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

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Friendship

The shadow cast by this gang is rather long and deep. Regardless of where you go; where your roots extend; where you hang your hat; where you do your commerce; you are still being impacted by these folks with their carriages and their elaborate uniforms; their Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) and their pageantry. This is our history and it lives with us to this day.

Their past actions still dominate Africa, Europe and the Middle East and further east. Our entire hemisphere is dominated by their progeny. And the progeny of their allies and their enemies. Our history is written in words of praise and shame for their kings and queens; their ministers and warriors. Our leaders; our very founding fathers are of their blood lines and their values; their fundamentals and their beliefs. But that is changing and for a brief few hours we were all reminded of their impact and their influence and also of their decline and the uncertainty we live at this very moment.

We know their music. It is ours. Their anthems. They are ours. Literature. Ours. Their strength; ours and their weaknesses, their human frailties; their emotions; their smiles; their hopes and dreams; they are all ours.

The youth; the playfulness; the anticipation; the fear; the concern for the future. Ours.

We love it. At least those of us who look like them; who think like them; who pray like them; who live, love, fight and die like them. They are us. Longing? Nostalgia? Perhaps just tribal connection? It’s there; no point denying it.

Some other thoughts. If you have a brother you know the gift of having a brother. One brother trying to keep his demeanor as he should while the younger seizes the moment with a face that speaks joy and wonderment and the opportunity to see if he can mark the ceremony innocently with his uncontainable playfulness.

The sister, every bit as captivating as her slightly older sibling, cannot help but draw attention to her own beauty and liveliness while deferring to the bride and tending to her duties.

What a celebration. For a few brief hours we lived the past; tried to grasp it but know it is not possible. We still got a quick glimpse of how it was and never again will be.

We often think of where we are headed. We cannot seem to look back to know the future as much as we are told to do so. In a matter of the few brief hours that this celebration occupies, this small planet or ours has traveled through space at speeds and covering distances we humans cannot attain; on a mission we humans cannot understand; headed to a destination we cannot describe; for purposes we are unable to explain.

We simply do not know. But we move on. And we have learned well from our friends with the carriages and the swords; the stiff upper lips and the bright smiles; the subjects lining the streets with their flags and joy. For centuries, they have led the way. We face the same future with this moment of hope and undeniable optimism. Or, as Kate said when seeing the crowds, “Oh, Wow!”

We thank God for the chance.

Congratulations, Will and Kate. God bless you with health, happiness and the never ending hope of this day.

God Save the Queen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Social Compact: Obama Version

Mr. Obama is a compelling orator. He is particularly compelling because his message is one of help and assistance. It is always directed toward simple objectives that are described in the form of benefits that will be attained, mostly by those with uncertainty about their own ability to achieve the described benefits on their own. This is not a new approach; it is just an effective approach. When needed, he also describes other and opposing proposals with a special focus on their aspects that can be presented negatively. Let’s consider two very recent examples.

He suggests that his approach to the public reliance on government financed medical care is beneficial to all; he suggests that this approach is consistent with our past commitment to taking care of those who are not able to fend for themselves and he insists that there is money available from the well to do to pay for such a program.

On the other hand, when he addresses the opposition plan, put forth by budget committee chairman Paul Ryan he describes it as a burden on the poor and the old; any savings will go to tax cuts for the well to do and, overall, the plan is a “radical” departure from the America’s long standing social compact.

Pretty clear based on his positive description of his plan and his negative description of Ryan’s plan that any reasonable person would support his plan which follows America’s social compact and reject Ryan’s which does not.

Well, what is America’s social compact? And, if we can even identify and describe this social compact, is Mr. Obama presenting the compact fairly and fully and is he being consistent in all aspects with this compact? Or, is he just doing what politicians have been doing for years; really, forever and that is only telling a part of the story; that part that makes them and their proposal look good and ignoring the parts that don’t work; don’t look good; are not consistent with the complete social compact?

Let’s start with the social compact:

1. We take care of those who cannot care for themselves? Yes or no.

2. If you say yes, we can continue. If you say no, it’s over. We would say yes, but there is a bit more to be complete:
a. We have to be careful to live within our means
b. We have to be careful to not permit abuse by those who will advantage themselves with welfare or handout rather than self reliance
c. We must let private providers compete and encourage low cost providers. Privatization and competition are part of our compact

3. We demand overall financial responsibility at all levels – individual; family; neighborhood; community; governments; all public employees.

4. Citizens must pay in; those with more pay more but even those with less pay a portion; everyone is expected to contribute.

5. We will pay for what we provide as we go. We will not leave debts for following generations. That’s unfair and it burdens others with the costs of our benefits.

6. We will account carefully, completely and currently for everything we do with other people’s money. We must be good stewards of other people’s money. We will demand constant and ongoing accountability.

Now, Mr. Obama is a big supporter of item #1 in the compact. He doesn’t address the other items so we don’t know if he goes along with the other components of the compact. Those dealing with reasonableness and efficiency and financial responsibility. He does not address them. He does not implement plans and spend money based on them. We think he might give them lip service but we know he does not demand adherence to those parts of the compact.

So what to make of someone who picks and chooses which portion of the social compact to be measured against and which to ignore?

In our world, a world of living within ones means and being awful darn careful anytime you take money from someone else to provide benefits to others, we would say a person with selective “social compact” adherence should not be taken seriously. Heck, we are pulling our punch. Let’s be direct. A person who picks and chooses and ignores responsibility while promoting benefits programs while asking for votes is a joke. A fool. A charlatan. In the good old days, when these snake oil salesmen showed up they frequently were escorted to the town borders by either the sheriff or town fathers. Occasionally they were attired in a gooey mess of tar and feathers. Oh for the good old days.

If you don’t care about deficits or rising debt or the inevitable destruction that deficits and debt bring, Mr. Obama is your man. He is your investment guru.  He is your Bernie Madoff. Great returns. Everything will be fine. You’re fortunate to be able to invest with him. Never had it so good. Until the new money sources run out and the scheme collapses.

Mr. Ryan is saying to you that we must set limits. We do not have endless resources. He believes that individuals can make better decisions for themselves than can an out of control government. The out of control government looks good for a while. So did Bernie. We’d prefer to invest with Mr. Ryan but you can count on the Bernie investors to discard Mr. Ryan; discount his responsible format and promote the illusory and unsustainable aspects of the Obama program.

If you believe in the long run, you probably embrace the entire American social compact. You don’t just pick and choose and live for today. You would not have been a Bernie Madoff investor.

If you believe we can care for all with no regard for limits or priorities. If you believe in endless high returns; no outside independent accountability or reporting; and leave the problems to the next generation, Mr. Madoff, er, sorry, Mr. Obama is your man.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mr. Boehner's Job

Mr. Boehner is the head of the US House of Representatives. The number one job in that section of the federal government. He was elected to be the boss by a vote of all the representatives. The representatives number 435 and they are elected by the people of the United States, every two years. So, Mr. Boehner, more so than any other person in the federal government, except for the president and the vice president, represents the people of the country. His job description was written over two hundred years ago. It is located in the US constitution; specifically Article I, Sections 7, 8 and 9 and it consists of 18 tasks and duties and responsibilities and limitation thereof. We are going to address just a few of them today; the ones dealing with money and debt. You may read them all at: http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#A1Sec8

By the way, the constitution grants more power to the House of Representatives than it does to either the president or the senate. The house also has the power of the purse; the money. It is responsible for spending and raising funds. It derives those powers from the constitution and the constitution derives its powers from the people.

Job task #1. Borrow. “To borrow money on the credit of the United States.” It is up to you Mr. Boehner and your house if the US borrows even one more cent while you are running the house. Not the senate; not the president. If you say no, they can only approve or deny but without you there will be no more borrowing. Most say that we have borrowed enough; many say we have borrowed too much. It is on you to make the choice and get the votes to support your choice. It’s YOUR job.

Job task #2. Repay. “…to pay the Debts.” The United States has not repaid any debt in a long time. It just keeps borrowing and borrowing. So, it is also up to you. Do you want to repay some of the debt? It is not up to the president to do so. Nor the senate. It is up to you. Same as above.

Job task #3. Spend. “…provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” How much do you want to spend Mr. Boehner? You can set the amount. You can limit the amount. The senate can try to change it but not without you. The president can only say yes or no. The amount is up to you. If the senate tries to change it; it’s on them. if the president says no; it’s on him. You get to set the spending amount.

Job task #4. Raise money. “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises.” Want more taxes? Go ahead. Less? It’s up to you. Same as above. Senate can say yes or try to change but then it’s on them. President only has two ways to go – yes or no. if he says no, it’s on him.

Job task #5. Report. “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” The people deserve a simple, accurate and timely reporting from you. It’s your job. We don’t get a simple, accurate and timely report. It should include everything. No hidden items. Sorry CIA, Federal Reserve, DofD and all the other secret pockets of spending. The constitution requires a report to the people and you are not doing it in a simple, concise, accurate, complete (that means everything including those commitments that the children will be paying) and timely (within 90 days of the end of the period) manner. It’s your job. Let’s start doing it.

Are you up to the job Mr. Boehner? You asked for the job. You had better be up to it but so far you are stumbling around. Trying to make compromises. Temporary placation efforts. Trying to keep the peace. Passing short term measures and nibbling at the corners of your specific (see above) job responsibilities.

Here’s something to think about. You are in your job today because the people have spoken. You and you alone are the most powerful person in the United States with a recent mandate to stop spending; stop borrowing and start repaying debt. And, start reporting accurately to the people. It is a big job because all around you are special interests and protected classes of citizens who do not want any change in their goodies; their special deals; their programs and, if you get a government paycheck, their jobs.

Six years ago, your party was in power in the house and you all voted to increase the debt limit. You lost power in the next election. Two years ago the other guys with the power voted to increase the debt limit and they promptly lost power. Now you have it. This action/reaction is not accidental. The people put you in power to do your job. If you decide your job is to keep spending/borrowing/debt raising/not debt repaying you too will be gone soon.

Mr. Boehner, please do your job. Don’t worry about the senate and the president. The people are with you. The senate can do whatever they choose. It is unlikely that the senate will be under the control of the current group in a matter of months. The president has chosen to become the evangelist in chief; the spreader of the goodies; the take care guy; the no one left to fend for themselves guru. He can do that. His job duties are minimal and pretty loosely defined. He actually gets paid to talk. You have real job duties.

You get paid to do something. Your duties are defined. Please do your job.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Leadership Series: Will a leader arise?

Who will pick up the sword; has the courage to enter the arena; is willing to suffer the humiliation of failure and defeat; and will nevertheless fight on and on against overwhelming odds to remedy the sins of the past?

Someone will arise. Someone who is younger, prettier, charismatic, and, most of all, had enough real life experience to know that fundamentals matter and the most important fundamental to a big country such as ours is that a foundation of economic strength is more important than a optimistic religion of mythology, government programs and drawing happy faces on a bunch of extended hands.

Who will fight the fight? Who will lay down the gauntlet? Who will stand up for hard work; self responsibility and taking care of one’s own in the face of a rather large gang who are hanging onto the band wagon of entitlement and self indulgence? Who wants a piece of that fight? Who’s crazy enough to buy into that program?

John Boehner? Doubt it. Early returns are not good. We like this guy but a poker player he is not.

Paul Ryan. We’ll see. He is far and away our best Representative today but he needs an offensive line to do some serious blocking for him. He is young, sure. But he knows his stuff and he is learning politics and leadership as fast as Mr. Obama did four years ago.

Chris Christie. Seems to relish what he is doing in his own backyard. But multiplied by 50? Doesn’t seem to be grasping at that opportunity. The weight watchers crowd would love it.

Michelle Bachmann. You bet. But there is that little factor about attracting the middle when the far left has successfully painted you to the far right. She warrants attention.

Tom Coburn. Physician. Senator. Perhaps the best senator/politician in the Republican Party right now. Needs to get tougher (Tom, watch how Mitt is doing it. On second thought, don’t.) Needs a plan. Needs to get a lot tougher.

Pawlenty. Not much to our view.

The Donald. We recall another successful businessman who ran and split the vote resulting in the election of the womanizer Clinton. Donald Trump has the cojones for the job. We just aren’t sure how that hair comb over will fly in the nations midlands. If you haven’t seen his recent speech to the Florida tea party go to: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20054635-503544.html?tag=latest

Steve Wynn. Always has been our first choice for president. We encourage you to watch his few TV appearances (all are on YouTube) and marvel at this no nonsense, well versed in the fundamentals, successful American.

Mitch Daniels. Best governor in the country. Clearly understands all the fundamentals. Also, gets it done. Can he develop the image and the presence to make a run? We’ll see.

Mitt Romney. Absolutely willing to go for it. But he has had a bit of a history with placating the silly people. We don’t need a placater in chief for the next four years. Notice how he is trying to toughen his image. Good luck.

Huckabee. Wow. All we can say is, “Let’s hope not.” Gomer Pyle goes to Washington.

Barbour. He has already accurately prognosticated his own chances.

Ron Paul. Too many years in Washington. Too incoherent. But if we were president we would consider appointing him to head the Fed. Or at least dismantle it.

Gingrich. Eeeks. Please go away. Does his third wife insist he always refer to “we” in any answer about his future?

Palin. Nope. She gone. She is still a kick but we don’t see it happening.

So who is it going to be? We know that if the person does come from the list above that they can win. We know that they will have one heck of an education process in front of them. Seriously, they will need to run a classroom on fiscal behavior and economics and competitiveness the likes of which has never occurred in a presidential contest. They will need to overcome Obama’s religious, emotional appeal with facts and figures and measurable plans. But, for the right person or team, it really is not all that tough. Businessmen call it low hanging fruit. A couple of successful leaders could make quite a dent pretty quick.

So who will rise to the occasion? Suggestions? Also, please note that our title says, “Will a leader arise?” We know a candidate will arise. But there are not many leaders in the list above! Our choice for a dream ticket would be Wynn/Trump. We know they would win. Could they live with each other? The job is big enough and the remedial actions plentiful and demanding that we think two would be better than one to fix the mess in four years. Remember folks we don’t need some lifetime politician. We, the people, need someone who wants to serve their country and is qualified for the job.


Friday, April 15, 2011

America, bend over

It has now been made patently clear by our beloved president. America is about taking care of each other. And from that philosophy, what is really a religious belief, all else will follow. And here is what all else looks like:

US Government Budget year before Obama took over: $2.983 trillion spending

US Government Budget after two years in office: $3.819 trillion spending

US debt before he took over: $10.7 trillion 12/2008

US debt after two years in office: $14.3 trillion 4/2011

Federal government employee’s year before he took over: 2,730,000 12/2007 http://www2.census.gov/govs/apes/07fedfun.pdf

Latest federal government employees count: 2,823,000 3/2009 http://www2.census.gov/govs/apes/09fedfun.pdf

Oops, we forgot one other measurement. Wars.

Number of wars year before he took over: 2

Number of wars after two years in office: 3

Go figure folks. He does not care about deficits or debts. He cares about our collective obligation to each other which is a charitable way of saying that if you vote for him you get the goodies and if you don’t you get the invoice. Or your children and grandchildren will get the invoice; that is if they are brought up with the concept of working, saving and providing for their own loved ones. Otherwise, they can vote for Obama’s successor and hope that the goodies keep flowing.

Now you know the reason for America’s being. You heard it from the great leader. It is not about freedom. Or self responsibility. Or opportunity. Or individualism. Nope. It’s not about entrepreneurship. Or competitiveness. Nope. It’s almost a religion when you listen to him. He is smug as if he knows something us mere mortals lack. He is confident. He is right. It’s the same delivery you see from the TV evangelists and those who are determined to follow their path, regardless of consequence.

And no one in his political party says anything.

We have a new religion in town and its imam, its minister; its high priest; its rabbi is none other than the community organizer himself.

Forget about deficits. Forget about debt. They really don’t matter much when you are about taking care of each other. This is not government of, by and for the people. This is religion. This is the highest road possible. We are floating above all reality with this thinking. Forget about balancing the checkbook. Or checks and balances. Or separation of powers.  Or no state religion.

This folks used to be unconstitutional!

Monday, April 11, 2011

So Much Owed by So Many

How on earth can one country spend $5 trillion dollars it doesn’t have in just a bit over three years and not have much to show for it? Fair question we’d say. That’s a lot of dough in anyone’s book. No country; heck no continent; no known universe has ever spent so much in so little time and had so little to show for it. 

Do you remember the tales about the Battle of Britain when the Nazis controlled Europe and were planning Operation Barbarossa against Russia and they sent their Luftwaffe and missiles to destroy England and the brave RAF, Royal Air Force, took on the mission of battling the hun back; fighting day and night against overwhelming odds to keep their island out of the clutches of the murderous Germanic war machine?  Do you remember the words Churchill spoke to describe the RAF efforts?  We do.  Here they are, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

We are tempted to make a cheap distortion of those words to describe the debt or how much is owed by the United States. But, we dare not, or as our long gone Uncle would have said, “We dassn’t distort the profound meaning of those noble words” by tainting them with any mention in the same paragraph of America’s profound fiscal promiscuity.

So, we will just cite the facts.

  • One year before George W. Bush left office, January 20, 2008, the total debt of the United States was: $9.189 trillion
  • Three years and two months later, the debt of the United States is $14.238 trillion
  • An increase of $5.049 trillion. In thirty eight months!

  • We repeat.  An increase of $5.049 trillion.  38 months.

There are many reasons why this expenditure has nothing to show for it in terms of good jobs; rising exports; a strong and growing economy and the deep, internal sense within all of us that comes from hard work, sacrifice and frugality. If you read these pages you know the reasons. We revisit the reasons quickly.

 1. This nation’s economic problems are the consequence of bubbles and non productive costs created by government spending; government programs, rules, laws and countless burdens placed on every form of wealth creation and jobs producing economic growth. You don’t solve these problems by having your government borrow more to create demand. You cure the problem by eliminating the burdens on the economy.

2. Our economic problems are the confluence of two significant and converging situations. One internal. One external.

3. Internal: as describe above, we have chosen the path of self indulgence, protection and political corruption between elected and hired officials and special interests benefiting from their governance. Do we have the political, economic and financial will to break this pattern? Several states are working against all odds to do so. You have seen the turmoil that even minor changes bring from benefiting special interest groups and the politicians and bureaucrats who feed off the burdens placed on our economy.

4. External: there is a large and growing group of people in the world who are only too happy to work hard to create a better life for themselves and their children. And they are not anywhere near the stage of development where they view their self interest as more important than the rising standard of living they are experiencing. These competitors are growing. They will become even more productive and more efficient.

So, what to do? Spending has nothing to do with it. Anymore than spending was what the British people needed in 1940.

It is will. It is focus. It is determination. It is the leadership. We are only seeing smattering of these corrective forces in several of our states. We are seeing none of it in Washington DC.  Nada in Washington.

Here is what your president said after the two parties agreed a few days ago to a cosmetic “budget” deal to keep government open: “Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them," Obama said before cameras in the White House Blue Room as he acknowledged some of the cuts agreed to would be painful, with certain programs cut back and other projects encountering delays. "But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs," he said.

Readers, this statement is utter nonsense. The expected deficit this year is $1.5 trillion on top of the $5 trillion noted above. Tough decisions? Cuts agreed to would be painful? Beginning to live within our means? Help America to compete for new jobs? Absolute, utter garbage!!

Mythology is not nobility. Rhetoric is no substitute for action. Can we reach back to the strength of the words of our own founders and search inside ourselves to make the commitment to demand leaders, not politicians, who will stop spending and start rebuilding our economic foundation? We remind you of the closing words of one of the greatest efforts mankind has formed to improve itself, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

No one is being asked to pledge their lives. No one is being asked to pledge their fortunes or their honor. Just a combination of government spending eliminations, not reductions, and some additional taxes from the higher end.

Obama cannot lead. He neither sees the problem nor has the experience to recognize the solution. He is the wrong man for this time.  We are seeing a few leaders in state capitols with the vision and the experience to make the needed changes. They are under considerable attack from the forces that prefer rhetoric and mythology to avoid problem solving and leadership.

We must support those few who have the will to challenge the many who burden the economy.  We need a few more good leaders.  We desperately need one or two in Washington.  Real leaders are avoiding Washington the same way pretend leaders are avoiding fiscal responsibility.  Where are the leaders?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Leadership Series: Cover Your Behind

Obviously, covering one's behind is not a characteristic of good leadership.  The Treasury Secretary of the United States has written a classic "cover your a__" letter and posted it as if it represents some form of wise guidance.  We look at this letter and his behavior and, because of his leadership failure, refer to him derisively as "little Timmy."

“If Congress failed to increase the debt limit, a broad range of government payments would have to be stopped, limited or delayed, including military salaries and retirement benefits, Social Security and Medicare payments, interest on the debt, unemployment benefits and tax refunds. This would cause severe hardship to American families and raise questions about our ability to defend our national security interests. In addition, defaulting on legal obligations of the United States would lead to sharply higher interest rates and borrowing costs, declining home values and reduced retirement savings for Americans. Default would cause a financial crisis potentially more severe than the crisis from which we are only now starting to recover.

For these reasons, default by the United States is unthinkable.”

Pretty serious stuff coming from little Timmy. No social security payments. Declining home values. Reduced retirement savings. Wait a minute. We’ve been spending like drunken sailors and we have badly declined and declining home values and our retirement savings, at least those of us who work in the private sector, have been badly hit. What about you government guys? Are you forgetting something? Won’t this mean your paychecks are not issued? Why didn’t you mention that? Maybe you are thinking that some of us might just think it’s about time your paychecks are not issued. And why didn’t we hear anything from little Timmy earlier when there still was a long way to go until we hit the debt ceiling? You know, something like, “Hey guys, let’s stop spending so much. Let’s stop borrowing so much. Then we won’t have to raise the debt ceiling.” Where was little Timmy then?

You see, in some places, they call this form of thinking, forward thinking. Looking out a bit. Some even call it strategic planning or strategic thinking.

So what to make of little Timmy’s plea for more debt?

Well if you read on here is what little Timmy has to say, “President Obama is strongly committed to working with both parties to restore fiscal responsibility, and he looks forward to working with Congress to achieve that critically important objective.”

Here is the reference for the entire letter: http://www.treasury.gov/connect/blog/Pages/letter-to-congress.aspx

So little Timmy says that the president wants to restore fiscal responsibility. That sure sounds great. But it seems that maybe some are not really sure that he is working really hard to get there. And it seems that there is a rather large and vocal group in the Senate and the House of Representatives who are not quite sure that this is the time to restore fiscal responsibility. It always seems as if these folk feel it is okay to postpone that fiscal responsibility stuff until tomorrow and then the next tomorrow.

So, what to do?

If default is unthinkable and the president wants to restore fiscal responsibility there are really only two ways to accomplish both.

Reduce spending.

Raise taxes.

Are those things unthinkable too?

Let’s see. We can reduce spending and raise taxes or do some of both and then not raise the debt limit. Makes sense to us. What do you think little Timmy? Are there ever any alternatives in your world? Do you believe in prioritizing little Timmy? Or do you just like to wait until the last minute and then write ridiculous “cover your little Timmy behind” letters?

This is not leadership folks. This is silliness and it is destroying our country. Little Timmy is not qualified to dry cars at the local car wash and we mean no disrespect to the folks who work hard and are good at drying cars at the local car wash.

Real leaders would never write a letter like little Timmy's cover his behind letter.  Little Timmy is an embarrassment.  So is the man he works for.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Path to Prosperity

House Committee on the Budget

The Path to Prosperity

Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Resolution