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Archive for June, 2011

On the Other Hand…..

29 Jun

 

The other day I was engaged in an interesting discussion with a likewise interesting person.  She advised me that she gained a great deal of wisdom by always seeking out the views that were opposed to the positions she held.  As she seemed to be making a great deal of sense, I surmised that she just might be right.

I should point out that our conversation revolved around various political issues so I’ll try to stay on that topic.  There certainly is a plethora of oppositions in that arena.  Maybe too many so I’ll stick to just a couple of issues.

As I pondered just how to go about it, a number of questions arose.  Just how does one define opposition anyway?  Within my political party there are many people that strongly oppose the views of others in our party.  For instance, many positions held by what might be called the right wing of the party are not exactly accepted by the more moderate of us.  Take the issue of the death penalty.  Some say yes, but only in response to murder of a law enforcement officer.  Other say no, never.

Those kinds of differences run rampant in both parties, and within the independent wing as well.  I concluded that I’d have to raise my sights a bit and deal with one big ticket idem.  So I zeroed in on this particular issue:  Taxing the wealthy more.

My investigation revealed that the democrats say they want to tax the wealthy more because they can afford it.  Besides, they probably wouldn’t have become rich if they lived in any other country.  Ego, they owe it to us.  Even if we take a bit more from them they still can live high on the hog, much better than I’m living.  They conclude it is a matter for fairness.

My party generally says, they already supply most of the money to run our government.  After all, almost fifty-percent of income earners don’t pay any taxes at all.  What kind of fairness is that?  Besides many small business owners (the ones that supply us with the most jobs) file their taxes using the personal income tax forms.  Is it really wise to take more money from them when they will just have to either lay people off or not hire more in the first place?

Well, after sweating over that for a while, I figured that raising taxes on the wealthy is not all that good of an idea.  Well, they say, “Warren Buffett and Bill Gates thinks raising their taxes more is a good idea.  Even Obama thinks this is what we should do.”  I retort, “If they think they should be  paying more, nothing is stopping them from writing a bigger check when they pay their taxes.  Why do we need more tax revenue anyway?  We already take in more money than we ever have.”

Seems to me a better approach would be to cut back on our spending.  “Heavens no,” they say, “Do you really want to throw grandma over the cliff?”  “Not a cliff,” I say.  “But maybe a curb cut for the sidewalk so she can get down to lower ground safely.  That might not be a bad idea.”

We don’t particularly disagree on the need to lower our debt limit, though not too many years ago we weren’t in agreement on that either.  But, assuming we do agree on that, we sure don’t have a common thought on how to go about it.

Now, having explored some of my opponents thoughts and reevaluated some of my own I’ve come down to this conclusion:  We’ve tried spending more and more for way too many years and look at what that has gotten us.  Or, as Dr. Phil might say: “How’s that working for you?”  How about let’s try spending less for a while and see if that lowers our debt any.

Well, I’ve tried to take on my friend’s advise.  Perhaps it made me a bit wiser.  I’ll bet most democrats would just say, “You might have become wiser, but you’re still way too insensitive.  You’re just like the rest of those republicans.  You know.  Just hell bent to give granny a shove off the face of that big cliff sending her crashing onto those jagged rocks thousands of feet below.  Then you would probably take the healthcare money she won’t be needing and give it to the rich.”  Now I know my friend wouldn’t say such a thing.  At least not out loud.

“Sigh.”

 

NASA & The Interstate Highway system: Dead or Alive?

25 Jun

NASA has served as a focal point of the United States quest to explore the heavens.  Since President Kennedy laid down the challenge of taking man to the moon and bringing him back safely, tremendous sums of money have been expended in the pursuit of this worthy goal.  An almost unlimited supply of scientific discoveries has littered its landscape of progress.  By all accounts NASA has come through in grand style.  With the flight of the last space shuttle Atlantis, NASA’s major space mission will come to a close.

In 1956 the United States started it biggest public works project ever–building the National Defense Highway System, commonly referred to as the Interstate System.  Like the space mission, huge amounts of money have been expended as we embarked on this nation’s the second generation of highway building.  The first generation began in the 1910’s as we built our way out of the mud.  Like the space program great strides toward progress were accomplished.  The ending of this significant program has not been as clearly defined as the space program, but it is over as well.

Well done America!!!  Missions accomplished!!!

Where to from here?  Should there even be a “where to” for either of these efforts?  Has NASA reached the end of it usefulness?  Is the luster of the Interstate System fading away?  Well that depends.  It depends on the clarity of their new missions.

These, after all, are government programs, albeit very successful ones.  And as is the case for most government programs, once begun, they never end.  At least not gracefully.  Government seems to have no concept of the cyclical nature of things.  Programs begin and flourish, primarily because they have clear cut missions.  But once they have been accomplished, they just seem to muddle along aimlessly.

The space program seems to be in disarray as politicians struggle with where next to go.  Is it Mars?  Or a space station on the moon?  What?

The Interstate program has degenerated into a program that is spending huge sums of money on non-highway programs.  Sure some of those things are worthwhile (but many are not).  The method of paying for the Interstate System, i.e. gas tax, was endorsed by congress and the president because its mission was clear cut and it was something that every citizen wanted, not just some powerful lobbying group.

At this time in our nations history we are faced with monumental fiscal problems.  We are spending way too much.  Can we afford to embark any new massive programs?  Do we need a breather until the current crisis is over before we venture ahead with something new and exciting?  Are there better ways to spend our (aka yours and my) hard earned dollars?

I’m not sure where we go from here, but I suggest that we hold off  until any new program has a mission that is clearly supported by our citizens and politicians.  We had better focus on our fiscal crisis first.  Even though both of these programs contributed greatly to our economic strength and even though both could do the same now, I think it unwise to continue blundering along with these two programs as they are constituted now.  Seems to me we should cool it for now, making sure that we maintain what we have developed so far, then develop new plans that will accomplish what this nation really needs in the future.

Let’s put “full speed ahead” on hold for now.  It’s time to manage our pennies wisely to making certain that our nation continues to have a future.  After all the great American experiment has a life cycle too.  Let’s make sure we are still on the upswing.

 

 

Are We Electing Statesmen…or Pawns?

22 Jun

Was there ever a time in this country when our primary goal was to elect someone that would do a good job for our city, county, state, or country?  When we picked someone that measured up to supporting a broad set of principles?  When we put character and honesty ahead of being beholden to us?

Am I looking back at something that never was?  A dream based on wishful thinking?  A fictitious Mr. Smith goes to Washington type of statesman?

Perhaps I’m naive, but I think we are moving into dangerous territory by the way we seem to be selecting our political leaders.  Look at the amount of time our presidents spend on fund raising.  I pick on presidents because their fund raising escapades and speeches are made so public.  And even then we aren’t privy to the amount of time they spend raising money behind closed doors.

President Obama has reportedly set a goal to raise a billion dollars to fund his 2012 election bid.  In the 2008 election he received almost seventy million votes.  Assuming he gets about that many votes this next go around, that amounts to nearly $15 per vote.

Obviously not every voter will donate to his cause.  It doesn’t take much of an imagination to figure out that there will be some very big donations made.  A lot will be given by special interests, such as labor unions and teacher associations, etc..

The point is: there will be some very big givers out there that won’t be donating because they thought Obama is a nice guy.  They will give because they expect to get something in return.  Something that benefits them.  In other words, a quid pro quo.

In addition to dollars given, labor unions and teacher’s associations offer up something even more important than money.  And that is a large block of people that will vote for them.

I don’t mean to say that Obama stands alone as being one that is up for sale.  He isn’t.  Nor is he the first.  In times past, there have been many wealthy influentials offering help to elect someone that would be indebted to them.  But in those days they usually didn’t bring along a block of voters with their money.

In recent times teacher and public employee unions have been the most powerful forces to invade and warp our election process.  Powerful because they are striving to elect people that will do their bidding when it comes to passing and supporting legislation that directly benefit these unions.  They provide much needed funding and huge blocks of voters to politicians willing to sell their vote (aka souls) to these unions.

In effect, these unions are hiring their bosses, which by the way have the ability to give them wage increases and hefty benefits.  And they make it very clear that if that person doesn’t come through for them, there will be no money nor a block of votes the next time around.

These unions couldn’t care less about the needs of anyone other than their own.  Or, for that matter, the fiscal soundness of their employers.  For evidence of this, one need look no further than the financial mess our states are facing.  About that, I am certainly not naive.

 

 

Boundaries–Gotta Love Um

18 Jun

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Boundaries are the guarantor of peaceful living.  Boundaries tell us how far we can go; when enough is enough.  They give us comfort and they give us grief.  Without them there would be no limit to constrain us from going amok.  They keep us from crashing against the hard rocks of reality.  And, they keep me from hurting you.

We all have boundaries set for us, though sometimes we set some for ourselves.  But usually they flow from some type of governing (not in the political sense of the word) entity.

I believe that the bedrock boundaries were spelled out by God in the Ten Commandments.  If you’re a believer you are blessed because the hard work of figuring them out is taken care of for you.  Whether or not one believes these rules to be directed by God, most people adopt principles somewhat like these.

God based boundaries are often interpreted quite differently, depending on the God that is being used for inspiration.  My God, for example stresses love as the most important aspect of his teaching.  But my God at times took drastic and draconian steps to keep his flock on the straight and narrow.  I can see why, but it is hard to reconcile how that fits in with his New Testament emphasis on love.

Others believers which seem to have evolved from the same god as mine enforce their god given rules in ways I can’t imagine.  For example, how girls and woman are treated by these sects goes way beyond any sense of decency I feel is espoused by their (my) God.

The next level to help one get a grasp for what their boundaries should be comes from our parents.  These are generally not such easily understood limits.  Different families have a completely different set of rules.  Some are very strict in the limits they set, others more lax.  The same goes for the number of rules that are promulgated by various families.  Most deal with issues of safety, such as staying in your yard when you very young, to how late you can stay out on a date.  These boundaries are constantly tested as children grow up.  How parents deal with this testing often dictates how strong the family becomes and how well founded the young person is when he or she flies the coop.

Finally, government (the political kind) sets out some requirements through a jumble of rules, regulations and laws.  Some of these laws fit comfortably into those boundaries we’ve grown up with.  Others can go against them, even be diametrically opposed to what we believe is either right or just.  At least these laws can be changed should enough people feel the same way.  The more basic commandments are far beyond change from mankind.

Seems to me, our challenge as a society is for individuals to first of all subscribe to a clear set of values.  Ones that protect and allow all members of society to live as they feel compelled.  Hopefully, their values don’t harm anyone else.  Then finally and as a last resort, governments, controlled by its citizens, should define (in the least intrusive manor possible) the rules whereby we must live.

There will always be some that just can’t control their more basic desires.  In those cases, society must set the boundaries and enforce them.  However, society must always guard against forcing the will of some onto others.  It should always question the wisdom or need for taking on this responsibility.  Seems to me the Golden Rule gives good guidance in those cases.

 

 

Ethanol Subsidies–A Serpent with Two Heads

15 Jun

Congress had a chance to end a subsidy.  It didn’t.  Why?

The ethanol subsidy has at least two known negative consequences.  They are known because those that propose such legislation are deliberately trying to accomplish them.

First, they distort the economy by warping the natural balance created in the free market economy.  Second, they redistribute money to a special interest.  Usually that interest carries a significant amount of sway with our politicians.  Of course, both political parties are guilty of first starting, then perpetuating these policies.

The unintended consequences of such legislation are often devastating.  In the case of ethanol, the subsidy is aimed at the agricultural industry, mostly corn growers and distributors.  Corn is a major contributor to the making of ethanol.  But, corn also happens to be a major contributor to a large segment of every thing we eat, and much of what we use.

This subsidy slaps a double whammy on our economy.  It greatly encourages farmers to grow more corn, thus reducing the supply of other agricultural products from our fields.  And it encourages the distributors to send precious corn to ethanol plants rather than to starving third world countries.

As the supply of corn is shifted away from its normal consumers, it leaves a void.  Filling this void tends to result in much higher prices…and in this case because corn is used in almost every thing we consume and many other things as well, prices rise almost across the board.

Subsidies, in general, are considered undesirable by most republicans, especially when they are striving to cut our national debt.  So why did they let this opportunity, i.e. eliminate this subsidy, pass them by?

At least one of the reasons was that republicans are also against raising taxes as well.  As it turns out, the ethanol subsidy program also contains several tax breaks for corn based ethanol producers.  Eliminating the subsidy would therefore increase taxes for these people.  True, but hardly a reason for making a policy shift that will benefit nearly all of us in one way or another.

If we let that kind of logic prevail, then we will never be able to cut back on our spending.  The elimination of any government program will have a negative impact on someone out there.

When times are hard, we will have to bite the bullet and make a number of cuts in our spending.  It will not be easy.  It will not be pain free.  But it is necessary.  Cutting subsidies seems to me to be a good place to start.

 

 

A Study in Contrast–Palin vs Trump

11 Jun

It seems interesting that two of the most intriguing political figures in the republican party are Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

There are definitely similarities between them.  They are both blunt in their feelings, speak with a certain flare, flashy in their own way and have relatively high positive and negative ratings.

They are both reviled by the mainstream media.  Reviled because the media fears that either one of them might actually beat Obama in 2012.  But more fundamentally  disdainful to them, and what makes them go absolutely berserk with a merciless rage is the fact that both Palin and Trump refuse to pander to them.  This is an unforgivable sin which can never be tolerated.

Yet, both are loved by the media because of the perceived damage that they might be doing to the republican party’s chances to beat Obama in the 2012 race.  Terms like “taking the wind out of the proclaimed candidates sails”, or “burning up all the oxygen from the field” are often espoused.  The mere possibility that damage to the republicans might be happening is music to their ears and thus grudgingly acceptable.

But the contrast I’m intrigued with is this: Palin stresses the positive values of the republican contract with America, while Trump spends his time blasting whatever seemingly comes to mind, including shortcomings in the entire republican field of candidates.

In my mind, while I don’t believe either of them will be running for the republican nomination, they can both make a positive contribution to the republican party’s effort to get a republican elected.  They get a lot of press and they can use that to the republican advantage.  That is if they both press forward with a positive posture that respects, not distracts from, the campaigns of all the republicans willing to run for election.

This will require both Palin and Trump to alter their approach a bit.  Palin must orchestrate her efforts to complement the respective campaigns of the potential nominees.  Trump must drop the destructive aspects of his diatribes.  In other words, the study in “contrast” must morph into a study in “unity.”

Time will tell if they will have provided a positive or negative contribution to the nomination process and the elective process that will follow.  I feel that the country needs a conservative influence in the White House.  Obama certainly has proven that he can not govern effectively.  The continuation of his policies will be devastating to our country’s global influence, and more importantly our financial survivability.

 

 

Am I Considered an American?

08 Jun

The other day I was filling out a questionnaire and came across the question about my ethnic background.  As I perused the options I read African-American, Native-American, Hispanic-American,  Asian-American, White.  White!!!  What’s with that?  Am I a citizen of the world and not simply an “American?”

Let’s put aside for the moment the issue about our arrogance as we slight the central and south American’s by hijacking their continents and calling ourselves “American.”  I can see their point.  And it is a valid one at that.

But I digress.  I can also see the point of those that chose not to be labeled by a color of some sort.  I believe that our country is as great as it is by the fact that we are made up of all sorts of people: black, white, brown, yellow, red, etc..

In reality it is highly unlikely that many among us are truly white, as white is the total absence of any color at all.  In fact, I’m told that if one has a mere a drop of black in their blood stream they are black (not some shade of gray).  I haven’t heard other groups that claim that degree of assimilation to become a member of their group.  The indians, I understand require something like 1/6th of tribal blood to become a member of their tribe.

The questioner may simply be wanting to obtain the cultural makeup of the United States, presumably its citizens.  Why not then just put in the category of “White-Americans?”  Discussing what to do about those answering the questionnaire that are not legal residents is for another day.

Anyway, I was just wondering if the questioner is really implying that they really don’t care from whence I came.  They just want get a count of how many of us are in the majority.  Or perhaps to get a clearer sense of how many minorities exist and just how much of a minority they might be.

One last issue I have with these questionnaires.  When asking about marital status, they always ask if one is divorced.  The societal norm of generations before and including mine is that divorce represents failure.  Divorce, like birth outside wedlock was a social no-no and one labeled as such was nearly subhuman and should be disdained.  One didn’t give out that kind of information easily.

Which leads me to this question:  Is there a statute of limitation on how long one must live beyond the divorce before being able to divest oneself of that condition?  Can one graduate one day and become single again?

I guess if the label bothers me that much I can always seek out a divorcee or a single woman (oops, nowadays it isn’t necessary to limit ones field of sexual choice) and get married again.  Come to think of it, that just might be too high a price to pay.

 

Sarah Palin’s Bus Tour

04 Jun

Much has been made of Sarah Palin’s bus tour.  I’ve heard a lot about it on TV, but most of the reporting centers around the question of whether or not Gov. Palin is going to run for president.

Now I have no idea if she will run or not.  I think the odds are against her running, but for sure I have no inside information.

What I do know though is why she says she is making the tour.  Its primary purpose is to focus on the Constitution and our forefathers that produced it.  This certainly deserves to be highlighted.  The schools don’t seem to be putting much emphasis on the Constitution…what it is…why it is an important document…why its values and principles are still valid…why we should care about having our judges follow its mandates…why our country is better off because of it.

I feel so strongly about our Constitution that I wanted to provide yet another forum that spells out what it actually says.  In fact, that is why I started my blog, robertroyer.com.   If you are interested, click on the “U.S. Constitution” category in the right hand column.  I methodically go through each article, one by one.  On occasion, I even offer up some of my thoughts about the issues raised.  It might be a bit tedious, but if you page down far enough you’ll get to the beginning of my posts on the Constitution

Of course, Gov. Palin is much more adept than I at presenting the Constitution to our citizens.  She should be commended for taking the time and effort to teach us about something we may or may not have learned about in school.

Even if the trip turns out to be her method for entering the race for president, the topic is worth the exposure.  It’s a shame that the newscasters didn’t put at least a little bit about this part of her trip in their reports.  But, then again, what can you expect from the mainstream media?

 

 

Clean Debt Limit Vote–Sham or Commitment to Our Grandchildren?

01 Jun

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“Give me a clean debt limit bill.”  This is the request that President Obama sent to the House of Representatives earlier this year.  Tim Geithner, Treasury Secretary also made a request like this.  As did around 100 House democrats.

Careful what you ask for Mr. President.  A clean debt limit bill was sent to the floor for a vote yesterday.

“Sham,” screamed the democrats.  “Political show,” they continued.

Why is a request conjured up by the President suddenly called a sham?  Could it really be a sham?  Indeed it could be.  Not one perpetrated by the republicans though.  It’s a sham because that is what the President created.  And, I suggest he did it for political purposes too.

The Clean Debt Limit Bill went down to defeat by a 318-97 vote.  Strange.  There must have been a number of democrats included in the 318 votes.  Could it be a bi-partisan demonstration that recognizes that our country is in a real financial bind?  Is it possible that there might be a few democrats that are beginning to think we are spending too much?

Without a doubt some of the cuts that must be made will hurt.  And hurt a lot!!  But this short term hurt will prevent a monstrous debt from devouring our grandchildren’s and their grandchildren’s futures.  Assuming that our country will even be able to survive such an ordeal.

This vote, while it might be somewhat symbolic is the harbinger of more difficult votes to come.  And that is a good thing.  We need to make those hard decisions to overcome the enormous debt that is consuming our ability to pay.

Sure, this huge buildup of debt began in the last year of the Bush Administration.  (Actually it began earlier but not to the scale of his last year).  Then along came the biggest spender of all time—Barack Obama.

It should be noted that during the last few elections the republicans have been eliminating the big spenders from its ranks.  In many instances the democrats that replaced these RINO’s (Republicans in Name Only) were probably more conservative than they were.  This housecleaning lead up to the 2010 elections.  All of a sudden the makeup of congress is moving back toward the country’s center right position.

With a more sound fiscal footing, we can move forward and make the cuts necessary to regain our worldwide leadership role.  (Sorry Mr. President, I know you don’t want that to happen.)

Our Grandchildren can’t rest easy just yet.  There is much work yet to do.

 

 
 

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