Monthly Archives: January 2011

President Obama Issues Executive Order On Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review

Businesswire.com ran an article today praising the order as a much needed help to lift the burden of government regulations on small business owners. In this article, The Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Association, (SBA) Winslow Sargeant is quoted as stating:

“I applaud President Obama’s efforts today to reduce excessive and unjustified regulatory burdens on small business,” said Sargeant. “The Office of Advocacy looks forward to continuing to work closely with federal agencies and small business to design cost-effective, evidence-based regulations that are compatible with economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness.”

The fact is that Mr. Winslow also happens to be an Obama appointee. While that certainly doesn’t disqualify him from serving in the appointed position, one has to question the validity of the above statement.

When making such heady statements as to lifting unjustified regulatory burdens on small business, we have to consider what has transpired over the last two years. The vaunted healthcare bill has already had such negative effects on small businesses, that over 200 waivers had to be given out to allow those businesses to keep on offering their employees Health insurance. And there are many more in line for those waivers. Where was Mr. Winslow on this major issue?

Then there is the Food Safety bill that was passed through Congress, then deemed illegal, then basically slammed back through the Senate with more trickery than a magic show. This bill will force small farmers out of business through new regulations and paperwork . Monsanto spent millions and millions lobbying for this bill, and (unless you consider them a small business), the small farmers were left out of the discussion on the ramifications to them when this bill passed. Where was Mr. Winslow when this destructive legislation was being walked through our Congress by the big special interest groups ?

President Obama Mr. Obama is so proud of this executive order that he wrote an Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal.

In it, he makes several interesting points. First is this one:

“The EPA and the Department of Transportation worked with auto makers, labor unions, states like California, and environmental advocates this past spring to turn a tangle of rules into one aggressive new standard. It was a victory for car companies that wanted regulatory certainty; for consumers who will pay less at the pump; for our security, as we save 1.8 billion barrels of oil; and for the environment as we reduce pollution. Another example: Tomorrow the FDA will lay out a new effort to improve the process for approving medical devices, to keep patients safer while getting innovative and life-saving products to market faster.”

Apparently Mr. Obama hasn’t had to pay to fill up his vehicle with fuel lately. Gasoline is now averaging $3.22 a gallon. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Tuesday that there is a slim chance national average gasoline prices could spike over $4 a gallon in September and an even better chance that average prices could run over $3.50 a gallon in the summer. During this time of economic recession, with unemployment still over 9% for the longest period since WWII, we have crippling fuel prices. Looks like the EPA, Unions and environmental advocates Mr Obama champions above are doing just the opposite of what he says they will do, to me. At a time when we need to harvest our own resources to the fullest of our capabilities, Mr. Obama has banned drilling in the Gulf, stopped natural resource permits in the West, clamped down on our coal industry, and increased our overall dependency on Foreign oil in two short years. Throw in the millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on solar companies that have went out of business recently, or moved back to China, and it is quite laughable for Mr. Obama to make the above statements.

Near the end of Mr. Obama’s Op-ed, he makes the following statement:

“Despite a lot of heated rhetoric, our efforts over the past two years to modernize our regulations have led to smarter—and in some cases tougher—rules to protect our health, safety and environment. Yet according to current estimates of their economic impact, the benefits of these regulations exceed their costs by billions of dollars”

I’m sorry Mr. President, but those “current estimates” of all these bloated government agencies and new programs saving us billions of dollars, simply won’t put food on my table or a roof over my head. And when you are creating thousands of new Government jobs, that is just more taxes we will have to pay for zero proven benefit. In two short years you have increased the size and scope of our government more than any other U S President in history. Now you expect us to believe that your newest executive order will help small businesses and create jobs? I might have believed that if you had proposed this two years ago before you crippled our economy with your big government expansion.

Texas Budget Debate: Washington Post vs Newsmax

Map of TexasTexas’ two year budget plan will be released by the State House of Representatives today. It will reportedly cut government spending by 11%. Of note is the fact that the Texas Constitution requires a balanced budget be passed which means no spending above the projected State revenues. If spending increases are sought, there must be either cuts in spending, tax increases or a combination of both. I find it interesting how States on the brink of bankruptcy today fail to see the budgetary logic in the Texas budget policies. This also ties into the National Debt we face today and the fact that in 2010, the Federal Government was run on continuing resolutions and never produced a budget. That is just plain irresponsible as far as our Congress is concerned. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi, any maybe this is why you are now known as the Ex-Speaker of the House.

When researching the Texas Budget debate, we see two very different sides to this debate from The Washington Post’s April Castro* and Mark Tannenbaum of NewsMax.com.** The Washington Post piece seems more like a Democratic attack piece that ignores the reality of the situation.  The Texas Legislature is being vilified for making the tough choices required to create a balanced budget (Which is required by law).  Here are the main talking points from April Castro at the Washington Post.* (both articles were accessed on 1/19/2011)

The lead paragraph exposes the agenda behind this piece.

“Texas lawmakers got their first glimpse of what the next state budget might look like late Tuesday, including a staggering $5 billion cut to public schools, as Gov. Rick Perry and his supporters were dancing at an inaugural celebration. Is there something wrong with the Governor and his supporters dancing at an inaugural ball? Note the inclusion of the word ‘Staggering’ when discussing the cuts to public school also. When talking about cutting wasteful spending within a huge Texas State budget, is 5 Billion dollars really that staggering? Are they doing away with wasteful,redundant or unnecessary programs? What is really “staggering,” is a country that is 14 Trillion dollars in debt, now that’s staggering!

“While almost every other state agency would see a reduction in employees, the average number of full-time employees in Perry’s office over the next two fiscal years would go to 132, up from an average of 120 in the 2010-2011 budget.” I would think that the demand for more intense budgetary scrutiny by the Governor’s office would require a few more people to get the job done here. This seems like partisan nit-picking here. 12 new employees over a 2 year span doesn’t seem all that “staggering” to me.

“It’s a catastrophe. No financial aid for kids to go to college. No pre-kindergarten for kids to learn their numbers and their letters. Health and human services slashed,” said Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine. “No Texan can be proud of this.” That simply isn’t the truth there. There will be cuts, but there still will be financial aid and grants. To say everyone will be denied is a sad attempt at false propaganda usage. I wonder where the quotes from the realists that have drawn up this budget plan are here? A decent, unbiased article on the proposed Texas State budget should include viewpoints from both sides.

“Perry took the oath of office earlier Tuesday for his third term in office. After a day of parties, he spent the evening at a celebration in downtown Austin, just a mile from the Capitol. Donors are picking up the $2 million tab for the 2011 inaugural. The Legislative Budget Board was required by law to release the budget to leaders on Tuesday, the fifth business day after the session starts.” Another dig at Governor Perry, which seems to be a pattern here.

In analyzing the Newsmax article, we see a more realistic approach to reporting the proposed Texas Budget legislation. There are quotes from several viewpoints, such as Mr Hochberg- D- Houston,( bigger class sizes) Republican Jim Pitts the main House budget writer, ( the votes for more spending are not there) and Democrat Roberto Alonzo.( Use the rainy day funds now).

In contrast to the Washington Post lead attack paragraph, Newsmax leads with the cold hard facts:

“ The two year budget plan that the Texas House of representatives will release today may eliminate more than 8000 jobs and cut spending spending schools, universities and social services by 11 %. It will not tap the 9.4 billion set aside for deep economic stress, Republicans say.” Nobody enjoys having to make serious budget cuts, but the fact is that without them, Texas wouldn’t be confronting the realities of the true need for budget reform. They should also be commended for refusing to go the way of Illinois, who raised taxes 66% recently.

Newsmax also points out the danger of what other States have done in recent years, by refusing to make the tough choices and instead used up their own rainy day funds:

‘”The (rainy day) fund has risen six-fold since 2007, while other states drained reserves to balance total deficits likely to top 190 billion over the next two years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.” This is the common sense long term budgeting that is needed today. It doesn’t rely on the “budget gimmicks” that seem so popular today,and that are based on the denial of reality.

Newsmax also lets Governor Perry express his viewpoint in this article, which The Washington Post article deemed not worthy of inclusion:

“We don’t have shortfalls in Texas,” Perry told reporters last week. “You prioritize what’s important in this state. We will fund those.” It is hard to take any journalist seriously that would leave that statement out of an article about the Texas budget.

Newsmax also included a statement from a spokeswoman from the Texas Hospital Association, Amanda Engler that stated that the sick will suffer under the proposed cuts. That is a different view that isn’t mired in any facts yet, since the exact cuts haven’t even been announced. Kudos for Newsmax for putting an opposing viewpoint in there.

Newsmax also summed their article up with a very good explanation on the rainy day fund, and how it was used from 2003-2007 to shore up funding for children’s health insurance, retired teachers healthcare and two economic development funds.

So there you have the tale of two news articles which both vary immensely. The first one from the Washington Post is a very poor example of reporting, when it comes to being unbiased and fact-based. The author seemed more intent on attacking the Governor of Texas and it’s legislature, than facing the reality of the necessity of a properly balanced budget today. They also ran a very one-sided article there. Newsmax gave us the basic facts as we they were known at the time, a statement from the Governor as to how Texas approached their budget, and some viewpoints from both sides of the debate.
After looking into the current Texas Budget debate here, we also see some disturbing facts as to what Journalistic Integrity, ( or lack thereof) means today. My deep respect goes to Governor Perry and the Texas legislature for taking on the responsibility of balancing their state budget today. Well done.


Sources:

 

*http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/19/AR2011011900050.html?
** http://www.newsmax.com/Politics/BNALL-BNSTAFF-BNTEAMS-BON/2011/01/18/id/383070

Highest Ever Gas Prices for January

American Automobile AssociationAURORA, Ill., Jan. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — AAA Chicago’s most recent Fuel Gauge Report estimates that in Illinois, regular unleaded gasoline has increased $.16 during the past month, forecasting an average cost of $3.22 per gallon for the month of January, which is $.38 higher per gallon than last year.

In northern Indiana, gas prices average $3.09, which is up 16 cents from December 2010 and up $.32 from January 2010. Both Illinois and northern Indiana January averages represent the highest prices ever for the start of a new year.

“Oil prices are trading at nearly $90 per barrel, which is having an enormous effect on the price of gasoline at the pump,” said Beth Mosher, director of public affairs for AAA Chicago. “Unfortunately, at least in the near-term, consumers should get used to paying these high prices at the pump.”

In Cook County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.37, which is up $.18 from last month and $.41 higher than last year’s price-per-gallon.
In DuPage County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.25 per gallon, which is a 15-cent increase from December and up 39 cents from last year.
In Kane County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.22 per gallon, which is 16 cents higher compared to last month and $.38 higher than January 2010’s price.
In Lake County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.20 per gallon, which is 17 cents higher than last month and up by $.37 compared to this time last year.
In McHenry County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.20 per gallon, which is 17 cents higher than last month’s average and $.35 higher than January 2010’s price.
In Will County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.23 per gallon, which is 16 cents higher compared to last month and $.39 higher compared to last year.
In Champaign County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.15 per gallon, an increase of 19 cents from December and an increase of $.38 from last year.
In McLean County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.11 per gallon, which is 18 cents higher than last month and $.38 higher than last year.
In Peoria County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.14 per gallon, which is up $.19 compared to last month and up $.39 from January 2010.
In Sangamon County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.12 per gallon, which is 19 cents higher than last month and $.43 higher than last year.
In Winnebago County, Ill., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.12 per gallon, an increase of 15 cents from December and $.33 higher than January 2010.
In Allen County, Ind., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.11 per gallon, which is an increase of 17 cents from last month and $.34 higher than January 2010’s price.
In Lake County, Ind., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.09 per gallon, a 16-cent increase from December’s average and a $.32 increase from a year ago.
In Porter County, Ind., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.08 per gallon, which is 16 cents higher than last month and $.32 higher than last year.
In St. Joseph County, Ind., self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averages $3.14 per gallon, which is 20 cents higher compared to last month and $.39 higher compared to last year.

Fuel prices are posted on-line at www.fuelgaugereport.com, which updates prices daily for unleaded, diesel and E85 blends of fuel.


SOURCE:

AAA

Web Site: http://www.fuelgaugereport.com

Individual Liberties and the Slippery Slope

Ah, the “slippery slope” metaphor.  Over-used, sometimes misused and rarely is it effectively used – I hope I don’t manage to make those same mistakes.

Individual liberties were of prime concern to the founding fathers.  The Constitution makes it difficult for the government to infringe upon the rights of the individual and progressives find this incredibly frustrating.

So what is a progressive liberal to do?  Grit their teeth – nah, might ruin that new retainer Mom and Dad got ‘em.  Whine and complain?  Sure, but that’s pretty much a constant noise the rest of us have now tuned out – much like MSNBC.  No, they chip away at the offending freedom until there is nothing left.  This practice has been used as long as there have been those that would strip away a liberty from one citizen in the name of safety, security, or well-being of another.  More correctly, they take the liberties of a group of Americans in the name of the greater good – that’s not Marxist..

Examples of this practice are easy to find.   The second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms.  Progressives know that any attempt to repeal that amendment would meet the kind of resistance that would destroy their little movement.  Instead, they have attempted to dismantle the right slowly, through regulation.  They outlawed high-capacity mags where they could, the assault weapons ban, a recent attempt to outlaw lead for fishing and shooting – it’s a constant assault.

The liberals are also attacking smoking.  I don’t smoke cigarettes, but the attack on another’s freedom are too much to bare.  Certainly, I don’t need anyone blowing smoke in my face, that’s my right, but recently, there are boards in North Carlina trying to get smoking outlawed in open air parks and greenways.  For Pete’s sake, if someone wants to smoke in the wide open space of a park, certainly I can find my own clean air.  Sure, the libdergarderners make the argument that smoking causes cancer and that society pays the price.  I say, only because of the terrible regulation of the insurance industry.  If rates weren’t so tightly controlled, smokers would pay through the nose for insurance – an outcome of their own choice to smoke.  My rates would be unaffected.  If the government is so concerned, they could do the same with Medicare.

The real question is at what point will most Americans realize that the next freedom to go might just be one they like.  The whole chip-away strategy goes after a total goal – let’s say the eradication of guns in America.  What is done is to segment the kinds of gun owners and take rights from each group in a successive manner.  First, those that really like high-capacity mags.  The occasional target shooter or hunter may not ever buy a high capacity mag and could easily just let this regulation go by without putting the fear of re-election into the Representatives.  Next would be those that like semi-automatic rifles with clips (detachable magazines).  An article on about.com demonstrates the skewed definition of an assault rifle as it was put in the Clinton-era Assault Weapons Ban (AWB):

In general, the AWB defined any firearm with a detachable magazine and at least two of certain other characteristics as an assault weapon.

For rifles, those characteristics included:

  • Telescoping stock
  • Pistol grip
  • Bayonet mount
  • Grenade launcher
  • Flash suppressor

A pistol grip and flash suppressor could easily be found on a competition gun (which would have clip).  But most hunters and shotgun sports enthusiasts might let this go.  Now we have dolts like Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) would limit the size of ammunition magazines.  What would be next?  In 2009 McCarthy wanted to ban on anything that remotely resembles a military rifle.  That definition won’t get misused by the courts or regulators at all ..

So you may not be a smoker or a gun enthusiast, but what happens when  a freedom you appreciate comes under fire because someone in the government doesn’t like it?  If you don’t stand up for the rights of gun owners, smokers, the religious, etc – who will stand up for you when your favorite liberty gets stepped-on?  You cannot pick and choose, defend every liberty offered by the Constitution or be willing to lose them all.

Ethics? What Ethics?

House Ethics Committee Banner

The House Ethics Committee is officially known as the Committee On Standards Of Official Conduct. I wonder how many people actually know this, and really understand what that title is supposed to mean. While it is quite obvious that our government’s legislative bodies need rules and regulations under which to operate, the House Ethics Committee of today seems to be lacking … ethics.

That is not a statement I make lightly, or without some serious research to back it up.

Here we have a governing body put in charge of what I view as being similar to our military’s Code of Conduct in our House of Representatives. This committee investigates House officials, members, or employees when allegations or evidence of criminal or unethical actions surfaces. What I do find unethical here, is the fact that career politicians are serving on this powerful committee that is put in charge of deciding which career politicians to investigate, just how that investigation is carried out, and what “punishment” they recommend. This breeds partisanship right from the start, not to mention the fact that they have given themselves the power to squash any calls for investigations of corrupt politicians they so choose. How many times have we heard the chairmen of this committee announce that they have “reviewed” the allegations of misconduct, and find no wrongdoing ? Somehow I get the strong feeling that if it was the taxpayer doing the investigating instead of political cronies, the outcomes of these investigations would be quite different. For people who want us to believe that our elected officials are held to a higher standard of ethics when conducting the people’s business, these same people sure are quick in setting those standards lower when investigating their party pals or political cronies.

The list of examples that show a lack of true ethical behavior within the House Ethics Committee is longer than I could ever hope to include in this article. The Charlie Rangel debacle is the most recent one. Found guilty of 11 ethic violations, Charlie was “sentenced” to Censure by the House. This elected official, this trusted guardian of the taxpayer’s dollars, neglected to pay income taxes for several years, along with several other episodes of malfeasance and misconduct. Mr Rangel was also the Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Was he expelled from Congress? No. Did he do any jail time? No. Did he pay any fines? Not proven to us, but they did decide to actually make him pay the back taxes at some point. When we talk about ethics, we must ask ourselves why is he still a member of the people’s trusted Congress? Do not lecture we the people, on ethics and standards of conduct while Charlie Rangel is still a member of Congress, thank you.

Fast forward to this week, and my inspiration for writing this article. At TheHill.com, I ran into an article, “Ethics Committee debates hiring outside counsel for Waters investigation.”, written by Susan Crabtree that provides some good insight into this situation.

Chairman Jo Bonner- (R- Ala) apparently wants to have the ethics committee continue with the Waters investigation, (which is the Committee’s supposed main reason for existence) while Ex-Chairman Zoe Lofgren, (D-Calif) wants an outside Legal firm to handle it. First of all, since we the people demand cutting spending in Congress, I say no to the added expense of hiring someone else to do their job here. This always seems to be the solution in Congress these days, throw more tax dollars at the problem while shirking your own responsibilities and duties. No excuses please.
Secondly, if Lofgren feels there is too much partisanship and bickering within this committee for them to do their job, maybe it’s high time we replace any members who are obstructing this investigation, or do away with the committee completely? It isn’t difficult to see what is happening here. Last November, Lofgren wanted to fire the lead lawyer on the case, and he is now on administrative leave indefinitely, which also conveniently gives Lofgren an excuse for hiring an outside law firm. Bonner accused Lofgren of playing politics with the ethics process, as to her many apparent decisions to delay the trial. On and on with the childish infighting and partisanship, to the point that this investigation has ground to a halt once again.

If this was in the real world, instead of Congress, the whole committee would be fired for this type of nonsense. Millions of taxpayer dollars have already been spent on this debacle and what have we got to show for it? Nothing! No progress, no trial, no justice, nothing. This committee appears to be at a stalemate, the cause of which lies solely within the committee itself. We had the GOP take the majority in the house in 2010. Changes were supposedly coming. So what do the geniuses in our House of Representatives do to start the 112th Congress as far as the Ethics committee goes? They install the same incompetent, childish, partisan members responsible for this Waters debacle, right back onto the Ethics Committee! (Lofgren and Bonner ) Once again, the people who have proven to be the most incompetent, ineffective elected officials to serve on this committee, are put right back into a position to continue this malfeasance masquerading as an Ethics Committee !

When discussing Ethics within our Congress, Maxine Waters’ hiring practices come into also question. Meet her Chief of Staff, Mikael Moore – who also happens to be Maxine Waters Grandson. Is nepotism allowed when it comes to hiring people to work in Congress on the taxpayers dime ? Well it is supposedly against the rules when it comes to hiring spouses and siblings, yet hiring grandchildren isn’t defined under nepotism rules? Maybe Lofgren and Waters could get together and explain that one to the people? Which brings us to one last observation about our House Ethics Committee.

When reading the Rules of The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct at ethics.house.gov, we see that they have posted the rules and amendments for the 111th Congress.***
Take note that these rules were adopted on February 10th 2009, and then Amended on June 9th of 2009. They created a new set of rules, then had to change them again 4 months later. Who oversees these rule changes? Surely, it couldn’t be the very same people on this committee that have delayed and bungled the Waters investigation, possibly beyond repair? Zoe Lofgren, the Chair of this circus has now been reported to tell Minority leader Nancy Pelosi that she is too “burned out” to continue in her position as Vice-Chair of the Ethics Committee due to partisan bickering. That equates to the Ringleader of the Circus, blaming the Elephants for the closing of the show after she has almost single- handedly burned down the entire tent. Ethics? What Ethics?


Additional Sources:

* http://ethics.house.gov/About/Default.aspx?Section=3

***http://ethics.house.gov/Media/PDF/111th_Rules_Amended_June_2009.pdf


Budgetary Gimmicks – We’re Only Fooling Ourselves

Anyone who has run a business or even a household budget, knows all too well that budget “gimmicks” will turn around and bite you sooner or later. Whether you are shifting overrun costs from one year to the next or spending more than you take in, most gimmicks are basically a deception and denial of reality. Unfortunately, this slight-of-hand is a common practice in our government budgeting methods.  These politically motivated budgetary deceptions are killing our infrastructure and eroding our economy and as The Wall Street Journal reported, it may soon impact our credit rating.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a report Thursday that the U.S. will need to reverse an upward trajectory in the debt ratios to support its triple-A rating.

“We have become increasingly clear about the fact that if there are not offsetting measures to reverse the deterioration in negative fundamentals in the U.S., the likelihood of a negative outlook over the next two years will increase,” said Sarah Carlson, senior analyst at Moody’s.

Our government exudes incompetence and a lack of true accounting practices today, when we look at the massive gimmickry they use in budgeting the taxpayers hard earned dollars. The truth in this statement is quite obvious in the following example.

TSA Hiring Project Runs 700% Over Budget

According to the Washington Post, in 2002, the TSA issued a $104 million contract to hire airport screeners. By 2006, the cost had skyrocketed almost 700% to $741 million.

“TSA officials then moved forward with no planning ‘or adequate cost control,’ the report said, and they ignored warnings from contractor NCS Pearson Inc. that project costs had far exceeded the budget approved by Congress.” When asked why the initial cost projections were so inaccurate, the TSA program administer who managed the program said, “That $1 billion was a number out of the air, frankly.” He continued, “All I got from the DOT was, ‘When you hit $1 billion, come back to us.’” With this level of insightful analysis put into estimating the true costs of the project, it is less than shocking that TSA’s contractor went over budget.

Fast forward to today. With the addition of the new scanners, thousands of new workers, and other assorted equipment that the TSA currently employs on American citizens when traveling, we cannot even form an educated guess as to the total cost overruns there. In this case, the original budget gimmickry is that there was an initial start-up cost assessment, yet there appears to be no long term Life-Cycle Budgeting. This is akin to a blank check for the never-ending expansion of the TSA, with no built-in accountability or transparency. As noted in the article above, when they hit 1 billion tax dollars, come back to us. There is the gimmick. “A no-limit budget.” It is impossible to declare any form of fiscal sanity with cost projections approved of $104M, and four years later you have spent $741M. Where is the oversight and cost-controls that should slow this money-train down?

In the TSA example, there was no Life-Cycle Budgeting involved, and there are no stated plans to install any. In the real world, the TSA would be declared bankrupt and closed down. This is a deceptive form of fraud against the taxpayer, as we are being asked to fund a never-ending expansion of the TSA with no transparent or accountable budgeting involved. We can do better, and our current economic situation demands it be done immediately.

Infrastructure projects are an important part of our economy and when not budgeted properly, can have devastating long-term economic consequences. These projects are a critical investment towards our economic growth and stability. When we neglect our infrastructure through short-sited, stop gap measures and temporary repairs, we are headed for a disaster of epic proportions. Our transportation system will eventually grind to a halt. Businesses will no longer be able to get materials and products from point A to point B. Our roads, bridges, rail systems, and shipping ports must be maintained and rebuilt with true a more complete and transparent set of practices – life cycle budgeting.

These projects must contain an honest level of transparency in all phases. Access to the budgeting process is necessary towards understanding the true costs of proposed, ongoing and future projects. This must include initial construction costs, plus long term maintenance costs over the lifespan of the project, and together they must be included in the initial proposed budget figures. When we fail to do this, we have people being killed by crumbling bridges due to lack of proper maintenance and inspections and transportation delays that have a massive trickle down effect on our economy. When this type of disaster happens, the reports state that the government didn’t have the money or resources to maintain the project. Wouldn’t they have had the resources if they had properly figured the complete life cycle costs for the project in the beginning?

When discussing our economic problems of today, we have to really look into how our Government spends our tax dollars to find a working solution.. Without transparency in the budgeting process, the nation is kept in the dark as a whole, and the problems of short-sightedness in our budgeting will continue to weaken our economy. Is our Government actually so incompetent and short-sighted ?

When people buy a new car, do they expect to have expense-free transportation for the next twenty years? Even the youngest generation of drivers soon learns that there are life-cycle expenses in owning a car. These include proper maintenance, such as oil changes, new tires, and operating expenses, such as fuel. Without proper budgeting for all expenses involved with driving a car, the person can end up with a car that isn’t able to get them from point A to point B when needed. They may get four years of use out of the car without any maintenance, but then their original investment is lost and they have to go out and buy another car. This isn’t cost effective, and people are quick to learn to use life-cycle budgeting when buying a new car. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. Figure in the cost of maintenance and related expenses when buying a new car, and you will never end up having to use your vehicle maintenance funds for fuel , which then leads to shortening the life of your investment. This should be common sense, but it doesn’t seem to apply to the people in our Government today. When it comes to calculating the actual lifetime costs of Infrastructure projects, our Government displays seemingly major incompetency and ineptitude. Why is that?

Politics, of course.

Our Federal and State governments today way too often try to score political points instead of trying to get more bang for the Taxpayer’s buck. This has been going on for decades with no end in sight. From funding bridges to nowhere, to Airports that only serve a dozen people a day, to paying out millions of dollars a year for maintenance on federal buildings that were tore down years ago, the abuse and malfeasance can almost always be traced back to political posturing, corruption, fraud or flat out cronyism. A lack of transparency is at the main root of these wasteful projects. Politicians that are more concerned with vote-buying through “bringing home the bacon to their districts,” than the actual betterment of our Nation, are robbing our Nation of critical infrastructure dollars. This is a direct threat to our Economy and National Security. Federal and State legislatures are supposed to be the guardians of our nation through the proper use of taxpayer dollars. The most effective, proven way to ensure this, is to demand transparent, full life cycle cost budgeting in all forms of government spending. The future of our great Nation depends on it.

Some in GOP Still Think Earmarks are OK

There was an election last year.. right?  Republicans got the message from us on spending .. right?  Perhaps not all of them.

The Hill published an article on Wednesday that demonstrated that there are some tone-deaf members of the House and you’ll never believe what committee their on – yup, Appropriations.

Three Republican cardinals on the House Appropriations Committee say they view the ban on earmarks as temporary and that lawmakers should retain the right to direct spending to their districts.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Frank Wolf from Virginia, and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) all seemed to believe that the moratorium on earmarks is temporary and that earmarks are a necessary tool to create policy.

Members of Congress should certainly be able to direct the spending of the Federal government.  That’s why we have an appropriations committee and appropriations bills.  Ear marks are unfortunately more-likely to allow frivolous and unnecessary spending as they are typically used to bribe a member into voting for legislation they would otherwise reject.  If the bill contains an earmark for their district, they just might vote yes when for the good of the nation, “no” would have been better.

If a member of Congress wants money from the public coffers, they should sponsor an appropriations bill asking for the money.  They should make it clear who is spending our money and for what.  Hiding pork in other legislation is dishonest and leads to even more dishonest votes.

This is more proof that memory is short in the House of Representatives.  Thankfully for us, so are there terms in office.

Illinois Legislators Increase Taxes 66% and Cut .. Nothing

In the 2010 election, Illinois voters chose to keep a Democrat controlled State House and Senate, although by a slimmer margin than in years past.  How unfortunate for workers in the land of Lincoln.

As The New York Times reported, State legislators pushed through and passed a massive 66% tax increase in the hours before the new State Congress took over.

Even grudging supporters of the tax increase, which won no Republican support in a state capital controlled by Democrats, voiced a desperate sense of regret over the circumstances in which Illinois finds itself. State Representative Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat who voted for the increase, described her decision as an alternative “between bad and worse.” Another Democrat cautioned his colleagues: “We don’t have a better choice today.”

It appears as though spending cuts were not an option the liberal body wanted to consider.  Instead, Illinoisans will be asked to give more of their paychecks to the spend-easy State government.  Governor Quinn, also a Democrat, appears ready to sign the tax increase the moment it hits his desk.

Gov. Patrick J. Quinn, a Democrat whose signature would be needed to make any rate increase final, has indicated in the past he believes a tax increase is necessary.

The increases are on both the personal and corporate rates.  This will leave consumers with less money to spend and businesses with fewer reasons to stay in or relocate to Illinois.

Revisiting S510- The Food Safety Bill

Our government is operating way out of bounds concerning The Food Safety Bill and its passage. In December of 2010, I witnessed Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) explaining The Food safety Bill on C-Span 2. Mr Durbin had a huge chart with him that showed that the next ten years of implementing the Food safety Bill, (as it was known then) would not increase the national Debt.  He had it laid out with all zeroes under the cost section of each year.

How can creating thousands of additional government positions along with the equipment to operate costs the taxpayer zero dollars? Then it hit me. It will be paid for by new higher food taxes and/or prices passed down to the consumer! So at it’s roots, The Food Safety Bill is another stealth tax that our Congress failed once again to inform the citizens about. (Unless you think the thousands of people who will have to be hired to enforce this plan will work for free?) Meanwhile, decent Americans were caught up in the argument that this bill would make their home gardens illegal and other propaganda to distract them.

I also found myself wondering why this bill was being rammed through during the Lame Duck session of Congress in late December. Yes, it did have prior limited debate in both houses of congress.. Yet true to the Democratic party’s method of operation during the last two years, the final process was rushed and fraught with partisanship. Then it was passed illegally in the Senate, due to Article 1 section 7 of the US Constitution, which states the following: “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives”; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills. Section 107 of the Food Safety Bill is titled: Authority to collect fees. (making S510 null and void) So many Americans applauded this as meaning the Bill was dead on arrival in 2010, and would have to be completely redone. Not with the 111th Congress being controlled by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, (along with Republicans who seemed to forget what being a conservative is supposed to mean) No sir.

Keep in mind here, that the American public was being bombarded with the Tax Cut/Increase debate at the same time. When I wonder why Republicans seemingly let this Food Safety Bill get passed during a recession, I come to the conclusion that the Tax debate had to be relevant. Was there some kind of a deal made? Who, in their right mind would increase the price of food drastically during a recession when unemployment is darn near 10% ? When the Food safety Bill (S510 at the time) was passed contrary to the Constitution, I thought like everyone else did, that it was dead. Then I turn on C-Span during the lame duck session, and there is Dick Durbin and his chart, telling us that this bill will not increase the debt again.

I put in calls to my Senators demanding an explanation. I received exactly zero answers or explanations. Two days later I received my answers in the form of HR 2751, “A bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to the safety of the food supply”. Say what? From govtrack.us ( accessed on 01/08/2011)**,  I just what had happened to the original S510 Food Safety Bill:

“This bill [S. 510] was superseded by H.R. 2751. On Sunday, December 19, the text of S. 510 replaced the original text of H.R. 2751, and the bill passed by voice vote. H.R. 2751, originally the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act, passed the House in June 2009 and was a “vehicle” for the passage of S. 510 in a House-originating bill because S. 510 was a revenue-raising bill. All revenue-raising bills must originate in the House.”

This bill [S. 510] never became law. This bill was proposed in a previous session of Congress. Sessions of Congress last two years, and at the end of each session all proposed bills and resolutions that haven’t passed are cleared from the books. Members often reintroduce bills that did not come up for debate under a new number in the next session. “

The following is a short summary of this whole process, again accessed from govtrack.us on 01/08/2011***

Dec 29, 2010: Presented to President.

“Related:

See the Related Legislation page for other bills related to this one and a list of subject terms that have been applied to this bill. Sometimes the text of one bill or resolution is incorporated into another, and in those cases the original bill or resolution, as it would appear here, would seem to be abandoned.

Votes:

Jun 9, 2009: This bill passed in the House of Representatives by roll call vote. The vote was held under a suspension of the rules to cut debate short and pass the bill, needing a two-thirds majority. This usually occurs for non-controversial legislation. The totals were 298 Ayes, 119 Nays, 17 Present/Not Voting

Dec 19, 2010: This bill passed in the Senate with changes by Voice Vote. A record of each senator’s position was not kept. (Therefore, NO Senators up for reelection in 2012 can be held accountable for passing higher food prices onto us during a bad economy)

Dec 21, 2010: A vote in the House of Representatives to agree with the other chamber’s changes passed by roll call vote. The totals were 215 Ayes, 144 Nays, 74 Present/Not Voting. ( not doing what we pay them to do)”

In conclusion, we must look at the complete picture here to understand just what has happened and how it was done. First, this bill was titled The Food Safety Act. America has had the safest record in Food safety in the world for over 100 years. To put this into perspective, the fake baby formula episode in China resulted in more deaths, then food poisoning has in America in the last 10 years. So this has nothing to do with actual food safety and everything to do with increasing the size and scope of our government by adding thousands new positions and regulations. There were no “massive epidemics” as some people in our Congress were spewing during debate on it.

Secondly is the “reported costs” to the taxpayer. The CBO has hedged on producing a firm estimate, yet once again projections have risen from 1.4B to 4.2 B yearly. Those billions are in new tax dollars, by the way, as there wasn’t even an attempt to cut waste, fraud or redundant positions within the incompetent FDA, when passing this bill. Spend, Spend ,Spend.

Last but certainly not least, are the people who were behind this power grab/stealth tax debacle. Over 200 big company lobbyists spent millions pushing this through. Once again the little man is left out and not allowed a voice in this discussion. Small farmers will be driven out of business, and our food prices will rise drastically. There is no solid information that gaurantees our food supply will be made safer, and we will pay higher food prices. This bill should be repealed, and an honest debate be opened up which includes all Americans, not just the ones who will enrich themselves through bribing corrupt politicians through Lobbyist dollars. Enough is enough.

Sources:

** – http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-510 – S510 Ref.

*** – http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-2751 – HR 2751 Ref.

Democrats Dare GOP to Vote Against Raising Debt Ceiling

Despite Tim Geithner’s dire warning to Congress that failing to raise the debt ceiling would cause “catastrophic” consequences for our economy, Barney Frank is leading the liberal charge to keep the debt ceiling right where it is.

Don’t get excited, Rep. Frank hasn’t suddenly become fiscally aware.  He’s decided to use the oldest of parliamentary tactics to shame the GOP into doing his bidding – the infamous “double-dog dare”.

The Hill has reported that Mr. Frank, along with other House Democrats, is daring, no, double-dog daring the GOP to raise the debt ceiling without Democrat votes.

..rather than rallying to Obama’s side, House Democrats are remaining aloof. They say it is the GOP’s responsibility to raise the debt ceiling now that Republicans are the ones in charge of the chamber.

“I reject any attempt to shift the responsibility to the minority,” Frank said. “Don’t do us any favors.”

So Barney doesn’t want to shoulder the blame for increasing the amount of money America needs to borrow to fund its ridiculously large government.  What happens if House Republicans blink?

Many programs will have to have budgets cut or be outright de-funded.  For a current year budget issue, social security and medicare would be safe.  Reforming those programs will take a long range plan and Republicans know that.  There are many programs that could be de-funded or discontinued with little impact to the citizenry.  A few come to mind:

  • Health Care Reform
  • Ethanol/Corn subsidies
  • Green energy funding
  • International Assistance
  • Food safety act
  • Congressional salaries and benefits
  • Slash budgets for government offices/bureaus (education, energy, IRS, etc) – do more with less, the rest of America is
  • Sell the massive tracts of government-owned land in the Mid-west to bolster the general fund
  • Re-privatize the college loan program (this time without the subsidy)

I am sure Republican leadership in the House could grow this list substantially – dare ‘em Mr. Frank .. just double-dog dare ‘em.

Deflation or Inflation? Yes

Since the beginning of the “Great Recession” that Americans still find themselves in, there have been prognostications of incredible inflation while other “experts” claim that crippling deflation would be the necessary outcome.  Could they both be right?

Perhaps – there are two major forces at play in our economy right now: price inflation and income deflation.

Price inflation

Wheat Prices

Commodities are going through the roof.  Oil is above $90 a barrel, corn is $6.07 per bushel, March wheat got as high as $8.05 a bushel this week soybeans, cotton, sugar .. you name it.

It’s not just food and clothing.  Copper, gold, silver are also much higher recently.  All of these commodities are building blocks for the food we eat, the clothes we wear and consumer items Americans need.

Oil prices hit twice as hard.  Not only is petroleum a raw material for plastics, medicines, food and clothing, but it is also used to fuel the trucks, trains, planes and ships that transport those goods to stores.

Now that the government is pushing to raise the amount of ethanol in gasoline, rising corn prices will also hit Americans in two places.  As a component of E10/E15/E85, it will increase the price at the pump.  As more corn is turned into fuel, the supply-demand curve will steepen and everything that has corn as an input will see raw material prices increase even faster.

Wage/Income Deflation

The American job market has not recovered from the recession and is likely to take several years to do so.  As The Wall Street Journal reports, this recession is already longer than the last wage period where wage deflation took hold.

The only other downturn since the Depression to see similarly large wage cuts was the 1981-82 recession. But the latest downturn is already eclipsing that one. Unemployment has stood above 9% for 20 straight months—longer than the early 1980s stretch—and is likely to remain above that level for most of 2011, putting downward pressure on wages.

With millions more workers seeking jobs than there are available, employers have gained a stronger position in pay negotiations.  The job market is incredibly competitive allowing employers to cherry pick the best talent for the salary dollar.

Another downward wage pressure is that employers do not have to give big salary increases or bonuses to keep talented employees.  A tough job market means fewer employees will be willing to leave and if they do, there is an ample pool of workers ready to take their place – perhaps at a reduced rate.

The Journal post shows evidence that these dynamics are cutting wages for American workers.

Economists had wondered how far this dynamic would go in this recession, and now the numbers are starting to show it: Between 2007 and 2009, more than half the full-time workers who lost jobs that they had held for at least three years and then found new full-time work by early last year reported wage declines, according to the Labor Department. Thirty-six percent reported the new job paid at least 20% less than the one they lost.

Prices Higher and Incomes lower – Inflation or Deflation?

Both.  Production costs are going up, but consumer buying power is falling off.

Consumers have to pay home heating costs, put gas in their cars, buy clothes and food.  If all of those things cost more, and consumers are making less money .. there is less consumer potential in the market place.  Welcome back the nemesis from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s: stagflation.

Remember the “misery index” from the 1976 and 1980 Presidential election?  The misery index is computed by adding inflation to unemployment.  If both are high, a stagnant economy and high inflation are present.  Stuff gets more expensive to make, but no one can afford it so the economy stagnates.

Jimmy Carter holds the current record of 21.98, but Obama’s current term is on a run taking the misery index from 7.73 at the beginning of his Presidency to 10.94 in November.  The current numbers are deceptively low for two reasons: the federal reserve inflation rate and bureau of labor’s unemployment numbers aren’t telling the whole story.

Anyone that has been to the grocery store or filled their car up with gas knows that things are much more expensive lately.  Because the government’s inflation measure does not include food and energy, it doesn’t take into account the very things that Americans simply must buy.  The incredibly low inflation rate reported by the fed is a sham and does not truthfully report the increase in living costs that Americans face.

The unemployment numbers are also portraying a false positive.  BLS statistics do not include those that have simply given up looking for work or have run out of benefits.  Unemployment is a measure of first time applications.  After 20+ months, not many first timers left to apply.  As this article from the Associated Press states, 9.4 is not as good a number as the President would have America believe (emphasis mine).

The unemployment rate did come down, to 9.4 percent from 9.8, but that was partly because people gave up looking for work.

..

All told, employers added 1.1 million jobs in 2010, or about 94,000 a month. The nation still has 7.2 million fewer jobs today than it did in December 2007, when the recession began.

Producers have been eating the increasing costs of their raw materials and transportation.  That practice is ending as margins have been squeezed as tightly as possible.  The cost to the consumer is going up, but the consumer now has less money to spend.  Stagflation, again..  oddly enough, under another progressive Democrat President that has been listening to Paul Volcker for economic advice.  Same players, same results.

Uh-Oh – Dems First to Use Targets as Political Map?

Democrats and liberal bloggers have used every second of air time possible to bemoan the use of violent imagery by Conservatives.  The most cited has been the SarahPAC cross-hair map that pointed out vulnerable Demcrats, but Sarah’s political action committee wasn’t the first to use this kind of imagery.  In 2004, the Democratic Leadership Council published an article that feature bull’s eye targets over vulnerable Republicans.

DLC.Org - Targetting Strategy Bulls Eye Map

Notice words like “Behind enemy lines”, Targeting strategy, ripe targets..

I don’t have any problem with this kind of illustrative language.  As the saying goes, those who live in glass houses, should not cast stones.

Progressives Politicize Tuscon Massacre to Strip Liberties

Progressives are pointing to Arizona and using it is an example as to why Americans have far too many liberties – we might just hurt ourselves.

A New York Times article demonstrates how the left is using the horrific tragedy in Arizona to push Progressive agenda items: gun control.

..[Arizona’s] gun laws are among the most lenient, allowing even a disturbed man like Mr. Loughner to buy a pistol and carry it concealed without a special permit.

Loughner was committed and delusional.  He was going to kill people even if he didn’t have a gun.  Since he seems to have committed himself to the act, regardless of the consequences, he may have just stolen a car or delivery truck and driven it through the crowd and right on top of Rep. Giffords, after having plowed through tens of people.  He could have made a bomb similar to that of  Timothy McVeigh’s using fertilizer and diesel fuel.  Jared Lee Could have killed just as many people so many different ways that no set of laws or regulations on the method were going to prevent it from happening.

Have no fear though, it is far beyond the ability of a true progressive to let any crisis go to waste.  Politico is reporting that Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) is getting a Federal gun and ammunition control bill ready for presentation to the house on Monday (emphasis mine).

Many said that people with a history of mental instability, like the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, should not be able to buy a gun — and no one should be able to buy stockpiles of ammunitionused by the 22-year-old assailant.

While crazy people with guns is certainly not desirable, the government is not going to be able to prevent these tragedies.  It never has been and never will be able to.  Even in complete police states, the evil-doers get guns and bombs and still kill huge numbers of innocent bystanders.

The Politico post continues with a total politicization of the event:

Another vocal supporter for gun control, Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, told POLITICO that he hopes “something good” can come from the Arizona tragedy – perhaps discussion on a new assault weapon ban, sales at gun shows and tracing measures

uh, Jared didn’t use an assault weapon – or will their be a new class of assault weapon? .. this is about Mr. Quigley’s agenda.

If attacking the second amendment wasn’t enough, Rep. Robert Brady is going after free speech.

Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Brady, a Democrat from Philadelphia, told CNN that he also plans to take legislative action. He will introduce a bill that would make it a crime for anyone to use language or symbols that could be seen as threatening or violent against a federal official, including a member of Congress.

I can’t wait to see the definition of “threatening”.

I hope this is taken the right way.  I in no way condone the horrific acts allegedly committed by Jared Lee Loughner.  I have the families of the deceased and injured in my thoughts and prayers, but this is not the time to push a progressive agenda.

Tuscon Massacre and The Delusional Left

Keith Olbermann, the Washington Post, Sheriff Dupnik and the rest of the radical left are once again wrong – borderline delusional in-fact.  Olbermann and WaPo blame “political rhetoric” for Jared’s lapse of sanity.  Sheriff Dupnik said that it was due to a bigotry and prejudice.  None of those could possibly be further from the truth.

Jared Loughner was, and probably still is, off his rocker.  He believed that the government was controlling people through grammar.  In all of his ramblings, there was no particular party that he attacked – no popular ideology that he seemed to back – just mind control, some anarchist ramblings and his ideas on currency.

Jared did seem concerned that the U.S. dollar was not backed by a precious metal.  Around that, some debate could be had.  He also was working to foster his own currency .. that’s where it goes from discussion to delusion.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s statements were more hurtful than helpful.

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” said the sheriff. “And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

This does not appear to be a hate crime or anything motivated by race or prejudice.  The only one talking as if this tragedy was racially or hate-motivated is Sheriff Dupnik.  Political aspirations there Dupester?

Of course, it wouldn’t be a liberal pile-on without The New York Times. With an editorial entitled “Bloodshed and Invective in Arizona”, the old grey lady is just what she used to be.

..it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats.

Apparently, the all-knowing editor doesn’t believe this “see how terrible the Conservatives are” speech is adding to the anger that he or she so much derides.  Where is the blame for those that “demonize” the wealthy, wall street bankers, the religious right, the anti-abortionists?  Why are those angry folks not to blame?  What about those that would force government-run health care, FCC take-over of the internet, or the destruction of California’s agricultural center down the throats of a disapproving majority?  They aren’t part of the anger?

The editorial is an example of the imaginary problem it purports to solve.  The anger from the right is a response to the oppressive “we know what’s better for you” attitude from the left.  It is the typical oppression vs. liberty struggle that has gone on far longer than the history of this nation, but that is not the real problem.

John M. Roll, Christina Taylor Green, Gabe Zimmerman, Phylis Schneck and Pamela Simon did not die because of Jared Lee Loughner’s alignment to or agreement with either progressive liberalism or Conservatism.  They were not attacked because of weak or strong borders, abortion, government spending nor military activity.  They died because a crazy man decided he was going to kill some people, damned the consequences.  Once someone is committed to doing something regardless of the consequences, laws cannot stop them.  Laws are about consequences – if you do a thing, here is the penalty.  If someone cares not about the penalty, the law is ineffective.  There are many things which the government cannot prevent – this was one of them.

No information has surfaced that says that Jared was an avid watcher/listener of Beck, Rush, O’Reilly, Levin or any other Conservative talk show.  Why does the Times editor make that accusation?  In fact, Jared seems to have been driven to this over his disdain for supposed government-run mind control using grammar as the method. That is hardly a tea party plank and I am fairly certain that neither Palin, Bush nor Sean Hannity have made that claim.  I am certain that any sane Conservative would dismiss that theory out-of-hand.

Blaming Conservatives for this tragedy is a despicable attempt by a few left-wingers to further their own causes.  If liberals need to know where to find fault, they can place the blame  squarely on the shoulders of Jared Lee Loughner.  He committed a terrible act and will face trail for it.  Blaming anything or anyone else is in itself .. a great delusion.