Tag Archives: government spending

Obama’s “BRAIN” Initiative

human brain_lightbulb

human brain_lightbulb Just this week, President Obama announced a major scientific initiative that would lead us into the next great frontier: The “BRAIN” Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). This initiative, the details of which are scarce and not yet fleshed out according to Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health, has a price tag of $100m. It’s being sold not just as an advancement in the fields of science and medicine, but one that will, you guessed it, stimulate the economy and create jobs.

One can only guess the true motivation behind the BRAIN initiative; in fact, heads of two leading neurological research organizations have called into question the goals and intentions underlying the President’s proposal.

Dr. Susan Fitzpatrick of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, a leading funding source for neuroscientific research, characterized her reaction to the announcement as one of “befuddlement,” largely because she’s “not quite sure what the initiative is.” Likewise, Dr. David Hovda of the Brain Injury Research Center at UCLA said, “This sounds more like a PR splash,” promising more than it will be able to deliver, than anything of real substance.

Perhaps the President has been somewhat inspired by the recent brain research coming out of The University of New Mexico, the findings of which were recently published by Dr. Kent Kiehl in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Some might see a loose connection between the UNM study and the fictional science in the major motion picture Minority Report.

While Dr. Kiehl’s findings don’t actually argue that we can accurately predict an individual’s predisposition to commit a specific crime (in a specific time and place, as the movie’s “pre-crime unit” suggests), his team of scientists has discovered a particular activity in the brain (impulsivity) that is directly correlated with recidivism rates. The findings indicate that criminals with low levels of impulsivity control are four times more likely to repeat offend and end up back in jail in as little as four months.

Dr. Kiehl suggests that this brain science could be used as part of a review or parole process when determining whether or not a convicted criminal is ready to re-enter society. There are clear ethical implications to this science, but it is possible that this administration is seeing some ways to connect the dots between some of its other, more nefarious initiatives (i.e., the drones program) and neuroscience.

Again, because the details of the proposal have not yet been released – and the current leaders in the neuroscience research fields haven’t been consulted on this initiative at all – one can only speculate on the objectives of the research. Left with no details on the proposal, and understanding that Congress will have to approve the funding before we can learn the details of the plan, skeptics of the President are likely to see this as yet another among many steps he’s taken to move us closer to the dystopian worlds of popular film and literature, where maybe the next “great” frontier will include Thought Police.

 

We Were Sequestered Before It Was Cool

Sequester pruningThe Ministry of Truth for the Obama administration has been experiencing some traction problems in the DC area. The scare stories regarding the collapse of the air travel system in the event of sequester are simply not motivating people in spite of the fact the Mainstream Media (MSM) has dutifully spread the word.

We are warned that in the event of sequester, massive TSA layoffs will result in airline passengers waiting up to three hours before they can be groped by a highly–trained government sex harasser. Slashing the budget by two cents on every dollar will also mean TSA guards won’t be changing rubber gloves between touchy–feely sessions.

Female passengers, who undergo nearly nude full–body scans, will be relieved to learn this drastic reduction torpedoes the ink budget. TSA can no longer afford to print particularly comely images for posting in the lunchroom. And since it’s too costly to store the pictures on government hard drives, TSA will ask remaining employees to work overtime and upload the images to their Facebook accounts for safekeeping.

According to the White House, you aren’t even safe on board the aircraft. Air traffic controllers will be awakened from their control tower naps and told to go sleep at home. The few remaining will be grumpy and sleepy, with a consequent slowdown in takeoffs and landings.

Assuming one gets in the air, passengers will be shocked to learn airlines will no longer offer free in–flight meals and instead expect passengers to pay handsomely for sandwiches wrapped and catered by 7/11. Wait, that’s already happened. Sorry, false alarm.

All in all it’s a horrible foretaste of privation and delay, yet not a single Republican Congressman is hanging from a lamppost. In fact there is so much indifference here that Obama has taken his nationwide Hyperventilation Tour on the road.

The reason for our calm in the face of the impending storm is that Metro, our local DC subway system, has essentially been sequestered for the past two years and life has continued. It’s more inconvenient, spontaneous and ad hoc — at least when it comes to arriving on time — but it is life.

I’ve long contended Metro is the only mass trans system run by an improv group, but now the passengers are joining in the fun. Take this week for instance: Tuesday morning on the Silver Line (this is DC, so everything has to do with money) crack Metro crews were testing equipment. As the WaPost reports, one of the brakes began to lock up. Like the spinster on the way to church who assumes a flat tire will heal itself, the crew continued operating the train trying to get off the track before rush hour or looming obsolescence caught up with them.

They didn’t make it. The wheel wore down to a nub, a pantoodler fell off and sliced through 60 cables and the system ground to a halt. The only thing left to do was call AAA and wait for the tow truck.

Metro officialdom predicted repairs would be complete by noon, but it took a total of nine hours. Metro sent alerts to passengers twice and then their thumbs got tired. So between 7 AM and 2 PM Metro passengers were on their own, which is a not uncommon condition. Then a train malfunctioned on the Yellow Line. There was a track problem on the Blue line. And another train shot craps on the Green Line.

And those are just the unplanned shutdowns.

The system regularly closes entire stations on the weekend and as a matter of fact the Reagan Airport station will be shut for three days beginning March 1st. (I guess they figured what with the sequester and all, no one will be flying anyway.)

Metro limits the number of trains on holidays and shuts escalators for months at a time forcing passengers to trudge upward toward daylight from the bowels of the system. Recently on a single day Metro passengers suffered seven electronic thefts and every last one of them was during daylight hours! Thieves evidently rest during the night so they can read the manuals and learn how to download apps.

The reason Metro ‘service’ is such a gamble is management didn’t bother with routine maintenance for the past 15 or so years. I’m guessing the thinking was: We’re the government, what could go wrong? So current passengers pay for the mistakes of past incompetent management, a situation young people are soon to encounter with regard to Social Security taxes.

Frankly, I’m hoping the full effect of the sequester hits when the majority of members of Congress are out of town. That way if they can’t get back, they can’t resume spending.

Obama’s SOTU: We Must, We Might, I Want

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“…and I want a fire truck, and a baseball glove, and a cowboy hat!”

So seemed to go President Obama’s State of the Union wish list. It sounded like Christmas with captive parents in the form of the Congress and a few Supreme Court Justices. Repeatedly, he went so far as to challenge Congress to pass bills, that he would immediately sign.

Interestingly, but hardly surprising to me, was the president’s line that the government should work for the many, not the few. It was almost a shame that an address which had at its beginning the admonition that Americans do not expect government to solve every problem, melted into such a typical democrat-soapbox scolding and special interest parade. And by the way, if the people on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Fox Business were not paying attention, the president has also declared the economic crisis to be “over”.

President Obama says he now wants “reasonable compromise” with Congress on bills and spending, and one wonders if he means an actual working together and arriving at a consensus, or more of the usual media-led narrative of Republican obstructionism and of the bogus narrative of Democrats trying their hardest to do the tough jobs. The president warned that “…sudden, harsh, and arbitrary cuts” would cost Americans jobs. Suddenly taking heavy-handed measures that seriously affect an economy, matter.

Speaking of affecting the economy in a heavy-handed way, the president also now wants to reform Obamacare, basing the changes on the Simpson-Bowles commission’s recommendations. The president would also like to reform the bloated tax code – not in any serious way, but to eliminate tax loop-holes (they’re simply costing the government too much money to continue to allow them). Closing his thoughts on the economy, the president says with a straight face that we cannot pass our current debt and deficit on to future generations.

We must rebuild the middle class as well. Predicating a rebuilt middle class, President Obama says, is ensuring people receive training so they can gain employment. This blogger is unsure how job training will create positions for middle class workers to fill, but that is in the presidential plan’s fine print, I am sure. The president’s emphasis on education will first be felt however, by ensuring that three and four-year old children have access to pre-schools. (Again, making something available, is far from making sure that children actually attend those pre-schools.)

Going forward in his wishlist, President Obama wants to see cars completely off oil for good. One would be tempted to ask, what kinds of cars would Americans drive then? With a power grid that is already taxed, and with EPA regulations closing coal-fired power plants, how would electric cars fill that gap? See, the president has thought that out as well, and he would like to see far more investment in alternative energy sources, like solar power and wind power. Along with those switches, he would like to see the power grid revamped to ensure better delivery and usage of electricity. (Who would necessarily pay for that? The president would probably say, “the power creating and distributing companies”. The power creating and distributing companies would, of course, turn and look at their customers…)

A problem that continues to hamper U.S. growth, is the aging infrastructure. The aforementioned power grid is old, and the roads and bridges are in need of new asphalt and paint. The president says CEOs would necessarily flock back to the United States if the country would only build them roads to haul their goods across, and high-speed rail to travel over. “If you build it, they will come” – yes, the president says as much. He would have us believe that jobs can develop as a by-product of paving roads and  creating high-speed rail routes.

To ensure fewer families have to struggle to meet their basic necessities, President Obama also would like to see the federal minimum wage increased. Without mentioning the effect of hurting first-time job seekers, and making minimum wage jobs even tougher to get, Obama paints a minimum wage increase as a help to all minimum wage workers.

Toward the end, the president finally mentions some of the less important things bothering Americans. First, he acknowledged a poor, 102 year old lady, who had to wait hours just to vote. There is no word on whether he has decided to invite discouraged voters in Philadelphia, intimidated by night-stick holding Black Panthers, to his next State of the Union Address to address their voting issues.
He also mentioned the unavoidable, and often seized-upon-by-the-left topic, gun violence in America. He made mention in glowing words of a gunned down young girl, from Chicago, killed only three weeks after having attended the presidential inauguration. Despite the murder of the young girl, being committed illegally, in a harsh gun-control city, Obama would like to see more laws on the books to further scare criminals into becoming law-abiding citizens…

So, to recap:

  • His presidency, marked by massive gifts to special interests, should work for everyone.
  • The most partisan administration ever wants “reasonable compromise”.
  • Obamacare, over-reaching and over-promising, needs revision before it is entirely in effect.
  • The middle class who cannot find jobs now, due to an anemic economy, need to be better trained. Then they will suddenly find jobs.
  • Oil, which has been for over 100 years the driver of the American economy, needs to be replaced. Ostensibly with something that is as cost-effective and energy rich as petroleum.
  • Road and rails will bring jobs. We need better roads and rails, and suddenly the jobs will begin flooding back into the United States from countries with potholes and uneven rails.
  • Finally, minimum wage needs raising. Why? Because the workers who make it already are not being challenged enough by the Obama economy, and need another ball to juggle.

You will pardon me if I scoff at the entirety of the State of the Union address, and at the president’s continuing naivete on anything economic. He shows once again, that he is a great theorist and philosopher, but where the electric-powered rubber meets the newly-paved road – he has not moved an inch where he started, four years ago.

The entire State of the Union address can be found here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/02/12/president-barack-obamas-state-union-address

It’s the Spending, Stupid

deficit

Barack Obama, who seemingly has remained in campaign mode since first entering public life, continues to insist House Republicans obey his command to hike tax rates on upper income earners.  If Republicans do note cede to his demands, Obama is willing to let everyone’s taxes go up and to cut one trillion dollars from the budget, a disproportionate amount of which will come from defense.

Were Obama sincerely interested in solving America’s fiscal dilemma, this would not be his stance.

He continues to make campaign appearances claiming that these higher tax rates are needed to lower the U.S. deficit and cut the national debt.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The amount of revenue collected by the IRS as a result of such a tax rate increase would fund U.S. federal spending for less than nine days.

According to the latest data from the Congressional Budget Office, at current spending levels the federal government is borrowing forty six cents of every dollar it spends.  Through the first two months of fiscal year 2013 the government is already almost $300 billion in debt.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/7/government-borrows-46-cents-every-dollar-it-spends/print/

Medicare, Social Security and interest on the debt are the biggest drivers of the debt.  The true costs of Obamacare have yet to be revealed, but given the U.S. federal government’s track record it is safe to predict that it will be far more expensive than projected and finish in the red every year.

Collecting eight days’ worth of spending from upper level incomes will do nothing to affect the level of spending on any of these programs.

Additionally, Obama willfully ignores that at current tax rates, revenues are up by thirty billion dollars over last year.

Obama, his “progressive” political allies and the obedient lapdogs within the “progressive” Party Pravda continue to foster the notion that raising tax rates on the highest income earners, those who already pay forty percent of all income tax revenue, will be a panacea, the magical elixir needed to solve America’s fiscal woes.

They also continue to lay the blame for today’s deficits on former President George W. Bush.  Bush’s highest deficit was $438 billion during his last year in office.  Obama’s government is poised to post another $1 trillion deficit, which will mark the fifth straight year of $1 trillion or more deficits.

America’s current financial predicament is the result of wasteful “progressive” spending on big government socialist programs.

That is the reason.

America’s debt and deficit dilemmas can only be solved through reduced spending.  If and when the United States falls off a fiscal cliff or receives another credit downgrade, it will be because of “progressives”, not Conservatives.

The conversation should be about how to cut spending, not about how to increase taxes.

Political Party or media employer notwithstanding, anyone who says differently is being intellectually dishonest.

http://mjfellright.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/its-the-spending-stupid/

Join the Revolution

Social Security: Issuing Checks & Hollow–Points

Social Security, US Marshals Service, hollow-point bullet, real estate, government spending, Infowars.com

Social Security, US Marshals Service, hollow-point bullet, real estate, government spending, Infowars.com

Some of the more excitable members of the conservative Internet commentariat sounded battle stations when they learned the Social Security Administration (SSA) wanted to buy 174,000 hollow–point bullets.

Had granny decided she was not going passively the next time Paul Ryan tried to shove her off a cliff? Were irate seniors busy sharpening the legs on their walkers in preparation for the coming conflict over paying for Social Security?

The Infowars.com website speculated, “It’s not outlandish to suggest that the Social Security Administration is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest.” And the Daily Caller added the rounds have to be intended for domestic use, “since the SSA has never been used overseas to help foreign countries maintain control of their citizens.”

Which only makes sense when one considers how few foreigners are Social Security recipients, to say nothing of the lack of overseas Social Security offices.

Seeking to allay our fears, the SSA explained the ammunition was for the use of agents in the office of the inspector general that investigate Social Security fraud and other crimes.

That answered the “whom” but failed to address the “why.” The previously alarmed still wanted to know why the SSA was ordering hollow–points, which are bullets designed to expand upon contact with the human body, consequently doing more damage to the target.

The answer was for safety reasons — the bystander’s, not the target’s. As a hollow–point expands it loses velocity, so those rounds tend to remain inside the target. Military, or full–metal jacket rounds, don’t expand as much and consequently a military round is liable to pass through the target’s body and bury itself in a bystander.

For conservatives this firepower controversy is only a distraction. The real issue at hand is why does the SSA have a police force in the first place?

Bureaucrats have an answer already prepared. These agents “need to be armed and trained appropriately. They not only investigate allegations of Social Security fraud, but they also are called to respond to threats against Social Security offices, employees, and customers,” explained an official web post.

But lets look at the numbers. There are 295 agents working in 66 different offices that made a grand total of 589 arrests last year according to the WaPost.

It works out to less than two arrests per year, per agent. That’s hardly a punishing level of enforcement and it compares poorly with the nationwide average of 21 arrests per year for police officers. And it certainly does not justify the cost of duplicating existing federal law enforcement capability.

A better question is why does the SSA have it’s own police force when the U.S. Marshals Service is fully capable of making the SSA’s paltry 589 arrests?

This is why the US has a trillion dollar debt, a bloated, mismanaged government and conservatives who despair of ever reducing its size.  Empire–building bureaucrats duplicate services and programs and a compliant Congress sends us the bill.

Besides it’s just possible that if the Marshals Service had a few more warrants to serve they would occupy themselves with productive endeavors and not have time to cost victims money in the real estate market, as events in Manassas, VA demonstrate. There the service has just presided over the second auction of the old Post Office building that was seized as part of the assets in a fraud case.

Proceeds from the sale of the building are to go to victims who lost money. The first auction was held in April and attracted a bid of $385,000 that was accepted by the auctioneer. Anyone who has ever placed a bid for stolen electronics on eBay knows that means the bidder now owns the Post Office! Except the normal rules of the marketplace don’t apply to the government, which neither understands nor encourages a truly free market.

The feds make their own rules.

So the Marshals Service rejected the winning bid, because explained the spokesperson, “We felt it was too low.” Any real estate agent worth his photo featuring calling cards will tell you a property is worth what someone will pay for it, not what some bureaucrat thinks looks better in the news release announcing the distribution of the money.

The bidders, bless their hearts, increased their offer to $400,000, a sum that was also rejected. And there the situation stood until last month when another auction was held and guess what? This time the winning bid was $355,000.

Assuming this bid is accepted, the Marshals Service’s marketplace ignorance will have only cost the intended recipients of the proceeds $45,000. Unless the Marshals Service intends to hold out for an even lower bid.

But this mistake is consequence–free for the Marshals, just as building an unnecessary police force only enhances the organization chart at the SSA. In the first instance it only costs taxpayers and in the second only tax dollars. And what bureaucrat cares about either?

In God America Must Trust

Once upon a time, in what now seems like a far-distant land, a young President inspired America with the words: “Ask not, what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Today, despite the fact that their country is rapidly approaching $16 trillion in debt, there are millions of Americans wondering when they are going to get “their fair share” of what their country “owes them”.  Thanks to continued distortion and misrepresentation of the facts by those in whom they have misplaced their trust, these Americans are clueless to the reality that the “hope and change” they were promised will never materialize, never come to fruition.

Not one single time in the history of human civilization has a nation taxed and spent its way into prosperity.  That today so many Americans continue to believe they are “entitled” to “their fair share of free stuff” proves that P.T. Barnum was right many times over.

Americans have watched a “progressive” big government take over the banking industry, use taxpayer funds to purchase auto companies, seize control of the healthcare system, waste hundreds and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on failed “green energy” “investments”  and usurp the student loan process.  While this was taking place, the nation plunged deeper into debt, had its credit rating downgraded, suffered continued job losses, experienced stubbornly high unemployment, stagnant economic growth, higher food prices, rising energy costs, the abandonment of border security, a reduction in national security and growing disrespect for America on the international stage.

How did America get from where it was in 1960 to where it is now?

America’s Founding Fathers have been discredited and disrespected, its Constitution has been assaulted and ignored, and most importantly; reverence and respect for God is no longer viewed as a national necessity.

America is the land of Liberty, E Pluribus Unum and In God We Trust.  If Americans are to continue to hold the truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, Americans must return to reliance upon their Creator.  America must restore being one nation, under God.

Americans need to overcome the wrongheaded notion that “progressive” big government will endow them with anything but a future of slavery to a tyrannical State.

America’s Founding Fathers fought a war for freedom from this form of slavery.  They risked everything that they had.  They risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  And while doing so, they established the idea that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

That is not freedom from religion.  That is freedom of religion.  It states that America will never be a theocracy.

George Washington, historically remembered as the father of his country said: “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

We know the names and faces of the famous Founders.  But many anonymous Patriot souls died in that fight against tyranny so that future generations could enjoy the fruits of their struggle. 

A new generation of Americans must now declare to themselves, their fellow Americans and to the world that they would rather die free than live as a slave to “progressive” big government.   That they will exercise their right to worship as they see fit, and defend the right of every other American to do likewise.

Another inspiring President once said: “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.  We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.  If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”

http://mjfellright.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/in-god-america-must-trust/

Time to deal with the elephants in the room

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The two Presidential candidates refuse to acknowledge the “elephant in the room” and prefer to deal with issues only after it deteriorates into a national crisis. Unfortunately there is not one, but a half dozen elephants in the room and American voters will no longer allow our politicians to ignore them as they pander for their votes. This Presidential election is the perfect time to deal with these issues with commitments to finally address these major, long term problems. The candidate who demonstrates the best understanding of the issues and offers reasoned ideas will earn the voter’s support.

Out-of-control government spending is the biggest elephant rampaging through the room. The annual deficits have set new records and the national debt has grown astronomically. Continuing resolution debates and extending the spending limits only delay any real long term solution. The first candidate to propose a bipartisan commission to develop a plan by yearend 2012 to achieve a balanced budget in the near term would demonstrate political leadership and earn voter respect.

Our tax code is the big ugly elephant that tramples others in its wake. Out tax code is so large and so complex that billions are wasted just trying to comply and limit our tax liability. Now the IRS has been expanded to enforce new health care compliance. The first candidate to vow that they would simplify and reform the tax code by yearend 2012 would earn voter accolades for finally addressing this long term problem. A key requirement for this bipartisan solution would be to consider all alternatives including completely replacing the existing income taxes with a flat consumption or value-added tax.

Our health care system was the best in the world, but costs have been rising at an unsustainable rate. Medicare routinely spends more than it collects. Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal and state governments, but lack of continued federal subsidies have threatened state budgets with bankruptcy. Despite public resistance, ObamaCare was introduced to use central management of health insurance to coerce this industry to hold down costs. Once passed, ObamaCare benefits were found to be over-promised and costs under-estimated causing a further drain on the over-burdened federal budget. Repealing ObamaCare as Romney suggests will not fix all of the problems. Whichever candidate promises a bipartisan commission to address the root causes and develop a long term sustainable plan for health care would demonstrate understanding of the scope of the problem and a vision for a long term sustainable solution.

The issue of immigration has only gotten worse over the last 40 years. Comprehensive immigration reform was last attempted in 1986 with amnesty offered for illegal immigrants, but borders were not effectively closed, legal sanctions were not uniformly enforced, and immigration gradually increased. Illegal immigrants are over-whelming our entry level job market, our health care systems, our education systems, and our welfare systems. Offering amnesty to millions of illegal aliens only makes these systems worse, since it does not discourage further illegal immigration. The first candidate who commits to addressing these underlying problems by yearend 2012 with a bipartisan plan would earn the gratitude and probably the vote of concerned Americans.

Social Security is the oldest entitlement and the one that has recently begun outspending its funding. Most people alive today have paid into the Social Security system their whole lives, and look to this program to provide income in their retirement years. The pay-as-you-go (Ponzi-like) funding model depends on new workers paying the benefits for the retirees, but demographics has undermined this model’s sustainability. The first candidate who promises to develop a bipartisan plan to put Social Security on a sustainable basis long term will please seniors today and younger voters who doubt this system’s viability long term. This solution must look at short term changes to fix the funding problem, but also evaluate long term solutions to return to the original personal accounts as originally conceived in 1935.

National Defense is perhaps the most important elephant in the room because defense is an explicit responsibility of the federal government in the Constitution. Providing for common defense has been termed “discretionary” with affordability driving funding levels. National security is an extension of foreign policy and the first candidate who demonstrates they understands that the security of the country and its national interests drive the size of the defense spending, not what can we afford. This recognition of this critical mission will earn the nation’s trust and vote as commander-in-chief.
These six elephants have been treated like untouchable issues and ignored, avoided because they are so large and so complex and there is no easy solution. Commitment to seek bipartisan work to agree on the problems to be solved, understand the root causes of those problems, and design solutions to address the issues both in the short term and in the long term. Key design factors will be preserving what is good in the current systems while delivering the desired improvements and functionality at an affordable cost.

This is a Presidential election year. The choice should not be “Anybody But Obama” vs. the “Anti-Romney.” The time for speeches is past. The time for real pragmatic solutions is now. Voters yearn for leadership in this uncertain time. The first candidate to display the vision how they will address these key issues will earn the voter’s trust and the electoral victory.