Saturday, February 25, 2006

Growth slows, gap widens

While the nation's economy zips along at a respectable 3.5% in 2005, personal economies are not doing as well:
After growing rapidly during the boom of the 1990s, the net worth of the typical American family rose only 1.5% after inflation between 2001 and 2004, the Federal Reserve said in an update of a survey it does once every three years.
GDP grew a hair over 2.1% during the same period. The change was not felt equally, however, as the wealth gap was augmented:
The net worth of the [family at the 90%] rose to $831,600, a 6.5% increase from 2001, adjusted for inflation. In contrast, the net worth of the typical family [at the 25%] fell 1.5% to $13,300.
This evidences further the prescience of Herrnstein and Murray, who argued that the new global economy will be one sorted by intelligence, where opportunities for the most endowed expand exponentially, while those with less cognitive firepower find themselves increasingly relegated to a penury existence.

Other recent economic news does not strike me as encouraging. Americans actually spent more than they made last year, and the poverty rate has been on the rise for half a decade. Much of the recent economic expansion has been driven by a surge in real estate prices (another factor in the widening of the wealth gap). The US trade deficit hit a record $726 billion in 2005. Warren Buffet is worried we're giving foreigners a stake in our country (government debt) for cheap consumables that allow us to keep the good times rolling today by selling away our future.

Here's an analogy that illustrates what's happening as my simple mind understands it. I make $30,000 a year working. I spend $40,000 a year buying consumables (stuff that doesn't represent a future monetary benefit). I've been doing this for five years. Fortunately, I own a house that was worth $100,000 five years ago. Every year over the last five its value has been increasing by $11,000. To feed my consumption habits, I've been taking out a home equity loan for $11,000 on an annual basis. Thus, my net worth has been up $1,000 ($30,000income-$40,000spent+$11,000equity) for five years running. But what happens if the value of my house crashes? Or just stops appreciating? My standard of living will have to be adjusted downward drastically. If not, I'll fall into debt and the whole miasma will be compounded by high interest rates. This is not a happy situation. Eventually something's going to give.

Immigration patterns do not help either. Total GDP is growing (recall 2.1% from 2001 to 2004) over 50% faster than the growth of GDP per capita (which grew less than 1.4% from 2001 to 2004). In other words, the economic output of the nation as a whole is increasing a lot faster than the economic output per American is. Much of the GDP growth over this period, then, does not translate into a better standard of living for the average resident.

To grasp this concept, consider what would happen if the US gobbled up Mexico tomorrow. Total GDP would grow by almost 10% in a single day, but GDP per capita would plummet by 20% just as fast. Life would get vastly better for Mexicans as they enjoyed the full benefits of US prosperity and economic might. But the situation would deteriorate drastically for most Americans, especially those in the lower class who would find themselves competing with tens of millions of mestizos more than happy to do dirty work for $5.15 an hour with no benefits.

"So what," the good libertarian would ask. "Labor will be cheaper and businesses will make bigger profits." Indeed they would, at least in the short run (necessity being the mother of invention, places like Japan that are mechanizing rather than chasing the cheapest serf are going to create robots that can work more effectively and cheaply than even the most diligent cacique). But the profits of big business would be subsidized by Joe American. The Mexican laboring for minimum wage is now entitled to the full buffet that is the US welfare system and the costs that accompany it--$8,000 or so per year for each child (another $3,000 annually if the whelp needs ESL services), infrastructure use, medical services, police and fire, pollution, increased population density, linguistic barrier costs, ad infinitum. Just looking at two kids with ESL brings the taxpayer a bill of more than $20,000. We're lucky if the hard working Mexican is paying $5,000 in taxes.

I use the extreme example of combining the US and Mexico into Amerixico to illustrate what is in effect already happening, albeit at a considerably slower pace than our hypothetical overnight shift. One-fifth of ethnic Mexicans now live in the United States, and the number is growing everyday. It's great for the average Mexican, who goes from making five bucks a day to five bucks an hour. If I was in his situation, I'd probably do the same. It's also great for the Mexican government, which exports its social problems north of the border and gets $17 billion a year in cash in return. It's great for agro-business and other heavily labor intensive industries that enjoy an increased labor supply and therefore less powerful unions and lower wages. But it's terrible for the US native who is footing the bill while jobs are going to immigrants who do not spend the money in the local community but instead send it back home.

We should create a merit immigration system that imports people who are going to be net benefits rather than public costs in tandem with a barrier along the southern border to stop low-value adding illegal immigration. Stop pouring money into the fruitless Middle East and invest it in alternative energy development. Energy independence would keep the $200 billion or so we'll spend on foreign oil this year in the country and starve the terrorism beast. Making the coal-to-gas process economically viable would allow us to actually become a net energy exporter because we have so much coal. Support federal and state vouchers to improve educational efficacy and cut costs brought on by ineffective teachers and bloated administrative bureaucracies. Legalize euthanasia to blunt the entitlement tidal wave that is the retiring baby boomer generation. Provide financial incentives (e.g., phase the child tax credit and the child dependency exemption in progressively rather than regressively) for wealthy people to have more children and for poor people to have fewer ones to close the wealth gap and raise the national IQ.

(Economy)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fox guarding the chicken coop?

It's hard to take the Bush administration's pledge that everything possible is being done to prevent another terrorist attack in the US:
A company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.
The UAE is considered an American ally, but so is Saudia Arabia, the epicenter of Wahhabism. Most Middle Eastern governments are friendly with the West because we're oil consumers and to some extent their bodyguards as well. The House of Sa'ud is always trying to strike that tenuous balance between global business interests and the demands of religious leaders at home.
It's sensible to think that Dubai Ports World (the UAE company) is a modern and profit-seeking enterprise like much of the Middle Eastern business world. But what confidence should we have that DPW will be able to screen out all potential jihadists? A Pew Research survey report found support for Osama bin Laden at 65% in Pakistan, 55% in Jordan, 45% in Morocco, and even 31% in the West's most amiable Muslim nation, Turkey. Presumably data like this is too difficult to get in more hostile countries in the Islamic world, but I would guess support in places like the UAE is at least as high as it is in Jordan.

The chance that a cell gets some people employed at DPW seems quite real. Of course all people in the UAE are not hostile to the US, yada yada. We know. And most Muslims do not want to blow up babies in buses or behead cartoonists. But the minority that does is much larger in the Middle East than it is anywhere in the West, and the outcry against such tendencies is much more muted than it is in our own civilization. Why take the risk?

I'm glad to see Democrats taking up this fight:
Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Hillary Clinton of New York, both Democrats, said they would offer legislation to ban companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from acquiring U.S. port operations, targeting the $6.8 billion purchase of P&O by Dubai Ports World.
I'm also glad to hear beltway media types raising the same question. On Meet the Press,
Tim Russert raised the issue with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff:
Since the September 11 attacks, the FBI has said that money for the September 11 strikes was transferred to the hijackers primarily through the United Arab Emirate’s banking system, and much of the operational planning for the attacks took place inside the United Arab Emirates.

Many of the hijackers traveled to the U.S. through the United Arab Emirates. Also, the hijacker who steered a United Airlines flight into the World Trade Center’s south
tower: born in the United Arab Emirates.

After the attacks, U.S. Treasury Department officials complained about a lack of cooperation by the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries trying to track Osama bin Laden’s bank accounts.” Why would we allow a company based in United Arab Emirates be in charge of security for our ports?
After Chertoff gave the typical platitudes about ensuring American safety, Russert shot back:
But why take a risk?
Exactly. I do not understand why this logic does not extend to Islamic immigration to the West in general. Why should we take in people from a culture that is not compatible with Occidental values? We don't need them. Most will not cause big problems, but there are plenty of other places where we can find quality immigrants without the risk and added cultural tensions.

However, Arab Americans are similar to Asian Americans in their levels of prosperity and success. On average they are more educated and have higher incomes than natives. Rather than ending immigration from the Middle East, perhaps the West should just restrict it. It's a more esoteric question for the US than for Europe, since the Arab-American population only comes to 1.2 million, although it is still pertinent to the West as a whole.

We should employ and enforce a merit immigration system that scores potential immigrants based on desirable attributes: Education, means, occupation, age, language fluency, IQ, as well as cultural knowledge like how bills work through the House to the President's desk. We don't want to pass over net benefits out of an errant fear of what they might do, but we don't want to take frivolous risks either. A merit immigration system wouldn't be a perfect filter, but it would definitely be an improvement over open borders and the risible Visa Lottery system.

The Democratic Senators and Tim Russert will not raise this question, of course, because it is so politically incorrect. And I hate to be so cynical, but if Republicans were not in charge of this port decision and instead it was in the hands of Bill Clinton, charges of xenophobia and racism against those questioning the deal would be flying through the air. Going after their political opponents often pulls politicians out of their pc-think rut. Too bad they can't be in the free-thinking mode all the time.

(Terrorism)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Race quotas and the ABA

The legal profession is not viewed in a particularly favorable light. Less than one in five people rate lawyers as having "high or very high honesty and ethics standards" (compared to 82% for nurses, 64% for teachers, and 54% for clergy) yet it is the most lucrative of the 22 occupational categories included in the US Census. Judicial activism and frivolous lawsuits are war cries for the social right and free-market right, respectively. I can't help but want to affirm this negative feeling when the ABA does things like this:

Meeting in Chicago today, the ABA's Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will vote on new "equal opportunity and diversity" standards. If they are approved, any law school that seeks to maintain or acquire ABA accreditation will be required to engage in racial preferences in hiring and admissions, regardless of any federal, state or local laws that prohibit of such policies...

The new Standard 211, styled "Equal Opportunity and Diversity," would govern admissions and faculty hiring policies. It says nothing about treating people from different groups equally, and lots about "diversity" -- a code word for affirmative action preferences. "Consistent with sound legal education policy and the Standards," part (a) says that a law school must provide "full opportunities for the study of law and entry into the profession by members of underrepresented groups, particularly racial and ethnic minorities," and it must also commit "to having a student body that is diverse with respect to gender, race and ethnicity."

Sorry to those who are members of a demographic group that tends to excel. Isonomy does not actually extend to you. Instead your legal status is based on the arbitrarily judged performance of your clan. The ABA, which holds a virtual monopoly on who is eligible to take the bar exam, wants college campuses to look 'more like America'. Ostensibly this is to promote diversity, but if every place looks like America, there is actually no meaningful diversity--Kansas becomes the same as California, the South no different than the Northwest. Diversity requires pockets of relative homogeneity, otherwise we're left with a bland grey goop that spans the entire country (or world!).

The basis of the ABA's proposal comes from Gutter v. Bollinger, where a white applicant was rejected even though she was more qualified (3.8 GPA and an LSAT of 161) than her protected peers who were accepted. Here's what the venerable 'swing' vote, Justice O'Connor, wrote in the US Supreme Court's decision:
Held: The Law School’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body is not prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause, Title VI, or §1981. Pp. 9—32.
Overt racism is okay if it furthers a "compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body". What benefits? Obviously they are not academic, as the standards must be lowered to let in less capable applicants. Not surprisingly, a study out of UCLA shows that 42% of black matriculants to law school do not pass the bar (compared to 14% of whites). Oh wait, O'Connor alluded to the benefits already:
The policy does not define diversity solely in terms of racial and ethnic status and does not restrict the types of diversity contributions eligible for “substantial weight,” but it does reaffirm the Law School’s commitment to diversity with special reference to the inclusion of African-American, Hispanic, and Native-American students, who otherwise might not be represented in the student body in meaningful numbers. By enrolling a “critical mass” of underrepresented minority students, the policy seeks to ensure their ability to contribute to the Law School’s character and to the legal profession.
Oh, the "character" of the school. I should have known. The academic setting needs to be more multicultural. To ensure that happens, meritocratic testing must be neutered. The culture of the majority must be detrimentally altered on account of the cultures of various minorities. Sound familiar? The same phenomenon is at work with the Danish cartoons and Islamic protests.

There is no quantifiable benefit from forced multiculturalism of this nature--the only defense multicult enthusiasts give is that multiculturalism is good for the sake of being multicultural. That is, diversity is good de jure. If cultural or ethnic variance occurs naturally based on skill levels all the merrier. But forcing balkanization and anti-merit for some silly heterogeneous ideal is absurd. Unfortunately, objecting to this asininity runs one the risk of being labelled a racist and ostracized. Being called a racist for pointing out how awful an explicitly racist policy is--who woulda thunk it?

If certain groups need preferential treatment, is that not a strong reason for restricting their entry into the US in the first place? People are different. By extension, so are populations of people. Of course, there are people of all ethnicities and places that would benefit the US by becoming a part of it (the purpose of immigration policy is to better the American citizen, right? Or is it to better the immigrant at the expense of the citizen?). That's why we need a merit immigration system that skims the cream of the crop from all corners of the globe (except for the Middle East) rather than letting people in based on chance or family ties.

Homo sapiens are among the most diverse species on the planet, next only to other domesticates (like dogs). Their tempermants, athletic abilities, intelligence, susceptibility to disease, ad infinitum vary widely. Humans are still evolving, and as Darwin pointed out 150 years ago, these evolutionary pressures dinstinctly shape different groups. This is human biodiversity. I thought it was this diversity that we were supposed to celebrate! But alas, we are actually not to celebrate diversity at all but instead to do everything we can to assure that everyone is exactly the same (in outcome). Such is the inane orthodox of the egalitarian belief system.

What is probably most tragic about race preferences is how it highlights group differences rather than attenuating them. Say, hypothetically, that we have a group of 50 whites and 50 blacks applying for admission to law school. A total of 10 will be accepted. The top ten scores break down like this:

White--178, white--176, white--176, black--174, white--171, white--171, black--170, white--169, white--168, white--166. Thus 8 whites and 2 blacks should get in. In this environment, the blacks and whites would perform about the same (this is why race relations in the military, which uses psychometric testing extensively, are so envied). There would be fewer blacks in this case, but the performance disparity between blacks and whites would be almost nonexistent.

However, the school has a quota policy mandating that the black/white proportion be equal. So, the last three whites (scoring 169, 168, and 166) are dropped in favor of the next three blacks who scored 161, 158, and 153. See what happens now?

The blacks, on average, are now obviously less capable than their white peers. The five whites will find that a couple of the blacks are roughly equal to them intellectually, but that the other three are clearly less able in the field of law. Thus, whites will be more inclined to believe their lying eyes--that blacks are not as smart as whites. The last three blacks, who are by no means dullards based on their scores (assuming this is the LSAT), are likely to struggle immensely and eventually fail out. They would have been much better served in a less rigorous environment where they could have been near the top of the class. This is also brutally unfair to the three whites who were rejected. And it does nothing for the truly disadvantaged blacks who scored in the 120s and 130s. Affirmative action is not only inefficient and unfair--it is also ineffective.

Hopefully Justice Alito, who took heat in the confirmation hearings for not being a proponent of race preferences, will 'swing' the Court back towards merit-based, rather than race-based, admissions.

(Human biodiversity)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Muslims riot over cartoons

More evidence of the incompatibility of Islam and the West:

Muslims all over the world are outraged over a series of cartoons that have appeared in European newspapers in recent months that feature the prophet Mohammed in ways that suggest he condones terrorism.
'Outraged' is to put it lightly. Death threats have been made, boycotts have ensued, property has been destroyed:

Street protests erupted from Lahore to Gaza. Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait withdrew their ambassadors from Copenhagen, calling for an apology and punishment of the editors. Danish products are being boycotted in the Middle East, where state-controlled media speak darkly of a conspiracy against Islam. Palestinian terrorists have declared Danes and other Europeans as legitimate targets. Journalists at Jyllands-Posten have received death threats. Danish flags, whose design is based on a Christian cross, are being burned.
Yesterday, the Danish embassy in Syria was set ablaze by zealots screaming "No God but Allah, Muhammed is His Prophet." The Norwegian embassy also went up in smoke.

What's all the fuss about? See for yourself (at the end of the article--the one depicting Muhammad's turban as a bomb is considered the most 'egregious'). The Koran is largely ambivalent about images of Muhammad:

There is no specific, or explicit ban on images of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad - be they carved, painted or drawn.

However, chapter 42, verse 11 of the Koran does say: "[Allah is] the originator of the heavens and the earth... [there is] nothing like a likeness of Him."

This is taken by Muslims to mean that Allah cannot be captured in an image by human hand, such is his beauty and grandeur. To attempt such a thing is seen as an insult to Allah.

The same is believed to apply to Muhammad.
That extrapolation is enough to ignite violent protests across the Middle East. The conflagration from the cartoons highlights how the values of the Islamic world and the liberal West are intrinsically at odds. Keep in mind that they were drawn in Denmark, not Yemen. When word spread to the Middle East, nationwide boycotts of Danish goods began, Danish property fell under siege, and influential Islamic groups began circulating vicious threats against Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that first ran the cartoons:

The images show bombs exploding over pictures of the newspaper, and blood flowing over the national flag and a map of Denmark...

Jyllands-Posten has been criticised by Muslims for printing the cartoons, and was forced to hire security guards after receiving hate mail and death threats over the
telephone.

Obviously the Muslim street doesn't tolerate freedom of expression at home, which is fine. Populations are different biologically and culturally. Social memes dictate what is appropriate in the native culture even though it may be abhorrent to another civilization. We are not well served by trying to deracinate the ways of a society that are rooted in thousands of years of cultural and evolutionary pressures.

But we are well served in keeping these societies out of our own. Muslims do not see any hypocrisy in excoriating Europe for negatively depicting Islam while news outlets across the Islamic world run cartoons (follow link to see them) portraying Jews as rats, the US eating the Arab world, blaming Israel for 9/11 or in Islamic governments banning bibles and the Star of David. Because they see Islamic law as absolute, there is no dissonance. The idea of tolerating an opposing viewpoint is nonexistent. Fundamentalist Christians in the US are spit upon daily. They are incessantly mocked. When a purveyor of neo-tribal hip-hop is portrayed as Christ, these religious folk do not burn down buildings. While people in the West try to convince others of their views using the pen and the podium, those in the Muslim world use the sword and the suicide bomb.

This, of course, shows a fatal flaw in the multicultural orthodoxy. Tolerance means tolerating the intolerant, who in turn act to squelch the tolerant group's right to an opinion. Consequently, multiculturalism is ripe for ethnic strife and the overthrow of the most tolerant contingents of the society (in the US, that tolerant group which gets little tolerance in return is whites, particularly those of a Christian stripe). In a democracy, it leads to special interests fighting over spoils at the expense of other special interests. In authoritarian countries it leads to the repression of minority interests (or majorities in some cases, Iraq under Saddam being the most salient). The more homogenuous a society is, the easier it is to govern and the more prosperous it tends to be (Iceland and Japan are two great examples).

Europe has been tepid in its response. Some countries, like France, have backed Jyllands-Posten and the right of the press within France to reprint the cartoons. German media have harshly criticized those who would keep them from being published and has called the Islamic world "hypocritical". Others have lambasted the depictions of Muhammad, like Great Britain. The paper itself did apologize for the cartoons after coming under tremendous pressure to do so, but Danish prime minister Rasmussen defended the freedom of the press to run them.

While it's a slow process, Europe finally seems to be waking up to the dangers posed by Islam. Nearly every country on the Old Continent has been hit by Muslims: Theo Van Gogh's murder in the Netherlands, the subway bombings in London, the train bombings in Madrid, the riots across France, the tensions between Turks and native Germans in Germany, and now this. We have plenty of problems with immigration from our neighbors to the south. But Europe is in much worse shape. We should take a hint and end immigration from predominately Muslim countries. By instituting an immigration program based on merit, we can find plenty of productive residents in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America.

++Addition++FNC's Bill O'Reilly points out the hypocrisy of the leftist media in his current column (which can apparently only be accessed for a short time free of charge, hence the liberal excerpting that follows):
The New York Times will not print any of those Danish political cartoons that mock Islamic violence, but it will publish a picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus, covered with dung. What's up with that?Here's what the Times wrote about the cartoons:

"(We) and much of the rest of the nation's media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols."...

But the next day, the newspaper ran a picture of the dung-covered Mary accompanying an article entitled "A Startling New Lesson in the Power of Imagery." So we can't see the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban in the Times, but we can see a sacrilegious "gratuitous assault" on Mary that came from a shameful Brooklyn Museum exposition in 1999...

Once again, we have a huge double standard in play in the secular-progressive press. In 1989, the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe, among others, published a picture by photographer Andres Serrano that showed the crucified Christ submerged in urine. Serrano was also featured in a New York Times fashion spread, according to reporting in The Washington Post.

And then there was the play "Corpus Christi," which featured a gay Jesus who had sex with some Apostles. The New York Times opined that folks who protested the play had "contempt for artistic expression."Maybe I'm wrong, but dung on Mary, Christ submerged in urine, and a gay Jesus just might be "gratuitous assaults on
religious symbols."

Some of the NYT's hypocrisy stems from the far-left's disdain for Christianity because of the Church's opposition to the 'culture of death', same-sex marriage, and other leftist social causes. And that around 85% of Americans are at least nominally Christian means they are the majority, and part of the multicult dogma is to reflexively despise the majority. Muslims are a helpless group persecuted by evil cowboys like Bush first and illiberal/intolerant second (if at all). There's also an element of fear (which should really raise concerns about Islamic immigration, especially in Europe)--all twelve cartoonists went into hiding after receiving numerous death threats.

Unfortunately, much of the so-called mainstream media is morally bankrupt. They scream 'free speech' in defence of seditious figures like Cindy Sheehan, Ward Churchill, or Kanye West (which is a strawman argument because criticizing what people say is obviously not at all the same as arguing they shouldn't have the right to say it), but when buildings are burned and people are killed over a few relatively innocuous cartoons, they come down hard on those who exercise free speech.

The cartoon brouhaha provides the strongest evidence yet of how incompatible Islamic culture is with the West. Why should we have to alter our way of life to accomodate another's cultural sensibilities, especially when they refuse to do the same? Our civilization is an amazing one. It is definitely worth saving.

(International)

Friday, February 03, 2006

With senescence comes budget growth

In the 2006 State of the Union speech, President Bush lauded budget cuts and reductions in funding for porcine programs:

My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities. The principle here is clear: Taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely, or not at all.
A cynic might snipe at the $500 billion that will have been spent on Iraq by the end of 2007. And certainly the budget cuts are diminutive in comparison to, well, much of anything. The $14 billion Bush has cut from the 2006 budget amounts to .005% (.00005 of the total budget mind you!).

Fundamental change has to occur for the lilliputian cuts to do anything more than score hollow ideological points. A staggering 47% ($1.32 trillion) of the 2006 federal budget will go to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Formulas for use of these programs are set by law--Bush cannot arbitrarily make cuts to them--the law must be changed. Demographic shifts make that increasingly unlikely, however, as some eighty million or so baby boomers will begin to become eligible for Social Security early retirement benefits. By early next decade, the diluge will be upon us. By 2040 it's estimated that every two workers will be funding the Social Security and Medicare costs of one retiree. With healthcare costs growing at three times the rate of inflation, that's going to be beyond untenable without huge cuts in benefits or devastating tax increases.

Medicare and Medicaid currently cost slightly more than Social Security, but they will extend their lead considerably in the coming years. By 2026 M&M will represent 22% of the US GDP (currently it's only 4.5%). Social Security's growth is flatter (4.2% of GDP today, projected to be 6.4% by 2050). The ominous portent referenced above is put into sharp contrast by these figures. Currently, the federal government's entire revenues amount to only 18% of GDP. In other words, if we were to be taxed at the same rates as we are today in 2050, we wouldn't even give up enough to pay for Medicare and Medicaid, let alone Social Security, interest on the public debt ($217 billion a year and growing), defense and education spending, and so forth.

Cutting benefits drastically, while infinitely appealing to my young mind, is becoming progressively less realistic as America ages. The political clout of groups like the AARP are going to increase, not decrease. The median age is already over 36, and it's becoming more grey by the day. Support for the Administration's Social Security partial privatization was strong among youths and eroded steadily as age increased (an aside: The puerile standing ovation the Democrats gave themselves when Bush mentioned his failed attempt at reform in the State of the Union address reminded me why, as disenfranchised as I feel by the Republican Party, my decision at the polls is always between Republican and third party).

Raising tax rates would obviously cause economic stagnation or even recession (estimates show that rates would have to rise above 50%). And increased tax rates are by no means directly equatable with higher government revenues. Slowed growth leads to less economic expansion, lower incomes, higher unemployment, and ultimately less money to tax.

Does a third option exist? SENS research theoretically could be an azoth, but beyond basic conceptuality it's too far over my head to comment on (if you're looking for a new destination for your charity dollars, this might be a cause to consider).

Another potentiality that is possible with current technology is the utilization of euthanasia for humans. The healthcare cost across the life an individual is a crescendo, increasing substantally as one enters the last years of life. The top 1% of people to whom health care expenditures are directed make up 12.8% of the total cost. The top 10% comprise over half. As people's bodies break down, they have to spend evermore on medicines and doctor's visits. The last few days can cost in the tens of thousands in some cases. Letting people go out on their own accord would lessen not only the financial burden of fighting a losing battle against undefeated death but also save the suffering of friends and family members who must witness the sad deterioration of one with Alzheimer's or terminal cancer. Further, it would alleviate pain by allowing one to drift comfortably to sleep instead of agonizing terribly and then dropping off.

Currently Oregon is the only state in the US with restricted voluntary euthanasia. There needs to be restrictions. For example, adolescents should be barred from it unless terminally ill and with the consent of parents. People deemed mentally unstable should similarly be restrained. But for those faced with a preciptous decline in health and quality of life should have the option to go out with dignity for the betterment of those they are leaving behind.