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Category Archives: government

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.

 

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

I Said We All Lose With the Budget Deal; It’s Worse Than I Thought

In my last post, I explained why I thought we all lose out in the end when it comes to the budget deal agreed on last week.  Well, now that they put out the details of the agreement, many people are realizing that it’s worse than we thought.  In many cases, “cuts” aren’t cuts at all.

So, what constitutes a “budget cut?”

Many of the cuts appear to have been cuts in name only, because they came from programs that had unspent funds.

For example, $1.7 billion left over from the 2010 census; $3.5 billion in unused children’s health insurance funds; $2.2 billion in subsidies for health insurance co-ops (that’s something the president’s new health care law is going to fund anyway); and $2.5 billion from highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation.

About $10 billion of the cuts comes from targeting appropriations accounts previously used by lawmakers for so-called earmarks – pet projects like highways, water projects, community development grants and new equipment for police and fire departments. Republicans had already engineered a ban on earmarks when taking back the House this year.

Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule — used for years by appropriators — placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as “budget savings.” The savings are awarded year after year.

For those keeping count at home, that block of funny money amounts to $24.9 billion of the $38 billion in budget cuts! Yes, the shutdown drama was over about $13 billion in actual cuts, which amounts to a miniscule percentage of the overall budget. Oh, and they managed to find time to tell D.C. how they can and can’t spend their money, too.

This is the type of tomfoolery we have to put up with. Both sides should be ashamed. But we know its just business as usual.

See, It’s Not Just the “Tax Cuts for the Wealthy” That Are Adding to the Deficit!

As mentioned here before, arguments complaining about how the “tax cuts for the rich” are unpaid for and adding to the deficit is disingenuous without an accompanying argument about the similarly “unpaid for” tax rate cuts for everybody else–which cost three times as much.  Somehow, no one wants to talk about that.

Today the CBO released an analysis of President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal.  According to the analysis, while the Obama administration predicted $7.2 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years, the CBO stated that the number is more like $9.5  trillion.

Nine-point-five.  Trillion.  With a “T.”

But what also jumped out of the analysis is that the CBO predicts that tax rate cuts for the middle class will be made permanent–and the cost of that cut is going to help increase the deficit:

CBO said the biggest reasons for the deficits, compared to the status quo, are the permanent extension of the Bush-era tax rates for the middle class and changes to the Alternative Minimum Tax that Obama favors in this budget. As a result of the tax policy, there is a $2.7 trillion net increase in the deficit over the next 10 years.

There you have it, folks. criticizing the rich may be en vogue, but if there is to be honesty in this, all tax rate cuts must be discussed.

And then, rolled back.

Georgia Legislature Considering Bill to Require Proof of Citizenship

Republicans won’t pass a bill to allow Sunday alcohol sales, but evidently, verifying a candidate’s citizenship is much more important!

Georgia has become the 10th state to require proof of citizenship for a presidential candidate before they are allowed to be put on the ballot:

Even though Hawaii officials have repeatedly confirmed Obama’s citizenship, his birth certificate has been made public and courts have rebuffed challenges, the so-called ”birther” issue hasn’t gone away.

Georgia Rep. Mark Hatfield, a Republican, said he still doesn’t know if Obama is eligible to serve as president, and 92 of his GOP colleagues and one Democrat support the bill introduced Monday.

”Most people feel it’s an issue to a significant enough portion of our population that it needs to be addressed by the state,” Hatfield said. ”It is, in a sense, a response to … the sitting president and his inability or unwillingness to release his original birth certificate.”

Lets be clear. This is nothing but playing politics. Somehow, these folks don’t realize how stupid they look. If there is anything about this that is shocking, its that one of the sponsors is a Democrat.
Need proof that Georgia deserves the bottom ranking for education in the US? Just look at our politicians.

White House sparks controversy over Defense of Marriage Act–and I’m Torn

In 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allowed states that did not allow gay marriage to refuse to honor such marriages done in other states.  On Wednesday, the White House sparked some major controversy when Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Department of Justice would stop defending DOMA:

President Obama has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has since 1996 allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex partnerships legally recognized in other states.

The announcement was made in a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to congressional leaders in relation to two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, which challenge a section of DOMA that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between one man and one woman.

President Obama believes that section – Section 3 — “is unconstitutional” given the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment (including its equal protection component), Holder wrote, and the president has instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend the law in those two lawsuits.

Here is where I am torn. On the one hand, I have an issue with the AG saying they are not going to defend a law just based on the President deciding its unconstitutional. That’s for the courts to decide. Per the article, a judge did rule it unconstitutional in 2010, but I don’t think that one judge is able to stop the enforcement of the law. If a sitting president can make such decisions, then it makes laws moot. What other laws could a president decide was unconstitutional?
On the other hand, I must confess–I don’t support DOMA. Contrary to the belief of many, traditional man-woman marriage is not under threat from the prospect of same-sex marriage. I have yet to see how allowing gays to marry (or civil unionize) has had a negative effect on marriage. It puzzles me that many on the right advocate for the government to stay out of folks’ personal business–then want the government to “protect” marriage.
So, as much as I would love to say “right on, mister prez!” my respect for the law says “not so fast.”

So Much for Transparency…

One of the pledges made by then-Senator Obama on the campaign trail was a new era of unprecedented transparency.  And in some ways, he has kept that promise.  But a recent article puts a dark mark on that record:

Caught between their boss’ anti-lobbyist rhetoric and the reality of governing, President Barack Obama’s aides often steer meetings with lobbyists to a complex just off the White House grounds — and several of the lobbyists involved say they believe the choice of venue is no accident.

It allows the Obama administration to keep these lobbyist meetings shielded from public view — and out of Secret Service logs kept on visitors to the White House and later released to the public.

Read more: Lobbyists: White House sends meetings off-site to hide them

Thoughts about unions

  • I’ve admitted to not being a fan of unions.  The main reason for this is that I feel a job is an agreement between an employer and an employee.  The employer agrees to provide agreed-upon wages and perks in return for the employee doing a job.  Either side can terminate this agreement at any time.  Introducing a union into the mix adds an extra layer into the agreement, typically in favor of the employee.  Now, the employee can leave at any time, leaving the employer to have to fill the spot.  Meanwhile, the employer now has to go through red tape and hurdles to fire an employee.
  • Forced unionization is just flat out wrong.  In a forced unionization state, a non-unionized worker who goes to work at a unionized establishment MUST pay union dues whether they get involved with the union or not.  One of the reasons unions  are protesting in Indiana (and why their Democrats have fled) is because a new law up for vote by legislators would bar non-union employees from having to do this in a union shop.  This idea is being described as “an attack on workers.”  Isn’t forcing them to unionize an “attack on workers?”
  • I mentioned this in a discussion the other day.  Why is it no one on the supporting side of the unions can admit that maybe–just maybe–in some cases unions have too much power?  And that losing some things isn’t a total loss?
  • In any other situation, wouldn’t the idea that a group could take money, use that money to help elect people on the side of their cause, then go negotiate with these same people in order to get as much as possible for the group a conflict of interest?  Just wondering, since most complains are about conservatives attempting to “bust up” unions but one rarely hears complaints about Democrats giving more power to unions.

My last thought is a quote.  I found this comment online in response to a news article (“Right to Work Bill Puts Republicans, Democrats At Odds”) and it was one of the most sane, concise comments I’ve seen in the entire pro-union/anti-union debate:

All of these negatives that are presumed to happen to union workers if this bill passes are the issues the rest of us face already. All of us that do not have benefit of a union can be fired for no reason or replaced by someone just because they will do our job for less. That is Capitalism. When anyone suggests that there should be laws protecting all workers, as I do, they are called Communist. Anyone who has read Marx knows that laws to protect the rights of workers is a Marxist ideal. If it is fair and just for union workers to require certain benefits from employers then it should be so for all workers. I have seen both sides. I have been replaced by someone with less experience who would do my job for less money. Working for the state as a social worker, I have had my pay cut by 60% with no warning, then to have it ‘eliminated’ with no warning. I have been hired for a job and then had more and more of my supervisors responsibilities put on me. I have also been witness to my husband, who is owner of a national shipping company, struggling with incompetent workers whom he can not fire without a major ordeal and unreasonable demands from the union, even though he voluntarily pays two dollars more an hour than is consistent with the market. My mother was a union factory worker. She has attested to the fact that the union often protects people who take advantage of the power the union affords them. When workers cost a company money, it is the consumer, you and I, who absorb the cost. Someone always loses when the other side has too much power. There should be laws that protect all workers while still allowing businesses to function as they see fit.

Follow up to my story on protesting at private residences

A quick follow-up to my previous post as to whether or not it goes to far to protest at someone’s private home:  Here is a good Washington Examiner article about how DC residents went and protested at the home of the Speaker of the House:

Nearly two dozen activists from DC Vote swarmed House Speaker John Boehner’s Capitol Hill residence at 7:30 Thursday morning, chanting “Don’t tread of D.C.” and “No taxation without representation” to protest congressional “meddling” in the District’s local affairs, in particular a House continuing budget resolution that would cut $80 million in federal payments and prohibit the city from using local funds to pay for needle exchange programs and abortions.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: Group targets Speaker Boehner’s (small-h) house

More on the Wisconsin fiasco

The wackiness in Wisconsin over proposed changes to collective bargaining for government employees just keeps getting…wackier.  Is that a word?  Well, for today, it is.  Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate have been on the lam for 3 days, preventing any further work in the Senate.  Attempts to have then retrieved and compelled to attend by state law enforcement were stymied by a simple counter move:  all 14 of the Dems in question jumped on a bus and have taken “refuge” in Illinois.  By crossing state lines, Wisconsin troopers can’t come get them, and Illinois law enforcement isn’t going to get involved.  From the Dems:

“This is a watershed moment unlike any that we have experienced in our political lifetimes,” Miller said. “The people have shown that the government has gone too far. . . . We are prepared to do what is necessary to make sure that this bill gets the consideration it needs.”

Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) said the decision on when to return had not been made yet. Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) said Democrats were prepared to stay away “as long as it takes.”

In a situation like this, one has to wonder which set of “people” should have the most say in this? The people that are part of the union, with something to lose? Or the people that elected the politicians (and in this case put Republicans in power in Wisconsin)?

Another great article on this comes from Patrick McIlheran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called Unions want to overturn election result where he not only makes the point about the will of the electorate, but also makes a very important point in regards to public sector unions:

They insist this is the end of unionization in government, something to which they have as much right, they say, as anyone else.

But they miss a bedrock difference. Unions in the private sector are a way of organizing private interests, those of employees, against other private interests, those of a company’s owners, for economic gain and for protection against unfairness. In government, workers are already protected against unfairness by civil service laws, and Walker has supported expanding those. Economically, government unions pit a private interest, that of employees, against the public’s interest, that of taxpayers and voters.

Private sector unions are one thing. But personally, the idea of a group demanding more perks, paid for by taxpayer money, that are over and beyond what the normal taxpayer gets, gives me pause. Isn’t it enough that public sector unions use what is essentially taxpayer money to support candidates of their choosing, donating millions to politicians that will further their interests?

Wait. That’s another story for another day.

Never thought i’d see it: Dems accusing Repubs of cutting too much defense spending!

Usually, Dems will yell at the right for never cutting defense spending. But in an interesting move, the shoe is on the other foot.

Since there is no official budget in place, the government is being funded through continuing resolutions–in short, declarations that say the government will continue to be funded at current levels temporarily. In the latest offering, republicans have suggested a number of deep spending cuts, including to the department of defense. But the president isn’t having it, saying he will veto the GOP spending measure:

“The statement said the GOP proposal goes too far and proposes cuts that would sharply undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation, and would reduce funding for the Department of Defense to a level that would leave the department without the resources and flexibility needed to meet vital military requirements.”

Expect this drama to drag on for a while.

Neither party is serious about debt, and the joke is on us

As of today, to pay off the entire US debt would require every US citizen to write a check for $45,400.  EVERY citizen.  The total debt is right at $14.1 TRILLION.  And neither party is really serious about doing something about it.

On the right, they are making a lot of noise, but as the saying goes, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  First, after promising to cut $100 billion in spending from the next budget, they are only able to come up with about $65 billion.  After being called to task by the Tea Party, they are able to dig and find the promised $100 billion.  The problem?  Not only are the cuts based on a budget that President Obama never sent to the House, but they also used the infamous “baseline budgeting” tricks.

Quick refresher:  Baseline budgeting is a technique where by the budget of a particular department or organization is projected years in advance.  Typically, those budgets include an already-applied increase in funding.  So, a department may already have on paper that in 2011, they will be funded at $10 million, but due to a budget increase already factored in, they may know that their budget in 2012 will have $10.3 million due to an expected 3% increase in funding.

What republicans have done is to say “we are going to cut x billions,” not acknowledging that instead of truly cutting funding, they are simply reducing the already scheduled budget increase.  So instead of cutting a department’s funding from $10 million to $9 million, they are simply advocating cutting the 3% increase to 2% or some other number.  The cut isn’t really a cut.

Further, in the “fraud waste and abuse” category, some republicans are on board with funding a 2nd, alternative engine for the F-35 Lightning II project.  The F-35 is slated to replace thousands of fighter jets in the US inventory, and the building effort is being shared across many countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, and Turkey.  The engines for the plane are made by Rolls Royce, but there is an effort in Congress to secure funding for a second engine.  The reasoning given is “in case the first one has problems,” but the real reason is to secure jobs and a contract for an American firm.  Even the Pentagon has said they don’t want it.

Democrats aren’t helping.  Even thought the White House has proposed cutting funding to some programs (like a heating oil assistance program), many Dems refuse to go along with any proposed cuts in “entitlement” spending.   Though everything should be on the table, dems are resisting anything that might touch Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Obama and the democrats have also been using the baseline budgeting trick, especially with the healthcare reform bill.  Once again, a cut isn’t really a cut.

For there to be real solutions, someone on both sides needs to wake up and wake up their fellow politicians to the real threat they all know about but are afraid to do something about (don’t want to mess up their reelection chances!).  The recommendations of the Debt Committee would be a good place to start.

Reagan is Conservatism’s Patron Saint But Would Never Get Elected By Today’s GOP

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Image via Wikipedia

Aside from Feb. 6th being Super Bowl Sunday, it was also what would’ve been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday.  As Reagan is considered a hero by many on the right, there have been remembrances, dedications, shout outs, flashbacks, and countless other looks back on Reagan and his legacy in the last week.  Of course, folks on the left are having none of that, understandably choosing to focus more on those “accomplishments” that they feel did more bad than good.

I (as is often the case) am in the middle on Reagan.  I wouldn’t call him a hero, but then again, I wouldn’t try to back over him with a MARTA bus, either.  But I’m pretty convinced that based on his overall record, if an exact Reagan clone popped up today and attempted to run for President saying he would do exactly as Reagan did and be exactly as Reagan was, he wouldn’t even make it out of the primaries.  Why?  Simple.  Reagan doesn’t fit the mold of today’s Republican.

First, there is his track record on taxes.  In 1981, Reagan signed the The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 also known as the ERTA or “Kemp-Roth Tax Cut.”  The top marginal rate for personal income taxes went from 70% to 50%, and the bottom rate dropped from 14% to 11%.   In general, the Act lowered marginal tax rates on average 23% across the board.  He also lowered taxes in 1986.  After that, the top marginal rate was 28%.  While tax revenues decreased over the short term, over the long term there was not only an increase in the amount of tax revenues to the government, but also a long period of economic growth.  But, that’s not the entire story.

As the budget deficit grew, Reagan knew something had to be done.  So, he signed into law legislation that, in essence, were tax increases.   Bills signed in 1982 and 1984 closed tax loopholes and increased the tax base by making more transactions taxable.  The 1986 reform bill eliminated many deductions that high income earners had been allowed to use, increasing their tax bills.  In the end, his tax increases actually increased tax revenue to the government and offset much of the revenue lost from the earlier tax cuts.

In 1982, Reagan led efforts to privatize Social Security.  Not only did it not work, but (as is usually the case in midterms) the GOP lost many seats in the following elections.  In 1983 he signed legislation that bailed out Social Security.  Pricetag:  $165 billion. Results of the bailout included higher  payroll taxes for higher income earners and the self-employed, expanded the system to include federal workers, and made Social Security benefits taxable.

These tax increases are rarely mentioned.  In today’s environment, once it came to light, the Reagan-clone would get skewered for ever considering tax increases as fiscal policy.

The national debt also tripled under Reagan.  It went over $1 trillion during his first year, and was $3 trillion when he left.  Of course, that was a bipartisan effort, as the House was under Democrat control all 8 years of his presidency, and the Senate was for 2 of his 8 years.  But evidently, veto wasn’t an option.  Of course, many will say that much of the spending was to counter the Soviet Union.  But SOMEONE has to account for the money vacuum that was SDI, which never worked.

Among other things that are rarely mentioned:

  • Reagan promised to reduce the size of government, in part by eliminating the Departments of Energy and Education.  Instead, he added a new Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • There was little done in the way to reduce government spending over Reagan’s 2 terms.
  • Many will always repeat Reagan’s call to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” and say “see?  you have to be tough!”  In actuality, Reagan and Gorbachev nearly agreed to eliminate ALL nuclear weapons from each country’s arsenal.  Plus, to help Gorbachev enact reform, the US reduced defense spending in the latter part of Reagan’s second term.  How’s that for “peace through strength?”

Finally, the the proverbial straw that would bring our Reagan-clone’s hopes to an end–and yet one more point rarely mentioned–is immigration.  In 1982, Reagan signed a bill that allowed any illegal alien in the US before that year to be eligible for amnesty.  Yep, blanket amnesty.  In today’s environment, that would be a big no-no.

In the end, Reagan gains sainthood by default.  For those keeping up with conservative politics, there is no one else that can take his place.  Nixon resigned.  Ford was considered weak.  Bush I lost his reelection bid despite removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait (taxes played a role in his defeat).  Bush II had two terms, but many on the right don’t consider him conservative enough.  So who is left?  No one but the Gipper.  But he’d never make it today.

Doom and gloom for Social Security, but folks aren’t serious about a fix

The latest report out regarding the fiscal health of Social Security is out:

New congressional projections show Social Security running deficits every year until its trust funds are eventually drained in about 2037.
This year alone, Social Security is projected to collect $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it pays out in retirement, disability and survivor benefits, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. That figure swells to $130 billion when a new one-year cut in payroll taxes is included, though Congress has promised to repay any lost revenue from the tax cut.
Read more: Social Security fund will be drained by 2037

The problem is, agreement on a fix is a hard thing to pin down. Democrats want to fix the problem by simply eliminating the top end contribution cap. Currently, 6.2% of an earner’s income is deducted for Social Security until that person reaches $106,000 in income. Republicans (as well as members of the Debt Commission) recommend increasing the retirement age for future beneficiaries. Previous proposals from Conservatives involved privatization of a portion of Social Security. The concept had promise–an individual would have the choice (emphasize choice to put 3% of their Social Security contribution into a private account–but it never gained traction with the American population, due in no small part to the left painting a picture of a poor individual losing their entire Social Security account to a market crash or due to some unscrupulous bankers.
Even with the warning sounded of rough seas ahead for Social Security, I predict finding common ground between the two parties on the issue will be difficult. As it stands, the Social Security trust fund is nothing more than a myth, a figurative box of IOUs from the government to the tune of $2.5 trillion. And since the government is already borrowing money (to the record tune of $1.5 trillion projected in 2011), paying those back will be challenging.
President Obama stated in his State of the Union Address that he wanted “strengthen the program while protecting current retirees, future retirees and people with disabilities,” which seems to translate to “find some more money from somewhere but don’t touch benefits.” With ideas like that, it’s no wonder there are countless Americans who figure the return on investment made into Social Security from their paychecks will end up being a big fat zero.

What to expect from the State of the Union speech

Well, we’ve come to that time of the year again where we get to hear the pleasant present state of our Union. A quick history:

Seal of the President of the United States

Image via Wikipedia

  • The first SOTU address was by George Washington on January 8, 1791 in NYC.
  • Thomas Jefferson started mailing it in in 1801.  Literally.  He began th e practic e of writing the speech and having it read to Congress by a clerk.
  • Woodrow Wilson restarted the read-in-person tradition in 1913.

So, what can we expect this evening from President Obama?  Well, one would have to assume (and hope) that the most important topic of discussion will be jobs and the economy.  No doubt he will say that the previous stimulus was a success (though there is a lot of debate about that), and maybe even mention again that if not for that, the unemployment rate would be worse.  But I’m sure there will be some discussion of bipartisan efforts to get the economy really moving.

We should also hear something about debt reduction.  This will be a tricky area for the President and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t address it at all.  The response to the report from his Debt Commission was predictable–Republicans were upset about talk of tax increases and cuts to defense, while Democrats were opposed to spending cuts and eliminating tax deductions, not to mention making changes to Social Security (even though those changes would kick in around the time today’s 4 year olds will draw retirement).  If he steps up and emphasizes that people will need to buck up and take the pain, I’ll definitely give him props.  Especially since the bulk of the criticism would come from his own party, still mad at him for caving to Republicans on the extension of the Bush tax rates and on cutting payroll taxes.

With the recent shootings in Arizona, President Obama will definitely spend some time addressing the tone of rhetoric in the political sphere.  He will probably avoid pointing fingers at one party or another, but the topic can’t be ignored.  The aide to Gabby Giffords who helped save her life is supposed to be there so expect that to be one of the bipartisan applause moments.

Speaking of bipartisan, many members of Congress, in an effort to show unity, are crossing the aisles to mix with members of the opposing party.  Some are simply sitting with members of their own state’s delegation, while others are reaching out to colleagues they have known for years.  It will be an interesting visual, especially during those times during the speech when the President tends to make a comment that one party (or the other) stands and applauds.

So, lets get the popcorn ready.

Five myths about why the South wanted to secede.

Crazy man shoots congresswoman–and its Palin’s fault??

By now most people have heard that a crazy lunatic, Jared Loughner, showed up at an event being hosted by Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and not only shot her in the head, but killed 6 and wounded others.  People who knew the guy describe him as being mentally disturbed.  He’d been kicked out of school due to his behavior.   As far back as 2007, a person in a class he was taking described him as being a “left-wing pothead.”  Another said he was the type of person one would see on TV who shot up a classroom at school.  In general, he is a guy whose brain is not firing on all cylinders.

Evidently, that doesn’t matter to supporters of the left anxious to find an explanation.  Who is to blame for all of this?  Why, Sarah Palin, of course!

Palin posted on her facebook page a number of congressional districts that were to be targeted by Republicans, and they were put in crosshairs.  In spite of no evidence that the shooter had even seen this, left-leaning bloggers and journalists immediately blamed Palin and her webpage (along with the harsh level of political rhetoric flying around these days) for the shooter’s behavior.  Logic would say that this is a reach.  But who says folks are logical?

The behavior is totally opposite to the call for calm that came after the Fort Hood shooting in 2009:

On November 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire at a troop readiness center in Ft. Hood, Texas, killing 13 people.  Within hours of the killings, the world knew that Hasan reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar!” before he began shooting, visited websites associated with Islamist violence, wrote Internet postings justifying Muslim suicide bombings, considered U.S. forces his enemy, opposed American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as wars on Islam, and told a neighbor shortly before the shootings that he was going “to do good work for God.”  There was ample evidence, in other words, that the Ft. Hood attack was an act of Islamist violence.

Nevertheless, public officials, journalists, and commentators were quick to caution that the public should not “jump to conclusions” about Hasan’s motive.  CNN, in particular, became a forum for repeated warnings that the subject should be discussed with particular care.

“The important thing is for everyone not to jump to conclusions,” said retired Gen. Wesley Clark on CNN the night of the shootings.

“We cannot jump to conclusions,” said CNN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell that same evening. “We have to make sure that we do not jump to any conclusions whatsoever.”

So, let’s get this straight.  A person that can be tied to those we all consider terrorists goes and shoots up a base, and people are saying “let’s not jump to conclusions.”  A person with no obvious ties goes and shoots a Democrat member of Congress, and we get “it’s Palin’s fault.”  Yes, that makes a whole lot of sense to me.

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?

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.

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.

“I’m Tired”

Back in 2009 a former Marine and state senator posted a vent on his blog.  It’s being circulated again, wrongly attributed to an actor with the same name.  But its an interesting read.  Read the original, it should make for interesting discussion:

I’m Tired.

someone needs to plug the WikiLeak

Today, the US is in scramble mode due to a website called Wikileaks.  For the uninitiated, Wikileaks has been gathering secret, unpublished documents from the US and publishing them for the world to see.  Previously, the site released secret documents somehow obtained from the US military, documenting information, negotiations, and unmentioned concerns about the war in Afghanistan.  This past weekend, they went one better, releasing thousands of cables (think secure emails) from diplomatic sources around the world, exposing a lot of opinions that were best kept under wraps.   In short, when people are making cracks at other world leaders–referring to them as “weak,” “easily swayed,” “useless,” and even comparing them to Batman and Robin–it can tend to ruffle feathers.

Further, a number of things the US wanted to keep under wraps now come to light.  Like how US allies wanted the US to take out the Iranian nuclear facility.  Or how the King of Saudi Arabia did not want the US to invade Iraq and take down Saddam because the US and Saudi Arabia, along with Saddam’s help, had been able to keep Iran in check.  Even negotiations about a missile shield in Europe came out–which showed that President Obama has not trouble playing hardball behind the scenes.

One politician even called WikiLeaks a “terrorist organization.”  It will be interesting to see how much damage the site can end up doing to the US and its Middle East efforts.

Tax shenanigans, or why $700 billion is unaffordable, but $3 trillion is affordable

The level of back-and-forth over the extension of tax rate cuts enacted under Bush 43 has reached a fever pitch.  From the right, we get “all or nothing!” or “no one should have a tax increase in this economy!” or, to borrow from a classic hip hop song by the one-hit-wonder group, The Double XX Posse, “not gon be able ta do it!”  From the left, we get “no tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires!” or “tax cuts for the rich” and “no subsidizing the rich” or “they don’t need it.”  But my favorite is that, in essence, we can’t afford the $700 billion cost (CBO projected).

For the life of me, I could not figure out how anyone would have the nerve to specifically talk about the $700 billion that extending the current rates for high-income earners may cost (remember, they are projections, so its only a guess), but not talk about how the cost of the rest of the cuts.  After all, the same CBO that produced the $700 billion number also stated that the TOTAL cost of extending ALL current tax rates would be $3 trillion.  So what gives?

Just more political shenanigans.

Let’s step back for a moment to 2007.  From wikipedia:

The PAYGO system was reestablished as a standing rule of the House of Representatives (Clause 10 of Rule XXI) on January 4, 2007 by the 110th Congress:

It shall not be in order to consider any bill, joint resolution, amendment, or conference report if the provisions of such measure affecting direct spending and revenues have the net effect of increasing the deficit or reducing the surplus for either the period comprising the current fiscal year and the five fiscal years beginning with the fiscal year that ends in the following calendar year or the period comprising the current fiscal year and the ten fiscal years beginning with the fiscal year that ends in the following calendar year.

Less than one year later though, facing widespread demand to ease looming tax burdens caused by the Alternative Minimum Tax, Congress abandoned its pay-go pledge.

So, to set themselves apart from the previous congressional crew, the swept-into-power Democrats in the House re-enacted a rule that makes a lot of sense–if we are gonna spend it, we are going to pay for it. Tub notice the next next line: it lasted less than a year. PAYGO was shelved, allowing major pieces of legislation, like the Bush Stimulus package in 2008 and Obama’s Stimulus package in 2009, to be passed without the rules applying. Then, new statutory PAYGO rules were again passed in February of 2010.
In addition, Obama signed new budget rules. From Businessweek:

Under the budget rules, any tax cuts benefitting individuals earning more than $200,000, or couples earning more than $250,000, must be offset with new tax revenue or spending cuts elsewhere.

Apparently, the tax cut line-in-the-sand was drawn long ago. After bucking the PAYGO rules, now the rules must apply and for those high-income earners, tax cuts aren’t affordable.
Here’s what’s missing.
Lets be honest. If there is an argument to be made, its that NONE of the tax rate cuts are affordable. But let’s stick to the current discussion. The reason that Democrats are saying we can’t afford the $700 billion is not because we can’t afford it. That can’t be the case, since evidently, financing $2.3 trillion via debt is not a problem (and allowed under the rules!). The real problem is that offsetting spending cuts would have to be made. History has shown that Democrats are not big on cutting spending (unless its Defense related). Any mention of cutting programs, especially entitlement programs, is met with more resistance than a goalline stand in the national championship game. Any other arguments, like referring to lower tax rates as a “subsidy” (how can the government grant or gift a person their own money) or “welfare for the rich” (once again, its their money) just distracts from the true discussion.

Don’t worry, my Dem friends, I’ll tackle the Repubs too.

Who has more disposable income–a minimum wage household or a $60k household?

I was forwarded an article-about-an-article that shows that “a one-parent family of three making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year.”  Seemed unbelieveable, but the writer of the piece spelled it out very concisely.

In a nutshell, based on income, there are certain sources of financial assistance that are available to that minimum wage household that are not available to the $60k household–Food Stamps, Free Lunch, Medicaid/CHIP, and others.  When the available programs are added in in terms of financial benefit to the family, and compared to what the $60k household would have to do for similar benefits, the lower income household has more money left over.

Just left out there with no discussion, I suspect this would prompt a couple of scathing responses.  There will be those who will make it partisan and say something about conservatives attacking.   Some will be offended because how dare ANYONE say anything negative about programs that benefit the poor!  Still others will look at it as class warfare.  Obviously, things could go in a number of different directions.

Anyway, the article: Entitlement America.

Guest Writer: OCD3 on the GM bailout and IPO

My Thoughts on the GM bailout and recent IPO

While, I’m very happy that the American automotive icon GM is still in business, I initially had mixed feelings regarding the bailout and spending taxpayer dollars to shore up what appeared to be a dying company.

But first understand that I’m a fan. I’ve driven and owned only American cars my entire life. From my first car, a ‘83 Pontiac Firebird (black of course), to my mom’s ‘85 Chrysler Reliant which I drive for a short time in college I’ve been a fan. From the used ’87 Chevy Celebrity that I bought for $700 upon graduation to the ’98 Pontiac Grand Prix which I still drive today…I’ve been a fan. What many people don’t always understand is that GM DOES build high quality products…and they have done so for a long time now. The issues of the 80s are long gone. The focus on quality has been evident since the 90s but a bad reputation is difficult to shake.

I’m not happy for GM for nostalgia’s sake. I’m not even happy for GM because I drive one of their cars. The Pontiac brand which I’ve come to love has been retired…for the time being anyway. I’m happy for the people who build cars and feed their families because of it. I’m happy for the automotive suppliers and parts suppliers and the suppliers to those suppliers. This was not just about GM. It was about an industry that supports a significant part of our economy and the people who rely on that industry to survive. You see, I was once one of them.

I used to work for GM. I started as a young engineer fresh out of college. I felt lucky because GM was one of those big companies that so many engineers wanted to be part of. I enjoyed my time there. But I also saw things that made me feel concerned. I saw some employees who took their jobs for granted. I would tell them that some of their actions were leading to jobs being sent to Mexico. Some responses were to the effect of: I don’t care, my job is union guaranteed. I saw some who took advantage of union agreements in ways that scream lunacy.

For example: a material mover fell asleep in a closet. A foreman grabbed a box of parts to keep the line from shutting down while the mover was missing. When the mover later learned that a non-union worker did union work, he filed a grievance and was awarded time-and-a-half for the day.

The problems were not just employee based or union-based. I strongly support the unions. I’m just against the abuse of them. I saw management making decisions and putting policies in place that had no practicality. I saw a lack of innovation in product design to capture a new market. I saw a failure to understand the buying habits of a new generation. Gone were the days of brand loyalty where one would buy a Pontiac Sunfire as a teenager, a Pontiac Grand Am as a young adult, a Pontiac Firebird as a young professional, a Pontiac Grand Prix as a middle class family man, and a Pontiac Bonneville as a middle-aged man set in his ways who just “loves his Pontiacs”.

There were things happening that I didn’t see as well…such as the aging work force, the rising cost of healthcare for employees and retirees, and no plan to deal with it all.

I say all of this because I believe I have a personal view of the company as a former employee and a long-time customer. When the bailouts were announced, I thought it was a big mistake. I don’t believe in throwing good money after bad. I left the company because I saw a plan to move most of the operations in my area to Mexico as soon as natural matriculation allowed. There wasn’t much of a future for me there. I felt that the failure of GM to get its house in order is not the taxpayer’s problem. Furthermore I felt that the effort was futile. I did not believe GM could be saved. I felt they needed an overhaul of management, both at the company and the unions. I felt employees needed a change of attitude. Their union contracts may be guaranteed but their jobs are not. They forgot about the free market’s right to decide that they don’t have a job regardless of their contracts.

Then the bailouts passed and I was…not angry. I was relieved. They have a chance. The industry has a chance. An American icon has a chance. The justification was not just saving the company, but the cumulative effect it would have on the industry and our economy.

This week GM issued stock in a new IPO that was one of the biggest ever. Bush 43 started the automotive bailout and Obama continued it. From all accounts it worked and they both deserve the credit. Taxpayers will get their money back and then some. Jobs were saved. The economy did not slip into depression. Some say they could have gone into bankruptcy and might have come back a stronger, leaner company. They could have also gone into bankruptcy and disappeared forever.

Our government interfered with free market forces. I hope it never does so again. This along with TARP, healthcare reform, and other policies caused the Democrats the majority in the House. Politicians choice to ignore the will of the people and they were punished for it. But in this case, their actions have proven to be a success. I grade on performance and outcome, not on whether or not my ideology won or loss. Their actions save an important piece of Americana and likely kept us from entering a depression. To criticize it by saying that it might have been fixed another way is foolish. If you could go back in time and risk the economic health of the country by changing the decision while knowing that the decision as is did indeed work, would you?

To our government let me say: well done! This was $50B well spent. Please don’t do it again.

OCD3

*Note:  OCD3 will be making frequent appearances here at F&C so show him some love!  –Hal

The left says the GM bailout is a success. The right disagrees. Who is correct?

Logo of General Motors Corporation. Source: 20...

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This week, GM launched an IPO, moving forward in a turnaround that many thought unlikely a few years ago.  Just a couple of years ago, GM was losing a ton of money, closing dealerships, and about to go into serious bankruptcy.  Bush 43 began the bailout process with over $17 billion in loans.  Obama and Co continued the bailout, but with a caveat that many still consider controversial to say the least:  the United Auto Workers came out with a larger stake in GM than the shareholders and bondholders, even though the amount GM owed the union was less than that owed to the shareholders.  Many feel that letting GM go into bankruptcy and emerge leaner and profitable would’ve been better and allowed the pain to be shared more equally.  Many also felt that allowing the unions to end up with a larger share that seemed out of proportion was an obvious example of the Dems giving special treatment to their union supporters.

Sidenote:  many of the left leaning sources that are celebrating the IPO are saying the company would’ve died without the bailout.  This isn’t necessarily true.  A large number of companies that go into bankruptcy eventually come out.

So my good friend Ocie asked me this morning:  “GM IPO, we’re making American cars, people are employed, was the $50B bailout of GM worth it?”  My immediate answer to him was that it would be worth it once the US breaks even on its investment at least (the US Treasury owns a 33-35% stake in GM, that it took instead of money payback).  Having thought more about it, I would say that it has its positives and negatives.  I agree jobs were saved, but there is no guarantee jobs would not have been saved via bankruptcy.  I will say that bankruptcy may have had more of a negative impact “down the line,” as in the vendors that do business with GM.  But it can’t be denied that politics played a part in the end result–the union ended up with a larger stake than stock and bond holders.  And it will be years before the US is fully divested and paid back on their “investment.”

So let’s declare that it was worth it, but should’ve been done differently.

TSA workers will be allowed to unionize

Full disclosure:  I’m not a fan of unions.  I’ve spent my working life at companies where you were hired based on your ability to fill a position, retained based on you continuing to do the job, and pay increases were based on merit.  Beyond the many things unions helped with in the past (workplace safety, 40 hour workweek), I don’t see a need for them now.

Last week, the Federal Labor Relations Authority decided that TSA workers could vote to unionize.  While workers could already individually join a union, they will now be able to vote as a block, and be able to collectively bargain.

Why do I not support this?  Well, in addition to all the other reasons I’m not a union fan,  what happens when the union doesn’t get everything they want in a contract and they decide to strike?  What happens to air travel?  Yep–gridlock, coming to an airport near you.