A good friend sent me the following this morning. For me it does put things in perspective.
Putting things in perspective:
March 21st, 2010 to October 1st, 2013 is 3 years, 6 months, and 10 days.
December 7, 1941 to May 8, 1945 is 3 years, 5 months and 1 day.
What this means is that from the time we were attacked at Pearl Harbor to the day that Germany surrendered is not enough time for this progressive government to build a working webpage to sell its new health plans. The mobilization of millions, building thousands of tanks, planes, jeeps, subs, cruisers, destroyers, torpedoes, millions upon millions of guns, bombs, ammo, etc., turning the tide in North Africa, Invading Italy, conduction the D-Day Invasion, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Race to Berlin – all while fighting the Japanese in the Pacific were all done in this amount of time, but, our current government in a longer period of time can’t build a working webpage.
Three years ago, in March of 2011, I wrote the blog post you will see below. I guess that around tax season I spend more time thinking about all the taxes we pay and where they go and why they are so high. This post is much as I would write it today, except that I would likely have have added the additional costs to the city of “The Affordable Care Act.” I think when I have the time I am going to make a long list of all the things government does for us and highlight the ones it does better today or more effectively today than it did them 10 years ago. Here is the 2011 post:
Here is a simple example of the changes that have resulted in an increase in the cost of government without an increase in services to the tax-paying public. To simplify, my example uses constant 2011 dollars. This is not a bedtime story and you may want to read it slowly. You will likely shake your head slowly when you are done reading.
It is 1975 in Hometown, Georgia. The Public Works Department of Hometown has 2 laborers who spend the vast majority of their time repairing and maintaining sidewalks. Their total pay and benefits (adjusted for 2011) is equivalent to $20,000 each per year or $40,000. The tools and equipment they use were purchased at a cost amortized over 5 years of $8,000 per year. They use about $2,000 annually in materials. So, without getting fancy, Hometown spends $50,000 a year and the city has a nice looking, well cared for sidewalk system. The 25,000 resident tax-payers of Hometown are pleased with what they get for the $2 per capita annual expenditure on sidewalk repair/maintenance.
In 1980, the City Council decides to save money. They let both laborers go and they contract out for sidewalk services. They budget $40,000 for sidewalk repair and maintenance. Seven local contractors bid on the work. The winning contractor has added one of the ex-city employees to his contracting crew and can do the job with existing equipment. The contractor will just have to work a bit harder and more hours, but he has incentive since this contract will increase his profit by almost $5,000 a year. The sidewalks are equally or better maintained and the City has saved $10,000.
In Neartown, just 20 miles from Hometown, there is a big scandal in 1982. The Public Works Director is found to have given a sewer cleaning contract to his brother-in-law for about 25% more than the contract bid at the previous year. In response to the outcry in the neighboring town, Hometown passes a new law that all contracts over $10,000 must go out to bid. All contractors must apply and qualify to bid.
By 1985, the Public Works Director feels overworked and begs for help in administering City Contracts. The City hires a Contracts Administrator for $35,000 per year. The low bid on the sidewalk repair contract for 1986 comes in at $45,000. The increase is due to the increased costs of the paperwork needed to qualify to bid and the increased number of inspections and specifications required by the contract. Since the contract administrator has 10 major contracts to watch, we assign $3,500 to the cost of the sidewalk repairs. Hometown is now spending $48,500 annually. City savings have dropped to $1,500.
In 1988, the city’s employees are organized by the SEIU and the first City Labor Contract with the SEIU is negotiated. Since the City is a bit strapped for money, it tries to hold off on wage and salary increases, but it does allow for a large increase in benefits and pension promises. The actual cost to the City of the Contracts Administrator (her new pay grade is Administrator III and she now qualifies for a step increase because of her 3 years of service) with all benefits is now $42,500 per year. The new contract cost comes in at $47,500. Add to that the 10% of $42,500 for contract administration and Hometown is now paying $51,750 annually to keep up the sidewalks. The City now pays $1,750 more per year than before and has accrued a pension liability for the Contracts Administrator that is equal to $4,250 per year. Fortunately, City revenues have increased as property values have gone up, and, the pension liability won’t come due for many years.
In 1990, the SEIU opens negotiations with the City on its contract with a demand for a 10% increase in pay and benefits plus a simple 7% cost of living allowance (COLA) for each year of the contract. The SEIU claims its demands are very reasonable since 50 miles away in Atlanta the contract is approximately 15% more expensive than the contract with Hometown. There is a protracted period of negotiation. The SEIU members are encouraged to slow their work down to put pressure on the City. Finally after 6 months, the contract is settled and signed. The City accepts a 5% increase in pay and benefits and a 6% COLA for a three year contract. Part of the deal the City had to accept included hiring of an assistant (Administrator I) for each of the five City employees rated as Administrator III and above. The Contracts Administrator is assigned one of the Assistants, along with his $30,000 in pay and benefits. The low bid on the sidewalk contract comes in at $51,500. Again, contractors complained about all the new requirements, the new inspections, and the costs of increased paperwork to do the job. Ten percent of the cost of the Contracts Administrator and her Assistant now comes to $7,462.50, not counting the ever growing pension liability. Now the city is paying $58,962.50 for sidewalk repair. Because of the slowdown during contract negotiations, repairs and maintenance are behind schedule and sidewalks are starting to show significant wear and tear.
The City does not have the revenue to support the increased costs. The City Council debates four choices: 1. Defer a large part of maintenance and repair of sidewalks; 2. Increase revenue through an increase in property tax; 3. Add to the sales tax; or 4. Float a City Bond of $1,000,000 to pay for a number of repair and maintenance projects around the city. The City Council determines that the most politically viable solution is to ask the taxpayers for an increase in property tax. The vote is very close, but the forces in favor of the tax convince enough people to vote and the tax measure passes. Tax proponents were successful in making the argument that the extra money will help the city keep sidewalks and parks and the library, etc. in much better shape thus protecting the City’s investment in infrastructure. Among their strongest arguments was that this very small tax will improve property values and a taxpayer would more than recover his tax dollars when he sells his house.
Each ensuing year, with the increased costs of the COLA and new pay raises granted with each new contract, the initial surplus created by added property tax goes away. Two years after the property tax increase, the City asks for and gets a 0.5% addition to the sales tax. Three years later the City Council needs to further defer sidewalk repair and maintenance. It seems the addition of the second administrative assistant to help with Contracts Administration plus the increased costs of asphalt and concrete have increased costs beyond the City’s ability to pay.
By the year 2000, the City, in a move to save money, consolidates all Contracts Administration under a new Purchasing Division. All three Contracts Administration employees now work for the new Director of Purchasing for the City (an $80,000 job plus benefits). The Purchasing department now employs eight people. The new department finds time to write a complete new set of purchasing guidelines, specifications, and inspection requirements. The application form to bid on City Contracts is now an 11 page document that must be notarized to be submitted to the City. A $50 fee for submitting a bid has been added to defer the cost of handling the paperwork. Four bidders on the sidewalk maintenance contract decide not to bid this year because they can’t afford the paperwork overhead. Only the two largest contractors (both from Atlanta, not Hometown) are approved to bid and not surprisingly, the new contract for 50% of the work previously done (more deferred maintenance) goes for $75,000 in 2000. ABC Construction, the winning Sidewalk Contract bidder the previous year closes shop. One of ABC’s ex-employees gets a new job with the City as an inspector for City Contracts. He is hired due to his experience with sidewalk repair and maintenance. Inspectors now make $47,500 a year to start.
In 2010, the SEIU and the City almost come to blows as the combination of higher union demands and lower tax revenues would require that either the City lay off 25% of its workforce or reduce pay, benefits, and pension contributions. The SEIU leads its members out on strike. It lasts almost a month. The parks are overrun with trash, sidewalks go unrepaired, the city sewage plant overflows and sends raw sewage into the river. The strike is finally settled and the City agrees to a “modest” 2% increase in pay plus a “reduced” COLA of only 4% per year. To pay for the higher costs, the City must do as it threatened and lay off almost 25% of City employees. The Council is now considering the idea of the Bond Measure to raise needed revenue to meet their budget.
Don’t think this could happen?
It just did, while you were going about your daily business.
So how do we stop and then reverse this? Any ideas?
Below is an opinion piece by a Los Angeles area ordained minister, writer and talk show host. He is black, if that matters to you. If you think Mr. Massie is off-base, let me know.
Why I Do Not Like the Obamas by Mychal Massie
The other evening on my twitter, a person asked me why I didn’t like the Obama’s? Specifically I was asked: “I have to ask, why do you hate the Obama’s? It seems personal, not policy related. You even dissed (disrespect) their Christmas family picture.”
The truth is I do not like the Obamas, what they represent, their ideology, and I certainly do not like his policies and legislation. I’ve made no secret of my contempt for the Obamas. As I responded to the person who asked me the aforementioned question, I don’t like them because they are committed to the fundamental change of my/our country into what can only be regarded as a Communist state.
I don’t hate them per definition, but I condemn them because they are the worst kind of racialists, they are elitist Leninists with contempt for traditional America . They display disrespect for the sanctity of the office he holds, and for those who are willing to admit same, Michelle Obama’s raw contempt for white America is transpicuous. I don’t like them because they comport themselves as emperor and empress.
I expect, no I demand respect, for the Office of President and a love of our country and her citizenry from the leader entrusted with the governance of same. President and Mrs. Reagan displayed an unparalleled love for the country and her people. The Reagan’s made Americans feel good about themselves and about what we could accomplish. Obama’s arrogance by appointing 32 leftist czars and constantly bypassing congress is impeachable. Eric Holder is probably the MOST incompetent and arrogant DOJ head to ever hold the job. Could you envision President Reagan instructing his Justice Department to act like jack-booted thugs?
Presidents are politicians and all politicians are known and pretty much expected to manipulate the truth, if not outright lie, but even using that low standard, the Obama’s have taken lies, dishonesty, deceit, mendacity, subterfuge and obfuscation to new depths. They are verbally abusive to the citizenry, and they display an animus for civility.
I do not like them, because they both display bigotry overtly, as in the case of Harvard Professor Louis Gates, when he accused the Cambridge Police of acting stupidly, and her code speak pursuant to not being able to be proud of America .. I view that statement and that mindset as an insult to those who died to provide a country where a Kenyan, his illegal alien relatives, and his alleged progeny, could come and not only live freely, but rise to the highest, most powerful, position in the world.
Michelle Obama is free to hate and disparage whites because Americans of every description paid with their blood to ensure her right to do same. I have a saying, that “the only reason a person hides things, is because they have something to hide.”
No president in history has spent millions of dollars to keep his records and his past sealed.
And what the two of them have shared has been proved to be lies. He lied about when and how they met, he lied about his mother’s death and problems with insurance, Michelle lied to a crowd pursuant to nearly $500,000 bank stocks they inherited from his family. He has lied about his father’s military service, about the civil rights movement, ad nausea. He lied to the world about the Supreme Court in a State of the Union address. He berated and publicly insulted a sitting Congressman. He has surrounded himself with the most rabidly, radical, socialist academicians today.
He opposed rulings that protected women and children that even Planned Parenthood did not seek to support. He is openly hostile to business and aggressively hostile to Israel . His wife treats being the First Lady as her personal American Express Black Card (arguably the most prestigious credit card in the world). I condemn them because, as people are suffering, losing their homes, their jobs, their retirements, he and his family are arrogantly showing off their life of entitlement – as he goes about creating and fomenting class warfare.
I don’t like them, and I neither apologize nor retreat from my public condemnation of them and of his policies. We should condemn them for the disrespect they show our people, for his willful and unconstitutional actions pursuant to obeying the Constitutional parameters he is bound by, and his willful disregard for Congressional authority.
Dislike for them has nothing to do with the color of their skin; it has everything to do with their behavior, attitudes, and policies. And I have open scorn for their constantly playing the race card.
I could go on, but let me conclude with this. I condemn in the strongest possible terms the media for refusing to investigate them, as they did President Bush and President Clinton, and for refusing to label them for what they truly are. There is no scenario known to man, whereby a white president and his wife could ignore laws, flaunt their position, and lord over the people, as these two are permitted out of fear for their color.
As I wrote in a syndicated column titled, “Nero In The White House” – “Never in my life, inside or outside of politics, have I witnessed such dishonesty in a political leader. He is the most mendacious political figure I have ever witnessed. Even by the low standards of his presidential predecessors, his narcissistic, contumacious arrogance is unequalled. Using Obama as the bar, Nero would have to be elevated to sainthood… Many in America wanted to be proud when the first person of color was elected president, but instead, they have been witness to a congenital liar, a woman who has been ashamed of America her entire life, failed policies, intimidation, and a commonality hitherto not witnessed in political leaders. He and his wife view their life at our expense as an entitlement – while America ‘s people go homeless, hungry and unemployed.”
Do you agree with Mr. Massie?
By becoming cheerleaders for the left, our Press has failed in its critical role in our Democracy.
A democracy relies upon an educated and informed citizenry. More on the failures of our education system later.
The combination of an educated and an informed public ensures that decisions made at the voting booth will be less emotion driven and more based on logic, reasoning, and a sense of community benefit.
Let’s look at some examples of cheerleading vs. reporting.
Here in Oregon, our Obamacare plan is called Cover Oregon. It has been a complete disaster. I don’t believe the website has signed up any customers and only a few thousand have been able to place coverage using the manual application system. One TV station (KATU-2-ABC) last week did its job and aired an exposé on Governor Kitzhaber showing all the information that he knew about the failures of Cover Oregon, well before the failures became public knowledge. It showed letters written to the Governor by the state’s quality-assurance contractor, side-by-side with Kitzhaber saying to the press and the public that the latest reports showed that Cover Oregon was on schedule and doing well. His lies and the State’s cover up of the failures were well documented. The other media outlets in town chose to headline, “Kitzhaber Misled by Staff” and similar. The Oregonian, the largest circulation paper in the State headlined, “Gov. John Kitzhaber Defends Cover Oregon, says “This Isn’t New Jersey.” As recently as a week ago, over 4 months after the promised roll-out of Cover Oregon, Kitzhaber said, “It’s not elegant, but it’s working and it’s getting better and better every day.” As of two weeks ago, it appeared that as many as 65,000 had made application via a manual paper based system requiring 400 additional state employees to do the processing. Of those it looks like half have been approved but have chosen not to purchase a plan. And, no one is predicting that the website will be functioning before March 31st when the Federal enrollment deadline arrives.
If you are in Oregon, you know that the media has done its best to make this issue go away. They would not want anything to upset the status quo – if they can help keep democrats in office, they can continue to have significant influence in government. It is a partnership. For an interesting take on why the media supports and protects democrats, see this article.
Nationally, the IRS has clearly targeted 501 (c)(4) groups that lean to the right politically. I would love to hear any fact that disputes this. Yet absolutely nothing is being done to fix this abuse of a government agency and the press continues to pass on the opportunity to examine this and inform us. And now, Democrats in Congress are attempting to modify the rules on these organizations (501-c-4s) to make it harder for them to be politically active while not touching the special treatment given to Unions (501 -c-5s) or groups like the League of Women Voters (501-c-3s). What have you heard about this obvious play to slant political fundraising in favor of left leaning organizations? The very real possibility exists that there would be a Republican in the White House had the IRS not delayed the tax favored status of Tea Party groups and similar organizations. In a well informed society, this would be a major issue and every news organization would be racing to lead the competition in revealing the latest information. Read this if you still believe that the IRS targeting of conservative groups is a coincidence.
Without the news media to act as watchdogs how can the public be well informed about what goes on in government? Is it possible to get “balanced coverage” of politics today?
My friend Brian and I were conversing over lunch yesterday and I mentioned I was working on a post about last Tuesday’s State of the Union Address. I mentioned that while researching reactions to the speech, I had responded to a single question survey. The question was, “In your view, what is the current state of the union?” We discussed my response and I said I would email it to him. It follows:
We are sad to see so many people unable to find jobs because politicians think it is more important to build bureaucracies and power than to get out of the way of hard working people.
We are sad because we see teachers who must close their minds and lead children to believe what the politicians want rather than to help children drink in the knowledge that comes from open minds and discovery.
We are sad because a once proud and strong nation sees more of its people cowed each day by mindless rules, regulations and the actions of a nanny state that knows better than its citizens what they need.
We are sad when we have politicians who look down their noses at us and see lesser beings while we no longer look up at them and see leaders worthy of our respect.
To which, Brian responded with an expansion on the theme:
We are sad that our political leadership fails to seek, understand, and heed lessons from the past to avoid the costly mistakes which consumed much of the treasure and blood of prior generations.
We are sad that political expediency has trumped the balance of powers so beautifully constructed in the US Constitution.
We are sad that the sacrifices made by our founders and patriots over the last past two centuries are not dignified or respected by the peoples’ civic and political involvement, as evidenced by appallingly low voter participation in elections.
We are sad that so many of us seem to be willing to forego freedom in exchange for security in the form of enhanced entitlements.
We are sad that the line which distinguishes political leadership from celebrity has become blurred….resulting in us electing politicians who tell us what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear.
We are sad that politicians enable us in self-indulgence, as evidenced by us saddling the next generation with unsustainable debt in order to keep today’s party stoked.
We are sad that the media rewards the deviant, the arrogant, and those who call attention to themselves by pandering to base instincts while ignoring the humble and noble virtues which ultimately lead to a “good life” as defined by thinkers over the ages.
What do you think?
The discussion below was posted in October of 2009. I would like to update it with the following graphic:
A friend sent me an email yesterday with some interesting insights to the differences between conservatives and liberals. I have copied it below.
Conservative vs. Liberal
If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn’t buy one. If a liberal doesn’t like guns, then no one should have one. If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn’t eat meat. If a liberal is, he wants to ban all meat products for everyone. If a conservative sees a foreign threat, he thinks about how to defeat his enemy. A liberal wonders how to surrender gracefully and still look good. If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly enjoys his life. If a liberal is homosexual, he loudly demands legislated respect. If a black man or Hispanic is conservative, he sees himself as independently successful. His liberal counterpart sees himself as a victim in need of government protection.
If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him. If a conservative doesn’t like a talk show host, he switches channels. Liberals demand that those they don’t like be shut down. If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church. A liberal wants all churches to be silenced.
If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it. A liberal demands that his neighbors pay for his.
I’m not sure that all the points are good ones, but, I think this sheds some light on the direction a liberal administration is taking our country. It is worth thinking about. There is a good summary of the differences between liberals and conservatives that is a bit more serious here.
I hope to soon post more on each of the below issues, but for now, here is my quick take on a few key issues. Feel free to comment.
Benghazi: It seems to me that it grows clearer each day that the Obama Administration’s response to questions about the Benghazi Incident amount to a political calculation – nothing more. Mr. Obama wanted to win the election. His advisors convinced him (don’t know if it took much convincing) that his constant claim that “Al Qaeda is on the run” would be exposed for the fiction that it is unless they could show the attack on Benghazi to be unrelated to terrorism or Al Qaeda. The political operatives and Mr. Obama compiled a series of lies and deceptions intended to dodge this bullet until after the election. Kudos to Mr. Obama and his people as it appears that their plan worked well.
Obamacare: The mess that is Obamacare (the “Affordable Care Act”) was a very hard sell to the majority of Americans. Mr. Obama needed to convince a large group of people to abandon their current health care situations. To do so, he promised time and again that “If you like your Doctor, you will be able to keep your Doctor.” He told us time and again that Obamacare would save people money and would cost taxpayers nothing since it would be self funding. He went so far as to claim, often, that this would save businesses money and would help cut into the National Debt. Again, he only had to keep this act up until after the election. The totality of this deception was understood by many, but not enough to keep him from winning a second term. Large numbers of those who believed Mr. Obama and his minions just 3 or 4 months ago are now having serious regrets as I predict we all will, before he leaves office.
Education: The top two tools of those who would subjugate a citizenry are, in my view, control of a system of universal taxation and control of a system of universal education of minors. Our education system was first designed to ensure an informed public able to read, understand, and discuss the issues of the day. Under the guidance of far too many in Government leadership over the past 50 years, we have turned our public education system into a public indoctrination system. The final straw is the adoption of the Common Core Curriculum which basically dictates what we are to believe and what is to be taught. For an interesting look at this issue, I recommend this article sent to me yesterday by a good friend.
Taxation: The purpose of the Internal Revenue Service (what a lovely euphemism for Tax Collectors) is to facilitate the collection of the taxes imposed by the government on its people. Even when used in a consistent and legal manner, it can be a source of pain for most citizens. The entire system of taxation seems to me to be slanted toward making it easy for our government to raise whatever funds it “wants” rather than collect the funds it “needs.” This, in itself, is a very serious problem and one that cries for a complete reform of our system of taxation. However, when it (the IRS) is used as a tool against political opponents, it becomes both a dangerous and effective weapon. J. Edgar Hoover gave a face to the problem of government officials misusing a government agency. For over 40 years, as head of the FBI, Hoover used his agency to collect information on his enemies (and friends) which he later used to intimidate them to do his bidding. Since, Presidents, Governors, and others with powerful positions have used similar methods to gain and retain power. The most recent example is the current administration’s use of the IRS to intimidate political opponents. The suppression of right wing groups by the IRS can be argued to have taken just enough power and money from the Romney campaign to have turned the election to Mr. Obama. Though he pleads complete innocence, it is beyond belief to think that he did not encourage, or, that his supporters did not direct the inappropriate IRS activities. It is beyond belief because as this is written, the Democrats in Congress are busy rewriting the rules for 501(c)(4) organizations to further restrict the activities of mostly conservative groups in time for the coming elections.
A Lazy, if not Complicit Media: It is a sad state of affairs that our largest media organizations have chosen not to investigate and report on the activities of the IRS, or the Benghazi incident, or NSA abuses among others. If you want examples of just how lazy/complicit the major media outlets have been, read this, this and this. It seems that “lazy” is the nicest thing that can be said of our media and its current inability to investigate scandal after scandal in government. With media help, the Obama Administration has earned the title as the Least Transparent Administration Ever – a well deserved title. Wouldn’t it be nice if our “Main-stream Media” would shed some light on these scandals? Don’t hold your breath.
What do you think?
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 330,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 14 days for that many people to see it.
Last Saturday Evening, my wife and I took a break and watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It is a movie from the late 40’s that was given to us by friends. Neither of us had ever seen it. We both enjoyed it and it made us think of times gone by.
Most striking to me was the hard-working Italian immigrant family that was able to move out of their tenement apartment into a new home of their own. It made me think about the Italians and the Germans and Poles, etc. who immigrated here 100 years ago. Most are today part of the society just like those who came over on the Mayflower. They have no distinct disadvantages or, for that matter, advantages in making their way in American Life.
When they arrived, they did not speak English. They did not know our customs. Their clothes were different. But, they knew that they needed to learn our language and customs if they were to fully enjoy the freedoms of this nation. To my knowledge, there were no ESL (English as a Second Language) programs. Ballots were printed in English since to become a citizen one was required to have a working knowledge of our official language. The immigrants learned the language and our customs. They had to.
Unlike our government today, in the last century (at least the first half of it) our government treated immigrants like normal people. If they were good and/or talented workers, they could get and hold a job. They paid taxes and obeyed the same laws as everyone else. Special programs to assist with food, transportation, education, health care, etc. did not exist. All members of our society were free and independent to do what they thought was best for them, within the laws of the land. Most chose to learn the English Language. Most took whatever jobs they could get until they could find something better. They saved and planned and made a better life for themselves than the lives they left in Europe or Asia or Africa. It wasn’t easy, but they were better for effort.
Somehow, they managed to survive and thrive and integrate into the American society. Doesn’t that indicate that we don’t “Need” all the government programs that we now have? Is it not possible that we are actually taking away incentives to integrate into our society and making it a slower, longer process for immigrants? Couldn’t we spend our tax dollars more effectively? Or at least overspend our income a bit less?
I also really liked the welcome that was given to the Martinis by Mary and George Bailey. they gave them a loaf of bread, so they will never know hunger, salt so that life will always have flavour and wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever. Nice. Can’t recall welcoming any new neighbors that way (but we do give them a bottle of our wine).