Thursday, November 29, 2012


During the Thanksgiving travel week, syndicated radio host Alex Jones ran a campaign called “Opt Out and Film”, which asked his listeners to opt out of body scanners at the airports and instead subject themselves to pat downs, which they would then film as a means to hold TSA agents accountable by forcing them to refrain from the transgressions that are too common to just consider anomalies: from general physical and mental abuse of innocent travelers to the groping of not only adults, but children as well.

The Buffalo Airport was the epicenter for the movement (although you wouldn’t know by the lack of local media reports) as Dan Dicks of Press for Truth spent the day there, handing out handbills about the TSA’s ills and filming interviews with travelers and his run-ins with transit police who, of course, gave him a hard time. You can see the nearly nine-minute-long video on YouTube at

Long gone are the days of love for individualism and liberty, so most Americans, who are now either inherently passive or deeply fearful of the alleged day-to-day threat of terror promulgated by Big Government, probably think Jones and Dicks are the problem and that the latter had what was coming to him when authorities considered him to be the threat. I figure that 9 out of every 10 people I talk to about TSA are fine with having their rights violated in Orwellian ways because they value safety more so than freedom, even though the lack of safety has never been proven since 9/11 and it was clearly used as an inroad by federal, state, and local governments to unleash all manners of control.

I, on the other hand, have some dignity. I don’t want men grabbing my crotch, federal hacks running their hands over my attractive wife while power-tripping agents look on with sexual thoughts, and adults creepily touching my daughter…all things that were they to occur elsewhere would be considered sexual abuse.

So, I’ve opted out. Not out of scanners, but American air travel entirely. I haven’t flown in the states since our honeymoon. I should be attending trade shows and visiting customers. I should be looking ahead at Disney with the kid in a few years. But I’m not. Travels have been kept to anywhere that I can drive to with ease or flying across Canada, where they actually know how to treat travelers with class and respect.

Either way, the government infringed on my rights: If I flew, I wouldn’t be safe from government in my person as the Constitution requires and by not flying because of that, the feds seriously inhibited my right to travel freely about the country.

In discussions about TSA, I am always asked, “what are the alternatives?” The alternatives are those that should be the answer for anything of questionable purpose and horrible implementation in government, and actually, should be the dominant way of doing things in our nation: Reliance on individual choice and private sector solutions.

To put it into perspective, taxpayers, whether they travel or not, are burdened with the $8.1 billion annual cost to keep TSA alive. That makes it, in essence, a subsidy for the airline industry since the government is handling the security and oversight of the industry’s assets (planes) and customers. That subsidy – and everything that it funds – should be eliminated in its entirety and security should be left solely to the airlines themselves. Gone should be the mandated screening lines and overzealous inspections that no traveler has any true choice over.

Instead, choice should be paramount. The airlines should have the duty to manage threats and charge their clients accordingly in their ticket prices. It would be up to them to develop the means. Southwest might use scanners. US Airways might use pat-downs. United might use the Israeli method. Delta might utilize metal detectors only. It’s their choice. And, it would be up to the consumers to choose the company and the safety measures that they have the most desire for and comfort with. Travel and all its inconveniences would be a free choice. If someone wanted invasive procedures for peace of mind so be it. If another wanted the least hassle possible, more power to him.

It’s time to opt out of the TSA and the peering eyes and wandering hands of its 65,000 employees. Let the private sector do its thing and you’ll likely find that the sky will be just as safe as it is now, if not more so. Freedoms will flourish as well, as more customers will fly and those that do will fly with greater dignity and liberty.  

Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American magazine at Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer   

This column originally appeared in the 03 December 2012 Lockport Union Sun & Journal


Saturday, November 24, 2012


The federal government dabbles in things that it was never intended to and never should. Among them is the issuance of student loans. Nowhere in the Constitution is the government granted the responsibility and power to serve as a personal lending institution. This capital-intense business is left to the private sector, which is best equipped financially and intellectually to manage the risk that comes with giving people money on a temporary basis.

The perfect example of why the government shouldn’t be funding the college dreams of young Americans can be found in the recently launched “Pay As You Earn” program (PAYE). The new plan, much more lucrative to borrowers than its earlier versions, was finalized by the Department of Education a few days before the general election (how was that for perfect timing?). Under this program, those taking out loans after October 1, 2011 will see their payments cap out at 10% of their annual discretionary income and, after 20 years, the loan balance will be forgiven.

Ponder the insanity in that. One’s payments are based solely on discretionary income – not actual income - and the government itself defines the parameters of “discretionary”. In this case, it’s too lenient in determining the cost of necessities. Such is expected when you consider that for many adults PAYE works out to be an entitlement (welfare) because they will never fully pay off their loans.

Just look at some of the examples that can be found at In advertising PAYE to parents, it listed their children’s future earnings as $45,000 per year with an expected loan debt of $50,000. According to the government’s formula, the monthly payment upon graduation will be $235. That would see the loan paid off at 18 years. But, what the chart didn’t say was that the monthly payment decreases if the graduate has a family or earns fewer dollars. So, if you just squeak in at 18 years under a scenario that’s in a vacuum, most people will never have paid back the government in full before the 2 decades is up.

Another example shown in the advertising was that of a doctor with an income of $120,000/year with an outstanding student debt of $100,000. His payment would be $7,728 per year and he’d be paid off by Year 13. Now, suppose a classmate of his accrued the same debt and did not pursue the medical career because he found he didn’t like it (career changes are common among the impetuous young) or he was found to be negligent and lost his license. His income in another field might be $45,000 or less and he’d pay the $235/month in the first scenario. After 20 years, he’s paid just $56,400 towards his loan and taxpayers have to eat the other $43,600. Some readers may say this is an extreme case, but is it? The access to easy money, low repayments, and forgiveness will cause many people to choose expensive private universities over more-affordable state-run schools, so you will see these numbers played out in volume.

The last scenario shown on the website was for a teacher with an income of $40,000, 2 kids, and debt of $15,000. Her monthly payment would be a tiny $540 per year. It would take her 28 years to pay off her loan. If she were instead in the private sector under the same scenario, she would have 8 years of payments forgiven.

Instead, she’s in the public sector. And, this is where it gets really idiotic: Under the final version of PAYE, public sector employees are given special favor and their loans are forgiven after 10 years. So, if that teacher would have paid only $5,400 towards her loan who would pick up the remaining $9,600? Why, you and me of course!

That ugly brand of classism – that makes public sector employees seem considerably more important than private sector workers (would the government want it any other way?) – shows the moral depravity of the Obama Administration, the same one that tries to prime the pump for class warfare between the “rich” and the “middle class.” Obama and friends seem to forget that were it not for the private sector, the public sector would never exist…government has to get its money from somewhere. After all, somebody has to pay for everyone’s college bills.       

Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American magazine at Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer   

This column originally appeared in the 26 November 2012 Lockport Union Sun & Journal

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No more Twinkies: Unions and the death of Hostess

Today is a dark day for U.S. manufacturing, as the storied corporation Hostess Brands, Inc. announced that it was closing shop and liquidating, selling off its brands, facilities, and equipment. It is a sad ending to a company that had been in operation since 1930 and had weathered the Great Depression and the Great Recession. The closing will eliminate a staggering 18,500 jobs.

Those jobs could have been saved had those workers — or more specifically their unions — agreed to wage concessions. But they didn't, wrongly believing that Hostess’ threats of closure were idle.

No one in his right mind would have found the warnings idle, considering that the company had already declared bankruptcy in January of this year — but the cocksure leaders of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) did, and continued to demand that workers strike at over two-dozen of the company’s 33 plants.

That was labor suicide — the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was no way that a company already $860 million in debt could weather the storm.

BCTGM’s killing of Hostess wasn’t limited to the strike. The union’s demands had plagued Hostess for years, forcing — through the legalized monopolization of labor supply — wages that the market wouldn’t bear. The striking line workers were paid healthy salaries, $16 to $18 per hour. In a low-profit, low-selling-price business such as baked goods (things that are basically commodities), those wages aren’t sustainable, especially considering that baking and distribution involve a lot of manpower.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
, the mean hourly wage for the designation of “bakeries and tortilla manufacturers” was $12.57 in 2011. Supposing that Hostess’ median wage was $17, they were paying 35 percent more than the national average. 

Hostess was looking for wage concessions of only eight percent. Even after the cuts, Hostess still would have been paying their workers handsomely, 24 percent more than the industry norm. Mind you, this one-year cut would have been followed by guaranteed wage increases of three percent in each of the three years that followed, capped off by one percent in the fourth year. So, the pain would have been only temporary and cancelled out in just three years.

But, BCTGM gambled and it didn’t pay off. Rather than keeping over 18,000 people gainfully employed in a bad economy, where the U6 employment rate is approaching 15 percent, they opted to put every one of them out on the streets, where their $680/week becomes $0/week until unemployment benefits kick in at $400/week, putting a drain on taxpayers who are already paying for unprecedented numbers of unemployed for unprecedented lengths of time. Once those benefits fade away, it’s very likely those workers will remain unemployed, as very few communities support a manufacturing base that can overcome the closure of bakeries as large as Hostess’. So, the union basically sent their workers to the bread lines — an ironic metaphor for food producers.

This fiasco speaks volumes of the ills of unions, which will cut off their nose to spite their face. It’s just one in a long line of union-led disasters of the past few years, which range from the General Motors collapse (GM couldn’t support overly generous wages and pension benefits) to the states themselves (which are leaning on taxpayers even more to fund their weakened pension plans for public-sector workers).

People just won’t learn. Union bosses don’t have an inkling of the basics of economics, and neither do their members, most of whom have been brainwashed by union propaganda and have developed an overt entitlement mindset. They force upon their employers wages and benefits that can’t be sustained in the long run. They fail to see that doing so makes their products unaffordable in an increasingly competitive global economy and thus destines their firm for destruction, which will ultimately harm their job, their retirement benefits, and the pensioners who retired before them.

That mob mentality also hides the simple fact that labor is an economic transaction based on the individual, not the collective. It’s a simple trade in which a worker should willingly enter into agreement with an employer and vice versa. Work is an employer's exchange of competitive monetary and benefit compensation for the use of the worker's physical and mental services. As with any free-market economic activity, either party can prevent ongoing transactions, whether such termination is based on dissatisfaction with what the exchange garners or on the influence of supply and demand in the micro- and macro-markets.

Basically, the act of employment is really no different from making a purchase at the local grocery store: You don’t need a consumer cooperative to buy Twinkies, and you don’t need a labor cooperative to make Twinkies.

It’s a lack of focus on that simple premise that made that iconic product and its producer extinct, as well as the jobs of those who made them.

The unions were looking for a victory, despite the odds stacked against them. They didn’t get one. They lost miserably. Sadly, so did Hostess. The economy, the taxpayers, and, above all, the workers, are worse off for that ridiculous gamesmanship by BCTGM.

When will it ever end? It makes one wonder which of America’s great companies might be the next to die.     


This originally appeared in the 16 November 2012 The New American at:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Farmers Beware Obama's Second Term

During 2010 and 2011 the Food and Drug Administration conducted a concerted effort to suppress the distribution of unpasteurized milk across state lines. Among the targets of these stings were food clubs and the harmless Amish, including Pennsylvania’s Don Allgyer, who had to shut down his beloved Rainbow Acres Farm. The arcane rules against raw milk were enforced — at gunpoint — despite the health benefits of the beverage and the freedom that people should have to willingly ingest the foods they want in the manner they’d like.

In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (an arm of the Department of Transportation) had a plan to override states’ rights and reclassify farm vehicles and implements as commercial vehicles, which would have required hundreds of thousands of farm workers to get a commercial drivers license (CDL). As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, the language within those regulations would have reclassified farming as interstate commerce, which would have opened the flood gates to federal oversight of all farming activities. Fortunately, a last minute flurry during the public comment period prevented these regulations from becoming the law of the land.

Then, later that year, the Department of Labor came out with a draft of new labor laws that would have forever harmed agriculture by preventing 14- to 17-year-olds from doing a wide variety of farming tasks, which included working with and around tractors and powered equipment and all acts of animal husbandry. This would have kept thousands of teens unemployed and prevented their exposure to the lifestyle of farming in their formative years. Once again, this was stopped by intense public feedback.

Those issues represent some of the more significant assaults Washington levied against farming under President Obama’s watch. Many more policies were broached, many more initiated. If what the Obama Administration did or wanted to do to agriculture over the past four years is any indication of what the next four will bring, farmers should take notice. Since the President doesn’t have to worry about reelection and the heads of the various offices know that they likely have just four years of job security left (and all of them want to leave a legacy), farmers may be subject to some significant abuses by the administration.

Farmers — and those who enjoy their produce — are probably asking themselves this: Why does the Obama administration so hate farming? The answer is two-fold: It likely comes down to freedom and corporatism.

This president is no fan of freedom in its truest sense, since it requires a semblance of personal responsibility and personal liberty, and the trials, tribulations, and outcomes that come with it. In his version of freedom people flourish under a watchful government that protects the people not from one another, but from themselves. He prefers they be saddled with laws, regulations and standards so they remain safe, comfortable and uniform.

Among the greatest personal liberties is food freedom; that people may enter into an economic compact with any supplier they’d like in order to acquire the foods they want. We’ve seen an explosion in those circles in recent years (a result of the liberty, organic food, and locavore movements). Now there are 7,684 farmers’ markets nationwide (up from 2,863 just 12 years ago). In New York alone, one out of every five farms engages in direct-to-consumer sale. That activity is a direct threat to the bureaucratic system put in play at the federal level, as roadside stands and food not moving across state borders eliminate not only the middle man, but the watchful eye and guiding hand of Big Brother, too. By sticking their noses into food production and sale at the local level, it’s likely that Obama’s team feels they can gain control of our transactions, our diets, and our bodies.

As for corporatism, consider that the raw milk raids, CDL standards, and child labor laws would have most harmed small, family-owned-and-operated farms. They don’t possess the financial strength and other resources to comply. Larger corporate farms, on the other hand, do. They would thrive in such an environment as they would buy up the smaller farms that died only as a result of government intervention.

Crony capitalism is what makes the world go ‘round in Washington. It prevents a true free market by strangling the ability of the little guys to compete and allow continued success only through economies of scale. This favor played is one of the primary reasons that 50% of all food production comes from the largest 2% of US farms. Even Obama, who claims to be above the fray, is guilty of aiding and abetting rabid corporatism —80% of his 2008 campaign funds came from large donors (a final analysis of the 2012 campaign will likely show the same).

It’s patently obvious that the Obama administration has an inherent disdain for farming, the heart and soul of this country and one of the last true wealth-creators of our economy. This should worry farmers because we have four more years of a leader who once boasted to Russia’s head of state that, “after my election, I have more flexibility.” More telling and chilling words were never said.


This originally appeared in the 07 November 2012 The New American at:

Thursday, November 15, 2012


A question that people have asked me quite often over the past few years is this: “If the economy is so bad, then why is the stock market so high?”

It’s a legitimate thing to ask. In October of 2007 the Dow reached an all-time high of 14,164. During the Great Recession, the market bottomed out in March of 2009 at 6,547. In the past 52 weeks we’ve seen a peak of 13,661 and, as I write this column, we’re at 12,570. Those aren’t pre-Recession levels, but they’re still pretty good considering what the global markets went through.

No one would have expected the Dow to double - let alone surpass just 10,000 -- in just a couple of years. It doesn’t match what has really happened in the economy. Most Americans are just as pained and worried as they were during the Recession; such is to be expected when the widely-accepted unemployment rate has languished around the depressing 8% mark. That number, which in itself doesn’t reflect reality, is only that small because so many people have dropped out of the workforce or have lowered their expectations to part-time employment. Taking into consideration those individuals through the U6 unemployment rate, true unemployment is really at 14.6%.

You can see why people are confused by the inverse relationship between economic indicators.

So, what does account for the stock market’s ascension?

The answer is simple. It’s the only game in town.

It used to be that the working man could plan for his future by dabbling in one or more of the following: investing in the stock market, buying real estate, acquiring government debt, or buying certificates of deposit. Now, only the first one is a legitimate endeavor because the other 3 are just shadows of their former selves.

Consider real estate. The primary cause of the Great Recession was the bursting of the housing bubble. People bought expensive homes that they shouldn’t have (while lending institutions and the government enabled them) in hopes of continued growth in the market, believing they could turn around and sell the home a few years later for many dollars more. It wasn’t long before it was realized that they couldn’t support their investments: Rising energy and food prices socked the economy in 2007. That caused job cuts and cutbacks which in turn affected those who had taken on the exorbitant home payments. Housing prices plummeted and homeowners who were underwater abandoned ship. Because of that sting, people are hesitant to buy first and second homes again, banks won’t allow them to, and, above all, many people are incapable of doing so in today’s world because of high unemployment and lower wages.

Government bonds and notes used to be solid investments, too. Someone could buy the debt from the government and, years down the line, reap the rewards from a solid yield in the 5 to 9 percent range in the 1990s and a middling 3 to 6 percent during the 2000s. Now, a 10-year Treasury note has a yield around 1.5 percent. To buy them at such low rates, you’d have to be either a fool, ungodly conservative, retired or worried about an all-out economic collapse. What has contributed to this destruction of the bond market is the willingness of the Federal Reserve to continue to buy-up debt in an effort to keep the federal government afloat.

The Fed has also been complicit in the loss of gains on Certificates of Deposit (CDs). Borrowing from the Fed and other banks is too easy for financial entities thanks to historically low rates, so banks no longer have a reason to lean on consumers for borrowing. Back in the 1980s your average investor could make a killing on CDs – 6-month returns were as high as 17 percent and 5-year CDs were at 12 percent. Now, banks market to their clients 2 percent yields like they’re the best thing going.

So, that leaves the stock market as the only legit outlet for retirement and investment, especially for those in their 30s and 40s. The markets rose like a phoenix because of an ongoing influx of cash by private investors, 401(k)s, public sector pension plans and more. Due to job losses and other ground level economic issues –  such as Baby Boomers who are coming of retirement age, pulling money out and socking it away in ultra-conservative notes and bank accounts  - the annual input may not be as high as it was in 2007, but nonetheless, it continues to the tune of hundreds of billions annually. Any system receiving such an influx of cash is certain to prosper, no matter the conditions.    

Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American magazine at Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer

This column originally appeared in the 19 November 2012 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Thursday, November 8, 2012


The two main parties are unlike, yet so very similar. Both of them are advocates of Big Government, just with different methods and angles. While Republicans savored the Iraq conflict, Democrats savor the war in Afghanistan. While Republicans offer corporatism to Big Oil, the Democrats extend the same to wind and solar. While Democrats favor social welfare, Republicans admire corporate welfare. One could go on and on about the two-faced similarities.

That said, those still reeling from Barack Obama’s Election Day defeat of Mitt Romney should be consoled by this: The candidates were so alike that having Obama in power really won’t be much different than having Romney at the helm had he won. Consider the following:

Both men are spendthrifts. It’s not news that Obama’s budget plan is over the top: Even with the improbability of tax revenues rising by a third over his second term, he would still rack up annual deficits to the tune of $650 billion. That’s par for the course for someone who, working in conjunction with Congress, had racked up a $1.1 trillion deficit this past year.

Romney was supposed to be the antidote to that. Turns out, his plan was anything but fiscal conservatism. While he may have cut taxes and programs (like Obamacare and Amtrak), he would have taken the savings and dumped them elsewhere, such as defense which by itself would have been $203 billion higher by 2016. Accumulating the impact of the cash-in and cash-out, Romney would have created an increase of $262 billion in annual spending.

Republicans would be shocked to find out that Obama’s plan is significantly better at deficit control – but that’s not saying much because he still has in the hole by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Both men love foreign intervention and war. When Obama won in 2008 it was on the strength of change and being the anti-Bush. He was supposed to stop the wars and get us out of the Middle East. He didn’t. Obama wants you to believe he got us out of Iraq, although a significant US presence remains. Under his watch, the troop counts dropped there, but increased in Afghanistan from 34,000 at the start of his presidency to a peak of 101,000 last year to current levels of 68,000. The “Anti-Bush” also felt it necessary to put our forces and resources into the Libyan conflict without Congressional approval.

So, how would have Romney fared? He would have been a copycat of Obama who was basically a copycat of Bush. You could glean as much from the third presidential debate during which Romney repeatedly agreed with most of Obama’s foreign endeavors. As mentioned earlier, Romney would have increased defense spending. But to what end? Like all Neocons, he criticized Obama’s handling of the alleged Iranian threat and would have likely done a switcheroo akin to Obama’s Iraq-Afghanistan transfer and instead focused on Iran, keeping us in perpetual war. Obama will be just as hawkish as his Administration continues to emphasize Afghanistan, dabbles in Iran and Syria, and thinks nothing of sending unmanned drones around the world to unleash acts of war upon nations not Constitutionally-identified as threats.    

Both men hate the Constitution. As made evident by their support for wars that were never approved by Congress, neither man seems to care for our founding document and the standards it set for us.

Both openly support the National Defense Authorization Act and all its evils (acts that candidate Obama ran against in 2008). Under the NDAA, Habeas Corpus is suspended under the pretense of war (which in the age of terror carries wide meaning). Anyone who carries out an “attack” (once again, a nebulous word in itself), including American citizens, could be detained indefinitely without trial, a right that we have, clearly called out in the Constitution.

Both men prove to care not for the Fourth Amendment. Obama continued Bush’s wiretapping efforts, even creating a wiretap for the Internet as a whole. Romney was adamant in his support for stronger Homeland Security and went so far as to call for spying on religious institutions and tracking foreign students at colleges across America.

These policies and world views represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the lack of real differences between Obama and Romney. Had Romney won last Tuesday, it would have been only a repeat of the Obama presidency. That’s a sad commentary on the state of government – and the broken two-part system – in America.     

Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American magazine at Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer

This column originally appeared in the 12 November 2012 Greater Niagara Newspapers