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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Homeland Security Quiz

Our quiz today is multiple choice.  It is possible that more than one answer is correct.  It is just not possible that all the answers are correct.  (Aside:  TheFundamentals expresses its appreciation to the two presidential candidates for their significant focus on homeland security matters, budgets, growing employee counts, infringements on citizen liberties (all for our safety of course) and specifics which allows us the opportunity to submit this quiz to an informed audience.)

Question Number One:  Which of the following organizations is a serious threat to America’s national security, defined by Admiral Mullen, Obama’s top military guy (retired), as the growing and humongous debt of the United States?  Circle the top threats –

a.    SEIU – Service Employees International Union: 2,100,000 members

b.    AFT – American Federation of Teachers: 1,500,000 members

c.    AFSCME – American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees:  1,600,000 members

d.    NEA – National Education Association: 3,000,000 members

e.    American Association for Justice (formerly Association of Trial Lawyers): 56,000 members

f.     Al Qaeda, estimated membership on 9/11/2001:  500 - 1,000 members

g.    K Street Lobbyists: 12,700 members (2011)

h.    AFGE,  American Federation of Government Employees: 600,000 members

i.      Syria/Iran/Pakistan/Russia/Cuba/Venezuela/Egypt and North Korea – hundreds of millions of citizens, apparently ready to invade our homeland any minute now

Two:  What is the budget of the homeland security department this year?  What was the budget in 2002?  Please put the year next to the budget number.

  1. $19  billion
  2. $59  billion

Three:  How much money did the United States spend on the entire military/industrial complex in the last ten years?

  1. One trillion dollars
  2. At least five trillion dollars
  3. More than five trillion dollars
  4. This information is classified – guessing not permitted – subject to fine and/or imprisonment

Four:  What was George W. Bush’s estimate of the cost of the Iraq war in 2003?

  1. $ 50 - 60 billion
  2. $ 3 trillion

Five:  What is the current estimate of the overall cost of the Iraq war?

  1. $ 3 trillion
  2. $ 50 – 60 billion

Five:  Did America accomplish its stated objectives for the war in Iraq?  Yes or No.  War in Afghanistan?  Yes or No.  War on Terror?  Yes or No.  Extra Credit:  War on Poverty?  War on Hunger?

Six:  How many elected officials in Washington DC have volunteered to join America’s police and military training mission in Afghanistan wherein they provide loaded guns to the trainees and run the risk that the Afghan recruits will shoot them?

a.    0 - 5

b.    Too many to keep track of.

Seven.   Do you feel safer today than four/ten/thirty years ago?  Yes or No for each time period. 

  1.   4 years ago – Y or N
  2. 10 years ago – Y or N
  3. 30 years ago – Y or N

Eight.  How much more of your earnings (hint:  in case this word is confusing to you, earnings are monies provided to people for real work performed) would you like to have Washington DC confiscate to continue making the world a safer place for you and your family? 

a.    $0.00 - $1.50

b.    $1.50 – $3,280.00

c.    $3,280.00 - $213,478.00

d.    More than $213,478.00 (this category is only available for Warren Buffett and Hollywood actors/directors/producers)

Nine:  Do unions representing public employees in Washington DC or your home state capitol or your hometown increase the quality and the service level of the delivery of the duties and responsibilities for which the employees are hired?  Yes or No.  (EXTRA CREDIT – one point will be given for each tangible example provided in the space below)

Ten:  How many more Homeland Security Bureaucrats do you think should be hired to make us even safer than we are now?  Just write the number in here: ___.  If, perhaps you think a few should be terminated write that number here: _______________________.  Hint, at last count there were about 240,000 homeland security bureaucrats.

Thank you for participating in this quiz. The answers will be compiled and, for national security reasons, released to the public 50 years from now when your grandkids are still paying off the debt incurred for our "safety" today.

Monday, August 27, 2012

C'mon Ben - Give us some more money !!!

It is foolish, to say the least, to predict what helicopter Ben Bernanke will do under the most predictable of circumstances and downright nuts just a few months before a presidential election.  Nevertheless, here is how TheFundamentals sees the current precarious situation.

As we wrote in our four essay series – Ben’s Odyssey (see TheFundamentals for the following dates: June 4, 11, 12 and 13, 2012) the fed chairman took it upon himself to single handedly finance the wasteful bubbles in government spending, health care spending and education spending.  He did this in the name of fighting/avoiding deflation even though all the statistics, facts and worthwhile, non-Keynesian analysis suggested that something very different was underway.  America was experiencing terrific run up in the costs of all things government and that included burgeoning bureaucracies, wars, foreign spending and education and health care as well as massive numbers of overpaid government employees with their over benefited/over pensioned situations supported by weak local and state politicians and bureaucrats.

Ben financed it with money he authorized to be printed and electronically created to purchase the massive debt issued under Obama’s fiscal promiscuity and that of his two congresses – 111th and 112th.  Ben, Barack and little Timmy Geithner have added over $5 trillion on the backs of the dwindling numbers of American taxpayers to make themselves look good and hold onto power.

Disgusting?  That word doesn’t come close to describing the antics of these three men  with no private work experience and their unaccountable cronies in congress.

So, why is Ben dragging his feet on the next round of stimulus?  The economic statistics are not good – GDP is floundering; unemployment remains high and the real unemployment – those who can’t find a job and those who have stopped looking and those who have settled for part-time work or piece work or some lesser application of their skills, education and training now number well over 15% of the workforce.  This is the "change" and the “we can do it” mentality of weak men with no practical work experience in real commerce under the tough and demanding conditions of real competition.  Four years ago these pages said that the government stepping in with stimulus and wasteful spending would only prolong the misery and the necessary and badly overdue correction period.

But why now, is Ben not fueling up the helicopter to take to the skies to drop more fiat (printed) currency on the Democrat voters – now when the election is only 2+ months away?

Well here’s our take on why Ben, at least for now, is grounded.  Ben knows that his fingerprints are all over the mess he has participated in – Ben is not an accessory before, during or after the fact this time – Ben is culprit number one – perpetrator number one – enabler number one.  The historians will not give Ben a pass on accountability this time.

Ben did this once before – only then he was an accessory to the wasteful dreariness of the maestro.  We know how that one ended up.  Ben is scared.  Spooked.  Fearful.  As well he should be.  He has taken America to the brink of an unnecessary financial disaster – all in the name of keeping the bubbles going and keeping his gang in power.  And it has not worked.  All that Ben has to show for his role is the responsibility for placing $5 trillion in debt on an already overburdened economy in the shortest period ever in the history of the world.

Ben does not want that epitaph written when the grim economist reaper knocks on his door.  So Ben has decided to opt out.  For now.   We’ll see how long Ben can hold out before the clamoring for Ben to get in the helicopter and drop the worth less cash on the panting, expecting and entitled voters.

What/who will win?  Ben’s justifiable fear.  Or the incumbent (c’mon Ben, give us some more money) facing the ignominy of Jimmy Carter one term status?  Stay tuned.  These are arrogant but very weak men.  Know-it-alls in front of the camera; Chicken Little's sipping their premium scotch in the wee hours.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Questions for Mr. Romney - Part II

Today we continue our questions for the apparent republican presidential candidate:

6.    We’d like you to address the topic of wiring the country for high volume; high speed universally accessible Internet signals – we ask this question.  Have you given this topic any consideration?  Do you realize that America is dependent on a few private companies that seek to maximize their bottom line and, in the process, deliver low cost service at the highest possible price resulting in a dearth of choice for Americans in this important service?  The Internet is not just some convenience that should be in the control of one or two companies.  America needs to be wired; maximum capacity and maximum growth potential and it needs to be regulated as a utility.  Let the content be wide open – unregulated – but first let’s wire (or do it without wires) the country so that anyone can access true broadband Internet services in a manner that mirrors more advanced countries around the world.  What say you?

7.    Do you have it in you to lead?  Can you stand up and explain a process by which fiscal responsibility returns; take the heat from all the special interests and the protected classes; the whining from the opposition and the Hollywood media and stay the course even if it means you are a one term president?  Can you say “I don’t care if I am reelected?"  I will treat all Americans fairly – distribute the burden of correction fairly – and explain myself and what I am attempting to do vigorously and you can judge my performance based on stated, measurable objectives – not some politicians pandering proclamations”?

8.    Financial reporting.  We know if we asked you to provide a P and L statement and a balance sheet for the US government you would, at least, know what we were asking for unlike the current occupant.  So, are you ready to state that you will provide an accurate, once a year accounting of all known and anticipated and calculable (even if by estimate) assets and liabilities of the US federal government?  And mail it to all federal income taxpayer’s?  And sign it?  And insist that your treasury secretary and the fed chairman sign it also.   And by signing it you all take personal responsibility (you are subject to perjury laws, fraud laws and civil liability laws) for its thoroughness and accuracy?  Much the same as federal laws today create liability for corporate CEO's and CFO's?

9.    The working, taxpaying American citizen is getting royally screwed by its government now.  We used to call this group of citizens  – the middle class – you know the people who work; who educate their kids; who obey the law; who pay taxes and who save money for the future.  They have been royally screwed by democrats and republicans – and mostly by unneeded bureaucracies populated with hundreds of thousands of overpaid, over benefited, over pensioned employees performing completely unneeded tasks and laying massive burdens on everyone – mostly the middle class.  Ben Bernanke is actually devaluing the dollar daily to sustain bubbles in government, education and health care spending.  Where is your plan; you specific plan to provide badly needed relief to the middle class by eliminating entire unneeded bureaucracies and significantly cutting back the rest?  Are you afraid to approach this topic?  If you are, in our opinion, you are not worthy of anyone’s vote.  Best to let the current occupant complete his destruction ASAP.

10. Last question - this one is the $64.00 question.  Debt. DEBT, Mr. Romney.  There is just no point in you even running if you are not going to state your position that the debt of the United States, barring a colossal world war, is not going to rise during your presidency – in other words, whatever it is on the day you take office it will be equal to or less on the day you leave office voluntarily.  We know you can make that pledge; the question is, “WILL YOU?”

America is now addicted to debt – we cannot afford our governments, at any level; we cannot afford the wars our federal government insists we fight and we cannot afford basic government services much less education and health care because of unions and bureaucracies and rules and endless nonsense.  To ask one man to correct this mess could be described as a tad unreasonable.   But by fighting as hard as you have to gain the opportunity to win this job we need to know that you embrace the same level of concern over the state of our country as we do and that you are willing, just as our forefathers were, to pledge your life, your fortune and your honor to a free and prosperous America.

If you lack this level of commitment; no fancy answers; no dancing around the topic will mask your prevarication.  We will know.  There is no way for you to win except to commit.  And persevere.   You will be attacked; you will be vilified; you will be hated.  They will challenge your upbringing; your family; your religion; your success; things that happened decades ago; things that may well have never happened; heck, they will make stuff up.  The Hollywood media (PBS, NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC and the rest of the gang) will beat you like the proverbial red headed stepchild.  When that happens, you will know that you have won.  Early signs are positive.  We will stand with you every step of the way.  We will be victorious.  But first, you must lead; you must embrace risk.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Questions for Mr. Romney - Part I

Here are some questions and issues for Mr. Romney --

 1.     Are you able to take a strong stand against public employee unionization?  Can you actually make this statement – “In 1962 President Kennedy signed Executive Order #10988 (see TheFundamentals, March 9, 2010 - http://thefundamentalsus.blogspot.com/2010/03/executive-order-10988.html ) that authorized federal government employees to unionize.  It is now time for an American president to end that authorization.  I will do it on January 20, 2013, if elected

2.    It appears you are captured by the military; which, if true, means you may be afraid to face down the military industrial complex.  Can you tell us how much America spent on military activities, everywhere/anywhere in the world in 2011 and whether or not you are prepared to reduce or reprioritize it and, if so, how so?  No vagaries allowed.   If you don’t know or don’t wish to answer, please just say so – it is a simple, straight forward question; the answer requires a simple statement of numbers and you claim to be a good numbers guy.  We are seeking an accurate accounting of every cent spent anywhere on anything military; not the baloney distributed by DoD; CBO, GAO or the CIA.

3.    The number of Americans receiving electronic cards to acquire food, including high sugar soda drinks and high fat snacks such as potato and corn chips, is at a record high – 1 in 7.  The cost to working taxpayers?  $75 to $80 billion each year –  could be a trillion dollars over the next ten years.  Do you think it is time to set a limit on the length of time anyone can receive this handout?  Do you think it makes sense for welfare recipients to be able to purchase high sugar/fat items that many working people deny themselves either for budget or health reasons?  Can you support a reduction in federal funding (a specific number is required) for this program and guarantee that you will sign such reduction as president?  By the way, this question really is a tester.  You will be impaled by Obama and his gang if you support any reduction in free food/soda pop.  They buy votes with food and soda.  This question is a good test of your lumbar and thoracic vertebrae measurements.

4.    You appear to be a pretty smart guy; particularly when it comes to business and finance matters.  So, what ideas to you have to assist middle class, taxpaying Americans with mortgages to take advantage of the huge decline in mid and long term interest rates?  This fed program (we call it Ben’s odyssey) is “fighting deflation” (really extending bubbles) on the backs of the middle class.  How about some real help for the middle class?  Can you describe a program that would assist – electronically and conveniently, the ability of any current, credit worthy mortgagor with a high interest rate – say 5% or more to be able to refinance and gain the benefit of a lower rate and resulting reduced monthly payment regardless of the underlying decline in the value of the house?  Today, middle class savers get no return on their savings.  The least we can do is lower the interest rates on the mortgages for those who are current on their payments.

5.  We are going to close our comments/questions today with something we are not certain you have addressed, ever.  The face of America is changing as you know - Hispanic Americans are now a large minority in some of our largest states - California, New York, Arizona, Texas and Illinois.  They will be a majority in the foreseeable future.   Included in those states with large Hispanic American populations are some of America's most insolvent (broke; ready for bankruptcy) state and municipal government entities due mostly to a greedy and self serving group of elected officials and millions of hired bureaucrats who have overstaffed; overpaid and overpensioned themselves.  It might do you some electoral good to research and point it out to our Latino and Hispanic citizens in these states that the gang in power, who beg for their votes every two years, is leaving a massive due bill for this new majority to pay.  They have already looted the public treasury in these places and lined up future tax receipts for their pensions.   We encourage you to bring this up before November 6.
More to come…..

Friday, August 17, 2012

In His Own Words - Bob Hope on Democrats

For the benefit of our younger readers/viewers, Bob Hope (1903 - 2003) was a actor and comedian and big supporter of American fundamentals.  Fortunately he lived in a time when American fundamentals were embraced by most but, as you can see in this video (Hope is in the center), even then there were early signs of departure from good values and principles.  For 50 years, Hope travelled all over the world entertaining American servicemen.  We miss Bob Hope.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In His Own Words - Mr. Obama on Debt

Listen to the man, just four brief years ago, on the campaign trail in 2008, when American debt was $5 trillion less.


This is what TheFundamentals calls - the gift that keeps on giving.  Please note he does not say "President Bush" or even "Mr. Bush."  He says, "Bush."  Here is one more of his gifts on the same topic; uttered a few weeks later.

Yes, we can.  Meaningless words from a candidate who now needs some good old fashioned American accountability applied to his empty rhetoric.  Yes, we can America.  We can send him back to his cronies in Illinois where he and the union thugs can drain the last few dollars from busted Illinois taxpayers before the sheriff gets to run the biggest foreclosure sale in American history.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Eligible Food Stamp (Card) Items

If you wonder how strict the eligibility for buying certain types of grocery products with food stamps (really an electronic food debit card), TheFundamentals was similarly curious.  So we did our research and here are the facts:

Eligible items:

·       The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the Act) defines eligible food as any food or food product for home consumption and also includes seeds and plants which produce food for consumption

·         So. Lets gets specific:

o   Seafood, steak, and bakery cakes are food items and are therefore eligible items

o   Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream are food items and are therefore eligible items

o   Energy drinks that have a nutrition facts label are eligible foods (now let’s see, “Do you think energy drink manufacturers might add a “nutrition facts label” to their product?)

o   Gift baskets that contain both food and non-food items, are not eligible for purchase with SNAP (that’s what uncle Sam calls the debit card program) benefits if the value of the non-food items exceeds 50 percent of the purchase price.

What you can’t buy - Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:
    o   Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco;
    o   Any non food items, such as:
    o   Pet foods
    o   Soaps, paper products; and
    o   Household supplies
    o   Vitamins and medicines
    o   Foods that will be eaten in the store
    o   Hot foods
There is a website called – U, S. Food Policy run by a Parke Wilde, who “teaches and writes about U.S. Food Policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.”  You can find it at:  http://usfoodpolicy.blogspot.com/2008/10/fns-opposes-limitations-on-foods.html   Here is what we found interesting – the comments section in a blog posting about a government proposal to NOT restrict items eligible for food stamps.  We quote from a few:
(Note: any spelling or grammatical errors in the above postings are purely the responsibility of the poster.)

“It's not that poor people don't deserve to eat certain foods, its that they shouldn't be able to buy crap with other people's hard earned money. I am a student, I work 2 jobs and I can only just afford to stay afloat. I can't tell you the last time that I bought potato chips or pop. Then I go to the grocery store and see people buying crap on foodstamps, with money that I and every other working american pay for. I work and I can't affod that stuff, are you telling me its right that my money should go for someone to sit on their butt all day and eat cheetos? You're freaking right this makes me angry.”

“The pupose of the progarm is to provide nutritious foods for families. I am a cashier and i see many people purchases soda, chips and candy with Electonic food card provided by government.”

“I can't believe they want to add to thier list. This is crazy that they have a list at all. Like poor people don't have the right to eat certain foods, and they should be punished because some people are obese. There are more obese rich people believe me! They eat out at resteraunts anytime they please. This is discrimination of the poor. Now these rich people can decide what you can and cannot have. This is humiliating enough for someone going through hard times to have to stoop to get help as it is, and now the upper class want to tell us poor people what we can eat as well?”

“You do realize that many MANY families on food stamps do have at least one parent who WORKS, right? My husband works a full-time job and works his butt off to provide for our family. Not everyone who receives food stamps sits on their a** all day and does nothing.”

So what does it cost the taxpayer?  Last year it cost $78 billion – more than double over just the last four years. One in seven Americans now get food stamps.  Well, not really stamps – they get a debit card which they can swipe through the machine – no stamps involved; no embarrassing moments at the cash register; don’t want to place any stigma on anything; sure don’t want to impact anyone’s self esteem.   It is projected to cost $770 billion over the next 10 years.  Recently, some senators, mostly republicans, tried to cut $20 billion from the $770 billion, about 3%.  They lost the vote.

Final comments – there is a lesson in this essay that may not just jump off the page.  Most every government plan or program or idea or agency or scheme or bureaucracy begins with a seemingly worthwhile purpose.  This one started with the idea of taking excess farm produced foods and distributing them to those who were poor or not able to buy nutritional items.  That beginning is well documented in a paper telling the story of the food stamp program.  It is available at:  http://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/ricpubs/foodstamps.htm   written by a government employee. 

Last comment:  The lessons available for us are several fold – first, whenever you plan a program that involves money – not food goods but cash or a credit card, know that money is fungible.  So if you provide money you are in effect just adding purchasing power to a recipient.  You can say that money is only good for food;  but by using it for food the recipient now can use other money they have to buy the things that they would not have been able to buy without the food card money.  Second, is the concept of the slippery slope – what starts out as a seemingly good idea of offering nutritional surplus food to hungry people now means getting free bags of potato chips and colas at the full price and profit margin that the store and manufacturer charge.  Hardly the same idea or the same program.

By the way, TheFundamentals agrees with the comments in the first posting quoted above – many working, taxpaying Americans do not buy crap food – snack, sugar items, soda pop and salty chips for both nutritional reasons as well as frugality.  Why is the US government promoting free access to crap foods that many taxpayers do not purchase and cannot afford to purchase?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Do You Know Raymond Gaster?

When the prez of the U.S. stands up and says that "you didn't build that, someone else did" he insulted every businessman that ever started a business and tried to run a successful business. It's time we stood up and say "NO, Mr. President, you are wrong. I built this business." If you have a marque or a sign board you owe it to your country to answer back. This is my answer to Obama.

Raymond Gaster

Celebrating 27 Years of Providing
Materials for Savannah's Finest Homes
What follows is an interview with Mr. Gaster --
Mr. Gaster didn't ask us but TheFundamentals approves his message also!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Question Authority

It is a fundamental of a republic form of government. Question authority.   It is a fundamental of a democratic form of government.  Authority must be constantly questioned. Constantly challenged.  Constantly made uncomfortable for the sole purpose of demanding and forcing it to do better; to change; to improve.  The concepts of speaking truth to power and questioning power are well established.  Frequently the follow through has fallen short – badly short. 

Who questions authority?  Anyone.  Anyone with some discipline.  Discipline meaning research, analysis, evaluation; anyone who is open to critique and suggestion.  It is not just journalists and writers and columnists and historians.

When the historians evaluate the presidencies of the incumbent and his two predecessors, ask yourself this question:  Will the historians conclude that these three men were always pursued with intelligent questions based on research and analysis – forced to question themselves; their policies; their decisions and their results?  Were they pushed to always examine the consequences of their plans and actions or were they given a free ride by an accommodating rather than skeptical audience?  Also, were they held to objective measurements?

Whose job is it to question authority in our country?  Is authority being effectively challenged?  First let’s ask, who is this “authority” to which we refer?  Is it Mitt Romney?  Hardly, Mitt has no power; no position; no job; no authority whatsoever at all. Is it the guy or gal in your district or your state running for office?  Trying to win a school board seat or sheriff badge or a job on the city council?  Or is the guy/gal who is in the job now and is trying to hold onto the job?

Our answer is the same as it was for Mr. Romney.  It is not the challenger that needs to be the primary focus of questioning and challenging.  It is the job holder; the incumbent; the sitting president or representative or judge or mayor or sheriff.

When the historians write their books; do their analysis; tally up the facts and figures and then find that the incumbent was neither doing a good job nor being challenged about the job they were doing, at whom will they point the finger of responsibility?  The president or governor or mayor who got the pass – was always treated comfortably by the media and the reporters and the bloggers and columnists?  Or the media and reporters and bloggers and columnists who didn’t do their job?  Will they write that by not challenging these office holders they neither did their readers nor the incumbent any favors? 

A catchy phrase that many self anointed journalists like to embrace in describing their job goes something like this – we are in the business of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.  Would that it be so.  We’ve got news for them.  They are not doing their job well at all.  Their inclination toward discomfort seems to be misapplied – it is aimed at the challengers; not the incumbents.  That means they will get poor marks from the historians.  Even worse, the incumbents have actually been cheated in the process.  They deserve much better questioning because it is required it they are to improve, change and do a good job.  The incumbents are not doing a good job and they are not being made uncomfortable.

So to our friends in the media, Hollywood and otherwise, remember your mission – always question authority.  You are not doing your job if you do not make authority your primary focus and you are not helping authority by giving them a pass.  All you are doing is assisting in creating the messes that we find in places like Chicago and Springfield, Illinois; Sacramento, California and Washington DC.  Focus on the people in power.   They should not be your friends. 

Always question authority.