Ron Paul and the Gold Standard

I was just looking at Wikipedia’s description of Ron Paul’s political positions. I agree with Dr. Paul on most things on the list.

One thing that has captivated many Ron Paul supporters is his opposition to the Federal Reserve and preference for the gold standard. While I agree with him that the Federal Reserve may not be the best way of managing the dollar, I don’t agree that the gold standard is better.

For those who don’t know, in the good old days, the dollar was based on gold. In theory, anyone could bring dollars to the federal government, and the government would then hand you the appropriate amount of gold. Of course the government didn’t really do this, but that was the general idea.

Under this idea, the dollar has value because it is based on gold. For critics of the current system, this is the problem. In their view, the dollar has no real value because it is no longer based on something that has value.

This is where I disagree. Gold standard supporters believe that gold has some kind of intrinsic value. This is nonsense. Gold has value for precisely the same reason that the dollar has value — they have value because people think they’re worth something. The current system relies on the idea that people believe dollars are worth something. The gold standard system creates a facade, since gold is only worth something for exactly the same reason the dollar is worth something.

In fact, the market price of gold has fluctuated substantially over the years. In the 1970s, as we shifted to the current monetary system, gold went from $36/ounce to $307/ounce in 1979. In 1980 it skyrocketed to $612/ounce. Since then it has varied from the mid-400s to as low as $272/ounce in 2001. Now it’s over $800/ounce. While some might explain these fluctuations by problems with the dollar, one sees similar fluctuations in other currencies (Gold Price History for 30 years).

So a shift to a gold standard adds a false sense of stability. Tying the dollar to gold adds value to the dollar only if gold retains its value. Gold has value only because people value it. It’s not that there’s any significant intrinsic or useful value in gold. Silver, by contrast, is useful in film processing. With the decline of film in the face of digital photography, even that useful value has certainly diminished.

Despite my criticism of the gold standard, I am not saying that the current Federal Reserve system for the dollar is best. I know Milton Friedman at some point advocated a simpler and more predictable approach to managing our currency. If what I’m reading these days is correct, Ben Bernanke is pushing to make the Fed’s decision making process more open to the public, so people have a better sense of what they’re doing and why. This fits in with a notion I like in economics, that we should assume that people have “rational expectations.” When government makes its decisions in open processes, that makes things more predictable and the private sector is better able to anticipate changes and adjust to them.

More on Immigration and Wasting Money

I was thinking about my post about immigration on Thursday and wanted to follow up.

After a little research I estimate that the lower 48 states have about 11,000 miles of border, including both coastline and the lines between the US and Canada/Mexico.

To keep illegals out, figure you would need at least 10 border agents per mile (each agent covering about 528 feet). So that means you need 110,000 border agents. And that’s at any given moment. Remember these are federal employees who work 40 hours per week if you’re lucky, and they get vacation and all that. You need three shifts at eight hours each, and then you need weekend and vacation coverage.

So when all is said and done, we need about 500,000 border agents. If the average cost of maintaining these employees is only $100K/year (salary, benefits, and the cost of training, supervising and equipping them), I think we’re talking about $50 billion a year. Then you add in the cost of processing all those that are caught and deporting them. So maybe $100 billion is a reasonable estimate.

Also keep in mind that we’ve left out the Alaskan coastline and its border with Canada, as well as the Hawaiian coastline.

Hmm. Maybe $100 billion isn’t that bad. It’s a lot less than the Iraq war. :-)

Immigration – The Hidden Waste of Money

As an attorney I’ve represented several defendants charged with violating immigration laws. This has taught me quite a bit about immigration, and perhaps more important about deportation.

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, our friendly federal government wastes a tremendous amount of money in this process. The most obvious is the situation where the alien wants to go back to his or her home country. You’d think this would be straightforward. They want to go home. We want them to go home. So, poof – we take them to the border. Right?

Nope. The process is nowhere near that simple. To some extent this makes sense. There is a formal process to ensure that the person genuinely wants to leave, understands their rights, and really should be deported, etc. In cases like mine, you would think this could easily be accomplished when the criminal case is resolved. All of my cases so far have been resolved with a plea bargain. Upon conviction, it would be very easy to have the same federal judge order the deportation, and poof, you’re done. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t work that way. I’m guessing Congress and the President are responsible for this.

In many cases the actual process takes 2 months. During that time the deportee is held in custody by the immigration officials (ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement). In this area they are kept in local jails at a cost to the US Treasury of $100 per day. This does not include the cost of having ICE agents run around arranging jail stays. Due to problems I don’t fully understand, they have difficulty finding jails that meet federal requirements and in many cases have to move them to a different facility every 72 hours. Thus, the additional 2 months in custody costs taxpayers in the ballpark of $10,000 per deportee. As a rough guess, there are 1 million deportations a year — that’s $10 billion. And that’s just some of the waste – there’s probably more.

There is a separate immigration “court” system, under the Executive Office of Immigration Review. I put the word court in quotes because this court system is not what many lawyers would consider a real court. This court is a part of the executive branch, rather than being a part of the judicial branch. I’m learning more about this process as time goes on – I’m not really an immigration lawyer though at this point I probably know more than most lawyers.

There is the entirely separate question of whether our immigration policy is sensible. I have long supported more open immigration. My grandfather came here as a child and I’m sure some locals then didn’t want him, and those like him, to come. We used to have open immigration. The Statue of Liberty has a quote:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Does anyone think this describes our immigration policy today? Shouldn’t we send the statue back to France? Maybe we can send it to Canada, since they seem to embrace that policy approach.

I was raised and educated to believe that quote on the Statue of Liberty meant something, and that it was a good policy. The melting pot it implies created a diverse society and strong economy.

The current anti-immigration policy doesn’t really stop the melting pot. Like illegal drugs, illegal aliens still find their way into the country. The war on immigrants also funnels huge sums to criminal networks who smuggle the aliens in. Open immigration avoids these problems.

The other problem is the amount we spend trying to stop immigration. I can’t figure out the federal budget enough to give a hard number, but I’m guessing it’s at least $10 billion a year. It doesn’t work. There are reported to be as many as 30 million illegal immigrants in the US at any given moment. No matter how many walls you build or how much you spend, they will keep finding their way in.

There are so many loud voices opposed to immigration – reflecting little more than prejudice. They show little interest in economic analyses and history indicating that immigration is overwhelmingly good for our country.

Supporting Ron Paul: How to present the message

I attended a Ron Paul meetup the other night. I saw a few things about the supporters that worries me. This prompts some “lessons” about politics and getting your message out.

Before I get into this, please note that all of the supporters obviously mean well, but may not have understood technique and tact.

#1. Perhaps the most glaring moment of the night was when we were eating dinner after the Meetup. Two friends of an RP supporter joined us. These nice young ladies (med students) were suddenly assailed with reasons why they should support RP.

People do not want to be confronted or “educated” about why their political views are wrong. Successful candidates do not do this.

When you meet someone you don’t know, you should not confront them and tell them directly why Ron Paul is great. Yes, I know he is great but they don’t know that yet. And they don’t know you well enough that you’re going to persuade them like that.

A far better approach in such a situation is to get to know the person better. Find out what issues are their biggest concerns. See if anything they say fits with the Ron Paul message, and then talk about that.

This may be a real shocker, but some people are not going to like Ron Paul. There plenty of people out there who are happy to have the government run everything. You’re not going to persuade them. So don’t piss them off by confronting them. That just encourages them to vote against your candidate.

#2: Don’t preach to the converted. One of the supporters gave me all sorts of literature and even a DVD. I endorsed the guy 8 months ago. You don’t need to sell me.

#3: This goes to my biggest fear about the Ron Paul campaign. You have to choose your message. It has to be short, and it has to connect with the voters. As a friend of mine puts it, you have to think about why it matters to them.

Libertarians tend to campaign with flyers that discuss 20 issues on one page. Ask yourself if you can think of any winning candidate who campaigned that way.

I’m very concerned that the Ron Paul campaign will miss this key point. It’s not about explaining to the voters why your approach is better. Many voters will not spend the time to consider your explanation. You have to deliver your message concisely. In billboard advertising, some say you have to limit yourself to 7 words. So what 7-word phrase (fewer is better) best says your message?

Ron Paul: Supports the Constitution
Ron Paul: Let’s Get Out of Iraq
Ron Paul: Smaller Government
Ron Paul: Stop Wasting Money Overseas
Ron Paul: Stop Wasting Money

Wait, those last two are my message. :-)

In a radio commercial you might get 60 seconds, or in a TV commercial you might get 15 or 30 seconds, minus the mandated “I approve this message” nonsense.

On the positive side, the campaign has raised enough money that it can afford to get out 2-3 different messages. Hopefully they will do this well. We’ll know soon.

Ron Paul and the future of the Revolution

I’ve been thinking about Ron Paul a lot lately. Went to a Meetup tonight.

I’m wondering what happens to the Ron Paul Revolution after February. If he wins the nomination it goes forward, but it’s so narrow. Just one candidate. Far more disturbing, if he loses the nomination, will the Revolution disappear?

The answer is that the Revolution has to spread beyond Ron Paul. We need to find other candidates who support the Ron Paul message. Ideally this would mean hundreds of congressional candidates and 30+ Senate candidates. More realistically, I’d like to see at least 10 candidates for the House who have a track record of supporting Ron Paul.

Someone at the Meetup tonight mentioned John Wallace in the nearby 20th district. I checked out his website: John Wallace for Congress. His positions are in the ballpark, but he does not clearly oppose the War in Iraq, and specifically says we should not get out right away. This is contrary to Ron Paul’s position on perhaps the biggest issue of the campaign. His comments about radical Islam are a concern, and there is no clear statement I can find from him that he opposes the Patriot Act and other infringements on our civil liberties.

Wallace also says he’s not taking any contributions over $75. That means he has no chance of winning. Ron Paul is accepting contributions up the federal limit of $4600. Wallace’s committee has less than $4000 cash on hand as of September 30th, and owes more than $5000.

In spreading the Revolution, a critical consideration is choosing candidates who, to paraphrase Ron Paul, present a risk they might actually win.

Anyway, let’s start here. If you know of any congressional candidates who fit the Ron Paul agenda and have a chance of winning, please post a comment here with more information about them.

To toot my own horn on this, I have supported Ron Paul for a long time. When I ran for Congress in 2006, I was asked on a local radio show to name one Republican that I identify with. That snippet of the interview is here: Warren Redlich for Ron Paul.

The entire interview is still (for now at least) available at the WAMC Congressional Corner.

And of course, I endorsed him for President in 2008 back in March on this blog: Warren Redlich Endorses Ron Paul.

Albany for Ron Paul

Congratulations to the Albany Ron Paul Meetup group. Somehow they managed to get Dr. Paul covered in a favorable light in the a New York Times article.

I’m a member of the group, though I have done little or nothing other than support Dr. Paul on this blog. Hopefully I’ll be able to actually join the group for a meeting now that my campaign is over.

Guilderland Town Board – An Honor

If the news is correct, the voters chose Mark Grimm and I to serve on the Town Board.

Guilderland has been my hometown since 1973. This is a tremendous honor.

I look forward to the next four years of hard work.

My thanks go out to my family, friends and neighbors. Special thanks to my mother, my brother. My wife in particular has been so good to me.

Aside from the voters, my biggest thanks go to Mark Grimm. He made me believe we could change politics. Together we took a big step toward that change, and we will keep moving forward.

Guilderland Democrats continue the attacks

I noticed that the Guilderland Democrats are attacking us online now.

On their website — guilderlanddemocrats -dot- org, they have a pdf document attacking us, as follows:

Unfortunately, the Republican Party has seen fit to endorse candidates for Guilderland Town Board seats who lack both the qualifications and the character to serve in this capacity.
Their campaign has consisted primarily of misrepresentation of facts & figures and unwarranted, mean-spirited personal attacks on our candidates, their families, and their professions. These two candidates lack any demonstrable record of meaningful involvement in the Guilderland community nor do they have any apparent, or adequate knowledge of the work of Town government.

They accuse us of “unwarranted, mean-spirited personal attacks.” We have never attacked any member of their families, nor any “professions.” Our criticisms of them are soundly based on evidence from reliable sources, like records from the New York State Comptroller (a Democrat), or the town assessor’s records (who has attacked us).

In stark contrast they have attacked us, via their minion Don Csaposs, who calls us names like low-rent loser and so on. Csaposs also attacks my profession, calling me an ambulance chaser among other things. The phrase “meaningful involvement in the Guilderland community” is exactly the same phrase that appeared in a Csaposs letter to the Enterprise a few weeks ago. In this letter they say we (Mark Grimm and I) lack the qualifications and character for Town Board.

They provide no evidence for their attacks. Mark and I are both well educated. We both run our own businesses. We both have a variety of experiences in the private sector and government. We are both married and have children. We are both leaders of our homeowners associations. We are well qualified. We’re good people. And we are involved in the Guilderland community.

On the amusing side, those who are mildly sophisticated with the web can see that their web pages were created on October 22, 2007 by someone with Runion’s last name. The letter I refer to above was created by the same Runion on October 29. Good to see they got their website ready before the election. On the bright side, this Runion does appear to use a Mac.

The Postcard – About Your Assessment

The only costly part of my campaign for Guilderland Town Board was completed yesterday. I sent postcards to selected property owners comparing their assessments with Mike Ricard’s Assessement.

[Update: Images of the postcard for my house are at the bottom]

The front side of the postcard shows a satellite image of incumbent Mike Ricard’s property. Above the image are the words:
ABOUT YOUR PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT
This 2,500 square foot home in Guilderland, on 12 acres with a new in-ground pool and a 2100 square foot steel building, is assessed at $196,300. How does yours compare?

The other side of the postcard starts with the recipient’s assessment, square footage, and what that works out to in dollars per square foot. For example, my card starts with:

Your assessment $241,700
The assessor says your house has 2226 sq.ft.
That works out to $109 per sq.ft.

Then it describes Ricard’s assessment, including that it works out to $79 per sq.ft.

It goes on to compare our political positions — Ricard and Bosworth say the “assessment process is just fine,” while Mark Grimm and I “say we need a fair tax assessment process.”

The card closes with:
What do you think?
Find out more at guilderland-ny.com

The card also has a picture of me and my name on it.

One sometimes hears politicos talking about pocketbook issues. I think tax assessment is the biggest pocketbook issue in Guilderland. This is a real issue, not some phony thing made up to scare the voters.

In 2005, the Town botched the assessment revaluation process and grossly mishandled Grievance Day. Many voters remember this. The postcard goes right to how this hits their pocketbook. Most homeowner assessments are unfairly high, relative to a number of assessments in Guilderland. Ricard’s property is a convenient example of this, but there are many others.

When your assessment is unfairly high, that means you pay an unfairly high share of taxes to the Town, the County, and your school district.

Even knowing all of this, even as the person who composed what would be on the postcards, I get angry as I read it. Ricard’s house – larger than mine, on more than 20 times the amount of land, with a in-ground pool and the biggest shed I’ve ever seen, is assessed $45K lower than my house. If I’m angry, then many others will be as well.

I do know that it has evoked some response. Visits to the Guilderland NY website spiked yesterday after the mail was delivered. I got two phone calls (first calls of the campaign) and a few e-mails.

We’ll see if this connects with the voters on Tuesday.


The Guilderland Democrats are panicking …

Seems that the Guilderland Democrats are now panicking ahead of the election. There is a blog post at the Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club in Albany that is comical.

Here are some snippets:

Republicans are sending out emails in Guilderland directed to the progressive Democratic community.

This is absolutely false. We are not targeting the progressive Democratic community in any way. Our efforts to reach voters are aimed at all stripes.

Someone seems to have gotten their hands on an old e-mail list … [from a progressive organization].

Also absolutely false. We have no such list.

Apparently, the Republican senders make the e-mail look as if it comes from the Town of Guilderland …

False. We have done no such thing.

once you’ve read partway down, it becomes very Karl Rovian in style. Slash, trash, and burn.

Flattery will get you nowhere. :-) However, this is still false. All our communications to the voters have been consistent. We certainly are criticizing the incumbents, but our criticisms are based on evidence. They don’t even dispute the facts.

But the best part is yet to come:

If anyone has a copy of this e-mail, we would like to see it. Please send it to us at …

Okay, so if you haven’t actually seen the e-mail, how can you describe it as “Karl Rovian” in style?

The Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club used to be the center of the progressive Democratic movement in Albany. That’s when Lee Wasserman ran for Congress in 1996, and when Tom Keefe ran for City Court judge. After Keefe won, he had to leave and the organization has completely lost its way. It is now just one more group of Democratic Party hacks. This e-mail shows that.

The RFK club that I once knew would never have supported Dave Bosworth. Bosworth is co-chair of the Albany Democratic Committee. He’s not a progressive. He drives around in a Ford Expedition (taxpayer funded, of course), not a Prius. He pockets $200K of taxpayer money through his non-profit funded by his minions in the county legislature.