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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Politicians: Let’s wait to avoid the political fallout

United States Capitol in daylight

Image via Wikipedia

One would think that politicians in Congress would think it normal to work all the time.  But it seems that there is usually a good excuse to be used every election year:  wait until after the election to avoid fallout.

What?  Are you serious?

I along with many other people believe in a saying that goes:  “what’s a politician’s primary job?  To get reelected!”  Now, maybe it’s that I don’t understand the game, or wouldn’t want to be a player in the game, or just think the game is stupid.  But to me, if I’m in congress to get things done and represent the people, then I should be constantly working on the important legislation of the day, and letting the chips fall where they may.  But let’s look at how the waiting game has been played by looking at the current lame-duck session.

In the last few weeks, there have been votes on bills to extend current tax rates, dont’ ask don’t tell, and the extention of unemployment benefits.  While some politicians (namely Dems) said before the election that they “didn’t have the votes needed to pass (insert legislation here)” before the election, other politicians went on record condemning the action.

Quite frankly, the entire “we have to pass it now or the unemployed will lose their benefits and everyone will get a tax increase” drama was unnecessary.  Regardless of what we heard in the media, are we to believe that there was seriously a concerted effort to hammer out those issues before the election?  I think not.  Both sides sensed blood in the water, and for the side in danger, they didn’t want to put themselves in a worse position.  Don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize the free access to the Congressional spa, do we?

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using religion to guilt people about giving to the poor is the in thing to do

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Image via Wikipedia

While checking out the recent Facebook status updates and feeds, I noticed that a few of my friend posted a Colbert clip where he humorously speaks of how Jesus would be a liberal.  As his argument goes (like others i’ve heard), because legislation giving help to the poor, or unemployed, or less fortunate, ect doesn’t get passed, or when people don’t want to jump on board the single payer healthcare train, people who claim to be Christian aren’t being very Christian-like.  In fact, they are being quite selfish!  Quite often, the argument is used by left-leaners against conservatives.  After all, aren’t those republicans always claiming to be religious?  and doesn’t their religion say to give??

There are serious holes in this method of argument that always seem to get ignored.  First, if we are going to look at how Jesus did things, he spoke directly to the people to give.  I don’t know of a time when Jesus was advocating for the government to grab folks’ stuff and do the giving for them.  When the government gets involved, wacky things happen.  Projected costs get understated.  Budgets get blown.  And when it comes to spending, once it starts, they rarely want to make cuts.

Second, often the same folks that get criticized because they don’t want the government digging in their pockets are already giving in some way or another.   Could be to a local charity or non-profit, or to their church.  so I guess for them, the argument is “well, they need to give more” or “well, they can afford it.”  Really?  Any reason to get what one needs, I guess…

Its a trip that in this day and time, folks believe they have a right to something that forcefully takes someone else’s time, talent, money, ect.  “Rights” aren’t constructed that way.

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”: DADT is now D-E-A-D

Over the weekend, Congress voted to repeal the controversial “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule.  For those not in the know, the rule–put in place under President Clinton–prohibited gay military members from being “out” while serving.  After much fighting, screaming, kicking, and gnashing of teeth, the vote over the weekend begins  what will be a months-long process to eliminate the provision and allow people to…well, just be themselves.

Of course, there are many who don’t like what has happened.  Many of a conservative mindset when it comes to homosexuality (whether Dem or Repub) are unhappy, because this represents the idea that being gay is ok.  But the biggest blowup has come from some of the leaders of the branches of the military.  No less than the head of the Marines said that the repeal would result in soldiers losing life and limb.  Others have said it will be detrimental to morale.

Really?  Corporal Joe Doe being gay is going to completely undermine the unit?

Let’s look at reality here (no disrespect to those leaders, who have many years of serving their country under their belts).  First, other top notch militaries in the world have allowed gay soldiers to serve openly for years, and they are quoted as saying that allowing that to happen has been a non-event.  Second, Joe isn’t going to all of a sudden stop being an accurate shooter, or not want to make sure he has his fellow soldier’s back just because he’s now openly gay; likewise, other soldiers won’t assume that Joe being “out” is going to make them less effective.  Finally, one point my barber (ex-Navy) mentioned, the people in the unit probably know ALREADY that Joe is gay.

Furthermore, what people don’t realize is that there isn’t going to be this sudden increase of incidents where gay dudes (lets be real–folks usually think gay men here) start playing grab-butt in the common shower.  The Uniform Code of Military Justice is very clear and strict in regards to fraternization and harrassment (example:  in civilian life, adultery isn’t a crime.  in the military, you could end up in Leavenworth for it).  Any gay soldier is going to behave like a true, professional soldier.  Just like they were doing before.

In the end, its like this:  break it up folks, nothing to see here.

to pass a bill they say we can’t afford, let’s make it MORE expensive

An article out today explains how Senator Harry Reid has added some things to the Obama tax cut deal to help get it passed. Confusing, since much has been said about how the agreement does nothing to help with the deficit, and how the tax rate cuts for the higher income earners is unaffordable:

The sweeping tax cut bill introduced Thursday night by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is chock-full of sweeteners which could serve as a legislative pacifier for Democrats outraged over the concessions President Obama has handed to Republicans.

The stimulus-sized package includes about $55 billion worth of short-term tax extensions for businesses and individuals. They cover a host of alternative energy credits, a potential salve for environmentally conscious lawmakers, as well as targeted benefits for everything from the film and television industry to mining companies to rum producers.

Senate Tax Cut Package Filled With Sweeteners, Obama Predicts Passage

So, the answer to unaffordability? Make it more expensive!

Give Greta some points!!

I stumbled upon Greta Van Susteren’s show last night.  I rarely watch the show, but last night what caught my attention is that she was interviewing politicians from both sides of the aisle in regards to the Obama tax rate cut deal.

She was my hero for the night!  I can’t think of the last time I saw someone digging into politicians, not taking a side, but getting on them for their performance in general.  Her first victim was Senator Mary Landrieu from Lousiana.  While Senator Landrieu wanted to to do the typical talking points, Greta made points of her own.  She repeatedly said it was “borderline moral recklessness” that congress had waited until the last minute for political reasons to try to get such a deal passed, and she also pointed out that congress was being irresponsible by not doing more to eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse (research how some in congress want a second engine for the joint strike fighter, but the Pentagon doesn’t want it).  Further, she pointed out that while folks were saying certain tax rate cuts were unaffordable, there hasn’t even been a budget passed so no one even knows how much money is needed to run the government for the next year.

Link to the video and the other videos of her gettin it in on the politicians is here:  Greta vs Landrieu

QuickHit: tax rate cuts

http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b04241

Image via Wikipedia

An interesting quote from then-Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, in regards to the tax rate cuts of the 1920s:

The history of taxation shows that taxes which are inherently excessive are not paid. The high rates inevitably put pressure upon the taxpayer to withdraw his capital from productive business and invest it in tax-exempt securities or to find other lawful methods of avoiding the realization of taxable income. The result is that the sources of taxation are drying up; wealth is failing to carry its share of the tax burden; and capital is being diverted into channels which yield neither revenue to the Government nor profit to the people.

Republican Sen. Voinovich: vote “no” on compromise to force tax reform

Republican Sen. George Voinovich is officially my hero of the day.  He has stated that he is going

to vote no on the compromise announced by President Obama on extending tax cuts and

extending unemployment:

“I’m going to vote to no on everything,” Voinovich said Tuesday about the proposal

to extend all tax rates by two years and federal unemployment benefits by 13 months. “I want to not extend them. I want to force us to do tax reform.”

and:

“We borrowed the money to pay for the first one; we borrowed money from China to give me a tax break; we borrowed money to pay for our wars; I’m tired of borrowing

money,” said Voinovich. “I want tax reform, which means that we’ll pay more taxes, but we’ll get tax reform and make some sense out of this terrible situation.”

“We’re sticking my kids with debts for things we weren’t willing to do without or pay for,” Voinovich added.

Wow.  A politician actually making sense!

Read the rest here:GOP senator slams deal on taxes, vows to vote ‘no on everything’

December 7, 1941

Obama can’t win for losing

Last night, the President announced a compromise on tax rate cut extensions and unemployment benefits.  He threw in a few other pieces (including a Social Securit

Barack in Cedar Rapids, IA 10/29/07

Image by Barack Obama via Flickr

y rate cut) and implored his party to come on board.

It seems he’s not getting the love.

Members of the right are furious.  For them, its not enough to get the desired tax rate cut extensions and an extension of unemployment benefits.  In their eyes, Obama has sold out for agreeing to extend the tax rate cuts for “millionaires and billionaires.”  Add that to how he increased troops in Afghanistan and hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay yet, and he has some liberals apoplectic.  Searching Google for “liberals furious with Obama” brings up a ton of links that popped up in less than 24 hours, all at various levels of ticked off-ness and disbelief.  Comments range from “fight harder” to “Obama got rolled” to “Obama caved so hard it scared the bats!” (the last one from the Huffington Post).  It will be interesting to see the intraparty fight that will follow in the coming days.

Debt reduction: Andy Stern wants MORE taxes!

Who is Andy Stern?

Andy Stern is one of the people President Obama appointed to the Debt Reduction commission.  In the final vote, Stern voted no.  But this shouldn’t be surprising.  Stern is the past president of the Service Employees International Union (if you didn’t know unions are one of Obama’s favorite special interests, now you know).  His take on the plan?  from the NY Post:

“This is the issue of our time that must be solved,” said labor leader Andy Stern, who nonetheless voted “no” because he favored fewer spending cuts and more tax increases.
Unfortunately (and my left-leaning friends can’t deny this), it is a trait of the left that the answer to all revenue problems is to increase taxes.  Nevermind that there is proof from history that lowering taxes raises revenue in many cases.  The further problem is, even if the tax revenues did increase from higher tax rates, history has shown that often, the Democrat way is to increase spending instead of cutting spending.
As for Stern, do a search on him and the SIEU.  He didn’t leave the union in the best shape financially, so one has to wonder how he ended up on the commission.  Then again, he is one of the most frequent visitors to the White House…

Debt reduction–when cutting spending isn’t really cutting spending

Upon further review of the Debt Commission report that got shot down last week, I found something interesting that most of us don’t even realize.

Budgets in Washington tend to factor in an automatic annual increase in spending.  In other words, every year the amount spent on a given program goes up regardless of necessity–and trust me, we all know that an organization will find a way to spend the money in order to avoid a budget cut.  Anyway, when the debt commission spoke of spending “cuts,” there was outrage from both sides (depending on the program to get the cut).  But it turns out there were smoke and mirrors involved.  The commission did not recommend actual cuts.  What they did recommend was a reduction of the annual budget increases.  In other words, they said “instead of programs x, y, and z getting automatic annual increases of 3%, lets just allow them to increase 2%.”

What??

Translation:  they couldn’t find actual spending cuts to be made!  No reductions in spending.  No freezes in spending.  Just a slowdown in growth.  Just wow.

I wish I could operate my home budget the way these folks run Washington!

Republicans inciting violence! oh, wait. She’s a Democrat. Will she get condemned?

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen those on the left calling for condemnation of statements made by folks on the right.  But what about when one of their own says something in the same category?   It seems a senator was suggesting that americans take up pitchforks…she’s a Democrat!

But lets look at some of what she says:

“…they insist on a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest americans, completely unpaid for”

Lets look at this the way it should be looked at. If the projected loss in revenue is indeed $700 billion over 10 years, that means spending would need to be cut from elsewhere for it to be “paid for.” The problem is, instead of suggesting that cuts be found, its easier to criticize the cost. Further, someone should ask a pertinent question: if continuing a tax cut that is unpaid for is such a bad thing, how is continuing ANY of the tax cuts good, since NONE of it is paid for?

“we are fighting for the middle class”

No. you are pulling the wool over the eyes of the middle class in hopes of getting them vote for you and keep you in office.

“70% of Americans don’t itemize deductions.”

So what? That has nothing to do with extending tax cuts. Wait…unless you’re building towards a bigger point…

“so that big ol complex tax code? its been written for wealthy america.”

Ah, there it is! Let’s dig at the high income earners! THATS what you were getting at! Unless there are rules in the tax code that say “only wealthy americans can get these deductions,” you just bent the truth, Senator.

“they have all kinds of ways that they can use the tax code to avoid paying taxes.”

Ah, yes, a famous tactic, used often by Democrats. Let’s imply that the high income earners aren’t paying their “fair share.” Too bad that the top 5% of income earners (making over $158k/yr) make 35% of all adjusted gross income (AGI) in the US, but pay almost 60% of all income taxes paid. The top 10% ($114k and up) make 46% of US AGI, but pay 70% of all income taxes paid. So, that leaves the bottom 90% of income earners to pay the remaining 30% of income taxes paid. This includes the bottom 50% of income earners, who pay less than 3%. The point? High income earners pay a lot in taxes, as they should, but implying they aren’t paying their share is rediculous.

“Its about leveling the playing field”

Its not the government’s job to redistribute wealth and calling it “leveling the playing field!”

“If they think its ok to raise taxes for the embattled middle class because theyre gonna pout if we don’t give more money to millionaires, it really is time for the people of america to take up pitchforks.”

Where do I start on this one? First, Republicans want to extend tax cuts for EVERYONE, not just the wealthy. Second, can someone explain to the Senator that a tax rate cut is not giving money away? To give something away implies there was possession in the first place. When someone has a tax cut, that means they get to keep more of THEIR OWN MONEY! I can only assume that she and other Democrats feel the government is entitled to everyone’s money and should be able to tell folks what they can and can’t do with it. Finally, the pitchfork comment, which is what came to my attention in the first place. I’ve heard many of my left-leaning friends screaming about something someone on the right said, how it should be condemned, and implying that Dems don’t do such. Well, let’s see if those people step forward and comment on this one.
The rest isn’t worth breaking down, other than to mention that she throws in a few digs at the wealthy just to get her constituents even more ticked off at Republicans and at the filthy rich people. It’s a shame that Congress can’t have serious discussions about this type of thing, but also a shame that people don’t realize people like her are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

QuickHit: Just a question or 3

Why is raising the retirement age for earning Social Security such a big deal, when the changes wouldn’t be implemented until 2050 and 2075?  That means the folks most affected by the changes either a)haven’t had much chance to start contributing to social security or b)haven’t been born yet!  Further, where is this idea coming from that keeping the retirement age where it is is some kind of right?

Speaking of rights, do people realize what the concept of a “right” is?  Its as though anything that someone feels a person should be entitled to is a right, even if it involves forcefully taking time, talent, or treasure from someone else.

Is it not possible that allowing the tax rate cut for those over the $250k mark may not end up costing $700 billion over ten years?  Can we really predict how people and revenues will behave 10 years out?  If the economy improves, wouldn’t that number come down?

And finally, will someone recognize that the problem isn’t just revenues, its also spending?  That the main excuse for wanting to let the cuts expire and supposedly bring in the $700 billion is to try and fund the government WITHOUT cutting spending?

Just a few thoughts.

At this rate, we’ll NEVER fix the issues

Today is the final vote on recommendations from Obama’s deficit panel.  For those who missed it, President Obama put together a bipartisan panel of 18 appointees, tasked with producing solutions for debt reduction.  The commission did its job, recommending multiple ideas that, if enacted, would help move the country towards fiscal stability.

As expected, the response was chilly at best.  Folks on both sides took the expected approach–“we need cuts, but don’t cut programs that I support!”  Republicans didn’t like the idea of tax increases on gas.  Democrats didn’t like the notion of raising the retirement age or lower tax rates.  Neither side wanted to sign on to doing away with popular tax breaks (even though lowering tax rates would offset it).

So, unless there is some sanity injected into things, we will continue on the rocky road to fiscal disaster.