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Archive for July, 2011

Principles, Promises, Pressures, Progress, Politics

30 Jul

Durning the past few days we’ve been able to witness the trials and tribulations of politicians operating under extreme pressure.  Pressure brought about by the reality of a looming deadline on an issue of monumental importance.  The political machinations of the so called Tea Party members of the House of Representatives has been fascinating…and illuminating.

Each member had to review his or her principles along with the promises they had made during their campaigns.  They knew full well the rock solid positions taken by the Tea Party movement during the last several months.  In fact, many of them got into office solely because of the support the Tea Party had given them.  They knew their constituents would be lazier focused on how they voted.  But, they also needed to weigh the political realities of the potential success of the  measures being proposed.

It was quite possible that they could lose support from the more moderate non-Tea Party voters, both in the Congress and the electorate in general.  It could be disastrous for them and the Republican Party should they come off as being the cause of the calamity that might befall the country should nothing be done to prevent it.

They knew the credibility and effectiveness of their leader, John Boehner would be in jeopardy should he be unable to cobble together a majority vote on his bill.  They knew the bill would be dead on arrival in the Senate, making its value seeming questionable.  Further, they knew that the Democrats were ready to ponce on anything that would put a chink in the Republican’s armor.  Yet they had to make a decision.

Each had to weigh the issues then put their vote out there for all to see.  In the end the measure passed and was sent to the Senate, where as expected it was quickly dismissed.

The fight is far from over but I believe that these Tea Party members were and will continue to be, extremely influential in upcoming legislation.  Had it not been for them and the way they handled themselves our objectives would not have been advanced at all.  Those supporters threatening future support should think twice before taking such action.

So far at least, budget cuts of some significant magnitude will no doubt happen, though surely the cuts won’t be as deep as needed.  Perhaps there will be no increases in our taxes either.  I think we are continuing to move in the right direction.  Having demonstrated their collective political courage I rest more comfortably knowing they aren’t about to rubber stamp the President’s or Senate’s lame-brained proposals.

The game is far from over; there will be more steps forward required in the future.  We must remember that the President and the bulk of the rest of Congress are really in control and they don’t support our view of limited government.  We must strive for even more dramatic reductions in our spending, but be cognizant of the fact that it will be tough sledding.  At least until the next election.  Then we will find out more clearly where the country stands on the role of government, be it limited or not.

The times ahead, they will be interesting.

 

 

Balanced Budget Amendment–Beacon or Anvil?

27 Jul

Is the time right for us to amend our Constitution?  Have we lost sight of the promise of limited government?  Does Congress, the President and the Supreme Court need a bit more guidance, guidance that will provide boundaries for their actions as they go about accomplishing their missions?

It appears to me that the answer to all these questions is: Yes.

While a Constitutional amendment won’t solve all of our fiscal problems, it will go a long way toward moving us in the right direction.  The need for this amendment is obvious in light of the free for all the last Congress and our president has officiated over.  Passing bills that simply throws money in all directions with no sense of focus is ludicrous.  Worse, its deadly when fiscal reality is thrown to the winds as well. It seems that the threat of a debt default might bring about such an amendment.  But it appears that President Obama is willing to go to the wall to see that he isn’t hamstrung by this kind of fiscal thinking.  He need now worry.  It is highly unlikely that he will still be in office by the time it would be approved by the requisite number of states.

This amendment would accomplish at least three things:  It would provide a set of boundaries that will limit the amount of spending and taxing that would be allowed.  It would provide some steel to the backbones of our leaders.  And, it would be something that couldn’t easily be changed at the whim of congress.

If it were to indeed accomplish these three things, then our government would be limited, at least to some extent.  Not quite as limited as our forefathers had in mind, but enough of a limitation that we wouldn’t be facing the dilemma we face today.

So a Balanced Budget amendment might just be both a beacon and an anvil.  It will shine some light on just how deep we could go into debt and yet be hefty enough to hold us back from the brink.  Seems to me a Balanced Budget Amendment would be a desirable thing.

 

 

Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act–Friend or Foe?

23 Jul

A valued reader of my blog asked me to pen some thoughts on the Dodd-Frank Bill enacted into law a year ago.

She sent this request:

“If all works as designed, it will put in place a stronger consumer protection law.  This bill will supposedly bring an end to taxpayer funded bailouts.

It will not make the taxpayer responsible for “paying the bill” if a big bank fails.

Its intent is to stop the reckless risk-taking by Wall Street. (To me, Wall Street is another name for Risk Taking.)

Is this law meant to protect the consumer or is it just more of government in your business?”

 

I’ve no qualms with the lofty goals of this bill.  They are laudable and indeed praiseworthy.  I would be very happy should time prove its aims achievable.

However (don’t you just love this word), I have a number of concerns.  They are not based on specifics, but rather philosophical or principle based.

First let’s look at the words in the request that tend to question the potential success of the Act.  “If all works as designed”   “bill will supposedly”  “Its intent is to”

This is one of the most complex pieces of legislation ever devised.  I’m not sure, but I suspect that it might be almost as confusing as ObamaCare.  Ms. Pelosi’s test of the value of a bill applies here: “We have to Pass the Bill to see what’s in it.”

It is, after all, around 2,300 pages in length.  Do you ever wonder who actually wrote the bill?  Could it be that many of the contributors really had their own “protection” in mind rather than that of the consumer?

I have no credentials to suggest in any way that I know anything at all about what the bill says.  Nor do I mean to imply that I know what will actually happen as a result of this bill.  I’m really not qualified to say one way or the other.  However (there I go again), I do have some thoughts about what our government’s role should be in matters such at this.

Let’s look at how a related matter played a role in bringing about the perceived need for the Dodd-Frank Act.

It all started with the government disregarding some basic economic dictates.  In their infinite  wisdom (or lack thereof), they determined that all people should have easy access to an essential element of the American Dream, i.e., home ownership.  Actually everyone did have access, but not all had the ability to acquire it.  So “the government” decided to correct that problem.  (By the way, the same Dodd and Frank played a big role in that decision as did Bill Clinton and George W. Bush).  In any event, the means to accomplish that goal was to loosen the requirements needed to obtain a home loan.

Now this may be well and good, but some of the more greedy among us concluded that the way to their economic prosperity was to “gin up” as many of these loans as possible.  They could do this by not requiring the borrower to have the “ability” to pay back the loan.  The result….you guessed it, many that should not have received any loan at all could secure one….and without a down payment.

Now I suspect that many of the “poor” that obtained such loans were suckered into it with false promises.  These are the ones we should worry about and find a way to protect.  I’m not sure this Act does that.  Reverting to the policy that one doesn’t get a loan until they demonstrate they can pay it back would be a good start.

Others found a way to make a killing by flipping houses thereby making big profits.  These people should have known better and shouldn’t get bailed out.

Anyway, a few people began to worry about the liability they were carrying and they conjured up a scheme to “insure” against defaults.  Things such as bundling, derivatives and credit default swaps popped up.  Then one day the piper showed up and said “Pay me.  And pay me now.”

I say all of this just to illustrate how when government sees something it thinks is a good thing it doesn’t always turn out that way.  Wanting to do good doesn’t always make good.  And when it comes to “Big Government” that is often the case.

The Heritage Foundation says this about the Act: “…., Dodd–Frank and its 243 separate rulemakings (by 11 different federal agencies) are an ill-conceived attempt to reduce financial risk by constraining banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, investors, accountants, and myriad other financial products and services.”  It says further:  “Two dozen bills are pending in Congress to rescind or reform various elements of Dodd–Frank. Some are more worthy than others. But the law’s unparalleled powers, unless checked, will curtail the availability of credit and capital for consumers and businesses alike, both of which are sorely needed to nurture economic growth.”

Think Churr-Ching!

I imagine that when the dust settles this Act will result in a horrendous burden on the those being regulated.  These costs will somehow filter down to their customers in one way or another.  Only then can we determine if the Act is truly looking after the wellbeing of the customers?

The short of it is that greed is a terrible thing.  It motivates people to inflict great harm and pain on the unsuspecting.  Then the greed of an individual morphs into groups of people until it finally gets out of control.  Big Government and Big Business, along with Big Labor are perfect breading grounds for greed.  Trying to regulate greed out of the picture doesn’t work because greedy people usually outsmart the regulators.  They are quicker to figure out ways to get around restrictions dreamt up by the regulators and they often use the regulation against itself.

The answer to our problems isn’t for our government to attack small or big businesses.  No, the answer is more basic than that, but infinitely more difficult to pull off.  That is to re-establish the value of having strong family relationships that ultimately strengthen the moral character of us all.

Government can’t do that.  Individuals can.  But do we have the moral fortitude to do that and quit asking for the government to do it for us?  You tell me.

Following my logic is probably more tedious that sorting out the language in the Dodd-Frank Act.  But it kinda make sense to me.  I’ve tried to do my part in all of this.  I’ve paid off my home loan.  Now, I’m afraid we are all paying off someone else’s loan and we’ll be doing so for a good long time.

But thanks for asking.  I appreciate getting any ideas out there.

 

Say It Isn’t So!! Please!!!

20 Jul

About the time that I was born an important American icon was presented to the United States for the first time.  It took me a few years to become a loyal follower of this man, only because it took me a while to be able to read.

Then he jumped from the colorful pages into the world of radio, then eventually into TV and movies.  Throughout the years his actions put forth a call to all of us that right is right; and right will always win in the end.

He came to us in the form of two individuals: a mild mannered reporter and the super hero he became.  Some thought his standing for good against evil all the time was boring.  So they strayed off the path of righteousness.  Others let his values sink in and by so doing we inherited a stick by which we could measure the merit of our own deeds.  But no matter where one stood on the issue of his moral excellence, there was never any doubt that he was an American through and through.

I’m speaking of course of the man of steel, Superman.  You know the faster than a speeding bullet guy.  The one that can jump buildings in a single bound.

Now the word I hear is that this hero of mine is about to renounce his U.S. citizenship.  That’s right!!  The 900th issue of Action Comics is reported to state that Superman is going to the United Nations to proclaim that he is “tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy.”

Have they gone mad?  Are they teaming up with the Joker (oops, wrong foe), or Lex Luther to undermine his credibility?  Or is it that they have morphed into some lillie-livered, PC emitting, sad-sack, know it all, elite bag of blithering idiots?  Words escape me (oh how I wish I could come up with derisive words like the liberals use when describing Republicans).

At times like this, I find it hard to worry about what will happen to the United States should we default on our debts.  Or even the damage that President Obama’s policies are doing to our great nation.  How can such trivial issues such as these outweigh the impact of seeing Superman succumb to the drivel emanating from the pages of our newspapers, mainstream media, liberal news networks, and yes, regrettably even Action Comics?

All I can say is: Say it isn’t so!!

 

 

Risk Armageddon Now or Bring it on Later for Sure?

16 Jul

President Obama is saying we face armageddon if there isn’t a debt limit bill passed and signed by August 2.  That, at best is only a half truth.

No doubt that if there isn’t a bill passed and signed that raises the debt limit we will be facing a very scary future.  Many bad things might happen.  The extent of the damage is somewhat controllable should the president  make some very hard decisions.  I’m not at all convinced he has it in him to do that.  In fact, some say he would be quite happy to let the worst happen.  I don’t believe that but his past practices don’t leave me with much confidence either.

What he isn’t clearly saying is that if we do as he asks, i.e., throw some increased taxes in the mix, an even worse armageddon (if there is such a thing) would befall this great country.  Raising taxes during tough economic times is precisely the wrong thing to do.  He even said that last December when the Bush tax cuts were being debated.

Taking money away from those that are generating the jobs and those that are out buying things is ludicrous.  Generating more tax payers is the best way to increase the government’s revenues.  Somehow he doesn’t seem to get that.

We don’t know exactly what he is willing to cut.  He talks a good message or at least reads a good message off his fifth appendage (his teleprompter).  But again, past practice suggests that he isn’t willing to follow through on his proposals.  I would guess that is why he is being so vague when he suggests proposed actions.  My suspicion is that the republicans sitting at the bargaining table can’t figure out what he is proposing and that simply strengthens their resolve to hold firm on no new tax increases.

The fact of the matter is, if the debt limit is raised without significant cuts in our spending we are heading into armageddon pretty quickly anyway.  Each day that goes by makes the cutting more difficult.

The time to act is NOW.  The timing has never been better.  In spite of the President’s statement that 80 percent of Americans want his approach, the facts don’t bare him out.  Most Americans fear that our spending is out of control.  Let’s take care of that first, then when the country is back on its feet, we can debate whether or not our taxes are too high.  Or, better yet we can talk about throwing away our current tax code and replace it with a more efficient and effective flat tax.  One that doesn’t require a legion of tax lawyers to figure things out.  Laying off a bunch of tax lawyers and IRS enforcers would be a good way to get the rest of the unemployed back to work.

So let’s change the democrats “pay me now and pay me later” position to “cut the budget now or go over the cliff and join the little old ladies already on the rocks below.”

 

Is Obama Resorting to Lying About the Debt Limit?

13 Jul

“You Lie,” shouts a man from the gallery.  “And you know it.”

Is it a lie or is it just political gibberish?  Or perhaps simply using scare tactics to accomplish his goal.  The truth of the matter rests in the President’s mind and his motive.  He certainly isn’t above trying to scare a particular segment of the population when he can’t fall back on the facts to support his position.

This “trick” is high on the list of the community organizer’s playbook.  And that is really the only job he has proven skillful at.  So is he using this tactic to divide and conquer or to rile people up against the republicans?

Using these tactics may have worked well in his past life, but they are not the tactics typically used by effective leaders.  They may work well during labor negotiations, but they are counter productive when seeking agreement that is truly mutually supported by all factions involved.  Sure you can get signatures on an agreement that way, but you could never generate a handshake based on mutual trust.

So just what was the reason that the President said that without a raise in the debt limit social security checks wouldn’t be in the mail after August 2?  Is he really that ignorant of how this country’s budget works?  I can’t believe that.  What I do believe though is that he is scared “speechless” about the possibility that he would have to make some quick and very hard decisions if this limit isn’t raised.

He could decide to let the government default.  Or he could decide to make the necessary payments to our bond holders, thus alleviating the need to default.  But then at the same time he would have to decide where to make the cuts.  And these cuts would be much more rigorous than those he would have to agree to in order to make the debt limit deal acceptable to the republicans.

I suspect he knows that, but is unwilling to make those cuts at this time.  He is betting that he can outlast the republicans in this financial game of chicken.  This means the decision will go down to the wire (another ploy of the community organizer).  The problem with that tactic is that the stock markets around the world, which detest dealing with an uncertain future, would probably overreact and we could be facing another gigantic crash.

So is he just out and out lying?  Is the solution to this problem so far over his head (or as he once said, out of his pay grade) that he is like a deer in the headlights of reality?  Or is he simply posturing to be in a position to blame (another community organizer trick) the republicans?

I’m not sure what is driving him.  But if I had any confidence that he knew how to lead rather than just thrive on consternation and confusion, I would rest a whole lot easier.

In any event I fear we’re in for a bumpy ride.

 

The Power of Redistributive Forces

08 Jul

The other day I sat by the banks of the Shoshone River and watched one of the world’s greatest of forces at work.  A river has many tasks, not the least of which is to transport soil, rock and other debris from its place of origin and along its banks until eventually it all flows into one of our great oceans.

Rain, and melted hail or snow trickles across the terrain that lays beneath it, nibbling away as it goes.  Whether tumbling over craggy cliffs, or meandering through fruited plane, it is busy ripping apart and absorbing whatever rests in its path.  In the beginning its power is limited, yet it is relentless.  Each uprooted blade of grass, each tiny pebble dislodged, or grain of sand pushed slowly down hill will at some point in time serve to quench the river’s unending thirst.

Drop by drop, cupful by cupful the momentum of the river builds.  Multiplied by the strength of streams and rivers along the way its destructive force gouges out wider and wider paths, often redefining its very course until its objective is reached.

Along the way it deposits some of its hard earned spoils temporarily forming tiny islands or sandy beaches.  In time though it will once again grab hold its treasure and propel its captive multitude further downstream.  Eon after eon its intended quest is to eat away at any rock, hill, or mountain ridge until it conquers all high ground, leveling the world to a formless mass of mud.

So goes the redistributive forces of nature.  Thankfully, nature has a way to rebuild itself under the guidance of Devine intervention.

Redistributive forces of nature aren’t the only thing at work these days.  Albeit at a much smaller scale, there are those among us that wish to subject redistributive principles to our economic system.  These forces don’t rip away at mountains.  No, these forces tax away wealth accumulated through hard work by our more productive citizens, then redistribute it by gifting it to the less productive.

The end result of man’s redistributive efforts and that of nature is essentially the same, i.e., tear down until all slumps to the lowest common denominator.  Take from the wealthy and spread it around until their accumulated wealth is reduced to a level matching that of the poor among us.  Always tearing down rather than building up until in due time we will all be writhing about in one large murky pond of destitution.

Mighty as the mountains are, they are powerless to combat the forces wishing to tear them down.  Likewise, the wealthy will no longer be able to produce as they once did because their incentive to achieve will eventually erode away replaced by an ominous frustration of wondering if working hard is really worth it.  The poor will similarly ponder the need to do anything as they feel they will surely be taken care of.

Now, I believe that nature is a much more reliable guarantor of the earth’s sustainability than the cadre of will intentioned elite socialists that are attempting to tear our economic wellbeing asunder.  In short, God’s grand plan is trustworthy, the socialist’s fuzzy plan is not.

As long as there are those that “have,”  there will be those that “have not.”  But when those that “have” are deprived of their desire to achieve, there will be no one that “has” anymore.  This has been tried before and it has failed every time.  And, my friends, to try it again will be tragic indeed.

 

Power of the Negative

06 Jul

At a recent class reunion it was interesting to note just how often our discussion revolved around the mischievous nature of our classmates.  While none of our actions reached the level of being malicious, at least to any great degree,  there did seem to be plenty of fodder from which to chose.

Nearly all of the relayed accounts were promulgated  by those that observed the pranks rather than those committing them.  In great measure the disclosed offender denied any recollection of having committed such deeds.  Being a relatively small class and knowing the individuals involved as well as we all did, it was not hard to imagine that such tomfoolery actually occurred.  In many instances several among us actually witnessed it as it unfolded.

All this lead to a lighthearted camaraderie and warm reminders of just how closely we were tied to each other in those days.  Actually, had we focused on the positive aspects of our classmates, our discussion would have been long lasting indeed.

The point of all of this is to illustrate that the power of the negative is significantly stronger, and often more interesting than bringing up anything positive.  It is much easier to play the oneupmanship  game by building on negative actions rather on the positives.

While such means of highlighting one’s past is mostly harmless in a venue such as a class reunion, in the arena of public affairs that is not the case.  That is simply because the “barb” in the reunion setting is made to strengthen the bond between participants whereas in the political setting it is made to destroy, or at least denigrate their target.

Worse yet is the propensity to shade the truth or even to outright lie seems to be the order of the day.  If not making a boldfaced lie, these politicians are certainly not above taking something out of context to cast a shadow over their opponent.  Once started down this trail, things quickly spiral out of control as each side ramps up and blasts away wildly.

Unfortunately, all sides involved in the political process fall back on this type of operation.  Often they even hire staffs whose only purpose is t0 dig up some mud on their opponent.

What a shame that we, the electorate, put up with this.  Some even relish the practice, especially when it concerns the more salacious attacks.

But what do we learn in the process?  For the most part very little.  Who really cares if one can see Russia from Alaska, or that he voted for it before he voted against it?

Now, if it revolves around an issue that truly relates to the character of the individual, or his or her ability to make well thought out decisions, that is a horse of a different color.  But in those cases well constructed questions will lead to better answers that slinging mud up against the wall to see what sticks.

I suspect it is too much to hope for that a political campaign can be civil as well as informative.  A certain amount of negativity is inevitable.  And raising positive aspects of one’s opponent isn’t very realistic either.

But do we really have to give negativity the amount of power it seems to have?  Without question the power of the negative is tempting whatever the arena of debate.  I guess we’ll just have to live that.

 

Jettison Jet Tax Break

02 Jul

“I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys.”  So President Obama recently said as he conveys yet another flurry of pronouncements pitting one segment of our population against another.  He is saying this to support his desire to raise income taxes for the “rich.”  That way there will supposedly be more money in our coffers, thus requiring fewer spending cuts to bail us out of the financial mess he (and yes Bush too) has gotten us into.

Now I won’t dwell on the fact that if the oil companies get taxed more, they will simply pass that cost onto all of us, including the poor and other non-rich people.  Nor will I pontificate about one of the bigger benefactors of using jets as a means of efficiently carrying out one’s business.  After all I think it only right that the president of our country should be afforded the benefit of the safest possible way to travel.  I do get a bit testy though when his wife and kiddies jet off to some exotic land in the guise of “work related” travel as opposed to “vacation” travel.  Think Spain and Africa.  Don’t you think travel related businesses in the United States could benefit from their visit?  But I digress.

Now let us focus for a moment on some excessive costs his administration is racking up.  The exhorbanent use of limousines by his minions is outrageous.  He could easily rectify this abuse of privilege over night if only he would heed his own advice.

Newsmax magazine quoted some figures reported by the General Services Administration indicating that the size of the federal limousine fleet has increased by 73 percent in the past two years.  Most of that increase came from the State Department, 194 limos, bringing its total up to 259 limos.  It goes on to report that the Department of Homeland Security has only 118 limos, including those in the Secret Service, which by the way, is four fewer than it had in 2008.

According to the General Services Administration, during the last year of the Bush administration the total fleet of limos was just 238.  By 2010, that number had jumped to 412.

Now I’m just guessing that each of these limos are piloted and maintained by a staff of drivers and other sundry workers.  I guess all that can be justified because this increase represents “new” jobs.  And isn’t that a goal for President Obama?

Didn’t the President blowveate during his campaign that he would go over the budget line by line to cut out waste?  Maybe the community organizer in him took over as he perused the budget.  How else could one explain this inconsistency between his promises and his actions?

Before blazing off into another tirade of class warfare, I wish our president would consider the economic and employment consequences of what he is proposing.  But then again, perhaps he has.  Cutting back on the use of corporate jets would surely result in eliminating a sizable number of private sector jobs while he proceeds to drastically increase the number of public sector jobs.  Frightening isn’t it?

 
 

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