivize business owners to hire more people. That can be done in many ways, but in my opinion the best way is for government to get out of the way. What do I mean? I mean that taxes on corporations and businesses should be lowered. Drastically. Lower taxes mean lower costs of doing business, which frees up money for the business to expand, and thus hire more people.

Here's something for you to consider: businesses and corporations do not pay taxes. Now, before people call me crazy let me walk you through what I mean by this. A business exists to provide a good or service to a consumer. The business will charge a price for that good or service. That price contains in it the cost of producing the good or service, as well as a certain amount of profit. Part of the cost of producing the good or service are the taxes that are levied on that business. Thus, the business actually does not pay taxes. The consumer pays the taxes. So when I hear people talking about taxing those big greedy rich corporations, I shake my head in frustration because they're really talking about increasing the costs of the goods and services provided by those corporations.

OK, after all that rambling, what's the answer? How should you vote? Basically speaking, if you do not want big government programs then you should vote for the candidate who supports conservative economic values, regardless of party. You should vote against people who thought that giving mortgages to people who couldn't afford them was a good idea, and for people who believe in personal responsibility.

But that's just my opinion on the matter. Your opinion is the one that counts, since it's your vote. I hope I've been of a little help here in clarifying things. Happy voting on Tuesday, everyone!