"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt," Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 27,2010


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spend, Baby Spend

A few weeks ago, TheFundamentals wrote an essay entitled, “The Debt Report.” It was posted on June 9, 2010 and included an active link to the key document that was the basis for the essay. We repeat the link here:

http://camp.house.gov/webreturn/?url=http://republicans.waysandmeans.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Debt_letter_to_Camp.pdf

The Debt Report was issued by the Department of the Treasury and it is actually done because it is required by US law. At TheFundamentals we would liken this report to any one of several important historical documents that have generally been ignored by politicians, bureaucrats and much of the public until it is too late. We don’t know why people behave that way. Why do people who know that something is wrong; something needs to be corrected; actually even get reports and essays describing the problem and outlining remedial action, still not do anything about it? We don’t know. We do know that history is replete with ignored warnings and postponed corrective action. We also know that individual humans can do the same thing. We let our weight rise or we drink too much and we know there are warning signs and we do nothing. Or, we detect some change in our body and we don’t have it checked out. Or we just don’t feel quite up to our regular selves but we adjust and make do and live with it. It goes on in mundane ways and serious ways. We ignore the warning signs of a troubled child or coworker or friend. We know that something in our home needs maintenance and we let it go. The tires on our car have little tread left; we keep on driving.

There are more serious situations. The debt of this country is at the level of the GDP of the country. This is a warning sign. If that level rises much more there can be “dire consequences.” We apparently don’t think there will be any or we just hope there won’t be any or we don’t care. Best to wait and see what happens. No one has the interest, the will, the discipline to take preemptive action. No one knows how to do anything. To balance the budget; to pay down some of the debt.

The source of the rising debt is a voracious appetite for government spending. You name it; the government of the United States is somewhere, somehow and, most likely, for some time, been spending money on “it.” “It” could be almost anything. We would like to say that “it” was well intentioned and for a good purpose or reason but, at this time, after all this spending and debt accumulation and so little to show for “it”, it is pretty difficult to muster the enthusiasm to describe borrowing and spending for the sake of good intentions to have much of a serious motivation or purpose. Our public revenues are inadequate because we don’t follow our “spend, baby spend” policies with “tax, baby tax” funding. Instead, we “borrow, baby borrow” and we need to borrow from outside our country to meet this “spend, baby spend” mission we are on. That combination is destined for trouble. The early troubles are already upon us; the real troubles are about to be.

America’s previous four congresses – the 107th – 110th oversaw the largest growth in debt in the history of the land. The debt increases dwarfed the levels reached during WW II which were pretty terrific debt increases. What did we get for the debt increases of the years 2000 – 2008? Well, we got a meandering stock market so it wasn’t much impressed. We got a lot of military activity in the Middle Eastern Muslim countries which continues to this day. We got social security increases and lots of government programs and record levels of government employment and the highest per capita costs for health care anywhere in the galaxy. At least the part of the galaxy we can observe. Is it worth it? Is it worth losing everything so that we can “spend, baby spend”?

We now have a new president and his answer to that question is a clear and emphatic, YES. He not only thinks we should “spend, baby spend”, he thinks everyone should “spend, baby spend”. He had the audacity to write a letter to the top 19 economic countries in the world prior to meeting with them over the past weekend and tell them exactly that – “spend, baby spend”. Keep on truckin’. We see the Promised Land. Hallelujah. Not many of the 19 are much impressed with this “spend, baby spend” fellow of ours.

His congress, dominated by very patient “spend, baby spend” experts; the current congress; the 111th congress, which ends late this year or early next year, has spent more money in their not quite two years in power than any congress in the history of the galaxy as defined above. What did we get for that? Well, wars in the Muslim countries, lots of government employees earning substantially more than private sector employees and a crappy stock market, no interest earnings on our CD’s and money market accounts and big funding for the Transportation Security Administration to examine your private parts as you go to visit Grandma. Oh, we also have more lawyers per capita than anywhere else.  Now this is progress we can measure.

To be fair, we are getting many other goodies. We are well liked around the globe now because we are treating the world with respect and we have a really good plans for our Muslim country adventures and a lot more people are about to get health insurance but your taxes may go up but, so what, we are no longer on the path of destruction that the congress and past president led us on for the prior eight years. You are getting a lot of jobs according to the president and exports are going to double in five years and we are going to deal with deficits soon. That’s what the "spend, baby spend" experts are saying so it must be true.

But, somewhere in the back of the brain there is this feeling that it is kinda like driving that car with bald tires, no oil change for 7800 miles and a squeaking fan belt under the hood. Drive, baby drive. Us fundamentals folk call this, “Whistlin’ past the graveyard.”

One more time. Here is the link to the debt report. Just in case you’re interested:

http://camp.house.gov/webreturn/?url=http://republicans.waysandmeans.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Debt_letter_to_Camp.pdf

It may be of interest to some of you that we are unable to locate this report on the Treasury Department’s website. We’ve picked it up from Congressman Camp’s website. It may be at Treasury’s but a search by its title does not locate it. Why would they not put this report on the front page, the home page, of the website? Next time you attend a meeting with one of your elected officials, and assuming you have read the report, ask the official a question or two about the numbers in the report. Gee, maybe PBS will even do some reports on it. After all, they only get about $400 million in federal funding plus another big chunk from the states.

What does it all mean? “Delusion, baby delusion!”

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rodney Dangerfield in Toronto

There are no easy ways. No free lunches. No genies ready to pop out of a lamp and grant three wishes. And, no easy way to economic growth and job creation other than constant, dependable support for wealth creation and competition. The enemies of economic growth and job creation are the bureaucrats and protected classes and special interests that burden wealth creation and economic growth. That is our message. The research we do and the essays we write are to document and educate as many voters as possible about these simple truths.

Frequently we find that political leaders do not realize that when they say one thing one day and another thing another day that they are contradicting themselves. Others pick up on these inconsistencies. This is a fundamental failing that seems to be genetically embedded in many politicians. It is indicative of neither having any foundation in basic principles and beliefs nor of understanding the connectivity, the cause and effect, between certain actions and certain results.

Mr. Obama was quite the critic of GWBush and picked up on others in his party who claimed that his predecessor lacked the respect of world leaders. They said Bush II was viewed as a cowboy. Too much with the mouth; not enough with the strategy. Obama may be discovering that it may be better to be viewed as a cowboy than a Rodney Dangerfield imitator.

Obama recently sent a letter (June 16, 2010) to the heads of the so called G-20 nations – the top 20 economic powers in the world. This group meets from time to time, is scheduled to meet this weekend in Toronto, and tries to agree on some financial principles; some fundamentals. Obama’s letter is available for your reading at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/president_obama_letter_to_g-20_061610.pdf  There is not much new in the letter but it does reiterate Obama’s gospel to use public monies to keep the claimed recovery going. Bizarre preaching as an increasing number of larger countries are bumping up against their debt servicing levels. Bizarre preaching as debt builds at home and no real recovery is in sight. These times call for sacrifice and frugality. Instead we are getting the advice and strategies of a community organizer. A man who preaches how to work the system; how to get the system to meet your needs. Not how to fix the system. You see, to get respect you must lead; not jack the system.

As you read on in his letter you will also read where he takes to task those countries “with heavy reliance on exports….with already large external surpluses.” Now this is classic Obama getting caught up in his underwear. This statement is going to be viewed as immature and naïve by any export generating power house such as Germany. But it also is completely contradictory with Obama’s own “double US exports in the next five years” commission. Did he forget about that commission and its objectives? Or, as is more likely, did he just create the commission, as TheFundamentals suggested in its essay on March 16, 2010, as pablum nonsense in case someone, someday asks him what he is REALLY doing to support economic growth and jobs creation. Because, if he is asked, there is only one real answer – NOTHING. He has not done one substantive thing; not taken one substantive action to reduce government burden; ease bureaucratic involvement in the wealth creation process; restrict the power and cost of unions in private and public commerce and activities; and reduce taxes, borrowing, debt and their burdens.

His 19 buddies at the G -20 know it. TheFundamentals knows it. Now you know it. Tough to respect someone at this level of silly preaching and inconsistent messaging.

Rodney Dangerfield (1921 – 2004) was good at what he did. We mean no disrespect to him in this essay.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Awareness is Rising

What awareness are we talking about?  Here is what we are talking about:

• Government does not create jobs.

• Too many people do not work in real jobs; they expect others to pay their way

• Public employee unions do not support services provided to the public.

• Teachers unions are not about improving the quality of classroom performance and results

• Government bureaucracies do not promote economic growth

• Lawyers may be needed but they need to be regulated; not writing the regulations

• The way to create jobs is to support wealth creation; not burden it

• Burdens on economic growth and job creation have driven industry and jobs overseas

• Politicians are not public servants; they are self servants

• Lobbyists and lawyers represent their own interests while writing the laws

• Protected classes of people ultimately live for their protections

• Special interest groups are a cancer on wealth creation and economic growth

• Bureaucrats do not take responsibility; they impose it on others

As awareness rises, it becomes obvious that what we’ve been told is the problem is not the problem. It is like solving a crime. Don't listen to the suspects.  Many times the best way to solve a crime is to follow the money trail. We are learning that this same basic concept, this fundamental of following the money trail, also applies to seeking answers to the problems of our country. And so, now, we are beginning to become aware that:

• Government is the problem; not the solution

• Therefore, it is time to stop asking government to solve problems

• Each time government moves to solve a problem the problem gets worse

• Politicians must be controlled and the principal control on them is term limits

• Bureaucrats will spend endlessly; will not quit; cannot be fired and will not be measured

• Therefore, government activities must be finite. They must have an ending date

• Balanced budgets cannot be an option; they must be a requirement

• Government employees cannot be unionized. They and their jobs must be subject to termination

• Every generation is entitled to a clean debt slate

• Debts must be paid down; not rolled over

• Basic wealth creating activities must be promoted in order to attain economic growth

• Economic growth is the source, the only source, of job growth

• Taxes, Laws, Bureaucrats, Lawyers, Rules, Unions, Protected Classes and Special Interests burden economic growth

• Burdened economic growth stops jobs creation

Awareness is rising. Almost everywhere. Regular Americans are understanding the problem. Where is awareness not rising? Not rising in Washington DC. Not rising in places like Albany, NY, Sacramento, CA and Springfield, IL. Not rising in places like SEIU, AFSCME, NEA and AFT. Big time, not rising in the pharmaceutical industry. Not a clue at the American Bar Association and the Trial Lawyers Association. They don’t even get that there is a problem. Big time not rising at the American Medical Association. Nary a clue showing up at America’s colleges and universities. When will they start to develop some awareness? Here’s a simple clue to answering that question. Follow the money. Just start cutting it back. Or, even better, let’s eliminate large portions of their funding and protection. Awareness will follow the money. Stop the money. What will happen? Howling and yelping will rise; problems will decline.

Monday, June 21, 2010

White Man Speak with Forked Tongue

Washington DC. Home of Alan Greenspan, the Maestro, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the man who never said clearly what could be conjugated with obfuscation. Enter this great American with the following observation: Dire consequences if we keep building debt. Huh? Wha…? This cannot be. The man who oversaw the largest buildup of debt in the history of the nation with a dearth of concern then is now warning that the continuation of this recklessness with lead to “dire consequences”? Wait a minute folks. This is like:

• Ted Kennedy, God rest his soul, leading a forum on responsible behavior following heavy drinking in an island setting

• Bill Clinton spending a few minutes on the topic of proper behavior and decorum with the families of incoming white house interns

• O J Simpson on the value of maintaining good lines of communication in a loving relationship

• Any Hollywood trollop on hard work as the route to success

• Elliot Spitzer on how to learn new ways to keep excitement in the marital bedroom

• Barney Frank on speaking frankly, openly and honestly about the long term benefits of fiscal responsibility

• Bernie Madoff being named trustee of the Firemen’s Widows and Orphans Fund

• Jenny Sanford discussing post divorce techniques to build the self esteem of the father of your children

• Oh well, you get the idea.

We normally give a source for our references but we have not read the entire article because the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) which printed this Greenspan crap wants us to pay to read it. Think about that. You can pay over and over for this crap. First you pay for the salaries of the bureaucrats when they are supposedly working for you and then, when you are paying for their pensions, you can also pay to read the drivel they write. Ain't America great…for some? And for several obvious reasons we just can’t quite grasp the concept of paying to read the ramblings of an old man whose fingerprints are all over the mess we are in now tell us about the “dire consequences” if we continue to build on top of the mess that occurred on his watch. Here are some facts Alan may have overlooked in his WSJ nonsense:

August 11, 1987 Alan Greenspan becomes Chairman of the Federal Reserve System. Total US debt - $2.3 trillion. On January 31, 2006, Alan Greenspan retires from that position. Total US debt - $8.2 trillion. The difference is $5.9 trillion. The debt more than tripled on Alan’s watch. Here are the objectives of the Federal Reserve System from their own tongue:

“Today, the Federal Reserve’s duties fall into four general areas:

• conducting the nation’s monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates

• supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation’s banking and financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers

• maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets

• providing financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions, including playing a major role in operating the nation’s payments system”

Why does TheFundamentals place so much responsibility for the debt mess we are in on bureaucrats like Greenspan and bureaucracies like the Federal Reserve? It is because America’s political leaders are bereft of fiscal responsibility in this era of protected classes and special interest groups. They pander to them. The best we can hope for is term limits on all politicians and strict budgetary control over bureaucrats and bureaucracies and the chairman of the Federal Reserve System should lead the latter cause at all times in order to fulfill his job responsibilities. Greenspan failed miserably at this responsibility and his protégé, Ben Bernanke, has been even worse. The debt is now $13.0 trillion, an increase of $4.8 trillion since Alan retired and Ben took over. Shameful is an inadequate description of their stewardship.

What is their defense? Not my job. Spending (fiscal policy) is the job of congress. Wrong answer. If your job involves the objectives you state above and you can’t do your job with a fiscally promiscuous congress and president it is your job to so state and either stand up for change or quit. The destruction of America by debt is well underway. It is not Islamic terrorism or communism or megalomaniacal dictators that are the principal national security threat to this country of ours. It is our fiscal promiscuity and it is about time that we find a leader or two who will speak the truth about this deadly addiction of ours.

White men seeking fortune and power, while speaking with forked tongues, doomed the Western Hemisphere’s native inhabitants. Five hundred years later, with much focus on the most recent 30 years, their heirs and successors, with similar motivations, continue the same mission.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stretched Way Too Thin

America’s reach is now extended way beyond its grasp. Its ability to deal with what it reaches/grasps is now exceeded and, in several cases, extended way beyond its capabilities and resources. This situation will produce more and more failures and unintended consequences.

To wit:

Immigration. Blame what/whom and why as you please. America has massive unemployment – almost 10% of its citizen labor force and massive underemployment – almost 8% of its citizen labor force. Included in the combined 18% are large numbers of urban youth. And yet, with that un and under employment reality, America is inundated with undocumented persons, many of whom enter from Mexico. And the principal argument offered by those who seek a “comprehensive” immigration solution is that they came here for work. Well, so what? We don’t need them. We have many unemployed citizens. And, no, we just can’t keep taking care of anyone who seeks a better life in America. We are stretched way beyond our capabilities in employment, education, health care and law enforcement. It is time to send the non citizens home and time to stop the citizen unemployment benefits and time to get citizens working and paying income taxes.

Military. Which other country has tens of thousands of its military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, Japan and Korea. Hundreds of thousands in total. Each of these deployments requires thousands of support personnel, support activities, equipment and health care and overhead. Lots of money. There is no single cause in history that destroys empires and countries quite like the cost of wars and the cost of military adventures. America is stretched beyond our military capability; way beyond the support of the American citizenry and way beyond our financial capability to support these deployments.

Law, Rules and Litigation. America now protects millions of its citizens with lengthy laws and bureaucratic rules all providing for some form of penalty via either bureaucracy or court action. In many cases there is no recourse. The cost to fight is simply too high. The hidden cost of all these protective activities is immeasurable except by one simple fact – the rapid and almost complete decline in manufacturing employment in the country. Just look at the source of most products which you purchase. Be it furniture, electronics, tools, automobiles, clothing and food. If it can be made elsewhere, it is. America has stretched its desire to legislate something for everyone with a particular concern for special interest groups and, in the process, has disregarded its wealth creation ethos, its economic growth need and the plain requirement that we must compete. Without wealth creation, without economic growth, without competition, the job machine breaks down. It has broken down. We have stretched burdens on growth and job creation to a higher level than the simple societal need for jobs and growth. It is absolutely crazy to behave this way.

Taxes, Government Costs and Debts.  Taxpaying citizens cannot afford the taxes that the taxpayers among them are paying. Mostly this is because almost 50% of the population does not pay income taxes. So, the burden falls on a decreasing portion of the employed population. Tax revenues have fallen through the floor. And government's answer – spend more. Consequently, deficits have reached unheard of levels. Debt is now thirteen trillion dollars. The current administration projects it to reach 20 trillion dollars in several years. Debt will end it all. Everyone knows that when any entity - a person, a household, a business, a government becomes so stretched with debt that it will fail. It will not be able to meet its obligations. It becomes subservient to its creditors. It will become insolvent and it will fail. The casual answer being provided by some opinion makers that the US can print currency is nonsense. Without an economic event, rising currency in circulation will destroy the nation.

Reliance on government. Who ever conceived the idea that government was an answer to any problem? It does not matter to which issue/problem/concern that one may address – failed urban public schools; out of control borders and undocumented people within the borders; 23 million government employees in our towns, counties, cities, states and nation; legislation that is incomprehensible to the legislators because of its length and complexity and now, environmental disasters within our pristine natural resources because of businesses stretched way beyond their technical knowledge and no regulatory authority with any knowledge of what they are doing. In each case, the fingerprints of government are either completely or significantly involved in the creation of these issues/problems/concerns. Government can create the problem but they cannot solve the problem.  They are the problem; not the solution.

Boasting, arrogance and chutzpah. There is one sure way to get a read on where you really are and that is to see yourself through the eyes of others. Only problem is that those who need this skill seldom develop it. America finds itself with high profile diplomats and government agents operating in every country that will issue documents or accept our largesse. We always show up with an agenda and a checkbook. Without the latter you can forget the former. If you have to pay for your friends support, don’t read too much into the process. It would be a far better thing for America to retrench its activities and only consider entanglements when there is no reasonable strategic and tactful alternative and the invitation is unforced. If that means some unattractive situations so be it. In case you haven’t noticed some situations do resolve themselves without our involvement.

America is simply stretched way too thin.  We really have no one to blame but ourselves.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Big Bluff

In poker, a player will do his/her best to observe certain occurrences on the part of their playing opponents to determine if that opponent unconsciously or subconsciously signals some indicator about their hand. For example, one might observe that a player makes a certain body movement or touches a particular part of their face or makes a facial expression that is consistently coincident with either a strong, weak or neutral hand. These moves are described as “tells’ meaning simply that the move or action tells something about the players hand that cannot otherwise be determined. Of course, the wily player might actually fake some tells to set up their opponent to expect something that is not there when the size of the pot and the strength of the hand is in their favor. We, of course, are dealing in the world of politicians, bureaucrats and folk with a great propensity toward fiscal promiscuity. Consequently we don’t have to worry about excessive wiliness.

Bush II inherited an economic slowdown and a lackadaisical approach to dealing with muslamic terrorist threats from the Clinton administration. He never said a word about inheriting either. He dealt with the hand he was dealt. In the former case, he cut taxes and didn’t cut spending. Result: massive deficits and record debt run up. In the latter case, he invaded Iraq and Afghanistan endearing himself to the military/industrial complex and spent hundreds of billions of more dollars that the country did not have producing pretty good temporary economic results and spectacular, not so temporary, record debt levels that continue to rise as you read this essay. Like it or not it is what it was. Huge government spending; huge deficits; very low interest rates to fund a record setting bubble in housing prices; huge debt and some temporary good economic results but it could not last; it did not last; and it all came tumbling down shortly before his successor took office.

Which leads us to Obama. Almost 17 months in office now. Pretty early to really tell just how much of a mess he will end up leaving his successor but it is not looking good and it could well be the mother of all inheritances. Two major differences so far between Obama and Bush II. One, Obama and his gang cannot blame Bush II enough for the mess they inherited. We will come back to that message in a minute and what they are saying to us each time they play the blame game. Two, they are not cutting taxes; they are just spending at triple the debt producing pace of Bush II even though revenues are way down. Bush II averaged $50 billion in increased debt per month during his 96 months in office. In the sixteen full months Obama has been in office, the debt has increased at the rate of $150 billion per month! Not good. But what the heck, they’re Keynesians.

Now, back to Obama blaming Bush which Bush did not do to Clinton. What is the significance of a leader and his sycophantic minions who constantly blame the other guy for the mess they’re in? What can we conclude from this action? What does this move “tell” us? Well, it “tells” us they do not have a strong hand. It “tells” us that they are bluffing; they are faking; they are hoping that no one catches on and no one calls them on their hand. It “tells” us a lot about them and their skill and their understanding of the game they are involved in. It “tells” us they are amateurs and that they are pretending they can pull it off. They need a reminder that they are in a game with some very wily players. Watch out.

How much do you want to bet on this gang? Before you answer, know this. You’ve already got a lot of money in the pot. Do you want to protect it and try to pull it off? Or is it time to fold and go back to TheFundamentals? Live within your means. Pay off your debt. Save some for a rainy day.  Think about it.  You get to vote your answer on Novermber 2, 2010.  In the meantime, the young president wants to put $50 billion more of your money in the pot to keep record levels of government employees employed.  Might be a good time to let your congress person know that we need to sit out this hand.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Debt Report

If you read nothing else this year, please read this report. It is available at:

http://camp.house.gov/webreturn/?url=http://republicans.waysandmeans.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Debt_letter_to_Camp.pdf

The US Department of Treasury is obligated by law to issue a debt report annually. The law reference is: 31 USC §3130. Here are highlights (frankly, there are no highlights in this report; the information contained within the report can only be described as “DEVASTATING”) provided by TheFundamentals (comments and emphasis are our own):

• Fiscal year 2009 (concluded 9/30/2009) debt increase was a record $1.4 trillion or $1,400,000,000,000.00! Never in the history of the world was so much borrowed by one country in a 365 day period.

• Government receipts fell 16.6% during the same year while their expenditures rose 17.9%!

• US net public debt rose to 49.0% of GDP in 1993 and then declined to 32.2% in 2001 (good news.) From that recent low it has risen to 52.9% (bad news) in 2009 and is projected to rise further to 73.1% (really bad news) by 2015!

• The interest cost of the actual net public debt in 2009 was $201.5 billion. That annual interest cost is estimated to rise to $653.6 billion in 2015 – more than TRIPLE in six years!!!

• The phenomenal increases in debt noted above are predominantly in short term (under 5 year) maturities. What does that mean? If interest rates rise, this debt will be refinanced quickly at higher rates adding even greater interest expense burden on the United States.

• Most of the increased debt holdings in the last eight years are by foreign or international sources. This simply means that our fate is in the hands of foreign entities, principally governments. In China we Trust should now be printed on the face of US currency and debt securities.

• The interest cost to amortize the current level of net public debt of $7.5 trillion at the current 30 year bond rate, over the next 30 years (this is simply a calculation wherein the current debt is turned into an amortizing obligation similar to a 30 year fixed rate mortgage) is a whopping --- $5.6 trillion. Interest cost only - $5.6 trillion!!!

America, we the people, cannot let this happen. We must come to our senses. We must stop the spending and stop the borrowing. We must commit to stopping this madness. We must make this topic – the devastating level of debt in our country, the top priority for all levels of government. We must only vote for candidates who will commit to implementing a program that will reduce entitlement spending by 5%, all government employment by 10% and all other government spending by 15%. We must start this program now. We must make a commitment to this program, implement the program and move toward first, stopping the debt increase and then starting to pay it down. It is our country. It is our future. This country is not about politicians and bureaucrats. It is about a free and responsible people who will do what is necessary to be fiscally responsible and give our children and grandchildren the same opportunities provided us by our parents and grandparents.

There is no way to sugar coat this situation. Either we take back control of our country or we let promiscuous individuals, protected classes of people and special interest groups line their pockets while destroying the nation.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eating Their Own

Doncha just love it when a gang of bullies beats up one of their own? Or when an opinion maker expresses an opinion and has her lunch handed to her. Well, if you live by the rules of political correctness you darn well should die by the rules of political correctness.

So an old bag of a newsperson had the audacity to say something audacious. And for that horrible crime, she is now retiring to the obscurity that her limited talent had predestined for her many, many years earlier.

What was her crime? What could she, a member of that great journalism tribe, the proud defenders of the first amendment to the US Constitution; those noble associates of the fourth estate; what could this almost 90 year old woman have done to bring such ignominy upon herself? Did she suggest the current and prior US presidents were not up for the job? Did she suggest that the last two Federal Reserve chairman were guilty of fiscal promiscuity? Did she encourage the Pope to quit his job and return to the homeland? Did she ask Hillary Clinton to wear a dress? What did this poor gal with the big pie hole do to deserve such punishment?

She expressed an opinion. An opinion that was not politically correct.

She, in effect, raised the question; dared to raise the issue that the state of Israel might have something to do with the mess the world is in and she went even further to suggest a remedy and, folks, you just cannot question the state of Israel much less possibly suggest that they are the cause of any problems much less suggest that they had better clean up their act. Oh no. That’s a big no-no in Helen’s world.

The problem with political correctness, besides it being desperately boring as others have correctly observed, is that it acts as a barrier to reasonable examination of real causes and real effects. Anytime you place any subject off limits, there is a motivation for doing so. Usually the motivation is protection and avoidance. In everyday life, we see it frequently. Don’t talk about Uncle Harry’s drinking. Just ignore it. We only have to put up with it three times a year. Or, so what if the mayor is hiring all his friends and relatives? Everyone does that. It’s just the price we pay to live in a democracy. Or, who cares if they offer so and so a job if he just won’t challenge our boy in that senate race. That’s how politics works. Or, this country is great because of its public education system. Don’t you dare challenge the outcome of urban public schools and their entrenched teachers and administrators? Just give them more money. The only way you can get a good education is if you are willing to pay for it. Or, what do you mean make the loser pay in a lawsuit? That just means that people without money would never file a lawsuit. Or, the labor movement in this country is responsible for all the advances and the freedoms and the wages and the benefits that workers everywhere enjoy. You’d better get down on your knees and thank a union organizer for your standard of living.

Ever wonder why problems involving government and government sponsored entities are like the Energizer Bunny – they just keep going and going? Ever wonder why most of the big problems; big recurring issues of the day have the fingerprints of a government employee or a politician or an entire bureaucratic agency all over them? Ever wonder why nothing changes in government? Ever wonder who is the biggest beneficiary of political correctness?

Just ask Helen.

Monday, June 7, 2010

“Issues of government competence ... have to be dealt with.”

The title of today's essay is a quote.  We will identify the source below.  Please read on.

It is so easy to be critical of others and so difficult to be critical of oneself. The applicable fundamental can be sourced way back. Way back to the New Testament. It has to do with pointing out the speck in your neighbor’s eye and not dealing with the log in your own.

Two other fundamentals at play. Chickens coming home to roost. What goes around, comes around.

TheFundamentals is not, was not and never will be a supporter of much that was Bush II. This essay is not about Bush II. It’s about actions speaking much louder than words; introspection; challenging your own beliefs and waking up to smell the coffee. We saw little evidence that Bush II ever ran into the wall of introspection. Fortunately for us all he did run into the 22nd amendment to the constitution.

Why are we playing so much to clichés and tired sloganeering? Only to illustrate that these hackneyed phrases are the main arrows in the quiver of the most politicians. Confidence in government is so misplaced by this administration and the previous fourteen or so, that their behavior is an exact replica of the behavior of the king and his court in the story of the emperor’s new clothes. In this tale, the vain emperor, seeking to continually secure the approval of the sycophants around him; with an endless need for praise and glory; with an insatiable appetite for flattery and reinforcement of plans, programs and talking points finally does himself in, in the eyes of one of his smallest subjects. The emperor parades around naked, so proud of his new outfit, and only one child can see clearly that the buffoon is, in fact, naked. No covering. No camaflouge; no protection. And so it goes with the man who cannot see.

We have the audacity to hope that this wake up call, this terrible event caused by man punching uncontrolled holes in the ocean depths will finally be the wake up call to a true leader who will recognize that there are forces and rules and powers at play far beyond the mere equipment that man has developed to wreak havoc. Call them what you will. We call them TheFundamentals. If you only believe in yourself you will never see beyond your own myopia. If you cannot self inspect you will never challenge or change behavior. If you stick with yesterday’s position, tomorrow will repeat yesterday’s consequences.

Government is not the answer; it is not the solution; it is not a panacea; it can only be controlled and that condition requires a constant 24/7 awareness of these simple truths. Government only works when it is a servant and not the master. The people are the master. Today the master works for the servant. And it has been so for much of recorded time.  And the consequences are reaching disastrous levels for the people all over the globe.

In the John Adams quotes we published a week ago, there is one very accurate and prophetic statement - “While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill - little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.” Does it have to be this way? Of course not. It does come down to the vain and self serving people that are drawn to and occupy government positions. Will the new young president be different? Early returns suggest, no. Quite the contrary. More government, more spending, more laws, longer laws, more special interest protection, more pandering to the servants. It does not have to be this way.

We close with the source of the quote above, “Issues of government competence in the response have to be dealt with.” – BHObama, September 11, 2005. Obama’s Subject: Bush II’s handling of the Katrina aftermath. BHObama fell into the trap of examining the speck in his neighbor’s eye. Well, today, if he does wake up and smell the coffee, he can look at the log in his own. Will he? Will this wakeup call produce a change? Will he realize that the protected, unionized, overpaid inmates that now run the asylum can only be replaced by him? Or will he call for even more government? More plans? More programs? More rules? More laws? More bureaucrats? More spending? More government employees? More benefits and pensions? More incompetence?

These lessons were lost on Bush II and many of his predecessors. All Bush II did was spend and spend; pile deficit upon deficit and build debt to unheard of levels. Obama has seized the mantle and tripled the deficit spending and multiplied the debt. Where will it all end? Who will deal with the issue of government incompetence? Mr. Obama, you asked the question a mere 4 ½ years ago. That discomfort you feel can only be described as a log in your eye.  It is OK to deal with it.  If you don't deal with it you will do irreparable damage to the United States.  Mr. Obama, many of us would like a real answer to the very question you posed.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fear, Responsibility and Consequence

“Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Those words were frequently spoken by Oliver Hardy and the recipient of the message was usually Stan Laurel. Those of us were born in the 40’s and 50’s knew them by their duo name – Laurel and Hardy. They were comedians par excellence. For you youngsters, that means, they were top notch; very good; the best.

Now what does this have to do with deficits and debt and sacrifice and frugality, you may ask?

Let’s see if we can make a connection.

If you grew up in the 40’s and 50’s you most likely grew up with several basic truths – we like to call them, TheFundamentals. High among these truths was fear, responsibility and consequence.

Fear of your parents, your teachers, adults, police and darn near anyone else who was bigger, older or, if you were Catholic, any authority figure. Fear dominated your life.

Responsibility because whatever happened, unless you were documentably sound asleep or provably at least 100 miles away from the event, you were going to be held accountable for either the entire event or you were going to be responsible as an accessory before, during and after the fact. There was no such thing as a “grey area.” You were responsible for the mess and you would face a very real consequence.

Now, back to Laurel and Hardy. Oliver Hardy did not say, “Here’s another mess we find ourselves in.” Or, “Here’s another fine mess we inherited.” Those statements would suggest elements outside their control. Things like the environment we grew up in; the alignment of the stars on a particular day or mysterious alien forces at work over which we exercised no control. No way. There was no deflection in his words; no victimhood; no avoidance of responsibility.

They were in the mess; they got themselves in the mess. They had better figure out a way to get out of the mess. And, being responsible for the mess, they were going to get in trouble and that meant somebody doing something that would bring consequences to their sorry behind. Now forward to the present.

A recent McNeil/ Lehrer news report should have been entitled – here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into. It covered the following topics – oil spill, stock market crashing (financial mess), Detroit public school system disaster, immigration enforcement policy (lack thereof) and the mess in Korea. There was a common element in the finger prints on the messes and no, it was not Stan Laurel. It was government, government, government. No other conclusion to reach. Government is the dominating presence in most all that is going down in today’s world. Take the Detroit mess. Population halved from its peak; an automobile industry that has left and is thriving in many other states and foreign countries; K - 12 students who display no measurable educational improvement as a result of attending the Detroit Public Schools. The entire economy is dominated by public and private unions and decades of political leadership of the Democratic Party. The US Government is pouring money into Detroit and the state of Michigan. The one sure, reliable answer to any problem created by government is the annual increasing of funds confiscated from taxpayers and delivered to the “mess.” No one says, “Wait.” Government is the problem. Money is not the solution. Where is the fear? Where is the responsibility? Where is the consequence?

When government is the problem, fear, responsibility and consequence are missing. Government knows no fear and it suffers no consequence. If you work for the government you are protected by layers of rules, union contract stipulations and litigation avoidance laws that leave you without any consequence for your actions. As a matter of fact it becomes such a part of the mess avoidance culture that government workers and elected officials actually develop arrogance because they know there are no consequences. Think about that. If you have no fear of being held responsible; if you have no fear of suffering consequences, you become arrogant and actually thumb your nose at those who are made to be responsible and made to face consequences.

We live in society, a culture, where there is no way to cut off the money going to government. No way to close the schools. Now way to return tax funds to parents so that they can decide to send their children to a school that demands effort; demands participation and, simply, demands that you show up. In other words, a culture of responsibility, fear and consequence.

When people speak of a slippery slope, we are all living at the bottom of that slope now. Years of rule making and money spending and avoidance of responsibility and political correctness have undermined the entire footing of a culture based on fear and responsibility and consequence. We now slop around in a mess that is no longer quantifiable and no longer definable. It is not a melting pot. It is not a land of opportunity. It is a land of excuses and arrogance. It is a land without rules. Without borders.

If you are the problem you need to either exit (unlikely) or you need to be pushed out (hopefully.) And, one more thing. Saying that you take or accept responsibility such as the Party in Power in the form of their new leader and a state attorney general for “misplaced words” means nothing. Responsibility means consequence; without consequence there is no responsibility. Consequences are not self imposed. It is time for American law to impose consequences on government and elected officials and bureaucrats. Every government agency and employee needs specific objectives, independent performance measurement and drastic legal consequences to accompany their claimed “responsibility.” Now, that’s fear, responsibility and consequence. That’s real change. Remember the expression, "Trust but Verify?"  Here’s a variation – Responsibility, good; Consequences, better!