Archive

Monthly Archives: November 2012

Republican ElephantI was hoping to blog more on the American Dream; unfortunately we have to save America from becoming financially insolvent first.  How my blogs articles will look after the first of the year will depend a lot on whether or not we go over this cliff and if we do, how loud a thump we make!

What inspired me to write about The Ace up the Sleeve is a recent email I received from Rob Kane (R), the state senator in my district.  The good senator makes reference to the proposed spending cuts by Governor Dannel Malloy (D) of Connecticut with a majority of cuts affecting health and human services, and the poorest of the Nutmeg-Staters.

According to the Kane report:

Among the targets of Gov. Malloy’s rescissions(sic) are the state’s poorest residents served by the Department   of Public Health, $2.2 million; Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, $7.8 million;        Department of Social Services, $32.3 million; Department of Education, $8.4 million; and the Department          of Children and Families, $18.3 million, among others.

Governor Malloy insists the alternative is to raise taxes to epic proportions and that a difficult choice has to be made between the lesser of two evils.  Yeah, I get it!  The only problem is Governor Malloy and his band of merry Democrats is that there is actually a choice among the lesser of three evils—the third evil, the ace the cheater dealer is hiding in the cuff of his shirt sleeve!  The third evil according to Kane, are the bureaucrats in Hartford; salary cuts, reduction in size of some departments with respect to employees, and consolidation of services to fewer departments:

Coincidentally and fortuitously, The Associated Press came out Thursday with a report    on the lavish         treatment of some favored bureaucrats. “At three of the four Connecticut State University campuses, the     president receives an extra $25,000 each year to spend without having to provide any documentation,”              according to the AP report.

A spokesman for Gov. Malloy pointed out such perquisites are not under the governor’s jurisdiction. But     make no mistake, he has sufficient leverage to demand cuts in benefits such as this one…

This brings me back to what I have said in many past blogs.  We need to make sensible spending cuts.  We need to privatize certain services and make the best of the negative side effects because a government in debt can no longer finance such services.  Remember the one bone of contention I picked with VP candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI) with his plans to privatize Social Security and Medicare is that first we should privatize Amtrak—it makes absolutely no sense for the feds to relinquish two services still vital to are elderly and disabled while running a railroad—even though history has shown the private sector runs a better railroad—such as the privately owned railroads industrial America was founded.

This is not to it is possible to balance the budget without any tax increases and without any cuts at all to vital services.  All I am asking is that prioritization is done properly.  Even tax increases for the wealthiest cannot and should not be undertaken until bureaucracies and boondoggles are rectified.  I can relate to thoroughly to the occupiers and ninety-niners but to put the entire burden on them is throwing out the baby with the bathwater—these are the ones who have the most potential for job creation which is a essential element in balancing the budget because after all alternatives to raising taxes have been exhausted, we need to ensure the American taxpayer at least can afford the taxes that will be necessary evils.

Furthermore, in the words of Jerry McGuire (fictional character portrayed by actor Tom Cruise), show me the money!  This is my biggest sticking point about sacrifices with respect to any American in any income class.  At the end of the day, The Malloy Plan in Connecticut would close a $365 million budget gap.  Bully!  An appreciable sum of money.  The only problem is the state of Connecticut is in debt $3.6 Billion (with a B).  At the end of the day, the Nutmeg State is still carrying a substantial amount of debt.  Remember my opposition to Connecticut repealing blue laws and allowing liquor sales on Sunday.  The politicians who sold us this bill of goods talked about the millions (with an M) it would raise, assuming a liquor seller is going to get additional customers, not just a percentage of Saturday customers changing their shopping habits.  Now small mom and pop package stores that may have an owner with no employees is forced to work seven days to compete with the big boys—another spike driven into the ailing heart of small business in CT.  And we are still in debt.  Any sacrifice other than the ultimate sacrifice our soldiers have mad to ensure our freedom are done with the prospect of something in return—say, a balanced budget.

My fellow Republicans and I are more willing than ever to reach across the aisle to Democrats to get deals done at both the state and federal levels; especially to avoid going over cliffs, and Connecticut has its own cliff to worry about too.  But my first request to the Democrat party is to take that ace out of your shirt cuff!

Advertisements

I LIKE IKE was a campaign slogan often found on red, white, and blue striped campaign buttons during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s re-election campaign in 1956.  Though there is little negativity one can say or write about the Eisenhower years, Ike was generally written off by historians in the second half of the twentieth century as intellectually deficient who got lucky because he was president during a time when there was little need for an active government in Washington, D.C.  Ironic because Adlai Stevenson, although I personally would have been one-hundred and eighty degrees apart from him on ninety-eight percent of the issues, was one of the most intelligent men ever to take a shot at the presidency.  The oversimplification that Stevenson was smart and Eisenhower was stupid doesn’t make sense; why would stupidity win by a landslide over intelligence?  Most pundits claim that in pre-Viet Nam War America, nobody was beating a war hero no matter what and Eisenhower was a renowned five star general during World War II.  As much as my loyalty to the Republican Party and my strong belief in compassionate political conservative philosophy, there was little justification for the thesis that Eisenhower was an intelligent man—until now.

On CBSs Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer took a break from politics as usual and devoted the show to book reviews with authors on the panel who flaunted light political opinions as a majority of the books were on past presidents such as Lincoln and Jefferson.  One of the books written by an author named Evan Thomas is entitled Ike’s Bluff talks about Eisenhower was not the boob of a man of whom he is often depicted.  Rush Limbaugh told a caller on his popular talk show right before the election that what made Eisenhower a good president was that he realized he couldn’t shoot the Congress the way he could the enemy in combat, so he knew to get out of the way and play golf…  Thomas takes it one step further tapping into the man’s wit and wisdom.  When confronted with a problem he did not have an answer and either had to address congress, the press, or both, he was able to think on his feet and say something that would confuse the appropriate parties to buy himself time.  Eisenhower won the 1952 election with a coattail majority in both houses on congress, lost the House of Representatives in the mid-term election of 1954, and then the Senate as well in his 1956 re-election.  His ability to work with the Democrats in congress at the time is his manipulation of jargon would make the opposition (as well as his fellow Republicans) hungry to find out more and they would sit down and work with him.  Ike, an avid golfer, played golf with Democrat opponents and build a rapport with them.  Ronald Reagan, although not as much through the game of golf, worked with Democrats in similar fashion.  Today, Obama is criticized for sticking with his own kind, as it were when it comes to golf, dinner, cocktails, or watching a basketball game on the big screen.

If, as Warren Harding said, we need to drink from the fountain of wisdom inherited from our Founding Fathers, this must include the disciples of the Founding Fathers such as Eisenhower and Reagan.  Although no one in Washington is exempt from checks and balances, the basic infrastructure of our federal system makes congress slightly more powerful than the president; our Founding Fathers intended it that way so the process of law-making would be done by many and not just one almighty.  For a United States President to be successful, he (or she) needs to be able to do two things well (1) he needs to be a visionary and two (2) he needs the ability to sell his vision.  Whatever side you take on Obamacare, Obama never sold Obamacare to anyone.  A salesman never sells a product to someone already sold—if they are already sold, the sales process is pre-empted and he pulls out his sales book and writes up the order.  The Democrats who elected him voted for him, especially in 2008, because they were sold on the so called need for government managed healthcare.  He did not sell one Republican or independent, and I am not talking about the ones in Congress—they were elected by the people who supported or opposed.  I am not referring to either Wall Street or Main Street either, but Elm Street where typical middle class American homeowners and their families, many raising children concerned about their future, have voiced their views on how it is an infringement on freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution.  All Obama did to get Obamacare to pass was to grow strong in numbers and maintain a majority of his fellow Democrats already sold on it to vote for it.  Beginning in 2010 with a shift in power in the House of Representatives, and its stabilization in 2012, Obama now has to deal with members of congress opposed to him and has done little to close a sale. 

I have the privilege of working with two of the greatest furniture salesmen I have ever met with the company I work for, Patio.com, both working out of our Greenwich, Connecticut outlet.  When their numbers are down, it is typically the failure of the advertising as even hall of fame salespeople cannot sell anything if no customers are walking through the door.  While Ike and Reagan have invited the opposition into their shop doors, Obama runs an elite boutique with business hours by appointment only and has not been accommodating to appointments with Republicans.

The ability to play professional baseball is a gift; not everyone can hit a pitched baseball and reach first base often enough to warrant playing professionally.  But it is not hard to run as fast as you can to first base when you do make contact and if you run out a ground ball, you may get lucky and the fielder may botch the play or you may just beat the throw to the first baseman.  Selling is also a gift, but it not hard to ask for the sale, you have nothing to lose.  Sometimes the customer realizes he needs the product no matter how poorly you pitched it and simply asking for the order was the trigger in his subconscious mind to say yes and make the purchase.  But if a shopkeeper decides to screen people as they walk into the door and decide he doesn’t like them and doesn’t want to sell them anything, even people who came in with every intention to buy before the salesman even opened his mouth will not buy—they need the product and will buy it—but not from [you].

To our dismay as Republicans, Mitt Romney made the same mistake.  His forty-seven percent remarks as well as some others have put a DO NOT ENTER sign on the Romney shop door.  No one running for office (or for that matter, no human being in the history of mankind) has ever succeeded in pleasing all of the people all of the time.  Even if you win the election, there will still be a lot of people who don’t like you.  You can survive and get elected with people who don’t like you.  But you cannot survive and get elected if you tell voters you don’t like them.  I still believe Mitt Romney was the antidote; that bottle of Buckley’s Cough Mixture that tastes awful but it works and America needed him more than it wanted him.  But there is nothing you can do if you don’t get elected.  Evan Thomas’s message is to drink from Ike’s fountain of wisdom.

This is Hostess’s last stand.  This is the second time they have been bankrupt, 2004 was the first.  Now you have people talking about auctioning Twinkies for thousands of dollars.  What did them in?  Unions—the nation’s second biggest economic nemesis.

Personally, I am not a Twinkie person.  Nobody at Hostess is at fault; my sweet tooth leads the direction of chocolate.  Occasionally those chocolate cup cakes with the laced white icing or a Devil Dog, but I never acquired a taste for the Twinkie.  I have the utmost respect for nutritionalists and I certainly do not think the government should bail out a company that indirectly promotes childhood obesity, but I lament for the middle class wage earners who will be out of a job.  Too bad the top brass at Hostess did not see the way they could have saved their company, Twinkie The Kid, and all those menial jobs.  In bankruptcy, a company does not have to honor contracts, including union contracts.  They could have laid off all the union employees, and then restructured as a non-union company and hired non-union employees including rehiring the old union employees as long as they were willing to sacrifice their union affiliation.  It would have been risky; they could have received Hell on Earth from the Teamsters and many other unions for decades to come, but then again the greatest risk is not taking one.  Now Hostess and Wonder Bread trucks will no longer don our interstate highways and grocery store loading docks.  This is not helping our eight percent average national unemployment.

During the plight of the factory worker in the early lasses-faire days of the industrial revolution, unions were necessary—I get that.  What happened is union bosses got too powerful.  John Locke told us power inevitably corrupts; no man or woman that ever lived has successfully resisted all of Satan’s temptation and greed is a big one.  This is not an exoneration of corporate greed; but corporate greed would be more manageable with reasonable regulation, not excessive regulation, had it not been coupled with union greed.  It is like riding a high powered locomotive to Hell with two high speed engines, one called corporate and one called union.  I also believe today’s worker would prefer to be reviewed by a boss on an annual basis, with clear cut goals to earn more money later, than be a union slave

So far what we must do is (1) bring back manufacturing (2) become as energy independent as much as possible (3) de-unionize, and (4) provide opportunities for people, especially college graduates at the top of their class, opportunities to use their skills in their own small businesses. —the problem is if they take a job in a union shop, they have no choice and soon acquire a taste for union mentality.

On this Thanksgiving Day, this twenty-second of November of two-thousand and twelve, we have a lot to be thankful for.  Once again, we dodged two weather related bullets—Hurricane Sandy which devastated the Connecticut coast but here in Oxford, three hours net without power was the worst of it.  Then the nor’easter which did give us about nine inches of snow, but no power outage or damaging wind.  Our hearts cry out to those on coastal Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and beyond that are celebrating Thanksgiving in the dark.

With the nastiest campaign in modern American history behind us and the choices for our leaders made, we can only hope our leaders can agree on actions to better our economy, especially reduction in unemployment as our hearts cry out to those with no means of support.  The need for all of us to be not red or blue but red, white, and blue is best spoken in a warning message by Teddy Roosevelt:

There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile…We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language…and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

One thing the government is considering to offset some to the expenses to entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, to save both of them and to hone in on a balanced budget is to raise the minimum retirement age.   Although not a decision to be proud of, at some point it is probably a necessary evil.  The saving graces are (1) we are living longer; living beyond three score and ten years is now the rule rather than the exception, and (2) with baby boomers retiring, with no changes in the system, there will be more people taking out of these programs than putting in.  I still think both of these will have to be privatized eventually and we will have to look at the negative consequences to privatization as the greater good; versus losing them altogether and leaving certain Americans with no means of support.  The problem with every politician in both parties advocating raising the retirement age, there is never any mention of the other operand, tax shelters.

Once we reach age seventy, we have to start paying income tax on earnings from tax shelters.  There are no longer penalties for early withdrawals, but they are no longer tax shelters; so what most new septuagenarians do is transfer the money from the tax shelter to a liquid asset like a traditional savings account.  Hmmmm.  Prior to the days of multi-trillion dollar debt, you retired at sixty-five and had a five year window to get your faculties in order with respect to tax shelters like IRAs, 401Ks, and other of these tax deferred accounts.  You could still work between ages 65 – 70 part time and earn up to $10,000 a year before it would be deducted from your Social Security check ($10,000 was a little bit more money in the 1970s).  The question is how is it going to work if the minimum retirement age is raised to seventy-two and you lose your tax shelters at age seventy?

I have come to the conclusion that if we absolutely must raise the retirement age, we must also raise the tax shelter age in proportion.  If we must have a retirement age as high as seventy-two, then tax shelters must also be extended to at least seventy-five, preferably seventy-seven to reinstate the five year rule.  Otherwise, it will be a very rough road for those finishing up the final two years of full-time work before retirement, getting hit from both ends of the spectrum.

We will have to make some difficult and unpopular decisions very soon and the negative consequences of any decision will have to be looked at as the price we have to pay to achieve fiscal responsibility and avoid traveling on the road to Greece.  But if the equation has more than one operand, make sure we at least cover or think about them all.

 

Will America drive off The Fiscal Cliff or will a deal be worked out?  That is The $64 Trillion Question we are following as we head to the end of 2012 and the drop dead-line of 1-1-2013 when mandatory tax increases and draconian spending cuts automatically go into effect unless there is intervening legislation—even for simple postponement.  The outgoing congress will most-likely pass in a bipartisan fashion a six-month extension to allow the incoming congress (sworn in 1-3-2013) with virtually equal majority party structure to handle it.

Speaker John Boehner (R) is willing to reach across the aisle but will not budge on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.  President Obama made it clear it has to be a fair compromise.  Obama is not going to budge much on entitlements, especially since he added Obamacare to the list of entitlements.  As I have said before, (1) you cannot raise taxes on the unemployed, the underemployed, or those financially struggling; they cannot pay their current taxes and you simply cannot squeeze blood out of a rock.  (2) Raising taxes on the wealthy in the long run will worsen the situation as it will create more unemployment.  A majority of the rich, even the one percent, are the only real vehicle we have to create jobs.  Ideally, we should go after the one-third percent, the richest people who choose to do nothing but live off their money, and tax them the most, but that would require profiling which is unconstitutional and rightfully so.  (3) I have nothing against sacrifices; since the Revolutionary War and the formation of the American nation, no people on earth have made more sacrifices than the American people.  Ultimate sacrifice notwithstanding, we almost always get something in return.  If the grand prize in return were a balanced budget, I think both sides would be delighted to make the respective sacrifices they have been called upon to make.  But the likelihood is we are still going to be carrying massive debt and therefore getting nothing in return.  Like Tom Cruise said in Jerry McGuire, “Show me the money!”

There are three-hundred-seventy-one Billionaires in the world today.  The world has yet to see its first Trillionaire.  We have not yet even seen our first trillion dollar company albeit Apple Computer may reach that plateau by mid-2013.  The one percent are very, very rich; but not that rich.  Even if God forbid we implemented a form of Karl Marx’s vision and taxed billionaires to live like multi-millionaires, multi-millionaires to live like millionaires, and millionaires to live like hundred-thousandaires, American will still come up short of a balanced budget.  As for spending cuts and a reduction in entitlements, George Will (ABC News) is famous for saying; immortality is not a virtue with respect to what was never intended to exist in the first place.  Nonetheless, it is understandable for people who have no other means of support but the entitlements to feel and that the preamble of the Constitution says to promote the general welfare, hence, a Constitutional obligation not leave elderly, disabled, and the like out on the streets.  This is not to say such people are not willing to make some sacrifice; but again it’s show me the money!  The real tipping point is yet to come, in the decade of the early 2020s.  Realistically, the operative word in limited government will always be limited, which is a commodity greater than zero.  I am not that extreme, but this tipping point I am referring to is one in which government could be reduced all the way to what it in 1789, and America would remain deep in debt and continue to accrue debt.  Although The New Deal is responsible for a lot of inflation and stagflation, the absence of New Deal reforms would not have kept prices and wages in tune with 1789, some inflation would still be inevitable.  It would still cost a lot more to operate a 1789-esque government today than it did in 1789.  Neither the wealthy man is going to sacrifice one penny to higher taxes nor are the middle class and poor going to sacrifice one crumb of government entitlement if we do not get that balanced budget in return.  And one thing neither I nor any of my fellow Republicans, even moderate Republicans will ever tolerate is sacrificing fundamental freedoms—even for a balanced budget.  To quote the New Hampshire state motto, most Americans live to the creed: Live free or die.

While the Democrats want to operate on the first element to achieve fiscal responsibility, taxes, and my fellow Republicans want to operate on the second element, spending cuts, not enough attention is being paid to the third element; even my fellow Republicans have disappointed me on this one.  The third element is currency stability.  While Mitt Romney, Lindsay Graham, and Saxby Chambliss, have used the analogy America is headed toward Greece, referring to the bankruptcy of that nation, taxes and spending were not the primary reason Greece went under and Germany is not feeling well.  The collapse in the currency was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The Euro, which is prototyped after America’s Federal Reserve dollar is not stable and its value is determined solely by amount in circulation and distribution.  Every time we print more Federal Reserve dollars we both increase the rate of inflation and increase the deficit.  You have to have $1700 disposable income to buy one ounce of gold.  As I have said before, we need to put some of our currency back on the gold standard.  If we hybridized our   currency to 60% Federal Reserve notes and 40% gold certificates.  You cannot certify more gold than that which is available so such currency always retains its value.  A gold certificate dollar bill is worth a full dollar no matter how government acts, and no matter what happens in the global (worldwide) economy.  And with the 60/40 hybridization, (1) you don’t certify every ounce of gold in Fort Knox—to do so would give us no margin of error in a free-trade world.  (2) If there is a need for the federal reserve to print more money, and the federal government stipulates this 60/40 ratio always be maintained, you print less new currency and you certify more gold in the process to maintain the ratio, resulting in little consequence to inflation and national debt.  So for all you liberals and moderates who want to redistribute the wealth, here is a way to do it without socialism or communism; as forty percent of your dollars shift from federal reserve notes to gold certificates, backed by a precious metal worth $1700 an ounce, you are getting wealthier.

My message to Boehner and Obama, for whom even when reaching across the aisle, cannot compromise on everything when it comes to taxes and spending cuts, is to consider the currency overhaul as common ground.  If we have to go over a cliff, let there at least be a pot of gold at the bottom to break our falls.

It’s the veteran, not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It’s the veteran, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It’s the veteran, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It’s the veteran, not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It’s the veteran, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It’s the veteran, not the politician,
who has given us the right to vote.

It’s the veteran,
who salutes the flag,
who serves under the flag.

Eternal rest grant them O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine on them.

Have you thanked a veteran today?