Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The President's Export Initiative

The President has said that he wants to double our nation’s exports by 2015. Wow. What a GREAT idea. It’s a great idea for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it will require that more people be working in the manufacturing sector, a place near to my heart, and my wallet. It will also mean that our country is selling more than we buy. This improves our economy and standing in the financial world. But I’m wondering. Does the President really intend to accomplish this? Does he really believe that this is within his reach, or is this just so much BS?

Okay, lets us look at this objectively. In order for the US to double its exports, we will need to more than double our manufacturing output. Wow. That’s GREAT. Think of the jobs that will be created by this need to double manufacturing output. But wait. There’s a hang up. In order for export sales to double, export orders have to double. Markets have to be opened. Any of that happening? Not yet. Hard to do. It’s okay. There’s time. 2015 is a long way out.

So what else has to happen for manufacturing to double? Gotta have the hands to do the work. Lots and lots of those available. Just one tiny rub. Manufacturers aren’t hiring. Seems they’re unsure of the future costs. Taxes could go up. Insurance costs could go WAY up. How can they hire workers if they don’t know what their costs will be? I’ve read that companies are just sitting on money rather than making capital expenditures, waiting to see what’s going to happen. I’ve also heard that (post bailout) banks have lots of money to lend at dirt cheap rates but they aren’t lending. What’s up with that? Could it be that THEY aren’t sure of what the economic geography is going to look like either?

Another issue seems to be energy. Manufacturing takes energy. Lots of energy. Electrical energy. Bzzzzzt. But the President doesn’t like energy. He’s on the record (and YouTube) as not liking energy. He wants to make the cost of energy “skyrocket”. So how are manufacturers supposed to sell their products into a global market if their taxes are up, their health care costs are up, and their energy costs are up? I’m no rocket scientist, but to answer my own question I have to say that the Presidents stated goals to double exports and manufacturing in the next five years are just so much BS.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ds & Rs

The other day my boy asked me what the difference was between Democrats and Republicans. I had to stop and think for a moment and then it became clear what my political science professor had meant when he told us that as a practical matter, there isn’t a nickels worth of difference between the two major parties. But I felt like I owed the boy an answer, so I tried to distill it down to generalities. What I came up with sounded something like this: In general, Democrats are in favor of more government services and benefits which have to be paid for by more and higher taxes and incremental forfeiture of individual rights. On the other hand Republicans have always claimed to be the party of smaller government and lower taxes.

Republicans assume that people want to be able to provide for themselves and try to enact policy to make that possible; Democrats assume that people are incapable of taking care of themselves and therefore create programs to take the place of their self-sufficiency. Republicans support individual efforts; Democrats assume that individuals are weak, and in need of government assistance. Republicans believe in liberty; Democrats believe in government. What all this means, then, is that Democratic philosophy thus demands more programs and higher taxes and takes from those who’ve worked hard and made good decisions, and gives to those who have not. GOP philosophy then, ideally, encourages individual efforts, creates an environment that supports hard work and achievement, and then gets out of the way.

I think it’s safe to say that Democrats do favor more government services, and benefits, as well as higher taxes to pay for them, but the Republican Party has lost its way. The problem may have been the success of our economy. There seems to have always been enough money for the Congress to throw around and no one seemed to be getting hurt too badly so it was normal for Democrats and Republicans to “reach across the aisle”, and to display the comity that everyone says they miss so much. But while this made for a nice peaceful picture there was something quite troubling taking place.

Democrats want a larger, more powerful government, and over the years they’ve been very successful at getting what they want. A small entitlement program here, a government guarantee there, an executive order here and there, and hundreds of key judicial appointments over the decades have brought us to where we are today. Even Republican administrations have been guilty of pandering to voters in order to win elections. It’s hard to make yourself attractive as a candidate or party when your opponents are offering stuff, and all you have to offer is the opportunity to earn stuff. If it hadn’t been for the collapse of the housing market as a result of the government involvement in the home mortgage markets we may never have become aware of our predicament until it was too late.

So what I’m seeing now is that ANY compromise that Republicans make on a Democratic agenda is a step down the path to larger government, higher taxes, and reduced personal freedom. I oppose that step and I will support candidates who oppose that step.

Of course by this time the kid had the same look on his face that the local squirrels get when my dog goes into the back yard: they don’t know or care how, they just know they have to get out of there while the getting’s good. But I had the door blocked so he was stuck in his chair. I paused for a moment hoping he’d have a follow up question and when it became clear that he did I don’t know that I've ever been so pleased. And then he said: “Yeah, yeah. I got that. Which one is the elephant?”

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Anti Everything

And so how did we get here? Big question I know. I’ll try to be more specific. How did we get to a place where believing in controlling the national borders and that building an Islamic “community center” next to the spot where 3000 people were brutally murdered in the name of Islam is insensitive and should not (that’s should not, not can not) be done are equated with anti-immigration and anti-Islamism. I think, as with many things these days, it’s political.

The immigration issue has been with us for as long as I can remember, and much farther back in time than that. The federal government has laws on the books making it illegal to reside in the country without going through a specified process, but employers have been hungry for cheap, eager labor and so it has been policy for decades to simply ignore the rules even though they are part of our federal code. But now the immigration climate has changed. The world economy is in the tank, and our nation and it’s citizens are threatened by Latin American gangs bent on organizing and controlling criminal activity in our cities and very ready and willing to use the most brutal tactics available. The same is true of groups from the former Soviet Union who find that our openness and civil liberties provide a comfortable existence. Our nation is also at war and under attack by Islamic extremists. On top of the obviously threatening, there are the 10s, 100s of thousands of people who simply want the chance at a better life that America has always promised. So. With all of this, how is it that ANYONE could be against a well controlled border and an immigration policy that has actually been thought out? When I take my child to the neighborhood swimming pool, I’m not anti-wetness if I want for there to be well defined and enforced rules and supervision. I am not anti fun, I’m anti tragedy. I’m a firm believer that we can have the one, without the other. But today it seems that the goal is not the orderly enforcement of existing immigration laws, but the successful recruitment of new voting members of the Democrat party.

We have been presented with evidence that radical Islam can be a threat to the US and its interests since the take over of the US embassy in Iran in 1979. More recently, the truck bombing of the World Trade center in 1994 was not recognized for the attempted destruction of the World Trade Center that it was. But we still just kept on like always. You be you, I’ll be me. It’s the American way. Embassy bombings in Africa, the attack on the USS Cole, and we just keep on keep’n on. And then September 11, 2001. Al Qaida used the very freedoms that we enjoy and our negligence of our own laws to strike at our very heart. And STILL a nominally conservative President went out of his way to point out that we are NOT at war with Islam, but a radical offshoot of that religion. So what has changed that now, suddenly, 70% of Americans are depicted as being anti-Islamic? I think I know the answer. It’s the same reason that supporters of the Tea Party movement are portrayed as being racist. It’s a “main stream” media that doesn’t like or have any respect for average Americans. If you disagree with the President, you’re a racist. (Even if you voted for him) If you oppose the construction of the Islamic “community center” (the Cordoba initiative) on the grounds that it would be insensitive then you’re an Islamophobe. If you favor the strict control of the nations borders like you find in every other nation in the world then you’re anti-immigration.

And the President isn’t helping matters. When the issue is border control he wants to turn the issue to race. When the issue is national sensitivity to a wound that will be generations in healing he wants to call it Islamophobia. He pulls the Constitution card, as if he weren’t willing to discard it just as easily, and claims the Imam has the right to build wherever he wants, but then doesn’t quite know what to do when some small time pastor and the inevitable copy cats want to burn Qurans. Rights aren’t the issue here. The issue is the sensitivity to the feelings of others. It harms the Imam and his followers not at all to select another site blocks away. It would be a nod to the American people, a gesture that recognizes that our feelings matter, a bridge. But instead what we see is intransigence. I’m sorry, but it is my firm belief that the goal of the Cordoba project is the construction of an Islamic shrine, mosque, “community center” on the figurative foundations of the World Trade Center just as the Great Mosque was built on the ruins of the church of St. Vincent in Cordoba. The symbolism is too obvious to be a coincidence, or to ignore.

So is it the American people who are xenophobic in all aspects our lives, or are we just portrayed that way by people who are better educated and more enlightened?

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Civil Discourse

Civil Discourse

You hear it more and more. The plaintive question: why can’t we get back to the days of bipartisan civil discourse? We all have come to think we like the image of our legislators behaving as a crowd after church on Sunday morning, everyone shaking hands and asking after the family. “How’s your mother doing Bob?” “How’s young Deborah doing at my alma mater?” “The scholarship and short cut through admissions? Don’t mention it. What are friends for?” Everyone is happy happy happy.

But there’s another image and that’s of a country retreat meeting of organized crime Capos getting together to civilly divide up the loot from the fleecing of America. Let’s be civil about this. There’s plenty to go around. No need to get excited. No need for anyone to be publicly bloodied.

I’ve taken the position that the latter scenario is closer to reality and decided that the more rancorous the debate the less likely it is that my pocket will be picked. This has been drawn as a Democrat vs. Republican issue, but it isn’t. This is a “have” and “want to take it” issue. The people have it (the money and the power) and the federal government wants it. With willing corrupted elected legislators on the side of the government, we the calm and gullible people are at a disadvantage. They rely on deceit, habit, and dogma to accomplish their goals. One party will play off the other against the people and in the end they get what they want.

This year alone has seen over 5000 pages of legislation voted on and passed into law before legislators had the chance to know what it was. It was voted on based on party loyalty and the “get along – go along” system where legislators know that if they are to “get” any juicy money projects for their constituents to pave the way for their re-election they have to “go along” with whatever they are told. What a humiliating existence that must be. Waiting on the agenda is the house energy bill which would, by the Presidents own words, “cause electric utility rates to sky rocket”. And in case legislation can’t be passed the plan is to simply use the regulatory function of the executive and just make rules. Never mind the people’s representatives, or the people’s wants. The government will do what IT decides is right with the thought that people aren’t paying close enough attention and will just go along. I hope they’re wrong.

I want MY representatives to look out for MY interests. I want him or her to argue tooth and nail against any unnecessary projects in whatever state or community where they’re proposed, and I expect for the representatives of my fellow citizens to do the same against MY requests from the government. In this way only the MOST WORTHY of fiscal expenditures will be made.

But that's just what an average guy thinks.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Information As a Distraction

I heard the President say something the other day that startled me. I guess that should come as no surprise, I’m rather easily startled these days. It came in a commencement address he gave at Hampton University in Virginia. What he said was this: “With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”. The first thing that popped into my mind was that this IS the first Blackberry President, having to have made special arrangements with the Secret Service for encryption of his own personal communications device. Next was the time he claimed that Michael Jackson was on his iPod and his lovely gift to the Queen of England of an iPod with examples of his oratory prowess. The iPad is new of course and hasn’t neared saturation levels yet, but I suspect that it’ll mainly be a web access device. The X-Box and PlayStation are mainly gaming devices and really don’t fit the mix. The President has taken heat for being hypocritical on this gadget thing since he’s the first CrackBerry President and because his campaign used the internet so well, but that isn’t what bothers me, or what I think he really meant.

What struck me was that he actually said that “information” can be a distraction. Call me a centrist cook if you will, but I’ve always read and believed that information is POWER. That a man's life could depend on a mere scrap of information, that the big picture is made up of little bits of information, that if you had ALL the information from the past that you could predict the future. Okay. Why does this bother me? Well, it’s this guy that President Obama has appointed over at the Federal Communications Commission. Mark Lloyd is Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer. He’s a Marxist sympathizer and doesn’t believe in the marketplace of ideas. That being that if you have a good idea then people will want to hear more about it and the less popular ideas will lose favor. He believes in the “Fairness Doctrine” which is political “double speak” for a program that holds that if an idea has broad popular support then it must not be fair to those other poor ideas. Used cleverly by a government broadcast agency it COULD be used to control the flow of ideas and public discussion, much the same way as it has been in Venezuela. “These popular ideas are getting too much air time. We need to promote these other ideas”. An example on our own shore would be conservative talk radio versus say Air America. People voted with their pocket books and selected one and deselected another. The market place of ideas. Would the President like to change that by invoking the “Fairness Doctrine” so that progressive ideas would get more air time? I suspect so, but I don’t know. But that’s just broadcast.

But there’s this other thing. This Net Neutrality thing. Now who could be against something like Neutrality? Once again, I’m skeptical. I suspect government “double speak”. What it amounts to is the government taking over and controlling the internet. Now, they will claim that it’s ONLY to insure the smooth and free flow of information and that consumers of information have nothing to fear from the FCC, but then there’s that comment that the President made about information being a distraction (a bad thing). They (the FCC) are claiming that they already have the authority to do this and need not seek approval from Congress, but don’t worry. It’s only these tiny little things we’re doing. Let me ask the question: When was the last time you heard of any government intervention remaining tiny? It isn’t the nature of the beast. It’s like bacteria in a Petri dish. Unchecked, and given a supply of money it will grow to the size of its container. So say we acquiesce to the control of internet traffic without action by Congress. What’s then to stop the agency from starting to control content? Just to control access to child pornography. Just to control access to “hate speech”. Just to control access to distracting information that doesn’t serve to empower or emancipate. What if?

Now I’m not saying that the folks running the government these days are up to no good. I’m just pointing these things out. But I will say that that I lock my doors at night. Does it mean that I think that my neighbors are thieves? Mostly no, but I don’t know ALL of them. I lock my doors to protect the things I have from those that would take them.

But that's just what an average guy thinks.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I Used To Like The UN

I was taught to like the United Nations. We all were. It was the culmination of what Woodrow Wilson had tried but failed to do. The UN would give the small developing nations a place to stand against the Soviet menace. They stood no chance alone, but underneath the broad branches of the UN and the United States, they could safely weather the storm. How could you be a child under the tutelage of New Deal children and NOT be in favor of the UN? They had a veritable alphabet soup of organizations and agencies just itching to help us, the US, help the world, and of course that’s exactly what they would do. They would help us to spread democratic principles and the obvious and manifestly demonstrated benefits of those principles around the world.

Of course we never counted on the personal objectives of the leaders of 50 other nations or how things would eventually turn out. We, as children, thought as the rest of the nation must have that the common good was the goal, and that what was good for America was good for the world. I still remember the day my mother told me about the Tooth Fairy. My life would have been made simpler if she had told me about the United Nations at the same time. That there would eventually be 190 member states. That many of these would be given money with which they would buy arms and slaughter their neighbors as the UN stood idly by tsk tsking. That the international organization founded in part to prevent the genocidal slaughters of World War II would stand by while people hacked their “enemies” to death with long knives. That corrupt leaders would be allowed to divert aid into their own pockets to preserve their power and secure their retirements. That the UN itself would become so corrupt and inept that the dictator of a country the size of Texas could completely control its machinations. That this organization would issue resolutions and sanctions which upon violation would simply draw more resolutions and sanctions. And that the sanctions would be ignored by pretty much everyone. That the UN would become nothing more than a means to transfer wealth from the developed nations to the undeveloped. That the US would continue to host and support what has become a hostile entity on our soil.

If my dear mother could have told me all that then, I think I would be less disappointed today.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First We Have To Fix This

Okay. I think I’m starting to see a pattern here. Stop me if I get off track. Here’s how I think this has gone: Obama’s inaugurated and his chief of staff Rham Emanuel says to him “Mr. President” he says “You never want to let a good crisis go to waste”, to which the President says “I’m not following you here Rham.”. Emanuel then explains that whenever there’s a crisis the people will rally around the leader, or at least give him the benefit of the doubt regardless of the merits of the plan. The President says “Really?” “You know, I hadn’t thought of that,” “but it might work”. To which Emanuel responded “You fucking - A – right it’ll work.” “Look here I’ve got this bill already drafted.” “Had the unions and Van Jones working on it since the election”. Then he signals an aide who leaves the room momentarily and comes back in with another young man and they deposit an 1100 page document on the table and then withdraw without saying anything. “You’ve been working on this since November?” the President asks. “Damned straight” Emanuel replies. “The way I have it figured we have until the mid terms in 2010 to ram stuff through, and we may as well get started”. “Stimulus package eh?” Obama mutters. “Yes...... this could work”. “What’s in it?” The President asks. “How the hell should I know” Emanuel snorts. “It’s 1100 pages. Who cares? It doesn’t matter”. “There’s lots of good stuff in there for us.... expansion of power.... bypass the Congress.... there’s a shitload of payback for the unions..... ACORN.... and plenty of loose cash for the Congress to spread around to soften the blow in the mid term.” “What we have to do is start screaming “FIRE” just as loud as we can”........ And that’s what they did. They came out and said “You know, we really want to fix the economy, but first we need to do this” and then they started screaming NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW. We have to have it NOW. Republicans tried to protest. NOW NOW NOW....... but what’s in it? NOW NOW NOW.... but it costss 750 Billion dollars! NOW NOW NOW.... but where’s all this money going? NOW NOW NOW..... IF WE DON’T PASS THIS NOW EMPLOYMENT WILL GO ABOVE 8%. WE HAVE TO HAVE THIS NOW. And have it they did. The vote was called for less than 24 hours after the bill was made available to members of Congress with ZERO chance that any of them would know what was in it. Then they did the same thing with health care. House passes a bill with a lot of YES votes thinking “There is NO way this gets through the Senate so it doesn’t matter if I vote yes or not”. Another 1100 page monster that no one knew much about. They tried to get it through the Senate before the summer recess. NOW NOW NOW but they just couldn’t do it. And then people got a look at it and the shit hit the fan. We were treated to 4 months of wheeling, dealing and the dirtiest politics this country has seen. We were also treated to the sights and sounds of a genuine American uprising. I’m guessing that a bunch of Senators voted yes thinking “this ain’t EVER mak’in it out of conference so I can vote for it knowing it’ll never pass, and won’t have to make any waves”. But then Nancy Pelosi did something unparalleled. She managed to convince the House of Representatives to swallow the Senate bill whole. Once that was done they could turn to the economy right? Wrong. Truth is they can’t fix the economy and they know it. So NOW they’re saying “Look, we want to focus on fixing the economy and jobs, but we can’t do that until we fix the financial markets”. And wouldn’t you know that they have another 1000 page bill that no one can read or understand all written and ready to go and they have Obama out there on the stump screaming NOW NOW NOW. They’re going to try to keep this up all the way to January when the new Congress is sworn in. Ladies and Gentlemen hang onto your hats. We’re about ready to see how much damage a progressive President and a compliant democrat Congress can do to a great nation in two short years.

But that's just what an average guy thinks.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Insurance Reform

I wanted to put down a few thoughts about health insurance. Since we, as a nation, are on the cusp of doing away with the genre as we know it I figured I may as well.

Health insurance...... well, any insurance I guess.... is just a form of commercialized gambling. You bet the insurance company your premium dollars that you’re going to get sick, or have an accident and they, in turn, call and raise all, or some agreed to portion, of your expenses. It’s as simple as that. But it’s like most gambling...... the odds are stacked in their favor. They have this great big pool of customers and a pile of statistics that they call actuarial tables. They know going in what the odds are, and how likely you or your children are to get sick or to have an accident. And so that’s how it goes: you and I.... we.... the customers get the peace of mind and protection of the insurance companies and they, in their turn, get a profit..... that is..... they take in more than they pay out and pocket the difference. But in order for the system to work, they need to know going in who we are, so they can look us up in the table. The bigger the pool of customers the less important this is, but still. In order to figure out how much to charge for their service they need to know us. What our habits are, what our lifestyle is, family history etc, etc. If we make our living jumping motor cycles they may want to charge us more...... or if we chain smoke. It seems only fair since in those two cases we’re more likely to need medical care.

But in recent years our perception of insurance has changed somehow. Seems to me that before, we used insurance as something to cover expense brought about by illness or accident. Now we use it to cover the cost of normal wear and tear. When I was a kid you went to the doctor if you were sick and didn’t get better, or if you had a maiming accident that required stitches or the setting of a bone. We’ve grown much softer now, and perhaps our lives are better because of it. But still the insurance companies have been able to make a decent living. And that’s as it should be. This is, after all, America. Land of the Free, and Home of the Brave. But lately the insurance companies have come under fire. Well, not lately actually, people have been calling them heartless bastards for as long as I can remember. The complaints seem to be mainly about increasing premiums, cancellation of policies and denial of coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and take a position supporting health insurance companies in general, but before you send me nasty messages filled with horror stories about relatives let me explain.

As a layman, the health care industry, which the insurance industry is a part, seems horribly complex to me. It’s made up of hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, the government and then us. And everyone in there’s trying to make a buck and that’s okay. I don’t mind. Everyone has the right to make a living and companies have to make a profit in order for that to happen. But we don’t care about that. All we care about is getting the service we pay for and being treated fairly.

Toward increasing premiums: You expect for things to get more expensive over time just due to the increase in the cost of living. You buy a gallon of milk at the grocery and you expect that a year from now it’ll cost more. You buy the exact same car you bought 5 years ago equipped the same way and you know it’s gonna cost more. Health insurance is the same way, only on steroids. You can’t buy the same health care like the gallon of milk or car that you bought 5 years ago. The product improves over time and we have, and want to buy the new and improved version whether or not we recognize that it’s changed. Health care providers (doctors and nurses) are sworn to give us the best care they know how. Sometimes it also turns out to be the most expensive. Used to be there was the x-ray. Then came ultra sound, the CAT scan and the PET scan and now MRI technology. There are constantly improving treatments, and new pharmaceuticals that continually increase the cost of health care beyond cost of living increases. We just have to accept that if the cost of living goes up by 5% over some time period, the cost of health care is likely going to go up more than that.

One of the things that have been proposed as a no cost way to lower insurance premiums is to make it possible for groups of associated people to band together in order to better bargain with insurance companies. Say the National Association of Widget Washers has a meeting, they agree, and it becomes possible for all of them to buy insurance from one company. Nation wide it turns out there are quite a few widget washers, but they generally work in small groups so it’s been hard for them to get good prices on insurance. Now, as a group, they can finally negotiate a good rate on their insurance.

Also discussed as a no cost way to decrease insurance premiums is the removal of the restrictions that shelter insurance companies from interstate competition. This would provide the insurance companies with a larger pool of customers over which to spread expenses, and force them into price competition with hundreds of other companies that might be operating in a more efficient manner. Price competition is where the consumer benefits. We or our representatives would then be free to buy our insurance from a much longer list of suppliers. This would increase the number of products available and make them less expensive.

Another issue needing consideration is how insurance companies negotiate with health care providers. Because larger insurance companies can provide more customers to the big health care providers they can obviously get a better deal. That’s good for some people, but not so good for others. If you work for a large company and have your insurance through Mega Plan it’s good for you, but if you work for a small company and get your coverage through So So Healthcare they aren’t going to be able to get the great deal and you’re going to have to pay more. If you’re self employed and buy insurance form Around the Corner Insurance you have no one to negotiate for you at all. And if you’re uninsured, why, you’re making up the difference for every discount that was given up the tree. In recognition of this some health care providers have taken to giving discounts to the uninsured. Cold comfort I suppose, but at least a recognition that the heaviest burden and highest cost falls on them with the least ability to bear it.

My point here is that we can fix the health insurance and health care industries without huge costs to the average consumer. And, if we...... the people..... choose we can put in place a system to help care for those who can not care for themselves. But we can NOT give away that which belongs to our children and theirs.

Our government was founded and built by people who believed that the happiness of the people could best be provided by limiting the size of government. They believed in self reliance and free markets. Today we have a huge government apparatus which produces nothing and yet employs more people than any private company. The purpose of the government used to be to provide for the common defense, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty.... but it has since turned to the taking of wealth from one group of citizens and giving it to some other group. Our politicians (I will not call them leaders) have, in general, gone mad with power, seeing their jobs as not doing the will of the people, but merely the retention of their jobs. This they have done, insuring their re-election in perpetuity by selectively gifting the wealth they have taken from others on their constituents. And we, for our part have been equally irresponsible in taking this redistributed wealth without mind to where it came from or of our actual need. We have all looked on the federal treasury as if it were a bottomless well of money and favors. This now must stop. Our politicians, on our behalf, have stolen from our fellow citizens and the federal treasury, and with a nod and a wink they have allowed their fellows to likewise steal from us. Until now when we find that our fellows have nothing left to steal. WE have nothing left to steal. But so driven are these men and women that we have set at the controls of the nation, so set in their ways that they now turn their attention to the treasure that should belong to our children and our children's children. This now must stop.

The health care debate is only the head of the nail, the lens that brings the picture into focus. These may be the last months in which we have the chance to choose. Will we allow ourselves to be harnessed and yoked as one huge team of oxen, fed and led to water at the will of the drover, or will we have the liberty that we were promised, and be free as the wild horses on the western plains?

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Constitution

So I was thinking about the Constitution as I drifted off to sleep last night. You might think it an odd thing to think of at bed time, but I find it to be comforting and somewhat reassuring. You hear a lot about it these days, about the Constitution.... the “Founding Fathers”. But who were those men, really? Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Franklin and many more. Names that you knew once but have long since forgotten. The men who produced the Constitution in the summer of 1778 differed in many ways, but they had two things in common: they all loved, and had fought for liberty, and they all feared the tyranny of a large and unchecked federal government. They all, to a man, believed that government was the enemy of freedom. But they understood too that some strong, but limited government was necessary to the survival of the nation. The idea was known then that a people are forced to trade some liberty and independence for the services and protections that a central government is uniquely able to provide: the common defense; commercial regulation; things whose necessity is hard to argue. They debated all that summer and were barely able to agree on what we call our Constitution. Fitting I suppose, and prescient somehow that a bare majority of delegates carried the day for the Federalists.

Since the beginning of the last century there have been efforts to progress beyond the Constitution, to build the government bigger, and away from the support provided by the foundation. The government began to be seen by many to be the solution to all of the problems of mankind. The economic cycles of feast and famine seemed to be within the control of government. This was a time of great social change around the world and many began to see value in a system where a benevolent, but all powerful government would direct resources and distribute the fruits of society’s labors equally amongst the citizens, providing a comfortable lifetime of shelter from the harsh reality of life on Earth. But this was not the intent of our founders. They had too much experience with a government that decided who was allowed to succeed and how high a station they could reach. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it,”. These are beautiful words, and they were codified in the Constitution. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, were added to specify some of those rights, and Article V provides a means to change the Constitution if desired. The method is clear and straight forward, but it’s difficult, amendments requiring the ratification by no fewer than three fourths of the state legislatures. That’s why it happens so infrequently. It’s hard. The majority of the people really have to want it.

Now what’s taking place is what I’ll call Constitutional creep. That is the making of laws that are farther and farther away from the foundational support of the Constitution. Laws get passed, signed into law and if no one is materially damaged or can afford to hire a team of lawyers the Supreme Court isn’t able to rule on the actual constitutionality of the legislation, and even in instances were cases do reach the Court, the Commerce Clause has been used frequently in recent years to allow all types of questionable legislation to stand. And so what was a strong foundation for a limited government has been covered and surrounded by un, or barely supported structure.

From time to time when you read of Supreme Court decisions you hear people mention “the intention of the Founders”. Justices know the Constitution, and parse the journals and correspondence of the principles, and they study past case law to tap the wisdom and thinking of great Americans passed to try and know what we should now do. One thing is clear. The men who debated, wrote, and finally ratified the Constitution feared an over powerful federal government. Can it be that it has now taken 210 years for their fears to be realized?

And that’s what an average guy thinks.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

One Trillion

I have some problems with the health care reform legislation that is currently being debated in the Senate. The fact that it’s meant to move the nation closer to Socialism is primary I suppose, and that it is intentionally over 2000 pages in length in order to keep people from being able to know and understand what’s in it. I don’t like the fact that it was designed to tear down and completely restructure a system that, while flawed and in need of reform, at least fits the national culture. I don’t like the fact that the new system is now being put together as if by a committee of tailors, each with a different sense of style and ideas about what the garment should look like. There is no pattern or plan, and what should be undertaken with all caution and an eye on the future is being rushed in order to take advantage of the political moment. But as much as all my other problems, I am troubled at the cost: over one Trillion dollars. And that’s a conservative estimate that relies on a whole slough of assumptions all converging to the same point at the same time. If past experience with Medicare is any indication, the costs could be off by as much as a factor of ten. But however educated that guess, it’s still just a guess. What is not a guess is the one Trillion dollar number now in front of us. People have grown used to hearing the numbers: Millions (Lottery); Billions (Oprah, Gates, Buffett), but the only place you hear the term Trillions of dollars is when you talk about the US economy. I think people would be well served it they knew just how big a number one Trillion is. So to that end I have compiled a list of references just to put a Trillion in context.

We begin with a simple unit of measure that everyone can appreciate: the Dollar bill. You’ve seen it before. It has George Washington on the obverse (face side) and a big ONE, the pyramid and the eagle on the reverse (other side). It’s 6 inches long, 2-1/2 inches wide, and 43/10,000 of an inch thick.

One Trillion of anything is one million piles of one million each.

One Million one dollar bills weigh 2,202 pounds. One Trillion Dollars collected all together would weigh over two Billion pounds and take a fleet of 55,065 semi tractor trailers to haul it.

Laid end to end One Trillion Dollars would stretch 94,696,969 miles. This is a distance three million miles farther away than the sun. So far that it would take light 8-1/2 minutes to make the trip.

That distance 94,696,969 miles would take you from the Earth to the moon and back 198 times. You could travel around the Earth 3,809 times.

If you were to neatly stack One Trillion new bills, it would make a stack 67,866 miles high. Carefully lie it down and it would wrap the Earth 8-1/2 times.

If you wanted to cover some of the Earth, you certainly could. One Trillion Dollars would cover a square area 61 miles by 61 miles. 3,736 square miles.

You would have to flood a regulation NFL football field (excluding end zones) to a depth of 30 feet and 8 inches to accumulate One Trillion Drops.

And finally:

If one day you turned your kitchen faucet on full flow and then got distracted........ you could leave the house, go to college, complete your degree, date, marry, start a family, get divorced, date, re-marry, start another family, and 9-1/2 years later when you went back to your house, you would be there in plenty of time to shut off the water before One Trillion drops had gone down the drain.

I’ve composed this blog to try and illustrate the magnitude of one small piece (one trillion) of what I consider to be the main problem that our nation faces today, and that is runaway entitlement spending. Our legislators, for as long as I can remember, have pandered, wheeled and dealt, and greased the ways for their own political ambitions without regard for the future. Sometimes the spending has been done with the best of intentions, but still with no regard for the true affordability of the “project”. And now my son and daughter along with you and I, and your sons and daughters, as citizens, owe over $39,000 to the national debt. In a few years when they begin their working lives that number will suddenly jump to the $111,000 the each tax “payer” now owes. It saddens me to know that in 5 years no matter what we do this number will be much higher.

We are living in a remarkable time. Depending on your point of view, it may be either transformative or catastrophic. Whatever your politics I beg of you to please pay attention to the numbers, to know just how astronomical they are. When you hear that the Senate has a One Trillion Dollar bill under consideration or that they plan to extend the national debt ceiling by One Trillion Eight Hundred Billion Dollars (increasing our credit limit) I beg of you to think of the numbers and ask yourself “can we afford this?” Ask yourself: “do I have the right to obligate my children and their children, and theirs to a lifetime of debt repayment?”.

And that’s what an average guy thinks.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Another Depression

I’m starting to wonder if what the country needs isn’t another Great Depression. Of course we’ll have to think of something else to call it. After all, the “Great Depression” was just that, the Great Depression. Maybe the “New Depression”. This may sound odd, but think of it. They say that an addict can’t begin to recover until they reach rock bottom and admit that they have a problem that they are unable to solve without help. Are we there yet? as a nation? I wonder.

We are, as a nation, addicted to consumerism and to credit, which we used to call debt, but which we renamed “credit” because it sounded better than debt. Our whole lives seem to be based on buying things we don’t need.... at any expense. The average household carries over $8,000 in credit card debt, and has $18,000 in non-mortgage debt, up from $11,000 a decade ago. And what do we have to show for it? Not much besides a pocket full of gadgets: Flat screen TVs in our home theaters; communication devices of every kind; games that keep us from paying attention to one another; cars that are bigger and newer than they need to be; and homes that are bigger and nicer than we can afford to live in. And we are facilitated in our addiction by our elected officials. One group wants to provide us with everything that we “deserve” without regard to whether or not we can afford it, and the other (not to be out done) goes along with the scheme so as not to seem uncaring.

The foundation of our government provides for none of this. We are promised our lives, our liberty and the right to pursue happiness. We are not promised the right to live in a house that is beyond our means, or to drive a new car instead of one that we can afford.

Somewhere at the beginning of the “new age” someone coined the phrase “you deserve it because you’re a good person” and it stuck like a tick. Retailers picked up on consumers urge to splurge on themselves now without those pesky thoughts about tomorrow. “No money down and no payments until.......”. And just when we were intoxicated by our own over indulgence our legislators put their arms around us like a drunken frat boy up to no good (to help us along). They help us by spending money that they know we don’t have, with the knowledge and without care that our children, and our children’s children will have to repay, and then every two, four, or six years they remind us of what good friends they’ve been and will continue to be and ask us to let them help us some more.

Well my friends, I don’t know if it’s the rock bottom or not, but I see something hard coming up pretty quick and if we don’t shake it off and slap some sense into our elected officials I see hard times ahead.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Leaders or Servants

It’s past time that we (as a nation) took a look at our elected officials and the roll that they play in our lives. You will often hear of how Senator “Jones” has spent a life time as a public servant or some politician admonishing some other group of politicians that they should start showing leadership. These two terms: public servant and leader deserve some examination. From universal experience we all know what a servant is. It’s someone who is paid to do the bidding of the person that pays his or her salary. We also have universal knowledge of what a leader is. Webster defines leader as a person who guides. When you’re young and in the Scouts there were adult troop leaders who were in charge. They guide. They make suggestions, but ultimately they decide. Later on in life you may have military leaders. Their job is not to suggest, or to guide. Their job is to analyze a situation and to order an action.

But we are a nation of civilians living in a democratic republic. Do we need to hire leaders to decide for us what we should do, or do we need to hire servants who will do what we decide? This is the question that needs to be asked. We’ve hired leaders in the past, but the job was always rather narrow. The example that comes to mind is that of the wagon master. As pioneer families we hired these “leaders”, but only to take us to a place of our choosing, where we wanted to go. They didn’t decide where we would go, only the easiest way to get there.

The men who hammered out the Constitution one compromise at a time were servants sent by the various states to do just that. They did not lead. They did not decide. When they had finished their work the document was put to the populace. We decided. We chose. There were news paper articles and pamphlets published to educate the public. A debate was had and we chose.

Now, it seems that the ranks of our elected officials are peopled my men and women who see themselves as our leaders and not our servants. The business of the government has become so complex that we can hardly decide every issue, and so we hire these people to represent us, to do our bidding. But now the government is crowded with people who want to “fundamentally transform” our nation in the interest of what they call “social justice”, “being on the right side of history”, and “doing the right thing”. These things all sound fine. Who can be against “doing the right thing”? But an argument can be made that fealty to the Constitution is the “right thing”, the safe thing, and that the lack of that loyalty is what got us into this mess in the first place. Our elected officials have, for the last hundred years or so, curried our favor and bought our votes by providing us with “free money” and services from the federal treasury. And for our part, we have turned a blind eye to the source of our wind fall. This relationship has led us to our present situation where politicians have taken money from this fund or that to pay for our votes, and used accounting tricks to steal from the very fund that they created to protect us in our older years. We are forced to carefully analyze every sentence to try to separate the truth from half truth and outright lies.

These men and women have turned their backs on their oaths to support, defend and bear true allegiance to the Constitution and have taken it upon themselves to decide what is best for the citizens of a nation whose ancestors paid so dearly for the right to chose for themselves.

It’s time for us to pay closer attention to who we hire and where we leave our wallets.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Monday, January 18, 2010

You Might Be Well Off If

If you've ever gone down to the marina in April and found your boat in your private slip with food and beer in the ice box and fresh gas in the tank without ever having so much as to have made a phone call.....
You might be well off.

If your refrigerator is always about 1/2 to 3/4 full of your favorite foods, but you never go to the store.....
You might be well off.

If you don't know who cuts your grass or how much they charge.....
You might be well off.

If you're on a first name basis with your attorney you could be a repeating felon, but on the other hand......
You might be well off.

If you're middle aged, pale, a little over weight, and still have a hot Latin lover you could be great in bed, or.....
You might be well off.

If you’re driving through Arkansas and you can’t figure out why they put tires on top of their mobile homes you may be a clueless idiot, but to be charitable…..
You might be well off.

And if you live in Arkansas and the tires on top of your mobile home are painted white…..
You might be well off.

If you’ve ever had dinner with your doctor that didn’t involve change for the snack machines in the hospital lounge, and they weren’t wearing scrubs…..
You might be well off.

If you’ve ever bought a house and not wondered (at least a little) if your mortgage application would be approved…..
You might be well off.

If you don’t know what a FICA score is, you could just be hopelessly na├»ve, but……
You might be well off.

If you were born in the United States and you speak fluent French.....
You might be well off.

If your father changed the name of your family business to something less recognizable…..
You might be well off.

If you’re not a commercial pilot but you ARE certified to fly more than one type of aircraft…..
You might be well off.

If your dad drives a Cadillac and you want one anyway…..
You might be well off.

If you don’t live in a mountain state, or on a muddy road and you STILL bought a Hummer…..
You might be well off.

If you chose diaper service vs disposables based on something besides price…..
You might be well off.

If none of your children has ever owned a pair of perfectly good, hardly used shoes from a thrift store…..
You might be well off.

If you’re wondering how YOU are going to put your kids through college…..
You might be well off.

If you have to rush around in the evening to get your kids to the “learning center” so they can get their homework done…..
You might be well off.

If you pay as much in property taxes on your vehicles every year as the “Assistant Manager” down at the fish place earns …..
You might be well off.

If you pay cash for a run down dump so you can fix it up and double your money.....
You might be well off.

If you own a horse, but don’t live within ¼ mile of that animal…..
You might be well off.

If you own more than one horse, but no cattle…..
You might be well off.

If you can afford to pay someone to whack your spouse AND a high powered defense team to get you off…..
You might be well off.

If photographers hang out in your neighbors driveway to catch you coming out to get your paper….. You might be extraordinarily good looking, OR
You might be well off.

If people are lined up to go through your garbage….. You may just be a really good cook, you may be on trial for the murder of your movie star spouse, be divorcing your movie star spouse, OR
You might be well off.

If your lawnmower is made by the same company that makes huge farm tractors…..
You might be well off.

If your front yard is big enough to put another house in…..
You might be well off.

If you live in a desert area and still have a Kentucky Blue Grass lawn…..
You might be well off.

If none of the wine in your cellar has a screw top,…..
You might be well off.

If none of your wine came from a “farm”…..
You might be well off.

If none of your wine came in a rectangular package……
You might be well off.

If you didn’t know that Sears no longer publishes a “big book”…..
You might be well off.

If you have children living at home and you don’t know what milk costs…..
You might be well off.

If you live in an apartment with a REAL fireplace…..
You might be well off.

If you don’t know what, or how to order at a McDonalds…..
You might be well off.

If you’re wearing a $500 suit of clothes but don’t have a bank card, a check book, or money on you, you might be an unscrupulous, manipulative, con artist….. but You might just be well off.

If you buy five pounds of individually priced apples instead of a bag…..
You might be well off.

If your commuter vehicle weighs more than 5,000 pounds and doesn’t say Greyhound on the side…..
You might be well off.

If the IRS will let you write off a Hummer as a legitimate business expense…..
You might be well off.

If you show up to work one day only to find out your position has been eliminated, and your first thought is that this could be the opportunity to rethink your personal priorities that you’ve been waiting for, rather than the beginning of a catastrophic financial crisis…..
You might be well off.

Barack Obama Is a Bad Man

Barack Obama is a bad man. Oh alright, maybe he isn’t really a bad man. He is, after all, by all accounts a loving, devoted father and husband. You have to like that, but it’s about all one can find on the “like” side of the ledger.

Barack Obama is like an iceberg, showing only a tenth of his mass while nine tenths remain carefully hidden. Not hidden really, because it’s all there to see. Hidden in plain sight is more like it. Does he believe in black liberation theology? I don’t know, but he sat and was ministered to by a man who does, a man who he chose to marry him to his wife, to baptize his children, and one who he called his mentor. Does he share the national goals of a domestic terrorist who actually bombed the Pentagon? I don’t know, but his political “coming out party” was held in the home of one. Does he believe that Americans should pay much more for fuel and electricity? This is not in question and is well documented on recent video: “under my plan utility rates would necessarily skyrocket”. ( Does he believe in socialism? I don’t know, but he has advocated a monstrous reform of the health care system that will amount to the government take over of that system and the accompanying one sixth of the entire US economy. Does he believe in the redistribution of wealth, that success is to be punished? It would appear so. Do the majority of American voters agree with these ideas? It would appear not. So why then was this man elected President of the United States of America?

The siren harmonies of wealth redistribution and “social justice” seduced the minorities of color and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but what about the conservative Democrats, Independents, and moderate Republicans that actually made the election? These groups of mostly white voters were perhaps ashamed that it had taken so long for the system, in which they had been taught all things were possible and that every person had the opportunity to become anything they wanted (even President), to produce a person of color (a black man in this case) that they could comfortably support as a presidential candidate without fear or misgiving. Here was a black candidate who made the stock promises that politicians make; a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage. He railed against the previous unpopular administration and his minions vilified his opponents so that he didn’t have to be personally involved with anything that would give the appearance that he could possibly be mean spirited. When it was over he and many Senators and Congressmen had ridden a wave of anti-incumbency into office. Everyone was so happy and proud. Expectations were high, and even the Europeans expected a complete transformation.

But now we’re about four years into the new administration and something unexpected has happened, and it wasn’t the fundamental change that candidate Obama promised. The President’s approval ratings have gone down significantly (precipitously some say) while his personal approval ratings have remained fairly high. Some commentators say this can be accounted for by the fact that he’s a remarkably likable guy with a “gift” and that he’s managed to somehow keep himself separate from his policies. But it’s much simpler than that. People in the center of the electorate are NOW truly ashamed. They are ashamed that they fell for the same old song and dance. Toto didn’t even have to pull the curtain away to expose the Wizard as he was standing in the open the whole time saying clearly who he was and what he intended to do, and the people voted for him anyway. When he said: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America” people heard it, but didn’t take the time to think about what he really meant, and they're ashamed to admit it.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ways To Tell That He Isn't That Into You


On a camping trip to the deep woods he tells you that a couple of garlic capsules will keep mosquitoes away as well as those “harsh” chemical repellents.

He buys a $1M life insurance policy on YOU so that you don’t have to worry about what might happen to HIM.

He disconnects the passenger seatbelt warning buzzer because he knows you’ll be more comfortable without that irritating belt and turns off the passenger air bag because it’ll “increase fuel efficiency”.

He offers to take you and the kids on a mid-winter, midnight camping trip in a frigid wilderness area.

After watching The Godfather II he offers to take you fishing Christmas Eve, on a lonely lake and explains that you need the tarp and duct tape to carry home all the fish.

He serves you breakfast in bed with orange juice out of what looks like it may be a Prestone jug.

He buys a shovel at the hardware store even though you have no garden.

He tells you he’s pretty sure that he read somewhere that after 5 tequila shots you’ll still be okay to drive home for about 45 minutes.

He tells the evil sorceress you can’t resist a crisp red delicious apple.

He calls you up to tell you those sirens you hear outside are weather “interest” alert sirens and you should grab the camera and go outside into the most open space you can find to take neat cloud pictures.

He tells you it’s perfectly safe to use your hair dryer in the bath tub.

He consistently gives you Tylenol for a hangover.

He’s constantly telling you to get a little closer to the animal cages so he can get a better picture.

He teaches you that the best way to avoid a bear attack in the woods is to be really really quiet as you’re walking, and if you DO see a bear to run away as fast as you can.

He unexpectedly buys a large steamer trunk even though you know he doesn't share your love of travel and an axe even though you have no fireplace.

He may not be THAT into you.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.