Sunday, October 2, 2011

What Would You Cut

So it happened again just the other day. I was watching some talk show or other and there were these two well to do lawyer types trying to make the argument for raising taxes on the “rich”. They were both solidly in favor of themselves and their ilk having to pay higher taxes. When confronted with the fact that they (the top 10% of tax filers) already pay 40% of all federal income taxes paid the bald one made a move like Quai Chang Caine deflecting an arrow in mid flight and made instead a comment about historical tax rates being much higher.

They also both claimed to have calculated the tax that they “should have” paid and then made charitable contributions in that amount which they presumably claimed as deductions in their original tax calculations. When asked why they didn’t just write a check to the federal treasury (as is quite possible) they claimed that this wouldn’t have the same effect, because everyone wouldn’t be forced to do it. So it was an issue of fairness. But it makes no sense to me. If doing something is the right thing, is it any less the right thing if everyone isn’t compelled to do it? In fact, isn’t doing the right thing even more important in the absence of a universal mandate? Somehow they were trying to make the case that charitable giving was less important than paying more in federal taxes, claiming, as it were, that the federal government could do a better job of distributing those funds even after taking out the 30 or so percent out of every dollar that it takes just to operate the federal redistribution machine. It was all very confusing.

At some point during the conversation the subject turned to the federal budget and I heard the question: “all right, so what are you going to cut?”. My ears perked up because this is the same question that I’ve heard Chris (tingle) Matthews ask over and over. The very question implies that EVERYTHING that the federal government spends money on is absolutely essential to life in these United States, which of course it is not. The answer from the blow hard host was that a 10% cut “across the board” would be appropriate. This was met by the predictable incredulity of two grown men brought near to tears at the thought of children starving, young students going without their multiplication tables (which apparently they’re doing without anyway), college students being deprived of the right to a liberal arts degree (to nowhere), and families being denied mortgages that they can’t afford to make payment on. The horror. The horror.

For me, the upshot of this talk show segment was: has the big government model of tax and redistribute been a success or failure? As indicators let’s look at poverty and education. Since 1970 poverty percentages are virtually unchanged. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the War on Poverty for ……. wait for it……. no change. In education we fare no better. Compared to the 70s we spend three times the “adjusted” dollars, and the national test scores of our students are flat. Late night comedians routinely expose our educational system as a laughing stock. Would that it were, and that we actually could put the responsible parties in the stock.

Perhaps it isn’t term limits that we should be supporting, but community stocks for failed politicians.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The President Will Now Say Anything

President Barack Obama is now in the “Say Anything” mode. It’s like he’s been caught with his uptown girl friend by his high school sweet heart baby momma. He loves his baby momma, but he knows he needs his up town girl, and so now he’s in the position of saying anything it takes to keep them both happy. The problem (of course) is the internet and cable news. He can’t whisper sweet assurances in either ear without it being overheard by the other. Now he must know what it’s like to be on with Jerry Springer, caught on stage there with his two girl friends, loving one, but only using the other. And all the time the audience shouting encouragement to the uptown girl, and jeering the baby momma. What’s a poor President to do?

And that’s what an average guy thinks.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Comodes

The other day at work I happened upon a box sitting on the floor near a work area and somehow knew just from the shape that it contained a new toilet. I found myself wondering what it is about a toilet that wears out or breaks so that you need a new one, but I let it pass. And then, there it was. The model name. This was no ordinary toilet. No. This was an AMBASADOR. Well I almost became dizzy at the realization. I was tempted to open the box and sneak a look, but I haven’t been with this company that long, and didn’t want to chance a breach in protocol. An AMBASADOR toilet. My, my.

Suddenly I started to think about all the other models of toilets…… and are they all of the same general category……. Like State Department commodes. So I did some research and it turns out that’s exactly how it is. This company markets a complete line of governmental bathroom porcelain. There is the base model: the CONSULAR OFFICIAL which gets the job done, but has no frills or special features. Many times it’s hard to distinguish a CONSULAR OFFICIAL from one of the Intelligence Community models. Then comes the ENVOY and the SPECIAL ENVOY. These are basically the same unit except for the padding on the seat, the metal in the hardware, and their ability to handle large volumes of documents that need disposed of from time to time. Then comes the MIDDLE EAST ENVOY. This is a very special design that seems to be very popular with newly elected Democratic Presidents. The unit is generally sent into an area of interest where it is used for four years or until the outbreak of hostilities (without flushing) and then returned to the States. A big meeting is called, the flush handle is pushed and then nothing happens. Eventually, the unit is broken open, the contents examined and a report written.

But the top of the State Department line of rest room porcelain is, of course, the MADAME SECRETARY. Of course, it’s a urinal, but no one has the nerve to say anything.

And that’s what an average guy thinks.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Election Season Again

Well, I can see by my calendar and can tell by the scent of the air that it’s election season again. Now it’s election season ALL the time. What a treat for us. The last time this came around I made a note for myself in (of all places) my note book to set down some words about voter demographics. My curiosity at the time was pointing me toward the differences in attitudes between younger and older voters.

I started with the premise that, in our system, there are two political parties; Democrats and Republicans. Okay, three if you figure Independents, but they aren’t really a party, just rebellious subjects of the Ds and Rs. Then there are the Libertarians I suppose…… and the Communists, and the Socialists. The Greeeeeeeeen Party. My premise was clearly unworkable. The positions of the various parties overlap to some degree and even the major parties aren’t really separated by much on many many issues. So I simplified my categorization to separate the electorate into only two groups (not parties); those who favor larger government, and those who favor smaller government, this, while still trying to think about the difference in attitudes between older and younger. What I have done here is to arbitrarily claim that Democrats are of the former persuasion and Republicans the latter, although this is quite obviously not any longer the case, indeed if it ever was.

I think that this whole idea must have come to me while I was looking at one of the Red State / Blue State maps, that we’ll all be sick of seeing before Thanks Giving, and how it appears that the highest concentrations of Democratic voters appears in the large metropolitan areas on the coasts and in the Metro “islands” scattered across the country. So. Does living in a metropolitan area cause the population to lean toward favoring a larger government, and if it does, why is that so? I was also hearing that younger voters (18 – 30) were more likely favor larger government along with many senior citizens. And then an idea struck me. As it turned out it wasn’t so much an idea as it was a book that fell off a poorly constructed shelf as Bob, my coworker, came into our over crowded work space and banged the door a little too hard.

It occurred to me that younger voters, just beyond their adolescence, and older voters, nearing, or in retirement, are much more willing to see themselves as being dependent on someone (in this case the government) to provide care for them that they are unable or unwilling to provide for themselves. The same reasoning applies to residents of large cities. They simply can not exist without a whole host of governmental services and so they don’t have to stretch too far to see themselves as being dependent on government for their survival and well being. Out in the open areas of our vast nation lie the Red states, full of Republicans (or half full anyway), working people who are in their prime, and feeling at the height of their power and independence. You remember independence. It’s the very heart of what this country is all about. Remember?

So there it is. All worked out. The Blue areas on the map are dominated by younger voters who haven’t yet learned how to take care of themselves, and older voters who are no longer able to take care of themselves. They live there side by side with people who are conditioned by their experience to believe that there simply is no survival without the complex web of infrastructure and subsidy that the government creates. You can throw into this group several minority groups (that shall here remain nameless, [because I don’t want to start no shit] but you know who they are).

I was nine years old when I heard John Kennedy make that speech:

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. “

Everyone thought John Kennedy to be a great man, and his passing a tragedy of global proportion, but we show profound disrespect for him and his ideals when we accept from government what we could do for ourselves.

But that’s what an average guy thinks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Living Breathing Document

If I hear one more time that the Constitution is “a living, breathing document” I think I might explode. It is no more living and breathing than the houses that we live in.

Like our houses the Constitution is our base. It is the foundation of our government. It is our shelter and our refuge. And we know it well. Each door, hallway, window, and stairwell is familiar to us.

But this is not to say that our home, our shelter, our Constitution is unchangeable. The architects and artisans who constructed it knew well that we would face a world that they could not possibly know and left clear and simple instructions regarding additions and modifications.

But as time has passed we have stumbled and become confused. Our courts, which were meant to interpret laws and then compare them to the Constitution, have long since taken it upon themselves, instead, to interpret the Constitution and compare it to laws that are in question. They have begun to try and read the minds of the framers. What must James Madison have been thinking when he said this or that. This they do in spite of the fact that they have what James Madison thought written right there in front of them. So then they try to divine what James Madison would have thought and written if he had known what we know now. This is a fools game and ignores the power over our own destiny that we posses.

To modify our Constitution is not complicated, nor is it easy. It was meant to be a slow process. And little thought has been given to clarification. An amendment, a clarification: “We the people of The United States of America take this article, section, paragraph of the Constitution to mean ..........” There is no need to try and read the minds of the founders. They wrote in plain language what was in their minds. It was their house then. It’s our house now. It’s up to us to decide how many rooms we should have, or how many doors.

But it’s we that get to decide, not them. It’s not the federal executive, or the legislature or the judiciary that gets to decide what the Constitution says, or means. It was written in plain language and when, in modern day, situations arise that are not, in its several articles explicitly addressed, it is foolish to try to imagine what the framers would make of our predicament when they clearly left instructions for what to do in such cases in Article V. The Constitution was not meant to constrain us. The Constitution was meant to give us power over our own destiny.

Sadly, we have given up our power to men and women who have twisted the meaning of the words plainly written in the Constitution to suit their own ideas of what our country should be and how we should be governed, and when they could not adequately twist the words they have simply ignored them.

One day soon there may come a day when there are no longer enough people in the nation who value the gift of power and self determination that the Constitution offers over their own ease, and comfort. If that day comes we will have been witness to the demise of “the last best hope of earth”.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spending Reductions In The Tax Code

Is there anyone within the reach of these words who thinks the President is at all concerned with budget deficits? Seriously. Last year the President empanelled a “blue ribbon”, bipartisan debt commission to try to come up with ways to reduce the national debt. They presented their findings and suggestions in December and almost without comment the President promptly shelved them. In his State of The Union address, again no specific cuts although he did volunteer to freeze discretionary spending at levels that are already 20% higher than when he took office. A month later his $3.73 Trillion 2012 budget was pretty widely panned as a “punt” which doesn’t touch the entitlement programs that his own commission recognizes as the drivers of our national debt. Three swings, three misses. Whiffs, airballs, fumbles, faults, false starts. Pick a sport. Pick a failure mode.

So now Paul Ryan has introduced a proposed 2012 budget that addresses deficit spending, the $14 Trillion national debt, and the long term fiscal viability or our social “safety net” programs and of the United States itself. Why has he done that? Well, he’s done that because we’re on the threshold of a catastrophe and financially responsible people see it and are demanding that the congress do something and do something pretty quickly. You might think it would be the President’s job to lead the nation in a responsible direction, but you might find some pushback on that at 1600. But a lot of people out here in the weeds seem to think it, so the President has chosen to play along. And so in his speech the other night he proposed not a budget, but an “outline”, not of a budget, but of a plan. It’s the outline of a plan that abandons the budget that he already put forward, but it’s his “me too” entry into the fiscal responsibility sweepstakes.

I listened intently to the speech. The President said: we’re going to make spending cuts here, and we’re going to make spending cuts over there, and more spending cuts over here (and then he said it) “The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code.” I literally made that Tim Allen sound from Home Improvement. You know the one, the cave man question mark sound. ????? So lets us just take a look at this statement shall we?

It’s a fact that the IRS exists for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to collect taxes. Money flows from us to the government. It flows in one direction. (Of course, that’s total BS because 47% of all tax filers pay no federal tax at all and receive “refunds” of taxes that they didn’t pay in the first place, but that’s not what I’m getting at right here, so let’s just pretend that everyone pays their fare share.) The “tax code” does not spend. The “tax code” was designed to take, and take it does. So what can this phrase mean then: to “reduce spending in the tax code”? I’ll tell you what it means, it means to raise taxes, the President (Mr. Charisma) doesn’t have the (insert male body part or parts here) large enough to say it. “My plan is to raise taxes”. Specifically, he plans to raise taxes on the top 2% of earners who already shoulder nearly 50% of the tax burden as it is.

It’s interesting that the President chose to present his outline of a plan to an audience at George Washington University, GW being the single most expensive university in the US at $56k/year. That means that all of the people in attendance (excluding Paul Ryan who was invited for the express purpose of public insult and Vice President Biden who apparently needed some downtime) were children of privilege who will now have to explain the outline of the plan to their parents who will (if the President has his way) shoulder even more of the tax load than they already do.

Our President is now engaged in a class “kinetic action” (that’s war for those of you who haven’t been following the action in North Africa) against the most successful among us, trying to obscure the fact that the top 2% of earners already pay nearly 50% of the federal income tax booked. He is also trying to conceal the fact that the bottom 75% of tax payers only pay 14% of all income taxes paid. And on top of all of that, like a cherry on a mound of ice cream, there is his Orwellian description of a tax increase as a “spending cut in the tax code”. This man raises “doublespeak” to a new level.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Go Ahead, You're Entitled

So the other day I got into a rather bitter exchange with a social network “friend” regarding excessive government spending. It started innocently enough. She posted that she had woken to the sound of workmen installing a new water heater at her home. I made a lame attempt at an Eagles parody: The last worthless water heater that she’d have to buy. She then volunteered that she hadn’t had to buy it at all, that there had been some monies set aside in California for energy conservation upgrades and that in addition to the installation of the water heater the workmen were re-insulating her attic and weather stripping her doors and windows as well. I sat there for a moment with question marks popping up all over my face like hives thinking about how California has a $26 Billion with a B budget deficit, and I should have placed a 9 volt battery on my tongue until the urge to respond passed, but there wasn’t one handy and so I commented that the monies were likely “set aside” from businesses that were leaving California for Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada because they could no longer afford to pay taxes and fees for such things. This was a mistake.

She’d been all warm and fuzzy about her good fortune and I was raining on her parade. I tried to point out that I hadn’t meant anything personal by my comment and that I would also have a difficult time turning down “free” improvements to my house were they made available. I mentioned that it was, in my opinion, a societal failure and not a personal one. She was not appeased.

Her profanity laced tirade continued, at least I think there was profanity. There were a lot of asterisks flying about so it was hard to say for sure. At one point I was referred to as a conspiracy theorist and then was told that California hadn’t had anything to do with it anyway, that it had been part of the “stimulus package”. “Ah, yes” I said. That $847 Billion give away that friends of the president elect had written during the transition and then shoved through the congress immediately after the inauguration before anyone could look at it. This was not received well either.

Soon angry looking “likes” started to accumulate after her comments and I became afraid of a gang action and so again I tried to reassure her that I hadn’t meant to attack her personally and was told that there was a time and place for everything and that my comments met neither requirement. I responded that it was, after all a social networking site, and pointed out that there was really no other place for me to broach the subject. Also that time means little on the internet. Generally there’s some time between interactions. She seemed to calm down a little.

Subsequent discussion revealed that she’d had a hard week and when this opportunity presented itself to her it was soothing. It felt as if something good was happening for her. I can relate totally, or totally relate. Whichever. She’s really quite a wonderful woman, generally funny and charming. She supports herself working as an actor and supplements that income with writing and e-marketing. She’s managed to make a nice, but not extravagant life for herself. She works hard, as she told me, pays her taxes, and she felt entitled. And there’s the rub.

We ALL work hard. Well, most of us work hard anyway, and we all pay our taxes and so we ALL must be entitled. The problem is that it’s all a scam. We’ve all been promised much more than there is. We pay our taxes and then think we’re entitled to take that money back out, but the money isn’t there. They spent that money years ago. In most cases they spent it years before they even had it, or used it as leverage to borrow money from this program or that and then spent it. They had our cake and they ate it too.

The numbers are almost too scary to look at, and so large as to defy understanding. Our unfunded liabilities now are well over $113 Trillion. Those are promises to pay that the congress has made in our names. Over $1 Million for each tax payer. This is a separate issue from the $14 Trillion that we’ve already borrowed. These unfunded liabilities are moneys that the congress has promised that we will borrow in the future. And still they tell us that we’re entitled, that EVERYONE is entitled.

Who ARE these people and why on earth have we let them deceive us for so long? Maybe we just had a bad half century and needed to feel like something good was happening.

But that's just what an average guy thinks.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Taxes

I wanted to set down some thoughts about taxes. Gonna be a lot of talk about taxes com’in soon and I want to try and get it thought out.

We all pay taxes and fees. It has to be that way. Except for a very few self sufficient individuals living in rural or near wilderness areas we all use government services. Just by living in the country you benefit from the funding of the armed services. Water, sewer, roads, schools, law enforcement, education are things that we all use, or derive benefit from and they’re paid for by a slew of local, state, and federal taxes. We have to buy tax stickers for our car windows, and plates for the bumpers. We pay an excise tax for the gasoline and other petroleum products that we use. We pay taxes to put tags on our pets. We just pay a lot of money in taxes, or at least that’s the way it seems.

The federal tax system was supposed to be simple (the more you make, the more you pay) but if it ever was, it’s far from that now. It’s been shot full of holes and tied in loops to reflect the desires of our elected officials and their “special” friends. The full code is over 17,000 pages long and so complex that federal monetary and tax officials seem incapable of following all of the rules. It’s been common knowledge that the federal tax code is FUBAR for as many years as I can remember. The instructions for the 1040EZ, the simplest form, are forty pages long, for the 1040, one hundred and five.

You won’t find a single elected official that will defend the tax system and yet it remains unchanged and the tax code grows in length and complexity every single year. How can it be that a system without defenders or a supporting constituency can continue to exist in a representative democracy?

I don’t have anything near an answer for that question, but I do think the question itself speaks to the dangerous nature of government programs. No one ever envisioned the mess that the current tax system is. It started out simple enough but then at some point turned Meta stable. For many decades it has grown as it careens about with politicians using it for their own benefit, completely indifferent to the original purpose, and without any thought as to what the purpose should even be.

And this brings me to The Affordable Healthcare Act. ObamaCare if you will. The danger is perhaps not easy to see, but if something as simple as a graduated income tax can become complex beyond comprehension and more resistant to change than the hardest metal what will come of a health care system that at its inception created no fewer than 160 new agencies and boards. One requiring many thousands of pages of cross connected regulation that no one has even the most remote chance of understanding. What defense can we possibly have from an entity like that?

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A More Civil Tone

We have once again had our constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech limited by political correctness. We mustn't say anything that would offend ANYONE. Our children play in sports leagues where there are no winners or losers and go to school where there are no grades lest we damage their little psyches with reality. Our award shows no longer have winners, only recipients lest the people who entertain us think that they are less beloved than some other. And now.... now we are being told that we must be careful what we say so that we don’t adversely affect the behavior of the mentally ill. A nation of 300 million people has been required again and again to give up bits of our guaranteed freedoms in exchange for what? What do we get for a "cooler" tone in political discussion, one where no one is "whipped up"? I can tell you what we get: We get a 14 TRILLION dollar national debt; we get an ever expanding and unaffordable entitlement society; we get an America that is neither a trusted ally or a feared enemy in the world community; we get an America that finances and facilitates the United Nations and it's globalist shenanigans, and we get an America where the disregard for the rule of law is accepted with a resigned nod because we don't want to offend anyone with an argument. Well I call "Bullshit!!" This is Bullshit, and I'm not having any thanks just the same. The President uses warm, glowing rhetoric and speaks of the "forces" that divide and unite us. Bullshit! What separates us whether most people understand it or not is the ideological divide between Federalists and Progressives. Federalists are FOR the Constitution and a government OF, BY, and FOR the people. Progressives favor the government OF the people BY the educated elite. As early as 1838 Abraham Lincoln complained about what he called "the silent artillery of time" destroying the pillars of the temple of liberty and called for a reverence of the Constitution. Its progressive detractors claim, and have for over 150 years, that it's an antique, a quaint historical document that has little bearing on the events of the current day. But the beauty of the Constitution is that it was designed for change and adaptation, but that change is not easy. It was designed to be the foundation and framework of a government BY the people and changes have to be approved both at the federal and state levels. The people have to WANT the change. But the people are not smart. Not educated. Not enlightened and so we don't change the constitution. We don't change what were agreed to as the rules at the beginning, we don't add to the official rules in the agreed to manner. Instead, men and women in expensive suits with expensive educations meet behind closed doors and speak in amicable terms and decide for us what the rules will be. I call Bullshit!! Federalists want to keep, refurbish and reaffirm our constitutional form of government Progressives by definition want to move away from that. Compromise with Progressives means that a little of the birthright of our freedom has been sacrificed.
But that's just what an average guy thinks.