Thursday, January 29, 2009
Allow me a congratulatory shout out to the "Courageous Eleven" Democrats who voted NAY on the Obama/Pelosi supposed "stimulus" bill.
Allan Boyd (D-FL)
Bobby Bright (D-AL)
Jim Cooper (D-TN)
Brad Ellsworth (D-IN)
Parker Griffith (D-AL)
Paul Kanjorski (D-PA)
Frank Kratovil (D-MD)
Walt Minnick (D-ID)
Collin Peterson (D-MN)
Heath Shuler (D-NC)
Gene Taylor (D-MS)
Eleven good men. In this instance at least!
Notice how four of the eleven names posted double as hyperlinks? These hyperlinks are to their actual statements made and reasoning given for voting with the People and with the Republicans against their own Party's flawed legislation.
Amazing, isn't it, though, when you consider that seven out of the eleven DIDN'T bother to explain their votes via their official websites.
I note this not as a "shot" per se, but just as an example of how dysfunctional and out of touch the majority of our elected officials are.
Imagine... the most important vote of 2009 so far... and a majority of these eleven can't even be bothered to publicly explain their vote?
I mean... consider... each Member of the House (and more so with each Member of the Senate) has a substantial staffing/office(s) budget, dozens of staffers working for him, multiple offices... yet in seven of the above eleven examples no one could bother to add a few up to date explanatory sentences to a website?
And, yes... I'm sure that the same applies to the majority of Republicans who voted against the bill as well as to the majority of Democrats who voted for it.
Well... anyway... thanks for the "nay" vote, you courageous eleven! I only wish more elected officials would bother to keep the public in the loop regarding their actual policy votes and reasoning.
When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion - when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors - when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The signatories to the following memo are all members of the “Fiscal Seminar,” a group that has been meeting together for several years at the Brookings Institution.
To: President Barack Obama
From: Robert Bixby, William Galston, Ron Haskins, Julia Isaacs, Maya MacGuineas, Will Marshall, Pietro Nivola, Rudolph Penner, Robert Reischauer, Alice Rivlin, Isabel Sawhill, Eugene Steuerle
Subject: A Budget We Can Believe In
Date: January 27, 2009
The costs of stabilizing the financial markets and stimulating economic growth will generate a large increase in our national debt. We will have to borrow money in domestic and international capital markets to finance this debt, and without a serious commitment to long-term fiscal restraint, lenders will eventually question the nation’s fiscal credibility. They may respond by reducing the share of their portfolios devoted to U.S. government debt or by charging higher interest rates. In the extreme, the reluctance to buy U. S. debt could cause a crisis in international capital markets. No one can describe the risks precisely, but Wall Street’s recent troubles demonstrate that the perils of over reliance on debt can come swiftly and in unpredictable ways. What is predictable is that if the long-term problem is not confronted, interest costs will absorb a growing proportion of our budgetary resources and, together with growing health costs and Social Security, will threaten to crowd out spending on programs for the poor, children, and improving the nation’s infrastructure. Moreover, our dependence on foreign creditors and the resulting mortgage on future national incomes will diminish American standards of living for generations to come.
Folks... the authors of this "Letter to President Obama" are not a bunch of "Right Wingers" or "Republican partisans." Robert Bixby works for the Concord Coalition. Will Marshall works for The Progressive Policy Institute. C. Eugene Steuerle works for The Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Maya MacGuineas is with The Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget. Rudolph Penner and Robert Reischauer are with The Urban Institute. And Pietro Nivola, William Galston, Ron Haskins, Julia Isaacs, Alice M. Rivlin, and Isabel Sawhill are all with The Brookings Institution.
Continuing to excerpt...
First, you have pledged repeatedly to scrub every line item in the current budget with an eye to finding items that are either ineffective or outdated. We do not believe that this effort will be credible unless it produces significant savings from both programs and tax expenditures.
Does ANYONE believe that President Obama will personally follow through on his campaign pledge? Laying that aside, does ANYONE believe that President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi will soon be CUTTING rather than GROWING government spending and liabilities...? Anyone...???
Continuing to excerpt...
Second, the stimulus package should not worsen the long-term fiscal outlook. To the extent that it includes items that increase the long-term budget deficit, offsetting long-term spending cuts or revenue streams should be proposed.
Oh, pleeease...! Of COURSE the Obama/Pelosi/Reid "stimulus" packages are going to worsen the long-term fiscal outlook. (Just as the Bush/Pelosi/Reid/McCain "stimulus" package did!)
Continuing to excerpt...
We believe, moreover, that Congress must re-impose caps on discretionary spending as soon as the economy begins to recover from the recession.
Yeah. Sure. From your mouths to God's ear.
First of all, for most politicians of BOTH Parties, the word "discretionary" has no real meaning. Congresses and Presidents routinely and deliberately mislabel bills and spending measures as "Emergency" measures whenever and wherever they desire to evade abiding by "discretionary" spending limits. We all know this. Who's kidding who? Second of all, who actually believes that Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, liberal Democrats, or the RINO contingent of the GOP has any interest in LIMITING spending - let alone CUTTING spending?
Continuing to excerpt...
The long-term budget challenge can be stated succinctly. Three large programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—now constitute almost one-half of non-interest federal spending and are growing faster than tax revenues because of soaring health costs and the aging of the population. If we fail to reform these spending programs and insist on maintaining the tax burden where it is has been over the past 50 years (about 18 percent of GDP), deficits will soar, and the public debt is likely to exceed 100 percent of the GDP within 25 years. That compares to 37 percent at the end of fiscal 2007.
It’s entirely understandable that public concern over the long-term budget problem has now been swamped by the financial crisis and accompanying recession. But as President you can’t afford to lose sight of these inconvenient truths. The budget deficit for fiscal 2009 is estimated at $1.2 trillion by CBO, and this excludes any new spending as part of a stimulus bill. The federal debt owed to the public may increase by considerably more than 50 percent over the next two years. Although large debt increases occurred in the early 1980s, they did not occur as quickly. Moreover, there are two important differences from that era. First, we are now more dependent on foreign private and government investors to buy our debt. Second, relative to the size of the economy (GDP), Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are much larger now than they were then, and they are expected to grow more rapidly as the oldest baby boomers begin to retire. Consequently, the budget deficit will contract more slowly than usual as the economy recovers.
OK. A couple points...
First of all, enough with the sugarcoating. NO! It's NOT "completely understandable" that public concern over the long-term budget problem has now been swamped by the financial crisis and accompanying recession! That's just bull! The American People have been sold a bill of goods by the Dempublicans, Republicrats, and the media. The Bush/Reid/Pelosi/McCain "stimulus package" was a disaster. The Bush/Reid/Pelosi/McCain TARP "bailout" was a disaster. Obama plans to "double down" on these past reckless, irresponsible, counter-productive policy failures and thanks to the past political cover of the Bush administration and McCain campaigns (not to mention RINO acquiescence in general) and the continuing media insistance that "something" needs to be done, Democratic policies will lengthen and worsen the recession all while further clouding long-term economic prosperity.
Second of all, allow me to reiterate a point of HUGE importance: The budget deficit for 2009 is is estimated at $1.2 trillion by CBO, and this excludes any new spending as part of a stimulus bill.
Got it...?!?! "
..."AND THIS EXCLUDES ANY NEW SPENDING AS PART OF A STIMULUS BILL."
..."AND THIS EXCLUDES ANY NEW SPENDING AS PART OF A STIMULUS BILL."
..."AND THIS EXCLUDES ANY NEW SPENDING AS PART OF A STIMULUS BILL."
I just wanna make sure we're all on the same page, here, folks.
Continuing to excerpt...
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are expected to constitute 1.8 percent more of the GDP in 2016 than they did in 2008. That may not sound like much, but if the growth were to be financed entirely with tax increases, it would imply an overall tax increase of almost 10 percent above historical levels - and that would only be the first of many tax increases to follow. If it were financed by cutting all other non-interest programs including defense, the across-the-board reduction would have to be more than 20 percent compared to baseline levels. Even if a number of inefficient and low priority programs are eliminated, it would not be possible to fulfill your election promises - to expand health insurance coverage or to increase public investment in education, infrastructure, and research on alternative energy sources, among many others - without digging our long-term fiscal hole even deeper.
Folks. Again. This isn't "Right Wing propaganda" or "Republican partisanism." These are the simple non-partisan, non-deniable facts.
Continuing to excerpt...
We believe you should do more than express your concern about the danger of escalating future deficits. You should move quickly to reduce them without endangering near-term economic recovery. First, you should give high priority to putting Social Security on a sound fiscal basis to reduce future deficits and show our creditors that we are taking serious steps to manage our national finances. Second, you should take quick action to reduce the growth of Medicare by shifting to payment systems that reward effective treatments and discourage wasteful spending.
(*SIGH*) We'll see. I suppose we'll... er... hope.
Anyway... let's HOPE that our new president is indeed open to positive CHANGE in the way Washington conducts the nation's business. I for one pray he is.
Yep... just finished Part One of Ayn Rand's signature novel Atlas Shrugged.
312 pages down... 757 pages to go.
Confession: This is my first reading of Atlas Shrugged. When I'm done with Atlas Shrugged I'll tackle Anthem, The Fountainhead, and then go back to read Rand's first novel, We The Living.
Allow me to offer recognition and public thanks to Stephen Moore, senior economic writer for the Wall Street Journal, who recently penned an article which noted "If only "Atlas" were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster."
And yes, first of all, as anyone who knows me could guess, such a statement was the perfect "bait" to entice your not so humble and rarely obedient correspondent here to read Atlas Shrugged for myself.
But no, second of all, at least from my perspective gained via having read the first third of Rand's novel, Moore seems to misidentify those who would profit by reading Atlas Shrugged. Those members of Congress and political appointees whom Moore identifies as likely to profit from reading Atlas Shrugged are actually the ones whom Atlas Shrugged identifies as the "looter" class.
Moore's contention seems to be: "If only they knew better."
No, Mr. Moore. If one part of the problem is simple ignorance, the far more intractable obstacle to reform is willful ignorance, pursuing the wrong policies not because one isn't aware of where they'll lead, not pursuing them in spite of where such policies will lead, but rather, pursuing them in the knowledge that such policies are the quickest and surest path to governmental steerage of the economy and through the commanding heights of steerage of the economy a tighter grip on control of society.
Mr. Moore. Far too many politicians WANT society to be dependent upon government. Since these politicians ARE the government they see this route - quite logically I desparingly admit - as the optimal path to increased power for themselves.
Let me ask you... let me ask you all... do you think men like Barney Frank, Christopher Dodd, Charlie Rangel, and Henry Waxman care more about "how well" the sectors of the economy under their purview operate than how "under control" they are from a political perspective...???
Cynicism aside, Moore hits the nail on the head when he compares Rand's fiction to today's political/economic reality:
The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies - while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."
Yes. It does seem in many respects that Rand's nightmare is the daydream - nay, the goal - of a majority of the upper echelon of our current crop of political, social, and even business leadership. Therefore... where are we, The People, left?
Rather than it being our "leaders" who would most profit by reading Atlas Shrugged, I contend that it is the average high school student, college student, 20-something year old, 30-something year old who should be reading (or re-reading) Atlas Shrugged and demanding our "leaders" pursue ANTI-LOOTER policies rather than continue the failed panic-driven counterproductive governmental flailings begun under Bush and - as I type - being accelerated by Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and and those other dolts who just don't care that the freedom to fail is as imperative to a free society as is the freedom to succeed.
Reading - or re-reading - Atlas Shrugged will not in and of itself set the stage for a new American economic, political, and social renaissance, but it couldn't hurt.
As for me... I'm off to begin reading Part 2... titled Either-Or.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Have you read the latest...???
Troubled OneUnited Bank in Boston didn't look much like a candidate for aid from the Treasury Department's bank bailout fund last fall.
The Treasury had said it would give money only to healthy banks, to jump-start lending. But OneUnited had seen most of its capital evaporate. Moreover, it was under attack from its regulators for allegations of poor lending practices and executive-pay abuses, including owning a Porsche for its executives' use.
Nonetheless, in December OneUnited got a $12 million injection from the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. One apparent factor: the intercession of Rep. Barney Frank, the powerful head of the House Financial Services Committee.
Mr. Frank, by his own account, wrote into the TARP bill a provision specifically aimed at helping this particular home-state bank. And later, he acknowledges, he spoke to regulators urging that OneUnited be considered for a cash injection.
Yes, I realize that unless one could prove Congressman Frank was bribed to engage in such obscene betrayal of his fellow citizens, he's committed no crime. But this is why I call for him to be expelled from the House of Representatives rather than arrested, tried, convicted, and jailed.
God help this once great nation... what does a politician have to do in order to be held responsible for his or her incompetence... for his or her malfeasance?
My God... do you realize that Barney Frank, as Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is one of the most powerful men in Washington? For years I and others (particularly the Wall Street Journal) warned of a coming Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac crisis - a crisis which indeed came to pass. This debacle was caused in large part by the misguided (at best - corrupt at worst) policies and actions of Congressman Frank supported by most Democrats and far too many Republicrats.
Or how about Chris Dodd - Senator Chris Dodd... former candidate for the Democratic nomination to run for the presidency leading their ticket Chris Dodd? This is a guy who has been "serving" in Washington since 1975, first as a congressman, then, since 1981 (the year I graduated high school and began college) as a United States Senator. Well... here's the kind of guy Christopher Dodd is. (By the way... notice the names of other "VIP's" mentioned...) This man is Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee!!!
Ahh... and speaking of House Committees... Ways and Means is perhaps the most powerful Congressional Committee of them all. Its Chairman... The "Hon." Charlie Rangel. This is America 2009? This is the era of "Hope," of "Change?"
Well, we all know that Congress is full of crooks, liars, and scoundrels. (Heck, just google the terms "congress crooks," congress liars," "congress scoundrels"!) But how about our new Executive Branch officials?
Exhibit 1) Timothy Geithner. Enough said.
Exhibit 2) Eric Holder. More than enough said.
I could go on and on. The names named... the links provided... just examples. Ideology and partisanship aside, how can we not be ashamed that men like this are leading our nation... fleecing our nation?
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
No. I didn't post yesterday. No "Age of Obama Day One."
And today...? Again... no "Age of Obama Day Two."
In fact... this first post of "The Age of Obama" has little to do with Obama, but rather, focuses on Congress and its institutional compulsion to ever expand the scope of government and to impoverish the People while all along misidentifying such policies as progressive and laudable.
While specifically occasioned by "The Latest Entitlement," an editorial in today Wall Street Journal, readers may look upon this post as the latest "Open Thread" depository here at Usually Right.
I'll address the aforementioned Wall Street Journal editorial within the Comments Section of this post and then go on to utilize that same space as an ongoing informational clearing house for the next several days or so.
Anyway... you folks know the drill. I'll be posting facts and analysis which I consider worth sharing. As always, feel free to add your own "must read" suggestions.
Monday, January 19, 2009
A bigot...? Sure. But an equal opportunity bigot! Walt Kowalski - aka Clint Eastwood - newly widowed Korean War vet, retired auto worker, and owner of the film's titled classic 1972 Gran Torino is indeed a man set in his ways, a creature of his fictional formulative years; but in no way is Walt Kowalski a racist.
Nope. Walt's a Polack! At least that's the "slur" he responds to with a twinkle in his eye as he trades monthly barbs with his "Dago" barber.
I place "slur" within quotations because that's the point; within Walt Kowalski's world, his frame of reference, "gook," "greaser," "zipper head," "coon," aren't "hate speech" or inferences that Kowalski would feel at home at an American Nazi, Klan, or other "white power" rally. Hell... pity the poor Montana militiaman with a cross tattooed on his forehead who ventured forth an audible "Hitler was right" within earshot of Gran Torino's Kowalski!
Eastwood's Kowalski is a man acutely conscious of ethnicity, no doubt viewing race as hierarchy in the broad flow of human history. Still... "racist" is neither an accurate nor fair label to pin upon this complex character. Why? Because for Walt Kowalski actions trump all. Being white doesn't give one a free pass in Kowalski's world; indeed, it is Kowalski's own grown sons, their wives, and especially their children - his grandchildren - who arguably merit the most icy cold contempt and disgust. After all... what "excuses" do they have for their failings?
The motto "It's what you do, not who you are," is the antithesis of racism. Certainly, Walt Kowalski is prejudiced. The point of the film however is that prejudice does not necessarily equate to unfairness. Whether as a soldier on the battlefields of Korea or an assembly line worker at a Ford Plant in Detroit, had Eastwood seen fit to include a few "flashback" scenes to the film to flesh out the character's history, I can't imagine a young "Sgt. Walt" hesitating to risk his life to rescue a wounded Hispanic platoon mate from the scene of a firefight or as "foreman Walt" giving in to either union or management demands that overtime and promotions be tied more tightly to race or religion than to need and aptitude.
If you haven't yet seen the film, I recommend you do. To those of you who have seen it or do see it in the near future, feel free to share your thoughts.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Anyone ever hear of Mike Rogers? He's a congressman from Alabama.
If you've never heard of him, you're not alone; I only heard of him ten minutes ago myself! Congressman Rogers was just interviewed on Fox News regarding his latest brainstorm, a bill he's proposed identified as the CAR Act of 2009.
God help us...
FOLKS... if you're presently shopping for a new car... STOP! At least that's the unintended though only logical response a consumer would decide upon if he were to believe Rogers has a reasonable expectation of getting his bill through Congress and signed into law by the president.
What exactly does the Congressman propose? Well... same as usual... spend money - borrowed money. The preamble:
"To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax incentives to consumers and lenders for the purchase of a passenger vehicle during 2009."
In plain English, what Rogers and ten of his congressional colleagues propose is to create a new time limited tax deduction with a sliding scale along the following lines:
The bill breaks down into three 90-day periods of Federal tax deductions after enactment of the bill. During the first 90 days, consumers would receive a $7,500 Federal tax deduction, the second 90 days a $5,000 deduction and the third 90 days a $2,500 deduction. It would also make 100 percent tax deductible interest and state and local taxes paid on the purchase in 2009. Lenders would also get a break with a 50 percent deductibility of earnings on all new consumer car loans during this nine month period.
Ahh... where does one start? How about here:
1) So... as written there's no retroactivity in the bill. Therefore, assuming you're presently in the market for a new vehicle and you believe this bill may pass... GET OUT OF THE MARKET NOW!!! I mean, it's a no-brainer, right? If there's a choice between no $7,500 tax deduction on a vehicle purchased today, tomorrow, or anytime before the Rogers bill becomes law and a $7,500 tax deduction should you wait to purchase till the bill is passed... well... that's 7,500 reasons to wait - right...???
2) Why the sliding scale? If the idea is immediate stimulus... why not a simple 90-day eligibility window for the $7,500 tax deduction - period? And if the congressman and his adherents truly believe a longer stimulus period is warranted, why not just keep the tax deduction pegged at $7,500 for the entire envisioned 270 days...???
3) If you read bill you'll note that this cash bonanza from Washington is directed not simply at the purchase of American vehicles manufactured by the Big Three; no, nor even limited to vehicles entirely or mainly produced in American factories by American workers with the profits flowing back to Toyota, Honda, and other foreign owned auto companies. Nope! The proposal on the table applies to foreign auto companies producing their products abroad and shipping them here by foreign flagged cargo ships! Apparently Rogers and his colleagues feel that the auto workers and foreign car company owners of Japan, Germany, South Korea, and indeed all foreigner are as much "constituents" to be financially supported by Washington tax policy as any American worker, stockholder, or citizen stakeholder.
4) Oh, yeah... and by the way... as previously touched upon... WASHINGTON IS SIMPLY BORROWING AND PRINTING MONEY IN ORDER TO OFFER SUCH LARGESS!!!
Folks... I don't know what the solution is. This guy Rogers is a REPUBLICAN!!!
I expect this sort of ill-advised, counter-productive, full of unintended consequences legislative proposal to come out of the Democratic caucus. And, yeah, I'm well aware that George W. Bush has dragged the GOP into one socialistic boondoggle after another, but for God's sake... doesn't anyone in Washington have any clue...???
Apparently not... (*SIGH*)
Friday, January 9, 2009
Ha! Ha! Ha!
Anyway... regular readers know the deal; for first time visitors, this is where I post links to articles, op-eds, and other writings I've read and feel deserve a kudo in the form of suggesting that YOU will benefit by taking a peek and pondering, perhaps utilizing, the info gained.
So... click on the Comments link! Read. Respond. Feel free to add your own links to material you believe others - including myself - would benefit by considering.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime...
I was born in 1962. Obama was born in 1961. How come I remember the 70's and Obama doesn't...???
Nearly two million jobs have now been lost, and on Friday we are likely to learn that we lost more jobs last year than at any time since World War II.
(*SIGH*) Different base lines!!! False comparison!!! For God's sake, Mr. President-Elect, neither you or I is a mathematician nor a statistician, but we're both educated enough to know what I'm pointing out is true. Please... Sir... don't try to snow us. Stick to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Things are bad enough without having to resort to statistical manipulation of the data in an attempt to strengthen your case; that's where President Bush went wrong - remember the WMD's...?!?!
Manufacturing has hit a twenty-eight year low.
And this is BAD. But back during the illusionary "boom" times domestic manufacturing and our industrial base was in decline. What's your bottom line? Filling pot holes will not reindustrialize our nation, nor will subsidizing structural losses of America's (once) private automotive industry. What's your plan...?!?!
Many businesses cannot borrow or make payroll.
And...??? (Why didn't those businesses have SAVINGS to fall back on...???)
Many families cannot pay their bills or their mortgage.
Same question!!! If you refuse to question and deal with the fundamentals which led to the current situation all you'll accomplish by throwing money around is literally throwing good money after bad. (Our money!!!)
Many workers are watching their life savings disappear.
Yeah? And how do you think debasing the currency and stoking the fires of inflation (if not stagflation) is going to "correct" this situation instead of accelerate the losses...???
And many, many Americans are both anxious and uncertain of what the future will hold.
Partially because we're listening to your supposed "solutions." (*SNORT*) (Did anyone happen to notice the Dow tanking bit by bit the longer his national address went on...???) (*SMIRK*)
I don’t believe it’s too late to change course, but it will be if we don’t take dramatic action as soon as possible.
But "change course" to WHAT DIRECTION...?!?! Take WHAT "dramatic action...???" Ordering "full steam ahead" in the WRONG direction is only going to compound the mistakes of the past and lead to future economic disaster. (*SIGH*)
If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years.
And if the WRONG thing is done...??? If the WRONG actions are taken...??? (*SIGH*)
We could lose a generation of potential and promise, as more young Americans are forced to forgo dreams of college or the chance to train for the jobs of the future.
College...??? Dreams of the future...??? I thought the plan was to boost construction spending and fill pot holes...??? Are you planning government subsidies of doctorates in shovelology...?!?! (*SNORT*)
Might one of our societal problems be not that there aren't enough Americans going to college, but rather, too many Americans attend college and pay too much and derive too little from the experience? Just a thought...
In short, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.
Yes. Yes it could. That's why I'm urging you not to advance policies that will make the situation dramatically worse!!!
This crisis did not happen solely by some accident of history or normal turn of the business cycle, and we won’t get out of it by simply waiting for a better day to come, or relying on the worn-out dogmas of the past. We arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility that stretched from corporate boardrooms to the halls of power in Washington, DC.
Uhmm.... and how about the American People themselves...??? Are we children who bear no responsibility for our own actions and inactions...???
For years, too many Wall Street executives made imprudent and dangerous decisions, seeking profits with too little regard for risk, too little regulatory scrutiny, and too little accountability. Banks made loans without concern for whether borrowers could repay them...
Oh, God... ENOUGH with the class warfare and populist rhetoric!
...and some borrowers took advantage of cheap credit to take on debt they couldn’t afford.
(*CLAP-CLAP-CLAP*) Well thank you for taking SOME account of reality! (*RUEFUL SMILE*)
Politicians spent taxpayer money without wisdom or discipline, and too often focused on scoring political points instead of the problems they were sent here to solve. The result has been a devastating loss of trust and confidence in our economy, our financial markets, and our government.
And unless your proposing a benevolent dictatorship... what exactly are you proposing to deal with this sad fact of human nature and the reality of democracy...??? (*SCRATCHING MY HEAD*)
Now, the very fact that this crisis is largely of our own making means that it is not beyond our ability to solve. Our problems are rooted in past mistakes, not our capacity for future greatness. It will take time, perhaps many years, but we can rebuild that lost trust and confidence.
NOT BY FURTHER INDEBTING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE VIA DEFICIT SPENDING AND UNFUNDED LIABILITIES BEYOND THE IMAGINATION OF MOST!!!
We can restore opportunity and prosperity.
(See above.) (*SIGH*)
...I have moved quickly to work with my economic team and leaders of both parties on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will immediately jumpstart job creation and long-term growth.
But what you propose is "investment" funded by FURTHER INDEBTEDNESS.... EVER INCREASING DEFICITS... CREATION OF GREATER RATHER THAN FEWER UNFUNDED FUTURE LIABILITIES... (*SIGH*)
Folks. This is insanity.
It’s a plan that represents not just new policy, but a whole new approach to meeting our most urgent challenges.
No. These policies have been tried in the past and they've FAILED!!! All President-Elect Obama is proposing is upping the ante - using OUR credit, taking out loans in OUR name!!!
For if we hope to end this crisis, we must end the culture of anything goes that helped create it – and this change must begin in Washington.
HUH...?!?! He's ADVANCING the culture of "anything goes!" This is positively Orwellian!!!
It is time to trade old habits for a new spirit of responsibility. It is time to finally change the ways of Washington so that we can set a new and better course for America.
Folks. Are you following? What he's PROPOSING is exactly what he's DECRYING!!! Again... positively Orwellian!!!
There is no doubt that the cost of this plan will be considerable. It will certainly add to the budget deficit in the short-term. But equally certain are the consequences of doing too little or nothing at all, for that will lead to an even greater deficit of jobs, incomes, and confidence in our economy.
Primum non nocere!!! (BESEECHING STARE DIRECTED TOWARDS THE HEAVENS*)
It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe.
Government... is... BROKE...!!! Uncle Sam is economically "upside down." (*SIGH*)
Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy – where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.
In plain English... President-Elect Obama is calling for piling new debt upon old debt. Period. That's his plan.
That is why we need to act boldly and act now to reverse these cycles. That’s why we need to put money in the pockets of the American people...
Ask yourself this: Why not "stimulus" checks of one million dollars per American citizen? Well...??? If there are no "costs" to simply printing/borrowing money why not simply "create" millionaires of each and every one of us? (*SIGH*)
Folks... this is insane. While Bush's policies have done enormous damage to our nation, what Obama has in mind is Bushonomics on steroids!!! Don't buy this economic sophistry!!! Listen... if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck... it's a frigg'n duck!!!
...create new jobs...
The only way government "creates" jobs is by putting people on the government payroll. And you know who PAYS for that payroll...??? Yep. YOU DO!!! You pay wages, benefits, and pensions of government employees already. As it is the system is out of whack with more government employees than we need or can afford. And President-Elect Obama and the Democrats plan on creating MORE government jobs...?!?! This is insanity!!!
...and invest in our future.
I'll do my own investing; thank you very much! (*PURSED LIPS*) (*FROWN*)
That’s why we need to re-start the flow of credit and restore the rules of the road that will ensure a crisis like this never happens again.
Reality check: You can't control the future in an absolute manner. If we knew how to prevent economic downturns we'd never have them and we wouldn't be in the mess we're in. For God's sake, Mr. President-Elect... STOP TALKING NONSENSE!!!
...there are millions of Americans trying to find work, even as, all around the country, there is so much work to be done.
Could you restate that - in espanol? (*SNORT*) (*SMIRK*) Boy... someone had better tell all the illegal alien workers that there's no jobs out there.
Anyway... not to get side-tracked... the bottom line is that unless you decide to resign and start your own business, Barak, "you" are not going to be creating ANY new jobs - other than increasing the size of the White House staff. (*SIGH*)
That’s why we’ll invest in priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century. That’s why the overwhelming majority of the jobs created will be in the private sector, while our plan will save the public sector jobs of teachers, cops, firefighters and others who provide vital services. To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy...
Folks. He's lying. You know what "investing in clean energy" would mean? It would mean starting construction of between 50-150 new nuclear power generating reactors around the country. That's NOT what he's talking about.
...we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years.
(*SNORT*) Yeah. Starting from what baseline and defining "alternative energy" how...??? (*SMIRK*) Anyone who buys this may want to purchase a bridge from me. (*SMILE*)
We will modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes...
Raise your hand if you truly believe you and your family will be among the "two million home" crowd. (*SMIRK*)
...saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills. In the process, we will put Americans to work in new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced – jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings; and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.
(*SIGH*) You don't actually buy this pie in the sky rhetoric, do you, folks...??? Raise your hand if you see yourself or a family member or friend being gainfully, happily, profitably employed "building solar panels, wind turbines, or fuel efficient cars" in the next three years. Sure we can improve energy efficiency and we should... but how long have the "new" squiggly energy efficient light bulbs been around and yet Americans are still mainly using "old style" light bulbs?! Please. Hype only goes so far. In the final analysis we have to face reality in line with what we know via our own observation and experience.
To improve the quality of our health care while lowering its cost, we will make the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized. This will cut waste, eliminate red tape, and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests. But it just won’t save billions of dollars and thousands of jobs – it will save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system.
Again... do you really buy the hype...? Perhaps computerization will save money, perhaps it won't, but in either case there will be unintended consequences in terms of safety and security. Hackers... virus'... simple bad data... (*SIGH*) (It's the computerization of financial/credit info that is largely responsible for the nightmare of identity theft. Think about how this concept might translate from financial record keeping to medical record keeping. (*SHRUG*) As to the "thousands of jobs" it'll supposedly "save," how so...??? (*SCRATCHING MY HEAD*) If you require less clerical labor... doesn't that translate to less clerical jobs? And if the reforms require more clerical labor... won't this increase labor costs which will in term be passed on to consumers via higher fees for services...??? (*HEADACHE*)
To give our children the chance to live out their dreams in a world that’s never been more competitive, we will equip tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries. We’ll provide new computers, new technology, and new training for teachers so that students in Chicago and Boston can compete with kids in Beijing for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future.
Don't buy it folks. If there was a positive stand-alone correlation between spending and educational achievement you'd all want your kids attending Washington DC public schools. (*SMIRK*) Bottom line... more money won't solve our nation's educational weaknesses. Did paying higher salaries and bonuses to Wall Street wizards lead to more competent, more honest Wall Street wizards...??? (*SNORT*) Throwing money at people guarantees nothing!
To build an economy that can lead this future, we will begin to rebuild America. Yes, we’ll put people to work repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned, worthy and needed infrastructure projects. But we’ll also do more to retrofit America for a global economy. That means updating the way we get our electricity by starting to build a new smart grid...
"Smart Grid," huh...? (*SNORT*) O.K. Connected to WHAT exactly...??? (Sorry, Charlie... wind mills and solar panels AIN'T gonna cut it.)
...that will save us money, protect our power sources from blackout or attack, and deliver clean, alternative forms of energy to every corner of our nation.
Folks. Sorry. Again... (*SIGH*) If there was any "there" there beneath the rhetoric I'd be cheering at the top of my lungs. There's not. It's hot air - and not the kind that's gonna cut heating bills for the White House over the next four years. (*SMILE*)
It means expanding broadband lines across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
I have absolutely NO PROBLEM shopping online now. Even years ago, before I got broadband, back when I used dial-up, I had no problem shopping online. What is this man babbling about...?!?! Mr. President-Elect... with respect... there's a point where "competition" becomes clutter, where too many choices actually hinders actual commerce. What I want is not "faster ordering" of Chinese made junk, but rather, being able to BUY AMERICAN right here in my local area!!!
And it means investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.
More "investing," huh. (*SNORT*) You know another term for government "investment" in the private sector? Corporate welfare!
Finally, this recovery and reinvestment plan will provide immediate relief to states, workers, and families who are bearing the brunt of this recession.
"Relief," huh? Folks... in plan English... he's talking more bailouts. He's talking throwing good money after bad. He's talking about enabling and subsidizing the very same state policies which have led to widespread state deficits/debt in the first place. He's talking about giving OUR money away. (*SHRUG*)
To get people spending again, 95% of working families will receive a $1,000 tax cut...
Around half the folks who will receive these checks pay no net federal income taxes. For these recipients... this isn't a tax cut, it's a welfare payment.
...the first stage of a middle-class tax cut that I promised during the campaign and will include in our next budget.
If Republicans were the Party of "Borrow and Spend," then I suppose we can label President-Elect Obama's proposals as "Uber-Borrowing, Printing, and Spending." (*FROWN*)
Folks! He's trying to BRIBE you! Bribe you with your own money!!! Bribe you with BORROWED money he expects you to pay back - with interest - at a future (unspecified) date!!!
To help Americans who have lost their jobs and can’t find new ones, we’ll continue the bipartisan extensions of unemployment insurance and health care coverage to help them through this crisis.
More spending. More bribes. More borrowing. More unfunded liabilities. Another nail in the coffin of future inflation. (*SIGH*)
Government at every level will have to tighten its belt...
Huh...?!?! But you're talking about EXPANDING government...!!! (Hmm... diet by overeating.) (*SNORT*)
...but we’ll help struggling states avoid harmful budget cuts, as long as they take responsibility and use the money to maintain essential services like police, fire, education, and health care.
But... but... but... what about "belt tightening...???" (*ROLLING MY EYES*)
I understand that some might be skeptical of this plan.
Our government has already spent a good deal of money, but we haven’t yet seen that translate into more jobs or higher incomes or renewed confidence in our economy.
So... throwing MORE "good" money after bad is the answer...??? (*SCRATCHING MY HEAD*)
That’s why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan won’t just throw money at our problems – we’ll invest in what works.
(*SIGH*) Exchanging the word "invest" for the world "throw" doesn't change the reality, sir. (*SHAKING MY HEAD*)
Enough. I can't bear any more.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
So... I start my blogging day by logging on and viewing the Drudge Report. This morning's headline... "Loss For Year At World's Top Media Company."
NEW YORK (AP) -- Time Warner Cable says it expects to record a $15 billion noncash impairment charge on its cable franchise rights in the fourth quarter, resulting in a loss for 2008.
So... $15 billion... this I get. English translation: Fifteen Billion Dollars.
But what the heck is a "noncash impairment charge...?!?!" I mean... sure... I gather it's a fancy term for "loss," but, still... I'm curious.
Ahh... here we go:
"Impairment charge" is the new term for writing off worthless goodwill. These charges started making headlines in 2002 as companies adopted new accounting rules and disclosed huge goodwill write-offs (for example, AOL - $54 billion, SBC - $1.8 billion, and McDonald's - $99 million). While impairment charges have since then gone relatively unnoticed, they will get more attention as the weak economy and faltering stock market force more goodwill charge-offs and increase concerns about corporate balance sheets. This article will define the impairment charge and look at its good, bad and ugly effects.
Goodwill: An account that can be found in the assets portion of a company's balance sheet. Goodwill can often arise when one company is purchased by another company. In an acquisition, the amount paid for the company over book value usually accounts for the target firm's intangible assets. Goodwill is seen as an intangible asset on the balance sheet because it is not a physical asset such as buildings and equipment. Goodwill typically reflects the value of intangible assets such as a strong brand name, good customer relations, good employee relations and any patents or proprietary technology.
Am I alone in gleaning a trend here...???
Smoke and mirrors... accounting gimmicks... bait and switch... IS NOTHING REAL - IS NOTHING TANGIBLE in our financial/economic system...???
Sure. At one level it's amusing. Heck... I'm making fun of "the system" right here, right now. But beyond the snark... beneath the smirk... the "joke" is on me - and on you, folks!
This $15 billion "noncash impairment charge" that Time Warner is now "recording" as a "loss" was previously recorded as a gain - as an intangible asset, but an "asset" nevertheless. In concrete terms though... in terms of REAL value... this fictional "asset" was as discarnate then as it is now. At best... "goodwill" is a hope... a wish... an excuse upon which to base optimism. At worst... "goodwill" as a valuation... as an "asset"... is a deliberate enticement to to invest real money based upon a false premise.
We're in trouble, folks. Our nation is in trouble and I fear we're headed for far worse. The sort of self-deceptive nonsensical business and accounting practices I'm commenting on here are a large part of the problem. And government ALLOWS this sort of thing!
Oh... and the truly scary part... compared to government accounting rules, private sector accounting rules are strict, transparent and logical!
Monday, January 5, 2009
On May 5, 1789, the Senate passed its first bill - the Oath Act. That first oath, for members and civil servants, was very simple: "I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States."
No doubt, if I were so inclined, I could wholly devote this blog to illuminating instances where Senators (and House Members, Presidents, Supreme Court Justices) have by their actions made a mockery of this simple oath - this simple yet in my mind sacred concept that the Constitution of the United States as written, ratified, and occasionally legally amended via Constitutional mechanism, is and must be the Supreme Law of the Land.
But no; I am not so inclined. Usually Right was begun as a "general" blog and will remain so. That said, the blatantly unconstitutional path Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatens to tread - supposedly in Our name, the name of The People - serves as a near perfect example of an out of control politician with either (or perhaps both!) no understanding of the Constitution or no respect for it.
As readers are no doubt aware, Sen. Reid believes that he and a majority of the Senate (not even two thirds... just a simple majority) have the power to bar a legally elected or appointed Senator who was elected/appointed by the people/governor of his state from taking the oath of office and assuming his seat. As Reid said yesterday on Meet the Press, "We determine who sits in the Senate, and the House determines who sits in the House. So there's clearly legal authority for us to do whatever we want to. This goes back for generations."
Wrong, Mr. Reid!
WRONG, MR. REID!
Click on the above provided link and read the germane portion of the exchange between Mr. Gregory, host of Meet the Press, and Sen. Harry Reid, who first came to Washington as a Member of the House - sworn in January 3, 1983. As you'll note, after 35 years in Washington, 35 years as a Congressman and Senator, Mr. Reid (by the way... did I mention Reid is an attorney?) showed himself to be far less familiar with the U.S. Constitution, American history, and simple logic than mere journalist David Gregory.
As Gregory correctly points out, Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich is still... err... Governor of Illinois. He may yet resign. He may yet be impeached. He may yet be removed from office. HOWEVER... until he is... like it or not... Rod Blagojevich is still Governor of Illinois and literally every reference to his official powers I could find notes that Illinois law gives the governor sole power to fill a Senate vacancy.
Furthermore, the Burris appointment has been made. Regardless of what happens to Governor Blagojevich, the appointment has been made. It was a legal appointment and bottom line... like it or not... that is the bottom line!
(Think the Clinton Pardons. Even if it could be proven that President Clinton basically sold pardons either for direct or indirect financial and/or political benefit, those pardons were Constitutional. Period. End of story.)
Contrary to Senator Reid's rantings, ravings, ramblings, and threats, the only Constitutionally valid justification for refusing to swear in and seat the duly appointed Senator-Elect Roland Burris would be if it were to be found that Burris appointment did not meet the requirements of Article 1, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution that Burris be at least 30 years of age, a U.S. citizen for the past 9 years or more, and upon appointment a resident of Illinois. Again... period... end of story.
As already mention, Harry Reid is an attorney. Not only did he attend law school, graduate, take and pass the bar exam, practice law, but on top of that Reid has made his living as either an elected or appointed state or federal official for the better part of 40 years, having first been elected to the Nevada State Assembly in 1967. Sen. Reid knows what the law is. Sen. Reid knows what the Constitution says. Sen. Reid simply doesn't care.
On December 10, Reid and 49 of his Democratic Senatorial colleagues claimed in a letter to Governor Blagojevich that, "Please understand that should you decide to ignore the request of the Senate Democratic Caucus and make an appointment we would be forced to exercise our Constitutional authority under Article 1, Section 5, to determine whether such a person should be seated."
WHAT AUTHORITY...?!?! Is the following the text the august Senators refer to?
Article 1, Section 5: Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide. Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.
Funny... Reid and his cronies fail to note what came prior to as well as after this particular section of the Constitution, namely:
Article 1, Section 2: The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states... When vacancies happen in the Representation from any state, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.
17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years... When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
Think about it, folks... if Article 1, Section 2 actually meant - means - what Reid and his fellow travelers claim it does, why would either House ever change Party hands? I mean... think about it... if a mere majority of Members of either House was all it took not to accept a newly elected member into the Body, why would a Republican/Democrat Senate or House ever ALLOW an elected Democrat/Republican to take his seat? Heck... all the Constitution requires in order for the Senate and House to legally function is a quorum of a simple majority of each Body's membership - 51 Republicans or Democrats in the Senate would do it; 218 Republicans and Democrats in the House!
Another question... a question of logic. Returning to the actual text of the Constitution, Article 1, Section 5 in this case, note...
Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide. Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.
Again... as previously noted... where the text speaks of "elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members" this clearly refers to the Constitutional requirements for said office themselves... age, citizenship, residence...
No. What I want you to focus on is the latter text... "Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member."
Not rocket science, folks. Pretty clear. Explicit in fact! The Constitution is referring to SITTING Members and in order to EXPEL a Member TWO THIRDS of the Body's membership must concur.
Think about it... if the Founders clearly required the bar to be two thirds of the House's Membership or respectively two thirds of the Senate's Membership in concurrence to expel a sitting Congressman or Senator, wouldn't the same logic apply if they had meant either Body to have the ability to refuse to seat duly elected/appointed Members-Elect... wouldn't the Founders have been 1) explicit in giving out this power; and 2) required the same two thirds concurrence for "refusal to seat" as for expulsion?
My fellow Americans... Reid, Durbin, Obama and the rest of the Democrats who signed the above cited letter claiming the Constitution as their authority to refuse to seat Senator-Elect Burris know full well that they have no such authority and in fact that by falsely claiming such authority the weaken the very ideal of an American Constitutional Government ruled by laws, not men. Their actions should appall and disgust all of us.
It does not matter what sort of man Governor Rod Blagojevich is. As of now, more importantly, as of the time of his legitimate, constitutional appointment of Senator-Elect Burris, Governor Blagojevich was the man legally entitled to make said appointment. Period. If... for whatever reason... AFTER Senator-Elect Burris is sworn in and becomes Senator Burris... well at that point Reid and the Democrats will have every Constitutional right to attempt to win two thirds Senate concurrence to expel him. That is a legal and moral decision I leave up to them. As a matter of law, such is their right, such is up to them. As a matter of moral/ethical judgement... that too I leave to the Members of the Senate themselves.
Readers. Don't get caught up in emotion. Reid and his cronies have no legal leg to stand upon. Note: I haven't even bothered to cite Powell v. McCormack! Beyond the fact that the High Court agreed with... err... the Constitution... back in 1969... even if they hadn't - even if this matter had never come up before the Court before - as I've demonstrated, the Constitution itself is clear and always has been clear on the matter in question.
To end... to paraphrase..
GOD SAVE THIS HONORABLE NATION AND OUR CONSTITUTION FROM WHICH OUR LIBERTIES FLOW!