Monday, January 31, 2011

Ever Wonder Why Government has No Plan? Politicians Is Just Another Way of Spelling "Lo, It Is Panic!"

One overarching problem I have always had with the political class is that there seldom, if ever, seems to be a plan behind their madness. They seem to careen from crisis to crisis, wasting time and our freedom, but never solving anything. All of their efforts seem quite shallow, never understanding the root causes of a problem and never understanding the potential, unintended consequences of their actions, consequences that are usually bad.

In looking at the word "politicians" recently it came to me that one reason they may never plan ahead and execute a good plan is that if you rearrange the letters in "politicians" you end up with the distressing phrase, "Lo, it is panic!" No wonder they never get anything right, they are always working in a panic mode. Consider:

- At the end of the Bush administration, it appeared that the financial system of the world was going to crash. Important, supposedly smart people, in both the Republican administration and the Democratic controlled Congress had no idea the financial system was about to implode and obviously had no plan to deal with such an implosion. Recall Bush officials, Reid, and Pelosi warning us that unless the $700 billion TARP bank bailout was passed within days, the world economy would collapse. Obvious panic.

Shouldn't the political class and the government agencies it runs have had some kind of contingency plan ready for just such an event? They did not and they ended up throwing together a costly rescue and bailout package that was hastily deployed, inefficiently handled, and as we have pointed out in this blog many times, was totally unnecessary. Lo, it is panic.

- As most know, Egypt has been undergoing riots and protests over the past week or so with Egyptian citizens marching in the street demanding political changes and more individual freedom. A White House statement concerning the situation was issued last Saturday where President Obama "reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint, supporting universal rights, and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt."

This comes off as a very weak, very generic response. These words would have had a lot more force and meaning if they had been part of a diplomatic plan all along to promote freedom and democracy around the world. To issue these words after a friendly dictator is about to fall sound hollow and forced. It is apparent that the protests caught the administration by surprise and that the Obama administration really has no plan to deal with what could become a very inspiring or a very dangerous situation, not only in Egypt but also in Jordan, Yemen, and other Mideast dictatorial nations. Lo, it is panic!

- Going back to last spring, it is pretty obvious that the political class had no plan in place on how to deal with oil disasters such as the BP oil rig that exploded. The Interior Department, EPA, and other government agencies showed very little coordination among themselves, the offending companies, and local officials, trying and testing different solutions after the explosion happened. One would have hoped that a plan and contingencies would have been thought through beforehand, not making up solutions as they went along and as more and more oil gushed into the Gulf. Lo, it is panic.

- A recent article by New York Post reporter Charles Gasparino was summarized in the January 28, 2011 issue of The Week magazine. The article reviewed how 50 to 100 U.S. cities and towns may actually default on their municipal bonds in 2011, a symptom of cities that have badly managed their finances over the past decades. Default on municipal bonds was unheard of until recently.

Not mentioned in this article is the fact that over forty state governments still have serious budget shortfalls which may endanger their bonds and bond ratings. Despite this impending financial disaster, all levels of the political class, Federal, state, and municipal, apparently have no plans in place to deal with this dire situation. Wait until the first city defaults. Lo, it is panic!

- In his recent state of the union message, President Obama called for additional spending to be made available for education in this country. However, just three months before his speech, the Associated Press reported that President Obama had then stated that more money alone cannot fix our failing public schools. The obvious question is what has changed in that short time frame? What plan has the President put together that will make those additional funds, if they are ever allocated, a worthwhile investment when just three months ago he said additional money was not the only answer. Where is the plan? Lo, it is panic.

- Many times in this blog we have discussed the ever growing and ever more menacing drug cartel problem and violence just over our southern border in Mexico. Several months ago a U.S. citizen was killed by gang members as he jet skied with his wife in U.S. territory on a lake that abutted Mexico. In the past week, a Texas missionary was killed as she and her husband tried to drive away from drug cartel gunmen at an illegal roadblock. Last year the Associated Press reported that gunfire regularly comes across the border into El Paso when drug cartels have shoot outs in Mexico. Mayors, judges, and police officials are regularly killed by drug cartels in Mexico.

And the latest indication that the political class has no plan for dealing with this growing and serious problem, the Associated Press reported on January 27, 2011 that video surveillance cameras on the border captured on tape how the cartels are getting their contraband across the border into the U.S. The tape showed cartel members driving up to the border fence, backing up their trucks on which they had installed a catapult and then catapulting their illegal drugs over the fence to waiting comrades on the other side. If there is a plan for dealing with this issue, we certainly have not been told and neither have the cartels. When catapults are defeating the billion fence the political class built on the border, there is no plan or forethought. Lo, it is panic.

- The biggest set of unintended consequences have come from Obama Care. While the legislation was over 2,000 pages long, the unintended consequences may end up being much larger:
  • In an August, 2010 Fortune magazine article, an interview of AT&T Chairman Randal Stephenson revealed that AT&T may drop its corporate health insurance coverage for current and retired employees since it was less expensive to pay the Obama Care fine than it was to continue the program. Other companies, e.g. Verizon, John Deere, and Caterpillar, have made the same assertions (Fortune magazine, May, 2010).
  • The Wall Street Journal reported on September 3, 2010 that MacDonalds may drop their health care plan for their hourly employees due to legal ramifications from Obama Care.
  • The New York Times reported on November 21, 2010 that Obama Care was spurring health care companies to merge together. This would likely result in less competition and higher health care prices, the exact opposite that the legislation was intended to do.
  • The New York Times reported on November 9, 2010 that the new health care rules implemented as a result of Obama Care had been waived many, many times just months after it was implemented. Thus, Obama Care could not even anticipate these waiver issues just months after approval. Pitiful.
  • Reason magazine quoted Congressional Budget Office reports that even with Obama Care, 21 million Americans will still be uninsured by 2016.
Great plan, or absence of a plan. A piece of legislation that was supposed to increase coverage and reduce health care costs is likely to decrease coverage and increase costs. Lo, it is panic.

- The political class was very proud of  itself when it passed the financial industry regulation reform plan last year. However, it is difficult to believe that you actually have a valid reform plan when two of the biggest consumer financial pieces of the industry, car loans and home mortgages, were excluded from the legislation. This is like saying you had a great dinner but only ate the rolls; the soup, salad and main dish were not included in the meal. Plus the fact that the main culprits in the housing crisis, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac avoided additional regulation but still cost the taxpayer billions of dollars in subsides every month means that there really was not a plan. Lo, it is panic.

Enough, you get the idea. I dare you to explain one plan that the government has put into place, and managed by the political class, that has been timely, effective and reasonably priced. There is no plan for energy independence. There is no plan to fix our failing public schools. There is no plan for securing our borders and replacing our failed war on drugs. There is no plan to get government spending under control. There is no plan to make Social Security solvent. There is no plan to win the so-called war on terror. There is  no plan to deal with citizen uprisings around the world. There is no plan to contain the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran. There is no plan. Lo, it is panic.

How do we get out of this panic mode? Several steps from "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" would be a good start:

  1. Step 1 - reduce the Federal budget by 10% a year for five years so that politicians work on far fewer but far more important issues. One sub-step within this step is a complete, ground up review of government functions and the development of contingency plans for every possible issue in all government functions, contingency plans that are tested and adjusted before the crisis hits, not after.
  2. Step 34 - remove politicians from Congressional committee seats when those committees fail to plan ahead and avoid crisis in government areas they are responsible for.
  3. Step 39 - implement term limits for all politicians so that we get a fresh set of minds and ideas into the political system every few years. Those politicians that have been in office for 20, 30 or more years are now officially part of the problem and panic. They need to be removed so that one term replacements can come to power and see if the can plan any better. A good plan should not be contingent on who is running the show, it should transcend who is in charge. Otherwise, you end up with the same, short term, sup-optimal panic induced operations we currently suffer through.
We pay too much in taxes to be ruled by panic stricken and panic directed politicians. No matter how you spell it, we are not in a good space as a result of their panic and sole focus on their next election.

Our 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.

Please visit the following sites for freedom:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Does Everyone Recognize The Impending Financial Disaster Except the Political Class in Washington?

Before we try to understand why the Washington political class is so clueless about the gathering budget and debt storm clouds that are fast approaching, I thought it might be a good idea to review the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) relative to the country's financial shape, estimates that are very scary:
  • Within a few months, our national debt will have escalated to $14 TRILLION or the equivalent of $121,739 per United States household.
  • At an average household income of about $60,000 a year (pre-tax), each American household would have to go without food, shelter, clothes, or anything else for over two years to pay off their portion of the national debt as it stands now.
  • If the government and the political class that runs it do not change their spending habits immediately, another $7 TRILLION will be added to the nation's debt over the next ten years. At that time, $21 TRILLION in debt will come out to about $136,000 a year per household if you assume the number of households grows at a rather robust 3% a year.
  • However, to hit that $7 TRILLION number, the political class would have to allow all of the newly renewed tax cuts to expire in two years, they would not make any further adjustments to the Alternative Minimum Tax snafu and they would have to actually implement the draconian Medicare cuts they are supposed to do. These three steps are probably unlikely, given the spineless nature of our politicians, which means that it is not an additional $7 TRILLION but a more realistic $13.6 TRILLION. This would put the overall debt at almost $28 TRILLION and the equivalent household responsibility at $179,000.
  • The CBO report goes on to estimate that interest on that debt over the next ten years would be around $5.4 TRILLION. Since the Obama administration has proposed cutting spending by only $478 billion over ten years and the Republicans have targeted $2.5 TRILLION in budget cuts, neither party's half hearted efforts at fiscal restraint will come close to just paying off the interest on our debt. In this reality, the United States will never pay off its ever increasing debt load. This is like someone's personal finances who constantly spend 70% more than what they earn and who only pays off a fraction of that 70% amount every month. The simple math will eventually crush them.
  • By the year 2021, the CBO estimates that the country would be paying more than a TRILLION a year just in interest payments on the debt. For comparison purposes, understand that today the Federal government collects only a little more than $2 TRILLION a year in revenue. Thus, by 2021, about half of what we would pay in taxes today would be solely for interest payments.
  • In 2011, given the newly estimated and higher 2011 deficit, the annual deficit will be equal to about 9.8% of the country's GDP, about a percentage point higher than it was in 2010 and almost as bad as the 10% incurred in 2009. That 10% was the highest deficit to GDP ratio in 65 years. The general consensus is that a country's deficit number should be no more than 3% of its GDP and in 2011 the United States will exceed that threshold maximum by three fold.
  • According to the CBO report, mandatory government spending (which I am assuming is Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) will rise an average of 5.6% a year for the next ten years. Since the U.S. economy rarely grows more than 3-4% a year, in good times, unless changes are made to the mandatory spending levels, more and more taxes will have to be collected to make up the shortfall. More and more taxes going to the government means less and less spending on growing the economy which reduces the tax stream which requires higher taxes, etc., etc. Its called a death spiral.
  • Although not in the CBO report, recall our analysis last summer of a Fortune magazine article. That article estimated the total wealth, not income, of the four hundred richest Americans. If you add up that wealth you see that these 400 Americans control about $2.7 TRILLION of wealth. Theoretically, if the government was to confiscate everything these Americans owned, sold it and applied what they received to the almost $28 TRILLION national debt we will have in about ten years, the rest of America would still owe our debtors about $25 TRILLION. The lesson: you cannot solve this impending disaster by taxing the rich more since even if you took everything they owned, it would reduce the national debt by less than 10%.
A lot of numbers but the message is so clear: we are about to do a Thelma and Louise off of the financial cliff and the Democrats are steering the car and the Republicans are not working the breaks. But this does not have to be the case. Consider what some other, smarter Americans are doing relative to the ballooning national debt:
  1. The CATO Institute is going through the last Federal budget, line by line, program by program, and identifying ways to cut and save taxpayer money. I will go into their findings in detail in the near future but they are easily finding hundreds of billions of dollars in either wasteful, useless, or redundant government operations that need to be terminated immediately.
  2. The President instituted his own Deficit Reduction Commission to look into ways to curb Federal spending and get the debt under control. As predicted, he gave it no support from start to finish and despite the excellent bipartisan recommendations they came up with, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid effectively neutered any action before it even got started. I feel sorry for those that worked and succeeded in implementing the charter of the commission, the political class never wanted them to succeed in the first place.
  3. Nicole Tichon of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, (liberal leaning) and Andrew Moylan of the National Taxpayers Union (conservative leaning) developed and reported on a joint analysis of government spending entitled, "Toward Common Ground: Bridging The Political Divide To Reduce Spending." They also easily found hundreds of billions of dollars a year that could be cut out of the Federal budget with minimal impact on most Americans, projects that they list (much like the CATO analysis) in their report. Many of these savings are not just straight budget cuts but straight forward, logical cost efficiencies that our political class should have been pursuing for decades. If you look at their list of cuts, the average American would have not problems with their recommendations since they are unaffected by the wasteful spending.
  4. The Bipartisan Policy Center, which is headed by former Democratic and Republican majority leaders, has been meeting on a regular basis in Washington to also come up with an approach to saving the country from its debt. The members on the panel addressing the issue within the Center include both Republicans and Democrats, most have extensive government budgeting experience, and they are addressing EVERY government expenditure including Social Security and Medicare.
  5. The Concord Coalition is headed up by an ex-Republican Senator, Warren Rudman, and an ex-Democratic Senator, Bob Kerry, and they and their coalition have also done extensive work in examining ways to reducing our out of control spending.
  6. In an AP/NBC poll that was reviewed in The Week magazine issue from December 10, 2010, the results showed that Americans favored government spending cuts over tax increases by a two to one margin.
  7. At, the website associated with this blog and the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," site visitors can vote on several dozen recent government spending programs to show whether they support any of those expenditures. About half of the projects listed have been rejected by 100% of those who voted and the rest of them have been rejected by over 90% of the voters.
So let's review. The country is heading for insolvency by just about any way you measure reality. Republicans and Democrats, progressive think tanks and conservative think tanks, sometimes working together, have come up with drastic, viable and necessary approaches to avoiding sovereign insolvency. Ordinary Americans have voted do cut unnecessary government expenses via the AP poll, via the list of projects and programs at our book's website, and in the November elections when dozens of Tea Party endorsed candidates were elected to curb spending.

It appears that the only people in the country that have not gotten the message are the long term, established political careerists in Washington. Their cuts, regardless of who is recommending them are minuscule compared to the overall budget. They sabotage their own deficit reduction commissions. The take the Bush tax cut debate issue, which revolved around whether or not to receive an additional $70 billion a year in taxes from the richest Americans and they manage to turn that into a one year additional deficit of over $400 billion, according to the CBO. Unbelievable.

If everyone else in the country sees the problem, why don't our politicians? Probably because they are afraid to take an unpopular stand since it might cost them some votes in their re-election campaign even though their lack of courage is killing the financial viability of the nation. Very, very selfish and short term thinking.

The only other possible reason for their inaction and sabotage of reduction efforts is that they truly do not understand the basics of government finances. In either case, selfishness or ignorance, we are in for a Thelma and Louise ending unless changes are made.

"Love my Country, Loathe My Government" would provide some insights on how they should proceed for the good of the country:
  1. Step 1 would reduce government spending by 10% a year for five years and could easily use the spending reduction road maps that many of the above efforts have come up with.
  2. Step 5 would increase law enforcement efforts to crack down and eliminate fraud and criminal activity that robs the government of untold billions of dollars every year.
  3. Step 30 would bring back almost all of the deployed U.S. troops around the world who are stationed to fight potential conflicts that no longer exist (e.g. why does the U.S. still have over 50,000 troops stationed in Germany?). We no longer can afford to garrison the world with our troops.
  4. Step 34 would hold Congressional committee members accountable for their areas of responsibility and remove them from those Committee post for dereliction of duty. If this rule was in effect, committees with Medicare oversight responsibilities would be re-staffed, given that Medicare loses almost $100 billion a year through fraud and criminal activity.
  5. Step 36 would require all politicians to take and pass a course in basic economic theory so that they have at least a fighting chance of understanding how their excessive spending could destroy the country.
  6. Step 39 is the most important step since it would impose strict term limits on politicians in office. If you have no chance of getting re-elected as a politician, then selling your soul for a few votes is no longer an option, freeing you up to make the hard decisions for the benefit of America. Janis Joplin once sang that "freedom is just another word for nothing else to lose." If you have nothing else to lose, i.e. you cannot get re-elected due to term limits, you now have the freedom to vote on what is best for the nation.
Americans have to understand that nothing else matters if the country goes bankrupt. Gay rights, education, clean energy, high speed rail, retirement funding, national security, police and fire protection, immigration reform, energy policy, medical costs and care, freedom, gun control, any issue that is important to you goes out the window if the economy collapses. Because if that happens you are left with only two choices: anarchy or martial law, neither of which would be pleasant and leave you living in a free, safe, and vibrant society. The only solution is to take our sour tasting, vomit inducing financial medicine by reducing spending on EVERY service the government provides, doing it in the least painful way possible, but understanding it will be painful.

CATO gets it, the Public Interest Research Group gets it, the National Taxpayer Foundation gets it, Obama's Deficit Reduction Commission gets it, the bipartisan Policy Center gets it, and those Americans that got polled by AP/NBC, voted at, and voted for tea Party candidates get it, why don't the politicians get it? Oh, that's right. They are already making plans for the 2012 elections. Two years away and they are already more concerned about getting re-elected in 2012 then saving the country. Shameful.

Our 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.

Please visit the following sites for freedom:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The State Of The Union: Following Spain Down the Financial Ruin Rathole

It seems that one of the overriding priorities and fixations of this administration and some in Congress is to implement high speed rail lines throughout this country. It came up again in the state of the union speech this week and the Democrats in Congress have already allocated taxpayer funds to several high speed rail projects around the country. Included in these projects is a high speed rail line from Tampa To Orlando but more on that a little later.

Given this fixation, my atttention was drawn to an article that appeared in the January 18, 2011 issue of The Week magazine. The article summaries a piece in El Pais, a Spanish publication, that was written by Cristina Vazquez and was titled, "A Bankrupt Country With Snazzy Trains." Remember, that Spain is one of those European countries, like Greece, that is rapidly approaching a financial collapse and sovereign bankruptcy because of their heavy government debt. Information in the article included the following:
  • According to Ms. Vazquez, "over the past few years, we've (Spain) spent unprecedented sums on transport improvements.
  • Spain now has the most miles of highways than any other European country."
  • With the recent opening of the Madrid-Valencia high speed train service, Spain ousted France as the holder of Europe's largest high speed rail network.
  • However, at the expense of six billion Euros, this high speed line will carry only 3.5 million passengers a year, or less than 10,000 people a day and serve only those that need to get between these two cities. However, 400 million people commute to work on commuter rails every year in Spain or more than 1.1 million a day. Thus, the billions of Euros spent will serve less than 1% of Spain's rail users.
  • While the high speed rail advocates claim that the trains are better for the environment, the cost of high speed rail is so much that most people still use their cars for the Madrid/Valencia trip since it is much less expensive, virtually nullifying the environmental argument.
The big concern is that we will end up in the same boat (or train) as Spain: wasting billions and billions of dollars on high speed rail that nobody uses but which becomes an ongoing burden to the American taxpayer. We can ill afford to waste any money now, especially on high speed rail, given the following history and current facts:
  • The Congressional Budget Office announced yesterday that this year's Federal government budget deficit will be much higher than expected to the tune of over $400 billion. This will raise the total deficit this year to almost $1.5 TRILLION or about $13,000 in additional tax burden on every United States family.
  • The state of California has wanted to put in high speed rail along  most of its length but after 14 years and the expenditure of almost a quarter of a billion dollars, not one piece of track has been laid. Given the failure of the political class to complete just this one rail concept, what makes us think that they can complete a national network on  time and on budget that serves the citizens of this country?
  • As mentioned above, the Federal government wants to build a high speed rail line from my Tampa Bay area to Orlando. In the November 17, 2010 post to this blog I showed how ludicrous that concept is from practical perspective. If you do not believe my calculations in that post, consider some observations by St. Pete Times writer, Tampa Bay resident Howard Troxler, who wrote on December 12, 2010: "Hey, let's take the kids to Disney (in Orlando). We'll drive from our house to downtown Tampa, find a park and ride lot, pay $30 apiece for us and the kids for train tickets, wait for the train, and get there about when we would have gotten there anyway for the cost of gas money. Then, after an exhausting day, we'll negotiate our way from Disney back to the train station, wait for the train, get off back at the Tampa station, THEN get in our car and drive home!"
  • I read somewhere that every time an Amtrak customer goes first class on an Amtrak train, it costs the American taxpayer several hundred dollars to subsidize that traveler. Imagine how much money we will waste if the Amtrak concept is rolled out nationwide.
Does our infrastructure need to be repaired? Definitely. Remember what happened in Boston and Minnesota a few years ago. A traveler was killed in the Big Dig Boston tunnel when a concrete slab came loose and crushed her as she drove by. In Minnesota, a highway bridge actually collapsed from neglect. But we need to take any funds that Obama and some Democrats want for this high speed rail folly and use it to make sure Americans do not die from the simple act of traveling.

Do we need high speed rail lines? Not today. Not when:
  • Our budget deficit is crippling today and the payoff, if any, for high speed rail is likely decades down the road (see California example above). By then, the country could be financially bankrupt and the ordinary, day-to-day infrastructure, the infrastructure that most Americans use, could have really crumbled away. It's a question of priorities and financial survival.
  • The political class has shown no ability to profitably manage any kind of rail line, whether it is building a new one (e.g. California) or operating an existing one (e.g. Amtrak).
  • Lines like the Tampa to Orlando high speed rail line will not reach any kind of desirable utilization. Americans love their cars and Americans love to drive and Americans like to do things quickly. Who in the world thinks that people in Tampa and Orlando will use this line, or any high speed line like it, that costs more, takes more times, and eliminates the freedom of the road that Americans love?
It is this last concept that is so distressing when it comes to our politicians. It is just another example, and unfortunately, it could become a very expensive and wasteful example, of politicians being totally out of touch with the rest of the country and understanding root causes of situations. And it is the same symptom that will take this country down the financial ruin rathole. The parallels to Spain, who will hit that rathole first are so strong. Spending money for the sake of ego and for the sake of spending money. Ms. Vazquez concludes her article with the observation: "The big difference between Spain and other European countries is that the others plan services, while we just plan spending."

Given our $1.5 TRILLION deficit for this year, it looks like our politicians and Spain's have the same trait or gene: planning on spending, not on fulfilling needs of Americans. Let us hope that we do not suffer the same likely financial fate of Spain as a result.

How do we fix the everyday infrastructure in the face of this crippling deficit? Consider a few approaches:
  • First, delay any expenditures on high speed rail lines, regardless of what politician's ego gets deflated including the President's, and divert that money to real infrastructure repair programs so that fatal Minnesota bridges and Boston concrete panels do not happen anymore.
  • Second, do not let Joe Biden or any politician determine what infrastructure needs get funding since the Associated Press proved in late 2009, that despite Biden's oversight responsibility for economic stimulus spending, money was diverted to politicians' home states and districts where about half of the bridge infrastructure money was spent to repair bridges that did not need repairing. Appoint a commission of infrastructure experts to make the call, independent of Congress, the White House, and the lobbyists.
  • Third, any additional funding that Obama needs for day-to-day, current infrastructure repair, comes under a "4 To 1" arrangement. For every dollar he cuts out of the Federal budget to help restore financial sanity to our government's wasteful spending, he gets to keep one dollar for infrastructure improvement, up to a pre-set amount. That way we protect Americans while they travel today while cutting the budget, and delaying the probably high expense, low return from high speed rail that our political class will stick us with.
Its called setting priorities, something our politicians stink at besides their inability to understand the root causes of a situation. They need to 1) do much fewer projects in their jobs, 2) focus much more on a much smaller set of efforts that affect most American families and 3) do it with a much smaller budget. High speed rail, as Spain found out, fits none of these requirements.

Our 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.

Please visit the following sites for freedom:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The State Of The Union, Steroids In Baseball, and Sputnik

Three topics from today's post really linked together in my head last night. As most of you know, President Obama delivered his state of the union message last night. I always have low expectations for these events since rarely is anything new, exciting or effective ever proposed. Last night was no difference. It seemed like a locker room interview after a professional sports game, nothing but cliches strung together, one right after another. We have all heard them before. Improve education, be nicer to each other, create jobs, be a world leader, "win the future," yada, yada, yada. Again, no different, no better, no worse than most state of the union addresses.

However, the one part of the President's speech that attracted my attention, and not in the favorable way the President wanted, is his reference to Sputnik. For those of you old enough to remember or who read it in the history books, in the late 1950s, Russia became the first nation to launch a vehicle into space, the unmanned Sputnik satellite. This scared the life out of Americans, since it was the height of the Cold War and it appeared that Russia might gain a military advantage by being the first into space.

This scare and panic resulted in a dedicated effort to raise the standards of American schools in order to better compete in the world and specifically, against the Russians. As a result, education improved, American competitiveness improved, and the U.S. went off on a decades long bender of being a world leader in just about everything including education, manufacturing, technology, and innovation. In his state of the union speech, the President referred to Sputnik and urged that America attack our problems with the same urgency that Sputnik created back over fifty years ago.

Which really got me thinking? Why did the President have to reach back at least two generations to come up with an inspirational example? My conclusions? Since the Sputnik and education drive, the political class and the government it operates has really delivered virtually nothing that the President could have drawn on to inspire current Americans to strive for. In other words, he had to go back over fifty years to find a government success story. How pathetic is that performance.

Now, one could argue that landing people on the moon was inspirational and he could have used that analogy. This is true except for two reasons:
  • Even if he did use the Apollo moon missions for his inspirational example, that still occurred over forty years ago, really not recent.
  • And second, one could make the argument that Sputnik and Apollo were really two parts of the same example, with Sputnik spurring the U.S. to develop the moon program.
In either case, over forty years ago or Sputnik and Apollo being one in the same event, it does not relieve the fact that the political class, Democrats and Republicans, have been hopelessly lost in leading and inspiring the country and its citizens for at least forty years:
  1. It would have been nice to have an effective War On Drugs program since the 1960s with government stepping up in an effective manner to control the problems associated with drug abuse. But forty years later, millions of wasted lives later and probably trillions of tax dollars later, that is not the case.
  2. It would have been nice to have an effective national energy policy and strategy since the 1970s, after the oil shocks of that decade, with government stepping up in an effective manner to wean the nation off of foreign energy sources and implement friendlier energy sources. But over thirty years later, millions of foreign oil barrels later, and trillions of dollars and wealth that have left the country for overseas, this is not the case.
  3. It would have been nice to have a reboot on making public education effective again, similar to what happened after Sputnik, since in the 1980s a Presidential Commission laid out the problems and strategy for fixing failing public education. But over twenty years later, trillions of dollars later wasted on faulty education processes, and an unknown amount of brain power wasted by undereducated kids, this is not the case.
  4. It would have been nice to have secure borders, free from terrorists attacks and floods of illegal immigrants since the 1990s when the first terror attacks hit our shores and armed forces overseas. But thousands of lost lives later and trillions of dollars wasted, we are still only a faulty ignition device or two from blown up planes over Detroit or detonated car bombs in Times Square.
  5. It would have been nice to have high tech, modern, and safe infrastructure throughout the country, a basic function of central government. But after decades of wasting transportation dollars, earmark dollars, and economic stimulus dollars on wasteful, useless projects (e.g. the Alaskan Bridge To Nowhere, the West Virginian Highway To Nowhere, the use of stimulus dollars to fix bridges that were in tip top shape), that is not the case.
An unsolved drug problem, no effective energy policy, failing public schools again, unsafe borders, and crumbling infrastructure. Throw in the coming insolvency of Social Security and Medicare,  the ballooning Federal debt, faulty election processes (e.g. Congressional district gerrymandering, campaign funding disgrace), a space program with no direction or purpose, and any number of other examples of failing by the political class, I now understand why the President had to go all the way back to Sputnik. That was really the last time that the Federal government was successful in something that resulted in tangible benefits at a reasonable cost.

Which brings us to my baseball steroids connection. As many baseball fans know, many of the sport's super stars over the past two decades have been found to have used steroids or actually admitted to using steroids to enhance their performance on the field. While the use of these performance enhancing drugs may have had a temporary benefit of increased productivity, the long term effects are yet to be known.

It seems like our political class has been running on steroids for a long time. Temporary improvement but long term negative impacts:
  • We threw money (a politcians' version of steroids) at our failing public schools under the No Child Left Behind umbrella and get a temporary rise in student scores but lost time in the true, underlying problems of our failing schools.
  • We once threw money at our energy crisis several decades ago but without a long term, strategic plan that addressed the underlying causes  of our energy predicament, the steroid effect eventually wore off and we still had no energy policy.
  • We once threw money, and continue to throw money at our drug abuse program without success, indicating that the political class and government steroids used in the War On Drugs was not really performance enhancing.
Our politicians are always looking for the short term, steroid approach to getting anything done. As long as it works until the next election, it is the right thing to do. As long as baseball players could get to their next contract, even if it meant long term damage to their bodies and careers, steroids was the key, a short term fix. This is why Obama had to go back to the fifties for inspiration. Since then, our politicians have been on a steroid like binge, short term planning, short term objectives, just getting to the next election.

I love Mark Twain for his insightful looks into human nature. One of my favorite Twain quotes goes as follows: "Sometimes I wonder if the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or imbeciles who really mean it." If we were being governed by smart people, the President would not have had to go back fifty years for inspiration. If we are being government by imbeciles, well you can draw your own conclusions.

Several steps from "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" might actually help provide some up-to-date inspiration for America:
  • Steps 26 - 29 would actually get smart Americans involved in a process that address our problems of drug abuse, failing public schools, secure borders, and escalating health care costs, a novel and groundbreaking approach that would basically leave the political class out of the process. This process has its roots in other historical U.S. breakthroughs including the Apollo mission, the Manhattan project and others, it has worked and it could work again.
  • Steps 10 - 12 would implement three steps to fix Social Security and actually guarantee a solid retirement stream of money for older Americans. Sounds boring but it would inspirational to me if that was the case in light of the impending implosion of the Social Security system, i.e. actually fulfilling its original intent is pretty inspirational to me.
  • Step 39 - would implement term limits for all politicians. One of the well known side effects of steroid use is a swollen head and from my observations, I can honestly say I believe that most politicians suffer from big heads/egos, further proof of my steroids analogy.
It is a shame that a country with these resources and these types of citizens has not been inspired by its ruling political class for over five decades. Since Sputnik we have lost trillions of dollars on non-effective government programs, run up trillions of dollars of national debt, wasted generations of brain power via faulty education, and have a leader, through no fault of his own has to comb the history books for anything close to inspiration. Steroids and imbeciles, a deadly combination.

Our 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.

Please visit the following sites for freedom:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More Proof That Obama Care Got It Wrong

A new report from the National Research Council had some very interesting findings, findings that continue to prove that Obama care got the whole approach to solving the nation's escalating health care costs wrong in its approach and strategy. The National Research Council is part of the National Academy Of Sciences, an independent organization of the Federal government, chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters. Thus, the government did not even listen to itself when it cobbled together the looming disaster know as Obama Care.

According to the report:

- The United States spends more on health care than any other nation in the world but has worse life expectancy than many other nations who spend less.

- The  U.S. average life expectancy at birth for women is 80.8 years and 75.6 years for men.

- In France, women's life expectancy is 84.4 years and for men it is 77.4 years.

- In Japan, women's life expectancy is almost 86 years and for men it is 79.2.

- The report concludes that smoking and obesity are the primary drivers of the U.S.'s poor performance since, according to the findings, over the years, the U.S. led those unhealthy trends of eating too much of the wrong kinds of food and smoking too much.

- The report found in countries where women's life expectancy was high, there was a strong correlation with low smoking levels and in those countries where women's smoking levels were comparable to U.S. smoking levels, life expectancy was about the same as in the U.S.

- The report estimated that between 25% and 33% of the shortfall in life expectancy in the U.S. was due to obesity.

Well, what a surprise. If you do not take care of your body and health, you will live a shorter life and probably live a less healthy life. This is not rocket science. I would also assume that even if these bad habits do not shorten your life, they certainly make you more unhealthy and more likely to need medical care, further burdening the health care industry and adding to the cost of providing health care service.

Consider some other recent scientific findings that we have discussed in this blog:

- In a Fortune magazine article last year, the head of the world renowned Cleveland Clinic was interviewed and he estimated that smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise account for the majority of illnesses in this country.

- The Cleveland Clinic significantly reduced the health risks of those that work in the Clinic and the entire county where the Clinic is located by offering smoking cessation classes, exercise options, and improved eating options in their cafeterias.

- An AARP Magazine article from their December, 2010 issue reported on how a small American town had implemented a town wide health drive that had resulted in many townspeople using the program to drop considerable amounts of excess weight.

- A December 24, 2010 article from The Week magazine reported on how Americans take in too much salt in their diet and that just a small reduction in that amount could save upwards of 100,000 lives a year that occur as a result of excess salt (a 13% decline), and the incidence of new heart disease and stroke cases would decrease by 11% and 8% respectively.

- In that same issue of The Week, another article reported on how American kids spend way too much time passively watching television and not getting up and exercising, behavior that results in poorer school performance, a higher chance of being bullied, and higher ratios of body fat.

As we have said many times before, the probable root causes of escalating health care costs in this country is a public health problem of too much smoking, too much eating, too much eating of the wrong types of food, and not enough exercising and movement. The need for higher taxes, the need to force everyone to purchase health care insurance coverage, and the need to implement an incredibly complex, inefficient and expensive government bureaucracy to administer Obama Care are probably not the root causes.

Unfortunately, this latter approach is what the political class decided to implement. It does not address these root causes, causes that are best addressed by a public health approach, not a taxation and government control/bureaucracy approach.

In fact, I would maintain that Michelle Obama has done more to improve the health care situation in the United States than the President and all of Congress has done. Ms. Obama has been active in promoting programs to get kids up and out and active. Just this past week, she held a joint news conference with Walmart officials where they jointly announced an effort to make the food products sold in Walmart supermarkets healthier. No additional taxes, no additional impositions on freedom, no additional government intervention in our lives, just sound, simple public health improvement actions.

What should we do to fix this wrong headed and doomed to failure approach of Obama Care? Consider two steps from "Love My Country, Loathe My Government:

- Step 28 - implement a subject matter expert panel of smart Americans, a panel that would not include politicians and lobbyists, that would execute a ground up approach, problem solving exercise to fully understand the underlying root causes of our nation's poor health and resulting high health care costs. Once the underlying causes were identified, implement the probable public health care strategies to begin changing eating, exercising, and smoking behavior, not changing tax laws.

- Step 5 - last year, the Obama administration admitted that upwards of $100 billion a year is lost through government health care programs to fraud and criminal activity. A $100 billion is a lot of money, money that could be better spent helping provide health care coverage and services to Americans that need help. Thus, this step would aggressively staff up anti-fraud and anti-criminal behavior and tighten up the processes to reduce this obscene amount of taxpayer money wasted through fraud. Better to hire more government agents to go after real criminals in this fraud area than to hire more government agents to pursue and criminalize honest Americans that do not purchase health care coverage under Obama Care.

A third step, although not included in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" has some fascinating possibilities. If cigarettes were outlawed altogether, you can be sure that a criminal black market would develop in cigarettes, contributing to the rise of yet another government fostered criminal enterprise, just like Prohibition did and just like the War on Drugs does. However, what if you made it so unattractive to smoke that you achieved the same objective without criminalizing smoking?

The genesis of this approach was identified in a short blurb in the November 19, 2010 issue of The Week magazine which named as the source. According to the blurb, beginning on January 1, 2011 the Massachusetts Hospital Association will no longer hire people who smoke tobacco. The obvious intent is to reduce, an intent that was verified by the CEO of the Association, the overall number of smokers. As we know from results and research listed above, dropping the smoking rate results in all kinds of good health care results.

In this approach, no one is forcing smokers to stop smoking. No one is making smoking illegal. No criminal enterprises arise. However, there is one less employment opportunity for people in the Massachusetts area. What if Obama had taken the following approach:

- Starting in 2013, the Federal government will no longer hire anyone who is a smoker.

- Starting in 2015, anyone on the Federal payroll who is still a smoker will be removed form the Federal payroll.

- Between now and the beginning of 2015, the Federal government will provide extensive smoking cessation support for current government employees who smoke.

This example might actually ripple through the economy as companies take their lead from the Federal government, resulting in a healthier and longer living America.

Would there be lawsuits implemented by smokers? Probably, Would they be successful? I do not know but the Massachusetts Hospital Association does not think they would be successful, given that they have already implemented this process under the legal assumption that "smokers" are not a protected class.

This is the type of original thinking and creativity that was totally absent from the formulation and writing of Obama Care. The political class just did what they always do, pass muddled legislation that adjusts taxes and creates more bureaucracy without ever addressing the root causes. This behavior is something we like to call "Amateur Hour" and is another case where they got it all wrong again.

Our 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.

Please visit the following sites for freedom:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Amateur Hour In Washington D.C., Part 4 - Does Anyone Have A Plan For Anything?

This is the fourth and for the time being, last, in a series of posts where we look at the utter incompetence of the American political class. The first part of this series looked at four specific examples of amateur hour behavior and incompetence from our politicians. The second part looked only at the failed on War On Drugs, a government initiative from the Nixon era that has failed by just about any measure. The previous post looked at three forms of corruption that distract politicians from ever getting around to resolving any major issue or problem.

Today we will play a little game called "What Is The Plan?" Using just a representative sampling of news and magazine headlines from the past six months or so on a variety of topics, please read the information and then try to explain to yourself or anyone else what the plan is behind these government and political class actions. I am pretty sure that you will not be able to coherently explain what the resolution plan is to these issues since these plans probably do not exist.

And therein lies the problem: maybe many of these issues never get resolved because the political class never seems to put together a rationale and doable plan, usually because they never take the time, effort, and brain power to understanding the underlying root causes of our issues. Typical amateur hour stuff, never understanding a problem, like an amateur, greatly reduces the potential for resolving those issues.

So, here we go. Read the headlines and see if you can understand what the political class "plan" is:


"The Real Cost Of Endless War" - The Week magazine, 8/20/10

"Iran Charts Future In Iraq" - Newsweek, 8/23/10

"The Fight Against Corruption In Afghanistan" - The Week, 9/24/10

"Karzai (Afghan President) Gets Large Cash Drops From Iran" -  LA Times, 10/10

"Spoils Of War For Sale In Pakistan" - Associated Press, 10/8/10

"Bringing The Taliban To The Table" - The Week, 10/2910

"Kabul - Bags Of Cash From Iran" - The Week, 11/5/10

"Afghanistan - Rampant Election Fraud" - The Week, 10/29/10

"NATO Needs 900 Afghan Trainers" - Associated Press, 11/8/10

"Rising Tensions With Karzai" - The Week, 11/2610

"Fooled By Taliban Imposter" - The Week, 12/3/10

From these headlines, one could conclude that the administration's Afghanistan/Iraq strategy involves: 
  • Allowing corruption to flourish at all levels from the President to elections to the black market shops in Pakistan.
  • Allowing Iran to have a larger and larger say in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Allowing military training needs to go unattended until more than nine years into the conflict.
  • Spend a lot of "endless" money with no battle field success.
  • What apparently is not part of the plan is actually winning the war since it seems we never see headlines that address that rather important objective. 
No plan, no success.

Obama Care Ramifications:

 "AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar, John Deere May Cut Employee Health Insurance" - Fortune magazine, 5/6/10

"21 Million Americans Still Uninsured By 2016" -              
Congressional Budget Office" - Reason magazine, 8/10

"Health Overhaul Means Longer ER Waits" - Associated Press, 7/2/10

"Will Health Reform Affect My Plan?" - Kiplinger Personal Finance, 8/10

Fortune Interview of AT&T Chairman Randal Stephenson where he states that AT&T may drop its health insurance plans for its employees and retirees as a result of Obama Care - Fortune magazine, 8/10

"MacDonald's May Drop health Plans" - Wall Street Journal, 9/3/10

"Worst Health Care and More Expensive Under Obama Care" - Cato Policy Report, 9/10

"AARP Hikes Employee Healthcare Costs" - Yahoo News, 11/4/10

"Obama Care May Spur Merger Mania" - NY Times, 11/21/10

"Doctors Brace For Possible Big Medicare Cuts" - Associated Press, 1/12/10

"Health Care (Obama Care) Rules Are Waived More Often" - NY Times, 11/9/10

From these headlines, on could conclude that the plan for health care reform involves: 
  • Endangering the current health care insurance coverage of millions of current and retired employees from America's largest corporations.
  • Reduce health care insurance coverage for those Americans currently covered while leaving 21 million uninsured Americans still uninsured.
  • Increase ER waiting times, make health care quality worse, reduce competition, and make health care costs more expensive. 
No coherent plan, unintended and bad consequences. Amateur hour.

Government waste and incompetence:

"94 Charged In Medicare Fraud Totaling $251 Million" - Associated Press, 7/16/10

"A Case Study In The Folly Of Stimulus" - The Week, 7/23/10

"Investigation Ties Military Workers To Child Porn" - Associated Press, 7/23/10

"Strangled by Pork In West Virginia" - the Week, 7/23/10

"50% of Government Flu Vaccine Unused and Destroyed At Cost Of $260 Million" - The Week, 7/23/10

"North Carolina Spends $1.1 Million To Slightly Adjust Restrooms For ADA" - The Week, 8/13/10

"Fannie and Freddie Keep Losing Money" - The Week, 8/20/10

"Mortgage relief Program A Bust" - Associated Press, 8/20/10

"Governments "Biggest Source Of Pollution" - Reason magazine, 10/10
"Feds Fail To Use Land For Solar Power" - Associated Press, 9/1/10

"Stimulus Assessments Overly Optimistic" - Associated Press, 8/26/10
"Just 2% Of Haiti Debris Cleared" - Associated Press, 9/12/10

"Rich People Collect Unemployment" - The Week, 10/15/10

"Stimulus Checks Sent To Dead And Jailed" - The Week, 10/22/10

"Freddie Mac Posts $4.1 Billion Loss" - Associated Press, 11/3/10

"Mismanagement Rampant In Pubic Housing" - Associated Press, 10/28/10

"Mystery Train - California Spends Billions But No Train After 14 Years" - Reason magazine, 11/10

"$700,000 Taxpayer funded Play On Climate Change" - Heritage Foundation, 10/4/10

"California Recipients Waste Welfare Money" - The Week, 11/12/10

"Six Million 2000 (Presidential) Paper Ballots Still Stored" - The Week, 12/19/10

"119,000 Planes A Mystery To FAA" - Associated Press, 12/10/10

"$140 Million Stimulus Wasted" - The Week, 12/17/10

If we did not know better, we could conclude that wasting taxpayer money and failing to fulfill the jobs government agencies and individuals are supposed to do was actually the plan, given how much waste and failure there is vs. the lack of efficiency and effectiveness. It is has to be amateur hour for this much chaos and waste to exist.

There never is a plan. There never is a plan to resolve the continuing illegal drug problem. There never is a plan for failing public schools. There never is a plan for developing a coherent, national energy policy. There never is a plan for containing government spending. There never is a plan for fixing the rapid approach to insolvency of Social Security and Medicare. There never is a plan to efficiently fix our crumbling infrastructure. There never is a plan for anything.

And just so we are clear, just spending more money is not a plan. That is how we managed to waste hundreds of billions of dollars for Obama's many failed economic programs from the stimulus program to Cash For Clunkers to First Time Home Buyers Rebate to the failed mortgage fix programs. A plan involves understanding reality, understanding the root causes of a problem, and developing tactics that efficiently address the reality and root causes. Under this definition of  a plan, I dare anyone to tell me what the plans are for solving our problems as developed by the political class.

A few steps from "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" would help in this planning area:
  1. Step 1 - reduce the size of the Federal government by 10% a year for five years so that the waste is wrung out of the government processes and the political class gets much more focused on far fewer projects. A tighter focus might eventually result in coherent and doable plans.
  2. Step 34 - hold Congressional committee members accountable for their committees' responsibilities, removing them from their committee posts for allowing the rampant amount of waste and mismanagement to continue on their watch.
  3. Steps 26 Through 29 - implement the processes introduced in these steps to finally come up with a rational problem solving process and plan to address the problems of rising health care costs, national energy policy, the war on drugs, failing public schools and illegal immigration in a professional and effective manner.
Maybe by implementing these steps we might finally hear a politician say: "I love it when a plan comes together," much like the A-Team used to say every week during its TV run. Unfortunately, with our politicians, we may never hear that statement until amateur hour ends.

Our 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.

Please visit the following sites for freedom:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Amateur Hour In D.C., Part 3 - The Three Forms Of Political Class Corruption

This is our third in a serious of posts where we examine how amateurish our political class is when it comes to operating our various levels of government. Of all of the issues facing the nation and American families, most top ten lists would include such major topics as our failing public schools, our lost war on drugs, escalating health care costs, high unemployment, the insolvency of Social Security and Medicare, the lack of a rational and effecive national energy policy, and onerous national debt that will burden current and future generations of taxpayers. By just about any logical, quantifiable, or other reality-based measure, our political class has either not gotten around to fixing any of these problems, does not want to fix any of these problems, or most likely, has no idea how to fix any of these problems. Amateur hour.

One reason for their distraction from solving any problems may come down to one ugly word: corruption. Consider some of the ugly corruption headlines that we have unfortunately come across the past six months or so:

 "California Council Accepts Resignation of Three Managers" - Associated Press, 7/23/10. These city managers had managed to arrange salaries for themselves that were obnoxiously high.

"Fraud Gets Ex-Obama, Clinton Fundraiser 12 Years" - Associated Press, 7/15/10

"House Panel Charges Rangel With Ethics Violations" - Associated Press, 7/22/10

"Rangel Case Disturbing, Some Dems Say Resign" - Associated Press, 7/31/10

"Dems Say Swamp Of Corruption Drained" - Associated Press, 8/2/10

"TARP Recipients Spend $114 Milllion In Lobbying" -

"Kerry Dodges Massachusetts Boat Taxes" - The Week, 8/10/10

"Ethics Violations" - USA Today, 8/16/10

"3 Corruption Trials In New Jersey" - Associated Press, 10/6/10

"Audit - City Mismanaged over $50 Million In Funds" - Associated Press, 9/22/10

"Candidates For (NM) Governor Talk Corruption" - KRQE, 9/22/10

"Casino Owners, Senators Charged In Alabama Bingo Probe" - Associated Press, 10/4/10

"Congressional Aides Buy Bank Stocks" - The Week, 10/22/10. This article discussed how Congressional staffers, working for politicians working who would determine what banks got how much bailout money, used this insider trading information to get the edge in bank stock purchasing.

"Franks Gets Campaign Cash From Bailed Out Banks" - Associated Press, 10/22/10. Congressman Barney Franks' conflict of interest behavior - getting campaign donations from the industry he is supposed to oversee and regulate.

"Reid Aide Admits To False Immigration Marriage" - St. Petersburg Times, 10/26/10

"California Welfare Recipients Waste Welfare Money" - The Week, 11/12/10

"California Lawmakers Keep Vehicle Perk" - Associated Press, 12/10. Despite facing a huge budget shortfall for their state, California politicians continue to be the only state in the union that pays for cars for their state politicians.

Ex-Senator Chris Dodd's quote on how money perverts our election process - Businessweek, 12/6/10

This small sample of corruption and politics is illustrative of the first two types of corruption in our political class today. The first type is conflict of interest corruption. In this area, we see how politicians use their positions of power and trust to take campaign donations from the very industries and companies that they are supposed to be providing protection from for the American public. Congressman Barney Franks accepts campaign donations from banks even though he was the chairman of the House committee responsible for overseeing the banking industry and the bailout of banks in that industry. Congressional staffers trade stocks of banks using insider trading they may have gleaned from their Congressional jobs, actions that would get regular Americans arrested for violating insider trading laws. Conflict of interest corruption can cause politicians to act in the best interests of themselves and those that benefit the politician, not the American public.

The second type of corruption illustrated above is one of simple greed. Senator John Kerry, one of the richest people in the entire country, decides to save tens of thousands of dollars in Massachusetts state taxes by stashing his yacht in Rhode Island. Alabama state senators get kickbacks from developers to vote favorablyy on casinos in their state. Corruption of this type becomes a campaign issue in New Mexico's governor race. This type of corruption diverts polticians attention from the problems that need to be solved in order to devote their focus and energies on how to game the system for their own personal benefit. This type of greed also results in sub-optimal political actions since the right answer and proper course of action is secondary to personal financial gain.

The third type of corruption has no examples listed above. This type of corruption is really a moral form of corruption. Consider the following list of leading politicians that many would think have had moral corruption problems, usually in the forms of tax evasion, adultery, and/or lying:

  1. President Bill Clinton (adultery and lying)
  2. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer (adultery and lying)
  3. New Jersey James MacGreevey (adultery and lying)
  4. South Carolina Governor Stamford (adultery and lying)
  5. U.S. Senator John Ensign (adultery and lying)
  6. U.S. Senator John Edwards (adultery and lying)
  7. Ex-Senator Tom Daschle (tax evasion)
  8. Treasury Secretary Geithner (tax evasion)
Adultery and tax evasion probably takes a lot of energy and focus, energy and focus that cannot be used to focus on solutions to real problems.

I do not know how much corruption contributes to the political class inability to solve any problem. This inability and nonperformance may be a combination of a number of factors including various forms of corruption, the lack of desire to solve any of the major issues, or the intellectual inability to solve the major issues. The bottom line is that failing public schools, the war on drugs, illegal immigration, high taxes, etc. never get seriously addressed, never mind solved.

Several steps form "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" would go a long way to eliminating the factors that contribute to this sad, amateurish situation:
  • Step 6 would only allow individual Americans to contribute to election campaigns in order to remove the factor of money out of our politics and eliminate the many conflicts of interest we suffer from today such as Congressional members receiving money for the companies they have oversight responsibility for.
  • Step 38 would require all politicians to take an annual oath of ethics and shared values so they at least are told what proper behavior is from a corruption perspective.
  • Step 39 would implement term limits for all politicians to remove the corruption of re-election campaigns out of our politics. It would also provide a continuous stream of new people with new ideas into our political system with the hope that these new people might eventually solve our oldest problems. Those politicians that have been in office for twenty, thirty or more years have proven that they cannot solve these problems.
We will never solve our major issues until we have at least minimized the corruption within our political class and get them focused on these issues rather than their current focus on their re-election campaigns, their personal financial advancement (either through maximizing their cash inflows or minimizing their tax outflows), or their adulterous affairs. Until we get professional, serious, and focused people in Washington, we will still be in the confines of of amateur hour.

Our 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.

Please visit the following sites for freedom:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Amateur Hour In D.C. - Part 2 - The Lost War On Drugs

Yesterday we introduced a concept and theme that we will run with for a few days, namely the fact that our politicians have been running this country for over two hundred years and they still seem to get nothing right, just like a bunch of amateurs trying a new skill. Try to list all of the functions that our political class runs efficiently and effectively. If you are honest, it is very difficult to do:
  1. Social Security - going bankrupt
  2. Medicare and Medicaid - going bankrupt and infested with fraud.
  3. SEC - never saw the biggest economic disaster of our lifetimes coming until it hit them in the face and became the Great Recession. I will throw in the overlooking of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme as a bonus.
  4. FHA, HUD, Congressional Housing and Banking Committees - see SEC.
  5. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - see SEC above and also remember that it is costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars a month to keep these two entities solvent.
  6. NASA - no long term strategy or goal but still with an annual budget.
  7. The Nation's Infrastructure - falling apart
  8. National Energy Policy and Strategy - noexistent
  9. Federal Tax System - overly complicated and inefficient and also infested with fraud and tax dodging.
  10. Border Patrol - given that there are over 10 million illegal aliens in this country, no need to go further.
  11. Public Schools - overall failures relative to other nations' students in all areas of learning including Math, Reading and Science.
  12. Financial Responsibility - heading for insolvency as a nation because the political class continues to pile up trillions of dollars of debt.
  13. Management Of The Economy - rife with failed intitatives including the overall economic stimulus program, TARP, Cash For Clunkers, Cash For Appliances, Cash For Caulkers, First Time Home Buyer Rebate Program, Mortgage Adjustment Program, etc.
See, I told you it would be difficult to find a government program that does not appear as if the Keystone Kops are in charge. Again, one would think that after trying to do many of these things over the decades and centuries that the political class in this country would have acquired some of the skills necessary to execute their government functions professionally. The sad part is that we pay big bucks via our freedom and our taxes for these failures.

Today let's focus on one fo the biggest failures of all time from our political class, the failed "War On Drugs" that was inititated over four decades ago. Rather than go into details of how this is a failure, I have just listed below some of the news reports headlines in this area from the past six months or so, I think they speak for themselves:

"Seized Submarine Quantum Leap For Narcos" - Associated Press, 7/8/10

"Mexican Drug Cartel Hit List Of American Targets" - NY Daily News, 7/8/10

"Pot Tolerance Hits An All Time High" - Reason Magazine, 8/10

"Survey Shows It Is Easier For DC Teens To Get Pot Vs. Beer" - Cato Policy Report, 7/10

"Medical Pot To Be Okay In Some VA Clinics" - Associated Press, 7/24/10

"Gunmen Kill 17 At Party In Mexico" - Associated Press, 7/19/10

"Drug Wars See First Car Bombing" - Huffington Post, 7/17/10

"Mexican Journalists Stop Reporting On Drug Cartel Violence" - The Week Magazine, 8/10

"Mexico's Police Chief Killed" - Washington Post, 5/4/10

"Police Arrested In Mayor's Killing" - Associated Press, 8/20/10

"Drug War Sends Bullets Across Border" - Associated Press, 8/24/10

"Cartel Suspected In Massacre of 72 Migrants" - Associated Press, 8/26/10

"Mexico Fires 10% Of Its Police Force" - Associated Press, 8/30/10

"Huge Pot Haul In California" - The Week Magazine, 10/29/10

"Five U.S. Civilians Killed In Mexico" - St. Pete Times, 11/5/10

"Sophisticated U.S. - Mexico Drug Tunnel Found" - The Week Magazine, 11/5/10

"Police Officers, Doctor Killed In Mexico shootings" - Associated Press, 12/30/10

"Mayor Shot To Death In Southern Mexico" - Associated Press, 1/13/11

"Gang's Terror Felt Far From Drug War On U.S. Border - Associated Press, 1/16/11

You get the idea. After forty some years of fighting a war on drugs, here is where we stand:
  • International drug cartels will go to any length to get illegal drugs into this country including building long, high tech smuggling tunnels under our borders and even very sophisticated, fully functional smuggling submarines.
  • Drug cartels will go to any length, including unspeakable violence, to protect their illicit trade with untold millions of dollars in drug profits they reap from that trade, violence that seems to grow daily just below our southern border and violence which threatens to replace the exisiting government structure in Mexico with a narco state.
  • The United States is a hodgepodge of conflicting laws and priorities with medical marijuana legal in over ten states and the District Of Columbia, a legality not recognized by the Federal government. But that same Federal government has allowed limited pot smoking to go on in some of the VA hospitals it operates. All this goes on while marijuana tolerance is at all time high.
It does not seem like the war is going very well, given  the above realities. Again, we get this kind of shoddy service at a very high price tag, with untold billions of dollars, if not trillions of dollars, having been ineffectively spent since the 1960s fighting this losing effort.

A recent Associated Press article from January 10, 2011 vividly illustrates how the lack of creativity, the inability to understand root causes of a problem, and the lack of foresight to see unintended consequences of their actions has probably made an existing illicit drug situation worse, the exact opposite of what our politicians intended.

The drug area we are talking about is the illegal drug trade in methamphetamine or Meth. I am not a Meth expert but until a few years ago, the AP article reports that those that were involved in the Meth trade would buy up non-prescription, over-the-counter pills at the local drug stores and then use the pills in the manufacture of Meth. Apparently an ingredient in the pills, pseudoephedrine, was critical to the production process.

To attack this problem, in 2005 Congress passed the Combat Meth Act which set limits on sales of the pills the Meth manufacturers and dealers need for their Meth production. The legislation also set up electronic tracking processes and limited the amount of drug store products that one person could buy over-the-counter.

What has been the result of this political class answer to the illegal Meth market? According to the article:
  • By 2006, the number of Meth criminal busts had started climbing again.
  • Meth-related criminal activity (arrests, drug seizures, and the discovery of abandoned Meth production sites) was up 34% in 2009, the last year for yearly results are available.
  • Increased Meth-related activity was highest in the three states (Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma) that have electronically tracked sales of pseudoephedrine since at least 2008. Think about that for a minute. The three states that have the tracking have the highest increases in Meth-related activity.
  • Worse of all, the new law created a new class of criminals, "mules" for the Meth labs. Since the Meth manufacturers can no longer go into any drug store to purchase what they need, given the new laws and tracking, they now recruit anybody who is willing to buy under their own name. These people then turn around and resell the pills to the Meth lab operators. The article gave an example of college students buying a small amount of bills, enough to keep them under the tracking limit, for about $7 and then immediately selling them to the Meth criminals for $40 or $50. Other mule candidates besides students include homeless people.
  • Law enforcement officials call this "smurfing," previously non-criminal people buying small amounts for big Meth operations.

This last finding is really disturbing and is certainly an unintended consequence of our politicians passing the Combat Meth Act. According to a law enforcement official in the article: "Law enforcement was surprised. People that normally wouldn't cross the line are willing to do so because they think it's such a sweet deal and because of the economy."

As a result of our Washington amateurs:
  • They have created a new criminal class of Americans through their actions with the cute name of "smurfs."
  • They Meth trade apparently suffered a little slowdown as a result of the Combat Meth Law but quickly found ways around the law to continue to thrive.
  • The inability of our political class to come up with an effective strategy in this area has also encouraged our friends the Mexican drug cartels to expand beyond pot and into meth, according to the article.

One new law, numerous new bad effects. Typical Washington amateurish behavior and thinking. Step 26 from "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" is a more rational way to go about determining how to handle the drug problem in this country. It would create a panel of expert and very smart Americans, sans politicians and lobbyists, akin to the successful such panels in our past including the Manhattan Project, the Apollo program, the Grace Commission, and the Military Base Closing Commission.

This panel would do an in depth root cause analysis and provide the American people a set of comprehensive alternatives, each with an easy to understand list of pros and cons along with a cost, for this issue which we would then vote on. The most popular proposal would then become our national drug policy.

We can no longer wait for the political class to solve this problem. Forty years after they first addressed the issue we are further away from a rational and compassionate solution. The issue is now more widespread, more violent, and more out of control. Forty years is enough time, this Keystone Kops escapade needs to close down.

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