Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just Another Cave-In

     There was an ad campaign for an insurance company that had as its tag line, "So easy, a caveman can do it."  I've been reminded of these commercials many times in the last year watching the Republican-controlled house cave into the Democrats on every important issue. When the Republicans took control of the House in the 2010 mid-term elections, there was a hope among Conservatives that they would slow down President Obama's destructive agenda. However, in the year since they won the majority in the house, they have caved into the President and his party in a spectacular way.
     The first cave-in happened even before they were officially sworn in as the new majority. The issue was to maintain the current tax rates which were instituted under the Bush administration in 2003. The President and his party attached the payroll tax cut, an unemployment extension and more spending as payment for keeping the tax rates at their current levels. The Republicans should have made the case that the cut in social security payroll taxes takes money out of an already bankrupt program and does nothing to help the faltering economy. Furthermore they should have educated the public that extending unemployment has been proven to keep it high by subsidizing people not to work.
    The next major cave-in happened in the spring of this year on the continuing resolution to fund the government. A resolution that would have not been necessary if the Democrats in the Senate and the President would have passed a budget, which they have refused to do for the last 3 years. The house Republicans said they would not agree to any deal unless it included 100 billion dollars in cuts. The 100 billion dollar figure became 60 and then 30 and in the final bill it was little more than a couple hundred million dollar reduction in the rate of growth, no cut.
     The biggest Republican cave-in took place during the debate on raising the debt ceiling this past August. The Republicans had won the argument and had President Obama and the Democrats down for the count. The Republican house had passed a deficit reduction plan called Cut, Cap and Balance. The Democrats refused to proffer a plan of their own, but somehow they were able to convince John Boehner to negotiate with himself, leading to weaker and weaker solutions. Finally we ended up with a plan that didn't cut spending, but only the rate of growth. It also setup the 12 member super committee whose existence is anathema to the Constitution. And the reason for the whole debate, the possibility that the U.S. credit rating would be lowered for the first time in history, happened anyway.
     And finally we come to last weeks debate on extending the unwise payroll tax cut for two months, along with yet another extension of unemployment benefits. Speaker Boehner said he wouldn't settle for anything less than a one year extension and ended up caving once again. As a conservative I have to ask myself what the point was of the Republicans winning control of the House of Representatives if they are just going to rubber-stamp everything the Democrats want to pass. Maybe John Boehner should do commercials for that insurance company, for it appears that Speaker of the House is just too hard for a caveman.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Generification of Merry Christmas

     In the last couple of weeks people have been expressing the obligatory seasonal greeting, and a majority have used the increasingly popular, "Happy Holidays." Or some version of it. I don't like the politically correct holiday greeting. It's a glaring example of self-censorship and it is meaningless. We've become our own big brother.
     The worst argument against acknowledging Christmas is that it might offend those who don't believe in its meaning. I never understood how someone could be offended by a religious holiday that is centered around peace, love, joy and hope. I find it very narcissistic to be offended by someone elses religious holiday and expect the majority of those people to change their behavior to make you feel less offended. I'm not Jewish, but if a Jew wished me a happy Hanukkah I would feel honored that they included me in their holiday and  I'd wish them a happy Hanukkah in return.
     The generification of religous holidays is just one more way that the left in this country aims to sanitize the language and remove all humaness from it. The late comedian, George Carlin, expressed this theme in a comedy bit about the term used to describe soldiers returning from war with mental and emotional problems. He argues that after WWI soldiers were Shell-Shocked, this was descriptive of their condition and to the point. After WWII, the term morphed into Battle-Fatigue, more syllables and less-descriptive. And after the Vietnam war we removed all human feeeling from the term by calling it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. This concept of generification has also been expressed by Dennis Praeger, well known radio talk show host and author, in what he calls the five great separations in nature and how the left tries to destroy them. The separations Mr. Praeger has discovered are the separation between God and man, man and woman, man and animals, good and evil and holy and profane. When we ignore or destroy these separations we create the dark world that John Lennon sang about in his song Imagine, where culture, ideas and even life itself are valueless and not worth defending. And because there is no good and evil, the song makes the case that all cultures and idealogies , no matter what they preach, are equal.
     I, for one, still use the term Merry Christmas to greet people during this season. I believe in preserving the meaning of the holiday and not blending everything together until all meaning has been stricken from our culture and heritage. One additional thought, there is no holiday called holiday. Merry Christmas everyone.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Continuing Democrat Irresponsibility

     Last week brought us a weakening of the Euro, losses in the stock market and of course, the latest round of government shut-down threats. The fight over continuing resolutions has become so common place that hardly anyone watching actually believes that no deal will be reached and the government will have to shut down. To quote Ronald Reagan, "Well, there you go again."
     This gut-wrenching process of passing continuing resolutions to keep the government operating would not be necessary if it weren't for the irresponsibility of the Democrats, who have refused to pass a budget for almost 3 years. Two of those years they had super-majorities in the House and The Senate, and of course the White House, and could have easily passed any budget they wanted. The Republicans passed a budget earlier this year after they took control of the House, the Ryan plan, which now sits in the Democrat-controlled Senate collecting dust. There has been no attempt by Majority Leader Harry Reid to even bring the Ryan plan up for debate. There has also been no attempt by Democrats to present a budget of their own.
     The reason that the Democrats have taken this tact is that they know the Republicans are scared to death of being blamed for a government shut-down. This fear stems from the last time a shut-down happened, back in the 1990s under the then Newt Gingrich lead House. The Republicans still believe they suffered politically for standing on their principals. However, looking at it with hind-sight, the opposite is true. It was the stand they took back then that lead to Newt Gingrich, John Kasich and the rest of the Republican House dragging Bill Clinton kicking and screaming to a balanced budget. Which he has taken credit for ever since. If left to his own devices, the deficits we saw in the 2000s would have started in the 1990s.
     The twelve years between January 1995 thru January 2007 the Republicans had control of the House, which holds the purse strings of the federal government. During those twelve years the average budget deficit was 120 billion dollars. In the ensuing 5 years that the Democrats have had control of the House, the average budget deficits have been around 1.2 trillion dollars, ten times what the Republicans spent which, I admit, was too much. So, in refusing to pass a budget, the Democrats are able to spend even more money through the use of the continuing resolution with little or no resistence from paranoid Republicans.
     The battle over a seemingly never-ending parade of continuing resolutions is something that probably will not go away, especially since we are now in the depths of an election cycle. The Democrats think they have too much to gain by not passing a budget and the Republicans think they have too much to lose if they don't pass the continuing resolutions. Meanwhile we are left to wonder if the fiscal house of the United States will ever be put in order or if our leaders are resolving to continue on the road of insolvency.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's wrong with Europe?

     Friday, December 9, was another euphoric day in the stock market created by the latest empty deal to save the Eurozone. The almost 200 point gain was followed on Monday, December 12, with an almost 200 point drop. I can't count the number of times the market pundits on CNBC and elsewhere have vacillated between European Armageddon and economic solvency with the announcement of each deal and no-deal. Watching the situation unfold on a daily basis is like watching a loved-one in the throws of a destructive addiction, while they live in complete denial. Everyone else around the person can see them heading for disaster, but the individual thinks that the next high is going to fix everything.
     The current problem across the pond is that since the currency called the Euro and the organization called the Eurozone were first fully implemented in 1999, they were doomed to fail. There are many complicated reasons why this is so, the basic one is something Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said about Socialism, eventually you run out of other people's money to spend. Stronger countries like Germany and France are made weaker by countries like Greece that have no incentive to create their own prosperity and support themselves. This weakens the entire Eurozone because the currency is like a bastard child that no one wants to claim, but everyone feels obligated to support. When countries have competing currencies, there is more incentive for individual countries to develop their own economies to be prosperous.
     This past Friday's meeting with the Eurozone's wizards of smart and attended by our very own Secretary of Idiocracy, the tax-cheating Timmy Geithner, produced a deal which has no teeth and resolves little except to make everyone feel good about doing something. Previously, the European Financial Stability Facility(EFSF) was created to help deal with the problem. As is the case with all Socialists when confronted with a serious problem of their own making, the answer is to create a commission, committee or acronym. The EFSF is like a toothless old beggar trying to fill it's pockets with funds it hopes the European Central Bank(ECB) will supply. And the ECB is begging support from the International Monetary Fund, which to a large extent means the American taxpayers.
     Daniel Henninger, outspoken member of British Parliament, recently stated that he doesn't see how the Euro can survive. In fact, he says, British banks have been quietly exchanging Euros for other currencies. According to a dependable source, a Key Bank executive told him that they are doing the same. In fact, this executive said the bank feels that the collapse of the Euro is a fate a compli. I believe the late, great economist, Milton Friedman was correct when he surmised that the Euro would not survive its first serious crisis.
    The Eurozone crisis is illustrative of the folly and destructive nature of central planning, whether there or in this country. The United States should view the current situation in the Eurozone as a cautionary tale of what will become our future if we don't reverse our course. Sadly, our current administration insists on traveling the same path that leads to the kind of financial and social melt-down we are currently witnessing in Europe.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hunger Incorporated

     This article is brought to you by the Department of Hooey and the Ad Counsel. Anyone who has watched television or listened to the radio is familiar with these public service announcements which use tax payer money, ostensibly to make our lives better. The ads that really bother me are the ones that promote the premise that the United States is in the midst of a hunger epidemic, a notion that would be laughed at in parts of the world where people actually have no food to eat. In these commercials, the speaker is suppose to be someone we interact with in our daily lives and is secretly suffering from hunger. They tell us that one out of every six Americans is affected by the hunger "epidemic". Logic, reason and the facts don't support this premise.
     The Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program, reports that there are now 47 million Americans (15% of the population) receiving assistance from the program. The average payout in Northeast Ohio (which is where I am located) is $200/month per individual. A household can make 130% of the poverty level and receive food stamps. This means that a family of four can make just over 30k/year and still qualify for taxpayer funded groceries. This may not seem like much, but I wonder what percentage of those people have cable television, Internet and cell phones. My guess is it's the majority.
     Food banks are another source of taxpayer-funded food for "the hungry", although many don't realize their tax dollars are helping fund them. Food banks originated in Phoenix Arizona in 1967 and the idea quickly spread throughout the country. The idea is a good one, people donate food and money to help their neighbors that have fallen on hard times. Today, however, 80% of the food banks in the U.S. are operated by an organization called Feeding America. Feeding America has recently received a pledge from the Obama administration for 1 billion dollars in support, funded by taxpayers. There are over 37 million people who avail themselves of the free handouts paid for by taxpayer money. While there are no statistics (that I could find) on what percentage of the people using food banks also receive food stamps, my guess is it's fairly high.
     Another taxpayer funded program to feed the hungry is the school lunch program, which has been expanded to breakfast, and in some areas of the country, dinner. Many of the children being fed by the school lunch program come from homes where the parents are receiving food stamps and regularly avail themselves of free handouts from the local food bank. According the Department of Agriculture, 50% of school-aged children receive some assistance from the school lunch program and a family of four can make up to 40k a year and still qualify. In some areas of the country, such as Philadelphia, there are no restrictions and the program is open to all children. I find it unfathomable that as a society we don't expect people with children to provide the basic essentials for those children.
      In total, the federal government spends a whopping 80 billion dollars a year to feed people through various programs. With this much money up for grabs, hunger has become an industry that is rife with corruption. Like any other industry, they must convince people of the need for their services.. I don't think the assertion by the hunger industry that the U.S. has a hunger problem can co-exist with adult obesity rates of 33.8% and an obesity rate among school-aged children of 17.4%. And the obesity rates are highest among the population being helped by anti-hunger programs. Compared to 40 years ago when the obesity rates were around 10 and 4 percent respectively, it seems to me we don't have a hunger problem in this country but a gluttony problem.
     I don't want anything I've written here to suggest I believe that absolutely no one in this country goes hungry at sometime. However, I don't believe it's a problem that we need to spend 80 billion dollars a year to "fix", especially when we have trillion dollar deficits and a national debt that is quickly approaching 20 trillion dollars. James Madison, the primary author of the constitution, once said that there is no charity in the constitution. I guess Mr. Madison never heard an Ad Counsel commercial.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mitt Romney: Can He Play The Music?

     I once heard a story (I don't know if it's true) about a 10 year old boy who was an exceptionally gifted pianist. After one of his performances, an old master went to see the boy back stage. The boy ran to the master bursting with pride and said, "I was pretty great, don't you think?" The master looked the boy square in the eyes and said, "You have mastered the notes, maybe someday you'll be able to play the music." I was recently reminded of this tale as I listened to a radio interview with Mitt Romney. Candidate Romney said all the things that appeals to conservatives, but I got the feeling that he had mastered the notes but still couldn't play the music.
     I can forgive Mitt Romney for switching his position on abortion, after all Ronald Reagan signed a liberal abortion bill into law when he was Governor of California. But Mr. Romney has gone even further down the road of Liberalism with his position on health care. He says he will work to repeal Obamacare if elected, yet he still defends Romneycare. I find these two positions inconsistent with one another. John Grueber, who advised both Governor Romney and President Obama on their respective health care plans, recently stated that Obamacare is Romneycare with a few more zeros. I can't believe that any conservative can support government, at any level, involving itself so intimately in people's personal affairs. Not to mention controlling such a large chunk of the economy.  I believe that once elected president, Governor Romney will work to implement Obamacare  in what he thinks is a more competent and efficient manner.
     In one of the Republican debates (I can't remember which one) Governor Romney defended Romneycare yet again by using the fact that Massachusetts had 8 percent of its children uninsured. So, he surmised, that a big government approach was needed to solve a problem that affected a vulnerable segment of the population. This is the argument that Liberals use to limit choice and grow government. You won't get the support of the people to increase government involvement in their lives and limit their freedoms to solve a problem that affects middle-aged, white males. Governor Romney likes to point out that the individual mandate, which is the holy grail of both Romneycare and Obamacare, was first proposed by the Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich. Both have since rejected the idea of an individual mandate as unconstitutional, while Candidate Romney has continued to support it through his defense of Romneycare.
     Further evidence of Governor Romney's technocrat status is his position to involve the World Trade Organization to solve the problem of China's manipulation of their currency. Leap-frogging the United States congress to involve a world body is also not consistent with conservative principles. Not to mention that most countries in the industrialized world manipulate their currencies, including the United States.  A Conservative addresses problems within the framework of the constitution, they don't supplant the sovereignty of the U.S. in favor of a world body run by those who don't have the best interest of the United States at heart.
     During the current Republican nominating process, Mitt Romney has masterfully commanded the notes of the conservative symphony. I just wonder if someday he'll be able to play the music.