Friday, April 30, 2010

More Proof That My Approach To Health Care Is Better Than Obama Care

About a month ago I laid out my reasons for vehemently disagreeing with Obama Care and the reasons why it will not work while I also laid out the steps that I would take to solve the problem. The underlying premise for not believing in Obama Care is that the President, Pelosi, and Reid never identified and quantified the underlying root causes of high health care costs and if you do not do those basic steps, you have very little chance of coming up with the right solution.

The political class looked for a solution that was financially based, i.e. tax more, move around some existing government money (e.g. Medicare funding), and hope that things fall into place. My solution, based on facts, was that this is really a public health care problem and until you change the underlying behaviors that lead to bad health, no financial manipulations in the world will fix the problem of escalating health care costs. These bad behaviors that were identified by knowledgeable people, not myself, include:
  • Americans are too fat.
  • Americans smoke too much.
  • Americans do not exercise enough.
Ten years after Obama Care is in effect, unless heaven helps us and we can get it overturned, Americans will still be too fat, smoke too much, and not exercising enough. The root causes and bad behaviors will still be in place and the nation will be bankrupt from the political class's failed financial approach to solving the problem.

Now, an April 27, 2010 Associated Press article adds further proof to my solution rather than Obama's. The article, written by Lindsey Tanner, summarized the research findings from a twenty year long British study that tracked about 5,000 English adults. The primary finding: four bad habits/behaviors can age you by twelve years. What to these bad habits include? According to the researchers:
  • Poor diet (i.e. not eating the right foods, likely leading to being overweight)
  • Inactivity (i.e. not enough exercise)
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
Wow, their results sound an awful like my recommendations to fixing the health care cost problem in this country. During the length of the study, death certificates were checked to see what the death rates were of those that indulged in the bad habits (test group) and those that did not (control group). The death rate for the test group was more than three and a half times that of the control group and the leading causes of death in the test group were heart disease and cancer, both maladies linked to unhealthy life styles. Thus, in addition to aging people quicker, these habits also killed them sooner.

We have gone over the statistics from reputable sources (e.g. the Cleveland Clinic) in past posts. Get obesity under control, reduce the rate of smoking and get everyone exercising and you could substantially cut the national costs incurred to treat those that do not follow these steps by at least 50%. Reduce the demand for medical services by over 50% and costs would come down, making health insurance affordable for many more people. Treat the problem as a public health issue (think about how the country increased seat belt usage which in turn, reduced highway deaths) and you will make much more progress at a much lower costs than raising taxes, making criminals out of any American who does not purchase health care insurance, and setting up massive government bureaucracies that never work.

See Step 28 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" to see how easy it is to solve the problem if you know how to look for underlying root causes, something Obama and just about every other American politicians either does not know how to do and is too lazy to do, to the detriment of every American.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who Are The Teapartiers?

Today's post is based on an article that appeared in the April 30, 2010 issue of The Week magazine. The article summarized the results from a CBS/New York Times poll that explored the demographic profile of those in support of the Tea Party movement. Before going over the results, keep in mind that the poll was not done by Fox News or some conservative cause group. It was done by the mainstream media which has shown itself to be much more closely aligned with the Democrats than the Republicans and who usually favor more government interference in our lives than the lower interference levels that the Tea Party advocates are looking for.

Results include the following:
  • Tea Party participants are better educated than the average American.
  • They are more affluent than the average American.
  • 57% support gay marriage or civil unions while the President of the United States does not support gay marriage.
  • 65% believe in legal access to abortion.
  • A plurality do not deem Sarah Palin qualified for the Presidency.
Hardly sounds like a bunch of racists, lunatics or fringe Americans that some politicians and many media outlets try to make them out to be. However, that does not stop some people from trying to twist the poll data to make them look like racists. For example, Tim Rutten in the LA Times pointed out the following results from the poll:
  • Nine out ten respondents are white.
  • 59% are male and 43% are female.
  • 75% are Republicans over the age of 45.
However, what Mr. Tutten fails to point out, which "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" does document in Step 45, is that 99% of the U.S. Senate and 90% of the House of Representatives are white and 16% of the Senate and 17% of the House of Representatives are female. Thus, if Mr. Tutten has a problem with the white/male breakdown of the Tea Party movement, he must hate the white/male breakdown of the U.S. Congress which is substantially whiter and more masculine than the Tea Party make up. His conclusion: Tea Party people are "angry white males." What does that make Congress?

Andrea Peyser writing in the New York Post also counters Mr. Tutten's racist implications by pointing out that the Tea Party movement sprung up not when an African-American man was elected President but after President Obama's administration and the Democratic Party's control of Congress over the past three plus years, where budgets are developed, resulted in record breaking deficits that far exceed all benchmarks of reasonableness (e.g. percentage of GDP), massive bailouts of high risk taking bankers, and the underhanded passage of a multi-TRILLION health care bill that will not cure the problem of rising health care costs. If Tea Party people were racists they would have been in the streets after the election, not after the reckless financial behavior of the political class, in this cycle led by the Democrats.

The bottom line is it should not matter who the Tea Partiers are. They are Americans and they are expressing a legitimate opinion and concern with the direction the country is taking. Even if they were 100% white male or 100% Latino women, they are all Americans. They have a right to protest government actions and not be branded as racists for their concerns. This throwing around of the toxic term "racist" for those protesting their government's behavior does a disservice to those Civil Rights pioneers from several decades ago who faced real racists (robed men, Jim Crow laws, lynch mobs) in their quest for equality and belittles the sacrifices they made for 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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Who Are The Teapartiers?

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The American Political Class: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Part 2 Continued

The last two posts to this blog covered the recent Good and the recent Bad from the American political class. Today we will finsih up with The Ugly aspects of the political class. The Ugly aspects are much more sinsiter and dangerous than The Bad antics. The Bad Antics focused more on incompetence and waste from politcians. The Ugly is focused on more fundamentally dangerous trends and behavior that threaten freedom from different aspects.

The Ugly - Early, 2010

1) Writer David Freed put together an article for The Atlantic that was summarized in the April 30, 2010 edition of The Week magazine. It covered the trials and tribulations of Steven Hatfill who the FBI initially thought was behind the 2001 anthrax letters case. For seven years the FBI hounded him as their prime suspect in the attacks. They leaked his name to the press which caused most of his friends to turn away and resulted in his being blackballed for every job he applied for. The FBI never brought charges even though they constantly followed him in a vain attempt to force him to slip up. However, the FBI eventually turned their attention to another suspect who committed suicide before he could come to trial.

As a result of the harassment, Hatfill filed and won a settlement for the harassment for $5.8 million. Thus, not only did the FBI waste seven years of resources hounding the wrong suspect, they ended up paying almost six million taxpayer dollars to try and make it right. Even worse, were the ominous words from Mr. Hatfill: "Don't kid yourself. This is a police state. The government can pretty much do whatever they want...I was a guy who trusted the government. Now I don't trust a damn thing they do." Totally in line with the philosophy of "Love My Country, Loathe My Government." When those running the government can get away with acts of unlawfulness without any respect for due process, we are all in danger of losing our freedom.

2) While Mr. Hatfill is a sympathetic American citizen that was wrongly persecuted by the government, Anwar al-Awlaki is not a sympathetic American citizen. According to another article in the same edition of The Week, al-Awlaki is a radical Muslim cleric that was born in New Mexico and who lived for a long while in the United States before moving to Yemen. The U.S. government believes that he has been involved in many terror plots planned against the United States and has placed him on a list of terrorists authorized to be killed.

Now there is probably no doubt that this is a very bad dude. However, he is an American citizen and the Constitution says "that no American shall be deprived of life without due process of law." It appears that Mr. al-Awlaki has not yet received due process of law, just the National Security Council designation to be killed without a trial, legal council, etc. This sounds very Bush-like when we can kill someone on sight because the politicians in power want them dead. The really serious concern is once you kill one American without due process, it becomes easier to kill the next one and the next one, etc. All you need is someone in the position of power to override the Constitution in the name of "national security." Where does it stop and who makes it stop once the extermination of Americans with a different view becomes easier to do?

3) The Florida state legislature has just passed two bills, one of which would theoretically protect anyone in the state who does not want to purchase health care insurance as mandated by Obama Care and the second bill demands that the Federal government balance its budget. Arizona just enacted a law that would try to deal with the overwhelming illegal immigrant problem that has beset that state in defiance of the Federal government. Idaho and over thirty other states are working on or have already passed laws that resist the mandates of Obama Care. The Montana state government has passed a law that exempts in-state gun purchases made by in-state gun manufacturers from all Federal gun laws, claiming that the Feds have no jurisdiction over in-state activity. Several years ago when the Federal government demanded that all state issued identification documents conform to a national standard (the Real ID law), many states just ignored the law without repercussions. For several years it has been legal to possess and use marijuana for medical purposes in California which is in direct defiance of national drug laws.

What does all of this mean? Possibly nothing but possibly, just possibly, we are starting to see the onset of the country starting to fray apart. It may be that the center, i.e. the Federal government, will not hold, and we will end up with a conflicting set of laws that are at odds with each other at the state government vs. Federal government level. It could be that the political class in Washington is so out of touch with the needs, views, and feelings of the rest of America, that the chasm between what Washington does and what America wants and needs will become so great that the states will start to act on their own in compliance with what their citizens want and defiance of what Washington deigns. That will put us in uncharted waters from both a freedom perspective and a governance perspective. What happens if Washington passes a law and no one obeys it, both individual citizens and local state governments? Some would call it a revolution, some would call it anarchy, all would agree it is unprecedented and would get very ugly.

4) This past week an ex-executive of the defunct ACORN organization likened the Tea Party Movement to a nasty bodily function that I will not describe here. Again, what passes for intelligent political dialog in this country remains at the level of a first grader. We have become a nation of name callers rather than problem solvers. We sign up for Facebook groups and think we are making a difference. We encourage the name calling when it is directed at others who have a different viewpoint and get outraged when those same people react angrily when called a name. And as always, we get no leadership from our politicians. In fact, they are often the name callers when disparaging those Americans citizens that disagree with them:
  • House Speaker Pelosi called those Americans that disagree with Obama Care as being unpatriotic for having a differing view.
  • Senate Majority Leader Reid said American citizens visiting DC in the summer on vacation physically smell.
  • An Obama czar called Republicans a%$holes.
  • A Florida Democratic Congressman called Republicans knuckle dragging Neanderthals.
  • A Texas Congresswoman likened those that have a legitimate concern about Obama Care to the racists that fought against the Civil Rights laws.
  • A New York Congressman likened those that have a legitimate concern about Obama Care to the racists that fought against the Civil Rights laws.

In all cases, President Obama allowed the name calling of American citizens to go unpunished, in effect condoning it. This is what passes for leadership in this country today, first grade playground taunts. Its no wonder that no national issues ever, ever get resolved, Without leadership from the politicians running this government, the center will not hold and heaven help us. For we all know that The Good we are getting from the American political class is being overwhelmed by both The Bad and The Ugly.

P.S. I did not mention the precariously Ugly position the country is in financially and economically, that would be too much Ugly for one day. We will cover that in the next few posts, assuming that Greek, Portugal, Spain, Italy and the rest of the international financial system is still functioning.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The American Political Class: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Part 2 Continued

Yesterday we reviewed The Good aspects of the American political class within our context of the old Clint Eastwood classic western, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." Today we will review some of the Bad aspects of the American political class and follow that up tomorrow with a look at the really Ugly side of America's politicians.

The Bad

1) The April 30, 2010 issue of The Week magazine had an article describing how the Securities and Exchange Commission has gone after Goldman Sachs with a fraud suit. This is the same agency whose inspector general reported that 31 separate internal investigations had been done and found that numerous SEC officials, many of whom were in the upper ranks of the Commission, were heavily involved in viewing and downloading pornography off of the Net during work hours and on government computers. A second black eye for the agency was described in this article which said that the SEC had not uncovered the $8 billion financial scam executed by Allen Stanford even though they had investigated him four times between 1997 and 2004. To add insult to injury, the SEC official who "sat on various referrals" to investigate Stanford's operations eventually went to work for Stanford. Let's not even go into the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme that the Commission failed to detect even though they had outsiders submitting proof to them, i.e. doing the SEC's job, that Madoff was a con artist. When will we learn that the government, as run by this political class, cannot solve any problem efficiently or effectively?

2) As we put our armed forces in mortal danger in Afghanistan, the same issue of The Week magazine reported that Afghanistan is now the biggest national producer of hashish in the world in addition to remaining the largest producer of opium in the world. The article reported that cultivation of hashish had migrated from the northern part of the country and was now prevalent throughout the rest of the country where the Taliban use it to finance their war against NATO and U.S. forces. Thus, not only does the political class have no solution for the war, their actions have aggravated another national issue, drug abuse. Our actions in this country will result in a rejuvenated international drug trade for years after our troops exit the country.

3) My monthly (June) issue of Reason Magazine showed up today and that is always good for some Bad and Ugly antics from today's politicians. A short article by Katherine Mangu-Ward described how the U.S. Department of Transportation would begin fining airlines per passenger for any runway flight delay lasting more than three hours. What a great idea, inconvenience passengers to the extreme by making them waste time in an idling plane for hours on end and pay the piper. But hold on, great idea, very bad implementation. First of all, the passengers that are so greatly inconvenienced would not see any of the fine money. The fines would be paid to and kept by the Federal government. Our suffering, their gain.

Second, there is a loophole for the airlines. The fines are not applied if the flight is canceled. For example, if a plane is on the runway for two hours and fifty minutes and will not get off before the three hour mark, the airline can cancel the flight on the spot, return to the terminal, and force all of the passengers to rebook on another flight. Thus, even if the flight would have taken off with the next twenty minutes, rather than incur a large fine, the airline would further inconvenience all of the passengers to avoid the government mandated fine, make them all deplane, find their luggage, and take another flight. Even when the political class has a good idea, it turns bad and they screw it up.

4) On a local political class level, Radley Balko had a short article about traffic light cameras installed at busy or problem intersections that videotape drivers who may be running red lights. The videotapes are reviewed and tickets issued for violators. The theory was if drivers knew that the cameras were watching, they would be less likely to drive dangerously. However, according to the article, a 2008 article in Florida Public Health Review published research results that traffic cameras actually increase crashes and injuries, negating the safety criteria for having them installed. A 2005 Washington Post found the same results, accidents go up when the cameras are installed. Similar studies found identical results in Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas. The conclusion from all of these studies is that it is better to extend the length of the yellow lights than to install traffic cameras from a safety perspective.

However, without traffic cameras, local politicians and local governments would not collect any traffic fines and thus, no one has removed the cameras. In fact, some cities have shortened the length of the yellow lights to catch more red light violators, putting average citizens more at risk of an accident and injuries, just to preserve and/or increase the money collected. When politicians care more about getting your money than providing for your safety, something has gone terribly bad.

5) And finally, despite economic and financial shortfalls in the city and state of New York, a New York Assemblyman has introduced a piece of legislation that would prohibit the use of salt in the preparation of restaurant meals. The bill would impose a $1,000 fine for each infraction. The world is falling apart and this elected official is worried about the salt content in restaurant food. Although it would be a good health idea for Americans to consume less salt in their diet, we do not need a politician legislating when and how much salt we should take in, especially if it is in regard to recipes. Trust us, political class, we can look out for ourselves when it comes to our salt intake. If you want to take a public service approach and convince us to use less salt, that's fine. But let us make the decision where and how much we take in. Why don't you go work on the bigger problems like failing public schools, drug abuse, skyrocketing deficits, high unemployment, etc.

These are some bad times when it comes to how we are treated by the political class. They want to regulate how our food is cooked, they want us to have more traffic accidents in order to collect more of our money, they allow us to suffer on waiting airplanes but collect the fines for themselves and force us to rebook flights for no reason, and they greatly aggravate one major problem (drug access and abuse) without successfully solving another major problem, the war in Afghanistan. These examples do not even touch on the other major issues facing the country, many of which are listed under the salt regulations example above. If this is The Bad, can you imagine how bad The Ugly will be tomorrow?

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The American Political Class: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Part 2

Late last year we did a post that was structured off of the title of a classic Clint Eastwood movie, "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." Since then, I have had other political situations pile up that reflect the Good of the American political class (few and far between), the Bad (plenty of examples, and the Ugly (far too many examples.) I will review them today, beginning with The Good and doing The Bad and The Ugly over the next two days.

The American Political Class: The Good, Early 2010

1) An article in the Briefing column of The Week magazine's April 30, 2010 issue caught my eye since it covered a politician that apparently is making some good moves and a positive difference in his city. The politician is Mayor Cory Booker and the city is Newark, New Jersey. At one time, Newark was a bustling and successful manufacturing center for a variety of industries. Unfortunately,
  • The population, which was once about 450,000, has shrunk to 280,000 as the city's middle class and industries moved to the suburbs, much of which was driven by the 1967 riots.
  • In 1975, Harper's magazine called Newark America's "worst city."
  • When Mayor Booker took office in 2007, the city had one supermarket and one movie theater to serve the 280,000 residents.
  • The previous mayor had been convicted of corruption and was sent to jail.
  • The new sports arena that opened in Newark and which is the home of the NHL's Devils and the temporary home of the NBA's Nets, has failed to generate the economic development and urban revitalization that had been expected around the arena.
Given this backdrop, what has the Mayor accomplished in three years? According to the article:
  • He's raised more than $100 million from private entities including music and Hollywood stars to fund city programs.
  • He received money from the Gates Foundation to fund charter schools.
  • He has raised millions in private donations to expand 20 city parks.
  • He has struck deals with area businesses to hire more Newark workers.
  • He has fired dozens of city employees that were in non-productive patronage jobs.
  • He has reduced the homicide rate by 28%, the number of shootings by 46%, and the overall crime rate by 21%. In March, Newark got through its first month without a murder since 1966.
  • A new high rise luxury apartment building is being constructed, the first in almost 50 years.
  • Marriott is planning the first new city hotel in 38 years.
  • Professionals are moving back into the city because of the low real estate rates and convenience to NYC.

My goodness, can any other politician in the country claim such a success rate in under three years on the job? Can any politician claim to have been successful with so little to work with (i.e. dwindling population, dwindling tax base, dwindling business community, etc.)? I doubt it. We've seen and blogged about how Washington politicians worry about the sound volume of television commericals, whether or not erectile dysfunction products should be advertised on TV, whether or not the package and pricing policies of a tiny airline are fair, etc. Good luck to Mayor Booker, thank you for restoring a little faith that a politician is capable of making a positive difference in people's lives without taxing them to death or insulting them with trivial priorities.

2) The second example of The Good comes from an article in the March 7, 2010 issue of Parade magazine. The article was titled "Compassion Counts More Than Ever" and was written by Michael Berland. The article reported on the results of a poll of Americans, Americans that are living through one of the greatest economic and employment downturns of all times, and found the following results:

  • 67% bought charity raffle tickets to support a cause.
  • 58% purchased something unnecessary to support a cause.
  • 34% sent a check to a charity after hearing or seeing a touching news story.
  • 87% supported a cause financially.
  • in 2009, survey respondents gave more than $400 on average to the single cause they care about most.
  • 98% of respondents have been involved in at least one charitable activity to make a difference and 91% have done it in the past 18 months including 37% who delivered food to the hungry, 30% who helped organize a fund raising event, 32% who participated at a cleanup of a public area, 24% who volunteered at a soup kitchen, 21% who participated in an athletic event to raise funds, and 19% who mentored a student.

All of this was accomplished when most Americans were confronting some sort of financial crisis over the past few years. This type of behavior reinforces my view that America is still a great country with great people that are ill served by bad politicians running an ineffective and inefficient government. How much more could Americans do if they were allowed to keep a greater portion of their wealth through reduced taxes? How much more could Americans do if the political class and various government entities (see previous post on SEC employees enjoying porn on the job while the economy crashed) had not been asleep at the switch and allowed the economy to crash and the unemployment rate to skyrocket? This type of behavior, both the good of individual Americans and the incompetence of most of the political class, was the partial inspiration for my book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government."

3) The last part of The Good will be mentioned briefly here and then after some research, I will come back with a more detailed post. It has come to my attention that the citizens of Colorado Springs, Colorado are embarking on a grand experiment of government downsizing. rather than continually raise the tax burden on citizens and continually expand government payrolls and functions (which many times are not done well or not done at all), the citizens and the local government are looking for innovative ways to reduce the size of government, return tax dollars to the citizens, and make up the difference by deploying volunteer programs, generating funding through creative advertising opportunities, and other such novel approaches. Some examples include:

  • Taxi drivers are recruited to be an extra set of eyes for the police.
  • Residents can adopt a street light for a $100 a year.
  • Volunteers now empty garbage cans at the city's 128 parks.
  • Four city community centers will now be run by a church.
  • A dunk tank helped raise funds for city needs.
  • Negotiations are underway with big box stores that would offer a discount on a rider mower if the buyer volunteered to cut grass on city property.

As I said above, I will do some more research into this fascinating effort at restoring freedom in Colorado Springs to see how it is doing. It certainly merits attention, as does any effort to reduce the size of ineffective and inefficient government and allow people to keep more of their wealth without seriously degrading their lives.

Unfortunately, these types of behavior, an effective city politician (or any kind of effective politician), a benevolent citizenry which helps out fellow citizens, and forward thinking, freedom loving Americans seem to be in short supply in recent times. This comes particularly clear in the next two posts where we post the many instances of The Bad and The Ugly.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Surprise, Surprise! Obama Care's Cost Estimates Might Not Be Accurate

According to an Associated Press article on April 23, 2010, economic experts from the government's Health and Human Services Department have completed an analysis of the recently ramrodded through Obama Care health care reform legislation. Their report's conclusions are not good:
  • The legislation will not reduce health care costs as advertising by President Obama, it will increase health care costs by 1% over ten years.
  • That increase is likely to be larger since Medicare cuts in the law may be unrealistic and unsustainable.
  • Medicare cuts, as laid out in the legislation, could drive about 15% of hospitals and other institutional providers "into the red" and "possibly jeopardizing access to care for seniors."
  • The analysis forecasted that payment reductions to private Medicare Advantage plans would force many seniors to rely on the traditional Medicare program but many of them would face higher out of pocket costs under this scenario.
  • The analysis also concluded that the new voluntary long-term care insurance program included in the legislation faces "a very serious risk of insolvency."

Let's review. Just weeks after the legislation was passed, it looks like health care costs will continue to rise (not decrease as promised), the supply of medical services providers under the Medicare umbrella might substantially decrease (resulting in health care cost increases for many Americans: reduce the supply, keep demand constant and prices/costs have to go up), and a brand new program (long-term care insurance) is already in danger of going broke. This report was not done by Republicans or a conservative cause group. It was done by employees within Obama's HHS department and was done by trained economists and actuaries. What a disaster.

Now, the legislation will theoretically provide an additional 34 million Americans with affordable health care insurance, according to the report, which is a good thing. Whether that happens is yet to bee seen. However, as we have pointed out many times in this blog, even with this legislation, in ten years Americans:

  • Will still be overweight
  • Will still not get enough exercise
  • Will still smoke too much.
  • Will still consume too much salt in their diet.
  • Will still face with an Alzheimer's epidemic.
  • Will still face high levels of breast and lung cancer.

These are the root causes of high health care costs, unless you solve these problems no legislation in the world will reduce health care costs. And it appears, according to this latest HHS analysis, Obama Care will not reduce health care costs. In the process though, Obama Care will cost the country at least a TRILLION dollars, will endanger the health care plans the vast majority of Americans currently have, will impose a draconian requirement forcing Americans to purchase a service they may not want, and will keep the country divided for a long time, both because of its uselessness and the underhanded way it was enacted into law. Surprise, surprise.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

While The Financial Markets Collapsed the SEC....Watched Pornography

Yesterday we touched on the issue of trust and how a recent Pew survey showed how the majority of Americans (about four out of five) do not trust the Federal government to fix any problems. On the heels of that revelation comes a Daniel Wagner Associated Press article on April 23, 2010, "SEC Staffers Watched Porn As Economy Crashed." The article summarized the results from the Security and Exchange Commission's (SEC) own inspector general and included the following findings from the inspector general's investigation:
  • The investigation launched 33 different probes of SEC employees looking at pornographic images in the past five years.
  • Thirty one of those probes occurred in the past two and half years, covering the time that the financial system nearly crashed and which led to the "Great Recession."
  • The investigation concluded that some SEC staff people violated government ethics rules.
  • A senior lawyer spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography off of the Web, moving the images to discs after filling up the hard drive of his government computer with the downloads.
  • An SEC accountant was blocked 16,000 times in a month from accessing pornographic websites. However, he found a way to get around the blocks in order to view pornography from work. If you assume he worked about 22 days a month and eight hours a day (176 hours a month) then, on average, he tried to access pornographic websites more than 90 times an hour.
  • Seventeen of the investigated employees were termed to be at the "senior level," earning salaries up to over $222,400.
Let's review. the economy is crashing, banks and other financial institutions are collapsing, stock prices are plummeting and more than a few high ranking government employees, who are supposed to be responsible for watching dogging the U.S. financial system, are spending a substantial amount of their work day using their government, taxpayer funded computers to watch pornography. Maybe now the other 20% from the Pew survey who actually trust the Federal government will better understand while the majority of us do not.

The first scary thing is that this is just the SEC. I would assume that this problem is not just confined to SEC personnel, imagine how many other times across the full spectrum of government organizations that this type of wasteful behavior is going on. The second scary thing about this whole affair is that it is just another instance of government and the political class violating the trust that Americans place in their government institutions. How can we believe anything any politician says or believe any legislation that is passed will actually work when we hear stories like this? And when trust in your leaders goes away, faith in the entire concept of our government structure starts to erode away.

That is why several steps from "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" are so vital to implement as soon as possible. Step 1 called for a program that would annually reduce the budget of the Federal government 10% a year for five years. Critical to the success of that Step is a zero based, ground up approach to the entire organizational structure of the Federal government including interrelationships within that government organizational structure, the functions that are performed and the programs that are supported Hopefully, this approach would weed out this type of behavior, resulting in fired employees, smaller budgets, smaller government,and more effectiveness from the reformed, more nimble organizations that are created. No one can ever convince me today that there is not a tremendous amount of waste in the Federal government and this is just one prime example of wasteful use of taxpayer money. There is likely untold billions of dollars in savings by ferreting out these types of behaviors.

The second step would be Step 34 which would remove all Senate and House politicians that were sitting on Congressional committees and subcommittees that had SEC oversight responsibility. It is not enough to be a politicians and be outraged at this behavior after the fact. They should have been more involved and should bear some responsibility for this SEC scandal and Step 34 would ensure that happened by removing them from their committee posts.

I would hope that the first small steps to rebuild some trust between the government and the people it is supposed to serve, American citizens, would be to fire all of those involved at the SEC who have been proven to be wasting taxpayer time and resources on pornography. Without accountability their can be no trust.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Don't Trust Any Politicians Over The Age Of...

Tonight's post is a short one and covers the issue of trusting politicians, both in America and in Iran. Starting in America, a recent survey from the Pew research Center was reviewed in an Associated Press article on April 19, 2010. Highlights of the article include:
  • According to the survey, nearly 8 out of 10 Americans do not trust the Federal government and have little faith it can solve the issues facing the country.
  • Nearly half of the respondents say the government negatively affects their daily lives, a result that has been growing over the years.
  • More than fifty percent call Washington too big and too powerful.
  • More than fifty percent say Washington is interfering too much in state and local matters.
  • About fifty percent say they want a smaller government with fewer services while only 40% want a bigger government providing more.
  • "Trust in government rarely gets this low." is a quote in the article from Andrew Kohut, director at Pew.
  • This anger against government does not know political party bounds with Obama, Bush, and politicians from both major parties feeling the anger of respondents.

The good news is that the majority of Americans are finally realizing that the political class and the government it runs are getting much too big and too interfering in their lives. This is the basic message that "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" tried to impart: we do not live in a free country anymore and that reduction in freedom was directly but inversely related to the growth in power the political class now wields over our lives.

The bad news is that 40% of Americans still think that expanding government is a good idea. As we have reviewed many, many times in this blog, the political class has not solved any major issue facing this country in over forty years including a failed war on drugs, a failed public education system, a failed energy policy, a failed homeland security defense, a failed budget and deficit management process, etc. When we will all realize that government only reduces our freedom, bankrupts both this generation and future generations with skyrocketing debt, divides the country into warring "tribes" in order to get re-elected over and over while solving nothing. Government needs to be severely reduced at the Washington level in order to restore our freedom, return our wealth, and get the political class much more focused on only the big issues. Only then MIGHT they be able to solve something. Then we might actually trust our politicians to do the right thing. Until they earn that trust by performing, don't trust any politicians, whatever their age.

However, probably best not to trust Iranian politicians either. In an Associated Press article on April 19, 2010, it was reported that a top governing Iranian cleric said that women that wear immodest clothing and are promiscuous are causing earthquakes. And how did he know that women's behavior caused earthquakes? According to him a divine authority told him. How can you trust leaders or politicians that make these kinds of assertions? This is almost as comical as Obama saying that his health care legislation will reduce the Federal deficit. What is the biggest fairy tale? Who cares, they are both not to be trusted.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Washington Politician Who Gets It Right

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is apparently one politician in DC who gets it relative to runaway government spending. In a Fortune magazine article form the March 22, 2010 issue, writer Shawn Tully captured some of Mr. Ryan's views and fears:
  • "We are walking towards a debt crisis. Within a few years a sale of government bonds will fail. The capital markets will go crazy, and the Fed and Treasury will run to Capitol Hill demanding a giant bailout." (Without foreigners willing to buy these bonds, Americans will have to pay for them immediatley and out of their own pockets or the country goes under financially).
  • "Adding Obamacare would make the crisis go deeper and arrive faster."
  • Obama's 2011 budget forecasts has a deficit of more than $1 TRILLION ... This budget assumes low unemployment and decent economic growth, both of which are highly unlikely. For comparison, if the TRILLION deficit does occur, that would cost each of the 115 million households about $800 more in taxes beyond what the average household pays today.
  • Ryan published his comprehensive budget fix plan, Road map For America's Future, in January where he laid out a long term, comprehensive plan to first reduce the deficit spending and eventually eliminate the national government debt by mid-century. His plan reviewed and analyzed every part of the Federal budget.
  • His plan aims to protect the sick and poor in the future but force those that can pay to pick up more of the burden of paying for their retirement.
  • The Congressional Budget Office analyzed the plan and confirmed that it would produce the falling deficit and debt levels Ryan promised.
  • The White House has not challenged Ryan's numbers or analysis but others (e.g. Pelosi) have accused him of shortchanging the elderly by increasing tax breaks for the rich (which his plan apparently does not do.)
  • Alan Greenspan stated that Ryan was "demonstrating the nature of the solution that just occur. You cannot close the gap with tax increases alone."
  • Basically, Ryan's plan would increase the amount of economic and behavior FREEDOM for all Americans while keeping a safety net for the most needy and make the country economically stronger in the process.

Finally, someone who understands that the financial path we are on as a country is a suicidal path and has come up with a pan to fix the situation. What is Obama's plan? Continue to increase spending and push off the hard decisions to an independent panel that will have non-binding recommendations sometime by later this year or early next year after we have put an additional TRILLION dollars or so on the national debt. That is not a plan and it is not leadership, Mr. Obama. It is business as usual which is going to be fatal.

Mr. Ryan's analysis and plans take on even more importance when you consider two other recent articles that addressed the growing economic problems in China. While Chinese growth continues to be phenomenal, there are signs of trouble, especially in the real estate market. In a Charlie Rose Business Week article in their April 19, 2010 issue, an interview with Jim Chanos, who runs a $6 billion hedge fund, was insightful. Mr. Chanos believes that a giant real estate bubble is blooming in China and that when the bubble bursts, who knows what will happen. Will the Chinese stop buying U.S. Treasury debt in order to keep their wealth home to help their own people? If so, all of a sudden the U.S. Treasury will find it very difficult to finance Obama's deficit spending resulting in 1) more taxes on Americans to pay for the deficit spending, 2) higher interest rates to attract non-Chinese investors, accelerating the rise in the national debt or 3) Obama cutting spending (highly unlikely). If Chanos is right, the political class might lose their cash register if the Chinese real estate market collapse infects the rest of their economy just like our housing bust affected our economy.

And Chanos is not the only one worried about China. Dexter Roberts wrote an article in the April 25, 2010 issue of Business Week, "How Do You Say Trouble In Chinese?" He basically came to the same conclusions: the Chinese government is faced with a very hot economy and a real estate market, so hot that most now think it is not sustainable. (Note: in a different part of this Business Week issue, it was reported that the value of Chinese property increased 11.7%, on average, in just the month of March). The article also reports that China needs about an 8% annual growth rate in order to provide jobs for 10 million Chinese who enter their workforce every year. If their economy collapses, will they keep their money home to support this rapidly growing workforce and the expectations of continued high economic growth? If so, then where does this administration go for debt financing to support their deficit spending?

A lot of this downside could happen well before we even get a plan from Obama's deficit reduction commission. The bottom line is Congressman Ryan is the only one in Washington with a plan and that plan is unlikely to proceed with the Democrats in power. They have controlled Congress for over three years and this is where they have gotten us. I fear that they will all be just spectators again, just like they were on the "Great Recession." They appear unable or unwilling to take leadership roles and anticipate the next financial crisis, just sitting there with their thumbs you know where when the deficit problem explodes in their face.

That is why Step 1 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" is so important and is so consistent with Congressman Ryan's plan. Step 1 would begin a five year plan of reducing the size of all government functions by at least 10% a year across the board. My only worry is that the 10% target may not be high enough and the five years may not be quick enough, given the deficit spending binge of the Obama administration. However, Step 1 would at least be a good start and would be consistent with the only plan coming out of Washington today to address the problem, courtesy of Congressman Ryan.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tell Me Again Why We Still Have U.S. Troops Stationed In South Korea?

I found an article in the April 19, 2010 issue of Business Week to be very interesting. It was titled "How Korea Fretted Its Way To Success" and was written by Moon Ihlwan. Among the more interesting facts and observations shared by Moon were the following:
  • South Korea's exports to nearby China jumped almost fivefold from 2000 to 2009, giving the South Koreans a very strong trading foothold in the fastest growing economy in the world.
  • Samsung, a major South Korean electronics manufacturer dominates in the newest television technology, LED, with 85% of the U.S. market.
  • South Korean companies won half of all gas and oil contracts in Abu Dhabi in 2009.
  • South Korean companies won the contract to build four nuclear power plants in the United Arab Emirates, beating out established U.S. and French companies.
  • Samsung was the primary contractor for Dubai's Burj Khalifa Tower, the tallest building in the world.
  • Government programs are focused on the future by supporting South Korean companies involved with robotics, solar energy, biotechnology, green transportation, etc. The government expects these new fields to double the value of its exports in these fields within three years and add a million jobs to the workforce.

Obviously, South Korean is a nation on the rise with a strong present and a focused sense of the future. Thus, the question arises: why do we spend billions and billions of dollars every year by garrisoning thousands of U.S. troops in the country while the South Koreans use the money they would have spent guarding their country from North Korea on expanding their economy and workforce? Why not let them pay for all of their defense needs, let us bring all of our troops home and save the expense of stationing those troops there.

This is a relic of historical thinking, when South Korea was ravished by the Korean War and needed protection while it rebuilt itself. Well, it has rebuilt itself and will start kicking our economic pants off if we continue to waste taxpayer money doing things that are no longer necessary. We are facing massive spending deficits, we are not looking to the future, we are trying to survive the present from an economic perspective. Let's bring home the tens of thousand of troops we have not only in South Korea but in Japan, Germany, and elsewhere. We cannot afford to do many of things that we have historically done and probably do not need to do anymore or should not do anymore. Let those countries pay for their defense with their tax dollars and their troops. Let us spend those U.S. tax dollars on U.S interests such as reducing the deficit and returning taxes to those that paid them. Step 30 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" proposes this exact strategy.

A side benefit might just be better international relations since it would reduce our military presence around the world and possibly lead to more responsibility being shown by other nations. Heaven knows that putting U.S. troops just about everywhere has not been successful in many areas of foreign policy, maybe bringing them home would.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What Did You Get For Your Taxes? Probably Not Much

A few days after income tax filing day and I was wondering what did we all get for paying our taxes like good Americans. Reviewing a few recent publications reveals that we get precious little:
  • According to a review article in the April 23, 2010 issue of The Week magazine, we are not getting a lot of value from the Federal bailouts of various industries. In a synopsis of an article by David Weidner of, the Treasury Department forecasts that the U.S taxpayer will lose $89 billion on all Federal bailout programs. Now, the good news is that recent estimates put the loss at $250 billion. However, the bailouts have not worked. Rather than cutting banks down to size so that the "would not be too big too fail," just four banks now control 56 of all U.S. bank assets and 39% of all deposits. Guess the bailouts failed in keeping bank sizes under control. Of all the Federal programs that have been launched to help mortgage-challenged home owners, only 148,000 households out of four million in trouble have been able to use the Federal programs. This comes down to a success rate of about 3.4%, not a very attractive success rate. Thus, the 115 million households each contributed about $775 of their tax dollars on average to cover the $89 billion that we are stuck paying for and getting very poor results to show for it and the failure of the political class to fix the mortgage situation will guarantee that the housing industry will continue to be a drag on the economy.
  • An excerpt from a Politico article was printed in the March/April, 2010 issue of Cato Policy Report showed that whatever we pay for taxes, somebody, usually a Washington lobbying firm, will pay more and probably get more for their dollars contributed to the political class. While ordinary Americans are having trouble paying their mortgages, finding a job, etc., the lobbying industry must not have such mundane concerns. The article reported that in 2010, Washington D.C. lobbyist firms will easily spend more than they spent in 2009 when they spent a record setting $3.3 billion for lobbying activities. With 535 politicians sitting in Congress, this $3.3 billion comes out to about $6.2 million per Congressional representative. Who do you think gets the most attention: you who pay your measly income taxes or the lobbyists who throw around millions of dollars for each politician in Washington?
  • According to a National Review Online article by Mark Steyn that was summarized in the April 23, 2010 edition of The Week magazine, for the just completed 2009 tax season, the Tax Policy Center reports that 47% of all Americans will not pay a single cent of Federal income tax. Think about that: if you paid taxes, than it is highly probably that one of your neighbors did not have to pay any Federal income taxes. They still got all of the benefits of being an American citizen without having to pay for it. Just thought you would like to know.
So let's review. The political class has wasted billions of our dollars without materially changing the financial system malaise that got us into the Great Recession, whatever we individually pay in taxes, it is dwarfed by what the lobbyists are spending to influence Congress to the lobbyists benefit and not the American citizenry benefit, and almost half of all Americans do not have to pay Federal income tax and still get all of the benefits of being an American. Talk about being screwed up. And it was the incumbent set of current politicians that got us into this mess. The first step should be to expel all of them in the November elections and replace them with politicians that allow companies and their overpaid leadership to fail and not waste tens of billions of taxpayer dollars, that enact campaign finance reform and lobbying reform laws to significantly reduce the influence of lobbyists and re-empower individual Americans, and that reform the tax laws so that every American is treated fairly and pays their fair share of the government upkeep.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

More Political Class Silliness - Ignoring the Big Issues, Working On The Silly Ones

I did not know what to call this post, I was torn between political class silliness and political class insanity. Either phrase would have been accurate but let's look at the latest silliness from the political class, silly because it reflects the useless and ineffective machinations of our current class of politicians:

1) According to an April 16, 2010 Associated Press report, the Republicans in the California state Assembly wanted to pass a resolution this week that honored the 100 year anniversary of the Boy Scouts. Seems simple enough, many boys have had positive experiences via their Boy Scout days. However, the Democrats killed the resolution because the Boy Scouts organization excludes homosexuals. Now remember, the Boy Scouts is a private organization that should have the right, in a free country, to exclude elements of society that they feel are inconsistent with their values, regardless of what their values are.

In rebuttal, the Democrats introduced a resolution of their own honoring the Girl Scouts, noting in the resolution that the Girl Scouts do not exclude homosexuals. Nowhere in the article does it mention that the Girl Scouts were celebrating a landmark date, e.g. 100 years of existence. This ticked off the Republicans and the sniping at each other was on, taking a simple recognition of a children's organization turning it into a full fledged debate on the Assembly floor when the resolution came out of committee. The article goes into detail of the political maneuvering and name calling that ensued which I will skip in this post. The bottom line is that the state of California is in dire, dire economic shape. Dire enough to possibly be facing bankruptcy. In the face of the economic meltdown, the political class decides to spend their valuable time, resources, and brain power on non-binding feel good resolution development. And to prove how ineffective they are, they could not even do that right. Pathetic.

2) Moving onto Federal silliness, in an April 11, 2010 Associated Press report, it was reported that U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has decided that he does not like the fact that some airlines, e.g. Spirit Airlines, are now charging customers for carry on baggage. He made an official request to the Treasury Department to rule that carry on bags are necessary for travelers which would somehow exempt them from a separate fee beyond the ticket price. He was quoted as saying: "Airline passengers have always had the right to bring a carry-on bag without having to worry about getting nickeled and dimed by an airline company." If this practice cannot be blocked by current legislation Schumer said he will introduce legislation that will make it illegal to charge for a carry-on bag.

Two problems here. With all of the major problems facing this country (failing public schools, skyrocketing deficits, high unemployment, a lost war on drugs, no national energy strategy or policy, two wars, rising health care costs which have just been made worse with the Obama care disaster, etc.), where do we think that the carry-on on luggage fee issue would land in a poll of what issues are most important to Americans? I doubt it would make the top fifty. But Schumer. like many politicians, does not know how to solve the big problems and thus, in order to prove his worth, he has to tackle these very, very minor issues.

The second problem I have with Schumer is that he has proven again that politicians never understand the whole problem or situation, either because they are not smart enough or they are too lazy to understand all of the interrelationships. I fly with Spirit Airlines and recently received an email from them explaining why they are charging for carry-on. Spirit analyzed the problem: the volume of carry-on luggage has grown considerably, resulting in longer security lines, longer boarding processes, injuries due to overhead bins getting too crowded, and delayed flights, resulting in increased passenger frustration. They obviously understand the problem. Their solution, charging for carry-on luggage include the following facts:
  • Customers will be able to carry-on a piece of luggage as long as it can fit under the seat at no charge.
  • Spirit will lower their fares which was backed up in the email with new promotions for some fares as low as $.01, e.g. fly from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale for a penny.
  • If customers do have carry-on luggage that they pay the fee for, they will be given priority boarding preference.

As a result of this policy change, Spirit expects overall prices to be lower, security and border lines will move quicker, deplaning will be faster, and the injury rate should go down for both passengers and staff. Let's see: I pay less, I travel faster, I have less hassles, and I am less likely to be injured. Sounds like a winner to me and it also sounds like Spirit correctly analyzed the situation and came up with a fair solution. Schumer did not analyze the solution and and is about to waste more valuable time and resources fixing a problem that does not need to be fixed. Chuck, work on the big issues, let the free market and individuals work on this one. If passengers do not like the Spirit policy, there are alternatives. If enough people use those alternatives, Spirit will get the message, its call capitalism and competition.

3) Finally, one last example of the political class not knowing how to solve the real problems and major issues but trying to prove their worth on secondary issues. Another Associated Press report, this one on April 14, 2010, reviewed the effort by members of Congress to get major league baseball to ban smokeless tobacco, i.e. force adult Americans to do something that they can freely do now, now matter how stupid or health affecting it may be. Their rationale is that the ball players are role models for younger children who may start using smokeless tobacco as a result of seeing baseball players use it. They actually held a three and a half hour hearing to discuss the issue.

Number of issues wrong here, some which are discussed above. First, this is another attempt by the political class to control what Americans do and as always, more control by politicians means less freedom for Americans. These are adults who are using this stuff and if they are stupid enough to do it, then it is their lives and health and future cancer illnesses to deal with. Second, kids should not be sold smokeless tobacco, maybe if we just tightened up that facet of the market it would be more effective than hoping that kids would not follow the route of baseball players that use it. Third, there was no mention in the article of how bad the problem is. Do a hundred kids a year start using smokeless tobacco because they saw a major leagurer use it, do a thousand kids, do ten thousand kids, etc.? Here again we have politicians jumping to a conclusion with no understanding of how big the problem might actually be. And finally, how about parents stepping up, taking responsibility to guide their kids away from using smokeless tobacco?

Rather than worrying about what could be a very small addiction problem, would it not be better for Congressional members to work on the bigger war on drugs failure? I would bet a lot more Americans are negatively affected by marijuana, heroin, cocaine, opium, and the drug related violence that goes with it than smokeless tobacco usage. We have incredible drug trade related violence just south of the border with thousands of Mexicans killed each year as a result of the illegal drug market in this country. Some of that violence is spilling over the border into the U.S. Major and illegal marijuana farms are growing on U.S. parkland causing pollution problems and having a high potential for violence. Two Americans were recently killed in drug gang related violence in Mexico. Afghanistan, the country we are trying to save, is the biggest producer of illegal opium and its derivatives in the world. Why not have these Congress people work on those problems and let parents and major league baseball work on the smokeless tobacco issue?

Why not? Because the current class of politicians do not know how to solve the big problems, that is why these major issues linger with us for decades. Given they are not smart enough to solve the big issues, they dilly-dally with the lesser issues, which, it turns out, they cannot even understand those. For this type of non-service, we pay trillions of dollars a year in taxes.

There are way to many proposed solutions in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" to apply to these types of problems. However, the Step that imposes term limits has to be one of the most important. We need to break the stranglehold of incompetence and stupidity that exists within our governing politicians and the only way to do that is to dump who is in power now, regardless of party, and replace them with new people with new ideas. How much worse could it get?

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Political Class Financial Follies

As the country slowly moves out of the "Great Recession" the political class has suddenly taken an interest in financial markets and reforms to avoid what we just went through from an economic perspective. As we discussed yesterday, the St. Petersburg Times reported this past weekend that Congressional hearings were held to try and find a preventive solutions to the last downturn. Also, the Senate Finance Committee, spearheaded by Senator Chris Dodd is trying to get a new financial markets regulatory bill passed.

The question is whether we really think Dodd and the rest of the fools in Congress and the administration really have any chance of getting this right. Or is it just another charade of follies that we will all go through, pretending that all is well until the next blowup takes the political class and the Federal government's regulatory agencies by surprise. Consider:
  • Bernie Madoff was a suave, smooth talking con man that ran one of the biggest pyramid schemes ever, defrauding his clients of close to $50 billion over a long stretch of years. No one in the government, Congress, the SEC, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board, etc. had any idea of the ongoing fraud until it was much too late. Thus, thousands of people with the responsibility of protecting investors got it wrong. However, according to any number of news sources, Harry Markopos, an investment analyst with a Boston financial firm, unmasked the fraud about five minutes after his boss assigned him the task of figuring out how Madoff continued to get great returns. Confident of his findings, he sent detailed analyses to the SEC five times, starting in May, 2000, years before the Madoff scheme collapsed. If the government and political class could not do this simple analysis to figure out what was going on when a single person (Markopos) could, what makes us think Dodd and the rest of them have gotten any smarter?
  • Speaking of Dodd, he was a member, and later committee chairman, of the Senate Banking Committee for several years and never saw the second biggest financial collapse of all time coming until it hit him in the face. What makes us think that he can reform the financial markets now? He obviously did not understand the financial markets before, since he missed the collapse, I doubt he got so smart that now understands what needs to be done.
  • A recent New York Times article, that was reprinted in the St. Petersburg Times, by Michael J. Burry outlined another tale similar to the Markopos story. Burry ran a hedge fund until 2008 and was one of the subjects of Michael Lewis' new book, "The Big Short." According to the article, Burry became suspicious of many facets of the housing market, e.g. very low interest rates, subprime mortgages, etc., and aggressively sent letters to clients of his hedge fund, correctly predicting a housing market collapse in the second half of 2007. Assuming that he was right, Burry made a lot of money for his clients by understanding how things work in the financial market and anticipating the housing and mortgage crash. Thus, Burry did a little analysis and was correct in his conclusions while "our leaders in Washington either willfully or ignorantly aided and abetted the (housing) bubble. And even when the full extent of the financial crisis became painfully clear early in 2007, the Federal Reserve chairman, the Treasury secretary, the President and senior members of Congress underestimated the severity of the problem." Thus, much like Markopos and the Madoff scheme, Burry did a simple analysis to understand the problem while the "best" brains in Washington could not figure it out.
  • After the Enron, Worldcom and other financial accounting scandals of the late 1990s, the political class passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Law that was supposed to tighten up accounting standards and regulation so that investors would have a clear view of a company's financial health. Step 48 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" calls for the repeal of that law for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that mountains of data and reports are created that are virtually never read by anybody in government. This wastes in incredible amount of American business resources that could be better spent improving our competitive position in the international business market. The "Great Recession" provides another reason for repealing this bill, i.e. it does not work. Two of Wall Street's biggest financial firms collapsed as a result of the housing and mortgage market meltdown. Bear Sterns was formed in 1923 and Lehman Brothers was formed in the early 1860s. These were large, prominent firms that had been successful for decades and decades. However, they went belly up (Lehman disappeared, remnants of Bear Sterns were picked up by JP Morgan) almost over night. Thus, the Sarbanes-Oxley was a total failure here in that it provided no indication of how dire these firms' accounting and financials were until they went poof. Another political class "financial reform" that did not work.

As you can see, the political class financial reforms over the years of just been follies of hope without any understanding of the underlying root causes of the crisis of the moment. Without understanding how things work and what the root causes are, the chance the government can solve any financial markets problem is next to nothing.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tell Me Again How A Bad, Risky Investment Turns Into A Good Investment When the Taxpayer Pays?

A little while ago we reviewed an Obama administration program that would provide federal loan guarantees to the nuclear energy industry if that industry's players would start building new nuclear power plants. The article we cited mentioned that private investors and nuclear energy companies would not build new plants because it was too risky of an investment but would be happy to do so if the Federal government more or less bankrolled their risk at the costs of about $50 billion.

We found two basic problems with this approach:
  • First, if it is a bad, risky idea when private interests pay for it, what makes it a good idea if taxpayers pay for it? The risk is the same but it has been shifted to us, the taxpayer, by the political class and their close friends in the nuclear power industry.
  • Second, we proved in that post that taking that $50 billion or so and using it to convert existing residential housing to solar powered homes would serve the energy needs of more people than the nuclear option, would create no new radioactive waste, could be online and working almost immediately compared to the long lead times of nuclear energy plant construction, was environmentally friendly, and was far less risky.

I review that post because an almost identical situation has arisen and was reviewed by a David Whitford article in the March 22, 2010 issue of Fortune magazine. It seems that the ethanol industry wants the Federal government, i.e. the U.S. taxpayer, to provide a loan guarantee for 80% of a proposed $4 billion pipeline construction that would pump ethanol from the Midwest to the east coast. In fact, an Iowan Congressman has already proposed legislation to that effect. A spokesperson for Magellan Midstream Partners, the pipeline builder who would build the pipe, is quoted in the article as saying: "We're not willing to spend the kind of money it would take on a project that's viable only as long as the government continues its interest in ethanol."

Thus, the title of this post: if the pipeline builder thinks the project is to risky if the builder initiates and funds the project, what makes it any less of a risk of the taxpayer pays for it? This political class reasoning makes no sense except for getting re-election donations from the people and companies involved.

What are some these risks and downsides? Mr. Whitford goes into them:

  • If oil prices stay low for a significant length of time, then the economics and hassle of using ethanol as a fuel additive become unattractive. In which case, the taxpayers are stuck for a multi-billion project that goes nowhere.
  • As mentioned in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," using corn for ethanol, which is the primary crop that this pipeline will be used for, is a very dicey environmental play since there have been some studies showing that raising corn and producing biofuels and ethanol from it does not reduce energy consumption or greenhouse gases. More recently, in his article, Mr. Whitford cites a new Duke University analysis found that "carbon releases from the soil after planting corn for ethanol may in some cases completely offset carbon gains... for at least fifty years."
  • And finally, building a pipeline from the Midwest to the east coast would require a tremendous amount of negotiating to get right of way permission to build the pipeline on land owned by others, raising a whole slew of eminent domain issues, i.e. the government seizing land, for a theoretically fair price, and turning the land over to private interests (see Step 19 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" for a review of the Kelo Supreme Court ruling disaster.)

Given these issues, let's switch to a short article that was in the March 12, 2010 issue of The Week magazine. A small Silicon Valley start-up company, Bloom Energy, announced in late March that they had proven the concept of a fuel cell that would revolutionize clean energy technology. The article claims that Bloom's fuelcell, which is about the size of a large brick, can produce energy by combining a wide array of different types of fuels with air to produce a large amount of clean energy efficiently. Other sources I have reviewed relative to Bloom imagine that individual homes could be provided with inexpensive Bloom fuel cells to inexpensively, efficiently, and effectively power their homes off of a natural gas feed or other energy feed which would also reduce greenhouse emissions.

Now, unlike the D.C. politicians, I at least know that I am not an energy expert. They are not experts either but they just won't admit it. However, the article points out that FedEx, Google, and Walmart have signed on to test the cells. Thus, these are profit driven companies and I must assume that they see merit in using this technology TODAY, not several years down the road when, and if, the ethanol pipeline is functional. Another news source indicated that Google is already using Bloom fuels to power some of their data centers. I am sure that Google would not take the chance of an energy outage and must see merit and savings, money wise and environment wise, from these fuels cells.

Imagine if this technology actually got to the home owner level. Homeowners would be much freer to choose their energy source, control their energy usage, save money to enhance their family's lives, and not have their tax dollars put at risk by large, risky government investments. They could avoid all of the risks listed above that come with this pipeline. Energy control would become much more decentralized and much more stable from an availability and cost perspective since the cells would be able to be used with different energy sources.

This example of energy decentralization is very similar to the post we did on the nuclear power plant industry. Rather than rely on the government and the nuclear energy industry to build large and potentially dangerous central power plant generators, using the same money to put solar panels on the roofs of American households would decentralize the costs, the risks, and the control of energy in this country while providing a boost to the environment. And whenever you reduce control of the political class, you increase the freedom of every American.

Why do we constantly have taxpayers exposed to these high risky investments? Its because the political class does not have a sensible, well thought out, overarching energy strategy as proposed in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government." As with the health care fiasco, without understanding all of your options, all of the trade offs, all of the interrelationships, you cannot have a workable strategy. All you end up with are scattered tactics such as backing the building of huge centralized nuclear power plants and constructing risky pipelines across half of the country. Isolated tactics like these do not solve problems, overall analysis and strategies solve problems.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Commitment Vs. Involvement: In A Ham And Egg Sandwich, The Chicken Is Involved But The Pig Is Committed

A recent article in the St. Petersburg Times by Robert Trigaux reminded me of this grand old saying. The article was published on Sunday, April 11, 2010 and it went through the cast of characters that were somehow involved with the market crash and recession starting in late 2007. The majority of the article was based on the testimony a lot of these people recently gave in front of the Congressional committee that was investigating the causes of the economic crash.

A few things struck me as I read the article and looked at the pictures of those listed as involved in the crash. The first thing I noticed, and the most obvious, was that all of these people mentioned in the article were involved in the crisis but none of them want to stand up and commit that their actions or inactions were contributing factors to the disaster:
  • Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve Board, did not take responsibility for the crash even though many people think that under his leadership, the Fed kept interest rates way too low for way too long. During the hearings, Greenspan stated that he was right 70% of the time in his Fed decisions. While 70% might be good for an NFL quarterback for a pass completion record, 70% is not good enough when the economic well being of the nation's citizens are on the line.
  • George W. Bush has not taken responsibility for the crash even the seeds of destruction were sowed and allowed to grow during his administration.
  • Barney Frank has not taken responsibility for the crash even though he was the House committee chairman that oversaw the housing market, he did not see the biggest economic crash coming since the Great Depression until it hit him in the face.
  • Chris Dodd has not taken responsibility for the crash even though he was the Senate committee chairman that oversaw the housing market, he did not see the biggest economic crash coming since the Great Depression until it hit him in the face.
  • Henry Paulson has not taken responsibility for the crash even though as Treasury secretary he also did not see the biggest economic crash coming since the Great Depression and when it did hit, he reacted slowly with no apparent strategy for determining which Wall Street firms were to live and which were to die.
  • Bill Clinton has not taken responsibility for the crash even though as President he signed laws that separated commercial banking from investment banking, creating the behavior that led to the crash along with legislation that exempted the dangerous derivative financial products from regulation.
  • Christopher Cox has not taken responsibility for the crash even though as former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission his organization watched on the sidelines as the banking system almost collapsed completely due to shady and risky financial dealings.
  • Richard Fuld has not taken responsibility for the crash even though as CEO of defunct Lehman Brothers Fuld allowed his company get so deeply into risky subprime instruments that its demise was the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
  • Raymond McDaniel has not taken responsibility for the crash even though his company, Moody's, incorrectly or falsely rated the subprime financial instruments as financially sound.
  • Angelo Mozilo has not taken responsibility for the crash even though as CEO of Countrywide Mortgage his company apparently never met a mortgage customer, no matter how uncreditworthy, that his company would not accept.
  • Franklin Raines has not taken responsibility for the crash even though as head of Fannie Mae his big investments in subprime mortgage securities led to a massive taxpayer bailout.
  • David Lereah has not taken responsibility for the crash even though as a former economist of the National Association of Realtors, he never saw the housing collapse coming and his book, "Why The Real Estate Boom Will Not Bust" was published just as the real estate boom went bust.
  • Robert Rubin has not taken responsibility for the crash even though as Citigroup Chairman he claimed he was ignorant of the risks that nearly destroyed one of the biggest banks in the world, indicating he was either a very lousy executive by not knowing how much at risk his company was at or a very lazy executive who never took the time to understand how much at risk his company was at.
  • Charles Prince has not taken responsibility for the crash even though as Citigroup CEO he was just as lousy or lazy as Rubin.
  • The Democrats in Congress have not taken responsibility for the crash even though they ran all of the Congressional committees responsible for the overseeing the housing and banking sectors of the economy and consistently rejected dozens of calls by the Bush administration to put stronger oversight onto Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They also rejected a request from John McCain in 2005 to rein in the dangerous lending and security practices of Fannie and Freddie. One reason for this resistance was that these two quasi-government organizations were large campaign contributors to Democratic Senators Dodd, Obama, and Kerry.
So all of these important people were involved (the chickens) in the financial disaster but none of them have committed (the pig) to taking responsibility for the results, it wasn't their fault. If it was not their fault, then whose fault was it? This was obviously a big deal since the stock markets suffered extensive setbacks, unemployment is nowhere close to recovering, the Federal deficit has skyrocketed in part due to the large bank bailouts, and the housing market is still in the dump. But no one is responsible. In the above list, no one went to jail, no one paid a large fine, no one went bankrupt, many did not lose their jobs, and no one has an answer of why it went so wrong and why no one in a position to acted to avert or at least mitigate the outcome.

Thus, the first conclusion I draw is that this is just another instance of where the government and the people that are currently running it are not effective and the programs they are responsible for do not work. As stated in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," we need to do a ground up housecleaning of the people/politicians and the processes that are no longer effective in running this country.

The second conclusion I draw from he article is a little more subtle. As I look at the politicians running the hearings looking into the the causes for the economic crisis and include the list of people from above, I see that almost all of them are older white males. There are no females involved, very few younger people involved, and Franklin Raines is the only African-American who is prominent in the discussion of fault.

Could it be that this group of politicians and business leaders are not diverse enough to see a crisis developing or are too cozy with each other to want to do anything to avert these kinds of disasters? This brings us to Step 45 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," a step we have not talked about often in this blog. This step would require the political class to obey and heed all laws in effect that work to guarantee equal opportunity relative to race and sex. Maybe if we had a little more diversity, fresh blood, and fresh ideas involved in the process of running the country we might get some better results. Heaven knows that the current club of people running the country, both in and out of government, may be stuck in a group think mode, making them incapable of foreseeing the future disasters. Said another way, we need more committed pigs and less involved chickens running the country.

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 It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.