Friday, March 27, 2009

Warnicks go semi-vegetarian [Bryan]

I've long resisted the arguments of the various vegetarians I know. Vegetarianism seemed to go hand-in-hand with a style of elitist, latte liberalism that I don't like. Ellie and I were talking the other day, though, and we've decided to substantially cut down on our meat consumption. The number of reasons became too long to ignore. Here are the reasons:

(1) Economic: Meat is expensive. We could save money cutting down.
(2) Health: Meat isn't very good for you; vegetables are.
(3) Ethical: Factor farms, where most meat comes from, are still fairly cruel places. I am not convinced that animals have a "right to life," but I do think they have a right not to suffer.
(4) Religious: The LDS Word of Wisdom suggests that meat should be used "sparingly," while the Bible clearly contains a vegetarian ideal (pdf). It is time to take this seriously.
(5) Environmental: The meat industry is a leading contributor to global warming, water use, and deforestation. (Not that I am convinced that we will make any difference in this regard -- large scale reforms are needed for that, not personal virtue.)
(6) Taste: We like vegetarian cooking quite a bit.

So, there you have it. We won't cut meat out of our diet. It plays an important role in moments of family celebration (Sunday dinner, holiday meals, etc.). From now on, though, we want to eat meat with more conscious "thanksgiving" than as an unthinking habit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Final Four Picks [Bryan]

March is probably one of my favorite months. Nothing beats the NCAA tourney. I can never get any work done the first Thursday of the action, when games begin at 12:00.

I'm sure everyone has been wondering about my Final Four Picks this year. Here they are: UNC, Duke, UConn, Kansas

I think UNC will win it all if they are healthy. If not, I'd go with UConn.

Xavier is my sleeper team.

Utah, OSU, and Illinois will lose in the second round. BYU and USU in the first.

You can take that to the bank.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Movie Recommendations [Bryan]

Looking for some good movies?  Ellie and I both strongly recommend the following flicks we've seen recently: 1. The Lives of Others -- A German movie about living under the surveillance state in East Germany. 2. Children of Heaven -- An Iranian movie about a boy who loses his sister's shoes. (I know it sounds boring, but it isn't).

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Budget Blogging [Bryan]

A dialogue on the federal budget:

Friend: So, Bryan, have you seen the Obama administration's proposed budget? Looks like a huge move to socialism to me. I warned you about him. He is Karl Marx incarnate.

Bryan: Everything about his budget proposals are in line with his campaign promises. Everything. The energy policy, the health care policy, the education policy, and tax policy...everything. I know actually following through on campaign promises is new to people, but that is exactly what he is doing.

Friend: But he is stealing from the rich to give to the poor. He is raising taxes on the wealthy -- those that invest and innovate. He is a communist I say!

Bryan: This is nonsense on stilts. Absolute and utter nonsense. Below is a listing of the top marginal income tax rate across the decades. The far right column is Obama's proposed increase (up to 39.6%). Even with Obama's tax increase, it is lower than it has been for most of American history. It is lower than most of the time it was under Ronald Reagan (it was a 50% rate for most of Reagan's presidency). Was Ronald Reagan a communist? Was Eisenhower, Truman, or Nixon? Notice that America often prospered under a much heavier tax scheme. People who think this is new or radical simply do not know what they are talking about.

Friend: But is it wise to raise taxes in a recession?

Bryan: No, you're right, it wouldn't be wise. That is why the tax increases (or, more accurately, the expiration of Bush's tax cuts) won't take effect until 2011. If the economy is still in recession at that point, the budget can be revisited.

Friend: Wouldn't a better policy be a spending freeze, like Republican Rep. John Boehner (House minority leader) has recently proposed?

Bryan: No, in fact that would be the absolute worst thing that anyone could enact. A recession occurs because, for whatever reason, people stop spending. Because people aren't spending, nothing can be produced, jobs are lost, and so forth. If the also government cut spending, things would be catastrophic. This is actually what Hoover did (and, to be honest, what FDR did in 1937), both with the terrible consequence we now call the Great Depression. The fact that Boehner proposed such a thing, frankly, shows the intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican party.

Friend: But I've also heard that the Obama budget would reduce the tax deduction that the wealthy can take for charitable giving. Won't that take money away from charities when they need the money the most?

Bryan: First, none of this will happen until 2011. Second, it simply reduces the deduction to rates to those present under Reagan (reduce it to 28 cents on the dollar for people earning over $250,000). Third, it has been calculated that the reduction in charitable would be about 1% -- a small price to pay for a start toward universal health care. Fourth, although this is not Obama's position, I have doubts about the wisdom of this deduction anyway. There is almost no accountability behind the groups that allow you to claim this donation.

Friend: But Obama is really adding to the budget deficit. In the long run, this will cause inflation and dry up funding for private investment.

Bryan: I don't think we should be worried about inflation right now. For one thing, there is no sign of anything approaching inflation. For another, we seem to know how to handle inflation fairly well through monetary policy.

True, there is big deficit over the next couple years. The Obama plan has a deficit of about $1 trillion in 2010 and 2011. Fighting two wars and a huge financial crisis doesn't help things. The deficit is projected to then drop to $533 billion by 2013. This still sounds high, but it is only about 3% of GDP which (I'm told) is fairly manageable. It is not even that big by historical standards.

Let's be clear: we are facing huge problems as a country, problems that every president since Reagan has let fester and get worse. It will take time and money to correct our course.

Remember, a budget deficit cannot be evaluated unless you figure out what you are getting for the deficit and if that spending supports long-term growth. Is the president's projected deficit a good investment or not? If we are making progress in areas like health care, global warming, education, infrastructure, and so forth, we are setting ourselves up well for the future. If we are funding pointless wars, we are not. I haven't read the whole budget, but there are lots of good things therein from what I have read, things that seem like really good investments. In the area of education, for example, there is more money for college education and for preschools. These sorts of investments will make a big difference.

Friend: I see the light now, Bryan. Thanks for enlightening me.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Baby doing well (with pics) [Bryan]

Baby Stephen is almost three weeks old already and doing great. He is sleeping 6-8 hours at night. He usually wakes up once and then goes right back to sleep for 2-4 more hours. This makes for a good night sleep for us! Stephen rarely cries and so far is an ideal baby.

One cute thing: Andrew has taken to reading him stories. Andrew sits next to Stephen, points to a picture and talks about it, and then puts the book right in front of Stephen's face. Picture below.

Stephen had his "baby blessing" in church this Sunday -- I thought of changing his name then to "Spencer Grant" but Ellie would have killed me. Grandma and Grandpa Warnick came out to visit us and it has been wonderful to celebrate with them.