Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What? Me worry?

One of my favorite and unique steps in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" is Step 34: "Hold Congress and Senate committees and subcommittees accountable for their respective areas of responsibility, and remove committee members from committee posts if they do not meet minimal performance criteria." The book mentions some of the no-brainer examples that would have come into play if Step 34 was in effect:
  • Anybody sitting on a House or Senate intelligence committee on September 10, 2001 should have been removed from committee posts on September 12, 2001 for the complete, utter failure to anticipate an attack on American soil that killed almost 3,000 American civilians.
  • Several years ago, it was widely reported that injured members of our armed forces were coming back to hospitals that were very substandard, filthy and dangerous. Since this seemed to be a surprise to everyone including those members of Congress sitting on the committees responsible for veterans' affairs and treatment. They should have all been removed from their committee posts or been forced to hold their meetings in the same degrading hospital conditions our soldiers were forced to endure.
  • Several years ago the Department of Agriculture reported that it could not account for $5 billion in taxpayer money. Just could not find it. Did not know if and when it was spent and if it was spent, did not know what it was spent on. Any member of a committee responsible for Department of Agriculture budgets should have been gone.

These were the three examples cited in the book. However, this past week I came across another great example, so pathetic, that I wish I could have gotten it into the book. An article in the October 2, 2009 edition of the The Week magazine ( reviewed the status of the 600 mile fence that was being constructed along the U.S. and Mexican border to keep out illegal aliens. Their findings included:

  • The fence construction is seven years behind schedule.
  • It is millions of dollars over budget.
  • It will cost $6.4 billion just to maintain the fence over the next twenty years, according to government auditors. That comes down to about $870,000 a DAY for twenty years.
  • The infrared cameras that are used to detect motion where there is no physically fence fail often due to bad weather and sand storms.
  • There have been more than 3,000 breaches in the physical part of the fence with each breach costing about $1,300 each to fix. Breachers have figured out how to get past the fence by cutting through, climbing over or smashing through the fence with vehicles.

Anybody in Congress sitting on any committee remotely connected to this fence should be immediately removed from that committee. The numbers are mind boggling: billions of dollars spent on a government project that obviously does not work. I cannot imagine $870,000 of taxpayer money going to the maintenance of this fence on a daily basis for twenty years.

While this situation is pathetic enough, it was authorized and should have been audited by members of the current political class. These are the same people that want to take over the entire health care system of the country. Do we really think they have any chance in creation of running that process cost effectively? They could not even build a simple fence or run a simple rebate program (Cash For Clunkers), there is no way they can run health care. But why should they worry? They are not held accountable by a rule like Step 34 and you can bet their health care plans will be better than ours.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You Gotta Be Kidding Me!

Today I will discuss two government operations, one Federal and one local, that blew my mind, talk about wasting money. First case: according to a June, 2009 AP report by reporter June Matthews, New York City operates a series of "rubber rooms" under their department of education. If any employee of the NYC school system is accused of any type of wrongdoing, they are assigned to a specific rubber room where they have to report every day until their case is settled. While in this limbo state, accused but not settled, these employees receive their full pay and benefits and get the same vacation schedule of regular, non-accused employees and teachers.

Here's the kicker: many of these people are in these rubber rooms for months at a time and some of these people are in them for YEARS with Ms. Matthews identifying some people that have been going to them, drawing full salary and benefits, for five and six years. Currently, there are over seven hundred employees waiting for their case to be heard which is costing the city of New York about $65 million a year, money that is spent but does nothing to educate. The department of education blames the union and its rules (fair enough) while the union wants due process to prevail for its accused members (fair enough). Seems like the root cause of the problem lies in the fact that there are only 23 arbitrators who work only five days a month. Note to the New York City political class: wouldn't it be a good idea to hire some more arbitrators, if even for a short time, to clear the backlog and save tens of millions of dollars a year?

Second case: According to an article by Gregg Carlstrom writing for the website, www., on September 7, 2009, the Post Office has seen about a 13% drop in mail volume this year, significantly reducing revenue and causing an expected red ink amount of $7 billion in 2009. However, Mr. Carlstrom reports that on any day of the week, the Post Office sends thousands of employees to so-called "standby rooms" to sit and wait for something to do. While in the rooms, employees are not allowed to do anything but sit and wait: no card playing, no portable electronic devices, no PCs, nothing. Sometimes employees are in their for a few hours and sometimes they are in there for full days. Talk about a waste of time and life. The article estimates that standby room time is costing the Post Office about $50 million a year. Unfortunately, according to union guidelines, these excess human resources cannot be fired due to the lack of work for them and cannot currently be reassigned to near by facilities where there is work to be done. Note to the federal branch of the political class: there are many widely accepted ways to more efficiently handle a variable work load, i.e. have a variable workforce in order to maximize your staff dollars. Most any college freshman business major could set a process up for you.

Think about the above: in just two instances we could have saved the American taxpayer over $100 million a year with just a little common sense. Why have the political class at all levels not done this? I do not know if it is lack of ability, lack of brain power, or focusing on other things like how to pass a bill to mandate the sound volume on TV advertising (see the post from a few days ago). That is why one of the major suggestions in the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," is to basically start over relative to all government programs. Put everything through the wringer and ask a few simple questions:
  • Is this program vital to a large number of citizens? If not, kill it now.
  • If this program is vital, are their parts of it that can be eliminated, downsized, or made more efficient?
  • Can comparable programs in two of more government areas be combined to improve service while decreasing costs?

If we can easily find $100 million of waste in just a few minutes of Internet searching, imagine how many billions of dollars of waste that are out there and whose savings could be returned to other taxpayer.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Politicians Who Get It Right

It is not often that the words, "politicians who get it right," are ever uttered by myself but I do not want to miss an opportunity to recognize politicians who surprise me with their competence. This post is based on a story in the September 27, 2009 issue of the St. Petersburg Times that was written by Janet Zink. It focused on the people running the city government of Miami Gardens which was created six years ago. The mayor is Shirley Gibson and the city manager is Danny Crew, both of whom should be given a medal for what they have done. Despite the deep recession, Ms. Zink reported that:
  • The city payroll will grow by 17 positions this year.
  • Staff members will get cost-of-living and merit pay raises.
  • Staff members will get matching contributions to their retirement plans.
  • Rather than reaching into financial reserves to pay operating costs, the city government expects to increase the reserves by $300,000.
  • Several years ago the city established their own police force with a lucrative recruiting package that quickly reduced violent crime by 19%.
  • The city upgraded four public pools and 17 parks.

How could they possibly do all of this in these dire economic times? If you have read previous posts to this blog, you know that I tend to be pessimistic about any member of the political class achieving results like this. However, it is obvious from the quotes and actions from the leaders that they understand that no person and no government can live beyond its means:

  • The mayor and the six council members SHARE three legislative aides.
  • City Manager Crew shares an administrative system with two others and does his own typing.
  • All city employees are used to help others, with Manager Crew indicating in the article that he has substituted as a crossing guard.
  • When the city was formed, the leaders decided to spend money only on vital government functions and as a result, they do not have a lot of luxuries, mentioning that they do not have such luxuries as a poet laureate, graphic designers and a city television station.
  • "We were not going to be a bloated government. We pride ourselves on the fact that we have necessary staff to get the job done," said Mayor Gibson.
  • "We were very cautious about how we built the city. You tend to only hire those people you actually need,", said Manager Crew.
  • "There are things you really don't need. We run a tight ship," said Manager Crew.
  • And my favorite quote in the entire article, also from Manager Crew: "A city can't be everything to everybody. You have to have a council that knows how to say no to their constituents sometimes."

Can you imagine how more efficient the Federal government would be, how much smaller the budget deficit would be, and how much lower our tax burden would be if these two people and their associates in the Miami Gardens government ran the country? Politicians who shared resources, politicians who budgeted only for vital services, politicians who focused on critical needs (police and parks), politicians who actually said no to stupid or frivolous programs? It appears it can be done if only the politicians involved are respectful of the tax burden its citizens are under. Kudos to all in Miami Gardens who are not only surviving the rough economic times but who are thriving and delivering value to their citizens.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

And Now A Word From Our (Loud) Sponsors

One of the big objectives of "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" is to reduce the size of government so that politicians can focus on a much smaller set of problems and hopefully, finally accomplish something. Although I need no convincing that this is a noble objective, it is nice when a member of the political class comes along and proves again that they have no clue on how to fix the problems confronting the country.

Anna Eshoo, a Democratic Congresswoman from California's 14th district, has written legislation that would force advertisers to reduce the sound of commercials during television broadcasts. I'll let that sink in for a few seconds..... Let's see, we have wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, failing public schools, unemployment going through the roof, skyrocketing deficits, illegal immigrants all over the place, Social Security and Medicare heading for bankruptcy, no national energy program, Iran getting ready to nuke somebody, no victory in sight in the war on drugs and the Congresswoman decides she should use staff time and resources to draft a law to get TV advertisers to reduce the sound of their commercials. Never mind that many people ignore commercials, leave the room during commercials or TIVO through commercials, she thinks it is an important enough issue for Congress to address. If Gallup ran a poll on Americans' top worries, where do we think that the sound of TV commercials would fall? Would it make the top 200 issues?

It is unbelievable we are even talking about this. It is like being on the Titanic. The political class does not know how to save the ship from sinking so they worry about the deck chairs (or the sound volume of TV commercials). It is similar to the Congress that was in session in 2003, as referenced in the book, a Congress that passed 260 laws and 28% of them had to do with renaming Post Office locations. Bottom line: politicians today do not know how to solve anything and need have their responsibilities and budgets significantly reduced to reflect this incompetence, returning our tax dollars back to us.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Political Class Greed - Texas Style

Today let's travel out of DC down to Texas and see that even local members of the political class can waste taxpayer money. The NFL's Dallas Cowboys just opened a brand new football stadium in Arlington, Texas. It costs about $1.2 billion and a Sports Illustrated article in their September 28, 2009 issue reported the following facts after the stadium's initial game between the Giants and the Cowboys:
  • The stadium is the largest column free structure in the world.
  • It can accommodate over 100,000 spectators, the largest NFL stadium ever built.
  • The facility of the NFL's Detroit Lions, Ford Field in Detroit, could fit inside the new Cowboy stadium.
  • Single game ticket prices for the Cowboys games average $159 per ticket, the highest priced seats in the entire league.
  • Beer costs $8 a glass and hamburgers cost $13 a piece.
  • Parking is $75 per game.
  • Some of the better seats in the stadium required customers to pay $150,000 up front for a seat license BEFORE paying for any game tickets.
  • Opening game attendees included, but were not limited to, LeBron James, Rudy Giuliani, John Madden, and George W. Bush.

Very, very impressive. However, the most impressive number is that the local politicians kicked in $325 million dollars of local taxpayer money to help fund the entire construction. Since there are about 1.3 million people living in the Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington market, each person contributed about $250 to the construction, with a family of four contributing about $1,000.

To add insult to injury, the vast majority of these people will never get to see a game inside of the stadium since they cannot afford to, i.e. the local politicians took money from working families and gave it to a very rich man, Cowboy owner Jerry Jones, who can now watch very rich football players play football in front of very rich people. Between tickets, parking expenses, food and beverages, you could very easily see a family of four spending in excess of $800 to attend ONE game. This is not going to happen very often. However, I would bet that politicians are going to get in quite often.

All such corporate welfare projects such as this one should never occur. If Jerry Jones and the NFL want to build a $1.2 billion palace, they should pay for all of it, no taxpayer money should ever be spent like this. My preference would have been for the local taxpayers to keep their $1,000 since they will rarely, if ever, get the joy of seeing their investment in person. However, another metric that is of interest is education. If you assume that the average Arlington teacher makes about $45,000 a year, that $325 million could have funded the salaries of about 722 additional teachers for the next ten years. You tell me, what would have been a better investment:

  1. Give rich people taxpayer money like the political class did?
  2. Return an average of $1,000 to a typical family and let the Cowboys "settle" for an $900 million palace?
  3. Keep the money and fund over 700 new teacher positions?

Politicans are the same all over, they think they own the money we pay in taxes and can spent it as they see fit. However, if we learned anything over the past few days' posts, they usually waste it. Thus, the first step in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government", reducing government's size by 50% over the next five years is critical to eliminate waste and corporate welfare such as this.

The only good news out of the article was that my Giants want the game!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Was This Porgram Necessary? Part 2

This follow up to government waste is based on a September 3, 2009 AP article that appeared on Earthlink news. It was an article on a statement by Vice President Joe Biden on how well the $787 billion stimulus package was working. You remember Joe, he was the candidate that proclaimed during last year's campaign the FDR went on TV when the stock market crashed in 1929 and reassured Americans that everything was going to be alright. Unfortunately, FDR was not President in 1929 and TV existed only in a lab. Thus, Joe has never had a lot of credibility with me which is why I relied on an external source for the facts in this post.

Mr. Biden "proclaimed success beyond expectations" relative to the stimulus results. However, the article had a differing opinion in many instances:
  • Although 192 airports were targeted for stimulus money, a federal watchdog launched an investigation as to why 50 of these projects did not meet the grant criteria.
  • Four of the airports have a history of mismanaging Federal grants according to the investigation.
  • While there were 2,400 military construction projects from the stimulus, millions of dollars were lost because many of these projects were not subjected to competitive bids.
  • Of the 2476 bridges that were to receive stimulus money, nearly half of them, 1,123 bridges, passed safety inspections with high marks that normally would not qualify for Federal money, i.e. they were in good shape, were not about to fall down as the Vice President claimed, and in no need for help. Unfortunately, these bridges will waste $1.2 billion according to the AP analysis.

So, according to the Vice President, projects that are wasteful because they were not competitively bid, projects that are unneeded because there is nothing wrong with the bridges, and projects that are wrongfully granted money because they do not meet the criteria are a "success beyond expectations." He sure has a funny definition of success.

As with yesterday, let's do some math:

  • The stimulus will spend $787,000,000,000 which means the American taxpayer will have to fork over $787,000,000,000 of their hard earned money at some point in time to pay for it.
  • A billion dollars is a lot of money. If you spent a thousand dollars a day from the day Christ was born, you still would not have spent a billion dollars. Thing about it, most of us could live quite comfortably on a thousand dollars a day, particularly hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
  • Since there are about 130 million households in the United States, if the $787,000,000,000 had been spread out over each household, every family would have gotten a check for about $6,000 (as opposed to the tax break of only $400-$800 they actually got). Thus, rather than waste money on strong bridges, bad youth job training programs (see yesterday's post), stupid and inefficient rebate programs ("Cash For Clunkers"), wasteful military construction projects, bank bailouts, government agency bailouts (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) and other useless expenditures, I contend that giving every family $6,000 would have immediately stimulated the economy. We would likely have seen car sales jump, home foreclosures slow, consumer expenditures increase creating youth job opportunities and whole bunch of good economic stuff happen in a free and efficient way. Hey, we as taxpayers are going to have to pay the bill for the stimulus, we should at least get the benefit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Was This Program Necessary? Part 1

Today's post is based on an AP report from earlier today concerning an Administration's program to find jobs for teenagers this past summer. Now, I do not go out of my way finding programs that waste taxpayer money, most of the time they just show up and this program is no exception. First, some descriptions of the program:
  • "The summer program was basically half-disaster. It was too little, too late and too poorly constructed to have any lasting effect on our youngest workers." - Andrew Sum, director of the Center For Labor Market Studies At Northeastern University.
  • "Things are still totally chaotic with this program. In many communities they will tell you that they are still struggling to understand where the money is and where it is coming from." - Rachel Gragg, federal policy director for the Workforce Alliance.
  • "There are so many passthroughs before this program actually turns into money that helps the population its intended to help that it's almost criminal." - Laura Chick, California Inspector General to oversee stimulus funds.
  • AP reporting: in Pennsylvania and Connecticut some kids did not get into the program's training classes until July, reducing their chance to get a summer job.
  • AP reporting: some youths who got jobs had trouble collecting their paychecks.
  • AP reporting: California auditors found irregularities that included over payments to it's director and $1.27 million in questionable costs that have not been accounted for.

So let's review: we have a government program that is either late in being delivered or is delivered in a "half disaster" manner. Money is lost or misappropriated or delivered inefficiently. Have we heard this story before? This is how the government wasted away a lot of the $1.2 billion that funded the program. It gets even better if you do the math of the program:

  • The article states that 25% of the 279,169 kids in the program did not get a position, meaning that about 209,377 did get a job.
  • Let's assume that each of the kids that found employment got paid at $8.00 per hour and worked forty hours a week for the ten weeks of summer (probably a generous assumption since we know from above that in some places the program did not get underway until July).
  • Thus, the youths who found work got ($8.00 per hour times 10 weeks times 40 hours a week times 209,377 kids) = $670,006,400 in wages.
  • In conclusion, the Federal government spent $1.2 billion to generate about $670 million in wages. Not a very efficient program. Each kid would have had to get a job paying $14 an hour (not going to happen for a summer job) to even break even for the program.

According to the article, the Labor department acknowledged it is still working out the kinks, and says even if not all participants got jobs, the program helped youth build valuable professional skills that will serve them and the national economy. However, there is no firm measurement or definition for even this soft metric.

Just like the Cash For Clunkers program, the Federal government and the political class cannot even execute a simple job training program that is at least revenue/expense neutral. Bad procedures, bad accounting, bad scheduling, bad results, how can we expect them to execute major programs like health care reform, Social Security reform, education reform, etc? As we point out extensively in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government", the Federal government has to be downsized significantly in order to focus on a very small number of programs and return the wasted tax dollars back to the American citizen. If Americans could keep far more of their wealth that the government wastes on program such as this, they would likely spend it and expand the economy much more efficiently, resulting in more jobs for youths than any government program could do.

Tommorrow: Part Two of let's do the math.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why The Political Class Ticks Me Off - Past and Present

A couple of new articles came across the desk today that just set me off again on today's American politicians. They reminded of information we posted in two previous discussions:

Ticking Me Off - Past
  • In August we reviewed how Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite, who was a member of the House committee responsible for overseeing the banking industry, was making personal bank stock trades in the midst of Congress and the Obama administration offering billion dollar bailouts to the very banks Brown-Waite was investing in. In the real world, this is called insider trading and all of us probably would have went to jail for this kind of behavior. In the political world it is not even called conflict of interest. No investigation, no House reprimand, just a politician trading on their position to the detriment of the rest of us. Ticks me off.
  • In a Washington Post article in May, 2007 and discussed in the book,"Love My Country, Loathe My Government", it was reported that while many of the political class were getting on the global warming bandwagon, the United States government continued to sponsor a program, left over from the Depression, that uses billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to subsidize the construction of coal burning power plants throughout the rural parts of the country. In fact, according to the article, the current plan is to spend $35 billion over the next ten years to build conventional coal burning, CO2 spewing power plants. Think about how stupid this is: Obama wants to implement plans to tax power usage of regular Americans for the global warming cabal while funding coal power plants. Ticks me off.

Ticking Me Off - Present
  • According to the September/October CATO Policy Report,, Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye's staff asked Federal regulators about a bailout of an ailing Hawaiian bank. It seems that Senator Inouye had helped established the bank and had invested the bulk of his personal wealth. To make a long story short, the bank was in the tank and the FDIC had already recommended that it was not worth saving and should not receive a bailout. However, two weeks after the staff's inquiry, the bank received $138 million of taxpayer money from the Treasury Department. As with the Congresswoman above, this is tantamount to insider trading and is definitely a conflict of interest in my eyes. Ticks me off.
  • As everyone knows, a major, major cause of the deep recession and housing industry implosion was that many people getting a mortgages over the past years did not have to have any down payment or prove what their real income was. With no down payment, homeowners had less of a vested interest in keeping up their mortgage payments and lenders did not care since many of the mortgages were insured by the Federal government, i.e. taxpayer money. After all of the destruction this type of behavior has cost the country, one would think that this is a mistake we would never make again. But no! According to an article in the September 28, 2009 issue of business week, "USDA Home Loans - Subprime Redux", the Agriculture Department is running a home loan program where applicants can get a home mortgage and not have to put any down payment forward. Think about how stupid this is. We just learned about how no down payment mortgages helped screw up the economy and the government is now doing it again. And, it is being run out of the Department of Agriculture! What's next, is the SEC going to run NASA? Of course, the government guarantees all of the lending so potential homeowners and builders alike love it since their risk is greatly reduced. And the Obama administration supports the program, having just upped its budget to $10.5 billion. Ticks me off.

The Brown-Waite and Inouye examples just prove again that these people in the political class have no pride or loyalty to the American taxpayer. They are only in it for themselves. The coal power plants and USDA examples prove that we have allowed government to get so big that no one is in charge and we very often get programs that are at odds with themselves and reality, which always costs the American taxpayer. Smaller, leaner government and some sense of conflict of interest compliance have to come about or the insanity will never end and I will continue to be ticked off.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Tax Be Any Other Name... Is Still A Tax

From Encarta's online dictionary:

tax [ taks ] noun (plural tax·es)
1. strain: a strain or heavy demand
2. money paid to government: an amount of money levied by a government on its citizens and used to run the government, the country, a state, a county, or a municipality

As many of you may know by now, President Obama and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News got into a little tiff this past Sunday during the interview of the President and his proposal for mandatory health care insurance for ALL citizens. The President wants everyone, no exceptions, to pay for and carry health insurance if and when his reform policy is approved. If someone did not get insurance coverage, the government would levy a fine on their wages. Mr. Stephanopoulos thought that this was really a new tax on Americans, regardless of whether or not it was a good thing. At this point the President went down the rabbit hole and insisted that requiring a citizen to pay for health insurance was not a tax increase. If he admitted it was a tax increase, it would denigrate his campaign promise not to raise taxes.

If you believe the Encarta definition, I think George got this one right. It is like the Five Legged Dog story that politicians continually, and usually unsuccessfully, try to pull over on Americans, of which many examples are highlighted in the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government." The story goes as follows:

Question: if you called a tail a leg, how many legs would a dog have?

Answer: It would still have only four, calling it a leg does not make a leg.

Same principle here: just because you do not call it a tax does not mean it is not a tax. This fee 1) would be a strain or heavy demand for many Americans and 2) it is a fee levied by the government on its citizens. By trying to argue this is not a tax increase just destroys Obama's credibility more and more. Look what happened to Clinton when he tried to manage the definition of a two letter word, who can forget the famous words: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is". He was ridiculed and suffered a decrease in credibility for trying to wiggle out of the deposition where this statement was uttered. Americans and George S. know that this is just another tax to be levied on Americans without fully understanding how this tactic fits into the overall Obama plan.

Obama's problem goes back to the original premise we stated in August: the entire political class did not do their homework regarding health care reform in that they never determined what the underlying root cause(s) of increasing health care costs is. If you do not know what is causing the problem, then it is impossible to come with tactics that effectively address the root causes. Levying this fee might be a good thing but in the absence of a comprehensive strategy attacking the root causes we have no idea if it is a good thing or not.

From a different perspective, forcing families to buy health care insurance is still stupid on so many levels. First, it sets a bad precedent. If a group of politicians thinks this is a good way to raise money, what is to stop them from forcing Americans to pay additional fees, which we know now from our above discussion are taxes. Maybe we should force all Americans to have flood insurance even if they can afford not to have it or they do not live in a flood zone. Maybe we should force all Americans to carry insurance for theft even if they do not have anything worth stealing. The list could go on and on and get pretty silly but that would not stop the political class from imposing these additional fees. Sure would make the insurance companies happy, though. Hmmm, do we know insurance companies contribute to politicians?

Second, imposing any kind of fee is a restriction of liberty. Why should rich people have to pay for insurance if they do not want it? If they get sick, they would pay for their treatment out of their own funds and assets. What if a family wanted to pay for other things that are more important to them such as their children's education, charitable causes, starting a business or a myriad of other uses a family needed or wanted to do and take the risk that they would not need health care insurance. If they get sick, and the treatment costs would bankrupt them, that should be their choice, not Obama's forced choice.

Third and finally, if the political class had done their due diligence and homework and found out the true root causes of escalating health care costs, there would be no need for this restriction in liberty since costs would come down to a level to where it would be a good deal relative to other needs and wants. Without this analysis, we are just rolling the dice since there is no basic understanding, no overall strategy, and no tactical plan to fix the problem. But what did we expect from this current crop of politicians besides a five legged dog?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Some random government stupidity acts that have occurred recently:
  • Last Friday, close to Pentagon ceremonies remembering the attacks on 9-11, the Coast Guard decided to do a boat-related terrorist drill while President Obama and other VIPs were at the Pentagon. The drill was so real that CNN and other news outlets picked up the story and began broadcasting it as a real terrorist attack near where the President was to be. Apparently the Coast Guard never informed any law enforcement agency of the drill. Who thought it would be a good idea to do a terrorist drill on the one day of the year, the anniversary of 9-11, which has the highest probability of a real terrorist attack occurring? Stupid act.
  • This stunt was similar to an event we reviewed in an earlier post where Air Force One with a trailing fighter plane flew low over lower Manhattan to get a picture of Air Force One and the Statue of Liberty together. The low flying planes spooked thousands of NYC workers who thought they might be reliving the terrorist attacks. Never mind that the same photo could have been inexpensively attained by using Photoshop and not freaked out citizens and wasted over three hundred thousand dollars in gas and other expenses. This cost does not include the lost productivity of workers being distracted. Stupid act.
  • From the October issue of Reason magazine - An Austrian tourist in London was forced to the delete pictures he had taken of the city's double decker buses by police. The police told him it was forbidden to take such pictures because of terrorist concerns. Did it not occur to British lawmakers that maybe the terrorists could get on the Internet, go to the library, or go to any other sources to get a picture of the buses? Stupid law.
  • Another entry from October Reason: "I certainly don't claim to know everything that's in this bill." This is a quote from House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman relating to the climate change cap and trade bill THAT HE CO-AUTHORED! Stupid is not a strong enough word. If he did not read what he co-authored than who really wrote the bill? I think the American taxpayer should know who really wrote it since they are going to pay for what it does to energy in this country.

Comedian Bill Engvall once said that there is no cure for stupidity and given these examples and thousands of others, the political class is severely infected. That's why "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" proposes that government be severely reduced (by at least 50% in five years = Step 1), not only to save taxpayer money but to also significantly reduce the stupidity level that current exists today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An ACORN Grows In Chicago

Earlier today the House of Representatives overwhelming voted to also defund the ACORN organization, following the lead of the Senate from a few days ago. The two votes now need to be reconciled and passed on to President Obama for signing into law. From what I can see, most Americans were appalled by videos that have been created at several ACORN offices that portrayed ACORN personnel advising a fake pimp and prostitute on how to get around government regulations and how to get government funding for their child prostitution rings. A few observations:
  • The first videotapes showed up in the media before the latter tapes were taken. One would have thought that the ACORN leadership would have notified all of their offices that a fake pimp and prostitute were running a sting to see if they could get ACORN personnel to help them with their illegal prostitution idea. Not notifying their offices of the situation and allowing subsequent operations to become entangled is just plain stupid. Stupid organizations should not get taxpayer funding.
  • An AP report today mentioned that 11 ex-ACORN employees were arrested in the Miami area this week for falsifying voter registration records. This comes on the heels of last year's Ohio problem with ACORN and accusations from ex-ACORN employees that they falsified voter registration records. Why has their been no Federal investigation of ACORN since they may have been in violation of a basic American right, the right to have every vote treated fairly and accurately and not count less because of fake registrations? Maybe the House should be investigating this treason-level act and let the Joe Wilson thing die.
  • Seven US Senators voted not to defund ACORN and two of them, Dick Durbin and Roland Burris, are from Illinois. Apparently ACORN is very, very big in parts of Illinois, so much so that both state Senators voted not to defund them (and tick them off) even though it was pretty obvious from multiple videotapes that ACORN behavior's was highly unethical and possibly illegal. Pretty sad when a private organization supported with taxpayer funds can intimidate sitting US Senators. Which raises the age old question: which state has the worst politicians, New Jersey or Illinois? New Jersey recently had 44 local politicians arrested for kickbacks and other crimes. Three of the past five Illinois governors are either in jail or under indictment. And now Illinois US Senators voting in a distinct minority to continue business as usual with ACORN. It is probably a question for the ages (or until the next round of indictments).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Other People I Would Like To "Wilsonize"

Up front disclosure: I have never voted for a Republican for national office in my life.

As most of you already know, during the President's health care reform speech last week, Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted out that President Obama was a liar. It was an unheard of type of outburst from a member of Congress while any President was addressing both houses of Congress. Congressman Wilson apologized for his accusation and Obama accepted the apology. That should have been the end of the story: bad act, apology, apology accepted.

But no. Democrats decided to take up time and resources and issue a formal rebuke to Wilson since he refused to apologize on the floor of the House. Never mind that the target of his inappropriate outburst, the President, had already accepted the apology. Thus, if the current political class wants to waste more of our time, may I suggest that they rebuke some other people since they are at least as bad as Wilson's gaffe; in fact, let's invent a new verb, to Wilsonize which means "to take up valuable time to kill a dead horse because we do not know how to fix real national problems":
  • Let's start with all of the Democrats that called Bush a Nazi, a fascist, or a liar, sometimes during his addresses to Congress, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
  • Then let's Wilsonize Congressman Charles Rangel who every year seems to come under investigation for some sort of new tax evasion scheme including, but not limited to, not reporting rental income, not disclosing credit union accounts with hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting in them, etc.
  • Let's not forget Senator Harry Reid who publicly commented that American tourists visiting DC in the summer time physically smelled, despite knowing that those smelly Americans pay his salary, benefits and office expenses.
  • Moving on, let's Wilsonize Nancy Pelosi who believes that anyone speaking up against the Obama health care reform bills, i.e. exercising their First Amendment rights, is un-American.
  • How could we forget Barney Frank who, as chairman of the House committee overseeing the banking industry for the past three years, failed miserably in that capacity to foresee the biggest banking crisis since the Great Depression until it hit him up the side of the head.
  • If we are going to Wilsonize Frank, then we have to go over to his counterpart in the Senate, Chris Dodd, who as chairman of the Senate committee responsible for overseeing the banking industry for the past three years, failed miserably in that capacity to foresee the biggest banking crisis since the Great Depression until it hit him up the side of the head.
  • In fact, let's Wilsonzie the entire Federal Reserve Board, Treasury Department, and SEC who also failed to foresee the biggest banking crisis since the Great Depression.
  • Special Wilsonization should go to the seven Senators who voted NOT to defund the ACORN organization which has been caught on videotape in several cities helping a fake pimp and prostitute set up housing for a brothel using taxpayer funds and underage foreign girls.
  • Let's not omit Jimmy Carter for his ridiculous opinions on racism relative to the Congressman Wilson situation since Carter was mostly irrelevant while he was in office and is certainly irrelevant today, more than thirty years later.
  • More Wilsonization for the SEC who for almost twenty years did not see a huge pyramid scheme from Mr. Madoff despite many outsiders proving what was going on.

I think that is enough for today, this Wilsonization process could tie up Congress and the political class until the holidays. Other matters such as the failure of the war on drugs, failing public schools, Iraq, Afghanistan, skyrocketing national debt, unemployment, and other trivial matters can wait until we are done Wilsonizing everyone.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

United States Of Purple

In the September 19, 2009 issue of The Week magazine (, William Falk did a great tongue-in-cheek article about how to solve the acrimonious and bitter state of political debate in this country. He facetiously proposes to divide the country into the two countries, one with the "red" states and one with the "blue" states. In the red state nation:
  • The Federal income tax rate would by reduced to 10%.
  • Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security would be abolished.
  • Abortion would be illegal.
  • Gays would be closeted again.
  • Christianity would be the official state religion.
  • Anyone could be any kind of gun with no questions asked.
In the blue state nation:
  • The Federal income tax rate would be raised to 90%.
  • All employers would institute quotas for minorities, women, and less-abled persons.
  • You would get all of your health care needs handled by a single government run. organization like in Canada.
  • Fast food would be banned.
  • Gun ownership would be banned.
  • Gay marriage would be legal.
  • Marijuana would be legal.

While I applaud Mr. Falk's originality, I would suggest that he left out another segment, call it the purple states. In the purple state nation:

  • I would be free to keep much more of my wealth since the government was efficient and non-wasteful, providing only essential services without any pork barrel projects at all.
  • I would be free to participate, or not participate, in cost effective and efficient government retirement plans.
  • I would be free to do whatever I wanted to my body from a pregnancy (if I was a woman), fast food, and drug perspective.
  • I would be free to practice whatever sexual orientation I wanted without threat of retribution or ridicule.
  • I would be free to practice whatever religion I wanted without threat of retribution or ridicule.
  • I would be free to own whatever type of gun I wanted, assuming I was a law abiding citizen.
  • I would be free to hire whomever I wanted for as long as I wanted without interference from an overreaching government bureaucracy.
  • I would be free to choose health care options which were market driven and priced and which excluded any overreaching government interference and bureaucracy.
  • I would be free of petty, ignorant, and arrogant politicians who divide citizens into warring tribes.
  • I would be free of petty, ignorant, and arrogant politicians who do not understand what the word "respect" means, and thus, do not apply that definition to all citizens including those that differ in their opinions.
  • I would be free of petty, ignorant, and arrogant politicians because they are restricted to term limits less than the current Presidential term limits.
  • I would be free of petty, ignorant, and arrogant politicians who have no idea how damaging their economic policies are to both the economy and to freedom.
  • I would be free of an election system that allows ungodly amounts of money from corporations, unions, PACs and lobbyists to render the ordinary citizen's voice almost moot.
  • I would be free of a government who thinks being a Patriot involves almost unfettered access to every citizen's private life without any checks and balances.
  • I would be free of an inept government and political class that has not solved any significant problem in over forty years including the war on drugs, failing public schools, foreign energy source dependency, war on terror, etc.
  • I would be free of an inept government and political class who think foreign policy involves stationing combat troops in over 150 countries worldwide.
  • I would be free to live my life, raise my family, and spend my wealth anyway I wanted with minimal interference from the political class.

This is the nation I want to live in. I understand it existed once. It was called the United States of America.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Paradise 2

Let's finish up the discussion we had yesterday with Paradise Lost where we noted with grave disappointment the Obama administration's shortcomings in broken promises and silence. Since yesterday, I have been reminded of two more silence examples:
  • When one of his personal czars, Van Jones, was recorded in a public media calling Republicans assholes, President Obama should have spoken out that such crude name calling has no place in a democracy. He was silent.
  • According to the White House email home page, "President Obama is committed to creating the most open and accessible administration in American history. To send questions, comments, concerns, or well-wishes to the President or his staff, please use the form below...". Having sent any number of emails to through this email process (probably dozens of times), I always check the box at the end of the form that stipulates I would like an answer to this email. So far, silence on every request.

Now, I will give the President some props for the way he is handling the whole flap about the outburst during his health care reform speech when a South Carolina Congressman called him a liar. That kind of outburst was crude, disrespectful, and uncalled for. The Congressman apologized quickly and directly to the President, who accepted the apology and publicly has said this is much ado about nothing, citing it as typical of the distractions in Washington that derail positive actions. He could have remained silent and let this thing get bigger and bigger, I give him credit for accepting the apology and recognizing what is going on. However, this one instance of speaking up pales in comparison to his other instances of silence and broken promises.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paradise Lost

During last year's Presidential campaign I was a fan of neither major party's candidates. However, at least there seemed to be some kind of hope, however remote, that Obama would introduce a new era in understanding and respect into American politics. While I greatly respect the sacrifices and service John McCain did for this country, I really did not think he had much of a chance of changing the DC environment given his long term membership in the political class. Also, while I did not see it, many friends and family were greatly excited by the potential of an Obama victory.

Well, eight months later I have concluded that what started out with great fanfare for change has dissolved into Paradise Lost. This disappointment is driven by Obama's less than stellar performance in two areas, 1) broken promises and 2) his silence in critical and/or symbolic situations:

His Broken Promises:

1) Iraq - one of Obama's primary policy positions was to get us out of Iraq as soon as possible. Unfortunately, eight months after his swearing in, we are at least 18 months away from leaving. As I have blogged before, Bush may have gotten us out sooner than Obama's plan.
2) No Lobbyists In Government - another campaign position was to make sure that "no political appointees will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly related to their prior employer for two years." However, according to a St. Petersburg Times article on March 18, 2009, this policy had been violated any number of times within the first 60 days of his term in office. As an example, the article points to former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn who became deputy defense secretary despite having lobbied for Raytheon in 2008.
3) Close Guantanamo - although he says he will close the Cuban island prison, he has not done that as of today and may not for a while.
4) Indefinite Preventive Detention - although he admonished the Bush administration for holding prisoners for years with no justice or trial, on May 22, 2009 the Washington Post reported that Obama would continue this Bush era policy for those people that "might" commit a terrorist act in the future even though they have not proven guilty or had a trial. Obama tried to cover his tracks by calling this Bush policy extension as Indefinite Preventive Detention.
5) Don't Ask, Don't Tell - despite wide spread support from the gay community during his campaign, Obama has done nothing to lift the insulting Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of Clinton and Bush.

His Silence:

1) When the ACORN organization was accused of forging voter registrations in favor of Obama during the campaign, he should have come out, without singling out any organization, and stated that voter fraud would not be tolerated in a democratic society. He was silent.
2) When Democrats in the Ohio state government started digging for dirt and personal information on "Joe The Plumber", who happened to support McCain, Obama should have come out and stated that no American citizen should be investigated by any government organization for expressing his political opinion. He was silent.
3) When Henry Reid stated in a public dedication of the new DC visitors center that American tourists to the Capital physically smelled, Obama should have reminded Reid that these same tourists pay his salary. He was silent.
4) When Nancy Pelosi accused citizens of being unAmerican for voicing an opposing opinion on health care reform, Obama should have reminded her and the rest of the country that freedom of speech, even if it is a difference of opinion, is a guaranteed right in this country. He was silent.
5) When a citizen in St. Louis was recently physically accosted by union members while peacefully handing out literature at odds with the administration's health care reform plans, Obama should have reminded everyone that violence is no way to settle difference of opinions in this country. He was silent.
6) ACORN Part 2 - when ACORN personnel were recently caught advising clients on how to beat the IRS and other government regulations in order to get funding, Obama should have launched an investigation, regardless of how Democratic leaning ACORN is, in order to assert his duty to prevent the waste of government funds. He was silent.

Let's review - broken promises, many similarities to Bush, and silence when the very foundations of American democracy are under attack. Sounds like Paradise Lost is now a reality and the Mr. Obama is really just an ordinary.........politician.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Two Economists Walk Into A Bar...

The September 14, 2009 Business Week "Facetime" column by Maria Bartiromo had an interview of economist Charles Plosser. The interview reminded of two old sayings about economists:
  1. If all the economists in the world were laid end to end they still would never reach a conclusion.
  2. Put any two economists in a room and your will get three different conclusions.

Consider Mr. Prosser's credentials:

  • President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  • MBA and PhD from the University of Chicago, one of the top economic schools in America.
  • Economics professor and dean of the business school at the University of Rochester for twelve years.
  • Famous for his work and the naming of the "real business cycle" theory.

Thus, it is obvious that Mr. Prosser is very smart and experienced in the economic world. The scary thing is some of the answers to Ms. Bartiromo's questions that she posed during the interview (bold face and caps added by me for emphasis):

Ms. Bartiromo: You said back in July we will probably have to begin raising [interest] rates sometime in the not-too-distant future. It's now September. What is the not so distant future?

Mr. Prosser: YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS MINE. It clearly depends upon the path to recovery...

Ms. Bartiromo: If you were a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee this year, how would have voted in the past two sessions?

Mr. Prosser: I GUESS I would have been with the majority.

Ms. Bartiromo: What is the most dangerous threat to the economy and the recovery?


Ms. Bartiromo: Where are we in this economic cycle?

Mr. Prosser: Each month we get a little more GOOD NEWS. We still have some BAD NEWS to come. I SUSPECT, but we're kind of bouncing around...I HOPE we'll see some positive growth in the second half.

I do not know about you but if this highly educated man is guessing about the future, who sees both good news and bad news at the same time, does not know what the most dangerous economic threat is and is relying on hope, than what chance do the likes of Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Biden, Dodd, Franks, and other politician-lawyers have of accurately predicting what their ideas and policies will do the economy and the American taxpayer? How can we believe the administration's number about jobs saved, jobs created, the specific impact of the stimulus package, etc. when Prosser is guessing and hoping?

"Love My Country, Loathe My Government" has a number of steps to address their economic ignorance. First and foremost, reducing the size of government would greatly reduce the political class's ability to take large crapshoots with the economy. More specifically, Step 36 states: "Require all members of the political class, upon election to Congress or the White House. to take and pass a course on economic theory and principles. This will help them better understand how their actions will impact the lives of Americans, both short term and long term." Since many Americans have to take tests in order to licensed in their chosen profession, in makes sense and seems fair that the political class should also be "licensed" to practice their chosen profession that usually includes making grossly erroneous decisions on the economy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pork - The Preliminary Verdict Is In!

On our main website,, we have a page of recent government expenditures that may or may not have a significant impact on the average American's life. It was my opinion that these government expenditures were a total waste of taxpayer dollars but I included them on the website and the ability to vote on their importance and relevance by site visitors. Some of these expenditures included the following:

- $250,000 for research to cut asparagus industry labor costs.
- $200,000 to Ocean Spray to market white cranberry juice in Great Britain.
- $2,000,000 to construct a parking facility at the University of Incarnate World, a Catholic institution in San Antonio despite adequate existing parking facilities.
- $70,000 for a Paper Industry Hall of Fame in Wisconsin.
- $26,000,000 to operate the selective Service even though there has not been any military draft since 1973.
- $519,000,000 in farm subsidies in the 1995 - 2003 period, to Riceland Foods in Arkansas. Riceland receives more Federal money in a typical year than all the farmers in 12 other states combined.
- $300,000 for a feasibility study for the world’s first fully enclosed motor speedway in Ohio.
- $150,000 to the Grammy Foundation to support Grammy Camp where 60 students learn the music business.
- $775,000 to the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida - part of a project to provide economic opportunity in areas of low or moderate income. However, Coral Gables’ per capita income is almost 20 percent above the national average.
- $213,000 for olive fruit fly research in France.
- $1,900,000 for the Center For Grape Genetics in New York.
- $2,500,000 for fish waste research in Alaska.
- $1,200,000 for cormorant control in several states (cormorants are birds - this is one example where you honestly say your taxpayer money is “for the birds”, “flying the coop”, etc.).

The complete list is on the website but these examples were from Parade magazine article over the past few years and are a good representative sample. As of today, of all the visitors to the site that have voted on whether these types of expenditures were a good use of their tax dollars, 100% of the visitors voted against 100% of all of the examples. I guess they figure there are better uses for their dollars than funding fish waste research or controlling the cormorant. I do not know whether they want their taxes back or think spending these dollars on the drug addiction problem, failing public schools problem, health care costs problem or several other MAJOR problems are more important. The website does not ask these questions but it is pretty clear the voters are not happy with what is being funded today.

However, the vote is nonbinding and this type of pork will continue until somewhere has the guts to stand up to the political class and their desire to waste our money on making themselves look good. Step 44 in the book. "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" would shut down this waste once and for all: "Prohibit the use of Federal programs or tax dollars for any project unless it materially benefits a high percentage of residents of at least five states." Need to research fish waste in Alaska? Then let the Alaskans pay for it. Need an enclosed motor speedway in Ohio, let the Ohioans pay for the study. I would bet that many of these projects would never occur if the individual states had to fund their own state specific projects. It is always easier to spend other people's money even if the project is stupid.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are You A Terrorist?

Are you a terrorist? You may never know. According to a recent Washington Post article that was printed in the St. Petersburg Times, "U.S. Seeks Secret Terror Watch List", the Obama administration wants to keep the government's terrorist watch list even more of a secret. This list is shared with all types of Federal, state and local agencies to help in identifying and thwarting terrorists' attacks. The administration is concerned that if a terrorist found out they were on the watch list they would change their habits, identities, etc. in order to avoid detection.

The downside of this policy is that an honest American citizen could never find out if they had mistakenly been put on the list. Imagine what could happen to your life if you name had ended up on the list, either accidentally or by some sort of vindictive government official. Every time you tried to fly on a plane, applied for a gun permit, traveled overseas, etc. could result in untold hassles, possible arrest, legal fees, and a tremendous waste of time. Step 22 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" would address this potential impact on our freedoms by forcing government agencies to tell us what information they have on file about us if we have not been convicted or indicted on any criminal charges. Secret files on citizens are never a good idea since, theoretically, we are supposed innocent until proven guilty.

This is just the latest in shady dealings in the area of government intrusion and potential usurping of the Constitution. Previous posts have discussed the White House plan to have Americans rat out their friends and relatives who disagree with Obama's health care reform plans by forwarding their emails that are in conflict with the administration's views directly to the White House. Another post looked at the incredible number of "czars" and the power Obama has endowed them with, bypassing many checks and balances that the Constitution requires from Congress over the executive branch. We will probably come back to this topic on a regular basis since the political class gets further and further away from the liberties and personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights. Thus, even if you were a terrorist in the eyes of the government, you would never know if the current administration gets the stronger secrecy it wants over the watch list.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Up, Up And Away

Let's not talk about health care reform today and get back to one of my favorite topics, government waste of taxpayer money. Today I will review two government projects which literally let our tax dollars float away for no purpose. This post should be viewed in the same genre of a previous post where we discussed how Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania had channeled and wasted close to $200 million in building up the John Murtha county airport in his district. This is an airport that serves only three flights a day, most of which are less than half full, has an $8 million radar facility that has never been used and according to a recent news account, sometimes serves less people a day than there are TSA security workers in the airport.

Not to be outdone is the airport in Ely, Nevada. According to a Business Week article on August 17, 2009, Ely has a population of just over four thousand people and last year their airport received $1.8 million in Federal subsidies. Since only 414 people used the airport last year, the American taxpayer basically subsided each Ely flier to the tune of about $4,500. According to the article, it would have been cheaper to rent a private airplane for EACH of the people that used the Ely airport.

On Earthlink News today, Seth Borenstein of the AP had an article about NASA's plan to return to the moon. Unfortunately, it was not good news. A White House panel has released its review analysis of NASA plans and has determined that NASA cannot get back to the moon without a 16% ($3.0 billion) annual increase in its budget. So just five years after NASA and the Bush administration decided to return to the moon, its budget and plan are already obsolete. Thus, Obama has to decide whether to increase funding, something tough to to in a bad economy with the Federal deficit soaring, or shut down the moon operation. If he shuts it down, NASA would have wasted $7.7 billion it has already spent on a plan that comes up short. Either option will cost us more money.

These are just three examples of government leadership and management failure. These types of failures go on all over the Federal bureaucracy. That is why some of the most important steps (Steps 1,2,3,4,5 just for starters) in "Love My Country, Loathe my Government" involved curtailing government initiatives. No where in the past forty years has the political class been able to deliver anything on time or on budget. By restricting their activities and returning wasted tax dollars to us, they can get focused on a much smaller set of objectives and finally get something right.

The savings could go a long way to paying down the deficits and Obama's health care reform. Damn, that topic shows up everywhere!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pelosi and Reid - Mr. and Mrs, Irrelevant

Complete disclosure upfront - I have a very low opinion of both of them. I find them petty and shallow, typical politicians, when the country needs leadership and depth. However, I find myself feeling just a little bit sorry for them recently. First of all, they have both put their pettiness on wide display to the nation over the past few months on numerous occasions.

My favorite Reid petty moment happened at the opening of the new visitor center in DC when he was widely quoted as saying: “My staff tells me not to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway,” said Reid in his remarks. “In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. It may be descriptive but it’s true.” Not only was he advised not to say it, why would he insult the very people who pay for his high standard of living? Is he that much better than the rest of us? Sounds like the definition of elitism and pettiness.

My favorite Pelosi moment of pettiness came in the heat of the recent town hall meetings: "These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American." Since when did it become "disruptive" to express an opinion to an elected official? When did it become un-American to exercise free speech? Such ridiculous statements like these and others contribute to their growing irrelevance.

The second area of irrelevance is simply their track record. They have been in charge of Congress and all of the Congressional committees for almost three years, with the past eight months they have had a President from their own party. What have they accomplished of any significance? I'll wait, think about it. Still thinking? Don't waste your time, just look at their record:
  • The Democrats, led by Pelosi and Reid, chaired both the House and Senate committees concerned about banking and housing matters. Neither of them, along with their Democratic committee chairmen, saw the economic collapse coming until it hit them in the face even though it was the largest banking crisis since the Depression.
  • Trying to recover, they hastily passed legislation that gave untold billions of bailout taxpayer money to banks and others without any conditions. As a result, the receiving companies took the money and promptly rewarded their executives with rich compensation programs.
  • Their budget plans will add NINE TRILLION dollars to the Federal deficit in the next ten years. On average this will add almost $7,000 a year to each household's tax bill.
  • Both Pelosi and Reid were vehement opponents to the war in Iraq. Reid went so far as to state that we had lost the war. However, despite working with a President who campaigned on a platform of the evil of the Iraq war, we are no closer to an exit from the country than we were under Bush.
  • Despite being in charge of Congress for three years we are no closer to solutions to drug addiction, failing public schools, bankruptcy probabilities for Social Security and Medicare, foreign energy reliance, crumbling infrastructure, etc., etc., etc.

Nothing says irrelevance than having a track record of no accomplishments.

And finally, a source of irrelevance from a totally unexpected source: President Obama. In a previous post we covered the insanity of having over thirty "czars" in place on the White House staff from both a budget and conflict with Cabinet departments perspectives. However, having done a little research, the czar strategy gets more and more scary. Since these czars are considered part of Obama's staff, they are immune to a number of Constitutional checks and balances. They do not have to have their plans and budgets approved by Congress. They do not have to go through background checks like Cabinet nominees and other high ranking executives and they do not have to appear in front of the appropriate Congressional review and approval committees, as specified in the Constitution. They are immune to Congressional supoenas, claiming executive privilege since they technically report to Obama. And obviously, they are immune to be voted out of office since they were not elected to begin with. Given the far reaching and wide power Obama thinks these czars have, most of Congress is losing its power and relevance.

Thus, given their pettiness, the record of exactly zero accomplishments, and the knee capping of their Constitutional authority by a fellow Democrat, Pelosi and Reid now remind of an old saying a past boss used to use: "Queen Of The Pigs". True, you are a queen but who cares? The very definition of irrelevance.

Monday, September 7, 2009

How Dare you Talk To My Child Like That!

I guess that President Obama is going ahead with his talk to American students on Wednesday, the first day of school for many of them. As with most things in our current political climate, nothing is easy. The Republican wing of the political class is up in arms about how Obama will indoctrinate young minds to his socialist agenda. The Democratic wing of the political class has called this "silly season", stating that the President's message will be one of stay in school, study hard, and get a good education. If that is all his message was going to be, than I would probably agree with the "silly season" position. However, there are some other components of the whole talk to students event that are a little creepy in some ways and hypocritical in others. My thoughts:
  • Part of the original plan was to have kids write letters to Obama describing things that they could do to help him. While this part has been changed to have the kids write letters to themselves about their goals, the original plan was not a good approach. First of all, the kids should not be helping Obama, he should be helping them by setting proper education standards, processes, and funding so that each American kid can grow up free to be all they can be and to help themselves, not devote time to helping a politician attain his vision. They should be focused, via getting educated, to attaining their own vision.
  • When I originally heard about this part of the program, North Korea and its devotion to its tyrannical ruler came to mind. Fair or unfair, I immediately thought of Kim Jong II and his cult of personality ruling of North Korea, a country void of any type of freedom. Maybe I am too sensitive to the issues of liberty and government, but I get really suspicious when someone tries to put themselves at the center of America. The basis and success of America has always been the individual's vision, not any leader's vision. North Korea is a great example when we worship and focus on a leader and his personal vision.
  • As someone who despises both parties, I am pretty sure that if George Bush had put this exact same program in effect a few years ago and asked students to write him letters on how to help him implement his vision of America, the Left and Democrats would be in a similar uproar. I really have no patience for hypocrites and that is what the Democrats are being in this case while the Republicans are being a little over the top.
  • In fact, from what I can gather from various sources on the Net, the first George Bush spoke to students in a nationwide broadcast in 1991 and the Democrats went off, claiming it was an unfair and inexpensive way to do political advertising. However, the one thing that Bush did not ask for was an organized letter writing campaign addressed to help him, he suggested a voluntary campaign, something a little less intense than the Obama plan.
  • But let's be clear, there is a much larger dynamic here than a 15 minute speech to American students about the merits of education. The political class has caused this nation to devolve into warring camps, pitting one group of Americans against another. Do we really think that these two groups of politicians can get anything of merit accomplished in this country when 1) they cannot even be civil to each other about a simple 15 minute Presidential speech and 2) they cannot execute a simple rebate program like the Cash For Clunkers program (see a previous post about the details). Do we really think they can modernize and economize the American health care system with the way they disrespect each other and those that do not agree with them? Do we really think they can solve the drug addiction problem, failing public schools, bankrupt bound Social Security and Medicare, etc. when name calling and mistrust his their MO. They brought this infighting on themselves and we will suffer for it with either poor governing or no governing worthwhile.
  • Finally, there is one aspect that no one has been talking about to my knowledge. It reminds me of old skit that comedian Paula Poundstone did in one of her stage shows. Basically, she recalls about how when she was young, adults would always ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. As a kid, she thought they were interested in her goals. Turns out, the adults could not care less about the kid's goals, they were looking for ideas for themselves. Could it be that the President is actually in need of some new ideas and is turning to the kids for the answers?????? Lets see what he has accomplished in the first 17% (assuming he is in office for 48 months and about eight months are already gone) of his Presidency:
  1. We are still in Iraq and will be for a while despite his campaign pledge to get us out quickly.
  2. He is still using the Bush Mideast Road Map for peace in the Middle East, not his own plan, and we are no closer to peace there than when he was elected. All he has done is tick off most Israelis and not produced anything for the Arab world to get excited about.
  3. He has talked about closing Guantanamo but does not appear anywhere close to doing so.
  4. The economy is still in the trash heap despite spending trillions of dollars on ill advised bailouts that began under Bush.
  5. Afghanistan, his "good war", is not going well, despite increased US troop strength.
  6. Many of his appointees were tax cheats.
  7. He reacted poorly and non-Presidential when he called the Cambridge police "stupid" without knowing any of the facts in the Gates arrest situation.
  8. He allowed the Democrats in Congress to write the health care legislation, resulting in at least four different competing health care bills bumping into each other and lost the battle to present a coherent and sensible plan of reform (i.e. there isn't any).
  9. His White House staff asked Americans to forward emails from friends and family that did not support his health care plans, very Big Brother-like.
  10. He has made America more divisive, angry, and suspicious despite his claim of being a uniter during his campaign.
Do I think McCain/Palin could have done any better? Probably not. They should have asked kids for ideas also, they just should have done it before the election!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Process To Solve The Health Care Cost Crisis

If you have followed the debate on Obama's health care reform efforts, you realize that the whole process, or lack or a process, has bogged down into partisan bickering, misinformation, exposure of politicians for what they are (i.e. not any brighter than you and me, if that) in town meetings, name calling, and a tremendous behind-the-scenes lobbying effort to make sure special interests get another advantage from the political class. There really has not been a process in place for solving this problem. As mentioned at least once in previous posts, what is the root cause(s) of escalating health care costs in this country:
  • Doctors make too much money?
  • Insurance companies make too much money?
  • Drug companies make too much money?
  • There is too much government interference in the market?
  • There is too much fraud and criminal activity in the market?
  • Other causes
Until you can answer the root cause question, you cannot solve the problem regardless of how many town meetings you have, how many Obama speeches you have, how many lobbyists get involved, and how many times Palin talks about "death panels." Love My Country, Loathe My Government" recognized this problem solving need via Step 28 on Page 107:

Step 28 - Convene an expert panel to undertake an in-depth national economic study to determine the real root causes of spiraling health costs and recommend appropriate actions to eliminate them. Voters, not Congress, will approve these recommendations."

This approach has been vindicated by two recent sources I have come across. First, in the St. Petersburg Times today, David Brooks' column, "Tinkering isn't change", pointed out two recent publications that approaches the health care cost problem like I proposed in Step 28. Mr. Brooks points to David Goldhill's essay, "How American Health Care Killed My Father" and a recent Brookings Institute report, "Bending the Curve - Effective Steps To Address Long-Term Health Care Spending Growth" as two instances where someone did a root cause analysis of the problem. In fact, according to Mr. Brooks, the Brookings Institute report was "written by a bipartisan groups of battle tested-tested experts." Sounds like Step 28, doesn't it? The other interesting word he uses is "experts", a word that I have not seen used a lot in the current mish mash of health care reform bickering.

The second source that has come to my attention is the fact that the state of Texas instituted significant medical law suit/tort reform several years ago. Most of the sources I came across on the Internet gave glowing reports of the beneficial aspects of reducing medical malpractice suits in Texas. According to the American Tort Reform Association's website, the following benefits flowed from the tort reform in Texas:

- The American Medical Association dropped Texas from its list of states in medical liability crisis (Houston Chronicle, 5/17/05).
- Malpractice claims are down and physician recruitment and retention are up, particularly in high risk specialties (Houston Chronicle, 5/17/05).
- The five largest Texas insurers cut rates, which will save doctors about $50 million, according to the AMA (Houston Chronicle, 5/17/05).
- Malpractice lawsuits in Harris County have dropped to about half of what they were in 2001 and 2002. There were 204 cases filed in 2004, compared with 441 in 2001 and 550 in 2002. There were 1,154 lawsuits filed in 2003, attributed to attorneys trying to file before the new law took effect (Houston Chronicle, 5/17/05).
- Harris County has seen a net gain of 689 physicians, an 8.4 percent increase, according to the - State Board of Medical Examiners (Houston Chronicle, 5/17/05).
- Texas Medical Liability Trust, the state's largest liability carrier, reduced its premiums by 17 percent (Houston Chronicle, 5/17/05).
- Fifteen new insurance companies have entered the Texas market (Associated Press, 2/16/05).
- Health Care Indemnity, the state's largest carrier for hospitals, cut rates by 15 percent in 2004 (Associated Press, 2/16/05).
- American Physicians Insurance Exchange and The Doctor's Company also reduced premiums (Associated Press, 2/16/05).
- The American Physicians Insurance Exchange saw a $3.5 million reduction in premiums for Texas physicians in 2005. In addition, beginning May 1, 2005, 2,2000 of the 3,500 physicians insured by the company would see an average drop of 5 percent in their premiums (The Heartland Institute, 5/1/05).

Obviously, it looks like Texas did a little problem solving and 1) realized that a root cause of their high health care costs was the need for tort reform and 2) configured their legislation to address the need for tort reform. Now, that wasn't hard, was it? Too bad this simple process is not being done in Washington.

Now, for complete disclosure, while almost all of the Internet search results supported the dramatic impacts on costs listed above, I did find one source that felt the effect of Texas tort reform was negligible. The source lays out their case in a very logical, well written form but I found it curious that all of the experts they cited were somehow related to the legal profession, either as a lawyer or a law school professor, hardly unbiased sources to talk about tort reform that reduces their profession's ability to bring frivolous malpractice suits. Given that almost all of the politicians in Washington are lawyers and the ABA is one of the strongest lobby groups anywhere, is it any surprise that the Obama reform issue does not address tort reform? It worked in Texas, there is probably a good chance that tort reform is a national root cause that so far, has not been addressed.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bonus Politburo Post

The last two days we have talked about how the American political class was apparently morphing into the way the Soviet Union used to be governed with a Central Committee and an all powerful Politburo, both entities of which were accountable to only themselves. I recently received an email from my good friend, Jeanne Ferguson of Tampa, and it reminded me that there really is a third link between the Soviet/Russian government and the current political situation in the United States. Consider some of the current President's staff:

  • Afghanistan Czar
  • Aids Czar
  • Auto Recovery Czar
  • Border Czar
  • Car Czar
  • Central Region Czar
  • Climate Czar
  • Domestic Violence Czar
  • Drug Czar
  • Economic Czar
  • Energy and Environment Czar
  • Faith based Czar
  • Government Performance Czar
  • Great Lakes Czar
  • Green Jobs Czar
  • Guantanamo Closure Czar
  • Health Czar
  • Information Czar
  • Intelligence Czar
  • Mideast Czar
  • Pay Czar
  • Regulatory Czar
  • Science Czar
  • Stimulus Accountability Czar
  • Sudan Czar
  • TARP Czar
  • Technology Czar
  • Urban Affairs Czar
  • Weapons Czar
  • Weapons Of Mass Destruction Czar

Before my commentary, lets find out what the dictionary gives as the definition of a czar:

  1. A male monarch or emperor, especially one of the emperors who ruled Russia until the revolution of 1917.
  2. A person having great power; an autocrat.
  3. An appointed official having special powers to regulate or supervise an activity.

And, what is the dictionary definition of an autocrat:

-ruler with absolute authority: a ruler who holds unlimited power and is answerable to no other person, bossy person: somebody who dominates others

A few points to make:

  • Why would Obama name these people "czars"? Throughout history, czars were usually associated with nasty stuff and reputations. Ivan the Terrible was a Czar. Czar Nicholas ruled Russia with a brutal, iron hand until overthrown. Ask any educated person and I doubt that Czar would elicit a positive reaction. Either very, very bad PR or blatant arrogance.
  • Why do we even need all of these people? Are they not just another layer of wasteful, redundant layer of bureaucracy? Couldn't the State Department handle the work of the Sudan Czar and the Middle East Czar? Couldn't the CIA handle the responsibilities of the Intelligence Czar? Couldn't the Treasury Department handle both the TARP and the Stimulus Accountability jobs? Even if you needed a few czars, couldn't they have doubled up and let one czar handle both the Auto Recovery Czar and the Car Czar's duties?
  • At a time when Federal government spending is out of control, adding wasteful layers of costs and management shows either a disdain for taxpayer dollars (a lot of these czars are making over $170,000 a year in salary not counting their office expenses and their staff expenses which likely translates into millions and millions of taxpayer dollars), an inability to properly delegate and manage personnel and resources in existing government organizations, or a more subtle dynamic is at work. This dynamic strikes at the heart of freedom and is the really scary aspect of the czar concept. Our government is built on a series of checks and balances where the executive branch executes the duties of government which are funded, reviewed, and guided by Congress. Congressional members are accountable to voters and if they do not do their jobs to the voters' satisfaction, theoretically they will be voted out of office. The czars are accountable to the President, not the voters of the country. By consolidating power and information under his rule, Obama is subtly and scarily shifting power away from Congress, and the voters, unto himself. Just look at the definition of czar and autocrat, whose words are definitely not freedom friendly: absolute authority, powerful, answerable to no other person, special powers, regulate, dominates, supervise. These are scary words if you are an American.
  • The first part of the definition also holds true for Obama's czars, "a male monarch or emperor." Of the 32 czars listed above, at least 26 of them are men judging by their first names. So much for equality in the Obama administration.

Even if you think that I am a little paranoid about Obama consolidating power, I do not think most people would argue that 32 separate fiefdoms under White House control, when we are spending trillions of dollars to run other, currently functioning departments in the Federal government is a tremendous waste of money. Ваше здоровье!