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Tag Archives: United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say WHAT?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It must be election season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That Jobs Plan Sounded Good…Then Reality Set In

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The actual video clip can be found following the link.

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

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!

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

Just some random thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Support For Herman Cain is Dropping Faster Than…

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

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

Alas, my joy is fleeting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once more, with feeling!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will be waiting for you on August 3rd.

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

So much for Guliani running for President in2012.

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

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

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

Good Reasons Why the GM Bailout Was Not a Good Thing

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

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

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

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

White House Disputes the Findings of Their Own Economic Advisors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

From Jeffrey H. Anderson at The Weekly Standard:

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

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

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

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

 

Thoughts on Bin Laden: Credit, Sea Burials, and Other Randomness

Just some thoughts on the dispatching of Osama:

ATTABOY AWARDS

Let’s start by making sure credit for this is given to all the parties that deserve it.  First, I hope they make a movie about the SEAL team that got to go in and execute the plan.  It has all the parts of a good movie:  overall plot (kill the terrorist mastermind), buildup (years of searching and intelligence), suspense (one chopper lost on the ingress), action (fast roping on the roof, gunfight), and a happy ending.

Kudos also to everyone from top to bottom that was involved in the search.  that includes folks under Bush as well as the current folks under Obama.  The president was very classy in mentioning that the effort started under Bush, and also in calling him to let him know OBL was dead.

And yes, credit to Obama.  Though I give more credit to the folks below him, he gets credit not only for being the final go-no go decision maker, but for keeping good folks working for him in order to get this done.

LET’S NOT GIVE HIM A CAPE JUST YET

I’ve noticed that many of Obama’s supporters have gone beyond the simple idea of giving him credit for getting OBL.  Many are already running the victory lap for the 2012 election.  My friends, slow your roll.  There is a lot of time between now and election day.  And with gas prices going up, unemployment still around 10%, and other issues going on, getting rid of OBL is not enough to punch his ticket into term #2.

If all else fails, look at Bush I.  He had the whole world behind him as the US and its allies went in and kicked Saddam out of Kuwait and back to Baghdad.  But on inauguration day in 1993, the person sworn in was named Clinton, not Bush.

OBL BURIED AT SEA

Evidently, the body of Osama was buried at sea.  Per Muslim tradition, a person must be buried within 24 hours of death.  So nice of the US to go ahead and adhere to such.  The reasoning behind the move makes sense.  Finding a country to take OBL’s remains may have been tough, and on top of that, burying him at sea preventing OBL supporters from creating a shrine.

But lets just count how long it takes before the conspiracy theorists take this and run.  Was it faked?  Why not show everyone the actual body?  Is he really dead?

INTERESTING BITS OF INFO EMERGING

–OBL was given a chance to surrender.  He opted not to.  He caught a bullet in the left eye as a result.  In the left eye.  that’s some impressive shooting.

–Is someone going to try and convince me that authorities in Pakistan didn’t know OBL was living in the city in a massive mansion?  !t was located within sptting distance of the Pakistan Military Academy.  Yeah, right! 

–There was a plan to bomb the compound in March.  They were going to use two B-2 stealth bombers to drop a bunch of bombs on it.  But Obama didn’t sign off because there wouldn’t have been enough left to confirm OBL was dead.
Bottom line:  Osama Bin Laden is taking a dirt nap.  Good riddance.

Dear Birthers: The Horse is Dead. Stop Beating It.

When I posted a humorous line as my Facebook status for Easter (“I hear Birthers aren’t celebrating Easter. something about not seeing an authentic copy of his birth certificate…”), I figured my friends and I would share a good laugh and move on.  But of course, my friends who are somewhat in line with the Birther movement jumped in, prompting responses from the other side, and away we went.  I know I’ve posted about this before, but if Birthers must persist, then so should I.  Look at this as an appeal to reason.

Members of what has been labeled the “Birther” movement feel that President Obama was not born in Hawaii, but instead was born in Kenya.  They have offered no proof of this.  They maintain that he has not sufficiently proven that he was born in the US.  No matter what is said or shown, they insist on it.  But let’s give the evidence a look-see, shall we?

Birther’s once maintained that Obama’s grandmother said he was born in Kenya.  This would be a nail to hang their entire argument on.  Even Donald Trump mentioned this in an interview recently.  Unfortunately for Trump and Co., the story was debunked.  Not true.  Didn’t happen.

The biggest Birther argument as to do with Obama’s birth certificate.  For presidential election eligibility purposes. Obama submitted what is called in Hawaii (and many other states) a “Certificate of Live Birth.”  When a copy was made available for the naysayers, they scoffed.  “It can be faked!” they said.  But, my favorite opposition lines were “it’s not good enough–we want to see the long form!” and “its not the same as a Birth Certificate!”  Both of these arguments leave a lot of pertinent info out, most likely on purpose.

First of all, the Birthers purposefully ignore Hawaii law.  In Hawaii, when one requests a copy of their birth certificate, they do NOT get a copy of the original, long form birth certificate.  They get the “Certificate of Live Birth.”  It is a legal document carrying behind it the weight of the issuing state, and it has the necessary seal of authenticity.  Second, government officials in Hawaii have verified that there is an official long form birth certificate on file with the state of Hawaii.  Third, while people are saying that a person could simply walk into a hospital with an already-born baby and get a COLB, there is no proof that this is what happened when Obama was born.

Oh, did I forget to mention the dual birth announcements in the news papers right after he was born?

Birthers won’t accept the notion that in order for their version of events to be true, there would need to be a major conspiracy put together, involving a birth in another country, a very long flight to Hawaii, and convincing state officials, a hospital, and the news papers that Obama was born in Hawaii.  Who would want to go through that much trouble?  And on top of all else, since Obama’s mother was an American citizen, it didn’t matter WHERE he was born!  Her US citizenship made HIM a US citizen.  Period.

Birthers are being allowed to drive this discussion.  The proof is out there that shows that Obama was born in the US.  The question is, why isn’t it on the Birthers to provide evidence that he wasn’t?  Just like in a court trial, let’s see what they have and let the jury decide.

I suspect the verdict would be unanimous.

Clark Howard Nails It: The Country is “Sailing Up Denial” About Taxing Our Way Out of Debt

I happened to hear Clark Howard on the radio while driving back to the office from a business event.  For those that don’t know, Clark Howard (like Dave Ramsey) is a consumer guru known for giving out advice and tips to the masses via his radio and TV programs.  During his program today, he mentioned that the country as a whole was “sailing up denial” when it comes to solutions to fix the country’s long-term debt issues.  While I will still be more of a fan of the saying “denial is a river in Egypt,” Howard definitely nailed the thought process that currently occupies the minds of many Americans–that increasing taxes on the top earners, without making cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, is a viable option for debt reduction over the long term.

The fact that a poll was taken on this subject is quite humorous.  There are a couple of ideas that rule the hearts and minds of many Americans.  The first is that they wouldn’t support the reduction of government benefit programs, knowing they would be affected by the reductions.  Seems to be the simple law of self preservation to me.  The second is that people feel if a person is rich (or seems that way) then regardless of whether or not they actually paid into a benefit, they have money and can do without the government entitlements.  These thoughts reflect, as Howard also stated, that in America, we don’t have a notion of shared sacrifice on the issue.  “Don’t change MY stuff, just make the rich fund it.”  Tricky thing is, as Howard explained, you could tax the upper 1%-2% of income earners all the way to destitution, and the debt problem still wouldn’t be solved.  Further–and I thought this was spot on–if the solution used was more taxes with no benefits cuts, eventually there wouldn’t be enough money coming into the government to pay for benefits.  Before long, individuals would find themselves solely responsible for their own welfare and wellbeing, just like in the old days.  One can only imagine the outcry THAT would produce.

Here’s to hoping that Congress gets it right for a change and puts the sacrifice on everyone, not just a few people.

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.

Forget Picking Winners in the Budget Fiasco; We All Lose in the End

Unofficial seal of the United States Congress

Image via Wikipedia

After the absurd theater that was the “oh-my-god-the-government-will-shut-down” nonsense of last week, many news sites were picking “winners” and “losers.”  Frankly, the loser in all of this is clear–the American People.  If it takes this much effort to get Congress to cut a few billion dollars from a 3-plus trillion dollar deficit, what happens going forward, with expected trillion-dollar deficits for the next ten years?

Contrary to the posturing being done by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama, Democrats came out on the losing end of the battle.  At least temporarily (since success can be fleeting in politics), many Americans scratched their heads as Democrats dug in and fought against budget cuts that make up less than one percent of the total budget.  One looks silly fighting to hold on to every penny when nearly everyone knows that the level of debt we are piling up as a country is unsustainable and a threat to national security.

Wait.  I digress.  Based on the number of people who actually supported the Dems position in all of this, either “nearly everyone” is far from accurate, or there are a lot of people in denial.  They are convinced the way to fix this is to maintain the spending and only increase taxes.  But that’s a different story.

Since we’re talking budgets, and in Washington, its always about the baseline, let’s look at the baseline of the budget battle.  If Democrats had passed a budget back in 2010, while controlling Congress and the White House, none of this would’ve happened.  It was the first time in many years that there was no budget submitted.  Even worse, the fact that the Dems punted in June of 2010 in order to go into butt-covering mode for the upcoming elections seems to have been swept under the rug.  I’m very surprised some person within the Democrat machine didn’t point out that if they didn’t get it done, it could possibly be out of their hands in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Tea Party, whose focus is and always has been spending cuts (don’t be fooled by accusations to the contrary), powered an election that sent new people to Congress with the mission of reigning in spending.  I’ve actually gotten a kick out of watching how people who were quick to defend the ramming through of Obamacare by saying “that’s what we elected them to do” turn around and actually criticize members of Congress for being beholden to the Tea Party!  It’s more important to demonize the TP than to recognize that their criticism of spending is legit.

But back to the budget fight.  Republicans aren’t without criticism here.  This was no time to inject social issues into the fray.  A fight over funding for Planned Parenthood had no business occupying time and space in this.  Or did it?  One analysis of the battle said the Democrats fell for the okey-doke in that regard; that really, defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t really the big priority that Democrats thought it was, and when they agreed to give up something in return for a dropping of that issue by Republicans, they were suckered.  Further, as part of the final agreement, Obama and Reid agreed to allow a debate and vote on defunding PP to be brought up in the Senate.  Still, any future fight over defunding Planned Parenthood just because they are an abortion provider is a waste.

There is one upside to the way the deal went down.  Democrats hoped to achieve cuts by simply delaying some projects (which did happen) and/or freezing funding for certain programs and refunding them in the next budget.  Republicans didn’t play ball.   Instead, many programs were terminated in order to get to the nearly $40 billion in cuts.  For the other programs with reduced budgets, they have a new baseline to start from in the 2012 budget.  In other words, even if there is a programmed funding increase, they will still spend less going forward.  This serves to reduce the monsterous deficits already projected for the next 5-10 years out.

So, after all of that, why do I say we all lose?  Because this bears repeating:  we nearly had a government shutdown over cuts amounting to less than 2% of the overall budget!  So much hinged on so little.  In order for the country to win, spending has to come down.   Is that so hard to understand?

On Libya and US Foreign Policy

I may have addressed this before, but at the risk of being repetitive, I have to question the rhyme or reason behind the US getting involved in Libya.  Further, I have to look at it from a different view–if we are going in there to help with regime change, or prevent a leader from killing his own people, how do we decide which places to stick our noses in and which ones to ignore?

President Obama publicly rebuked Libya leader Mommar Quaddfi, saying that the US and its allies would get involved in Libya to stop the killng that was going on there.  On the surface, such actions are noble.  who doesn’t want to see an end to slaughter and bloodshed by a tyrannical dictator?  But the issue is a complex one.  If we are going to take this stance on Libya, why not on other countries?  There have been hundreds of thousands killed in Darfur.  The people in Iran tried to rise up and got squashed.  There are numerous countries in the Middle East where the citizens are currently protesting their government.

Of the situations mentioned, there is no plan for intervention from the US or otherwise.

So the question becomes, under what grounds do we decide to jump in?  Does the situation have to be 100% winnable?  Only under NATO approval?  Only when invited by the Arab League?

Someone somewhere needs to spell this out.

Uncle Sam Wants to Tax You…By the Mile

In the US there is always the need for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance.  Unfortunately, funds are short these days.  So, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has floated an idea for a new tax to raise funds.  What’s the new tax?  Simple.  Drivers would get taxed for every mile they drive:

The report discussed the proposal in great detail, including the development of technology that would allow total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to be tracked, reported and taxed, as well as the pros and cons of mandating the installation of this technology in all vehicles.

CBO’s report stressed it was making no recommendations but seemed to support a VMT tax as a more accurate way of having drivers pay for the costs of highway maintenance. The report said miles driven is a larger factor in highway repairs than fuel consumption and suggested that having drivers pay for the real costs of highways “would involve imposing a combination of fuel taxes and per-mile charges.”

On the one hand, funds have to be raised somehow, and this may be a viable option. However, it also would penalize folks who got more fuel efficient vehicles (less gas purchased at the pump means less gas tax revenue). Also, for folks like me, who are in sales, we would bear a disproportionate share of the tax bill.

We will see how this one pans out.

Becoming President Can Make You Hypocritical

We’ve seen it many times. Candidate runs for President and says “I will do A, B, and certainly C.”  They then get into office…and suddenly, a few of those promises are conveniently forgotten.  With the recent actions in Libya, President Obama has joined the club.

First, a few quotes from then-Senator Obama about the US and military actions:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

Then-State Senator Obama on why the US shouldn’t go into Iraq, circa 2002:

“I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity … But … Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors …”

Fast forward to 2011. Quaddafi is no threat to the US. They only produce 2 percent of the world’s oil. But not only are we participating in Operation Odyssey Dawn against Libya, we did so without Congressional advice and consent. A complete 180-degree turn on both counts, no?

Links:
“Q and A with Presidential Candidate Obama”

“From Iraq to Libya, Obama Becomes a Hypocrite”

What Was That About Toning Down Rhetoric? Biden Uses Rape to Describe Repubs

Not too long ago there was so much talk about toning down rhetoric.  Even before that, using rape or things related to rape to describe your opponents was darn near taboo.  But today, Vice President Joe Biden pulled that one out at a fund raiser.  His logic?  According to an account in at thehill.com, “Republicans who want to cut spending while at the same time cutting taxes for the wealthy are similar to rape apologists:”

“When a woman got raped, blame her because she was wearing a skirt too short, she looked the wrong way or she wasn’t home in time to make the dinner,” Biden said.

“We’ve gotten by that,” he said. “But it’s amazing how these Republicans, the right wing of this party – whose philosophy threw us into this God-awful hole we’re in, gave us the tremendous deficit we’ve inherited – that they’re now using, now attempting to use, the very economic condition they have created to blame the victim – whether it’s organized labor or ordinary middle-class working men and women.”

The countdown clock has started to see how long before the women’s groups yell about this. It’s so off the wall, I won’t even go into how crazy he sounds still talking about an “inherited deficit” when we are going into year 3 of the Obama administration, especially with the amount of money that has been spent in the last 2 years alone.

Unions to Protest on Anniversary of MLK Slaying. That is NOT Kosher.

The right to assemble is one of the fundamental rights people have in America. As long as you follow the rules, anyone and everyone can get together all they want. So I have no problem with unions wanting to assemble mass protests.

But in an attempt to link civil rights and “workers’ rights,” they are calling for such gatherings to take place on April 4th. The significance of that date? It is the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN in 1968. King was on his 4th (and unfortunately final) trip to Memphis to support an ongoing sanitation strike by black workers, who were being paid less and treated worse than their white counterparts. There had been rallies and marches, and King had been there to help bolster the worker’s effort to be treated equally. In that effort, he lost his life and black america lost its “Drum Major.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image via Wikipedia

For some reason, unions feel that their efforts to maintain the level of power they have now equates to that effort in 1968, that civil rights–treat me the same as the white workers–and workers “rights” are linked. My question is, how so?

In 1968, segregation was still the norm in a lot of places. To be black meant to be treated differently. Forget the idea that other than skin color, a person was a person. Those workers were treated like 2nd class workers. The fight to get them their equal pay and treatment was unquestionably a fight for the inalienable right to be treated as equals.

It’s now 2011. Exactly how, in the ongoing labor disputes, are union workers NOT treated equally? Collective bargaining, while a legal right in some jurisdictions, is not an inalienable right, no matter how loudly people yell to the contrary. As I have mentioned previously, Democrats on the federal level who said such in support of the Wisconsin protesters were speaking doubletalk, since they have made no effort to say or do anything in support of collective bargaining for federal workers since they lost the right to do so under Jimmy Carter. Speaking of Wisconsin, the bill that was passed (and is currently on hold due to a judge’s ruling) still allows union workers to bargain for their pay. I and millions of others have the ability to do this one on one with any perspective employer. The public employees would no longer have the ability to negotiate on benefits and perks. For the most part, I and the millions are in the same boat. So really, what the bargaining on benefits and perks would be for is special treatment. Granted, many in Wisconsin opposed the bill passed by Gov. Walker and the Republicans there. But you’re not going to convince me that they have some inalienable right to 100% funded pension and free healthcare, at taxpayer expense, during a time of a major budget shortfall.

Now, I’m sure that these unions will most likely get the support of many black organizations in their April 4th protests. But from this black person, I look at connecting two completely different rights as an insult to MLK and what he fought for.

I’ll end it with a quote from Byron York, writing on the topic in the Washington Examiner:

Will it work? After all the demonstrations, and all the speeches, will the public watch protests by angry, nearly all-white, middle-class school teachers with excellent health and retirement plans and think of Martin Luther King? Trumka’s AFL-CIO and the big unions are very rich and very powerful. They have the ability to get their message out. But their April 4 strategy might be too ambitious even for them.

Let’s Talk About “Uncle Tom”

In a recent documentary on Michigan’s “Fab Five,” Jalen Rose charges that Duke only recruited black players that were “Uncle Toms.”  Of course this has raised a ruckus all over.  But this is nothing new.  The term “Uncle Tom” has been used by Blacks against Blacks for years.  Often interchangeable with that other favorite term, “sell out,” it’s used to describe someone who, in essence, acts white in the eyes of the person who is throwing out the term.  Of course, if you’re Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, you are called Uncle Tom, sell out, AND depicted on the cover of a black-oriented magazine as a lawn jockey, but I digress.

The Original Uncle Tom was from Harriett Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe, who was anti-slavery, used her novel as an eye-poke to the pro-slavery folks of the day. But many blacks in the day (and after) weren’t happy with the fact that Uncle Tom was a very subservient, “God will save me” character instead of one who fought back against his situation. Fast forward some years. As blacks continued to fight for rights and fight to be treated equally, some managed to do well and begin to assimilate to what at the time were lifestyle activities more akin to whites in the US. Those who went too far were prone to catch the “Uncle Tom” nickname.

So, back to Mr. Rose. He looks at his own background, which wasn’t so easy. He looks at the black players at Duke, including Grant Hill, who many people know came from a 2 parent household, with a former NFL player for a dad and a highly educated mom. And instead of saying “well, we’re just different,” he plays the UT card.

Now, to paraphrase (and agree with) what my friend Hashim Uqdah tweeted just this morning, I doubt he had even read the book to know where the term came from. Then again, MOST folks who say it probably didn’t read the book. They heard it and decided its nice and handy to use. But ultimately, it comes down to one thing: the person using the term has decided that the target of the slur isn’t black enough.

When I heard about Rose and his quote, I wasn’t thinking this, but then that jumped into my head and I realized it was true.  Somewhere, there is a “Black Handbook” that lists all the things a black person should say, do, like, eat, drink, and even think. Violators are treated harshly (look up the movie “DROP Squad”). Now, I’m not condoning those decide to completely forget their life, history, and heritage (example: OJ Simpson seems to be in that category, and made a triumphant return to being black around the time he went on trial for murder). But for the majority, simply doing the activities mentioned earlier was enough. As things have changed in the 2000s, and we see more and more starting to “make it,” the Uncle Tom moniker tends to be focused more on politics. Black and conservative? Yep, Uncle Tom. Disagree with affirmative action? Oh, yeah, UT. And don’t be a Tea Party member!

Bottom line is, it is a true shame that within the black community, we often end up tearing down others who may not fit a certain mold instead of simply saying “to each their own.”  One wonders if we will ever get to that point.

Sorry, Michael Moore; Taking the Billionares’ Billions Won’t Bail Us Out

Mary Katherine Ham took Michael Moore’s idiot idea of confiscating wealth and using it as a “national resource” and basically showed how much of an idiot he is

The grand total of the combined net worth of every single one of America’s billionaires is roughly $1.3 trillion. It does indeed sound like a “ton of cash” until one considers that the 2011 deficit alone is $1.6 trillion. So, if the government were to simply confiscate the entire net worth of all of America’s billionaires, we’d still be $300 billion short of making up this year’s deficit.

Read more: Michael Moore’s National Resources

Rep. Keith Ellison’s Teary Hearing Speech Gets a Lot of Press. Too Bad It Wasn’t True

Yesterday, Rep. Peter King conducted a hearing into radicalization in America:

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) rejected calls from nearly 100 Democratic members to cancel the highly controversial hearing as he carried out his attempt to explore whether the U.S. Muslim community is being radicalized.

King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the four-hour hearing was “successful” and announced plans to hold another in the next several months on the radicalization of Muslim Americans in the U.S. prison system.

“This was an extremely productive, worthwhile hearing,” King told reporters after it ended. “I am more convinced than ever that it was the appropriate hearing to hold. We broke down a wall of political correctness on an issue which has to be addressed.”

There was, of course, plenty of drama on hand due to the controversy stirred up leading to the hearing, but one speaker who received a lot of press–even before the hearing was even over–was Rep. Keith Ellison, for his teary presentation at the beginning of the hearing:

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, broke into tears during the hearing as he spoke of a 23-year-old Muslim New York Police Department cadet and paramedic named Mohammed Salman Hamdani who was killed trying to save people from the crumbling World Trade Center buildings on 9/11.

Ellison became visibly emotional when he began describing how people spread false rumors after his death that Hamdani had helped the terrorists attack the U.S. Ellison was barely able to finish his statement but said he was concerned that fear-based rumors and prejudice could arise from Thursday’s hearing as well.

However, an interesting thing came to light: either Ellison got his story mixed up, or it just isn’t true:

Does Ellison’s account check out with reality?

No. It is actually pretty close to the opposite of the truth. In fact, six weeks after the September 11 attacks — before Hamdani’s remains were identified, which Ellison implies to be the turning point of public perception — Congress signed the PATRIOT Act into law with this line included: “Many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have acted heroically during the attacks on the United States, including Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New Yorker of Pakistani descent, who is believed to have gone to the World Trade Center to offer rescue assistance and is now missing.” That is, Hamdani was actually singled out for particular high honors among the thousands of victims of the September 11 attacks.

There’s little evidence of the “rumors” of which Ellison speaks, either. Poke around yourself. Go to Google and search for Mohammed Salman Hamdani’s name, using various time frames from before today’s hearings (say, in the week after the September 11 attack). You’ll discover two discordant sets of returns: none for sites and news reports accusing Hamdani of being a terrorist, and many thousands of pages honoring him as a hero while claiming that he was “widely accused” of being a terrorist.

So, one has to wonder if Rep. Ellison didn’t realize that his set of facts is incorrect, or if he was simply out to make a dramatic splash.

Politico Cites Report That Union Heads Make 6 Figure salaries

A Politico article cites a recent report that shows that the people heading the country’s largest unions aren’t do so bad for themselves:

Leaders earned between $173,000 and $618,000 at major unions, the Center for Public Integrity found in examining 2009 tax records, with some groups paying dozens of employees in the six figures. At the three major unions , which together represent more than 5.6 million public workers, presidents’ salaries in 2009 ranged between $400,000 and $500,000.

For the most part, I and most other people don’t begrudge a person for how much money they make. But many of the same people who support unions also complain vocally about company execs and their salaries. It would seem to me if one can make that complaint, but look at this report and be ok with it, that there seems to be a level of hypocrisy.

Read more: Report: Union heads make six figures

Georgia Politicians Back off of Birther-inspired Bill

Either they got cold feet, or they realized they were getting laughed at by most of the country, but the bill in the Georgia Legislature to require proof of a presidential candidate’s citizenship seems to be losing sponsors:

When state Rep. Mark Hatfield, R-Waycross, dropped his bill to require next year presidential candidates to provide hard proof of their birth on U.S. soil, the paperwork contained the signatures of 93 of his House colleagues – 92 of them Republican.

Word of House Speaker David Ralston’s coolness toward the legislation spread through the Capitol on Wednesday. Those concerned with the Port of Savannah made their opinions known.

The article and an image of the bill with names of the former sponsors scratched out can be found here.

Nobel Prize winner (and know-it-all) Paul Krugman Gets Crushed By a Blogger

Paul Krugman is an economist who spends his time explaining how everything Left is right everything Right is wrong.  He recently wrote a piece in which he used an argument many union supporters have been using lately–that school performance in non-union states is worse than in union states.  Unfortunately, he didn’t do the full research.  Blogger David Burge pulls out the facts and proceeds to completely crush Krugman’s argument:

Please pardon this brief departure from my normal folderol, but every so often a member of the chattering class issues a nugget of stupidity so egregious that no amount of mockery will suffice. Particularly when the issuer of said stupidity holds a Nobel Prize.

Case in point: Paul Krugman. The Times’ staff economics blowhard recently typed, re the state of education in Texas:

Continued here: Longhorns 17, Badgers 1

Is there ANY proof that Birthers will accept?

After hearing about a bill in the Georgia Legislature to require citizenship proof for a presidential candidate (which we all know is an effort to keep Obama off the 2012 ballot), I had to scratch my head.  What’s with these people??  Do they not realize how dumb they come off?  Anyway, soon after, I heard someone call into a radio show and ask a question that shuts the entire Birther argument down:  if Obama’s mom was an American citizen, doesn’t that make Obama an American citizen?”

Game.  Set.  Match.  If she was a citizen, it doesn’t matter WHERE she gave birth.  He’s a citizen.

Anyway, since Google is my friend, I did a little looking and came across what is (in addition to the info above) the ultimate “shut up, Birthers!” argument.  Never mind that they can’t prove their own argument (notice they always ask Obama for proof instead of offering up their own proof).  The article lays out every main argument by birthers– then shoots them down one by one:

Based on this working understanding of U.S. citizenship, three things have become obvious to me:

1. Those promoting the Birther fiction don’t have the first clue about almost anything having to do with how American citizenship really works.
2. Given that Dr. Orly Taitz (one of the main poo-stirrers spinning the fan in this fracas) is herself both an immigrant and a licensed member of the California bar, she should presumably know this stuff cold. But the national case that she’s built almost entirely on spurious legal fictions is one of incompetence.
3. The Google’s been around for over a decade now, but nobody on the right seems to have figured out how to use it yet. You can find confirmation for most of what I’m about to tell you in about 0.86 seconds, assuming you can type and spell and think well enough to concoct a basic search string. Apparently, nobody in Birtherland has that level of skill.

Link: Firing Back on the Birthers: Where’s Their Evidence?

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.”

If Andy Stern’s ideas came true, I might become a union fan

In a Washington Post article/interview, columnist Ezra Klein interviews Andy Stern, former head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  I’ve heard a number of things he has said in the past that did nothing to pull me over to the pro-union side.  However, in the interview, he mentions a number of things that would actually think twice about my stance if they were status quo in America.  the article can be read here but here are a few quotes that jumped out at me.
On a “collaborative process:”

We have this anti-employer, they’re going to kill us we need to kill them first, mentality. We’ve done a very bad job, for instance, making alliances with small businesses.

We need an ideology based around working with employers to build skills in our workers, to train them for success. That message and approach can attract different people than the “we need to stand up for the working class!” approach. That approach is about conflict, and a lot of people don’t want more conflict.

On working together with employers:

We’ve never, as a union movement, promoted partnerships with employers where we talk about how to share in success and in skills and training. You say those things in the labor movement and they go over well with workers and employers and badly with activists. To the activists, this is sell-out language.

On the Democrat Party and unions:

The forces that don’t like unions there have largely finished with us. And now they’re moving to the public sector. But part of this story is that the Democratic Party hasn’t embraced unions in the last 20 years. Republicans understood unions as an ally of the Democratic Party. But unions couldn’t get Democrats to embrace unions as a response. They made the argument that making more union members was how you make more Democrats, and that argument is true, but they couldn’t get the Democratic Party to really embrace that theory.

The rest of the interview and the questions asked can be read here: “Andy Stern: ‘It may not end beautifully in Wisconsin.'”

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

Are you a protesting teacher in Wisconsin? Need a doctor’s note? No problem!!

One thing that came to mind about the protests in Wisconsin is that the individual school districts could (and should) come down hard on all the teachers that skipped work to protest, causing widespread school closings.  I figured there would be no way they could get away with it without a doctor’s excuse.

Well, I guess someone else thought of that, too:

The funny thing is, these folks know good and well what they are doing is fraud, but have their “defense” already prepared when asked, especially the doctor who decided to get all snarky with the camera person.  Its situations like those when one wishes the person behind the camera was a little more quick with the wit to bring the guy down a notch.

Plus, how many of us would be able to call a random doctor and get a doctor’s excuse on the fly?

More info here: Fake Doctors’ Notes Being Handed Out at Wisconsin Gov. Union Rally

Revisiting the notion that only the Right does hateful rhetoric

As the protesters in Wisconsin are happy to show (and as I have been saying for a while now), the left is perfectly capable of the hateful rhetoric that supposedly is exclusive to the right.  Yes, the video is from the Wisconsin GOP (for those who care), but the evidence is clear.

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

In Wisconsin, the line between Unions/Dems and Repubs is drawn in the sand

In the state of Wisconsin, the state government has a $3.6 billion shortfall.  Similar to other state legislatures across the country, they are coming up with a number of measures to attempt to close the budget hole.  One of the ways new Republican governor Scott Walker has proposed has created an outcry from teachers and unions:

In addition to eliminating collective bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage — increases Walker calls “modest” compared with those in the private sector.

According to Walker, the proposal will save $300 million over the next two years. But Dems are not at all happy with what they see as being deprived of a right. Teachers have staged massive “sick outs” so that they can protest. Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature have left and gone into hiding to prevent any vote from occurring. Protesters at the capital have been heard chanting “Freedom! Democracy! Unions!”

Wait. Did they actually include the word “unions” with freedom and democracy? Wow.  I thought democracy is people getting out to vote, voting in politicians whose job it is to steward taxpayer money, and make cuts when necessary when there is a deficit, even if the other side doesn’t like it.  Which would mean the unions are actually trying to stifle a democratic process by protesting and causing school closings.  But I digress.

Having spent my entire young working life in a right-to-work, merit pay environment, I have yet to develop much sympathy or support for unions. I admire the important things they helped with over the years (40 hour work week, child labor laws, ect). But am I supposed to be upset because they wouldn’t be able to force people to pay union dues? That they wouldn’t be able to to negotiate for things other than pay? Or that they would have to pay more money for pension and benefits just like most of us in the private sector?
Sorry, but I say no. Especially when taxpayer’s money is involved.

Links to the story can be found here and here.

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.

QuickHit: New Mexico no longer a “sanctuary state.” why is this a “tragedy?”

New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, by executive order, declared that New Mexico is no longer a sanctuary state:

Martinez ordered the reversal of the state’s “sanctuary status,” which prohibited law enforcement from asking criminal suspects about their citizenship. Now, officers will be able to ask anyone they suspect of a crime about their immigration status.

Marcela Diaz, of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an immigrant rights  organization, said this will essentially turn police into immigration agents.

“I think this was a knee-jerk decision that was not well thought out,” Diaz said. “Not only will this lead to increased racial profiling, it taxes resources of limited enforcement.”

It makes me scratch my head. The governor basically puts the state in compliance with federal law, since the notion of being a sanctuary state (or city) says “in spite of federal law, you can stay here.” I’m not exactly sure how states and cities have been allowed to do such in the first place.
Diaz makes a statement about “gains” being lost. I’m not sure how gaining the ability to flout established law can be considered a “gain.”  Then again, I’m also not sure how an illegal alien has the right to stay in the country, but I digress…

Article here: NM No Longer a Sanctuary State

The US problem with Egypt: who to support?

In the last 24 hours, a crowd estimated to be nearly 2 million people took to the streets of Cairo to protest the current government led by Hosni Mubarak.  The people are demanding an end to hs 30 year rule, amid cries of poverty and brutality.  This has the US in a pickle.  Continuing to support him would make it seem that we don’t support “the will of the people.”  Supporting his removal could have major ramifications not only for the US but for the entire Middle East.

Tony Blankley addresses the dilemma in a piece at Real Clear Politics:  “The Historic Dilemma in Egypt.

Revolutions – French, Russian, Chinese and Iranian – have a typical trajectory. They are won on the street with the masses calling for freedom; they are stolen afterward by the best-organized, usually most malicious thugs (Napoleon, Lenin, Mao and the mullahs).
Once in a while – as in our Revolution – the cry of the street slogans becomes the principle of the government that follows – but usually not.
If the revolution in Egypt results in the fall of the existing governmental order, what are the chances that the people will be governed subsequently by a more just system? And what are the chances that America’s interests will be advanced by that result?