Front and Center

Politics, society, and other random randomness

An Opening for Republicans? Obama’s “Deficit Neutral” Health Care Reform Will Cost Twice As Much, Just As We Figured It Would

Back in 2009, when President Obama took advantage of Democrat control of the House and Senate and pushed through so-called healthcare reform, he assured the American people that the plan would be paid for and wouldn’t add to future deficits.  There were many people, especially those like myself who are familiar with health care costs and how health insurance works, were quite skeptical.  The plan did nothing to address rising healthcare costs.  Instead, it was nothing more than the opportunity Democrats had been waiting for get health insurers to change their rules for coverage and to get government-subsidized health insurance in the hands of Americans.  But to quote a popular line from “Thomas and Friends,” one of my toddler’s favorite shows, “then there was trouble.”

First, the administration can’t even get their act together regarding the mandate in the plan.  The White House said it isn’t a tax, but someone from within the administration testified on Capital Hill that it is.  Then, the CLASS act, which was a plan to tackle long term care, came under fire.  And for good reason–one of the accounting gimmicks used to make CLASS work was to make people pay premiums for the plan for years before the plan actually came into play.  Congress voted to remove it from Obamacare.

But the ultimate slight-of-hand used in getting the bill passed was to convince people the reform act would not add to future deficits, and in turn, to the national debt.  President Obama assured us that the plan would cost about $900 billion, and that the cost would be offset by money taken from Medicare savings and from revenue grabbed from insurers, medical device makers, etc.  Like Theo Huxtable in the episode of “The Cosby Show” when Bill tried to tell him it’s expensive to live on his own, President Obama deflected criticism by saying “noooo problem!”  What wasn’t apparent to average americans is that the cost projection used included years during which the plan would barely be implemented.

Now, the CBO has released projections on how much Obamacare will actually cost over the next 10 years, when fully in place.  The cost?  $1.76 trillion over the next decade.  And that number is expected to increase to $2 trillion next year.

On the one hand, the CBO also predicts that the government will increase revenue from taxes and penalties over those years so that *may* offset the additional costs.  But most people realize that while cost estimates typically run lower than actual, revenue estimates also tend to run lower, because as new taxes kick in, people tend to change their habits, which leads to lower revenues taken in by the government.  People will find ways to avoid paying additional taxes.

What we have here is another government implented program that is going to run over budget and need bailing out at some point in the future.  Maybe around that time people will finally realize that government can’t be trusted to be good stewards of our money.

Related link:
Obamacare to cost $1.76 trillion over 10 years

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Limbaugh, Fluke, and the So-called “War on Women”

If you’ve aren’t up to speed on the whole contraception bru-ha thats’ been going on, here it is in a nutshell:

A few weeks ago, President Obama essentially stated that church-affiliated institutions would have to provide access to contraception coverage for their employees.  Religious institutions, lead by the Catholic church, immediately cried foul, saying they should continue to have an exemption based on moral grounds, i.e. the church does not believe in contraception.  After a huge stick erupted, Obama issued a compromise:  that insurance companies would not only be required to provide contraception directly to the employees of such institutions, which would circumvent the the employer, but that insurers would provide the contraception for free, as part of “preventive” coverage.  Conservatives say Obama is spearheading a “war on religion.”

Soon after, there was a hearing in the US House of Representatives about the issue.  Democrats criticized Republicans because the entire panel for the morning hearing was made up of men (there was an afternoon hearing with 2 women on the panel).  Dems had attempted to have a woman, Sandra Fluke, testify, but Republicans stated she was not added to the list in time.  Democrats say this is further proof that Republicans are at war with women.

A few days later, Fluke testifies at a Democrat-sponsored hearing.  The 3rd year law student at Georgetown Law spoke of how the fact that the school does not provide contraception coverage as part of its health plan made things difficult for female students, and that the contraception mandate should stay.  Jumping on this, radio talking head Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut,” basically saying she implied she and other students want to be paid to have sex since they demand free contraception.  Under fire, Limbaugh has apologized.

Now, my thoughts, in no particular order…

Is there a war on women?  Personally, I don’t think there is.  However, Republicans aren’t doing themselves any favors.  Whether it’s the Georgia House passing a bill to lower the “deadline” for getting an abortion from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, or Virginia attempting to pass legislation requiring any woman wanting an abortion to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound first (referred to as a “mechanical rape” by one radio talk show host), one could say that conservative lawmakers, who are mostly male, do seem to have women’s reproductive parts in the crosshairs.  But its nothing new.  Things like this happen every year.  In this case, however, it’s an election year.  Gotta rev up the base!  Let’s see how independent voters respond.  After all, those are the voters that will determine the winners.

Sandra Fluke.  Who and why the uproar?  As mentioned before, Sandra Fluke is a law student who testified before the House.  She is also an activist who has advocated against child trafficking and for wider contraception coverage for women.  Fluke not getting to testify in that morning hearing actually worked to Democrats’ advantage; their later “hearing” where she spoke was not a hearing, and Fluke was not required to be under oath.  Plus, the public was introduced to the third year law student, not the experienced activist–very important for PR reasons.  Her main point of argument was that the policy dictating that students at religious institutions that do not want to provide contraception coverage be given direct access via insurance companies be upheld.  The impression given was, she came to Georgetown and didn’t realize contraception wasn’t covered.  However, in a previous interview, she acknowledged she knew before enrolling that it wasn’t covered but that she was “not willing to compromise the quality of my education in exchange for my health care.”  So, she knew what she was getting into ahead of time.

Medically necessary vs choice.  During her testimony, Fluke spoke of a student who had polycystic ovary disease.  Because she could not afford the cost of birth control out of pocket, and because the college didn’t cover it, she eventually had to have an ovary removed.  Fluke stated that in reply to Catholic supporters who asked what she expected when she enrolled at the institution, she answered that “we expected women to be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable burdens that impede our academic success.” I’m not sure where the unequal treatment is here.  Comparing contraception coverage to coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs is a false equivalence–one prevents pregnancy, while one doesn’t.  I would say that birth control pills used to cover a medical condition should be covered.  But how exactly does not having coverage for contraception impede academic success?  There are other forms of contraception available that are affordable on a college student budget.  And ultimately, though it sounds old school, if one can’t afford the ramifications of having sex, wouldn’t the ultimate answer be “don’t have sex?”

Rush Limbaugh and double standards.  Long story short, Rush Limbaugh issued an apology for calling Fluke a “slut” and making other disparaging comments.  It was an opening Democrats took full advantage of, taking his comments and implying that as the de facto leader of the GOP, his comments represented how the GOP felt about women.  They also stated he only apologized because he was losing sponsors–probably a true statement.  The problem is, there seems to be a double standard.  As outlined in a piece by Kirsten Powers, a number of left-leaning talking heads have made similar statements. Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, Keith Olbermann, and especially Bill Maher have all gone off on women at one point or another, and didn’t get the wrath of the left dropped on them. Supposedly, the difference is the amount of influence Limbaugh has with the GOP, and that he is on the “public airwaves.” But bad statements are bad statements. Excusing your side while going after the other is simply political expediency.

I finish by pointing out two things.  First, credit to the President for using the situation as a way to score some bonus points.  He called Fluke to give her encouragement and see if she was ok.  How touching.  Second, a “right” is not a “right” if you are taking someone else’s stuff.  Free birth control isn’t a right, because someone else has to pay for it.

 

About Granting “exceptions” and Free Contraception

I saw a piece regarding President Obama and the uproar caused by saying church-sponsored institutions have to provide contraception to employees.  Today, he reversed course and said that insurance companies would be forced to provide it for free to the employees of such institutions.    What’s funny is, it still means the institutions will pay for it, because typically a company will pay for part of the benefits package provided to their employees.  So, they will still pay.  Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch!

While reading said piece, I found something in the comments section that I found to be very interesting, and spot-on:

There is a deep and very troubling issue being missed in not only this debate, but permeating the entire Obama administration. See today and also  recall yesterday  just how often the word “exception” is now used in edicts from Obama and his administration. In manufacturing, banking, education, health care by-passed senate confirmations and now religion, we get word from Obama that “we have granted an exception”. Granting  exceptions requires one be in absolute authority over those seeking relief from an onerous government imposed obligation. We are no longer being governed with our consent, but are in fact ruled by edict through Obama’s consent. Obama has not yet superseded  that authority which the Declaration of Independence plainly says  our individual rights come from and Obama must be told that in plain and simple words.

It makes me wonder if folks realize that–if you have to grant exceptions to a rule, then maybe, your rule should be changed?

I also wondered about “free” contraception.  Why should contraception be free?  Or Viagra?  Why should the government be involved in it?  Maybe there is a good reason, but its not coming to me right now.

Random Blog Thoughts: Gay Marriage in Cali, Defining “Fairness,” Wisconsin Recall Election

Well, I’m back to blogging after a long hiatus. Let’s get back to the fun.

Recently, an appeals court overturned the gay marriage ban in California.  Proposition 8 had been voted into law with 52% of the vote in the state.  A lower court judge had ruled it unconstitutional, but proponents of Prop 8 appealed (one reason was the lower court judge was gay).  The appeals court upheld that ruling 2-1, saying there was no compelling reason for the law.  Proponents have vowed to appeal again, and take it to the SCOTUS if they have to.

As I mentioned the other day on my Facebook page, I don’t think that people understand there is civil marriage and there is church marriage.  Proponents of gay marriage bans tend to feel they must “protect the sanctity of marriage” by not letting gays get married.  Prop 8 proponents said that the government “shouldn’t be allowed to redefine” marriage.  If they want to maintain the status quo regarding marriage, so be it.  Do it at the CHURCH level.  But leave civil marriage alone.  Not everyone in religious.  And I have yet to hear exactly what threat allowing a subset of a group of people who represent about 3% of the population get married, civil unionized, or whatever, would have on heterosexual people getting married.  If gay marriage is such a threat, why is it that all the gay marriages that have occurred in states where it’s legal haven’t caused the world to come to an end?  More importantly, how can people who want to be called “conservative” and advocate for individual rights, then want the government to enforce a law simply in order to keep from being offended?  It doesn’t make sense.

Fairness.  A word that is getting used way too much.  More often it’s used lately in reference to the rich and how much they pay in taxes.  Mind you, there has been no definition given, but it creates a good soundbite.  Funny enough, a write wrote what I consider to be a humorous article in the Wall Street Journal, A Fairness Quiz for the President. Of course there is no chance there would be answers forthcoming from President Obama concerning the article. But asking questions such as “is it fair that the richest 1% of Americans pay nearly 40% of all federal income taxes, and the richest 10% pay two-thirds of the tax” and “Is it fair that wind, solar and ethanol producers get billions of dollars of subsidies each year and pay virtually no taxes, while the oil and gas industry—which provides at least 10 times as much energy—pays tens of billions of dollars of taxes while the president complains that it is “subsidized” can only leave us wondering what kind of answers the President would give if pressed.  And of course, the comments section below the article is quite entertaining.

And finally, there is the attempt in Wisconsin to recall Gov.  Scott Walker and other Republicans in office.  The main complain is that he took away public workers’ right to collective bargain.  Further, he dared do this having not said before he was elected that this was something he would do.  I didn’t realize a candidate has to spell out every single thing they hope to accomplish beforehand.  also, there is a corruption probe going on that seems to have nabbed someone close to him.  Its plain there is an effort afoot to get rid of him.  My problem is, how do you justify recalling someone whose  ideas are actually working?  There are school systems where collective bargaining didn’t take place that saved money and made no layoffs.  In other areas where the unions were able to force collective bargaining before the new law took effect, school districts are having to fire teachers to avoid budget gaps.  It will be interesting to see how the recall election plays out.

Rachel Maddow Nails the President on Indefinite Detentions–Something Even Bush Didn’t Try

Recently the President signed into law new legislation that allows suspected terrorists or terrorist collaborators to be detained in the US.  MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow addressed the subject:

Methinks the President just lost the high moral road.

Jay Z Gets It Right on Tax Increases

Jay Z was asked about paying more taxes recently:

I’m willing to bet that he isn’t the only high income earner who feels that way. Its not that they aren’t willing to pay more. They simply want more accountability regarding how taxpayer money is spent.

I doubt we’ll see that from either party anytime soon.

We Need Some Sane Tax Policy in Washington

President Obama has launched his campaign for reelection by using “fairness” as a theme.  His main rallying cry is that the rich need to pay their fair share of taxes.  No one knows what this exact fair share is; all he and his supporters know is that it’s a number that is higher than what high income earners pay now.

I realize, however, that I can’t just be mad at the left and their blatant attempt to tax more in order to spend more.  Upon reflection, it’s obvious that there hasn’t been sane tax policy in years.  Good tax policy would involve taxes and spending in the same conversation.

Washington has a history of doing one without the other.  People are critical of Reagan and his marginal rates cut from the early 80s.  What was supposed to happen was that for every $1 in cuts, the Democrat-led Congress was supposed to impose $3 in spending cuts.  Instead, the cuts were never implemented.  Ironically, in what has become a prominent talking point, the left even now points to Reagan as a big spender.  The idea that there was a deal that was reneged on is never mentioned.

In the 90s, Clinton and a Dem-led Congress increased taxes in 1993.  The fact that the economy continued to grow on the strength of the tech bubble gives ammunition to those who say the increases helped fuel the economy.  In 1996, after the Republican takeover in congress, tax cuts were pushed through.  Clinton didn’t want them but signed them nonetheless.  The economy continued to grow and tax receipts to the government increased.  Yes, increased.

Then came the Bush cuts.  Sure, with two wars going on, there was lots of distraction.  But the administration and Congress missed the boat.  Based on tax receipts, the deficit got down to $400 billion before the economy collapsed in 2007.   That’s important to point out because without any real spending cuts, tax receipts were going up.  If there had been a real effort to cut spending, it’s possible there may have been a surplus in the future.  Instead, the Bush administration and the Republicans (then the Dems in 2007 and 2008) continued to spend.

Further, Republicans used the pending expiration of the Bush tax cuts to yell about how Obama would preside over the largest tax increase in history.  Not only is that assertion probably false, but it also ignores the fact that the cuts had to have a sunset provision of 10 years in order to be passed in the first place.  The fact is, they all should have been allowed to expire.  But how often does Congress do the right thing?  Republicans want all to be extended, while Democrats have made it a priority to raise taxes on the top 1%-2% of earners, saying they need to pay their “fair share.”  If there was going to be serious, SERIOUS discussion of tax policy, ALL the rates would be returned to pre-Bush levels.  It is funny, though, that critics say how the Bush cuts put the economy in a hole, yet only lobby for ending the cuts for the highest earners.  The estimated cost of the cuts for the middle class and below is three times that of the amount for high earners.  But to point that out would be political suicide.

Speaking of Democrats, Obama put a small tax cut into the stimulus, then extended the Bush cuts for two years as part of the debt ceiling deal.  But Democrats are pounding the war drums for higher taxes on higher earners, saying its about “fairness.”  They have yet to acknowledge that in terms of the amount of taxes paid, effective rate comparisons, or burden distribution, higher earners do more than their less well-to-do countrymen.  Plus, Democrats are lobbying to extend a payroll tax cut from 2011.  While Republicans went after the Democrats before about not raising taxes during a down economy-something Obama said he wouldn’t do), Democrats have taken that page from the playbook in order to get the payroll tax cut extended through 2012.

This is just more insanity.  In this case, we’re not just talking less in tax receipts.  We are now reducing the amount of money going to Social Security, which is already heading towards insolvency.  It’s as though they won’t realize that they are playing with fire until the house burns down.

We can’t forget to mention the failure of the debt commission to come up with a deficit reducing solution.  Republicans should at the very least agree to close loopholes.  Democrats should admit that, as has been proven successful in other countries, there should be a lot more spending cuts than tax increase.  There should be consideration of the suggestions made by the Simpson-Bowles committee to raise revenues, even if it means a lower tax rate for the rich–which, with fewer loopholes would lead to more tax receipts.

Let’s see who will be the first to step up and actually make some sense.

 

Can Blacks “claim” the Confederate Flag like we “claimed” the N-word?

A South Carolina college student has caused a stir by displaying the Confederate Flag in his dorm room.  The student, who is Black, acknowledged that its “kind of weird” because he is Black, but according to the article, he feels the meaning of the flag has been hijacked.

“I’ve been getting a lot of support from people,” Byron Thomas says.  “My generation is interested in freedom of speech.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen such.  Some years back, there was an attempt to use the flag on some hip hop inspired gear.  To my knowledge, the fad didn’t catch on.

But while many other people are freaking out about Thomas’ display of the flag, I had a different reaction.  I couldn’t help but wonder what the difference is between staking a claim on the confederate flag and doing the same to the N-word.

Now, for those of you who are not fans of the word “nigger” (or “nigga,” “nig,” “ninja,” or whatever variant you may have heard), this isn’t for you, as you will say both are hateful, devisive, and have no place in today’s society.  But then there are those of you who, like me, know the history of the word, yet admit to using it in jest among friends on occasion.  I’ve heard people say that we have taken the hateful word and claimed it to take away its negative power and energy.  Or maybe it’s that it’s fun to use and we just don’t care about its origin.  Regardless, it gets used.

But my point is this:  can those of us comfortable with the n-word be mad if today’s generation wants to do the same to the rebel flag?  My first inclination is to continue to treat them differently, but upon reflection, I realize it’s a hypocritical stance.  They both have similar histories.  It’s just that they hit in different ways–one hits the brain visually, the other audibly.  In the end, who am I to say that they are crazy for attempting to change the the status quo regarding one of the most divisive symbols in history.

Not everyone will agree.  But I guess all I can say is, more power to ya, Byron.

A Viewpoint on How We Elect the President

Many people don’t realize (despite taking Civics in high school) that the President of the United States is not elected via the popular vote.  Instead, we use the Electoral College.  In a nutshell, we use the vote count in each state and territory to determine which candidate gets the the votes from that state.  Some say this should remain the way things are done, while others say the electoral college should be abolished.  Here is an interesting video on the subject.

White Men Have an Instinctual Fear of Black Men being with White Women? Who Is this Idiot??

There are many legitimate aspects of the Herman Cain sexual harassment scandal.  But we all know its the more salacious, suggestive, and often crazy things that are made up about the situation that will sell more papers, get more internet clicks, or get more viewers.

Today, we look at Toure, a contributor on MSNBC.  Nevermind that he has already described Cain as a minstrel character.  Ignore that he follows the liberal mindset regarding Cain, that he isn’t a serious candidate.  And let’s look past the fact that he only goes on shows where he can say such foolishness and not have someone from the other side to call him on how stupid he sounds.

During a recent appearance on “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell (another very-far-left-leaner who says the most outlandish things and never gets called on it by the left), Toure had this to say:

The instinctual fear in America of black men being sexually inappropriate or aggressive or dominating with white women is very, very deep. And when is this going to start to come out?

People start to feel this on a deep level. ‘This is wrong. He keeps going after our women. We don’t like this.’

Say WHAT?!

We already know that there is a part of the left that have to make things racial all the time.  The Tea Party is racist.  The GOP is racist.  The right is racist!  No surprise there.  But sometimes, when you hear statements like those, you wonder if the person saying them even takes themselves seriously.  I have no doubt that this Toure does, since he has many TV appearances and many chances to give his opinion on things.  But seeing or hearing statements like that makes me wonder:  isn’t HE the one that is coming across as minstrel-like?  “Oh, sure!  Put me on TV so I can talk more about the racist right and the clueless black politicians that support them!”

I say people like this make us look worse than a Herman Cain does.  Problem is, most folks don’t even realize it.

Cain Accused of Sexual Harrassment. Something to Worry About? Or Is He Gonna Get Clarence Thomas’ed?

The website Politico has done an investigation and found that while GOP frontrunner Herman Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association, there were two female employees who accused him of sexual harrassment.  The two were asked to leave the NRA in return for receiving cash settlements and promising to keep what happened under wraps.

You can read the article to get the details of the situation, but what comes to mind for me is simply this: how will this play out?  The criticism from the Left is already flying fast and furious.  He’s been called an Uncle Tom.  He’s being used by the Tea Party to cover up their racist leanings.  And so on.  Now, this gives detractors new ammunition.

But I wonder if many of the most vocal detractors will be people who were willing to give former president Bill Clinton a pass.  People who still talk about Anita Hill’s accusations of harrassment of Clarence Thomas while they were at the EEOC say nothing of how accusations of Clinton’s dalliances were floating around well before he ran for and won the presidency.  Paula Jones filed a lawsuit against Clinton in 1994 and was treated like a pariah–until “the dress” appeared and Clinton had to settle and also deal with getting impeached for perjury.

My point is, regardless of which side it happens to, its always interesting to see the reaction from the other side, whose supporters are usually quick to forget that they were fine with what happened when their person did it.  It’s only bad when the other side does it, right?

Having said that, is this something that, if true, should DQ Cain from the race?  Will this pass over, or will this become a stone around his neck?  Stay tuned.

Tone Down the Rhetoric? Biden Says Pass Obama Jobs Bill or Rapes Will Increase

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I remember not too long ago that there were calls to tone down the political rhetoric in the wake of the Gabby Jeffords shooting.  Anyone else remember this?

Obviously the message was lost.  Recently, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implied abortion funding legislation passed by Republicans would result in women dying on hospital floors with doctors not allowed to save them–because somehow, the legislation in question would prevent them from doing so.  Common sense tells us that that assertion is wrong and way over the top.  But lets move on.

Lately, Vice President Joe Biden has been out pushing for passage of President Obama’s jobs bill.  Evidently, it was not enough for him to simply say the bill is needed to create jobs.  Instead, the VP decided to take a different tack.  He decided the best method is to pull out one of the things that terrifies women most–rape. His assertion? That without passage of the bill, the number of police on America’s streets will decrease, and rapes and murders will increase. He first stated this at a rally in Flint, Michigan and even cited statistics. He then said it again a week later at a fireman’s rally in DC.

But there is a minor problem.  As I like to say, don’t let facts get in the way of a good argument.

In general, there are statistics out that show that in many places, even with fewer officers on the beat, crime rates have still gone down.  Specifically, the Fact Checker at the Washington Post obtained numbers for crime in Flint, where Biden first made his assertion, and showed that Biden overstated the number of rapes by a lot. On top of that, the Chief of Police in Flint has previously stated there was no real correlation to the size of the force and the amount of crime:

As the Flint Journal reported in May: “Officials said the fact that 46 police officers were laid off last year had little to do with the escalating crime. Most of the crimes were between people that knew each other. ‘No matter how many officers we have, we can’t stop disputes between two people in their own homes,’ Lock said.”

Lock made a similar assertion in September, 2010, when FBI statistics were released showing violent crime in Flint had decreased in 2009. The Flint Journal reported: “A smaller police force doesn’t automatically mean more crime, said Flint police chief Alven Lock. ‘There’s been years when we had 300 officers and we still had more homicides,’ he said, referring to 1986, when he was in the homicide division and homicides hit an all-time high of 61.”

I’m willing to bet that many other members of law enforcement say the same thing. Of course, that doesn’t make for a good political soundbite when one is trying to paint a picture of the opposing party as being ok with an increase in crime.

8 CEOs Who are Overpaid Based on Performance, via MSNBC

I have mixed emotions about the level of compensation paid to CEOs of some of the largest and most successful American companies.  On the one hand, based on the level of responsibility they take on, the number of hours they work, and other factors, I definitely think they should be compensated well above the average worker.  Let them get their cash, options, limos, and other perks.

However, that understanding gets put on pause if the company that exec is running is underperforming, or just plain out sucking wind.

A new piece on MSNBC.com has a list of 8 CEOs that earn a high level of compensation, but run companies that had a negative performance on the stock market in 2010.  The stock prices of the companies these men helm dropped between 3% and 31.4%, yet they still continued to earn over $18 million in pay and perks (no breakdown of how much is cash, options, or the dollar value of non-cash perks).  Now, one could say that even though the stock price went down, in some cases revenues were flat or increased.  But the writer points out something I’ve believed for a while as well, that the high compensation can be blamed on the stockholders, since  “shareholders who cannot effectively vote to have management removed are saddled not only with those ineffectual executives, but also with their pay packages.”

You can read the article here.

When Repubs do it? “They’re Bad!” When Dems do it? *crickets*

As it has been stated before, the President is taking every possible opportunity to tell the public that Republicans are preventing Americans from getting jobs by not passing his jobs bill.  This, despite the fact that his own party members blocked the bill last week, and despite calls from Republicans to negotiate a more bipartisan approach.

This week we have more of the same.  Democrats have decided to attempt to pass the bill piecemeal in the Senate.  As expected, the Dems first attempt to pass a bill for teachers and first responders failed.  Republicans all voted against the bill, which would be paid for via a 0.5% surtax on millionaires.  There were also two Democrats and Independent Joe Liebermann who voted no.

As expected, the President released a statement condemning the vote and saying its “unacceptable” that Senate Republicans “have chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again.”

However, Republicans brought to the floor a bill that would eliminate a 3 percent withholding tax on federal contractors.  Ironically, the idea came from Obama‘s own plan.  Ten Democrats voted for the bill along with the Republicans, but it was still three votes short.  So here we had a jobs bill, defeated through the efforts of Senate Dems who voted against the bill.

And just like when Dem Senator Harry Reid blocked a vote on the bill, there was no statement from the President.  No condemnation for not passing the bill.  Nothing but…crickets.

President Obama has not shied away from giving his own party a tongue lashing in the past.  But now?  Nothing.

It must be election season.

What I Got Out of Last Night’s Republican Candidate Debate

Just a few thoughts:

1)As Newt Gingrich pointed out, Herman Cain’s plan will be a hard sell.  Cain insisted that people go to his website and read the analysis of his plan.  The problem is, most people won’t.  People only have time for soundbites these days so they take what they hear at face value.  And I can guarantee that if somehow Cain became the nominee, Obama would constantly repeat that the plan would be an increase for low-income people and the middle class.  Cain needs to either refine his message, refine his plan, or move on to another thing to harp on.

2)Romney and Perry REALLY don’t like each other.  Perry decided “screw the debate rules” and repeatedly talked over Romney, even when Romney reminded him he would get time to rebut.  At one point Romney put his hand on Perry.  Since they were in Vegas, someone should’ve erected a ring and let these two go at it.

3)I don’t think Ron Paul has a chance, but I found his plan to cut $1 trillion in his first year as president to be quite interesting.

4)Quote of the night goes to Newt Gingrich:

If you want to understand how totally broken Washington is, look at this entire model of a supercommitte, which has now got a magic number to achieve and if it doesn’t achieve the magic number then we’ll all have to shoot ourselves in the head.  So when they come back with a dumb idea to merely cut off our right leg, we will all be grateful that they are only semi-stupid instead of being totally stupid.

5)Cain was attacked by his fellow candidates over how the additional sales tax would add to the state taxes already being paid by citizens.  Cain said it was comparing apples to oranges.  All he really needed to say was that federal tax policy can’t be dictated by the tax policy of each and every state.   That’s why it’s apples and oranges.  Simple, right?

6)Bachmann is done.  Some of her answers were just plain weird.  When asked what can be done about foreclosures, she starts talking about moms who are losing their nests.  Huh?

Don’t Use the Word “Break.” It’s Racist!

I’ve mentioned MSNBC’s Ed Schultz as someone who comes up with the most outlandish garbage, and no one ever checks him over it.  Fortunately, not many people watch him or his show.

Courtesy of Mr. Schultz, I have now learned something new!  “Break” is a racist term!  Didn’t know that?  I didn’t either.

See, Schultz is now on the taking shots at current GOP frontrunner Herman Cain.  Cain mentioned SC Senator Jim DeMint as a possible VP candidate.  DeMint, back in 2009, during the debate stages of what would become Obamacare, said that if Republicans could stop him, it would be Obama’s “Waterloo.”  For those at home, Waterloo was where Napoleon was defeated for the last time and marked an end to his reign as French emperor, and the term is often used to describe someone’s last stand and final defeat.  But then, DeMint said that such a loss for Obama would “break him.”

Evidently, this is, as Schultz described it, “break” is “an old Southern, racist term.”

He then brings on a Dr. James Peterson, a professor of African Studies from Lehigh University, who concurs with him, saying that it is “a term that was used to destroy, mentally and physically, slaves during the institution of slavery in this country.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying what Dr. Peterson says about how the word was used back in slavery days is wrong.  What I find rediculous is that he would attach DeMint’s comments to such usage.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say people have been using that very same term in that very same manner, with no racist overtones, for years.  Coaches talk about breaking the other team’s back at the end of the game.  Military planners talk of breaking the backs of the enemy.  Even Ivan Drago told Rocky Balboa “I must break you” before their fight in “Rocky V.”  Was he a Russian racist?

Wait, I forgot.  DeMint is supported by the Tea Party.  AND he’s from a Southern state.  Put those in the mix, and I guess he really is racist!  Right?

Bill Clinton Says No Tax Increases Now; Dems Want Supercommittee to Spend, Not Slash

Recently, former president Bill Clinton was on with David Letterman.  Though many in his party are pushing for higher taxes, Clinton advocates a different approach:

“Should you raise taxes on anybody right today — rich or poor or middle class? No, because there’s no growth in the economy,” Clinton said on the “Late Show.” “Should those of us who make more money and are in better position to contribute to America’s public needs and getting this deficit under control pay a higher tax rate when the economy recovers? Yes, that’s what I think.”

He also mentions that there should be no spending cuts right now, either. Seems he is directly opposite of other party members.

Remember the supercommittee that is supposed to find a way to cut a couple trillion dollars from the deficit over the next decade? Well, Democrats are already lobbying for both tax increases AND more spending:

For instance, Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee want the supercommittee to find ways to pay for a six-year surface transportation funding bill at a cost of $500 billion, which they said would create or save 6 million jobs.

Rather than cut, House Democrats want the supercommittee to collect more money — whether from the pharmaceutical industry, in the form of lower drug prices, or from government health care programs by weeding out inefficient and misguided payments.

And of course, there is the constant cry about tax breaks for oil companies–tax breaks that all businesses get–which would produce $43 billion.

I suspect that the supercommittee will fail and that the automatic triggers built in will be activated. Then things will really get interesting.

Obama’s Proposal Stuck in Democrat-led Senate, but it’s Still Republicans’ Fault

On  Tuesday, the Senate held a vote on whether to bring forward President Obama’s jobs bill for discussion.  Mind you, this was not a vote on the bill itself.  Just a vote to bring it forward to debate, discuss, slice, and dice.  The vote was 50 in favor, 49 against, with 60 votes needed to move forward.  The President, of course, issued a statement blaming Senate Republicans for the lack of votes:

President Obama blasted Senate Republicans for blocking his jobs bill Tuesday night, saying the American people “won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

The president said in a statement that his administration will work with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to get votes on the individual components of the bill “as soon as possible.”

Yes, with the same Senator Reid who himself blocked a vote on the bill just last week.

But there are two things that the President so conveniently forgot to mention.  First, in the 50-49 vote there were actually two Democrat senators that voted along with the Republicans.  But the second thing he omitted is far more important–some of the Dems who voted in favor of bringing the bill to the floor for discussion would not vote for the bill itself:

The only Democrats to vote against the measure were Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), but a number of other centrists in the party indicated they would vote against the package even though they supported launching a debate on the measure.

Let’s see how long before the President admits that his own party is as much to blame and takes them to task for it.

Reid Goes Nuclear, Blocks Vote on Jobs Bill, President Blames House Republicans??

We all remember the speech.  “Pass this jobs bill right away!”  We all heard that phrase many times during the President’s prime time speech on jobs.  Yet, after a month, there had been no bill brought to the floor of either chamber of Congress.

When I wrote about how Dems weren’t even trying to place the bill in the House, I recall someone saying that there was no point, because Republicans wouldn’t vote for it and it would lose.  My view was (and is) that you at least have to try.

According to President Obama, Republicans are blocking his bill in the house, so he took the time to call out Eric Cantor during a stop in Texas:

President Barack Obama got tough on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Tuesday, calling him out by name for saying he will block a vote on the president’s $447 billion plan to create jobs and boost the economy.

“Yesterday, the Republican majority leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, said that right now, he won’t even let the jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives. That’s what he said,” Obama told a crowd in Mesquite, Texas. “Won’t even let it be debated. … Do they not have the time? They just had a week off. Is it inconvenient?”

Now, if thats true, then the President is right for calling him out.  But, Cantor retorted with a good point about support, or lack of, for the bill from the President’s own party:

Cantor said Monday that the president’s jobs bill is dead on arrival in the House and won’t be brought to a vote. “This all-or-nothing approach is unreasonable,” he said. “I would say from a practical side … he’s got problems on his own side of the aisle with provisions in the bill that Democratic members disagree with. There are many issues that I’ve listed here that we can work together on. So instead of continuing to maintain this sort of campaign posture, let’s do something to work together.”

Somehow, the President conveniently left out that many in his own party don’t support his bill as written.  But pointing that out wouldn’t score political points, now would it?

Then, the Obama campaign sends out an email pointing out that Cantor and Co. were blocking the bill. Because of course, the best way to raise money is to call out the other guys, right?

There was only one problem.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who happens to be a Democrat, went “nuclear” in order to block a vote on the very jobs bill that President Obama yelled at Republicans for blocking.  In other words, to prevent a vote, Reid changed the rules of the Senate:

Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.

Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.

The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation.

For those who forgot, the last time there was discussion of the “nuclear option,” it was because Democrats were stalling to block Bush judicial nominees, and Republicans were threatening to do what Reid did yesterday.   Of course, back then, Dems were howling that it wouldn’t be right for Republicans to change how things had been done in the Senate for many many years just to get their way, and in the end there was a bipartisan compromise to get past the gridlock.  Yet, Reid jumped in yesterday and opened Pandora’s Box.

Reid claims his move was to prevent the Republicans from offering endless amendments to the bill up for vote, and that Republicans were just trying to “embarrass the President” since they know the bill wouldn’t pass as written–due to lack of support from Senate Democrats.

So, the question is, will the President call out his own party?  Will his campaign send out an email talking about how Reid and friends are blocking the jobs bill and should explain themselves?

Don’t hold your breath.

What’s More Important–Jumpstarting the Economy, or Raising Taxes on the Rich?

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is advocating a plan to overhaul the current tax structure in order to jumpstart the economy.  You can read the details at his website http://www.hermancain.com/999plan.  In a nutshell, his 9-9-9 plan would lower corporate taxes to 9%, personal income taxes to 9%, and introduce a 9% consumption tax.  Loopholes and deductions (with the exception of charity) would go away, as would the inheritance tax and capital gains taxes.  Businesses would save billions in tax compliance costs, and individuals would have more to spend, since it also eliminates payroll taxes.

I see two problems that stand in the way of such a change being passed.

First, politicians would probably balk.  For the plan to be effective, the constitution would need to be amended to prevent politicians from enacting other taxes on top of the 9-9-9 plan.  But we know how politicians are.  They like to provide favors for the donors.  So not being able to provide tax breaks for their favorite people or companies wouldn’t fly.

Second, Democrats wouldn’t go for it either.  Simply put, regardless of whether or not the plan would help the economy, their complaint would be that the rich weren’t paying enough.  Need proof?  In an exchange between Cain and the talking heads from MSNBCRachel Maddow, Al Sharpton, Eugene Robinson, Ed Schultz, and that O’Donnell guy, each asked Cain a question.  Of course, the good Rev. Sharpton asked a question racially related, asking if Cain’s talk of states having more control over certain things doesn’t equate to the classic “states rights” debate from the civil war and civil rights eras (thank goodness Cain shot him down quickly).  O’Donnell and Robinson went after him over Social Security–“personalization” vs “privatization.”  But around the 4:30 mark, Shultz plays the class card.  His worry?  That the 9-9-9 plan not only hits the lower class hardest, but that the rich wouldn’t pay their “fair share.”

Well, we know what the real priority is!  (Video can be seen here).

By the way, because reminding folks about it never gets old, a strong argument can be made that high income earners, by virtue of their piece of the tax pie, already pay their fair share, if not more. Here is a piece that breaks down the income tax burden pie in 20% increments.

Final Thoughts on the Troy Davis Case

I can’t think of a time when I have been drawn to a court case the way the Troy Davis case has pulled me in.  Who can honestly say they have sat down and read a 100+ page court ruling?

There is much we can learn from the goings on of this case.

IN GENERAL, PEOPLE DON’T RESEARCH.  We are a busy society.  We don’t have time to fact check, research, look up things.  We like the first part of what former president Ronald Reagan said (“trust”) but leave out the second part (“but verify”).  It is not a stretch to say that many people made a decision based simply on hearing many times how 7 out of 9 witnesses recanted their testimony.   I’m willing to bet that for many, they immediately assume there were 9 total witnesses, and that 7 previously said Davis did the crime but were now saying that he didn’t.  Simply reading even a synopsis of the testimony given would show that wasn’t the case.  Further, even the media doesn’t get it right.  Members of the media would also use the 7 out of 9 line.  But we must remember, whether its an opinion piece or a non-slanted article, it’s all meant to sell newspapers (or drive clicks to a website). My buddy over at the Nullspace has a good piece on that:  http://thenullspace.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/on-capital-punishment-troy-davis-media-bias/

UNDERSTANDING THE COURT SYSTEM IS KEY.  Reading through court docs was very eye-opening.  One of the main points I took from this is that simply saying someone recanted is not grounds enough for a new trial.  The judge from the Savannah hearing stated it best in his ruling.  If it were that easy to get a new trial, especially after the fact, we would have people gathering witnesses to recant all the time.  Then, said witnesses would just fail to show up for court.  When requesting a new trial, defendant needs to show that new evidence not shown at trial has become available, or that the prosecution acted improperly.  Most importantly, whatever the new evidence is must be enough to where the jury in the initial trial would have found the defendant not guilty.  We may look at that and say its bad, or that the system is broken, but without that, the justice system could implode from trials and retrials.

HOW MANY WITNESSES DOES IT TAKE?  Take away the witnesses who are on the “recant” list.   When looking at the people who did not change testimony, who identified the shooter based on what he was wearing, and based on other testimony, it seems there is still a strong case that Davis was the shooter.  The question is, if there was a new trial, how would you handle the testimony of those who didn’t change theirs, especially if they weren’t available for the new trial?

AFFIDAVITS DON’T CARRY A LOT OF WEIGHT IN COURT.  The recanters all signed affidavits.  Sounds good.  But the difference between an affidavit and a statement on a piece of paper is simply a notary stamp.  They don’t carry a lot of weight until the person making the statement can be cross examined in court to determine credibility.  In Davis’ case, there were at least two who were actually at the last hearing but were not called to testify.  In the court’s eyes, that make their statement suspicious.  Also, without cross examination, the statements by people saying that Coles (the guy Davis said shot the officer and who was with him that night) did it is considered hearsay. This link– http://legalcases.info/troydavis/ –has a good breakdown of the case and further, has a very good breakdown of what the witnesses said at trial and later so that you can actually see what is and isn’t a recant.

 

Actual Court Documents From the Troy Davis Case

After a long, very good conversation with one of my closest friends, I realized that with my last post, I should’ve put a disclaimer.  The article I used as reference did not itself reference any actual documents.  So though much of what Mr. Erickson put in seemed to be factual (I applied my “why would he lie” filter), its better to have actual information with reference to remove doubt.

We did discuss the Wikipedia entry on the case, though we know that wikis can sometimes be full of wrong information (anyone can log in and edit to make a wiki slant in a desired direction).  Since this entry was chock full of reference entries, I will assume there is at least some validity there.  But further, I wanted court documents.

A search produced court documents f rom the Southern District court case in South Georgia in 2010.  Within the documents are the original statements from witnesses the night of the shootings.  If going by the statements, and even giving a second look to the statements made by those who recanted, I would be interested in knowning what other lawyers and law experts saw that the courts didn’t see.  It would seem from testimony that there were many other witnesses that did not recant who gave enough info in testimony to convict Davis as the shooter.

The court docs from the case are here: Part 1 and Part 2. For those interested, the wiki for the case is here.

I am interested in getting opinions from people after reading the court documents.

The Troy Davis Death Penalty Case: It Helps to Know the Whole Story

I am not a supporter of the death penalty, so I wanted Troy Davis’ death sentence to be commuted on those grounds, for starters.  Then, over the last few months and years, many of us have heard things that seemed to make the case for Davis to be spared, and possibly be innocent.  The other day, discussing the case among my Facebook crew, I stated that I really need to get up to speed on what appeals courts look at when a case comes before them.  I figured that maybe, I’m relying too much on just the anecdotal information being put forth in the news, mainly by people who support his innocence.

Interestingly enough, I came across a piece by Erick Erickson, radio talking head and editor at Redstate.com, where he lays out the case.  It was just the information dump I was looking for and made me come to a simple conclusion–Troy Davis was guilty as charged.

What he points out make arguing to the contrary very difficult.  There were three Air Force airmen who were firsthand witnesses to the murder.  Troy Davis had Officer McPhail’s blood on his clothes.  Davis had a .38 that had been linked to a previous crime, and a .38 is what was used to kill Officer McPhail.

But there were two p0ints he made that really jumped out at me in this case that really point to Davis’ guilt:

For the first time in 50 years the United States Supreme Court ordered a federal court to conduct an entire rehearing of all the evidence. The court did and found all the new stuff was, again, “smoke and mirrors,” including the retracted confessions. And while building the case to claim that Sylvester Coles was the real murderer, the defense would not call Coles in for examination.

One would presume that with all the reviews of evidence and the rehearing, one of the courts would raise a fuss if there was a chance he wasn’t guilty.  None did.  Then, the second thing:

MacPhail reported in that he had run passed Sylvester Coles. MacPhail was shot from the front in the chest and face — not from behind where Coles was, but from the front where MacPhail himself located Troy Davis.

That one is hard to shoot down.

You can read the entire piece here.

NFL Player Passes New Contract to Go to Grad School and Help Kids

Came across this story of Jason Wright. Instead of signing a new contract with the Arizona Cardinals, he opted to accept entry into the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. His reason? He wants to help inner-city kids:

After agent Mike McCartney informed the Cardinals that Wright was retiring, general manager Rod Graves insisted he would improve on the running back’s previous contract, which was for two years at $2 million. But in making the decision, the Northwestern graduate questioned himself.

“That was the thing that was on my mind, the biggest hiccup,” says Wright, who spent seven seasons in the NFL. “What’s the motive behind me playing longer? What is it in there that draws me? So people would know my name?

“For me, it was superficial. For me and my family, and our belief in God, it wasn’t a good enough motivation.”

The rest of the story is just as inspirational, about how he and his wife have taken in people who just needed someone to point them in the right direction.  Props go out to this family, not as an indictment to others who may not have made the same decision, but for following what they feel is the best course for them.  Also, a few brownie points to the Arizona Cardinals.  Seems they have been good at picking some decent guys who happen to be able to play football.  Wright follows Pat Tillman (RIP) who gave up millions in the NFL to join the Army after 9/11.

That Jobs Plan Sounded Good…Then Reality Set In

Last week I listened to the president outline a new plan to help create jobs.  “Pass this bill right away!” the president implored.  Initially, I was right on board with what he was saying, and was impressed that instead of the non-stimulating shotgun approach of the first bill, President Obama was firing targeted rifle shots with each line.  Even better, he started off by saying the plan would be paid for.

Then, about 2/3 of the way through, things started going downhill.

First, the president pulled out some of the tried-and-true garbage talking points.  He spoke of removing tax breaks for oil companies (hey, that *could* bring in a whopping $2 billion a year!), of millionaires and billionaires that don’t need tax deductions, and of the rich paying their “fair share” (I’m STILL waiting for specificity on what exactly their “fair share” is).  he even pulled out Warren Buffet’s claim of paying less in taxes than his secretary (I suggest people read up on capital gains taxes vs marginal income taxes to understand why this is bogus).

Second, President Obama punts the responsibility for paying for the bill to the newly-formed supercommittee, who will already have to find a way to cut $1.5 trillion in spending before December.  Seems to me there is a difference between saying something is paid for and saying “well, THEY are going to figure out how to pay for it.”

Then, for the coup de grace, the bill is rolled out on Monday…and its designed to be paid for via tax increases.

Sigh.

Though I don’t support the idea of absolutely no tax increases, the move makes the president look downright indecisive.  Not only that, but he knows that under the current environment, the chances of passing his bill (which came under criticism from all sides shortly after the post-speech euphoria wore off) just went from possible to “snowball’s chance in hades.”  Granted, a bill may get passed, but it definitely won’t fly through paid for just with tax increases.

“Tea Party Debate Audience Cheered Idea of Letting Uninsured Patients Die:” One of the Most Misleading Headlines EVER

While cruising through the news sites, I came across a disturbing headline:  “Tea Party Debate Audience Cheered Idea of Letting Uninsured Patients Die.”  Now, surely, people wouldn’t be so shallow as to cheer the idea of letting someone die!  That’s just not the American way!  So, of course, I clicked the link to see what the fuss was about:

CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer’s hypothetical question about whether an uninsured 30-year-old working man in coma should be treated prompted one of the most boisterous moments of audience participation in the CNN/Tea Party Express.

“What he should do is whatever he wants to do and assume responsibility for himself,” Paul responded, adding, “That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risk. This whole idea that you have to compare and take care of everybody…”

The audience erupted into cheers, cutting off the Congressman’s sentence.

Now, let’s stop right here. Anyone reading this the say way I did notices something very important. The crowd cheered in response to Ron Paul’s comments, that clearly spelled out the idea of people taking personal responsibility for themselves. But just to make sure, let’s see what happened next:

After a pause, Blitzer followed up by asking “Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?” to which a small number of audience members shouted “Yeah!”

Paul, a doctor trained in obstetrics and gynecology, said when he got out of medical school in the 1960s “the churches took care of them.”

“We never turned anybody away from the hospital,” he said. “We’ve given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves or assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. That’s the reason the cost is so high.”

So…a few idiots (not even close to being the entire audience) decides to be stupid. But this is not how the headline portrays it. The casual observer (or staunch Liberal) is led into the story thinking everyone let out a roar when the option of letting an uninsured person die. Paul never implied that was the case.

For the record, a number of the republican candidates issued statements to condemn the cheering. But let’s be clear. This is an example of poor journalism, made even worse by the fact that many outlets picked up the story and ran with it. Now we get to hear about how the Tea Party wants uninsured people to die. Just lovely.

Wait–Did Chris Matthews Say Social Security was a Ponzi Scheme?

Oh my, oh my! With all of the left-leaning folks eager to shoot down the notion that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, I’m sure they would be surprised to hear who agrees with that notion. Can you believe MSNBC’s Chris Matthews actually agrees?

Matthews first put forth what he thought Social Security was originally intended to be: “You pay for it while you work. When you retired and have no other form of income, this will help you out. In fact, a lot were impoverished in the old days without Social Security. It’s a great anti-poverty program. But then people started to live past 65. Even the great Franklin Roosevelt didn’t make it to 65. In those days, if you made it to 65, you were lucky. You got a few bucks on Social Security.”

Then he put forth what it has become: “Today, lots of people fortunately make it past 65,” he said. “They live into their 80s and 90s. They’re still getting checks. The system doesn’t work that way anymore. It’s not as healthy as it once was. So, how does a Republican deal with the fact it is a Ponzi scheme in the sense that the money that’s paid out every day is coming from people who have paid in that day. It’s not being made somewhere.”

The actual video clip can be found following the link.

By the way, giving credit where credit is due, yesterday’s post about SS and Ponzi was spurred by a conversation with my buddy Carl, who blogs here.

Social Security and Ponzi Schemes: What’s the Difference Between Bernie Madoff and Uncle Sam?

While listening to popular radio talk host Neal Boortz, I heard a comparison that has been made many times.  Simply put, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.  And when you look at, the that assessment is dead on.

For the uninitiated (which included me until I looked it up), the father of the Ponzi scheme is Charles Ponzi, who at the peak of his pyramid scheme in the early 1900s was bringing in $250,000 a day before his downfall. There is a good Wiki on this here, but in short, hundreds of investors paid money into his scheme, with the promise of high returns in a short amount of time. What was really happening was, Ponzi was taking the money from new investors and paying out to “older” investors. A more recent grassroots example that many may have heard of was the infamous “Friends Helping Friends” scheme (I can’t be the only one that was asked at one point to join this). Same concept–you pay in, work your way up the pyramid, and cash out. And of course, there is Bernie Madoff, who had a $50 million dollar Ponzi scheme going until he was ratted out by family.

For the plan to work, there has to be a constant influx of new people and new money. When that stops, the pyramid falls.

So, let’s compare Social Security, that bedrock of entitlement programs, with the common aspects of the Ponzi Scheme.

  • In a Ponzi scheme, new people coming into the pyramid-like scheme pay in, expecting a payout later.  With Social Security, workers pay in during their working career, expecting a payout after retirement.
  • Ponzi scheme:  the people at the top of the pyramid get their payouts using the money from the new investors at the bottom of the pyramid.  Social Security:  recipients are paid using the money paid in by current workers.
  • Ponzi scheme:  money coming in is spent immediately, not saved.   Social Security:  money coming in goes right back out.  There is no “lockbox,” and by law, surplus Social Security funds are put into the general fund to pay for other government things having nothing to do with Social Security.
  • Ponzi scheme:  rate of return may vary, but is usually very high, which is what attracts investors.  Social Security:  compared to the rate of return available on the private market, that of Social Security is a joke (for lack of a better description).
  • Ponzi scheme:  when there are not enough folks paying in, the pyramid collapses.  Social Security:  when there are not enough folks paying in (we’re getting to that point), insolvency occurs and the government goes into debt to fund it.
  • Ponzi scheme:  investors pay in voluntarily.  Social Security:  attempt to opt out, and you will get a visit from government agents with badges and guns.
  • Ponzi scheme:  people who run them are arrested and go to jail.  Social Security:  Well, you know the answer to that one.

There you have it.  Our Social Security program that everyone knows and loves is a government-endorsed Ponzi scheme.  Anyone saying otherwise just doesn’t get it.

Another Person Who Agrees With Me–Reagan Would Be Persona Non Grata in Today’s GOP

On a couple of different occasions, I wrote about how former President Ronald Reagan probably could get elected by today’s GOP no matter how much they revere him (see here and here). It’s an opinion shared by a number of pundits across the blogosphere. Here is another example of exactly what I mean:

After trying (and failing) to disembowel Social Security, Reagan did an dramatic about-face and bailed out the program to the tune of $165 billion and made Social Security taxes more progressive, forcing upper-income Americans to shoulder more of the burden than their poor counterparts.
Reagan raised taxes 11 times! He passed the largest tax increase since World War II and introduced hefty new corporate taxes.

While conservatives like Sarah Palin tout Reagan’s record for standing up to the Soviet Union, they ignore that Reagan was attacked by far-right conservatives for being too conciliatory to the Communist bloc. When Reagan engaged in direct talks with Gorbachev and the Soviets, conservative leader Paul Wyerich wrote in The Washington Post, “Reagan is a weakened president, weakened in spirit as well as clout.”

Go here to read the rest. It’s definitely worth the read.

A Few Things to Make You Say “Hmmmmmmm…”

Each of these could be a blog piece by itself (and probably will be eventually).  But for now, here are some things to make you say “hmmmmmm,” or scratch your head, or go buy a stiff drink…

THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT GOOD AT PICKING WINNERS (part 1):  The government has ordered the phasing out of the trusty incandescent light bulb, which means we all have to go out and get the curly-looking compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.  Sure they are more energy efficient.  But they also have a small amount of mercury in them.  Broken one lately?  Have you seen the steps involved to clean up after one breaks? But that’s not the worst part. Because of the government mandated change, GE has closed all of their incandescent light bulb plants in the US. At a time when unemployment is already high, that’s more jobs lost.

THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT GOOD AT PICKING WINNERS (part 2): The search for alternative fuels is very worthwhile. Except when the government is subsidizing it. Let’s talk ethanol. First, the government subsidizes ethanol production with taxpayer dollars. Second, there is a tariff placed on the importation of Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, as a way of protecting US production (it would be cheaper otherwise). The result? Not only are food prices (especially corn) higher because farmers are spending more time growing corn for ethanol, but the end product has been found to damage small engines over time. Oh, and then the government tells us ethanol is cheaper per gallon. Right.

HE’S TALKING ABOUT THE TEA PARTY, RIGHT?: Here is a recent quote from Senator John Kerry:

“And I have to tell you, I say this to you politely. The media in America has a bigger responsibility than it’s exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual.”

“It doesn’t deserve the same credit as a legitimate idea about what you do. And the problem is everything is put into this tit-for-tat equal battle and America is losing any sense of what’s real, of who’s accountable, of who is not accountable, of who’s real, who isn’t, who’s serious, who isn’t?”

Let me guess. The press should ignore the Tea Party, their supporters, and maybe even the GOP because they lie, right? Got it. By the way, Senator, would you apply that standard to your own party? Because I’m sure we’d see a lot less of some of your pals.

SPEAKING OF LYING…: This one came to my attention earlier today. Senator Harry Reid said earlier this month that there were 8 million jobs lost during the Bush years. Unfortunately, it is an easily provable lie:

As always, we looked at jobs numbers compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government’s official source of employment data.

During Bush’s eight years in office — January 2001 to January 2009 — the nation actually gained a net 1.09 million jobs. (Because there were gains in government jobs, the private sector actually lost 653,000 jobs during that period.)

This isn’t remotely close to what Reid claimed. Reid’s office didn’t respond to our request for information, but we think we know what he was referring to.

From the economy’s peak to its low point, the nation lost 8.75 million jobs. Here’s the problem: The peak for jobs came in January 2008, while the low point for jobs came in February 2010.

This means the starting point for Reid’s measure came seven years into Bush’s eight-year tenure, and the low point occurred about a year into Barack Obama’s tenure.

‘Nuff said.

ON TAXING THE RICH:  According to the IRS, there are over 8,200 income earners that earn more than $10 million per year.  Their combined income is $240 billion/year.  If you taxed them at 100%, it would be enough money to pay for government spending for a whopping 22 days.

Finally, I leave you with this thought, which most definitely will take on a life of its on another day in another post…

PARTISAN VOTERS HAVE NO CLUE WHAT AN INDEPENDENT VOTER IS: We get accused of straddling the fence, or of taking no stance. Even worse, we get attacked by both sides if we actually accept a view held by one party over another. But it’s simple. We look at the views and candidates available and choose what we like, regardless of what side it represents, and it could vary from week to week, from party to party, or from election to election. I’ve learned that instead of constantly fighting accusations that I’m not independent, I will simply stop feeding the trolls and continue business as usual.

Party on, dudes!

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is Stupid. Oh, and He’s Racist. ALL Republicans are Stupid and Racist!

As expected, Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the crowded GOP presidential field over the weekend.  Him tossing his hat in the ring was a non-event, as people had been expecting him to enter for a while now.  No offense to Michelle Bachmann, but most bets right now are figuring this to be a two-horse race between Perry and former governor Mitt Romney.  (Sidenote:  is becoming president worth running multiple times and spending millions of your own money??)

Almost immediately, the attacks on Perry started coming.

It’s no secret that the Left loves attacking their political opponents via cracks at their intelligence.  Folks on the left will wax poetically on about how intelligent Obama is and how stupid George W. Bush is, or how stupid Michelle Bachmann is.  I can’t recall anyone on the Left referring to Al Gore being stupid even though his grades were actually worse than Bush’s.  And even when such an observation was made, it was done in a way to still make Gore–the Lefty–not look so bad:

His generally middling college grades at Harvard in fact bear a close resemblance to the corresponding Yale marks of his presidential opponent, George W. Bush, whose studiousness and brainpower have been more open to question during this campaign.

Gore arrived at Harvard with an impressive 1355 SAT score, 625 verbal and 730 math, compared with Bush’s 1206 total from 566 verbal and 640 math. In his sophomore year at Harvard, Gore’s grades were lower than any semester recorded on Bush’s transcript from Yale. That was the year Gore’s classmates remember him spending a notable amount of time in the Dunster House basement lounge shooting pool, watching television, eating hamburgers and occasionally smoking marijuana. His grades temporarily reflected his mildly experimental mood, and alarmed his parents. He received one D, one C-minus, two C’s, two C-pluses and one B-minus, an effort that placed him in the lower fifth of the class for the second year in a row.

But I digress.

Recently, The Huffington Post jumped into the fray by announcing they had obtained a copy of Rick Perry’s college transcript.  As is usually the case, the intended implication is that maybe Perry ain’t so bright:

One reason that might explain his hostility toward the system: He didn’t do very well in it. A source in Texas passed The Huffington Post Perry’s transcripts from his years at Texas A&M University. The future politician did not distinguish himself much in the classroom. While he later became a student leader, he had to get out of academic probation to do so. He rarely earned anything above a C in his courses — earning a C in U.S. History, a D in Shakespeare, and a D in the principles of economics. Perry got a C in gym.

Nevermind that the debate should center on what he has done since then, or maybe even focus on his term as governor, or even that release of a transcript without permission of the student may be illegal. No. Let’s go back to college so we can legitimately say (say it along with me now) “Rick Perry is stupid!!”

Now, the other preferred method of attack is to find a way of labeling the GOP as “racist.”  Nevermind that the word has been misused so much that most people don’t even know the real definition, or don’t realize that “bigot” or “prejudiced” would probably be better if the argument actually applied.

MSNBC talking head Ed Schultz decided to prove Perry is a racist.   Now, mind you, the Left is always on the case when it comes to calling out statements they don’t like, especially when they are made by Limbaugh, Hannity, and other Conservative talking heads.  Somehow, they never mind when people like Schultz pull absurd statements out of their sphincter void and toss them out like gospel.

Rick Perry gave a speech where he referred to America’s debt as a “black cloud hanging over us.”  So what did Schultz do?  He had his people do some selective editing:

Yep.  Let’s leave out a key phrase–“that debt”–and make a case out of it, going so far as to invite guests on who you know will agree with you.  Schultz did apologize.  “On this particular statement, we should not have included it in our coverage of his overheated rhetoric,” he said in a statement.   “That’s our mistake. The full context of all of these other statements show who he is and what he stands for.”

In other words, “sorry we faked THAT one, but he’s still a racist!”

Next, we’ll start hearing about how GOP candidates are ugly and dress funny.

Do Politicians Understand What “Stimulus” Means? I Think Not.

Is it so difficult that the idea behind a “stimulus” package, or “stimulus” spending, or “stimulus” funding would be to stimulate the economy via job creation?  Somehow, politicians aren’t getting this.  The suggestions made by them aren’t ones that include a job multiplying effect.  In other words, for stimulus to be effective, it has to go towards something that creates a job, which directly creates a need for additional jobs, and so on.

Earlier this week, during a press conference, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked how extending unemployment benefits creates jobs.  His reply?

“There are few other ways that can directly put money into the economy than applying unemployment insurance,” Carney said.

Carney answers the question: “It is one of the most direct ways to infuse money directly into the economy because people who are unemployed and obviously aren’t running a paycheck are going to spend the money that they get. They’re not going to save it, they’re going to spend it. And with unemployment insurance, that way, the money goes directly back into the economy, dollar for dollar virtually.”

This is similar to a comment made by former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

Economists will tell you this money is spent quickly. It injects demand into the economy, and is job creating. It creates jobs faster than almost any other initiative you can name because, again, it is money that is needed for families to survive, and it is spent. So it has a double benefit. It helps those who have lost their jobs, but it also is a job creator.

Back when Pelosi made the comment, as you can see from the feedback on the Media Matters page, they were more than happy to show how economists backed up what she said, while right-leaning critics were going nuts and criticizing her.

Regardless of the economists that affirmed her statement (and even the CBO), we can now agree that the assertion was wrong.

Maybe I’m out in left field here, but I am willing to wager that the majority of people who are collecting unemployment benefits are spending the money on necessities–food, power, gas, phone, ect.  While the money is technically going into the economy, its not going in for things that will create more jobs.  Listening to Carney, Pelosi, and those who agree with them, it’s as if the unemployment benefits are disposable income.  Paying the bills is not a job multiplier.

Likewise, the expressed opinion of the Left is that the stimulus was a success.  Even a CBO report says that it had some success. From Factcheck.org:

As we have written before, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report in August that said the stimulus bill has “[l]owered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points” and “[i]ncreased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million.”

Simply put, more people would be unemployed if not for the stimulus bill. The exact number of jobs created and saved is difficult to estimate, but nonpartisan economists say there’s no doubt that the number is positive.

But the key words are “created and saved.” Many of the jobs that received stimulus money were to maintain exisiting positions, not create new ones. Much of the money went to states to help prevent them from firing government workers. Not to mention, as the President himself said not too long ago, some of the shovel-ready jobs were “not so shovel-ready.” (Sidenote: he chuckled after cracking this joke. Looking at the cost of the stimulus, and how those shovel-ready projects were talked about ad nauseum to get the bill passed, its not very funny.) Again, in the end, for the section of the stimulus intended to create jobs and stimulate the economy, based on the unemployment rate since then, there was no multiplier effect.

So, with calls coming for another stimulus, we should be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Random Thoughts: White House and the Ratings Downgrade, Al “global warming” Gore Unhinged, Wisconsin Recall Elections

Just a few thoughts and observations:

With the recent downgrade of the country’s credit rating by Standard & Poor’s, the White House had to blame someone for what happened.  So they complained loudly about how S&P had made a mistake with the downgrade, even pointing out an accounting error that S&P made that made things look worse than they really are.  Then, they came out and blamed the Tea Party for causing the downgrade.  I’m confused.  If S&P made a mistake, it would have nothing to do with the Tea Party, right?  Then again, everything is the Tea Party’s fault, from what I hear.

The other day, President Obama did a press conference to address the credit downgrade.  While he was giving his speech, the stock market dropped 200 points.  Ouch.

Speaking of Standard & Poor’s, how do you go forward with a downgrade even after you’re told you made an accounting error?  Simple.  Just blame the politicians!  Say it’s because Congress can’t work together.  Come up with a worthy excuse.  But just don’t own up to it.  By the way, they didn’t downgrade Lehman Brothers until AFTER they imploded…

Former Vice President and current Global Warming–uh,  Climate Change– crusader Al Gore was giving a speech recently and ran off the rails.  Seems he was calling BS on those who don’t agree with him, and called the scientists who put out anti-warming info fake.  I could’ve sworn that the main basis for the argument is whether or not the changes occurring are man made or natural.  But I digress.

It’s recall season in Wisconsin.  Democrats, angry that the Republican-led Legislature changed collective bargaining law, were able to collect signatures to force a recall election for 6 Republican state senators.  In order to have a chance at taking control of the state Senate, they needed to win 3 of the seats up for recall.  Unfortunately for them, they only won 2.  There are more elections coming but they will have no chance at winning control until the next election.  If the Dems had succeeded, I think it would’ve sent shockwaves nationwide.  Having said that, pay attention to the redistricting fights going on in the states.  Redistricting happens every 10 years and the party in power at the time in a particular state usually tries to stack things in their favor.  Look and see how strange some districts end up looking just to accomplish either keeping a rep in office or getting the opposition OUT of office.

Just Random: A Fresh look at Hitler and the Third Reich

Yes, with all that is going on in politics, talking about Hitler and the Third Reich is totally a tangent.

I am a World War II buff (much to the chagrin of my wife, who makes me go watch the History Channel in a separate room).  I recently watched a 2 part series on the rise and fall of the Third Reich.  I knew the general idea of how Hitler rose to power, the wanton killing the Nazis did to hold power, the extermination of Jews across Europe, and the subsequent mudhole stomping they received from the Allies by the end of the war.

But this was different.  They showed things from the perspective of home videos, shot by people in Germany at the time, as well as those shot by soldiers in the war.  What jumped out at me most:

  • Hitler and the Nazis ascended to power very quickly.  Two weeks after Hitler lost an election attempt to run the country, he was able to become Chancellor.  52 days later, he was head of Germany
  • It is amazing how much Hitler had Germany in the palm of his hand.  People believed whatever he told them.  Whether it was justifying killing and displacing Jews, or the whole idea of a master race, they ate it up.  Women wanted to marry him.  Kids wanted to be just like him.
  • At one point there were 20,000 concentration camps.  And the people in the towns near them claim they had no idea what was going on.  When the allies captured Germany, they made the townsfolk walk through the camps and see first hand the cruelty.  They also made Nazi party members buy the dead.
  • The German people were convinced nothing could go wrong.  That is, until their cities were getting bombed and the German army got routed by the Russians.
  • By the end of the war, Germany had lowered the drafting age to 13.  Kids were in the streets fighting to protect Berlin.  Any kids caught hiding from duty were hung.
  • Other countries knew was was going on with German Jews, but turned them away when they came looking for refuge.  That includes the US.

There is more, of course, as the show was 4 hours long.  It’s not for the faint of heart, as there are many disturbing images.  but I highly recommend the program.

The President and the False Blame Game

This article was brought to my attention by a friend of mine (shoutout to Kovarik Glasco, fellow Georgia Tech grad and fellow fan of the “Song of Ice and Fire” series).

There is a narrative that President Obama and many on the left engage in when discussing the economy.  Even two-plus years into the new presidency, the “blame Bush” technique is still used.  In this narrative, the picture painted shows runaway spending and runaway deficits during the Bush years.  And the main point he uses is that the year he entered office he inherited a deficit of nearly $1 trillion.

But in an article found on the Huffington Post, Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, shows how this narrative just isn’t true:

This is simply not true. In its budget projections from January 2008, the last set before the impact of the collapse of the housing bubble was clear, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected a deficit of just $198 billion for 2009. This is less than one-fifth of the “on track to top $1 trillion” figure that President Obama gave in his speech. This is a serious error. One trillion is a much bigger number than $198 billion.

This difference is central to the budget debate. People can argue that the $198 billion deficit projected for 2008 was too large. But it would be absurd to claim it was out of control or represented any remotely serious threat to the nation’s solvency. In fact, over the five years 2003-2007 the country’s debt to GDP ratio was virtually unchanged, meaning that the country could run deficits of the same size (relative to the economy) literally forever.

This changed with the recession caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. It was the recession, and the response to it, that pushed the deficit in 2009 from the $198 billion projected by CBO to the over $1 trillion noted by President Obama in his speech.

Further, Dick Morris explains where the President is getting his numbers from:

In 2008, George W. Bush ran a deficit of $485 billion. By the time the fiscal year started, on Oct. 1, 2008, it had gone up by another $100 billion due to increased recession-related spending and depressed revenues. So it was about $600 billion at the start of the fiscal crisis. That was the real Bush deficit.

But when the fiscal crisis hit, Bush had to pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in the final months of his presidency, which cost $700 billion. Under the federal budget rules, a loan and a grant are treated the same. So the $700 billion pushed the deficit — officially — up to $1.3 trillion. But not really. The $700 billion was a short-term loan. $500 billion of it has already been repaid.

So what was the real deficit Obama inherited? The $600 billion deficit Bush was running plus the $200 billion of TARP money that probably won’t be repaid (mainly AIG and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). That totals $800 billion. That was the real deficit Obama inherited.

Then … he added $300 billion in his stimulus package, bringing the deficit to $1.1 trillion. This $300 billion was, of course, totally qualitatively different from the TARP money in that it was spending, not lending. It would never be paid back. Once it was out the door, it was gone. Other spending and falling revenues due to the recession pushed the final numbers for Obama’s 2009 deficit up to $1.4 trillion.

One important note that both writers mentioned: the important thing being missed is JOBS. Job creation will create income earners, which will boost the economy and help revenues. This is what the debate in Washington should be all about.

Random Thoughts: Obama/Boehner Disrupting Prime Time, “Fair Share,” Political Garbage Speak, ect

Just some random thoughts:

Why did the President and the Speaker waste our prime time last night?  President Obama took his time to get in front of the mic and say the same things he has said in his press conferences the past few weeks.  He threw in some statements about negotiations, made some nice statements about Speaker Boehner, and made sure to trot out his tried-and-true, base-energizing catchphrases:  “corporate jet owners;” “millionaires and billionaires;” “breaks we don’t need” (paraphrased).  You pushed back the start of our 8 pm shows for this??  Even worse, I listened to Chris Matthews afterwards and heaven forbid, he said something I agree with; he said usually, Presidents only request prime time to make an announcement or to make news.  This speech was neither and shouldn’t have been done in prime time.  Write it down somewhere–I agreed with Chris Matthews!  Then, House Speaker Boehner jumps up with the canned response.  There are really only two things I pulled out of his speech:  1)he had a couple of zingers at Obama’s expense that were funny, and 2)Republicans are now going to position the President’s stance as wanting a “blank check” since he did not support their Cut, Cap, and Balance bill.  The election may be next year, but the game is already afoot.

Speaking of corporate jets:  First, if the tax break in question was eliminated, it would save a whopping $3 billion.  Over ten years.  Yes, ten.  Trillions in deficits and we’re talking $3 billion.  Second, Obama is responsible for the very tax break he criticizes.  See the stimulus bill for more details.  Third, he has people thinking these “corporate jet owners” are just average wealthy individuals with money to burn.  For the most part, based on the tax break, the owners of corporate jets tend to be…wait for it…CORPORATIONS!!  Way to muddy the issue for duh masses, Mr. President.

Did he really mention Reagan?:  Obama referred to Ronald Reagan in his speech in order to take a swipe at Republicans.  Reagan’s quote somewhat supported what the Left has been saying.  The irony is, I noticed Obama didn’t quote HIMSELF from 2006, when he was talking about how raising the ceiling was a failure in leadership.  Or what about Harry Reid, who  fought against a debt-celing increase that same year and asked  “How can (Repubicans) explain that they think it’s fair to force our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren tofinance this debt through higher taxes?”  Now THOSE are quotes that should’ve gotten some airtime.

If all else fails, let’s create some wealth and income envy:  My friends on the left need to own up to this.  Their belief in raising taxes creates a need to make the rest of America mad at the wealthy.  You can hear it when the President speaks of the previously mentioned corporate jet owners.  Or when he talks about tax breaks that high-earners “don’t need.”  You even get it when he speaks of the oil companies.  Lest we forget, Dems want to take a tax break away from the top 5 oil companies, since they are making so much money.  Absurdity, not only because we’re talking about a small amount of money ($21 billion over 10 years), but because it would then be a break that every company in America EXCEPT those 5 oil companies could take advantage of.  But hey, Big Oil is evil and they need to pay up!

Can someone define “fair share?”:  Sometime soon this will get its own post.  I’ve heard my friends and the President refer to fairness in various terms when it comes to taxes.  But I don’t understand what that means, since I’ve never heard it defined.  What is fair?  Based on the proportion of taxes paid, high-income earners pay a ton.  We hear about hedge fund managers paying less than their secretaries, but is it unfair that they take advantage of lawful tax deductions and such?  And do they really pay less than the secretary, or is that just another one of those garbage speak political catchphrases referred to earlier?  I would go with the latter.

The Left in Canada Led the Country out of Economic Doldrums; Maybe the Left in the US Can Take Note

When looking at how the ongoing debt negotiations have gone back and forth for weeks, there is one thing that my friends on the Left can’t deny–that while the President and the liberal members of congress have repeatedly criticized the plans put forth by Republicans, they haven’t put forward a plan of their own. Further, the notion of making cuts to entitlement programs (even though most of the cuts aren’t really cuts) causes the Left to jump up and down and talk about how much the cuts are going to negatively affect Li’l Jimmy and how it’s only fair if we increase taxes on high income earners.

(Sidenote: “Li’l Jimmy” is a fictitious character being used as part of a WWE storyline each week by wrestler R-Truth. I and my other wrestling fan friends who also talk politics have found “Li’l Jimmy” to be useful in these conversations.)

Fred Barnes in a Wall Street Journal piece talks about how Canada made it’s way out of financial crisis and has arguably created a stronger economy than the US. The irony? It was the Left in Canada that led the reversal, and they did it through spending cuts, not tax increases:

Mr. Chretien and his finance minister, Paul Martin, took decisive action. “Canadians have told us that they want the deficit brought down by reducing government spending, not by raising taxes, and we agree,” Mr. Martin said. The new administration slashed spending. Unemployment benefits were cut by nearly 40%. The ratio of spending cuts to tax increases was nearly 7-to-1. Federal employment was reduced by 14%. Canada’s national railway and air-traffic-control system were privatized.

The economy rebounded. Between 1995 and 1998, a $36.6 billion deficit turned into a $3 billion surplus. Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio was cut in half in a decade. Canada now has faster economic growth than America (3.3% in 2010, compared to 2.9% in the U.S.), a lower jobless rate (7.2% in June, when the U.S. rate was 9.2%), a deficit-to-GDP ratio that’s a quarter of ours, and a stronger dollar.

What’s most remarkable about the Canadian turnaround: It was led by liberals. Mr. Chretien and Mr. Martin were leaders of the Liberal Party. Yet they responded to the clear wishes of Canadians and, to the surprise of the political class, shifted to the right. Or to the center, the two leaders would say.

I wonder what the likelihood of this happening in the US would be.

For Those Who Are Interested: Obama’s Top 10 Lies

Interesting article from Human Events of what they consider to be Obama’s Top 10 Lies. Its really 9 since #10 is just a goofy accusation. Speaking of #9, its my favorite:

9. Transparency: Obama pledged that transparency would be a top priority, but his administration refused to grant one-third of the Freedom of Information Act requests, according to an Associated Press analysis. He also was dishonest about transparency when he said that health-care negotiations would be televised on C-SPAN and that he would wait five days to sign a bill so people would have a chance to read it online.

Is the Death Penalty Really Necessary?

I’m sure a lot of my conservative pals will completely disagree with me, but it’s past time that we got rid of the death penalty in America.

3  states–New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico–have done just that in the past 2 years.  Recently, Illinois joined the club

The governor of Illinois signed a law on Wednesday ending capital punishment, saying it was impossible to fix a system that wrongly condemned 20 men who were later found to be innocent.

When the law signed by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn takes effect on July 1, Illinois will become the fourth state in the past two years to dispense with the death penalty after New York, New Jersey and New Mexico.

“To have a consistent, perfect death penalty system … that’s impossible in our state,” Quinn told reporters. “I think it’s the right and just thing to abolish the death penalty and punish those who commit heinous crimes — evil people — with life in prison without parole and no chance of release.”

The ultimate punishment will remain an option in 34 states and for federal inmates. No other Western democracies carries out executions.

Anybody catch that last line? We are the only Democratic nation in the West that puts people to death. That really jumps out at me. I’m sure folks will say that just means the other countries are soft, but does it?

Aside from that, here are my other reasons why we should abolish it across the board:

1.  It’s  not a deterrent for crime

If someone could show me that the possibility of getting the death penalty has stopped someone from committing murder (which is typically the level of crime that nets execution), then I may be open to changing my mind.  I don’t believe the stats exist.  People will still kill.  They will still maim, assault, ect.  The death penalty just isn’t something that sticks in the mind of someone about to do something bad.

2.  It’s not necessary

Back in the old days, I’m sure that it was easier for criminals to escape from jail and go back to doing whatever it was they were doing in the first place.  Now?  Escape is a rare occurrence.  The logic behind having a death penalty is to ensure that the criminal never gets back into the general population to become a menace again.  You going to tell me sending someone to a supermax prison doesn’t do the same thing?

3.  Its costly

I’m sure this reason may get dismissed out of hand, but do the research.  It costs more for the state to pay for dealing with the appeals process involved with someone on death row than it does to actually house them as an inmate.

4.  Its barbaric

Every time I hear “Death Penalty” and “closure” used in the same sentence, i cringe.  I’m not ridiculing those who lose someone and feel the only way they can get closure is if the person responsible is put to death.  No, I have a problem with the fact that no one has told them “an eye for an eye” doesn’t work.  To put it bluntly, killing the murderer does not bring back that person’s loved one.  Closure comes in accepting that that person is gone.  As for “justice,” to me justice is making that murderer live the rest of their natural life knowing they no longer have freedom because of their crime.

I would be interested in hearing a case for the other side of this discussion.  But under the circumstances given, other than “it’s justice,” I don’t forsee much coming from the other side in this.

My Support For Herman Cain is Dropping Faster Than…

There are so many analogies I could use, but my friend Rev. Ken reads these and I don’t want to get called to the Rector’s office on Sunday.

When Herman Cain announced he was running for president, I smiled.   I’ve listened to his radio show on WSB in Atlanta often enough, and I was happy to find out we’d have a candidate in the race who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind.  Plus, I wanted to see how having a Black candidate in the race–but coming from the Right–would affect all the “you just hate him because he’s Black” rhetoric.  Here we had a man who had actually run a business running for POTUS!!

Alas, my joy is fleeting.

Cain is on some type of anti-Muslim kick.  Yes, it is true that the folks trying to do us harm are Muslim fanatics.  But it seems that Cain has taken things to a different level.  Previously, he stated (and clarified during the first Republican candidate debate) that he would basically test any Muslim who wanted to be in his administration to make sure they were loyal.  That was dumb enough.  But now, he’s backing the notion of communities banning mosques.  Why?  Because Sharia Law is going to take over the US!

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Sunday that communities have a right to ban Islamic mosques.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO said protests and legal challenges to a planned mosque in Tennessee city are an example of local residents pushing back.

Cain said his view doesn’t amount to religious discrimination because he says Muslims are trying to inject Shariah law into the U.S.

So, Cain’s reasoning is that the Muslim’s are using the mosques as cover, and that any member of the mosque could be shadow agent for the Sharia movement. Let’s all run in fear.

I don’t find myself agreeing with Eugene Robinson all that often, but he hit it on the head:

Let’s return to the real world for a moment and see how bogus this argument is. Presumably, Cain would include Roman Catholicism among the “traditional religions” that deserve constitutional protection. It happens that our legal system recognizes divorce, but the Catholic Church does not. This, by Cain’s logic, must constitute an attempt to impose “Vatican law” on an unsuspecting nation.

Similarly, Jewish congregations that observe kosher dietary laws must be part of a sinister plot to deprive America of its God-given bacon.

If Mr. Cain keeps this up, the word in front of “candidate Herman Cain” won’t be “longshot.” It will be “fringe.”

A Nice Visual Explanation of How the Government Can “Cut” Spending…and Increase Spending at the Same Time

Been curious as to whether or not the government was really cutting spending in all these negotiations?  Wondered what “baseline spending” is?  Didn’t realize that all the crying about cutting programs for the poor is crap?  Check out this video.  You’ll never look at “spending cuts” the same again!

Let’s Put the “We Can’t Guarantee the Checks Will Go Out” Myth to Bed, Shall We?

Once more, with feeling!

If you haven’t heard, President Obama said he couldn’t guarantee that Social Security checks would go out on August 3rd, the day after the US is projected to go past the debt ceiling and somehow default on every debt under the sun.  While some of us recognize that even after that point, the money coming IN to the Social Security Administration will still be coming in, which means the money going OUT in terms of checks will still be going out, the scare tactic is being echoed by those on the left as though its a done deal that recipients (along with recipients of veterans benefits) won’t be getting their money.  How could the mean, rich-loving Republicans do that?

Then we find out that there is plenty of tax revenue to cover the benefits:

he Daily Treasury Statement for June 30—which any American, including the president, can look up on the U.S. Treasury Department’s website at this link—says the government took in $196.994 billion in revenue during the month.

The same statement says that the government paid out $50.719 billion in Social Security benefits in June, $4.196 billion in veterans’ benefits, and $2.961 billion for other Veteran Affairs department programs.

The combined $57.876 billion that the federal government paid out for Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits and other veterans programs during June equaled 29.4 percent of federal revenue for the month.

The only way the checks don’t get paid is if the government DECIDES not to send them out.  And we know who is in charge of the government in DC right now, no?

So, let’s do the math. The government had about $140 billion extra over what they paid out in benefits. And unless time stops, there is a very good chance the same thing could happen during July as well. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that there will be money to pay out those benefit checks, right?  Ding  Ding!  Ding!  We have a winner!  Now, go to the front of the line and get that Social Security check!

It will be waiting for you on August 3rd.

Guliani: the Republican Party should stop focusing on gay marriage and “get the heck out of people’s bedrooms.”

So much for Guliani running for President in2012.

In a recent article, former NY mayor Rudy Guliani addressed the recent vote to allow gay marriage in NY. He took aim at his own party in a way that I suspect will raise some hackles among the base:

“I think that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but I think that the Republican Party would be well-advised to get the heck out of people’s bedrooms and let these things get decided by states,” Giuliani said. “I think it’s wrong, but there are other things that I think are wrong that get decided by democratic vote.”

As I have mentioned previously, I’d say the party that is supposedly big on individual liberties takes a turn to the hypocritical by “defending” marriage.  Mr. Guliani raises what I consider the second biggest reason why the GOP should move on from gay marriage–there are bigger things to worry about than gay people tying the knot.

President Obama says “Hey! You Don’t Need That Money!”

Yesterday amongst my online pals, I was lamenting a new law that pushes for light bulbs to be more efficient, but in effect ends up pushing the masses to use more efficient but also more expensive and more hazardous CFC bulbs.  The focus of my complain was a statement from Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who said: “We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.”  Yes, we the masses would be lost if we didn’t have the government guiding our way.

Now, we have President Obama, who is currently trying to get a deal done to raise the debt limit.  During a press conference, he stated:

I don’t want a deal in which I am able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars that I don’t need, while a parent struggling to send her kid to college finds they have a couple thousand dollars less in grants and student loans.

For now, let’s move past the second part of the statement, where he invokes the time honored tradition of scare tactics. Let’s talk about the “need.”

On the surface, Mr. Obama is talking about himself not needing a tax break, and not needing money he considers to be extra money.  It’s quite humorous that he states this, since as President, he has everything taken care of.  But let’s go below the surface.  Obviously, his statement implicitly implies that the higher income earners should be happy to pay more in taxes because they don’t “need” the extra money they have in the bank.  Once again, here is the government to our rescue, to guide us!

Hey!  You’ve earned enough money!  It doesn’t matter what your plans are for you money, we the government have decided FOR you that you have more than you need!  Ignore that we are notorious for overspending!  Its your patriotic duty to pay up anytime we feel we need more money!

Oh, and let’s do revisit the second part of the statement, regarding grants and loans. We are in a dire financial situation.  Isn’t it a natural assumption that folks are going to feel the pain? And even if taxes go up, wouldn’t that money go to pay down the debt?  Evidently, even in a situation where cuts should be the priority, and paying down deficit and debt right behind that, the administration will find ways to either increase spending somewhere or attempt to keep things status quo.  Hello!  McFly!  Is that what Joe Public does when he needs to cut spending in his own household?

Just remember:  the government knows what’s best!

When Spending Cuts Aren’t Really Spending Cuts (or, “They Think We’re Stupid”)

In the ongoing battle between the parties to negotiate a debt-limit increase, there has been much talk of spending cuts.  Republicans are strongly taking a stand on cutting spending but no new taxes.  Democrats are open to spending cuts but are looking for ways to increase revenue to increasing taxes or cutting tax breaks.  But people won’t be surprised to know that both sides are choosing not to be up front with we the people.

When we the people look at a budget, we base it on what we have coming in at the time.  We then decide where we will spend those funds.  We won’t get into the notion that if we were out of money and needed more, if we did as the government does sometimes and print our own, we’d be hauled off to jail rather quickly.  In general, most people don’t have the luxury of just going out and getting loan after loan while continuing to spend above their means.

Not so with the government.

I got a call from a good friend of mine who was watching a show on CNBC.  He said a guy was on talking about how spending cuts weren’t spending cuts and how he’d remembered hearing it from me months ago.  You see, the government doesn’t operate the way normal people do.  Matter of fact, the government doesn’t even operate like a good company does.  And here is where they pull the wool over our eyes.  Let me explain using an example.

When Joe Public is doing a budget, he bases it off of how much he has coming in, and how much he as going out.  If he has more going out than coming in, he has no choice but to cut spending.  If he decides that he must make a spending cut, typically its going to result in him spending an amount less than what he is spending now.  So, where he may be spending $1,000 per month now, a budget cut may result in spending $950 per month next year.  That is a budget cut.

Now, the government doesn’t do that.  The government uses a nice little trick called baseline budgeting.  The government has already planned ahead as to what spending increases will be.  For example, while the budget for program A is $1,000 for 2011, they have already planned that in 2012 it will be $1,100, for 2013 it will be $1,200, and so on (sidenote:  the government tends to project increases in terms of percentages.  I’m using real numbers so I don’t have to use a calculator.).  So when there is talk of a spending cut, it is not like Joe Public, who takes his spending below what he was spending before.  Instead the government says, “well, instead of spending $1,100 in 2012, we’ll spend $1,050, and in 2013 we’ll spend $1,100.”  As you can see, overall spending still goes up, just not as fast.

This is why complaints about spending cuts have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Politicians will make things seem like a program is going to die due to budget cuts, but that is making the assumption that the reduced spending increase won’t be enough.  They also assume (correctly) that the majority of the people have no idea of how they are pulling the wool over their eyes.  If there is to be a serious, authentic discussion about spending cuts, then lets see some serious, authentic reductions in actual spending!

Good Reasons Why the GM Bailout Was Not a Good Thing

I came across an opinion piece that reminded me of the reasons why the GM bailout was not a good thing.  Shikha Dalmia explains why in an article at Reason.com called “Driving to Delusionville.” He mentions many reasons that have been stated before, but here is my favorite:

It gave Chrysler’s secured creditors, who would have had priority in a normal bankruptcy, 29 cents on the dollar. Chrysler’s unions, on the other hand, got more than 40 cents, even though they are equivalent to low-priority lenders. This made a mockery of longstanding bankruptcy law, something that will make credit markets wary of lending to political sacred cows in the future.

The administration favored union workers not only over creditors, but also other workers. All United Auto Workers retirees at Delphi, GM’s auto supplier, got 100 percent of their pension and retirement benefits. But 21,000 nonunion, salaried employees lost up to 70 percent of their pensions, and all of their life and health insurance. The Treasury could have covered 93 percent of the benefits of all employees for the same funds it spent on full union benefits, testified Bruce Gump, a representative of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association.

So, not only did the government meddle when it wasn’t necessary, they managed to make sure union workers (who tend to vote Democrat) got good deals, while pretty much sticking it to the non-union employees and creditors. I would love for someone (anyone!) to get the White House to explain why the unions should get special treatment. The way the non-union Delphi employees were treated is absurd and indefensible.

White House Disputes the Findings of Their Own Economic Advisors

Earlier I posted about how a group of economists picked by President Obama issued a report that showed the stimulus saved or created 2.4 million jobs at a cost of $278k per job.  Evidently the White House disagrees with those findings:

“That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job,” according to the Weekly Standard, a Washington, D.C.-based magazine. “In other words, the government could simply have cut a $100,000 check to everyone whose employment was allegedly made possible by the ‘stimulus,’ and taxpayers would have come out $427 billion ahead.”

But the White House said that study is based on “partial information and false analysis.”

“The Recovery Act was more than a measure to create and save jobs; it was also an investment in American infrastructure, education and industries that are critical to America’s long-term success and investment in the economic future of America’s working families,” White House spokeswoman Liz Oxhorn said in a statement to FoxNews.com.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/07/05/white-house-disputes-study-saying-stimulus-cost-taxpayers-278000-per-job/#ixzz1RGDNjWuj

The story goes on to say that the WH points at a CBO report that says the number is closer to 3.6 million jobs, that the stimulus lowered unemployment, and helped spark economic growth. Republicans point out that unemployment is higher than it was, in addition to a substantial increase in the national debt. Still another person quoted says that there is no point in measuring effectiveness based on “cost per job.”

Whether or not the stimulus was effective will continue to be debated, it seems.

 

$278k Per Job “Created or Saved.” So the Stimulus Worked?

From Jeffrey H. Anderson at The Weekly Standard:

When the Obama administration releases a report on the Friday before a long weekend, it’s clearly not trying to draw attention to the report’s contents. Sure enough, the “Seventh Quarterly Report” on the economic impact of the “stimulus,” released on Friday, July 1, provides further evidence that President Obama’s economic “stimulus” did very little, if anything, to stimulate the economy, and a whole lot to stimulate the debt.

The report was written by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama, and it chronicles the alleged success of the “stimulus” in adding or saving jobs. The council reports that, using “mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus” (which it describes as a “natural way to estimate the effects of” the legislation), the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs — whether private or public — at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job.

Wow.  Not very efficient, right? I would say that in corporate America, and you were running a company that was that inefficient, you’d get canned. When hiring an employee, there is the employee’s salary. Then, factor in another 30%-40% of the salary, which is what it costs the employer to train the new employee. Then, factor in another 20% of salary to account for benefits, social security, and other costs. Even if every employee accounted for in the stimulus numbers were new hires, and they were all paid $100,000 salaries, it STILL wouldn’t cost $278,000 to hire them. So one has to wonder why the cost was so high.

In the face of these numbers, as well as the fact that unemployment post-stimulus is higher than pre-stimulus, the argument made by Obama supporters that things were “worse than they thought” doesn’t justify the inefficient spending. Then again, I have to agree with Anderson–that maybe the stimulus would’ve worked better if the money had not been spent “mostly on Democratic constituencies rather than in a manner genuinely designed to stimulate the economy.”

 

GOP Claims “Reagan Conservatism” but Reagan Would Disagree

I’d written before that if Ronald Reagan ran for president, he wouldn’t make it our of the Republican primaries these days. Why? Because of his stance on taxes. You see, for all the railing today’s GOP is doing about no tax increases or ending of tax breaks, what gets overlooked is Reagan’s overall record on taxes and revenue.

Surely we’ve all heard that Reagan cut taxes. The storyline goes “Reagan cut taxes and the economy grew.” But therein lies some serious policy omission. After a massive tax rate cut in 1981, Reagan along with Congress (which included a Republican-led Senate) proceeded to pass a number of measures designed to raise revenue. Any of those measures would be criticized today as tax increases.

I’d been surprised that little has been said about this. But finally, an article in Politico spells it out:

The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA) is the most famous, because of its historic size and timing, a dramatic course correction that quickly followed Reagan’s signature income tax cuts in 1981. But in the six years after were four more deficit-reduction acts, which combined to almost double TEFRA’s revenue impact on an annual basis.

Translated into current dollars, the total revenue increases for the five bills would then be equal to about $190 billion a year. That’s far in excess of anything that has been proposed by the White House in recent deficit talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden, yet most of these increases were approved when Republicans controlled the Senate in the 1980’s.

Democrats could really bash Republicans’ heads with this. Instead of the insipid arguments we keep hearing about “tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires” and “tax breaks for Big Oil” a simple tack of “well, Reagan did it” would be nearly impossible for Republicans to counter. After all, Reagan is patron saint of conservatism.

Gay Marriage Law Passed in NY. The Debate Continues.

Friday night, New York became the 6th state to legalize gay marriage.  There was lots of cheering and applause in the gallery of the NY legislature as the bill won passage by 4 votes.  This was the second attempt to pass same sex marriage legislation in the last 3 years, as a similar bill was defeated in 2009.  The difference?  Something I think will lead to more states passing same sex marriage in the future (and noted in a huffington post article:

As older New Yorkers passed away and younger ones with more tolerant attitudes took their place, the percentage of voters in favor of gay marriage kept on going up and up, from 37 percent in 2004 to 58 percent at the beginning of this month.

Granted, a large percentage of voters nationwide still oppose same sex marriage, the issue is one handled at the state level. I’m pretty convinced that as younger voters take up more space in the voting block, we will see the percentages of people in favor go up.

There are two noteworthy things about New York becoming state number six.  First, New York becomes the largest state to become a same sex marriage state.  Further, unlike the other 5, one doesn’t have to be a resident of NY to get married in NY.  So, not only should we expect to see a number of gays go to New York to get married, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a number of them actually move to the state and take up residence.

Of course, conservatives are already sounding the alarm.  Michelle Bachmann, who is currently one of the front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination (it is early, folks, so that doesn’t mean much), has said that though she feels it should be left up to the states, she would offer up a federal amendment that would ensure marriage would be constitutionally guaranteed as being between one man and one woman:

“Every time it’s going on the ballot, the people have decided to keep the traditional definition,” she said. “After all, the family is the fundamental unit of government.”

I respect that many oppose same sex marriage on religious grounds.  But I have yet to understand how such a stance is not hypocritical from the traditional conservative stance of fighting for individuality.

It seems as though its all about individual rights, up until it’s something conservatives don’t agree with.  Suddently, its all about “what’s best for the country.”  Many a time, especially in debates, conservatives will be sure to use the talking points most effective with the base:  the Bible says homosexuality is a sin; marriage is traditionally between man and woman;  a mom and a dad are best for child- rearing.  The arguments have some validity to them.  But the discussion usually stops there.  I would love to ask Rep. Bachmann exactly how two people of the same sex negatively affects her or her own marriage.  Then I would ask how advocating for a constitutional amendment–in essence creating something else to be officially enforced by the federal government–does not contradict a call for limited government.  Further, I’d ask if she (or others opposed to same sex marriage on religious grounds) would advocate for a ban on divorce, since the Bible is pretty clear on that as well.

Bottom line, I’m sure that one can oppose religiously but recognize that the church and the state are two different things.  And in the absence of any substantial proof that society will end or the world will implode, there isn’t really a reason why it shouldn’t be allowed.