TBT: Cass on Our Diminished Income

The other day my students and I were talking about the Model T Ford, which in the 1920s ran around $6000 in today’s money for a new car.  It is impossible to find a brand-new vehicle of any make for $6000 today.  Granted, a Ford Focus, for example, is packed with way more technology and safety features than a Model T from 100 years ago, and that technological advancement gets factored into the price.

But consider that in the 1990s, when Kia hit the American market, they advertised a new sedan for around $6999 (in 1990s’ dollars).  What would that be twenty-five years late—maybe $9000 or $10,000?  That price point, too, is virtually impossible.

I managed to purchase my current vehicle—a 2017 Nissan Versa Note SV—for right around $9100.  It has around 45,000 miles on it when I bought it, and had been a rental vehicle before I purchased it.  I got a steal on that car—the closest comparable I’ve found since then was a list price of around $8900 (the list for my car was $8000 even).  That’s for a four-year old subcompact hatchback.

I got lucky when I found that car.  I figured it would be easy enough to find a decent car for under $10,000 when I began vehicle shopping in late 2019.  Boy, was I wrong.  Vehicles last longer than ever before, and maintain their value a very long time.  They’re also, as mentioned, packed full of technology and safety features that weren’t present even twenty years ago.  Trucks in particular hold their value extremely well; to find a truck in my price range, I’d have had to purchase a Ford F-150 from 1994 with half-a-million miles on it.

It’s great that cars last longer and are safer.  But those features—many of which drivers will never need or use—drive up the costs substantially.  Such was the point of an illuminating Twitter thread by Oren Cass, which demonstrates that, despite earning more money, Americans’ expenses for basic goods are substantially higher, requiring a whopping fifty-three weeks of pay to cover now versus a mere thirty weeks in 1985.  Naturally, given that there are only fifty-two weeks in a year, that presents a problem.

I don’t know the solution, but as I wrote a year ago, “Something’s gotta give.”

Indeed.  Here is 28 April 2020’s “Cass on Our Diminished Income“:

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part II: “The Personality Cult”

Today’s short story selection, Michael Noonan‘s “The Personality Cult,” comes from Terror House Magazine, an alternative online literary journal that publishes some excellent works from newer authors (although, it should be cautioned, they publish anything, including pieces that are borderline smut; browse with care).  Indeed, two of my Inspector Gerard stories will appear there later this month.  I’ve been reading Terror House Magazine for a couple of years now, and have been impressed with the gems they publish.  “The Personality Cult” is one such precious stone.

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TBT: Out of Control Feds

Ah, 2019—when the disaster of the 2020 presidential theft was a distant possibility, and long before Lord COVID descended from his Chinese chemical lab to sow destruction upon us all.  Back, then, our greatest concern was incompetent government bureaucrats running us over, then ticketing us for the pleasure.

That’s the story behind this post, which discusses Jim Treacher’s near-death encounter with a federal SUV, and the efforts of the feds to shift the blame to Teacher, rather than the federal agent who mowed him down.

Well, they can flatten our dreams, our economic prospects, and our freedom, but they can never flatten our hope.  Here is 23 March 2019’s “Out of Control Feds“:

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The Last Day of Freedom?

Here we are, 19 January 2021—the last day of basking in liberty before Biden the Usurper assumes the throne.  For all his personal foibles and occasional missed opportunities (while acknowledging, of course, his many achievements), President Trump at least fought to ensure that Americans could enjoy freedom and opportunity.  Under progressive rule, no such guarantees exist.

But rather than look about gloomily at what is to come, I’d like to offer some words of exhortation.  Times will not be easy for conservatives and Christians over the next four years, but I’m trying to embrace this new progressive era with some cautious, small-scale optimism.

For one, I think the whole sordid election fraud, as well as the bipartisan effort to impeach President Trump for—if we’re honest about it—discouraging violence and encouraging peaceful protest—has confirmed for many of us that the elites of both parties are against us.  As such, effecting change at the national level seems increasingly futile.

That might sound discouraging, but consider it from another angle:  if we can’t make much of a dent at the national level, then why waste the energy?  Instead, let’s focus our efforts locally.

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TBT: Support Milo

On Tuesday I wrote a “Giving Tuesday” post to give some shout-outs to conservative and dissident content creators and organizations that could use your support.  In my haste, I neglected to include a man who could always use another leopard-spotted ivory back-scratcher:  Milo.

As a mea culpa to His Majesty, I’m dedicating this week’s TBT to a post in which I urged readers to “Support Milo.”  I think it speaks for itself, so without further ado, here’s “Support Milo“:

I hold a soft spot in my heart for conservative gadfly and Internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.  I recall fondly his heyday in 2015-2016, when he championed free speech in the Babylon of Progressivism, Berkeley, California.  I still wish President Trump would appoint him White House Press Secretary—it would be must-see TV every day.

Behind the flamboyant, cartoonish homosexuality and the over-the-top trollery, though, is a talented journalist and writer; indeed, Milo’s work is some of the best long-form journalism I’ve ever read.  His writing, like his public speaking, is engaging and well-researched:  he really checks his facts and his sources, while still delivering that withering Coulterian death strike upon his unfortunate target.

Unfortunately, even fewer Americans will have the opportunity to read his work, as he’s apparently sold his websiteDangerous.com.

I understand that for many conservatives Milo can be a bit much.  I love his public speaking, but you have to realize that the first twenty or thirty minutes are going to be Milo playing his best and favorite character—himself.  Once he’s paraded around in drag and told some incredibly off-color jokes, he’ll get down to the raw facts—where he truly shines.

In the years I’ve followed Milo’s work, I would wager that 90% of his factually-supportable positions are inside the conservative mainstream.  Yes, he’s made some wacky statements before, but these are generally hyperbole in service to the overall experience:  he draws crowds in with shock value, but wins them with knowledge.

But Conservatism, Inc., couldn’t have an effective proselytizer cutting into their racket.  The David Frenchian pseudo-Right—the controlled opposition of neocons who don’t want to ruffle feathers lest their Leftist masters call them “racists” or “bigots”—cut Milo off at the knees.

For years I read National Review, and always heard conservatives pining for a cool, gay and/or minority Republican (because the establishment Right is desperate to prove to progressives that they aren’t racists or homophobes).  Along came Milo—fun, smart, and into biracial man-love—and the decorum caucus suddenly realized that a cool, gay Republican was, by definition, going to be pretty melodramatic.

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Where the Right Goes From Here

Lest I be cast as a “doomer”—one who has given up on President Trump’s noble attempt to win the re-election that is rightfully is—it seems likely that our ruling elites will assure Biden wins the presidency.  I still believe that Trump is the rightful victor; that the election was stolen from him; and that the evidence of widespread voter fraud is compelling enough to throw, at the very least, the election to the House of Representatives.

Remember, we live in a world that still argues that John F. Kennedy’s campaign did not manipulate vote totals in Cook County, Illinois to flip the State away from Nixon in 1960, thereby assuring Kennedy’s victory.  What we saw in 2020 was the Cook County strategy writ large.  We should fight that manipulation to ensure the integrity of future elections, but I fear the damage is done.

Again, I hold out hope that Trump will be vindicated and that justice will be served.  Nevertheless, as conservatives, we should adopt the distinctly conservative course of preparing for what comes next.  Even if our dream scenario comes to fruition, it only buys conservatives time.  Either way, we’ve got to consider seriously where we’re going, and our place in a society that increasingly rejects us and our interests.

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Presidential Debate Review

Last night was the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Biden.  It was a grudge match; “hard to watch” and similar sentiments are the main comments I’m seeing on social media.

As a Trump supporter, I enjoyed the debate for GEOTUS’s zingers and no-nonsense combativeness.  He was aggressive and feisty, and clearly understood the Leftist slanting of the questioning (as Milo Telegramed, “Why are we still talking about climate change?”  Chris Wallace was clearly in Biden’s corner in terms of the tack of his questions, and he didn’t interrupt Biden the way he interrupted Trump.

To be fair to Wallace, Trump was talking over Biden and Wallace frequently, and as the role of a moderator is to moderate the debate, Wallace’s job was to try to keep the candidates to the two-minute rule.  That said, Trump was responding to a number of inaccurate and false accusations against him, including the widely debunked but oft-repeated Charlottesville myth.

I do think on the substance of the issues, Trump hammered Biden.  Trump has facts, history, accomplishments, and morality on his side.  His first term has been wildly successful by any metric.  The irony of Trump’s presidency is that if it were anyone else in his position, they’d be lauded as the greatest president in a generation, but anyone else wouldn’t have had the cajones to accomplish what Trump has.

Unfortunately, for all that I loved Trump’s aggressive attempt to rattle the ailing Biden, I’m afraid it came across as bullying and unprofessional to squishy swing voters.  Trump’s base is with him no matter what (especially after he refused to be maneuvered into denouncing the Proud Boys, a completely benign organization unfairly slandered as “white supremacists”).  He’s got to win over those undecided folks in key swing States who probably love the president’s policies, but find the president personally distasteful.

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Anti-Court Packing

As of right now, it looks like Amy Coney Barrett will get confirmed to the Supreme Court before the election, even if she’ll be seated under the wire.  A plurality of Americans want Barrett seated, according to a Rasmussen poll.  Conservatives shouldn’t take anything for granted; to quote Marcus Cato Censorius, “many things can come between the mouth and a morsel of food.”  But it does seem that ACB will soon be Justice Barrett, and America will be better off for it.

Of course, the Democrats are in high dudgeon, and are already threatening to pack the Court should they win the presidency and gain a senatorial majority this November.  Conservatives have anticipated this potential move for some time, but haven’t done much to stymie it.  Our focus has been, understandably, affixed on merely gaining a solid constitutionalist majority on the Court, but today’s Left will do anything to demolish a conservative Court.

Just as Democrats threatened to impeach Trump [thanks to jonolan for sharing that post with his readers, too —TPP] for making a constitutional appointment, they’re not seeking to dilute the Supreme Court, cheapening its gravity and significance, by adding additional justices.  Their solution is to expand the Court enough enough to make the potentially 6-3 conservative majority irrelevant.

After all, with the Democrats, if the rules favor your opponents, change them.  If the people don’t want your ideology, force it on them via judicial or executive fiat.

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