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Monday, October 14, 2013

Covering Your Ass(ets)

I recently read an article outlining the upcoming Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) session.  It put me into my typical despair-then-anger-then-planning-then-action cycle.

Let me take a step back and explain how the Constitution, the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch and the SCOTUS were taught to me as a kid.

The Constitution is the rule book.  All participants in our nation must follow these rules.  The Legislative Branch proposes laws, the Executive Branch does the work required by those laws, and the SCOTUS assures the American people that both the laws and how they're being carried out follow the rules detailed in the Constitution.

Pretty simple.

A key part of this education was that the Constitution is not a list of suggestions, or a rough outline of how our country is to be run.  It is hard and fast rules.  Its purpose is to limit the power of the federal government and to strengthen the power of state and local governments, and of the people.

My teacher repeatedly pointed us to the Tenth Amendment as the unambiguous declaration of these facts.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The cool thing was, if we decided we wanted to change the hard and fast rules, or we wanted to grant or restrict certain rights, we could do so via the amendment process.  Get enough Americans to agree on a change, and you could make it so.

And we have.  Seventeen times since the first ten were enacted.

The process works.

Well, not really.  It works when used, but the politicians in the Legislative and Executive branches have found ways around the time consuming, onerous amendment process.  They just write laws or executive orders, usually granting themselves or others super-constitutional powers, and the SCOTUS lets them pass.

The Despair Phase

I enter this phase when I read some article that is about expanding government, or a new class of special citizen, or crap along those lines.  I think one of the things that causes the despair is that so few Americans give a damn.  Really, they just don't care - or choose not to care.

I think the term is 'cognitive dissonance'.  You start making up excuses for the crumbling of the world around you.  Eh, Alpo for dinner ain't so bad.... at least I'm not hungry...

Here's an example.  This article on the upcoming SCOTUS session contains this little nugget -
On Oct. 15 -- provided the court remains open -- the justices will consider whether the state of Michigan violated the Equal Protection Clause by amending its state Constitution to prohibit affirmative action.

The case, referred to Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, reviews a 2006 Michigan ballot initiative that bans the consideration of race or sex in public [government .ed] education, government contracting and public [government .ed] employment.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Michigan initiative -- because it came in the form of a constitutional amendment -- "reordered the political process" in a way that put special burdens on racial minorities. [emphasis mine]
I'm thinking to myself, "Good Lord.  We've got a state constitutional amendment which PERFECTLY dovetails with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment - everyone gets treated the same by any government entity.  It's being challenged, not because the state amendment unjustly removes a right from the general citizenry, but because it takes away a special right granted ONLY to a specific type of citizen, and is not equally available to all other citizens."

The despair deepens as I continued with the article, and the twisted (il)logic of the proponents of the law -
"Rather than undoing an act of popularly elected officials by simply repealing the policies they created, Michigan voters repealed the admissions policies that university officials created and took the additional step of permanently removing the officials' power to reinstate them," the appeals court wrote.  
Let that sink in:  Their argument is that the state amendment removed the state government officials ability to continue acting unconstitutionally.  And that's a bad thing.

It continues -
"Had those favoring elimination of all race-conscious admissions policies successfully lobbied the universities' admissions units, just as racial minorities did to have these policies adopted in the first place, there would be no equal protection concern."

What?!  So if they had put political pressure upon the government officials - like the racial minorities had previously done - it would have been, "all good".  Seriously?  A federal appeals court is saying that constitutional issues are supposed to be decided by lobbying prowess, and not by, well, the Constitution?

We're done, as a Constitutional Republic.  The law and the Constitution are essentially irrelevant.  The despair deepens, but is soon replaced by...

The Anger Phase

I find I'm passing through this phase much more quickly.  Why get angry?  It serves no purpose and does nothing to protect or enhance my personal interests.

I still find myself angry that, regardless of what I do, nothing will change - big picture-wise.  I've accepted that the fix is in, and there's not one damned thing I can do to change it.

Government size and control will continue to grow, regardless of how loudly I protest or how often I stand on the electronic soapbox and scream.  I get it.

All I can do is to make plans to minimize the negative impact.  For me and my family.

The Planning Phase

It all comes down to money.  Virtually every plan I make has something to do with money.  Usually getting more so I can apply it to a new plan.

I've never worked for the sake of making more money than the next guy, but I've always recognized that money gives you options.  The more money you have, the more options you have.  Without money, you're destine to come under the control of the state, at one level or another.

Can't afford health insurance?  We'll give you ObamaCare, but you've got to follow these rules.  No money to feed the 3 kids you had out of wedlock?  We'll give you an EBT card, but we'll restrict what you can buy, and where you can buy it.  No housing?  No problem!  We're gonna pay for it, but you can only live in housing of which we approve.

You get the idea.  I want options on how and where I live my life, and the more financially independent I am, the more choice I have on how to live that life.   By no stretch of the imagination do I have to be rich, but I do have to at least be prudent where I spend my bucks.

I also understand that the various flavors of government want a piece of my personal pie.  An ever-growing piece.  Obviously, prudent tax and asset planning is crucial to minimizing that bite.

Our plan is - over the next 10 years or so - to start tapping into the retirement accounts we've established.  This includes Social Security.  We plan on having a nice piece of property where we'll live and thrive and do as we wish.

We also plan for these plans to go all to hell.  No single part of our plan requires us to "put all of our eggs in one basket".  As I teach in my self-defense classes:  Assume Failure.  If your gun misfires, if your pepper spray is out of juice, if your stun gun is out of batteries - what are you going to do then?  Roll up into a ball and give up?

Sorry, I'm not built that way, and I don't plan that way.  Options B, C  and D may not be as comfortable as Option A, but they keep me out of The System, and that's the over-riding goal.

Staying independent.

The Action Phase

Start doing something.

You've got to know in your heart-of-hearts that the government will continue to grow, and will continue to consume greater portions of private wealth.

A couple of things to keep in mind when building plans to keep the government out of your pockets:

  1. Move.  The single biggest reason my family is leaving California is the taxes.  There is a whole list of other reasons, but taxes is the top of the hit parade.  Staying in a state such as California reeks of the earlier mentioned Cognitive Dissonance.  It's really not that bad.  Yeah, it is, and you know it.  It will all get better.  Really?  How?  Face it, man-up and get out while you still can.
  2. At least right now, your ObamaCare premium is wholly dependent upon your income.  They don't even look at your assets.  That may change, it may not (I think it will).  If you're like me - nearing retirement age - your health care needs will be going up, but your premium will be going down.  I intend on "banking" that difference, and giving it to my kids at some time in the future, since they're the ones that will be subsidizing my health insurance costs.
  3. At least right now, your Social Security checks are reduced based upon how much money you're still earning (link - PDF) from other sources.  Note that they count some sources, and don't count others.  They don't even look at your assets.  That may change, it may not (I think it will - expect heavy 'means testing' in the future).
  4. The government can't tax or confiscate what it doesn't know you have.  Ask the people of Argentina if they wished they had more money squirreled away in precious metals.  Ask the people of Cyprus, Argentina and Poland if they wished they has less money in banks when the confiscations started.
  5. Right now, the sale of used personal goods is not taxable, unless you have a company specifically in that business.  Have you noticed a whole lot of the same people on Craigslist selling stuff?  
  6. Land is the least portable asset you can own.  Don't tie up every dime you've got in land and improvements, because you don't ever really own it.  The taxing authority does.  If you envision a scenario with you heroically fighting off the government goons intent on taking your home, lose that little dream right now.  They've got a lot more bullets than you do.  And money, time and resources.  You still end up losing the property, and being dead to boot.  That's not a plan.  At least not a good one.  There are other ways to peel that apple.
  7. Countries that have gone down the path we seem to be taking have all ended up commie or heavily socialist.  That always means that private assets become the property of the state to be fairly distributed or utilized by and among all citizens.  See number 4 from above.
  8. Live below your means, at least publicly.  Having income of $20,000 a year and driving a new $60,000 truck between trips to Europe and the Caribbean raises red flags.  We don't like red flags.
  9. Build multiple streams of income.  Seriously, get on it.  Placing your future in the hands of the bureaucrats in DC to keep the SSI checks and Medicare/ObamaCare gravy train intact is insane.  Do the math.  It can't last.  YOU are your last, best hope.  You need to look at SSI and Medicare as one of the streams of income you get, not your solitary or primary one.
  10. Review, rethink, revise.  Constantly.

Copyright 2013 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Anonymous said...

You left out "revolution" in your planning, seems to me your accepting what they let you have. Hide a little here, hide a little there.... That's not living, it's hiding.

Chief Instructor said...

What's your definition of revolution? Full-blown 1776- or Civil War-style warfare? Or Civil Rights Movement mass protest stuff? Or asymmetrical warfare like the Islamist and the French Resistance in WWII?

It seems from the condescending, macho tone of your post that you subscribe to the notion of toe-to-toe confrontation with TPTB.

Go ahead. I think it's foolish, but give up your life in that manner if you wish.

I believe that if a significant push-back occurs, it will be ala the Islamist/French Resistance model. Asymmetrical warfare.

You can call it hiding. I call it prepping.