Friday, December 31, 2010

Winning the war is more important than fighting individual battles

A very sobering assessment of the political landscape awaiting Republicans in 2011 comes from the Wall Street Journal this morning, The Liberal Reckoning of 2010. Here is the key section…

There is a lesson here both about modern liberalism and for Republicans who will soon have more power in Congress. For today's left, the main goal of politics is not to respond to public opinion. The goal is to impose the dream of an egalitarian entitlement state whether the public likes it or not. Sooner or later, they figure, the anger will subside and Americans will come to like the cozy confines of the cradle-to-grave welfare state.

This is the great Democratic bet with ObamaCare. The assumption is that once the benefits start to flow in 2013 the constituency for "free" health care will grow. As spending and deficits climb, the pressure for higher taxes will become inexorable and the GOP will splinter into its balanced budget and antitax wings. A value-added tax or some other money-machine will pass and guarantee that the government will control 40% to 50% of all economic resources.

It is a sad reality that this is exactly right. Americans are famous for yammering about taxes and spending except when it comes to taxes that impact them or spending that they “benefit” from. Conservatives and those who are concerned about the direction of our country need to see the big picture here and it goes beyond one policy change at a time. The big battle is not defeating liberals on Bill A and Bill B but rather thwarting the agenda of political liberals and changing public perception. I think that credit goes where it is due and in this case liberals, whether they mean to or not, have done a remarkable job at pushing their agenda by transforming American expectations of government and creating an atmosphere where American citizens are gradually more and more dependent on the government for their daily basic functioning. Each victory for encroaching government is permanent. Liberals may lose five battles but each one they win becomes permanent. That is why the article argues, and I concur, that it is imperative that Obamacare gets rolled back.

Conservatives have been handed an actual mandate to bring government under control but what does that mean? There is a lot of talking about “reining in government spending”. That sounds great but that is not what we need. Reining in a horse means tightening up the reins, slowing the horse down. We are way past that point. What we need is to rein the horse in, turn it around, head back to the barn and trade the horse in for a pony that is walked with a firm hand on the halter.

The last 100 years have seen a dramatic change in the United States. Some of it has been beneficial, like laws to prohibit race based discrimination. Most of it has transformed America into a far different place than it once was. One hundred years ago America was not a “superpower” that was expected to defeat tyranny again and again and eventually become the police force for the world on our dime. One hundred years ago we didn’t have a cradle-to-grave social welfare system that threatens to bankrupt America and that has trapped generations in a cycle of poverty and government assistance. I heard this morning that in the next twenty years the number of Medicare recipients will double to 80,000,000. Think about that number. 80 million people is a huge number to be on the government dole. Many on the Left argue that Medicare and Social Security are promises made to American seniors that we must keep and keep undiminished. I see these as promises made by past generations without the consent of the future generations who have to pay for them. There is no right to income security in retirement nor medical insurance. As more and more people stop paying into the system and start taking from it, replaced by a shrinking number of workers to fund this entitlement, we will go bankrupt. The weight of Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, Obamacare, public sector pensions and retiree benefits, enormous military spending, etc. will eventually crush this country. It is inevitable and unavoidable without some very hard decisions being made.

The question before us is two-fold: do Republicans coming into Congress in 2011 have the courage of conviction to make the hard choices now and if they do will voters thank or punish them for it?

Friday, November 26, 2010

The most sacred of conservative sacred cows

Check out this video from the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute...

I have always been a supporter of the U.S. military and the men and women who serve in uniform. On more than one occasion I came within a step or two of going to officer candidate school. While I think it is inappropriate for Christians to serve in the military and I think the role of the U.S. military needs to be curtailed, I still have a patriotic spot in my heart for the young men who serve in the military.

Having said that, I am finding it increasingly odd that small government conservatives who distrust the federal government (rightly so) and seek to shrink the size and scope of said government (also rightly so) seek to have a huge standing military, something that I think would have been unthinkable to the founding fathers. I can't imagine what the Founders would have said about an army of 1.5 million active soldiers, in times of war and peace. I do think it would have scared the heck out of them as concerned as they were about the tyranny of an overly large central government. In the event of real tyranny from the Federal government, who do you think will enforce that tyranny? Nancy Pelosi with a rifle? A bunch of Department of Agriculture bureaucrats? TSA agents getting handsy with you in the security line? Nope, it would be the very same military that is funded to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and is the home of some of the most wasteful spending anywhere in the Federal government. Any suggestion of cutting the enormous Pentagon budget is screamed down as tantamount to unilateral disarmament even though we could save hundreds of billions of dollars by making some common sense cuts as suggested by the video and not noticeably impact the military strength of the United States.

In the face of enormous deficits and a government that grew out of control decades ago and shows no sign of slowing, everything needs to be on the table. Everything. Conservatives will howl but military spending is going to have to be on the negotiating table. Instead of X number of new destroyers or jets, we might need to lower it by a third and Europe might need to start spending some money on their own armed forces instead of letting us shoulder all the danger and expense. We have 11 aircraft carriers that are far superior to anything else on the ocean and which allows the U.S. to project power anywhere in the world. The Russian Navy has all of 1 aircraft carrier and even back in the Soviet days never had more than 5-6. The Chinese don’t have a single carrier. India has 1. The British have 1 active aircraft carrier that is thirty years old and two new ones that are not going to be ready for a long time. The French have 1 carrier. The Germans have none. The Japanese have a couple of helicopter carriers which obviously are not a threat to one of our carriers, same with the Australians. So unless some country I am not thinking of has a carrier, we have 11 aircraft carriers and the rest of the world has 4 and half of those are run by our allies. I am going to go on a limb and say that none of the existing aircraft carriers in the world could take on one of ours. So we have an enormous advantage over the rest of the world in terms of numbers of ships (especially carriers which are the most important) and quality of ships. The story is the same in the other branches of the Armed Forces. Maybe we only need 9 aircraft carriers? Maybe we need to tell our democratic allies like the U.K. and Japan that we cannot afford to be the only functional military in the world and that they need to spend some of their own coin. We have over 20,000 soldiers stationed in South Korea that have been there for half a century, not to mention our bases in Europe and the Pacific. If the rest of the world won't support their own military, we need to start sending them invoices to offset the enormous cost the U.S. expends every year to keep them safe.

In many ways, Republicans are just as bad as Democrats. Both parties want to spend money because that is how they get control and power. The big difference is that Republicans hide their spending behind the waving flag and saluting young soldier. The motivation (power) and the cynical manipulation are the same. Any suggestion that we back down military spending is tantamount to treason and cowardice in many quarters. Granted, military spending is one of the few Constitutionally defensible spending areas in the Federal budget but when you have a budget well north of half a trillion dollars annually, it certainly seems that there is room to cut back. It isn't like there is a single nation on earth that threatens our safety and security and terrorists aren't much dissuaded by $4,500,000,000 aircraft carriers. If we are serious about reducing the size and scope of the Federal government, not just shuffling spending from one place to another, military spending has to be on the table.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Campaign 2012 starts…right now!

I was up until midnight last night and finally had to go to bed. When I finished watching, the House was well in hand and as of this morning the number is looking like mid-60’s. A number of Democrats retained their seats because of poor candidates running against them in places like Nevada, Connecticut and Delaware that should have fallen and in spite of good candidates, the deeply liberal states of California and Oregon stayed blue but otherwise it was ugly for Democrats all around. It didn’t get as much attention but a lot of governors mansions are changing hands as well including a crushing defeat of Virg Bernero by Rick Snyder in Michigan as well as some state legislatures switching hands. That will have an enormous impact on 2012 as a lot of these states lost or gained seats and the GOP will control redistricting.

The situation we are left with is not one that is going to get a lot done. A fractious wave of new Republicans backed by the Tea Party in the House, an impotent Senate and a very unpopular President equals a crazy two years between now and Tuesday, November 6th, 2012. The campaign for 2012 starts this afternoon when President Obama addresses the nation. It will be very interesting to see what he has to say. I wonder how he likes the taste of humble pie?

I would imagine that we are going to see the jockeying for position start immediately among national GOP leaders. I have to think that lots of talk is going to center around Senator-elect Marco Rubio. He is my age but boy would he make a great VP candidate in 2012, what a contrast to “Bumbling Joe” Biden he would provide. He is a nightmare for Democrats, a young, eloquent conservative who is Hispanic. If the Dems lose a sizeable chunk of the Hispanic vote, they are sunk. There is already muttering about Sarah Palin and I sincerely hope the party coalesces around someone other than her. She is great at speech making and rallying the troops but at least now is not Presidential material. I am thinking maybe a GOP governor, like Tim Pawlenty, paired up with Marco Rubio perhaps? I expect to see Mitt Romney’s name start to crop up more and more as the serious, adult candidate and of course Ron Paul who has gone from fringe kook to mainstream but in the next eighteen months a lot can happen. 2012 seems a long way off but when you think about it, there isn’t much time between now and the start of the primary season, just a little over a year.

I would also expect to see Speaker Boehner start introducing lots of legislation to cut the size of government that will be neutered in the Senate and eventually vetoed. I can’t see President Obama compromising on the things he thinks are successes like Obamacare. Why would he compromise on something that he invested all of his political capital to push through even though voters soundly rejected it?

Another interesting dynamic is that there are a lot of uneasy bedfellows in the Republican Party this morning. I don’t think that the party old guard is nearly as excited as the rank-and-file. Career politicians like things to be predictable, it makes it easier to gather and keep power and as the last few election cycles have demonstrated, things are anything but predictable in politics these days. Senator Jim DeMint wrote this morning to warn Tea Party backed winners that Washington will try to corrupt them immediately:

Congratulations to all the tea party-backed candidates who overcame a determined, partisan opposition to win their elections. The next campaign begins today. Because you must now overcome determined party insiders if this nation is going to be spared from fiscal disaster.

Many of the people who will be welcoming the new class of Senate conservatives to Washington never wanted you here in the first place. The establishment is much more likely to try to buy off your votes than to buy into your limited-government philosophy. Consider what former GOP senator-turned-lobbyist Trent Lott told the Washington Post earlier this year: "As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them."

Don't let them. Co-option is coercion. Washington operates on a favor-based economy and for every earmark, committee assignment or fancy title that's given, payback is expected in return. The chits come due when the roll call votes begin. This is how big-spending bills that everyone always decries in public always manage to pass with just enough votes.

Very true. The party insiders are certainly happy to be back in charge in the House but they don’t like how they got there. It is like having an annoying guy with great tickets to the ball game. You want to go to the game and the seats are awesome but now you have to sit next to this guy you don’t really like for the next 3 hours.

The big question mark is President Obama. Can he shift gears like Bill Clinton in 1994? Will he admit that the American people have rejected his agenda? Or will he misread the message again and assume that his agenda is what people want and the only failure was one of communication? I am skeptical that he will read this election correctly. Even up to election night, the message was still that “the people” supported his agenda but were too scared about their jobs to think rationally.

Anyway, buckle up! We will have a few weeks free from political ads and with talk of working together but know that behind the scenes Campaign 2012 is already in full force.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Reason Democrats Are About To Lose Big: Exhibit A

This morning the business community in America is graced with an editorial from Robert Reich writing in the Wall Street Journal, an economist who openly favors income redistribution. As near as I can tell, Reich has done three things in his life: worked for the government, taught at universities and written books about topics that he understands only from an academic standpoint. I don't think he has ever had a private sector job but based on his decades in academia he feels qualified to offer advice to the private sector he has shunned his entire life. It is kind of like getting farming advice from people who have never been on a farm but have written lots of books about agriculture.

The target of Mr. Reich’s editorial? Those business hatin’ Tea Party types, that’s who! Apparently Robert Reich thinks he is going to scare CEOs into voting for liberals four days before the election and perhaps pour millions of dollars into the coffers of liberal candidates who, against all common sense, Reich seems to think are more business friendly. You know, liberals like Virg Bernero in Michigan who is trying to extort concessions from J.P. Morgan Chase and has essentially promised if elected to wage all-out war on business (luckily he is so far behind in the polls that the Governor’s race in Michigan has become an afterthought). Liberals like President Obama who vilifies business at every opportunity and has wasted not one second of his first term when it comes to making it harder and less profitable to do business in America.

When push comes to shove, Reich shows the same disdain as President Obama for people without Harvard degress. The only possible motivation must be fear, anger and thinly veiled racisim….

History has shown that people threatened by losses of jobs, wages, homes and savings are easy prey for demagogues who turn those fears into anger at major institutions, as well as individuals and minorities who become easy scapegoats—immigrants, foreign traders, certain religious groups. Were it not for their economic stresses, Americans wouldn't be receptive to abolishing the Fed and the IRS, or believe that government and big business were conspiring against them, or turn isolationist.

As usual, we get the implication that in spite of any concrete evidence, Tea Partiers all harbor racist feelings. They are, after all, anti-immigrant! The truth is that while there may be some racists in the Tea Party, there are certainly racists on the left as well among certain “civil rights” groups and leaders who have made blatantly racist comments but are given a pass (Jesse Jackson? Al Sharpton? Black Panthers?). Liberals have gotten away with accusations of racism without any proof for the last year and that is going to get worse as we approach the 2012 Presidential election. Mr. Reich is a pretty bright fellow, one would think he would understand the difference between being anti-immigrant and anti-illegal immigration. One involves someone immigrating to this country as my forefathers did following the laws of this nation. The other involves intentionally breaking the laws of this country, entering and working illegally.

Thanks to Robert Reich for demonstrating so clearly the sort of mentality that is going to lead to devastating losses next week for liberals. The business community has far more to fear from the onerous regulations, higher taxes and flat out disastrous policies of liberals than they do from people who want the U.S. to reduce its debt. Little wonder Obama and the Dems find themselves in their current pickle.

I am still uncertain what the root cause of this is. I would like to think, as terrible as it sounds, that this talk of fear, anger, racism, etc. is just political posturing. My gut instinct is that what we really are seeing are the results of a scorned self-appointed elite, people who look down their noses at the unwashed hordes of Americans who cling to guns and religion and have the nerve to question their betters. It cannot possibly be that the American people have actually examined the evidence and decided that the policies pushed by the Left in America by Obama and Pelosi are unhealthy for this country and have decided to vote them out. That leaves them with the conclusion that there must be something ugly underlying the wholesale rejection of liberalism. Ignorant fear. Anger and hatred. Racism. Anything but a rational decision. That attitude is going to be the death of the Democratic majority in the House and perhaps the Senate and with Obama’s popularity bottoming out and a bunch of vulnerable Democratic senate senates up for grabs in 2012, the long term picture is grim for Democrats. The real question now is whether Republicans can remember the lessons of 1994 and govern as the same conservatives they ran as. Otherwise we might see the Tea Party and other independents form a real third party.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Condescender in Chief

If you people weren’t so stupid and scared you would agree with me

More than any recent President in my lifetime, even more so than the former title holder Jimmy Carter, President Obama seems to have sought the office of President of the United States because he simply thinks most Americans are too stupid to be trusted to think for themselves. He is less of a Commander in Chief than a Condescender in Chief, patting the ignorant masses on the head when they do what he wants and scolding them with a wagged finger when they don’t.

Case in point, Obama’s recent comments that "facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning . . . because we're hard-wired not to always think clearly when we're scared." Of course. We are scared and not thinking clearly! How else can you explain people not walking in lockstep with our brilliant President. We clearly are too dumb to be allowed to make decisions for ourselves. If President Obama thinks we should vote for Democrats who will rubber-stamp his agenda, that must be what we should do. The only explanation for the upcoming blood bath is that we are too scared to think straight and listen to the wisdom of the wise and benevolent President Obama.

Here is a novel thought Mr. President. Maybe people DO understand what you have done and are trying to do and don’t like it! Maybe they elected you in 2008 thinking you would lead us out of the economic meltdown and instead you took the election results as a mandate to pass every liberal fantasy under the sun and actually managed to make things worse while burying us deeper in debt. The vote in 2008 was for leadership and what we got was a finger wagging, pompous knee-jerk liberal who thought the solution to a damaged economy was more government, more taxes, socialized medicine and a worldwide tour where the leader of the free world was bowing and scraping before the world’s tryants.

It is going to very interesting to see President Obama's response on Wednesday, November 3rd. Will he react strategically like Bill Clinton which ensured his second term or will be go off the deep end like Al Gore? I am betting on the latter and on a one term Obama Presidency.

Monday, October 18, 2010

One man’s political machinations are another man’s vote tampering

Are senior citizens cheap and easy?

Apparently President Obama thinks so because his latest gambit to bribe them with $250 of their own money is Chicago vote buying politics at its best. The Social Security cost of living adjustment system is designed to increase benefits as the costs of living rise (hence the name) to protect seniors from losing buying power as prices for goods and services go up. Given the relatively low rate of inflation brought on by the poor economy, there are not going to be COLA’s this year. That is exactly how the system is supposed to work. People on social security don’t get an automatic increase every year just for being above ground, it is supposed to adjust with inflation. Minimal inflation=no increase. Makes perfect sense and works like it is supposed to.

Not in an election year and especially not when Democrats are not only collapsing in the polls but actually losing steam as we approach the one week mark ahead of the elections. Not with a Chicago politician in the White House and a Democratic majority desperate to retain power. Hence the gross spectacle of promising seniors a $250 check in a naked attempt to buy votes.

Apparently there are some 58,000,000 Americans getting social security benefits. If each of them gets a bribe, er bonus check, of $250, it amounts to $14,500,000,000 that we don’t have and that they shouldn’t be getting. It is an enormous transfer payment of fourteen billion dollars that is being given to seniors as a bribe to buy votes for Democrats that future generations will have to pay for. This is not only bad policy and something that on a smaller scale would be illegal, it is frankly immoral. In the eyes of President Obama? Who cares! Many of those future workers paying into the social security system with no hope of getting a benefit and who will have to pay for the crushing national debt cannot vote next week so their well-being is irrelevant.

If one political operative tries to give a voter $250 in an alleyway in the dark of night right before the election, he would be arrested on charges of vote tampering. When President Obama tries to bribe 58,000,000 voters right before the election he announces it on TV and no one in the media says a thing about it.

It is time for "Change" indeed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Has it really come to this?

This should be a much bigger story than it is. The President of the United States has accused a venerable organization, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with what amounts to breaking the law by taking foreign donations to influence U.S. elections. The head of the Democratic National Committee has suggested that several conservative organizations are also taking money from foreign influences. Karl Rover, the left’s favorite bogeyman and one of those falsely accused without a shred of proof responds in the Wall Street Journal: I Am No Threat to Democracy

These smears were too much even for the New York Times, which noted on Saturday that "Democrats have offered no evidence that the chamber is using foreign money to influence the elections." Brooks Jackson of wrote the next day that "accusing anybody of violating the law is a serious matter requiring serious evidence to back it up. So far Democrats have produced none." And when CBS anchor Bob Schieffer asked White House senior adviser David Axelrod for corroboration that the chamber was spending foreign money on American elections, Mr. Axelrod answered, "Well, do you have any evidence that it's not, Bob?" Mr. Schieffer incredulously responded, "Is that the best you can do?"

When liberals are getting called out for playing fast and loose with the facts by the New York Times and CBS news, you know things are bad. Perhaps Republicans can accuse Nancy Pelosi of cannibalism and when asked for proof can simply retort: “Well do you have any evidence that she is not?!”

Is this the best the Democrats can offer? No solutions, no plans, just personal attacks and out and out lies. What has happened to the allegedly great orator Barack Obama that he is so toxic that Democrats around the country are running from him as fast as possible and he is reduced in this election cycle to false accusations of illegal activities? One can only imagine the outcry from the media if George Bush had made similar false accusations against the AFL-CIO or other liberal organizations.

The truth on the ground is that liberals were elected in 2008, led by Barack Obama, with a promise to make things better, to get the country back on track. Instead President Obama gave a blank check to the most extreme elements of the Left to enact the first steps in transforming America in a Worker’s Paradise. The results? Two years later the economy is just as bad, joblessness is just as bad and we have a ton of new debt that was frittered away for nothing along with an abomination of a “health care reform” measure that is weighing down Democratic candidates like a millstone. Barack Obama is about to become a first term lame duck President halfway through that term.

When people voted for “Change”, they didn’t expect that it mean “Change for the Worse” and when Obama called for “Hope”, who knew that the people who gained the most hope were Republicans.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Virg Bernero’s Plan For Michigan: Alienate Business

So Virg Bernero, the titular Democratic “candidate” for Governor of Michigan, gets up in front of the Detroit Economic Club to talk about getting Michigan’s economy back on track and proceeds to….blast business?

"If you are part of the Wall Street breed that runs over people for ever-growing profits and growing bonuses, you will have a problem, because I've had it," Bernero said in his opening statement to a stony business crowd. "We're up to here with it. Enough is enough."

Bernero said news that some banks around the U.S. have erroneously foreclosed on homes or unwisely issued mortgage loans in the first place should prod Michigan to follow other states and block foreclosure proceedings or give homeowners a stronger hand to negotiate with banks.

Bernero said a priority as governor would be to withdraw $1 billion in state money from J.P. Morgan and Chase banks for their refusal to ease up on foreclosures and invest the money in Michigan-based banks and credit unions.

Bernero's aggressive challenge wasn't well received.

You can hear business leaders around the country getting ready to pack up and move to Michigan if Virg Bernero wins the governorship. Play ball with us or face extortion from the state! I think it is clear that mortgage companies have been seriously cutting corners on foreclosures but the fact remains that if you don’t make your payments, you lose your house. These sorts of petty threats are doing nothing to help home owners and do a lot of anger business. If you really want to help people who are being foreclosed on, lets try making this state more business friendly to bring more jobs so people can actually pay their mortgages instead of foolish blustering that is putting up a giant neon sign at the Michigan border that reads “Not Open For Business”.

It is kind of irrelevant. Virg is so far behind in the polls that you can hardly see him. I am not sure he is going to get a majority of the votes cast by registered Democrats and he might lose in Democratic strongholds like Detroit. In an important state like Michigan with lots of electoral college votes and a large number of representatives, you would think that Democrats could have found someone, anyone better to run but after the Jennifer Granholm experience, smart Democrats decided to sit this one out leaving an unstable demagogue running in the primary against a completely overmatched Andy Dillon.

What is instructive in this circus is that Bernero, in his clumsy and ignorant way of speaking, exposes the underlying error of liberal economic policies. Democrats in general see business as something that hinders prosperity for all Americans by making rich people rich and keeping poor people poor. Business is something to be controlled, restricted, regulated and demonized. The reality, as usual, is quite a bit different. For all of its faults, the American business community is the only real hope for any semblance of continued prosperity. We cannot continue to make up “jobs” by going further and further into debt.

What is going to kill Democrats this election cycle is their inability to read the electorate, an electorate that is in no mood for more and more government and has lost any faith at all in their elected officials. I think this election cycle is somewhat unique because in the past people seemed to like their Senators and their Representatives and not trust the others but being an incumbent this year is scary for people in both parties.

The real question is: how bad is it going to be? Bernero is going to get thumped and since Governor will be at the top of the ballot that really should hurt Democrats down ballot as well. Once the dust settles in Michigan and elsewhere, the hard work starts. Republicans have proven in the past that they campaign like conservatives but when in power they often govern like liberals. They better do better this time around or they will find themselves out the door in 2012. If there was ever a time for a legit third party in America, that time might be now especially if Republicans forget the core values that they ran on and are about to be elected on.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What’s yours is his

There are two ways to view money in our economy. One is that it belongs to the person who earned it and that they are required to pay a certain level of it on taxes. In other words the default it that it is yours except what Congress passes for tax policy. The other view is that the government has claim to all of your money and permits you to keep some of it. In other words the default is that the government has first rights to all of your money and you should be grateful for whatever portion you are allowed to keep. Which view does this administration hold?

This is a telling statement from President Obama’s “town hall” meeting yesterday (transcript of his comments comes from the White House webpage):

The first thing you do when you’re in a hole is not dig it deeper. That's why this tax debate is important. We can’t give $700 billion away to some -- America’s wealthiest people. We’ve got to make sure that we are responsible stewards for our budget. That's point number one.

The grotesque mockery of that statement is amazing. You aren’t “giving away” money to rich people, it is their money in the first place. You are just taking less of it. If you take my wallet and pull out five twenties, put two twenties back and give me my wallet, you haven’t “given” me $40, you are just taking less of what was my money in the first place. Apparently no one has any claim to their money unless the government decrees that they do.

It is a troubling way to view the economy. Democrats seem to think that the best place for decisions about spending and investment is always the government. The private sector has plenty of foolish spending and investment but in the private sector poor decisions and unwise fiscal policy lead to failure and businesses going away. In the public sector, failure to spend wisely and insane fiscal policy is responded to with…demands for even more money to mismanage.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An unsustainable mix

There was a troubling article in the Journal the other day that discussed the real source of difficulty in reducing the deficit. Almost everyone agrees that the deficit is untenable and that the level of national debt is unacceptable. Everyone agrees we need to get it in line. No one wants to have that impact them personally. We are becoming a European style nation of entitlements, where way too many people are receiving a perceived benefit from the Federal government and many of those people will fight tooth and nail to keep it. Here is the problem:

Almost half of all Americans receive some sort of government benefit.

Almost half of all Americans don’t pay Federal income taxes (I am in this group)

You can be pretty sure that the people in the first group are likely also people in the second. The problem is that the number of people in these groups is rapidly swelling and that is causing a major imbalance between those who directly benefit from government spending and those that pay the taxes that fund those benefits.

There is a huge issue lurking down the road in America and it is not spending. We all know about that. The more insidious problem is revenue. There are too few people paying into the system to sustain it even if we cut spending fairly dramatically. The answer to the revenue problem is not to punish the shrinking pool of workers and investors by discouraging them from investing and working via higher taxes. The answer is that we need fewer people on the government dole and more people legally working and producing and paying reasonable taxes.

We are on the path to economic and demographic catastrophe. Too few new workers to replace the old. Too few legal workers to support the retirees. Too much debt to be repaid by a shrinking workforce. Too many older workers retiring at ages set 50 years ago and drawing from the system for decades. We are rapidly approaching the day when life expectancy will be such that people will spend more time not working and paying taxes than working.

A society of people with one hand gripping their wallet and the other held out to Uncle Sam for goodies cannot long survive when the rest of the world is rapidly catching up to us. I fear it might be too late already.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Send in the clowns

What happened to conservatism?

Conservatism used to the political home of ideas. We had the ideas that were solidly grounded in reality and logic. In contrast, liberals appealed to emotions in place of substantive positions. We won arguments even if we didn’t win elections. The leading liberal thinkers couldn’t hold a candle to the giants of conservatism.

Today? In place of William F. Buckley we have men like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. Gone are the days of shredding an opponent’s argument while seated and in a calm voice with the scalpel of superior arguments. Now we have self-promotion disguised under the veneer of patriotism and silliness in place of substance. The loudest voice rather than the best argument wins.

With the coarsening of society, conservatism has adopted the methods of the Left by appealing to emotions. We have shouting Bill O’Reilly and crying Glenn Beck. We have the acerbic Ann Coulter and the over the top Sean Hannity. In place of substantive arguments about free markets and individual liberty we have protests against mosques in New York City and a quarter of voters who think President Obama is a Muslim. The rational, calm voices like Peggy Noonan and Thomas Sowell are drowned out by the showmen. Maybe Americans are just dumber these days and can’t handle the substantive, meaty discussions and these banal entertainers we call “conservatives” have filled in the intellectual void.

What happened to conservatism that the leading voices on the political right used to be the intellectual heavyweights but now have been replaced by grandstanding kingmakers? Where did we lose our way and replace thoughtful discussion with self-promotional rallies?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How bad is it?

When we talk about the national debt, the numbers being used are so astronomical that most people can't understand the magnitude. The numbers are just too big. Here is an example from the Wall Street Journal that gives you a picture of how bad it is:

Even among such diverse voices, the nation's fiscal problems were a central concern. At $1.47 trillion, the federal deficit this fiscal year exceeds all defense and nondefense spending at Congress's discretion by $110 million. In other words, lawmakers could eliminate the entire military, all federal education, agricultural, housing programs, federal prisons, the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Coast Guard and border patrol, and the nation would still be in the red.

Imagine that if you can. No military, no Federal education spending, no Federal prisons. All of that and the nation is still overspending! We will see if the voters finally say enough is enough this fall. Cutting spending sounds great until the cuts impact you.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Virg Bernero's Michigan

"You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run”
- Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

In the GOP Primary to select a candidate for governor, businessman Rick Snyder came away the winner. Snyder is by far the most moderate of the candidates running for the nomination and the three other guys (Cox, Hoekstra and Bouchard) split around 2/3 of the GOP vote leaving the other 1/3 to vote for Snyder who came away with the victory. That is not sitting well with many conservatives who wake up this morning and realize that by splitting our votes we ended up with a candidate none of us are enthused about. Going into an important election led by a "hold your nose and vote" candidate is far from ideal but conservatives failed to coalesce around one candidate and this is what we got.

As many conservatives in Michigan stomp their feet over the nomination of Rick Snyder, we are hearing the predictable cries of “we will stay home in November”. I didn’t support or vote for Rick Snyder in the GOP primary and the guy I did support, Attorney General Mike Cox, came in third. I really have a hard time figuring out what Snyder wants to do as governor, he hasn’t mastered the political snippets that sound good and mean nothing. I read over several of his issues on his webpage and I think they need some work because I am fairly politically astute and have no idea what he is trying to do. Having said that, we are in a two-party system and our choices in Michigan come down to these three:

- Vote for Rick Snyder as the best option among the limited choices
- Stay home which increases the value of every liberal vote for Virg Bernero.
- Write in a candidate, which is never going to work, and likewise help elect Virg Bernero.

Options 2 and 3 guarantee a Bernero governorship and before we go in that direction, I thought it was worthwhile to look at Bernero's positions. Snyder may not be completely acceptable for conservatives but Bernero is completely unacceptable.

As soon as I went to Virg Bernero’s webpage, I was greeted with a news article touting his endorsement by “The Reverend” Jesse Jackson. So that is the sort of political circle of trust we are dealing with. Why in the world anyone cares who Jesse Jackson supports in the Michigan governors race is beyond me (or who Sarah Palin supports or who Joe the Plumber supports or who Mike Huckabee supports, etc.) Anyhoo, here is what Virg wants to do, for, Michigan

All quotes taken directly from the Bernero for Governor official page

On homosexuality:

Bernero was given the Ray of Light Award for “Outstanding contributions to the LGBT community.” Virg was also the primary sponsor of a Senate Bill to increase the sanctions to felony charges against those who intimidate, harass or commit hate crimes against another individual based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

On abortion:

Virg has always been a strong supporter of women’s reproductive rights. Virg feels that the extremely difficult decision as to whether or not to have an abortion is one that is best made between a woman, her family, and her physician. As Governor, Virg will uphold a woman’s right to choose.

On socialized medicine:

Virg has been an outspoken proponent of the President’s Health Care bill that was recently written into law. To people in Michigan, this means more than 141,000 people with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied insurance coverage. It also provides tax credits to nearly 800,000 people and tax cuts for more than 100,000 small businesses in Michigan.

To learn more about what this historic legislation means for Michiganders, click here:

Virg has never wavered on his support for this historic health care legislation. As Governor, Virg will continue to fight for universal access to quality, affordable health care.

On a state run bank (slogan: “Banking brought to you by the same people in charge of maintaining Michigan’s roads!”

Virg Bernero has proven that we can incentivize small employers to grow jobs here in Michigan. As Governor, Bernero will lay out the red carpet for business, not the red tape. That means facilitating the start-up of new businesses, making credit available, and easing the burden on startups. Bernero’s proposal to establish a state-operated bank that can make direct loans to businesses in emerging, job-creating industries will do just that. It has worked in North Dakota, and we can make it work here.

That is perhaps the most foolish of all of his ideas and that is saying something. A state run bank? From a state that can’t do anything right, a bank run by bureaucrats. Brilliant thinking! “It worked in North Dakota, why not here?” is not a slogan I want to approach the crucial next four years with.

Here are some of the endoresements Bernero touts:

Michigan National Organization for Women

Michigan Democratic Party -- LGBTA Caucus

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees



Progressive Women's Alliance (PWA)

Women Progressive Activists (WPA) (The PWA and WPA are 2 different groups, go figure)

Equality Michigan Action Network (a homosexual activist organization)

Lansing Association for Human Rights (a different homosexual activist organization)

I love the groups that hide behind “progressive” and “justice” because they are afraid to say liberal. I am a political conservative and I don’t try to hide that behind buzzwords. If your agenda is so repugnant that you are afraid to call it what it is (i.e. calling pro-abortion “pro-choice”), what does that say about your agenda?

Bernero clearly has never met a tax he doesn’t like, a government that is too big, a perversion he won’t embrace, a baby he thinks should have a right to live, a union boot he won’t lick. I hate to describe Snyder as the lesser of two evils because I think he has some things going for him. He is not perfect, especially on the issues I think are important but he is far better than Bernero.

Still think Snyder is unsupportable?

Monday, August 2, 2010

News Flash: Soaking the Rich Doesn't Work!

Shockingly, or not if you are even slightly observant, raising taxes on the rich decreases their share of tax revenue and lowering taxes on the rich increases their share of tax revenues. Arthur Laffer once again demolishes the notion that the rich don't pay their fair share and that taxing the rich helps the little guy.

Since 1978, the U.S. has cut the highest marginal earned-income tax rate to 35% from 50%, the highest capital gains tax rate to 15% from about 50%, and the highest dividend tax rate to 15% from 70%. President Clinton cut the highest marginal tax rate on long-term capital gains from the sale of owner-occupied homes to 0% for almost all home owners. We've also cut just about every other income tax rate as well.

During this era of ubiquitous tax cuts, income tax receipts from the top 1% of income earners rose to 3.3% of GDP in 2007 (the latest year for which we have data) from 1.5% of GDP in 1978. Income tax receipts from the bottom 95% of income earners fell to 3.2% of GDP from 5.4% of GDP over the same time period.

Why does it never work to “soak the rich”? Because the rich have better lawyers and accountants. People who are rich don’t get there by being stupid….

The highest tax bracket income earners, when compared with those people in lower tax brackets, are far more capable of changing their taxable income by hiring lawyers, accountants, deferred income specialists and the like. They can change the location, timing, composition and volume of income to avoid taxation.

As Laffer also points out, famous wealthy “tax and spend” liberals like John Kerry and Howard Metzenbaum have taken advantage of our screwy tax laws to shelter themselves from taxes, a strategy that is less available to those without the means to pay for fancy tax attorneys and accountants.

Increasing taxes on the rich doesn’t make the little guy less poor, it just discourages the rich from engaging in investment activities that in turn create jobs for the very people that raising taxes are supposed to help. Tax policy is little more than a cynical play used by politicians to curry favor with ill-informed voters. Those very same politicians, many of whom are fantastically rich, use the convoluted tax code to hide their own income from taxation. Meanwhile the nation continues to spend money it doesn’t have based on tax revenues it will never realize.

Wake up people!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It is not about taxes or fairness, it is about control

I am beginning to think that the Left doesn’t much care who has money in this country or how much of it, especially given how many liberals are stinking rich. Certainly there are plenty of super wealthy liberal donors who could pay more of their “fair share”. The hypocrisy of ultra-liberal Hollywood types living in palatial mansions and paying tax attorneys to hide their wealth urging that successful Americans who make more than the average are somehow gaming the system is completely lost on them.

What seems more in character is that liberals don’t care who has money as long as it is filtered through the government first. In other words, I don’t think the issue is income or wealth equity. It is all about who decides where the money goes. In a true free market, the market decides. Those who work the hardest, have the most marketable skills, have the right idea at the right time, are the ones who benefit the most financially. In a controlled economy, the direction we are heading, it is the central government that makes those decisions. Wealth is redistributed based on a myriad of criteria: perceived past abuses, a social status that is in vogue, whether you live in the right congressional district.

In other words, I don’t think Nancy Pelosi and company care a lick about the poor or whether some people have substantially more money than someone else. All they care about is deciding where every penny goes. Fairness? Bah. There is only one word that matters in D.C. and that word is control.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Like picking a one legged blind kid for your kickball team

The three stooges (Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, Christopher Dodd) celebrating another Pyrrhic victory

The Congress is on the verge of enacting a sweeping financial services “reform” bill and it is going to be a problem. Anytime you see these three jokers yukking it up, you better grab your pocketbook especially when you are dealing with Barney Frank who has never held a real job in the private sector as far as I can tell and whos only experience in complex financial transactions involved a homosexual prostitute that lived in his home and worked as an "aide". Clearly what we are seeing is once again proof that Democrats are badly misreading the mood of the electorate. Statements like this one are indicative of why Democrats are heading for an ugly election cycle in the fall:

Democrats say the bill will cut the odds of another crisis and better handle one when it arrives. They also contend it will restore confidence in U.S. financial markets, protect consumers and spur growth. White House officials said it will put an end to taxpayer-funded bailouts of banks, addressing the scars of the financial crisis of 2008.

We are supposed to believe that increasing the power of the Federal government over banking is supposed to make Americans more confident. I have worked for some of the biggest financial firms in the world and there are plenty of chuckleheads working for them but also some supremely smart and capable people who make tons of money by being talented. I also deal with government bureaucrats in the financial services business on a regular basis and have to deal with the laws and regulations they make up. If I have to trust one more than the other, the private financial services sector wins every time. Exhibit A are the government backed mortgages that created an artificial market for less than ideal loans. If I make a loan and keep it on my books and it goes bad, I have to eat the loss. That reality tempers my underwriting behavior. If on the other hand I can make a loan and then sell it to the government with no repercussions if it goes sour? That also impacts my underwriting, making it more likely that I will write riskier loans to people with substandard credit, with excessive debt or with a loan to value that is at 100%.

Here is what the government and most Americans don’t understand:

Business is all about risk and reward

Every business engages in risk every day. Hiring more people is a risk. Rolling out a new product is a risk. Extending credit to a customer is a risk. Buying a newer version of Microsoft Office is a risk. Every business owner needs to weigh the potential reward against the potential risk in every transaction. That risk/reward equation is how business functions. Take too much risk and eventually it will bite you. Take too little and someone else will pass you up. Businesses are phoenix-like in that businesses die and new businesses spring up. That cycle of renewal keeps the economy chugging along. That is until Uncle Same gets in the mix.

The government by nature governs. That is what it is supposed to do. Make laws and enforce them within narrow constraints spelled out in the Constitution. When the government starts to tinker around in the private sector, it messes everything up because a) the government has no motive to be efficient and profitable so it operates under entirely different assumptions than the private sector and b) it changes the risk/reward ratio and either causes behavior that normally wouldn’t be prudent or it quashes behavior that normally would be prudent.

I like what Senator Shelby said:

The bill "is a 2,300-page legislative monster…that expands the scope and the powers of ineffective bureaucracies," said Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.).

We are giving additional power, resources, money, staff, etc. to the least efficient and effective possible entity, the monstrous Federal government. What is worse, it sounds like the bill is going to make it possible for government bureaucrats to create the actual regulations that will govern financial services and that is where the real danger lies. At this point, no one really knows what this bill is going to do and no one will for several years but once these regulations get in place, it will be nigh impossible to untangle them. The cost of these regulations will, surprise!, be passed on to consumers. Don’t think for a second that this monstrous bill is going to do anything but make it harder and more expensive to do business. Rather than reigning in “too big to fail”, we are seeing a contraction in banking and the big banks are getting bigger and more profitable. J.P. Morgan Chase announced profits of almost $5 billion yesterday. Be sure that as these regulation get written, banking lobbyists are going to be all over the regulators making sure they are protected. The CEO of Chase, Jamie Dimon, is a sharp guy, perhaps one of the brightest guys in corporate America, and you can be sure that Chase and other big banks are going to weather this quite nicely. The small community bank in your town? Maybe not.

There are clearly dangers in the free market but the market has mechanisms to deal with companies that take too many risks. Rather than being bailed out, they go out of business via bankruptcy, closure or being acquired. In propping them up with bailouts we rewarded risky behavior that should have resulted in failure at enormous taxpayer expense and perpetuated the dependent behavior of poorly run companies who run to the Federal trough when they get in trouble. This bill is bad news, if for no other reason than it tries to do something far beyond the scope of the Federal government to understand or handle.

Giving even more power to the Federal government which has already proven unable and unwilling to regulate financial services is like picking a one legged blind kid for your kickball team. The problem is that when this team loses, we all have to pay.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This is exactly what Detroit doesn’t need

Ah Jesse. Always showing up where he is neither wanted nor needed to show he still has clout.

UAW president, the Rev. Jackson to launch jobs and peace campaign today

United Auto Workers President Bob King and civic rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. intend to launch a new campaign that will call for more American jobs, beef up federal enforcement of the workplace and industry, and end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So explain this to me. How exactly is someone, i.e. “The Reverend” Jesse Jackson, who has to the best of my knowledge never held a job or ran a business and whose entire career is based on race baiting, profiteering on tragedy, opportunism and extortion of corporate America, going to lead a push to create jobs? By walking around Detroit and making a speech one afternoon?

When you combine the forces of Jesse Jackson, a race-baiting opportunist, with Bob King, a radical who sees his job as not only to squeeze as much money out of UAW employers as possible and then crying about it when they have to cut back but also to bring about global “progressivism”, you have a tsunami of the exact sort of thinking and activism that has Michigan in the toilet to begin with. Michigan is still riddled with an entitlement mentality fostered by decades of union leadership in this state coupled with executives too weak to stand against the unions and too eager to capitulate.

Bob King and Jesse Jackson haven’t the faintest clue how jobs are created or perhaps worse they do know but don’t care because all they care about is stirring the pot to justify their existence. Until Detroit collectively tells men like this to take their snake oil wagon someplace else, that city will continue to languish. Detroit doesn’t need “social justice”, i.e. leftist wealth redistribution policies. It doesn’t need more unionizing. It doesn’t need more racial polarization. Detroit needs an attitude adjustment and a business friendly atmosphere that will encourage private sector investment which will in turn lead to jobs. If I am a business owner even considering moving to Detroit, seeing demagogues like these two marching the streets would be more than enough for me to take my business and my jobs elsewhere.

Detroit’s last mayor is in prison, the recent president of the school board is an illiterate pervert, the schools are a disaster, everyone who can flee to the suburbs is fleeing and graft and corruption are the name of the game in virtually every corner of city government. It is high time Detroiters tell Jesse Jackson to take his tired act somewhere else. Detroit has enough problems as is without Jesse parachuting in to cause trouble and foment racial disharmony.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Draconian? Really?

Only in the mainstream media can this sort of paragraph, found in this morning’s USA Today editorial, be considered reasonable:

Don't get us wrong: The Arizona law — which requires local police, in the course of a lawful stop, to question the legal status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being in this country illegally — is draconian and, as the lawsuit argues, potentially an unconstitutional infringement on federal powers.

Draconian? I would assume that somewhere in USA Today’s offices they have a dictionary (maybe not). Here is the definition of draconian.

1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of Draco or the severe code of laws held to have been framed by him
2 : cruel; also : severe

Given that Draco, the individual from ancient Greece referenced in the first definition, was infamous for severe laws that often put people to death for minor infractions, I assume that is not what USA Today meant. So I guess that they mean that Arizona’s law is severe and cruel. Really?

So asking people during the course of a traffic stop, for example, for proof that they are a citizen is “draconian”? I wonder if anyone on the editorial board of USA Today took a second to ask “Is this law even unreasonable, much less draconian?”. I am assuming not. When the media insists on using over the top rhetoric like draconian to describe a pretty mild law, it cheapens the word and makes a mockery of actual draconian laws that exist around the world. When people describe Abraham Lincoln as a tyrant or George W. Bush as a fascist, it exposes their inability to formulate a coherent argument which results in using overheated rhetoric in place of reason.

Let’s look at the way a traffic stop might go in Arizona. A police officer in Arizona pulls someone over for a traffic violation. They first thing they ask for is…drivers license and registration. If you produce these legally required documents, documents I always have with me, I am issued a ticket and go on my way. I am clearly a citizen of this country because I have a government issued ID. On the other hand, someone who refuses or is unable to produce such an ID (which is required for all sorts of stuff and rightly so) does and should raise suspicion. Keep in mind of course that being in the United States illegally is…..illegal. That is why they are called “illegal immigrants”. Since the Federal government has essentially abdicated its responsibility to control our borders, Arizona has taken matters into its own hands and done so in a way that is little different from states having their own drivers license laws.

Thankfully the Federal government is about to spend untold millions to engage in some political grandstanding that has no chance to succeed in overturning Arizona’s law. Perhaps we could try to secure the border, impose severe penalties on employers who hire illegal workers. That might make some actual sense so it probably won’t happen.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Giving us back a right that was never theirs to take away

Yesterday the Supreme Court handed down a ruling, by a five to four margin, that extends the Heller decision that recognizes the Second Amendment as an individual right nationally (rather than just in the unique legal situation of Washington, D.C.). For those of us who are supporters of the Second Amendment, this decision was a “Well, duh!” decision, an obvious recognition of an obvious right. That the Second Amendment is an individual right and not a reference to the National Guard is not as intuitive to others who have an irrational fear of guns, or more specifically an irrational fear of law abiding citizens owning guns.

That raises the question, is the Second Amendment an individual right as affirmed by the Supreme Court (and liable to be “unaffirmed” if one of the five majority votes changes their mind or is replaced) or was the Second Amendment never intended to preserve the individual right to own firearms. First, what does the Second Amendment say?

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That is admittedly a little clunky in terms of the language employed. Some people emphasize the first part “A well regulated Militia” and others the second part “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”. So what did the Framers intend? To answer that let’s look at the other 9 articles in the Bill of Rights to give us a picture of what the framers had in mind.

The first amendment clearly is an individual right. It protects the right of individuals to practice religion without governmental approval, as well as the right of the individual to assemble peaceably and to take grievances to the government. Even the right of the press to be protected is a right that is given to an entity outside of the Federal government.

The third amendment prevents the government from quartering soldiers in your home.

The fourth amendment protects individuals from illegal search and seizure.

The fifth amendment deals with due process for individuals under the law.

The sixth amendment gives individuals the right to a criminal trial by jury as well as guaranteeing a speedy trial in his or her own locale.

The seventh amendment likewise deals with trials, but in this case has to do with civil trials where the amount in question is more than $20.

The eighth addresses the amount of bail required, that it not be excessive as well as prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.

The ninth amendment protects individual rights not specifically spelled out in the Constitution, i.e. there are other rights that are not spelled out in the Constitution that are nonetheless the rights of the people.

The tenth amendment is more of a blanket amendment that defers all powers not specifically delegated to the Federal government to the states and the people. In an age of a Federal government that has placed this country into debt to the tune of more than $10 trillion dollars in spending on areas that are not Constitutionally mandated to the Feds, the Tenth Amendment might as well be stricken from the Constitution because it is by and large ignored.

What is the big, overall theme of the Bill of Rights? It is clearly a protection for individuals against the encroaching power of the government, protecting individual rights while at the same time limiting the power and scope of the government. The Bill of Rights is a check against a government that overreaches by spelling out very specific rights that we enjoy in this country. It is also clear that the Bill of Rights are individual rights, not rights of states or municipalities. So when read plainly, the Second Amendment clearly is protecting the right of the people, i.e. individual citizens, to keep and bear arms. This is consistent historically and contextually and as such the only rational interpretation is that the Second Amendment was put in place specifically to protect the right of citizens to own private firearms, an ownership that was pivotal in the independence that led to the drafting of the Constitution in the first place. The framers knew full well that an armed citizenry overthrew the mighty British army and subsequent tyrants have recognized this as well. There is no surer sign of a tyrannical government than the willingness of that government to disarm the populace.

What is sad, as many commentators have already pointed out, is that four justices who serve for life on the United States Supreme Court based on their keen judicial minds saw fit to vote against the clear language and intent of the Constitution on this issue in order to appease their own ideological prejudices. The people of the United States shouldn’t have to come before the Court, hat in hand, to beg it to recognize the very rights that are specifically laid out in the Constitution and are in place by the express design of that Constitution. This nation wouldn’t exist without the Constitution and the Constitution was expressly drawn up to limit the power of government, not to dole out minor rights to the people at the whim of the government. Our government is supposed to serve by the consent of the governed, not the other way around.

One can only assume that the “reasonable limits” language in the decision will be clung to opponents of the Second Amendment and will lead to years of laws designed to challenge the boundaries of this decision. There is nothing more frightening to a certain segment of the population than law abiding citizens, the ones who grant the government the power to govern, possessing a firearm. The people that I know who are law abiding gun owners are the least likely people to commit a crime with a firearm and yet for some people they are a dangerous group that needs to be controlled, regulated and ultimately disarmed.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shut them all down

Interesting editorial from Mona Charen, writing for National Review on the Nevada Senate race where GOP candidate Sharron Angle has called for the elimination of the Department of Education. Harry Reid is pouncing on this under the mistaken impression that Americans love it when their government pours tax dollars down a sinkhole year after year with no results. As an aside. Methinks that Harry has spent way too much time inside the Beltway and is wildly misjudging the mood of the electorate this year. I am not sure that anything is off the table for many voters. There is a current of hopelessness and anger in the country that is potentially very dangerous and I think a lot of politicians are going to be rudely surprised this fall. Anyway….

In the real world, when an institution fails over and over it goes away. Or at least they used to in the pre-bailout days . Today politically connected groups feel entirely justified in demanding the government help them out with taxpayer funds when they fail. Generally speaking though, if a business is run poorly or has a product no one wants they go out of business or are taken over by a more successful competitor. In the District of Columbia we fund departments based on the name on the building and little else. Department of Agriculture? Support the farmers! Department of Commerce? Support small business! Department of Education? Support the kids. It is the rare politician who will ask the hard questions, well the not so hard question actually, like “Is the Department of Agriculture actually helping farmers?” or “Is all of that money we spend on the Department of Transportation improving transportation in the U.S.?”. Lest you think I am being unduly harsh toward those selfless public servants at the U.S. Department of Education, take a gander at some numbers.

The Department of Education was created as a straight political payoff to the teachers’ unions by Pres. Jimmy Carter (in return for their 1976 endorsement). According to the National Center for Education Statistics, DE’s original budget, in 1980, was $13.1 billion (in 2007 dollars), and it employed 450 people. By 2000, it had increased to $34.1 billion, and by 2007 it had more than doubled to $73 billion. The budget request for fiscal 2011 is $77.8 billion, and the department employs 4,800.

All of this spending has done nothing to improve American education. Between 1973 and 2004, a period in which federal spending on education more than quadrupled, mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress rose just 1 percent for American 17-year-olds. Between 1971 and 2004, reading scores remained completely flat.

Comparing educational achievement with per-pupil spending among states also calls into question the value of increasing expenditures. While high-spending Massachusetts had the nation’s highest proficiency scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, low-spending Idaho did very well, too. South Dakota ranks 42nd in per-pupil expenditures but eighth in math performance and ninth in reading. The District of Columbia, meanwhile, with the nation’s highest per-pupil expenditures ($15,511 in 2007), scores dead last in achievement.

Gasp! You mean to say that giving a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington D.C. more than $70,000,000,000 a year has not led to improved education? That in fact by almost every measure American public education has gotten worse academically, more bloated administratively and more dangerous to students and teachers? That there is not a direct correlation between spending and education, that spending X dollars doesn’t invariably yield Y units of education? Say it isn’t so! Just look at the org chart to the left and try to figure out what any of these departments within the DoEd have to do with education. The WH Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities? The Office of English Language Acquisition? What does that even mean? Don’t we already have the English language, do we need to acquire more of it? Here is what the WH Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities “does” for American education.

The Board issues an Annual Federal Plan for Assistance to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to the President on participation by HBCUs in federally-sponsored programs; provides advice to the Secretary of Education and makes recommendations in reports to the President on how to increase the private sector role in strengthening HBCUs, with particular emphasis on enhancing institutional infrastructure and facilitating planning, development, and the use of new technologies to ensure the goal of long-term viability and enhancement of these institutions. Members are appointed by the President and include representatives of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, other institutions of higher education, business and financial institutions, private foundations, and secondary education.

So they don’t actually “do” anything but generate a bunch of reports that get filed and never looked at again. Outstanding! The Department of Education is a sinkhole, a money pit. No one wants to cut funding because then you are accused of not thinking about “the children”. There is nothing to gain politically from cutting spending and everything to gain politically from rubber stamping increases year after year. Funding the DoEd amounts to an easy political chip for politicians. It makes the teachers unions happy. It makes parents happy. It is great for everyone except the kids who get minimal benefit from the spending but are left with the future to bill to pay. It is analogous to a kid getting a huge present for their birthday only to find that the box is empty except for a credit card bill in their name.

I don’t think Sharron Angle is thinking big enough. I think we should lock down every department in Washington D.C. and make them justify their existence before they get one red cent of tax money. Is that so crazy? Corporations must report annually to their shareholders, shouldn’t we expect at least that much from our government? The rule should be that no department gets a free pass from year to year, much less an automatic increase in funding. Every department must have a reason for every dollar they spend with a measurable goal and if they fail to meet that goal, on time and on budget, then they lose their funding. It is insane to give a bureaucracy money intended to accomplish something and then when they fail to accomplish their goal respond by giving them more money. Little wonder we are $13,000,000,000,000 in debt with little to show for it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Arthur Laffer is still the man

Some common sense economics from Arthur Laffer in today's Journal regarding taxation

People can change the volume, the location and the composition of their income, and they can do so in response to changes in government policies.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the nine states without an income tax are growing far faster and attracting more people than are the nine states with the highest income tax rates. People and businesses change the location of income based on incentives.

Likewise, who is gobsmacked when they are told that the two wealthiest Americans—Bill Gates and Warren Buffett—hold the bulk of their wealth in the nontaxed form of unrealized capital gains? The composition of wealth also responds to incentives. And it's also simple enough for most people to understand that if the government taxes people who work and pays people not to work, fewer people will work. Incentives matter.

Oh my, who wants to listen to common sense these days? So if you make it easier to not work, more people will...not work? Huh. You need to read this editorial.

Most people who are rich didn't get there by being stupid and those who have the means to shift their wealth around to avoid taxes will do so. Obama and his cronies are promising to soak the rich but when the rich respond by moving their money into something with lower tax exposure, guess who is going to get left holding the bill for Obamacare, the "stimulus bill", state and municipal pension bailout, union payoffs, "climate change", etc.? You are. Congratulations, under Obama you are about to become part of the "rich"!

Now fork over your wallet.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Making the most of the BP oil spill

No one on the left wants to miss out on a good crisis. Nothing better than using a disaster that threatens the nation to push an agenda. Never let a good crisis go to waste! Economy is in the doldrums? Push a massive pork barrel spending bill through, never mind the debt! Health care costs skyrocketing? Jam through an immensely unpopular, expensive and unfunded health insurance plan! Public debt exploding at an unprecedented rate? Borrow more and spend more, it has to get better sooner or later! A tragic accident that demands national attention in the Gulf? Use it to paint capitalism as a failure!

There is nothing more inane than those who label the BP oil spill as a failure of the free markets. Was the Chernobyl disaster a failure of the free markets? Did an overweening government prevent that disaster? As a little history lesson, Chernobyl happened in 1986 during the last days of the Soviet Union. It is not as if the communist dictatorships in the former Soviet Union or in present day China or North Korea have been “green” regimes. Accidents happen. They happen in communist countries and they happen in free market countries. It is going to take more than Barack Obama “thinking about it” to make it stop spewing oil and it is ridiculous that up until recently he has gotten a free pass from the media, the same media that scorched President Bush for not “doing something” about New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The world’s most powerful nation with the biggest navy by far in the world and the most innovative minds anywhere is standing around on the shore and shaking our collective fists at the ocean.

What is ironic is that when something happens that people want the government to get involved in and that it makes sense for the government to get involved in like an oil leak in the ocean, the government has by and large been a big fat failure. Rather than seeing that as a warning sign, liberals want to give the government even more control over things that the government has no business in and that people don’t want them interfering with (i.e. health care). Far from an indictment of the free market, this disaster and the subsequent impotence of the world’s sole superpower is an indictment of the ability of the Federal government to solve our every problem. It cannot solve even one leak in the ocean, how can we expect it to cure the economy and keep every American healthy for free?

I wish liberals would take their collective heads out of the sand. Maybe they could cram them in the hole in the Gulf. That would be a win-win for everyone.

Friday, May 28, 2010

So what happened to the smartest guy in the room?

For someone who is supposed to be a super-genius, our President seems pretty clueless when real life intrudes on his master plan. Peggy Noonan hit it out of the park with this quote from her editorial this morning, He Was Supposed To Be Competent.

The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen.This is a terrible thing to see in a political figure, and a startling thing in one who won so handily and shrewdly in 2008. But he has not, almost from the day he was inaugurated, been in sync with the center. The heart of the country is thinking each day about A, B and C, and he is thinking about X, Y and Z. They're in one reality, he's in another.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Obama wants to govern as if it were an academic exercise. He is not interested in reality, only in rhetoric.

It really does seem like Obama thinks he is President of a different country than the one the rest of us live in.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another union bailout

Today we get a plea from Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers for a bailout of teachers unions, um I mean, the children of America.

I have been traveling the country, watching teachers, administrators and unions striving to implement some of the most progressive and effective reform efforts in decades. But genuine school reform can't be accomplished with fewer teachers, unmanageable class sizes, and fewer intervention programs for struggling students. Children don't have a pause button—they need a great education during good economic times and bad.

I guess in union speak “progressive and effective reform” means “doing the same thing year after year at a higher cost and with a lower quality result while opposing any real reform that might cost union jobs”. I guess you can keep beating that drum until someone calls you out on it: A great education can only be achieved by a great deal of spending. It won’t even cost that much, just a pittance really:

The short-term solution to ensure kids start the next school year without major disruption is federal legislation to provide a $23 billion infusion to states to avert educational and economic disaster.

$23,000,000,000 That is quite an “infusion”.

What we are talking about is not a bailout for “the children”. It is a bailout for teachers unions, a bailout to preserve their jobs at taxpayer expense. It does nothing to address the underlying problems and will leave us in the exact same spot next year, when you can be sure the teachers unions and their cronies in Congress will come back looking for more money in what will eventually turn into a perpetual handout. This is little more than a money grab, an out and out transfer of income from non-teacher taxpayers to unionized public school teachers. Without this bailout, Ms. Weingarten is warning that “275,000 teachers and other school staff will receive pink slips”. That $23,000,000 bailout amounts to $83,636 for every unionized school employee job saved. That is pretty pricey for the end-result we are getting and that money has to come from somewhere. In case Ms. Weingarten missed it, we don’t have any money here in the good ole U.S. of A.. We are running enormous deficits already, soon to balloon even more when Obamacare comes into play. We have saddled the children that Ms. Weingarten is allegedly so concerned about with a crippling debt burden that no amount of education is going to resolve. This $23,000,000,000 that Ms. Weingarten is demanding will come from increased taxes and public debt. It is not like the Federal government is sitting on a huge pile of money that it doesn’t know what to do with.

As anyone who is paying attention knows, America is cutting back on everything. We have been spending and spending and spending for decades with virtually no restraint. School districts have been prime culprits of this behavior, coming to the taxpayers every few years for an increase in funding with the rallying cry “It is for the children!” to tug at the heart strings. That gravy train has come to a screeching halt. The voters are rejecting increased taxes on their homes as they watch their equity disappear. It is time for public schools to face the same reality that municipal governments and private sector employers are dealing with, i.e. we all have to learn to make do with less money.

Despite the enormous funding the taxpayers have poured into the public school system over the decades, the standard of education in America has grown progressively worse. By virtually any measure, our educational system is failing across the board and this in spite of years of seemingly limitless funding increases. If we want better results, we are going to have to change the way we do education in this country. Teachers unions expect more and more money on demand, seeing the tax-payers as a giant and unlimited ATM, but at the same time refuse to permit any actual reforms. It would be one thing if there was a direct correlation between spending and quality education but the reality is not so simple. Here is a personal example. We have a very nice school district in the town we live in (although we of course don’t utilize it). The high school in our town is enormous and has all of the latest gizmos and gadgets. Our high school boasts an incredible statistic that 95% of all graduates go on to colleges and universities. Put another way, there are about 4000 kids in our school district and 3800 of them will end up in college. That is a staggering number but it has nothing to do with class size or funding levels. It has everything to do with parents who demand academic excellence from their kids and have expressed an expectation that their kids will go to college. Even if we had a cruddy school building and bigger classes, these kids would still excel and go to college. Conversely, the newest and nicest school building with tiny class sizes in Detroit is not going to produce the same results.

The dirty secret that teachers unions don’t want you to think about is that education has a lot more to do with parental attitudes than it does with funding. All the funding in the world won’t help a kid who doesn’t have the desire to learn because it hasn’t been instilled in them. Private and parochial schools have been proving this for decades. It is just a reality that any system or institution that functions in a virtual monopoly and is insulated from the need to be efficient or deal with competition is going to be inefficient and more concerned with self-preservation than quality (a timely warning for what our health care system is going to look like in the future). What our educational system needs is not a bailout in the form of a blank check. Our education system needs to be bailed out from the influence of the self-serving teachers unions that block reform and stymie innovation. As long as we treat our public school system as a jobs program for college grads with education degrees, it will continue to produce underperforming students at enormous costs. As a society we cannot afford either the exorbitant costs or the mediocre results any longer.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A college education is now your right

So sez Obama. In addressing the gradates of Hampton University, President Obama told the graduates that a high-school diploma just ain't gonna cut it anymore, an adequate education requires a college degree. Guess who is responsible for making sure this happens? You guessed it!

"All of us have a responsibility, as Americans, to change this, to offer every single child in this country an education that will make them competitive in our knowledge economy. That is our obligation as a nation," the president said.

So it is now our obligation to provide a college education to every child. Add this to the other responsibilities we have as a nation that magically appeared in the Constitution: Health care at a "fair" cost. A stream of income and health insurance in retirement. Food and money for the poor. A mortgage even if we can't afford it and our credit is shot. Jobs. On and on and on. There is very little, if anything, that this administration and its cronies thinks that the government is not responsible for and that the tax-payers are not obligated to pay for.

Of course, once everyone has a college degree it will no longer carry the same weight in the workforce. I guess no one thought that far ahead, after all they will be out of office when the bill comes due.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Here is the bed you made. How do you like sleeping in it?

Remember the aftermath Hurricane Katrina and the criticism faced by President Bush for not doing enough quickly enough. Well, thanks to the world we live in where the nanny state is expected to resolve every problem in fifteen minutes, now President Obama is under fire for not acting quickly enough regarding the oil spill in the Gulf.

Moving to blunt criticism that his administration has been slow in reacting to the largest U.S. crude oil spill in decades, President Barack Obama has dispatched two of his Cabinet members to make the rounds of the Sunday talk shows.

Later Sunday, Obama was to fly to Louisiana for a visit to the Gulf Coast and a firsthand update on the massive spill that threatens to bring catastrophic environmental and economic damage in its wake.

What is he going to do in the Gulf besides be a distraction? Hold up his staff like Moses and turn back the tide of oil? Frankly, and I am clearly no fan of President Obama, I would rather he stay in Washington D.C. and coordinate from there but unless you put on the Presidential windbreaker and show up on site, everyone assumes you don't "care" enough. I do like that instead of having his cabinet members working on staunching the oil spill, they are on TV spinning the response of the administration. That is the world we live in. In demonizing President Bush for eight years as just slightly worse than Nero and Genghis Khan combined, the Left has poisoned the political discourse in this country to an extent we haven't seen since the Bork hearings. Little use in whining about it now Mr. President. Your most rabid supporters brought us to where we are now and if you find the bed a little too lumpy for your tastes, you know where you should be pointing the finger of blame.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Do as I say, not as I do!

Ah, the environmentalist Left. Never a group to disappoint when it comes to double-standards. Demanding obedience from the poor, unwashed masses but refusing to follow their own admonitions (paging Al Gore!). Here is the latest example of the hypocrisy of our self-appointed stewards of the environment. The crying and moaning about "climate change" inexorably leads to calls for more responsible, renewable energy and what better resource is available than the wind (especially given how much hot air is generated by the windbags on the East Coast)? Well that is fine and dandy, as long as it doesn't impede the ambiance of Cape Cod, home to oh so many limousine liberals.

Gov't OKs 1st US offshore wind farm, off Mass.

BOSTON – A whole new way of generating electricity in the U.S. drew a big step closer to reality Wednesday, and it could look like this: 130 windmills, 440 feet tall, rising from the ocean a few miles off Cape Cod.

After more than eight years of lawsuits and government reviews, the Obama administration cleared the way for the nation's first offshore wind farm.

"We are beginning a new direction in our nation's energy future," U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar declared in announcing his approval of the $2 billion Cape Wind project, which would finally allow the U.S. to join the list of major countries that are producing electricity from sea breezes.

The project has faced intense opposition from two Indian tribes and some environmentalists and residents, including the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who warned that the windmills could mar the ocean view. They would be visible from the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port.

Ah the late Senator Kennedy, hypocritical even from beyond the grave. How can one even consider marring the ocean view of the Kennedy's! They have done so much for America,, like.....well I am sure they have done lots of improve this country. What next, a new nuclear power plant in San Francisco?! Put the windmills out among the dirty people of the Midwest, not where the elite of America live!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

News flash: Obama sez women are individuals!

Picking a pro-abortion Supreme Court justice is apparently NOT above his paygrade

No shocker here as President Obama predictably is seeking a pro-abortion candidate to replace Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

"You know, I am somebody who believes women should have the ability to make often very difficult decisions about their own bodies and issues of reproduction," the president said. "I don't have litmus tests around any of these issues but I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women's rights.

"Part of what our core constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals are protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity and women are not exempt from that," he added.

That is great news! Individuals in America includes women! I can’t wait to tell my daughters that thanks to the courageous stance of President Obama, they are now included in the group known as “individuals”. It is a proud, proud day for America! Of course there is no surer sign of a person being an individual than having the right to kill a baby.

It would be nice if the President, the world’s most powerful man, had the courage and integrity to just say it like it is. He wants a nominee who will be a reliable vote in favor of legalized abortion. Everyone with half a brain knows it. If this is such an important right, shouldn’t we be able to actually utter the word “abortion” instead of dancing around it and hiding it in legalese?

I didn’t expect Obama to put forth a pro-life nominee. Nor did I expect him to actually show some honesty about what he is looking for. I just wish the pro-abortion forces would have the intestinal fortitude to say “abortion” instead of “women’s health” or “reproductive rights”. It says a lot about someone that they are afraid to even name what they are standing up for.