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Mr. Obama is a politician, not a leader.  He proves daily that his whole world is wrapped up in his newfound power and the politics he chooses to play to retain that power.  Some facts:

Mr. Obama is playing politics.  He has stated time and time again this year that there will be no budget cutting agreement unless there are increases in taxes for the rich.  This is pure politics.   He is holding out for any tax increases.  But, he tells us time and again that it is the “rich” who need to pay their “fair share.”  He implies that the only new taxes will be on the other guy, not on you.  His only goal is to get the Republicans to break their promise of no tax increases.  He could care less if we address the budget problem.  His game is to win this battle with the Republican House.  He, of course wants to retain as much of the plunder of Obamacare as he can, but he would give up most anything if he could get the Republicans to sign on to a tax increase.  He might lose a small battle but he would win the war.  And that is how he sees it.  It is a war to stay in power, not time to bring financial responsibility to government.

He and a then Democrat controlled Congress created most of the problem that he now blames on others.   It took Mr. Obama less than a month after being sworn into office to sign the ARRA or Stimulus bill which added at least $787 Billion to the Deficit.  He and his Democrat controlled Congress also passed a “Health Care” bill that will further increase deficits by hundreds of Billions more.

Last November, the voters/taxpayers of this country voted in large numbers for candidates who promised to hold the line on tax increases and to make cuts in spending.  Within the past month polls have consistently shown that the public, outside of Washington, D.C., want spending cuts and no tax increases.

“You have 80 percent of the American people who support a balanced approach. Eighty percent of the American people support an approach that includes revenues and includes cuts.” – Barack Obama, July 15, 2011   I can find no poll, worded in any way to make the numbers favor Mr. Obama’s statement, that comes near 80%.  It is a pure and simple lie.  If your definition of “balanced” includes a plan that contains 90% spending cuts and 10% new revenue (tax increases), you may find a poll that indicates 70% of the population wants “…a balanced approach.”  Does he believe that if you tell a lie often enough that most of the public will believe it?

Voters spoke quite clearly in November of 2010 when they chose representatives who promised to cut spending, and, not to increase taxes.  Rather than listen to the people, Mr. Obama chooses to stretch the truth for political purposes.

A leader would have told the country that we are overspending and need to change our ways.  He would have encouraged a plan that would get spending under control instead of a plan that served his political purposes.  Where is the Barack Obama who said:

“We cannot mortgage our children’s future on a mountain of debt. It’s time to put an end to the runaway spending and the record deficits- it’s not how you would run your family budget, and it must not  be how Washington handles your tax dollars.” candidate Barack Obama, October 1, 2008

“Our problem is not just a deficit of dollars. It’s a deficit of accountability, a deficit of trust.  So change and reform can’t just be election-year slogans. They must become fundamental principles of government.” – President -Elect Barack Obama, January 7, 2009

“The last thing you want to do is to raise taxes in a ressession.” – President Obama in an ABC News Interview August 5, 2009

Is his memory really that short or does he just hope ours is?

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It is one week until the election.  I had planned to write posts on 20 important issues giving my opinion on the positions I wanted candidates to take on those issues.  In the 39 weeks so far, I have only posted 17 times on the topic and have only covered 11 (plus a twelfth – extra issue) of the 20 issues.  During that same time, I posted 64 other pieces.  As is normal, the urgent took precedence over the important.


So here are the issues not yet covered and a very brief comment on each:

1. National Defense (Issue #11)

2. Energy (was issue #7)

3. Communications/Mail (was issue #9)

4. Transportation – I think we need candidates who appreciate the value of our interstate highway system, our ports, airfields, and long haul rail freight system.  Investment to protect the infrastructure of these systems should be higher on our priority list than many current social/defense/agriculture programs.

5. Law/Legal System – We have too many laws.  We would do well to have candidates who campaign on the basis of laws they will repeal more than on those they will write.  If we do not fund the enforcement of a law, what is the point of passing the law?  That only breeds more scofflaws.  I think we should look at our court system and consider courts as a tool of last resort, after mediation and arbitration.  I would welcome incentives towards mediation and against going to court.

6. Agriculture (was Issue #4)

7. Commerce (was Issue #6)

8. Health care (was Issue #1)

9. Taxes (was Issue #3)

10.  Jobs (was Issue #2)

11.  Social Security – The old Defined Benefit Pension Plans served retirees for years until the late 70’s when laws were changed making Corporate Officers and Directors personally liable for benefit shortfalls.  If a social security type program based on the old defined benefit plan were considered to replace our current system, I would want to be part of the discussion.  I think we need to explore all aspects of funding retired workers day-to-day needs.  That includes private investment.  We don’t seriously look at our system today because any politician who does is immediately attacked much as would be the case if he/she suggested race-based programs or extending normal retirement to age 70.

12.  Foreign Policy – I know even less about our foreign policy than I do about most of these other subjects.  I do, however, think we are still in a position of enough power to change the stage a bit.  I would like to see a more forceful presence in the UN.  When we sit back and do nothing when Iran is placed on the Commission of Women’s Rights and Libya is chosen to Chair the UN Human Rights Commission, something needs to change.  There is a very interesting post here that discusses some of Mr. Obama’s successes in foreign affairs.

13.  GSEs like Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac – I would like to see candidates challenge the need for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.  There is a consensus that much of the real estate/mortgage bubble was caused by easy money/sub-prime loans/zero-down loans.  How can we still support an agency that is backing 105% loans in a falling real estate market?  Can anyone tell me why we need Freddie and Fannie?

14. Government Spending/National Debt (was Issue #5)

15.  Crime and Punishment – I will leave this to Steven at Skalduggery.wordpress.com. He is the expert.  I do have lots of questions.  Do we coddle our prisoners?  Do mandatory sentences tie the hands of the courts?  Do we repatriate or train criminals in our penitentiaries? Etc.  This will be covered along with Issue #5 in a guest post by the Skald.

16.  Security/Borders – A simple question for me.  Why have laws if you don’t enforce them?  Why have borders if you don’t control them?  Any candidate who believes that the Federal suit against Arizona (for trying to control their own border) is rational has some explaining to do to me before he or she will get my vote.

17.  Rights/Responsibilities/Privileges – We have rights, according to our Constitution and the Amendments thereto, period.  I don’t recall seeing a right to food, health care, housing, jobs, etc.  Those are things we earn by living up to our responsibilities.  Safety nets are a totally different concept than rights.  We need to make that distinction.

18.  Congress and Ethics (was issue #10) – Almost an oxymoron in today’s Congress.

19.  Environmental Issues (was issue #8)

20.  Your favorite issue goes here.  –  JSV suggested “Innovation” and I tend to agree that it is a critical issue.  I will try to get a post before the election on this issue.

Extra Issue – Legalize Drugs.

Here is the list of the Issues for the series, “20 Issues – 40 Weeks”:

1. National Defense

2. Energy (was issue #7)

3. Communications/Mail (was issue #9)

4. Transportation

5. Law/Legal System

6. Agriculture (was Issue #4)

7. Commerce (was Issue #6)

8. Health care (was Issue #1)

9. Taxes (was Issue #3)

10.  Jobs (was Issue #2)

11.  Social Security

12.  Foreign Policy

13.  GSEs like Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac

14. Government Spending/National Debt (was Issue #5)

15.  Crime and Punishment

16.  Security/Borders

17.  Rights/Responsibilities/Privileges

18.  Congress and Ethics

19.  Environmental Issues (was issue #8)

20.  Your favorite issue goes here.

Extra Issue – Legalize Drugs.

So this means I have about 25 days to cover the following:

Congress and Ethics, Rights/Responsibilities/Privileges, Transportation, Social Security, Foreign Policy, National Defense, Crime and Punishment, Security/Boarders, and one additional one not on the list of 20, Innovation.

If you would like to take a stab at any of these, I would love to see it. I will post what you write and then comment on it.  I’m pretty sure that if I don’t get help from others I will not finish the list.  In fact, right now, I feel it will take me too long to research and write posts on Crime and Punishment, and, Foreign Policy to do them any justice at all.

So please chip in and help.  I don’t care whether you are “conservative” or “liberal,” “libertarian” or “Rastafarian,” or “holy roller,” as long as the language is acceptable and there is nothing threatening or otherwise inappropriate, I’ll print it.  Feel free to email your piece to me at tom@calamityhill.com

In my original post on the 20 Issues 40 Weeks series, I listed issue #20 as “Your Favorite Issue Goes Here.”  In fact, here is the list:

1. National Defense

2. Energy

3. Communications/Mail

4. Transportation

5. Law/Legal System

6. Agriculture (was Issue #4)

7. Commerce (was Issue #6)

8. Health care (was Issue #1)

9. Taxes (was Issue #3)

10.  Jobs (was Issue #2)

11.  Social Security

12.  Foreign Policy

13.  GSEs like Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac

14. Government Spending/National Debt (was Issue #5)

15.  Crime and Punishment

16.  Security/Borders

17.  Rights/Responsibilities/Privileges

18.  Congress and Ethics

19.  Environmental Issues

20.  Your favorite issue goes here.

Extra Issue – Legalize Drugs.

I will get back to the list shortly, but, I want to know if you have an issue that rises to the level of Top 20 for the coming elections in November.  Let me know and a talented and experienced team of one will determine if it deserves to be on the list.

What have you got?  There are only 20 weeks left (well, almost 21) so it is time I returned to the series.  I’d love to have your input not only on new issues I may have have missed but also on the issues listed.

Thanks,

Tom

I apologize in advance for the delay in responding to many reader comments over the past few weeks.  I have not made the time available to get to this task though I have wanted to.

There have recently been three comments to the post “20-40 (Issue 6)  The Economy/Commerce“.  All three were worthy of a response so here goes:

First, thanks, Shirley, for continuing to read and comment.  I appreciate your feedback.

Second, thanks to Sir Burton.   I will put Carrol Quigley’s “Tragedy and Hope” on my list.   Just don’t quiz me on in for quite a while as I am about three books behind and not reading much until I get caught up with business and growing things.

Last a response to JSV.   I must stipulate that JSV is far better read than I on the topic and writes more eloquently.  However, I feel I have a more real world experience.  We also view the issue with eyes separated by 32 years of age, he being half my age.

It is hard to argue with JSV’s point that the real problem is the hierarchial structure of bureaucracies, whether governmental or not. “While I know you’re currently focused on addressing multiple issues prior to the upcoming elections, I suggest that focusing on this issue and its cause would highlight the derivative nature of the other issues on your list as well as the long-term/big-picture irrelevancy of this fall’s elections…” This statement is where our views part ways – not in the truth of it, but in the value of the statement as seen from my view rather than his.

For argument’s sake, let us assume that at 64, I will live another 17.72 years (per government actuary life tables).  Under our current system, assuming no government collapse and relative continuity in form and function of our government, that would include 8 more Congressional elections and 4 more Presidential elections.  For a 32 year old, those same tables say he will live another 45.02 years, or 22 Congressional Elections and 11 for President.  Those elections, in my view, not JSV’s, are opportunities for the voting public to influence the direction of government.

My view, based on my timeline, is that if I am a responsible citizen, my votes will help limit our government.  If I had a timeline of 45 years, I might see (“long-term/big-picture”) bigger possibilities in changing the system as it appears JSV does.  As a hardwired optimist, I believe that the opportunity exists to make meaningful change through the ballot box.  I think that JSV’s argument is that it is not possible to make meaningful change at the ballot box or that it is a charade and nothing will change the forces of what I call the bureaucratic cancer.  I think my experience makes me a bit more pragmatic or, maybe, shortsighted.  I think that in my lifetime, I can still effect things that will make my life (and hopefully most others) better.  That, by the way, is another huge topic we might someday tackle – what makes a life better?

Consider that in the past 17.72 years, political leaders of all stripes have accomplished (voted for and taken credit for actions/laws, etc. that have been major factors in) the following:

1.  The National Debt is up from about $4 Trillion (64% of GDP) to today’s approximately $12.5 Trillion (about 86% of GDP)

2.  In inflation adjusted dollars, our Federal government will spend $3.7 Trillion in 2010 and will have revenue of $2.2 Trillion (that is spending about 168% of earnings).  17.72 years ago, the Federal Government spent $2 Trillion and collected $1.7 (that is 117% of earnings)

3.  In 1992 (17.72 years ago) the USA had just under 22 million people employed in manufacturing and construction and just over 18 million in government employment.  Today there are just over 20 million in construction/manufacturing, and, about 22 million working for government.  Go back 45.02 years and the government employed 12 million and construction/manufacturing 22 million.

If you assume that it would be good to return each of these indicators to the numbers 17.72 years ago or 45.02 years ago, you begin to see my point.  In the next 17+ years it is more practical for me to work to elect people who will make decisions that will make our national debt smaller, will lower Federal Government Spending, and will have fewer people on Government payrolls.

It is also more practical for me because I am directly affected more by government actions than many people are.  If you have a job that is minimally or slowly effected by our government’s actions, like government jobs, service sector jobs, etc.  you don’t see the big swings in your prosperity based on government action.  It is different if you are a farmer or a manufacturer.  For example, new legislation proposed in Congress, if passed, will effectively prohibit wineries/vineyards from selling wines across state lines without going through distributors.  This is great for the distributors (who are lobbying hard to get/keep this monopoly.  It means bankruptcy for hundreds of small wine producers who can’t afford the middlemen.  Who knows?  This may be a good thing in the log run or make no difference in the long run.  But, tell that to the vineyard owner who loses everything he has worked for over a lifetime because of a ‘simple law’ passed by elected officials.

So my reply to JSV’s comment is that his point is a good one but impractical for me and a huge percentage of our population.  I will continue to vote and try to elect people who will work to limit government.

Having said that, you may be very surprised with my next two posts on 20-40 – Energy and 20-40 Crime and Punishment.

instant-gratification

We are an interesting society.  We are open to new ideas like no society before us.

That is a good thing.  It means we welcome thoughts and ideas that challenge our daily assumptions.

It is also a bad thing.  It means that we are always challenging convention which leads to a fair amount of chaos.  If we don’t just accept what has gone on in the past as a good or correct thing, we are more willing to dump it for something new.

We also have insatiable desires.  Take for example housing.  Coming out of World War II, any GI returning home was hopeful after a few years back at work in the ‘real’ world, he might afford a small house or duplex.  A standard home then was about 700 to 800 square feet.  It probably had one bathroom and a carport.  Having a car was almost a need in many parts of the country and some families even had two.  Today, people with 2500 square foot homes have their sights set on a home of 4,000 to 5,000 square feet with a garage the size of houses in the 50’s, big enough to keep all four of the family’s cars out of the rain.  When I was in High School in Hawaii, I remember meeting tourists in their late 60’s and early 70’s, who were visiting from Iowa, and who had saved their entire lives for the opportunity to take a one week trip to paradise.  Today, kids on the West Coast think it is their right to have a two week vacation to Hawaii to celebrate graduation from high school.

The fact that we can so easily accept such an inflation of housing, transportation, or recreation “needs” indicates that we are quick to assume that it is our right to have this much.  If our parents had to work for 20 years to save the down payment on a house, we see it as our right to have a house, now.

As a society, we take for granted that we can own houses and cars and take trips without paying our dues.  Not many folks are interested in months or years of hard work to regain their health.  They want a pill to fix their ills….now.

What does all this have to do with anything?  Well, I think our feeling of entitlement, our need for instant gratification, it all makes us very susceptible to all sorts of cons and schemes.  Witness the number of folks who fell for Bernie Madoff’s Scheme.  The desire for ‘more’ blinded them to the incongruity of investment returns at four times what the market was producing for most investors.

Today, I contend that our politicians are using our propensity toward instant gratification to gain power from and over us.  Adults in Detroit who were interviewed  actually believed that Mr. Obama was going to give them money and better houses, etc.  Now we have a Congress trying to convince us that we can tax and spend ourselves to prosperity, and, large numbers are buying it.

We are being exploited by politicians who want power and who know that we want solutions, at no cost to us, and now.  Want the economy revived?  Just have government make lots of transfer payments that put money in our pockets, no worry that someone else is being taxed to provide that money.  Want to pay less for health care?  Let our government provide it for free.  It doesn’t matter that our grandchildren will pay for it.  We deserve it.  Not comfortable seeing homeless people or indigents waiting at an Emergency Room to be seen for flu symptoms?  No problem.  Our government can end homelessness and provide healthcare to all.  We will vote for this as long as the ‘other guy’ has to pay.

How long will it take until we learn the truth in Gerald For’s famous quote, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.”

or

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.” (attributed to A. F. Tytler)

Do we really need to spend $1 Trillion over the next 10 years to “fix” our country’s health care system?  Do we really need to have our Congress pass laws to do this tomorrow?

P. J. O’Rourke said it right when he suggested that ““Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

The following video from 1948 is amazingly current today.  It is worth your time (9+ minutes) to watch and consider.

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have,” Gerald R. Ford in an address to a joint session of Congress on August 12, 1974.

“Don’t ask of your friends what you yourself can do.” – Quintus Ennius

“Real adulthood is the result of two qualities: self-discipline and self-reliance. The process of developing them together in balance is called maturing.” – J. W. Jepson

(I apologize for not posting for the past week plus.  My wife and I took a week of vacation and had little or no internet connection in Western British Columbia where we stayed.  Had we had a better connection, I probably still wouldn’t have posted.  Here is a piece that I wrote before we left.  I should be back on schedule later this week.)

bogus_university

“Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens.   Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.”  President Obama, September 9, 2009

I do not want to “kill reform at any cost.”  In fact, I am much in favor of reform.  I do think that the way in which Mr. Obama and the Congress are going about reforming our medical care delivery system is badly flawed.  I want us to reform medical care delivery by getting government less involved, not more involved.  I want to see us have insurance companies competing by being allowed to offer policies that can cross state lines.  I want to see most of the state mandates go away.  These are both major cost drivers.  I also want to see major tort law reform, and changes in the way we deal with Pharmaceutical companies.  Mr. Obama knows that there are a lot of people who feel as I do that reform would be a good thing and they just don’t want reform of the type he is proposing.  To me, what is “so cynical and irresponsible” is a President who is so bent on passing a bill that will allow government to control healthcare that he has stooped to “lie, plain and simple.”

“But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.” – Barack Obama, September 9, 2009

To me, what amounts to  “scare tactics” is a President who says that healthcare reform is urgent and must be passed now our our economy will crumble. To me, what is bothersome is that the person who said, “Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points,”  is guilty of exactly that.

“Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.” – Barack Obama, September 9, 2009

I agree with Mr. Obama that the time for games has passed.  The problem is that Mr. Obama and the members of his administration and Congress continue to play the same games.  If Mr. Obama were serious, he would do something about  the game playing.  He has not.  He continues to spread the misinformation he hopes Americans will believe so that he can get his signature legislation passed.

“Bogus claims?”  Yes there are many bogus claims being thrown about.  Unfortunately, many of them are coming from the White House.

To me, it is time to stop playing games.  Leadership starts at the top.  If that is what Mr. Obama wants, he needs to act responsibly and stop playing his own games.  I have little faith that will happen.  You will know he has stopped playing games when you hear Mr. Obama say that the real reason for the rush to pass “health care reform” was political opportunism – hurrying before people realized the potential consequences and taking advantage of his honeymoon with Congress and the public.  You will know he has stopped playing games when you hear Mr. Obama say that his goal is for the government to run all healthcare and make all citizens dependent upon the government for their care.  He won’t say this because, though it is true, it would scare off too many citizens who still feel a bit of self reliance.

Last month I received the following two interesting  items from friends.  Both made me wonder and question what our government is doing.

One was the cartoon from the Chicago Tribune in April of 1934 shown below.

1934 Political Cartoon

1934 Political Cartoon

 

The other was a quote from 1947.  It is from Norman Thomas, six-time candidate for President running for the Socialist Party of America.

He said,  “The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of ‘liberalism’ they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.”  He went on to say: “I no longer need to ru as a Presidential Candidate for the Socialist Party.  The Democratic party has adopted our platform.”


A good friend sent this to me yesterday and I thought it was interesting enough to post.  There is a lot of talk today about how we are moving toward socialism.  

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before but had once failed an entire class.

PoliSci Professor

That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism. All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B.

The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.

As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

Could not be any simpler than that. 

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