Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bruno's Health Care Reform Proposal - Update #1

A few days ago we presented a comprehensive approach to completely installing a new health care reform process in the country and dumping Obama Care in the process. We listed out the eighteen reasons to resent the atrocity that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid forced upon the country, an atrocity of a bill that will never work, and we then listed out the eighteen concepts that we saw necessary to simply, elegantly, and effectively fix the health care cost situation in the country.

One of our eighteen concepts was to find a way to transform the use of tobacco farm land from tobacco to some other crop. Since smoking is a primary root cause of the high health care costs in the country, finding a way to entice tobacco farmers to freely plant other crops would serve the dual purpose of reducing the supply of tobacco, increasing its price/lessening its demand, and would provide new crops for the economy that would either enhance life or reduce food prices. Two days after publishing this idea I came across an Associated Press article that does just that. Seems that some researchers are working to genetically modify tobacco plants for use as a biofuel.

The article quotes a researcher who claims that tobacco can be modified to become an "energy plant" since it can generate a large amount of oil and sugars, more efficiently than other biofuel crops, that can be turned into biofuel. This researcher recently published an article in Plant Biotechnology Journal describing how researchers have found a way to adjust tobacco's genetic structure which increases the amount of oil in the leaves by a factor of twenty.

Think about how elegant this solution would be. Tobacco products would cost more since there would be less tobacco plants grown for personal use, the genetically modified tobacco and its fields would be used for biofuels. Less product to smoke in the face of the same demand, would cause the prices of tobacco products to rise, possibly creating a high cost incentive to not smoke. Less people smoking means less smoking-related disease which means lower health care costs. Increasing the amount of biofuels in the market would eventually reduce the cost and help ween the country off of foreign energy sources. Since, according to the article, tobacco usage is starting to decline anyway, providing a way for farmers to grow a new cash crop to help keep them in business would make them happy also. The only concern would be if bootleggers entered the market and started pushing their products unlawfully. However, it is likely their products would be inferior to the current market's product and the risk of bootlegging is worthwhile, given the upside to our smoking problem and energy problem.

Everybody wins. Unfortunately, it does not appear that any of this thinking went into the health care reform bill. As we said in the original post, this bill legislates a bunch of things, none of which are significantly geared to changing behavior (eating better, exercising more, losing weight, reducing smoking levels, etc.). Without changing behavior, no health care plan will work because the bad behaviors are still present. This approach of using tobacco production for biofuels rather than personal tobacco use would change behavior.

But alas, the political class went about health care reform like they go about everything else. It is like performing delicate surgery with an axe and using oven mitts to wield the axe. Very, very sloppy and usually ineffective. Better to use a fine scalpel and latex gloves when performing surgery and have a little elegance to the process. Oven mitts, and the political class, have never been associated with elegance.

We will revisit "Bruno's Health Care Reform Proposal" many times going forward as we learn how poorly the Obama plan is serving America and how other, more elegant, simpler, less expensive, and less freedom draining options present themselves.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, March 29, 2010

MIscellaneous Political Insanity

Every once in a while we do a post that covers recent miscellaneous insanity that has come from the political class. It could include wasteful government spending, stupid government regulation, or just about anything else that wastes time and money from those people we have elected. Thus, tonight I present the latest from our leaders:

1) A short article in the April 2, 2010 issue of The Week magazine illustrated some wasteful legislation that a Congressman is actually working. Representative Paul Broun of Georgia is putting together legislation that would require every religion to acknowledge that the United States' "national character" was shaped by the Ten Commandments. It would also establish the first weekend in May as "Ten Commandments Weekend" and "would encourage citizens of all faiths and religious persuasions to honor it."

Wow, where to start. I always thought the founders of this country were very clear from the start: freedom of religion was a basic American right. You cannot have freedom of religion if members of the government are forcing you to acknowledge a tenet of another religion. Even if you agree with that the Ten Commandments did shape the country, you should not be forced by that government to bow down to that ideal. The word "Taliban" comes to mind since we know that they did not allow any deviation from their beliefs when they were in charge in Afghanistan.

Also, where do we think this concern would fall in a list of the top issues and worries that are bothering Americans? Do we even think this would make the list? Is it more important than failing public schools, our failed war on drugs, deficit spending, national debt, two wars we are currently fighting in the Middle East, our trade imbalance, high unemployment, etc.? It is efforts like these that just verify that those in Washington have no idea what they are doing and what is important to ordinary citizens. Imposing on other's religious beliefs is very dangerous besides just being a tremendous waste of time, given everything else wrong in the country today. Talk about screwed up priorities.

2) A short article from the March 5, 2010 issue of The Week Magazine reviewed how political class members in the state of Missouri where dealing with revenue shortfalls, like many other states, and how they needed to cut funding levels for schools and homeless shelters. However, it appears that they have not closed a long standing tax loophole that allows purchasers of yachts to avoid paying sales tax when they purchase the yachts. The article says that a buyer does not have to pay $30,000 in sales tax on the purchase of a half a million dollar yacht. While I doubt the closure of this loophole would solve the entire state budget problem shouldn't this have been one of the first action items undertaken to ensure fairness for all Missouri citizens? Could it be that politicians in Missouri own a lot of yachts themselves and voted themselves the exemption or is it possible that the yacht lobby donated to some re-election campaigns of Missouri politicians? In either case, the politicians benefit to the detriment of the citizens.

3) A New York Times report that was printed in the March 14, 2010 edition of the St. Petersburg Times reviewed how investigators were looking into the corruption accusations as they relate to reconstruction projects in Iraq, projects that are funded with U.S. taxpayer money. The investigators have opened 50 new cases in just the past six months. Many of the cases include instances where people just took some of the reconstruction money in cash and mailed it home, some cases involve the use of foreign bank accounts throughout the world to conceal the theft, and some cases people just carried the cash out of the country in duffel bags. Additional cases are likely to be opened in the near future and possibly additional cases for the potential cash fraud going on in Afghanistan. The waste and fraud could be in the billions of dollars. The good news is that finally someone is trying to find the missing money. The bad news is: why did it take so long? Those members of the House and Senate committees responsible for these projects need to be removed from their committee posts for dereliction of duty as proposed in Step 34 of "Love My Country, Loathe My Government." According to the article, this level of fraud and waste has been going on since 2003 and the political class has done very little to stop it.

4) Part of Obama's health care reform bill includes the mandatory posting of calorie counts for food served in most restaurants. The hope of this facet of the bill is that people will change their eating plans once they get to the restaurant and eat healthier. This would reduce their chance of becoming sick from poor eating habits. Nice idea, bad implementation. According to a March 23, 2010 Associated Press article, in a study from last year that was published in the online journal "Health Affairs", only half of the customers in poor New York City areas with high rates of obesity and diabetes noticed the calorie counts. Only half noticed, who knows how many actually read the information and how many of those that read the information actually changed their eating plans because of it, probably very few, if any.

Another study found that the accuracy of the counts was often wrong due to variations in ingredients and portion sizes. Bottom line: another government program that does not work but costs money to implement. Just like the law they passed that required every company in the world to tell you their privacy guidelines. Did anyone ever read the privacy guidelines of more than a few, if any, of the businesses they do business with? You cannot change behavior in a fast food restaurant by hanging a poster, it is a waste of time and money and delusion to those that think this is a good idea.

Just another four instances where the political class is falling down on the job and spending a lot of time and money (or wasting a lot of time and money) with no discernible benefit to Americans. As we have said before, these are the same types of people that want to control our health care fate. Heaven help us.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eighteen Reasons Why I Resent Obama's Health Care Bill and Eighteen Ways To Fix It

The word "resent" has been bouncing around in my head since the Obama Care health care bill was forced into law so I decided to get an official dictionary definition:

Resent - to feel bitter or indignant about.
This pretty much sums up my feeling and probably the feelings of many, many Americans when it comes to the health care reform bill. Since I have never voted for a Republican for national office in my life, this post is not a Republican vs. Democratic party argument, it is a logic and common sense argument. Thus, I present the seventeen reasons why I resent the Obama health care reform bill (despite the fact that I definitely see the need for drastic action to solve the health care crisis in this nation):
  1. I resent the fact that this legislation and all that led up to it never identified and quantified the underlying root causes of rising health care costs. High health care costs are not the core problem, they are a symptom of the core problems. Without understanding the root causes of high health care costs, you have very little chance of actually correcting the underlying problem and alleviating the symptom, which in this case is high costs. As an example, assume you have a coughing problem. This legislation would remove your lung in an attempt to remedy your cough. It would be a very complicated and expensive procedure but since your cough was caused by a strep throat infection, you would still be coughing despite the lung operation. A simpler, less costly solution, antibiotics, would have solved the underlying root cause of your health care problem, without costly procedures that do not work. In this case, the doctor never understood the root cause of your cough. Since this legislation never identified and quantified the underlying causes of high health care costs, those causes will still be operating when this legislation takes effect and thus, high health care costs will continue.
  2. I resent the fact that medical tort reform was never a major part of this legislation despite the fact that several states have had tremendous success in reducing health care costs by introducing reasonable tort reform. Score a victory for the trial lawyer lobby.
  3. I resent the fact that cross state border insurance reform was never a major part of this legislation. The only way to gain efficiency and cost reduction in any market is to open it up to the most competition possible, something this bill does not do.
  4. I resent the fact that this legislation is very similar to health care legislation that was passed in Massachusetts several years ago that has proven to be a disaster, indicating that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi learned nothing from a real life test run of their legislation. According to The Week magazine issue of August 29, 2009, the Massachusetts plan has resulted in expenses that were much, much higher than planned (just a few years after it started), the state has tried to slow enrollment even though the intent of the legislation was to get health care insurance for everyone, the state eliminated dental coverage in order to reign in costs, and recent polls indicate that more Massachusetts citizens feel that the quality of health care has gotten worse than those that think it has gotten better and more think that the reform is not working than those who think it is. This is what we can look forward to.
  5. I resent the fact that so much energy was spent on this bill while massive fraud exists within the current government health insurance programs. Without solving the underlying fraud problem, increased government health care program spending will result in just more fraud and waste.
  6. I resent the fact that this legislation does not solve the conflict between the insurance industry which wants to minimize care (to the possible detriment of patients) and doctors who want to maximize care (to the detriment of costs).
  7. I resent the fact that government is forcing American citizens to sign up for health care insurance whether they need it of not. From a liberty perspective, I am very, very concerned that agents of the Federal government will now be empowered to track and identify citizens that do not obey this coercive measure. Combine this new government intrusion into our lives with current Patriot Act and other privacy violations and the concept of freedom takes a significant hit. This was obviously a deal made behind closed doors to appease the insurance companies to the detriment of our pocket books and freedom. The final affront to freedom occurred this past week when a prominent Democratic Congressman stated that it will take several years to get the bureaucracy in place to "control" America's citizens. The word "control" coming from a politician rarely results in more freedom for all of us.
  8. I really, really resent the fact that a Democratic Congresswoman from Texas likened those of us that disagree with the tenets of this legislation to racists that tried to block the passage of Civil Rights laws several decades ago. I find that type of stereotyping and comparison despicable. As an American, I have the right to nonviolently disagree with my government's actions and not be likened to racist behavior by those in power.
  9. I resent the fact that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi stooped so low to get this legislation enacted, threatening the use of the so-called "Slaughter Rule" and using reconciliation to back door pass this bill. Resentment is twofold. First, this legislation is so large and so sweeping that traditional methods should have been used to enact its passage. If those methods would not have resulted in the passage, than the bill should have been changed, like every other bill is, in order to get passage. The stakes are too high to sleaze the bill into law. Second, I fear what will happen in the future when the Republicans regain control of Congress and the White House, which they will at some point. By crossing over the line in this instance, I foresee the Republicans doing the same thing when it comes to gay rights, abortion rights, gun control, etc. They will have no qualms of using Slaughter rules, reconciliation, back room deals, etc. since Obama, Reid, and Pelosi have now opened the door to these types of tactics.
  10. I resent the fact that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi think Americans too stupid to understand that this bill front loads the revenue and back loads the costs in order to make the short term financials look better than they actually are. While this tactic falsely improves the financials, it delays providing health care to the very people who Obama, Reid, and Pelosi say need the most help. In order to rig the accounting, they delay relief and continue the suffering of those without health care insurance.
  11. I resent the fact that Obama has remained silent so many times during this debate when derogatory names were flying and the country was becoming even more divided. When Pelosi said that those who opposed this health care legislation were un-American, Obama was silent. When a Florida Democratic Congressman called Republicans that opposed this legislation "knuckled dragging Neanderthals", Obama was silent. When an ordinary American demonstrating against the health care bill was roughed up in St. Louis by ACORN-affiliated union members, Obama was silent. Free speech is an American right and should not be abused by those in power who see dissent as unpatriotic or coming from sub-human citizens.
  12. I resent the the fact that Americans actually believe that the United States government can actually get this legislation to work. Over the past forty years, through Republican and Democratic control of the White House and Congress, the American political class has solved virtually no major problems. Public schools continue to fail, the war on drugs has been lost and is resulting in a lawless, narco state just south of our borders (Mexico), we still have no national energy policy and strategy, our borders leak and we have no strategic immigration policy, our homeland security apparatus failed us miserably on 9-11 and almost failed us again on Christmas, 2009 because of the underwear bomber, Social Security and Medicare are rushing towards insolvency, our national debt and deficit spending are bankrupting the nation and its citizens, our national infrastructure is falling apart, government safety agencies continue to fail us whether it is the importation of lead based toys that poison our kids or faulty autos that don't stop, etc., etc., etc. After all of these failures, what in heaven's name makes us think that Obama, Reid, Pelosi and the rest of the political class will score their first success with this massive, ineffective legislation?
  13. I resent the fact that some Americans continue to allow government to increasingly dictate what goes on in their lives. Government forces now control our retirement funding and old age health insurance, they control our financial lives by stripping away about 40% of our wealth each year through taxation, they control how we vote by gerrymandering Congressional districts to their advantage and controlling when and how primary elections are held, they control the purse strings of political campaign donations which virtually ensure all incumbents will always get re-elected, and now many Americans want to allow government to more strictly control their pre-retirement health care needs. Giving up control to government forces is the same as giving up freedom and when Americans give up freedom, the nation loses touch with more of its heritage and strengths.
  14. I resent the fact that while this legislation will be imposed on most of the country, the political class will continue to get gold plated health care service at the expense of the rest of us. If this legislation is so good, then the President, Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries, and all members of Congress and their families should be covered by its implications as equally as the rest of us.
  15. I resent the fact that I am supposed to be impressed by Obama, Reid, and Pelosi when they say that this legislation will reduce the deficit by $143 billion over ten years or about $14.3 billion a year. Even if this optimistic estimate comes true, the $14.3 in savings is less than a measly 1% of the $1.5 TRILLION deficit spending that this Democratic administration will incur in this year alone. We are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. If the country goes bankrupt as a result of Obama's deficit spending, saving just 1%, if that much, of the deficit spending through this health care legislation will be meaningless.
  16. I resent the fact the Obama, Reid, and Pelosi positioned this legislation as the only solution to the problem. They wanted America to think that if you were against them and this specific piece of legislation, you were against fixing the problem. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most rational Americans realize the system is broken but they wanted health care reform that actually works, which many of us feel is inconsistent with what actually got passed.
  17. I resent the fact that this legislation apparently does not specifically and aggressively attack at least some of the major diseases, namely lung cancer, breast cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Additional funding and research would be a good start to further investigate and remedy the underlying cause for these big cost treatments.
  18. And finally, I resent the fact that through the first fourteen months of this new administration, the only thing we have to show for it is an inadequate, non-problem solving, piece of health care legislation. The entire spectrum of the political class was either not smart enough or not working hard enough to get anything else accomplished of consequence despite the fact that Obama had overwhelming control of both parts of Congress. For this, we pay 40% of our annual income.

Okay, these are the reasons that I resent this health care legislation. It has been a long, ugly, divisive journey that will likely end in failure for many of the reasons discussed above. Plus, the way it was done will leave the country more divided and unfocused for years to come. The ultimate, ultimate problem with this bill is that it tries to legislate a solution that is not a behavior based solution. Unless you change the behavior, all the legislation in the world will not solve the problem or the root causes.

Thus, if I was writing a health care reform bill I would consider the following information first:

  • According to a March 25, 2010 Associated Press article, recent studies have shown that the incidence of breast cancer (190,000 new cases and 40,000 deaths every year in the U.S.) can be reduced by 25-30% through the modification of BEHAVIOR as it relates to smoking, diet, and exercise.
  • In a March 28, 2010 article in Parade magazine, it was reported that the New England Journal of Medicine found that reducing the daily intake of salt by just three grams by every American would "reduce the annual number of new cases of heart disease by 60,000-120,000, stroke by 32,00 to 66,000, heart attack by 54,000 to 99,000" cases. This would reduce annual health care costs by up to $24 billion a year. Another change of BEHAVIOR.
  • In a Fortune article in the March 1, 2010 issue, an interview of the head of the Cleveland Clinic asserted that poor smoking, diet, and exercise BEHAVIOR was the cause of 40% of the premature deaths in this country every year. Obviously, reducing the amount of premature deaths would significantly reduce health care costs.
  • The same article reported that these same bad habits and BEHAVIORS are responsible for 70% of the chronic diseases in this country such as heart disease and diabetes and that this this 70% accounts for 75% of the nation's health care costs.

Are we seeing a trend yet? More data: two thirds of Americans are overweight and one third are obese. As a country, we smoke too much, we do not eat right, and we do not exercise enough. These are the causes of higher than necessary breast cancer rates, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and a whole host of other health care problems that drive up health care costs. These are the ROOT CAUSES of high health care costs. Attack and solve these problems and you will drive down costs and make health care insurance affordable for everyone. The Obama, Reid, and Pelosi legislation does not change this underlying behavior, it just raises taxes, moves money around within the Federal bureaucracy, and further restricts our freedom of choice, without attacking the underlying causes.

Thus, if I was writing health care reform legislation it would focus on the following principles ("Bruno's Health Care Reform Solution"):

  1. I would reward businesses and companies that provide free smoke cessation classes to both their employees and their families like the Cleveland Clinic did (resulting in a reduction in the local county's smoking rate from 28% to 18%). Rewards could be tax credit based or other, more innovative rewards.
  2. I would reward businesses and companies that provide free weight reduction programs to their employees and families like the Cleveland Clinic did (resulting in a cumulative weight reduction of 120,000 pounds).
  3. I would reward businesses and companies that provide free exercise programs for their employees and families like the Cleveland Clinic did (contributing to the 120,000 pound weight loss).
  4. In three years I would encourage companies to not hire people that test positive for nicotine in their blood stream and would not allow the Federal government to hire smokers or those that test positive for nicotine.
  5. In ten years, I would relieve any Federal employee of their job if they continued to be smokers and tested positive for nicotine.
  6. I would turn the Agriculture Department loose to research and investigate more profitable uses for land currently used to raise tobacco without violating the property rights and freedoms of the current tobacco land owners.
  7. I would prohibit all insurance companies from dropping coverage for customers that get sick and would prohibit life time caps on insurance payouts but would allow insurance companies to charge extra premiums for smokers and overweight customers (unless a panel of doctors determines that the overweight condition cannot be helped via diet and exercise).
  8. I would allow health insurance companies to compete across state lines.
  9. I would enact the best of the Texas and other state medical tort reform policies and the trial lawyer lobby be damned.
  10. I would allow children to remain on their parents' insurance plans until the age of 25.
  11. I would require that members of the executive branch and legislative branches of the Federal government be subjected to the same health care options and costs available to the vast majority of Americans.
  12. I would divert the funding and resources that would have been used to track down and punish Americans who do not purchase insurance under the Obama bill and place those resources under the Justice Department to track down and prosecute real criminals that defraud the current government health care programs of billions and billions of dollars every year. Since less than three percent of monthly Medicare claims are examined for validity before being paid, the potential for fraud is enormous as is the potential for recovering billions Prior to the crack down, I would offer an amnesty program to those that have defrauded the government and allow them to repay the amount of the fraud, including fines, interest and penalties, after which I would vigorously press for their prosecution and imprisonment. All funds recovered would be directed to provided grants for the lower income uninsured citizens to obtain health care insurance on the free market.
  13. Some of these recovered fraud funds would be funneled to solving two or three of the biggest health challenges facing the country today, probably lung cancer, breast cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is particularly important because as the baby boomer generation matures into the Alzheimer's years, this will certainly break the health care bank if the disease is not curtailed. It is my understanding that this focused approach to health care for specific, big ticket costs is not included in the Obama legislation.
  14. I would establish a nationwide education program to change behavior through education as it relates to smoking, exercise and diet. A similar program regarding seat belt usage has worked and a similar effort regarding the detriment to health would also work over time.
  15. I would work with food processors, restaurants, supermarkets and famous chefs to reduce the amount of fat and salt that works it way into American diets. If a voluntary effort was not successful after five years, I would impose mandatory restrictions of harmful food ingredients. I would not waste my time on posters in restaurants that list out the ingredients and fat contents of the offerings since research has proven that they are useless.
  16. I would come up with a negotiated mechanism that balances the insurance industry tendency to minimize care and the medical industry tendency to maximize care in order to optimize the cost/benefit structure for customers.
  17. I would reform the legislative process to ensure that the short cuts and sleazy tactics used by Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are not repeated in the future to the detriment of the nation's well being but to the advantage of the party in power.
  18. And finally, I would never require or force Americans to purchase health care insurance and turn them into criminals for not doing it but I would hold them accountable for any costs they incur for treatment of their illnesses including forfeiture of all assets to cover health care, if needed.

If my legislation passed, we would not curtail freedom by mandating everyone sign up for insurance, we would manage the underlying root causes of high health care costs which would reduce disease and costs in the future, we would still mange to get needypeople health care insurance that cannot afford it, we would not establish a new, ineffective government bureaucracy that would just eat up tax dollars, we would not impose new taxes on businesses and individuals (taxes under the Obama, Reid, and Pelosi plan that will likely further depress the jobs market), and Americans would live longer, healthier lives. And, we would not have to understand a 2,400 page document. It is not hard, I am sure that smarter people than me could improve on my suggestions above and make them a reality. Unfortunately, none of these smarter people work in Washington D.C. or we would already be past rational health care reform and working on solving the many other important issues. Now that is something we all can resent.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Several simple steps within the fifty steps further address the health care issues and solutions we discussed above.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Social Security Lies From The Political Class

I was reminded today that Social Security as presently structured continues to be a bad deal for both individuals and the country. Unfortunately, the reminder was not good news. There were several news reports this week that indicated the Social Security trust fund will start running a deficit this year. In other words, sometime this year, the Social Security Administration will start paying out more than it collects in taxes, i.e. another deficit spending government operation. Thus, let's review some standard Social Security lies that the political class has used for decades to keep control over our retirement fate:
  1. As of mid 2009, there were concerns that the Social Security administration would begin deficit spending around 2016, early than previously expected. The reason for this earlier deficit spending arrival was the fact that more people were unemployed (resulting in less funds flowing into the Social Security Trust fund) and more people were starting to take their benefits sooner than expected because they had lost their jobs. Thus, in less than a year we went from a 2016 date to a 2010 date, as it applies to deficit spending in this entitlement program. The political class either lied about the date or are lousy forecasters. In either case, troubled times are here. The larger issue is how can we be expected to believe Obama's health care estimates for the next ten plus years when he and the rest of the political class so badly missed the Social Security deficit spending date?
  2. The second Social Security lie is the one from the political class that tries to reassure us that Social Security is solvent until at least 2030 since it holds trillions of dollars in Treasury notes. These notes were "given" to the Social Security Administration over the decades so that politicians would feel better when they raided the Social Security fund for additional revenue (and waste). What they fail to tell us is that there is no pile of money sitting over at the Treasury Department that the Social Security Administration can receive when they "cash" their notes. That money has been spent long, long ago by the political class. Those "notes" are worthless since they will require the Treasury Department to go find funding to honor those notes, resulting in either more overall deficit spending and/or additional taxes on all Americans.
  3. Their third lie, and it is a doosy, is that the mandatory paying into the Social Security is a far better investment than investing the same money voluntarily in the stock market. I decided to prove whether this position was true by using my own Social Security payment history and the annual returns from a typical S&P mutual fund. I used the following assumptions that were used to construct a very simple worksheet:
  • I loaded the spreadsheet with all of the annual contributions that my employer and myself were required to pay into Social Security over time.
  • I assumed that the annual amount that was paid into the system was instead directed into a tax free S&P 500 mutual fund. I was unable to determine how much reinvested dividends would contribute to my annual return so I assumed it was zero, resulting in a more conservative estimate of return.
  • I assumed that starting in 2010 I would move all of my accumulated gains and contributions into a conservative bond fund earning only 4% a year. Thus, I captured both the market cratering of 2008 and the market rebound of 2009.
  • I assumed that I could get 4% investment return every year for the rest of my life and would begin withdrawing living expenses in 2015 when I was 62.
This spreadsheet took about 15 minutes to put together. My personal, official Social Security payout estimate says I can expect to get a monthly $1400 from the Social Security Administration when I am 62. However, my spreadsheet and conservative model says I would have been able to withdraw two and half times as much, $3,500 a month, when I am 62 and make those same withdraws every month until I am 85 years old. If I am worried about outliving my money, I could withdraw twice the $1,400 or $2,800 a month and my money would last me until I was 96 years old. In fact, I could withdraw $2,000 a month, about 40% more than Social Security, for many years after my death. The bottom line is that Social Security is a far worse investment option than if I had been able to keep all the money that was forced from me and my employer into the Social Security system and I had put it into a tax free mutual fund. Another political class lie exposed. These numbers do not include any other retirement savings I would have made, e.g. IRA, 401ks, etc.

Again, the larger issue is how can we trust the political class and their health care reform estimates when they have so poorly or so deviously not known the truth or covered up the truth on Social Security? Very scary. More deficit spending, sooner than expected and before the massive health care reform bill and its likely bogus numbers begins to unravel. As we have said a few times in previous posts, we are definitely On The Eve Of Financial Destruction. The truth is out there, the lies need to be exposed but do we as Americans have enough strength to live with the consequences of exposing those lies?

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Why Earmarks Never Benefit Average Taxpayers

I have meant to do this post for a while but have been constantly distracted by the atrocity known as Obama Care. Today I want to mathematically prove what my gut sensed for a long time: Congressional earmarks never benefit the average taxpayer and provide advantage only to incumbent politicians. As we have reviewed in previous posts, earmarks are specific financial grants of taxpayer money to businesses and other organizations, usually granted in return for a donation to the sponsoring politician's re-election campaign.

However, despite this trade off of taxpayer money for campaign donations, I have heard some people defend their Congressman or woman and their earmarks because they "they bring home the pork/bacon" to the home Congressional district. They act as if the money their Congressional representative directs back to someone or some organization in their district makes it a good idea to continue the earmark process, especially if their Congressional representative is conniving enough to get more than the next politician. But, consider the following math:
  • The organization, Citizens Against Government Waste, who studies the earmark process, estimated that Federal earmarks in 2009 totalled $19.6 billion and 10,160 individual earmarks. Since we already know that the level of earmarks exceeded 11,000 in Obama's latest budget, let's conservatively assume that 2010 earmarks wasted $20 billion of taxpayer dollars.
  • The latest estimate of the United States population is 308,941,909 as of ten o'clock this morning.
  • There are 435 Congressional districts.
  • There are, on average, 710,211 people in each Congressional district.
  • If we divide the total dollars of earmarks by the number of Congressional districts we see that an average Congressional district should expect $45,977,011 in earmark money to be directed to each district.
  • If we divide $45,977,011 by 710,211 in an average district, each person in that average district should expect to get $64.74 in benefit from Federal earmarks.
Thus, some people are happy to get some value back for their tax dollars when earmark money comes back to their district. However, what they fail to realize is that while they may be getting earmark money back, they are also funding earmarks in 434 other Congressional districts. If we remove $45,977,011 from the total $20 billion earmark total and divide that by the population of the United States that do not live in your average district, we see that we are contributing .... $64.74 to support earmarks in the other Congressional districts. In other words, it is a zero sum game when you come to average district sizes and average earmark levels.

In a zero sum game, we pay as much in earmarks to support other districts as we may be getting into our district. The only beneficiaries are politicians that barter those earmarks for campaign donations and the few people or organizations in the district that receive the earmarks. Would it not be better to give an average family of four about $250 to spend as they please ($64.74 times four), since they earned the money, then let the political class use it for their own perpetuation in office?

Let's look at another example. Some people might say that earmarks are a good thing if their Congressman or woman is sneaky and low enough to get more than an average level of earmark dollars. Wouldn't that be a good thing for my district? Not necessarily. Consider my Congressman, Bill Young, from the Tampa Bay area. According to several sources, in 2009 Congressman Young was responsible for getting funding for 86 earmarks worth $162,660,000, almost four times the amount of earmark dollars the average Congressional district would expect. Thus, you would expect that those of us in Congressman Young's district would be ecstatic, he really brought home the pork. However, consider what some of this money was used for and the fact that I live in Palm Harbor, Florida:
  • Some of the earmark money was used for road construction in St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Some of the earmark money was used for revitalization of downtown Clearwater, Florida
  • Some of the earmark money was used for a sewer upgrade in Treasure Island, Florida
As you might expect, I am not very happy about the high number of earmarks in my Congressional district since the short list of examples above, and others not listed, have absolutely no impact on my life except for the fact that my taxes helped to finance these earmarks. I have never been in Treasure Island, I do not shop in downtown Clearwater, and I rarely go to St. Petersburg. Thus, there is no reason to be excited about the higher than average levels of Congressman Young's earmark bonanza since they have no benefit to me. I would prefer to keep the taxes I paid to support earmarks and let the residents of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Treasure Island pay for their own expenses.

That is why Step 44 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" is so important: Prohibit the use of Federal programs or tax dollars for any project unless it materially benefits a high percentage of residents in at least five states. As we have proved mathematically above, there is no financial benefit to taxpayers when earmarks are involved, even if my Congressional representative is better than average at landing earmark money. We end up subsidizing earmarks in ever other district and earmark money coming into our district rarely benefits the average taxpayer. Better to let us keep our money and spend it in our local communities on things and services we need and not subsidize incumbents re-election campaigns.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Venezuelan Cereal and United States Health Care Reform - One and The Same?

I came across an interesting article in the March 22, 2010 issue of Business Week and it got me thinking about Obama care again and how it has very little chance of being successful. The title of the article is "Cereal Socialism In Venezuela" and was written by Geri Smith. It seems that President Hugo Chavez has taken over much of the farming and agriculture businesses in Venezuela in order to fulfill his dream of providing inexpensive food to the masses and at the same time exert more control over the country and its citizens. According to the article, the nationalization (from farms to supermarkets) of the agriculture industry has resulted in the following:
  • Since 1999, sugar production is down 8%.
  • Fruit harvests have declined 25%.
  • Beef production is down 38%.
  • Annual food imports that were $1.3 billion in 1999 are now $7.5 billion.
  • Food riots sometimes erupt when scarce items arrive at a store.
  • State run supermarkets are generally cheaper than privately run supermarkets but many times do not have the variety of food options that customers want. The example given was that during a trip to a state owned supermarket, there was no availability of beef, chicken, or sugar. Instead, there were overwhelming supplies of cooking oil (almost a 1,000 bottles), corn flour, and dried oregano and curry.
  • Private supermarkets are constantly under the watchful eye of tax authorities, consumer groups, workplace safety inspectors, and even the National Guard, any one of which can automatically and immediately shut down a store.
  • Since the government regulates prices on many food items, the private supermarkets have to raise prices on other items to make up the profit they lose on regulated items.
  • Chavez's approval ratings are slipping as a result of the government takeovers and the ineffectiveness of the management of those resources after the takeovers.
To compound Chavez's problems, inflation is over 30% annually, the currency was recently devalued by 50%, oil revenue is down, and the overall economy is shrinking. Does this sound like a good place to live? Your savings buy less, a mainstay of life - food - is under heavy, heavy control by a government bureaucracy, you have less and less choice of food either due to scarcity or prices, government agencies dictate price levels, etc.

Now consider the recent passage of Obama care. Do we really think that Obama can manage this large part of the economy any better than Chavez has managed the food economy in his country? Obama has just instituted a major new bureaucracy to oversee health care (just as Chavez has done to manage the food industry), Obama is dictating to the private market (in this case, insurance and drug companies) what prices they can charge (much like Chavez is doing with food prices), and Obama's plan will likely result in less choice for Americans seeking health care plans that match their needs and wallets (much like Venezuelans can buy any food they want as long as it is cooking oil, corn flour, oregano or curry.)

History has proven many times that centralized planning and control of major segments of a nation's economy are never efficient, nimble, and least expensive. Think back to how inefficient the old Soviet Union was with their centralized planning approach and how miserable and unfree the Soviet people were. Only the free market can simultaneously produce lower prices, more variety, ample supplies, and innovation at the same time. Chavez and his central food planning is a disaster as will be Obama and his central planning and control of America's health care industry.

Obama care comes down to three serious faults that will doom it from the start:
  1. Obama care never figured out what the root cause of rising health care costs are in this country and as a result, without understanding the root cause you cannot come up with the root solution.
  2. The American political class, and for that matter any political class, has proven that they cannot effectively run even the simplest programs. Remember that simple little visitor center that the Federal government recently completed in D.C.? Over budget by about 100% and way over schedule. Remember the Big Dig in Boston? Over budget by a factor of about ten, still leaks, and has killed at least one innocent motorist. I find it hard to believe that the American political class will get this right given that they have gotten nothing else right, ever. If the food economy of a small country like Venezuela is too complicated to be run effectively by politicians, the health care economy of a large complex country like the United States is impossible to be effectively run by politicians.
  3. Most Americans do not want to be miserable like the old Soviet citizens. no choice in how to run their lives and no freedom. That is what Americans are reacting to today, the restriction of freedom that is being imposed on them in a life sustaining part of their life, health care. Chavez's popularity is waning because he also imposed restrictions on freedom in a life sustaining part of his citizens' lives, food. Given that the majority of Americans view Obama care as a restriction of freedom, it does not matter how good or how bad the legislation is, America has already spoken that it will not accept it.

Both Obama and Chavez are moving in opposite directions from what their respective citizens are saying about cereal and health care. According to the closing sentence in the article: "People look at everything the government has taken over and they're seeing that the companies (the companies and industries that have been taken over) have become dysfunctional." Chavez and Obama, perfect together but dysfunctional for us and freedom.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What If The Country Just Says No To Obama's Health Care Reform Bill?

Although most Americans, as measured by all major polling organizations, are against the passage of Obama's health care reform legislation, the Democrats are desperately trying to push it through anyway. The bill, as described in this blog many times and elsewhere, does not appear to address the root causes of rising health care costs. Instead, it imposes a large, unwieldy bureaucracy on the nation, levies a large set of new taxes on all Americans, requires Americans to sign up for a program that many do not want to sign up for (which will require extensive government interference into our private lives to check if we are in compliance and imposing fines and/or jail time if we are not), and does not solve the basic problem.

Worst of all, is the manner in which the health care reform may be imposed. Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are using parliamentary tricks and back room deals to pass a bill that should be able to stand the scrutiny of accepted Congressional procedures and protocols. Thus, the way this legislation may be imposed in addition to what it is imposing is becoming more and more of an issue. This led me to the thought and title of this post: What if the Democrats do indeed pass this bill and the country ignores it? Or worse yet, reacts violently to it?

Consider the following situations and events and see if I am not right:
  • As a result of the 9-11 attacks, Homeland Security and Congress put together a bill called the Real ID act that would require all of the states to issue standardized, high tech id cards to all Americans in an attempt to prevent other attacks. However, the act has met fierce resistance from many different groups including those with a libertarian/small government philosophy, religious groups who liken it to a passage in Revelations and the end of the world, and other sectors of the country. These sectors include over twenty state governments that have refused and/or emphatically defied not complying with the mandate. As a result, the act has not been implemented across the country as planned with some members of Congress now pushing for its repeal. In this case, civil resistance and state governments have basically ignored a Federal mandate.
  • Jump ahead to the current health care reform fiasco. Last week the state government of Idaho said that it will not comply with some parts of the current health care reform bill if it is passed as it current reads. The Associated Press article reporting on the Idaho defiance stated that upwards of 38 states have similar legislation brewing that would defy parts or all of the current legislation. What happens if Congress and Obama pass the legislation and the majority of states ignore it? The current Federal bill requires actions by those states and considerably increased state expenditures on Federally mandated health care programs, both existing and new. What if the states just say no? Will Obama's health care reform effort be ignored just like the Real ID effort? Will the country face a constitutional crisis and how long will that take to resolve?
  • The current legislation mandates that all Americans purchase health care insurance. What if Americans do not do it and just say no? Is the government going to send agents to our doors and require proof of insurance coverage? Are agents going drag us off to a payment agency or jail if we defy the requirements? Just how are they going to enforce this intrusion into our lives? Do we really think that the Bloods and Crips in LA are going to call a truce for a day in order to sign up for health care insurance? Do we really think that mountain folks in Appalachia are coming down off the mountain and into town to sign up for health care insurance? Do we really think that really rich people that can afford both the fines for not carrying insurance and the cost of medical care if they need it are going to sign up for health care insurance? If the states defy the legislation and millions of individual Americans defy the legislation, where does that leave us relative to the Federal government? A similar situation existed once before in our nation's history (state defiance, states' rights, individual defiance, economic resistance) and it turned into the Civil War.
  • Even if a second civil war does not break out, what about individual acts of violence in defiance of the Federal government? Earlier this year a disgruntled American flew his private plane into the Federal offices housing IRS personnel in Texas. Earlier this month a sole individual approached the Pentagon entrance with two guns and who knows what intentions before he was shot and killed after wounding two security personnel. Both violent men left rants about how they hated the Federal government. What if these attacks are just the tip of the iceberg relative to civil disobedience and where will that iceberg hit next if the flawed health care bill and the process used to pass it become a reality?
I certainly hope that violence does not become the disobedience manner of choice for individual Americans that are against the passage of the current health care reform bill. However, it is disturbing to think what might happen if the majority of states and the majority of Americans take action to defy Obama, Reid, and Pelosi relative to the current legislation. You know that if the bill passes, the protesting law suits will come quickly and frequently shorty thereafter. This will lock the country and the Federal government in a legal battle for years to come, taking attention, resources and efforts off of other pressing national issues. Once the Republicans regain control of the Congress and the White House sometime in the future, they will probably have no qualms in using the same underhanded tactics that Obama is using to get his health care plan passed (e.g. reconciliation vs. traditional/standard legislation passage protocols, so-called "Slaughter" rules, back room deals, etc.). Thus, issues that Democrats favor such as abortion rights, gay rights, high taxes on the rich, etc. will likely get short shrift since the Republicans will ram through legislation using the same blue print Obama is using today.

All of these actions, state government and individual defiance, drawn out lawsuits protesting the current health care reform bill, and Republicans adopting Obama's despicable tactics once they are in power, will further divide the country and further delay any meaningful action by the political class in solving the nation's problems. How far and how nasty the situation becomes is up for debate but it is only a matter how much and not if. All because the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress did not do a good job identifying the root causes of rising health care costs and develop rational, bipartisan legislation to address those root causes. The country is about to "Just Say No" at the state government and individual American level and "saying no" usually does not result in positive progress.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sanction This

A New York Times article that was reprinted in the March 7, 2010 talked about how the United States had passed a law several years ago that imposed economic sanctions on companies that did work with the Iranian government. This got me to thinking: how effective has the United States government been in imposing economic sanctions in the past, including the whole Iranian sanction effort:
  • Probably the oldest standing U.S. embargo and sanctions effort has been directed at Cuba and Fidel Castro. The embargo was imposed in the early 1960s when Castro overthrew a corrupt government that was friendly to the United States. Since then, eight U.S. Presidents have come and gone (half them have died - Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan), more than two generations of ordinary Cuban citizens have lived under the onerous conditions caused by the sanctions, and almost fifty years after the embargo and sanctions started, the main target, Fidel Castro, is still firmly in power. In other words, this sanctions effort was a failure.
  • One of the latest sanctions ended with our invasion of Iraq but before that, the United States and the United Nations had led a major sanctions effort against Saddam Hussein. Despite long term suffering of the Iraqi people, Hussein stayed in power for years and actually enriched himself and those in his inner circle by manipulating the sanction rules and processes. As you may recall, United Nations officials were found to have taken kickbacks in the UN oil for food/medicine that led to Hussein staying in power, and in riches, while the Iraqi people suffered. Thus, I think we would have to give this sanctions effort a failing grade also since it did not disarm or dislodge Hussein, the main target of the sanctions.
  • This brings us to this article referenced above. For a very long time, several Presidents have tried to impose economic sanctions on Iran in order to reign in the Iranian nuclear effort. According to the article and New York Times analysis, the Iran Sanctions Act was passed to punish any company that spent more than $20 million a year to develop Iran's oil and natural gas industry. However, the article reports that the law was never enforced despite over seventy four companies doing business in developing Iran's energy industry. Plus, many of those same companies also received over $100 billion in U.S. government contracts since 2000 despite working with the Iranian government. Two questions come to mind: 1) why pass a law you are not going to enforce even though we know that dozens of companies have violated the law and 2) even if you are not going to enforce the law, why would you continue to do business with those companies that are helping an enemy state you have identified? Iran continues to develop its critical energy industry with help from U.S. companies and no repercussions from the U.S. government despite the public position of forcing economic sanctions and a law on the books that has never been enforced. Looks like this effort is a failure also.
Three sanction/embargo efforts, three failures. The only people that have suffered as a result of the U.S. sancitons are not the bad guys but the poor citizens of Cuba and Iraq. We can now add another function, ineffective sanctions, to the long list of political class failures including the War on Drugs, failing public education, deficit spending, lack of a national energy strategy, skyrocketing health care costs, skyrocketing national debt levels, etc., etc., etc. Thus, the search continues for something, anything that the political does efficiently and effectively.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, March 15, 2010

sex. lies and videotape - Political Class Style - Part 2

Two days ago we covered the sex and videotape portions of our theme, which was based on the 1990s movie - "sex, lies and videotape," of the political class. Today we will cover the "lies" portion. We will not review the extensive list of political class adulterers again (John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, etc.) since although adultery is a form of lying that we covered under the "sex" section.

From a "lies" perspective, there is just so much that we could include. We could start with the first George Bush who said "Read My Lips," inferring that he would never raise taxes. Shortly thereafter he did raise taxes. If we go back to Nixon, there were untold number of lies as it related to Watergate. Bill Clinton bellowed that "he did not have sex with that woman" (Monica Lewinsky) which of course he did. The second George Bush told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which of course it did not. Every time Congress and the political class pass a spending bill of any kind, it always goes over budget and under performs. Given that it ALWAYS happens, there appears to a systematic lie to all political maneuvers and projects.

But Barack Obama gets special attention in this post, either because he is the most recent President and his lies are still in our minds or because he tells the most lies. Consider:

  • The President boasted that his administration will not have lobbyists in powerful positions but it does.
  • The President promised that he would keep earmarks and pork projects below two thousand per fiscal year, the same levels from ten years ago. His latest budget had almost six times the amount promised.
  • The President promised to get our troops out of Iraq but he has not done that and it does not appear that he will do that in the foreseeable future since he now plans to permanently garrison 50,000 troops in country.
  • The President promised to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay but he has not done so.
  • The President promised not to raise taxes for those not making over several hundred thousand dollars a year but his raising of cigarette taxes has already raised taxes for the those making less than his threshold and his massive deficit spending levels will eventually and significantly raise taxes for every income producing American.
  • The President promised to unite the country but under his administration the country is more divided as ever as the President has allowed critics of his policies to be called un-American, a%#holes, knuckle dragging Neanderthals, and racists while he remained silent.
  • The President said health care reform and its benefits would not cover illegal immigrants but it does (Page 50, Section 152 in current legislation). Looks like Congressman Joe Wilson was right when he called Obama a liar, maybe Pelosi should revoke his censure.
  • The President said that there would not be rationing of health care under his health care reform legislation but there is (Page 30, Section 123 of the current legislation says there will be a government committee that decides what treatment and benefits you get - sounds like rationing to me).
  • The President said there would not be "death panels" under his health care reform legislation but this appears to be another lie (page 425, Lines 4-12 calls for the government to mandate "Advance-Care Planning Consult," page 425, Lines 22-25 calls for the government to provide an approved list of end-of-life resources, guiding you in death.)
  • The President said he will not raise taxes for those not making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year but the current health care reform legislation legislates eight new taxes into existence that could affect anyone, regardless of income levels (e.g. Page 167, Lines 18-23 - any individual who doesn't have acceptable health care according to the government will be taxed at 2.5% of income regardless of income levels.)
The Obama list of lies could go on further but let's stop here. Again, maybe because his lies are fresher in our minds has resulted in a longer list. or, maybe he just lies more, either intentionally or unintentionally. In either case it does not matter. Our political class continues to be loaded with liars, adulterers, and people so stupid as to have gotten themselves videotaped in either compromising or illegal situations. All the more reason to dump all incumbents in November and when they come up for re-election in subsequent years. We have seen this movie to many times, let's put the political class version of "sex, lies, and videotape" back on the shelf and start looking for a new movie.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, March 12, 2010

sex, lies and videotape - Political Class Style - Part 1

Two current events I have recently come across reminded of a movie from the 1990s entitled "sex, lies and videotape." I have never seen the movie but it seemed appropriate considering the behavior of the political class over the past few years. The first news item I recently came across is the potential sex scandal involving ex-Congressman Eric Massa who is accused of sexually harassing staff members on multiple occasions. The second item is the latest poll results from the website of Real Clear Politics which indicated that Americans' approval rating of Congress as an entity was about 18% and the disapproval rating was 78% (these results from Real Clear Politics is the average of several reputable, non-partisan polling processes).

These two events raised the question in my mind is that maybe the approval rating and performance of Congress and the political class is so low because of their wasting of time on sexually-related matters and not on the responsibilities of their elected office. This line of thought evoked the movie "sex, lies and videotape" in that there has been a lot of misbehaving by politicians over the past few years that usually fall into these three categories:

Consider the following politicians that were stupid enough to get their misbehaving caught on videotape, indicating that they may be smart politicians but do not have a lot of common sense:
  • North Carolina Senator John Edwards - as we have discussed more than once in this blog, Senator Edwards, potential Vice Presidential and Presidential office holder, carried on an extra marital affair with someone associated with his campaigns even though he was married, had kids, and his wife was battling cancer. Now we find out that a North Carolina judge is looking to have a videotape, of the Senator and his mistress having sex, turned over to him in conjunction with a case related to the affair. Edwards was relatively close to being either Vice President or President and he allowed himself to be videotaped in an embarrassing situation with his mistress. Imagine if he had become President, the blackmail potential of that videotape would have been invaluable. Edwards would have spent more time suppressing the contents of that tape then leading the country to the detriment of its citizens.
  • California State Leglislator Michael Duvall - Mr. Duvall is a married father with two children who has fashioned himself as a family values politician. He was a member of the Rules Committee that oversees member ethics behavior in the California legislature. However, a few weeks ago Mr. Duvall did something very stupid. Prior to a session of the House, he started bragging in great detail about his extra marital affair with a lobbyist to a fellow legislator. However, did not realize both the microphones and cameras that would televise the session were active and live, recording his entire graphic description of his affair's sexual details. Just another politician that is satisfying his sexual needs at the expense of his constituents. The time and effort he put into the affair, covering up the affair, while maintaining his marriage had to have had a negative impact on his performance as a politician.
  • Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry - this is an oldie but goodie. In the early 1990s, the mayor was caught on videotape doing crack cocaine in a hotel room in a police sting. How can you respect the law when those responsible for enforcing those laws are both breaking those laws and are stupid enough to get caught on videotape?


There has been no shortage of politicians that were wasting time in extra marital and illegal affairs but were at least smart enough to not get caught in the act on videotape like Edwards, Massa, and Barry above. However, the fact that we cannot view their acts (thank goodness!) does not take away from the fact that they betrayed their constituents. Time wasted on having and covering up their affairs left less time to serve their constituents. The affairs also left them vulnerable to blackmail, also to the detriment of their voters. Consider this list of shame of our political "leaders":

  • President Bill Clinton - adulterer and liar about his affair with an intern, Monica Lewinsky and probably others.
  • Congressman Gary Condit - adulterer and liar about his affair with intern Chandra Levy, who was eventually found murdered, whose acts were never fully investigated due to the 9-11 attacks shortly after they came to light.
  • Senator John Edwards - liar and adulterer, see details above.
  • Congressman Mark Foley - accused sexual harassment of young Congressional pages led to his resignation.
  • Legislator Michael Duvall - liar and adulterer who had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist.
  • Congressman Eric Massa - allegedly sexually harassed staff members, see above.
  • Governor Mark Sanford - had an extra martial affair despite his marriage and four sons and the fact that he was being discussed as a potential 2012 Presidential candidate. Potential blackmail situation avoided.
  • Governor Eliot Spitzer - resigned from office after affairs dealing with prostitutes were revealed. Narrowly avoided being prosecuted under the Mann Act that outlaws bringing prostitutes across state lines.
  • Senator Larry Craig - arrested for lewd conduct (soliciting for a homosexual connection) in a Minneapolis airport men's room and pled to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.
  • Senator John Ensign - admitted to having an extra marital affair with a member of his campaign staff who was married to a member of Ensign's Senate staff who was also a close friend of the senator. What a class guy, doing the wife of his friend while in the U.S. Senate.
  • Governor Jim MacGreevey - liar and adulterer who resigned after having an extramarital affair despite being married and having a child.
  • Senator John Hart - an oldie but goodie, liar and adulterer who got caught in an extra marital affair. Hart was relatively close to becoming President of the United States. Another potential blackmail situation avoided. Ironically, he was caught in the act while on the boat named "Monkey Business."

That covers the Sex and Videotape portions of our blog topic. I will save the Lies category for tomorrow, I need to take a shower and wash the slime off after reviewing these types of behavior. These are our so-called leaders. I guess leadership these days consists of lying, adultery, stupidity, wasting time on affairs at the expense of solving problems of constituents, and exposing themselves to potential blackmail situations which could severely hamper their ability to make the right decisions. That is why all sitting politicians need to be defeated if they are up for re-election in November. Almost 80% of us know that they are not doing what we want them to do and their immoral and stupid behavior does not justify keeping them around in light of them getting nothing accomplished.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Sad State Of Public Education in Kansas City

A few weeks ago a poor school district in Rhode Island announced that it was firing all of its teachers and hiring a new staff in order to find a way to increase the performance of the students attending schools in that district. At that time, I thought it was a little drastic since I did not see anywhere that someone had done an analysis proving that all of the teachers were incompetent enough to be fired. It was obvious something had to be done to improve performance but it seemed like taking a tree ax to a problem that maybe needed a scalpel.

However, this was small potatoes compared to what the Kansas City school system just announced:
  • they are going to close 29 out of its 61 schools after this school year in order to stay under budget.
  • in order to understand how drastic the cut is, Detroit, which is probably the poster child for urban blight and flight, is only cutting 29 of its 172 schools to stay on budget.
  • the Kansas City district will cut 7,000 out of 3,000 positions, including about 285 teachers.
  • the district was once rich enough, from a desegregation suit settlement, to build itself an Olympic size swimming pool.
  • Current school buildings are only half full, with the district's 18,000 students one half the amount the district had a decade ago and one quarter of what it had in the late 1960s.

According to the Associated Press article which reported on the above facts, many former students left the public school system to attend charter, private, parochial, and suburban schools. Not explicitly mentioned was probably the fact that parents wanted to get the best education for their kids and realized they were not going to get it in government run schools in Kansas City. If the public schools had delivered a quality education, they would probably have maintained higher levels of attendance and would not be facing these types of Draconian cuts. It is like any other market service or product, deliver a quality, valued product and you will be able to survive. The Kansas City school system did not deliver on their promise of a good education and obviously did not smartly manage down their assets to match their population. In both cases, mismanagement was their downfall, not the falling enrollment.

Of course, the political class, who in essence manages public schools, does not see it that way or as their failure. According to a Kansas City councilwoman who was quoted in the article, the situation was the fault of the Supreme Court, the real estate industry, banks, retail store abandonment, and grocery store abandonment. Like most politicians, instead of dealing with reality, she is dealing in the blame game. If the Kansas City school system had delivered a quality education, it would have had more students and would not be cutting almost 50% of its school assets.

These are two of the more dramatic situations occurring in public schools as the political class continues to fail in delivering what it promised for our tax dollars: quality public school education. That is why Step 27 "In Love My Country, Loathe My Government" and the education improvement process it proposes is so important. We cannot wait for other school systems to fall so dramatically like the ones in Rhode Island and Kansas City. Doing it the same way that the political class has done it for the past four decades has gotten us into this jam. Doing it another way could not do any worse and if done properly, as outlined in Step 27, would get us much closer to an effective and efficient public school system. Given that most of the political class sends their children to high quality, private schools, change under the current set of politicians may take a while.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who's On First, What's On Second and Just About Everybody is on Third

I have always loved the classic Abbott and Costello baseball routine, "Who's On First, What's On Second, I Don't Know Is On Third." It came to mind today after reading some recent articles regarding how the D.C. political class tries, and fails, to solve problems. It reminds of the old saying, "If everyone is in charge then no one is responsible." Consider the following political class comedy acts:

1) At the heart of the recent economic disaster and recession were the highly interrelated housing and banking industries. Think about how many government entities currently touch the housing and banking markets in this country:
  • Housing and Urban Development
  • Federal Housing Authority
  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • Ginnie Mae
  • FDIC
  • Federal Reserve Board
  • Treasury Department
  • House of Representatives banking and housing committees and subcommittees
  • Senate banking and housing committees and subcommittees
  • Probably other Federal entities that I do not even know about and not including the similar type government entities at the state level.
All of these organizations involved in the banking and housing industries and not one of them saw the impending biggest financial disaster since the Depression until it hit them all in the face. Everyone was in charge but no one was responsible.

2) Vice President Joe Biden has been in the Mideast the past few days trying to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the peace negotiation table. With the announcement that Israel is going ahead with more settlement construction in East Jerusalem, the visit is not going well. However, besides this recent event, consider the number of government organizations attacking this problem:
  • Secretary Hilary Clinton and the State Department
  • Special White House Envoy/Czar George Mitchell and his staff
  • Vice President Joe Biden and his staff
Should not have Hillary been in the Mideast with Biden on this trip? If she is, she is getting no press which is so unlike her. Again, everyone is in charge and no one is responsible for what is a seriously deteriorating situation.

3) The March 15, 2010 issue of Business Week had an interview by Charlie Rose of Elizabeth Warren. Ms. Warren is chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel which was created to oversee the bailout of the banks and review the regulation of financial markets. We have reported her views in the past which always seemed honest, grounded and well reasoned. In this interview, Mr. Rose asked her where a proposed financial consumer protection agency should be based. Her response: "There are seven bureaucracies in Washington right now that each own a piece of consumer financial protection. Bloated, inefficient, and either ignored or ineffective or captured by the large financial institutions." Doe not sound as if the job is being done well now if it is bloated, inefficient, or ignored. Again, so many people in charge and no one is responsible, according to Ms. Warren.

Imagine how much better things would be if we just started over with a zero based, ground up approach to defining what government should do and how it should do it. We would save valuable tax payer dollars by getting rid of redundancy and make everything more efficient, both domestically and internationally. Much of this is proposed in Step 1 of "Love My Country, Loath My Government," see page five for details. Hopefully, we could then streamline government functions, make one person and one organization both in charge AND responsible. Right now, we have Who's on First, What's on Second, and a whole bunch of "I Am In Charge, Not Responsible and Yet Clueless" on third when it comes to the political class.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Obama's International Score Card

Given that we are fourteen months into the President Obama's tenure I thought it would be a good time to see how he is doing in the international arena. It is pretty obvious his administration has been pretty much a failure on the domestic front considering:

  • Unemployment has risen to about 10% and looks like it will stay at that level for the near term future.

  • Federal government spending and deficit levels are at all time high levels and threaten the fiscal soundness of the country's financials.

  • Health care costs continue to rise and the current health care reform bill, if it passes, will be an absolute disaster that does not solve the problem, basically because the political class and Obama never defined and quantified the underlying root causes. And it took us fourteen months to get to this point.

  • Public schools continue to fail, the War on Drugs continues to be lost, we continue to have no national energy plan or strategy, Social Security and Medicare continue to stagger towards insolvency, our borders continue to leak relative to illegal immigration, etc.

  • The country has never been more divided with names such as un-American, racists, knuckle dragging Neanderthals, smelly, a%#holes, etc. being thrown around to describe those that disagree with the President's programs, name calling that is not renounced by the President.

Not a great status update on the home front. Fourteen months into his administration and the President cannot claim anything close to an accomplishment. But how is he doing on the international stage where he was supposed to increase America's prestige, standing, and cooperation with other countries:

  • Iran is fourteen months closer to having the capability to produce atomic weapons. Nothing has inhibited Iran from going forward with its nuclear weapons program development, even Obama's charm and certainly not his policies. In an Associated Press report on February 22, 2010, reporter Ali Akbar Dareini described how Iran announced that it planned to build two new uranium enrichment plants deep inside the nation's mountains to protect the plants from attacks. The report also described how Iran was also going to install newer technology centrifuges to enrich uranium more quickly than current centrifuges. Bottom line: Iran is moving forward aggressively with its plan to build nuclear weapons and the Obama administration has done nothing to slow them down.

  • On the other side of the world, we are no closer to getting North Korea's nuclear program under control. The administration's efforts have only resulted in putting North Korea fourteen months further along in its development of a nuclear arsenal.

  • In the midst of sending Vice President Joe Biden to Israel to encourage peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, the Israelis announced plans to build hundreds of new homes in areas of dispute in East Jerusalem, in direct opposition to Obama's condition that settlement growth be severely curtailed in order to get the peace talks going again. Thus, it appears that Obama will not be able to charm the Israeli's into peace talks with the Palestinians since Israel just threw the settlement freeze condition back in his face.

  • Sometime later in 2010, Obama will withdrawal all but 50,000 U.S. troops from Iraq which many would consider good news. However, a recent AP article described the views of a leading U.S. general that the withdrawal may not happen if there is a major disruption in the country by the time of the withdrawal. Thus, a major plank in Obama's Presidential campaign, withdrawal from Iraq, could be pushed off into 2011 or later. In any case, even if there is no major disruption, he will still leave 50,000 troops in the country for an open-ended length of time, in clear violation of his pledge to get us out of Iraq. In this area, he appears no better than if a Republican had been elected, U.S. troops will be deployed for far too long.

The problem with the above failures is that I doubt any member of the political class could have done any better. Obama, McCain, Rangel, Pelosi, Reid, etc. are just politicians who need to maintain the status quo in order to maintain their little fiefdoms, at the expense of the good of the country. There are no leaders of any degree in positions of power in D.C. today. Without leadership, the country will continue to drift until it falls off of some precipice, be it domestic or international. That is why implementing many of the steps in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" are so critical. From term limits to the elimination of gerrymandered Congressional districts to minimizing the funding of re-elections campaigns by businesses, unions and lobbyists, new ways need to be implemented to get real leaders, not shallow politicians, into those positions of power and allow them to bring in new ideas and approaches. Obama's approaches are certainly not working.

Our new book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at www.loathemygovernment.com. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.