We don’t hide our feelings at the Outsider Club.
We’re free to express them. I love that aspect of my job.
Often that means venting a certain amount of frustration with the U.S. government, its corporate masters, and its rabid enforcers…
“I want to punch this man in the face…” (Jackass of the Week: U.S. Rep. Jim Moran)
We rail against Corporatism, as lobbyists peddle their interests with briefcases full of cash…
“As usual, the academic report proves years after the fact what many citizens have already come to know: their vote doesn’t matter.” (You Now Live in a Corporatist Oligarchy)
We take umbrage with the politicians who have sold us out, and the demagogues who sermonize with fire-and-brimstone speeches, telling us we all ought to be more grateful for what little we have…
“The government tells us we should pay tribute to the soldiers who paid the ultimate price to protect our freedoms… I say those soldiers would be turning in their graves if they saw how our freedoms were being ‘protected’ today.” (When Did Memorial Day Become a Sham?)
We chafe under the yoke of a fully-militarized police state…
“It used to be when a SWAT team was sent out, it was for shootouts with terrorist groups or wide scale riots. Now it is being used to raid poker games, combat mail fraud and even bust up legal mom-and-pop marijuana dispensaries.” (The Rise of the Warrior Cop)
We scramble to cover our tracks and shield our lives from the prying eyes of the NSA…
“It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the laundry list of privacy violations being committed by the NSA.” (Stolen Selfies, Possum Phones, and Angry Germans)
And all the while, we shout tirelessly over all the propaganda, trying desperately to illuminate what little bit of truth we can…
“It’s deception and manipulation of the public, pure and simple. And the media is all-too-willing to take part.” (The Mystery Men Behind the Baltimore Riots)
I was tempted to do more of the same today…
(For instance, by pointing out that America ranks 49th on the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders.)
But to be honest, I’d like to take a break from all that and just acknowledge a few of our victories.
This is July 4th weekend, after all. And I want to spend it celebrating this country, not tearing it down.
It may not be perfect, but we’ve come a long way. And we’re far from being a lost cause.
We’ve got the power to change things for the better.
Here are a few other things to celebrate…
At Least We’re Not Greece… Yet
I know, I’m really stretching for some silver lining, here.
It’s true, though. We have a huge debt problem, but it’s not too late.
How do I know?
Because if you look at our debt-to-GDP ratio, it’s not anywhere it hasn’t been before.
The key measure of debt peaked at 119% in 1946, and then gradually worked its way down until Ronald Reagan got into office. Since then, it’s exploded. We’re back at 96%.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that over the past few years, we’ve actually made some incremental progress.
The FY2014 budget deficit totaled $483 billion, according to the Treasury Department. That’s 30% below the FY2013 deficit, and 66% below its 2009 peak.
The reasons for the decline are pretty simple. We’ve wound down our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the sequester that was enacted to spur Congress to reach a comprehensive budget deal actually backfired by becoming a success.
Cutting spending and withdrawing from foreign entanglements… Who would have thought it could work?
Again, we’ve got a long way to go. I know that. But I’m trying to be positive.
Let’s look at Greece as a cautionary tale. It’s debt-to-GDP ratio reached a staggering 177% in 2014. We’d have to add another $14 trillion in debt to reach that level.
We’re not there… yet.
The Good Kind of Surveillance
Over the past year, it’s become devastatingly obvious that our police state has run amok.
There were the tidal events, of course…
Freddie Grey. Eric Garner. Walter Scott.
And there were less publicized abuses, as well. Like this poor bastard who was forced out of his car at gunpoint, stripped of his shirt, handcuffed and forced into the back of a squad car, all over a case of mistaken identity…
Still, this is another good news/bad news situation. And the good news is that we’re confronting the issue.
The fact is, police brutality has been a problem for decades. But many Americans have been unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge it.
No doubt, it’s easy to turn a blind eye when you don’t experience such instances firsthand. But then again, it’s not so easy when there’s actual footage. And increasingly, with the ubiquity of cell phone cameras, there is footage.
In addition to being black, the three men I mentioned earlier have something else in common: The instances of police misconduct were caught on tape.
And in two out of the three instances, the officers were indicted.
Michael Slager, who shot Walter Scott as he ran away, faces a sentence of 30 years-to-life if convicted. And the six cops who gave Freddie Grey a “rough ride” will stand trial in October.
Even Eric Casebolt, the moron who treated a rowdy pool party full of teenagers like it was the shootout at the O.K. Corral, has resigned.
Yes, accountability is creeping into law enforcement. And it should get even better as more police departments deploy body cameras, which have proven effective where implemented.
A year-long Cambridge University study of the Rialto, Calif., Police Department found a nearly 60% drop in use of force by camera-wearing cops and that citizen complaints against the department dropped 88%.
Baltimore is dragging its feet on the issue, but it’s launched a pilot program and every cop on the force should be wearing a camera by 2019.
In all, one-third of U.S. police departments are using this technology.
I’ll tell you something else about crime and punishment, too…
Become an Outsider Today!
No Hope Fighting Dope
The sea of change in marijuana laws is an absolute boon. It earns money for the state through taxes, saves the state money on legal costs, keeps people out of jail, and creates jobs.
The legalized marijuana business is a whole new economic engine, and it’s progress in terms of personal liberty.
Here are some facts…
- In addition to creating 10,000 new jobs, Colorado raked in $76 million in new tax revenue from marijuana production and sales last year. Furthermore, the state saved the $145 million it was spending each year to fight the drug.
- Speaking of winding down pointless wars, the drug war is a quagmire larger than Iraq, Afghanistan, or Vietnam. Since Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs in 1971, $1 trillion has been spent on its enforcement. Estimates suggest ending this war would save the U.S. about $41 billion a year.
- More importantly, the United States has a prison population 53% larger than communist China’s. And more than 500,000 of those people are incarcerated for a drug law violation, up from 50,000 in 1980.
Make no mistake, even if you don’t use the drug, legal marijuana is in your best interest. It’s a net positive for the country.
In 2014, pot legalization initiatives passed in three of the four elections where they appeared on the ballot. That group includes Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. Florida, the lone holdout, missed by just 2% of the vote.
Five more states will address the issue in 2016: California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine.
At least two of those states (California and Nevada) are likely to pass the legislation, while Maine and Massachusetts are ‘maybes’. Arizona is unlikely.
Even still, any state that fights this trend is fighting a losing battle. It’s a groundswell similar to the one we saw on gay marriage.
And guess what, I’m glad about that, too. More personal freedom is always a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Ditto for more tolerance.
These are the things that give me hope for the future. You may have other positive thoughts, and that’s good. I hope they make you happy and that you share them with your friends and family.
That’s what I’m going to do this weekend. And then, come Monday, I’m gonna get right back to pointing out all the injustices that drive me crazy.
Because if there’s something to be reminded of on July 4th, it’s that freedom doesn’t come free.
You’ve got to fight for it.
So keep fighting.
And as always…
Jason Simpkins is a seven-year veteran of the financial publishing industry, where he’s served as a reporter, analyst, investment strategist and prognosticator. He’s written more than 1,000 articles pertaining to personal finance and macroeconomics. Simpkins also served as the chief investment analyst for a trading service that focused exclusively on high-flying energy stocks. For more on Jason, check out his editor’s page.