Friday, October 19, 2012

Dear Political Candidates of both parties and at all levels,

Please stop claiming you're going to create jobs unless your plan includes hiring a ton of new government employees.  It's disingenuous at best and an outright lie at worst.  

This claim continues to give way more credit to politicians than to those who operate or start businesses large & small.   Let's be honest here, the government has a role to play in jobs - but it is in creating an atmosphere that lends itself to growth and the result is hiring not firing, expanding not contracting, and profits not losses.  Setup the environment then get the heck out of the way.  What this environment does not include is giant piles of cash for industries that otherwise would never get off of the ground.  Solar being a perfect example - if Venture Capital or other funding sources run away then why the hell would the government entertain handing out billions?

The next thing government can do is to stop/reduce the massive policy shifts.   As Congress fights with itself and with the Executive Branch, passing massive 2000 page laws in the dark of night and without reasonable time to read or debate, is there any wonder business owners retreat from growth & risk?  An unpredictable future is sure to stall any plans a business may have to expand or when making the decision to cut headcount or increase it.

And finally, the politicians can stop making successful people/companies the bad guy.  Besides being an employer and contributor to this nation's GDP these companies large & small have commitments to others that they have to uphold whether it's shareholders, investors (VC, Angel, or otherwise), their employees or just their own family that relies on the income.  It's a lot of pressure to make sure you make payroll or that you're doing right by those that have your stock in their retirement accounts.  

And another finally (sorry, I'm writing this off the cuff), stop trying to confuse people with the difference between income taxes and capital gains taxes.  It's purely dishonest and the fact that it works is just a sign that our education system needs to be taken out of the hands of the Federal Government and control ceded to the States.  There is no one size fits all for education policy along with many other things the Federales should be avoiding.

I am so ready for this election season to be over.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Digging Out

Well, the big debt ceiling show is over and both Republican and Democrat Leaders are claiming victories. Heck, even the White House is claiming it's all a success. Let's all sit around and sing a few refrains of kumbaya. But wait? What? Members of the parties aren't happy? How can that be?

After so much wrangling and back & forth over who is evil and who has a better plan it turns out, no one does. Republicans claim budget cuts, which aren't actual budget cuts and Democrats claim victory for saving Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Oh yeah - and we didn't default on a debt we've accrued to pay for all kinds of crap that we can't afford. There's no one person or party to blame in this particular fact. The reality is everyone that has held a postion in the Legislative and Executive branches for at least the past 10+ years is guilty. Yes, Clinton ran a surplus, and forecasted long term surpluses before the dot com bubble burst, but that surplus was on the back of the bubble. Without all of that money being thrown around crazily it never would have happened, and we suffered for it when it did burst.

So this debt we carry - and continue to carry forward, kicking the can down the road for someone else to eventually deal with or be crushed underneath, needs to be handled. The US Government brings in $2.2 Trillion in revenue each year and can't seem to balance a budget - let alone pay off any debt. Everyone knows paying the minimum payment will never pay off the credit card - so why don't all these smartypants in Congress know this? There are a lot of things we can, and should do to get things in balance.

1. Reduce our military footprint around the world. Sorry world. You may have to police yourselves for awhile, we have some shit to work out over here right now. But don't think for a second that if you start messing with us we won't drop the hammer on ya. Keep your distance, and we'll keep ours. BTW - our shit is remote controlled, do not even think about it.

2. Foreign Aid needs to be looked at in an objective manner under a harsh light. Sure there are things we can do to help poverty and disease in developing nations - but if 90% of that money goes to a tinpot dictator instead of the intended recipients, we should just stop. All we're doing is propping up the dictator who is the one oppressing his people - we keep paying him, he keeps oppressing, because we feel bad we pay him some more. And what about our own poverty right here? Foreign Aid for humanitarian reasons needs to be focused on building self reliance in a population, not just making them wards of the state.

3. Social Security is a tough nut to crack. We made a commitment 75 years ago that if you pay in, you'll get to take back out. I can't speak to the economic sense of it, seems to have the makings of a ponzi scheme, but you can't in good faith just cut people off at the knees that have bought in to the program for 50 years (without a choice int he matter I might add). However, reality needs to be broached here. When this program came into being the average life expectancy was 59.1 years and now (or at least in 2007) it's 77 years. That's a whole voting age person extra. Take that 18 years and multiply it by the 60 million people that receive social security (and it's only going up) and you've got 1.08 BILLION extra years of payments that FDR probably didn't count on. With smaller families meaning fewer payers into the system this becomes untenable. We need to wisely pick a point, stop the benefit for those on the wrong side of that point and we'll have to figure out how to do right by them, but it still won't be completely fair. For those on the right side of the point, reduced benefits may be necessary since lifespan has increased. Does it suck? Absolutely. But we've kicked the can as far is it can be kicked and since those in power for the past 60 years haven't made the appropriate adjustments it's just gonne hurt more now.

4. Elimination of duplicative federal agencies that the states should be responsible for will save a ton of money in both regulatory and employee overhead. One example, there is no need for a central direction on education. Schools in the north don't, and shouldn't, operate the same as schools in the south. Urban schools have different challenges than suburban and rural schools. New York City has issues that San Francisco may not. Why are they all treated the same? Wouldn't the state, or even better, the locality know more about what is needed in their own community? Without federal regulation they'd be more agile in their ability to respond. There are plenty of other agencies, or portions of agencies, that can be looked at and eliminated and their authorities pushed back to the state.

5. The Department of Homeland Security needs to be reigned in and broken up. It's become a monopoly security apparatus that I would say is bordering on Orwellien, but with See Something, Say Something blaring out of TV screens in WalMart I think they've crossed the border. In 10 years and 85 Million domestic flights a year there has not been one successful incident. The incidents that have occurred were stopped by passengers. The 9/11 terrorists got to play the hijacking card once. No one will ever get away with that again as we all now know that a hijacking will not necessarily be for a free flight to Cuba. Passangers will stand up and fight for the chance to survive instead of sitting idly by waiting for the ordeal to be over. So how much have we spent in that 10 years and how much liberty have we given up? Too much on both counts. DHS' reputation and effectiveness in all aspects from the TSA to Border Security can only be graded as low.....but very very expensive. It may have been a good idea in the beginning, but so much power and authority centralized in one organization can at best lead to an expensive and inefficient bureaucratic nightmare and at worst a security apparatus that the KGB would be jealous of.

6. A complete reconsideration and rewrite of the tax code. Burn it all and start over. A national sales tax would do wonders for the economy in general. Eliminate income taxes, establish a national sales tax, and fund the federal government on consumption of goods. This favors the economy as a whole in two ways - it puts our entire paycheck back in our hands instead of just losing it for what turns out to be no real good reason and it spurs economic growth. The more money we have as individuals the more stuff we buy. The more stuff we buy, the more stuff needs to be made. The more stuff needs to be made, the more people are employed. Then they buy stuff. No loopholes. No mega corporations generating billions in profit and not paying taxes. They'll pay taxes...on stuff they buy. No frickin loopholes.

7. Eliminate subsidies to oil, farmers, and pretty much anyone else. I've never understood why we ever paid oil companies or farmers to do what they do. Either the market will support the business or it won't. Corn farmers (as far as I know, I'd love to hear more and be further educated) get paid by the government for the over production of corn, which drives the price of a bushel down, but they still make a profit from the govt. There are no market forces in play here. The farmers know that they will not lose and have figured out that overproduction = government subsidy. And this isn't the corn that we eat all summer at cookouts, this is the tough stuff that's turned into corn syrup and feed. So it wouldn't impact the produce section if the subsidies were cut off - the price of beef may go up a little and prepared foods may stop using corn syrup if it's not the cheapest alternative. And Oil? How about we stop both the subsidy AND the taxes we have to pay. Think about it - oil companies make approximately $0.08 per gallon while state & federal taxes make up anywhere from $0.27 - $0.60 per gallon. That subsidy is coming right out of our pocket and being passed to oil companies. Eliminate both and only apply the standard sales taxes for consumption mentioned above.

8. Dump healthcare. Can't afford it without rationing it. Sorry. This country was built on self reliance. Another giant program that creates a giant amount of overhead is not what we need. I certainly don't have the answer on how to take care of those that fall through the cracks, but I imagine a review and reduction in over-burdensome regulation and an increase in the competitiveness in the medical industry would right that ship. Fixed pricing for medical services makes everyone lazy. Have you tried walking into your doctors office and negotiating a rate if you were to pay cash? You'd find the prices drop pretty dramatically. Have you ever looked at what you or your family spends on health insurance, and what the insurance company actually pays out in benefits? Unless you have a major issue or a long term health problem, you're over paying. That's the nature of insurance. So why not pick up a fairly cheap catastrophic policy and pay for the rest out of pocket? Especially if you're young.

9. Forget carbon taxes and the green movement for the time being. We need to become energy independent and cannot wait for some magic bullet of technology to make it happen without fossil fuels. Half or more of our interests in the world involve securing oil supplies in some form or another (though it's never fully admitted). Fire up the oil wells. Drill off the coast. This would go a long way to meeting item one and reducing our military presence around the world. Not to mention the revenue generated by the oil leases given out - which may need to be more expensive and have gigantically expensive penalties if you run your rig like a preschool playground. Give the oil companies incentive to do it right by making it more expensive to do it wrong. Thats how the BP disaster happened. A little math showed that cutting corners was an acceptable risk given the penalties. I don't hate the planet or anything, I'm just being realistic. Taking oil out of the ground isn't evil...doing it thoughtlessly is.

10. Stop the Junkets. I know, this is probably a teeny part of the budget but you know what, if I don't have the money, I stop doing the small things like going out to lunch every day. Individually it's only a couple of bucks, but it adds up. I see no reason that any member of Congress needs to travel the world. We have a State Department that represents us out there. You weren't elected to represent the people of [insert anywhere else here] so why are you going? Perhaps spending more time in your home state and talking to people would keep you in touch with them. And with Items 1 & 2 above, we'll be reducing your excuses for going anyway. Want a vacation? Then go on one. Just not on my dime please. And to the President - you really don't need to go in person everywhere. There are plenty of summits and meetings that you can hook up with everyone at one place. I appreciate that Air Force One is one badass plane and I would be tempted to spend a lot of time making use of it. But enough is enough. How about this - spend one hour's worth of fuel on Air Force one and get the most awesome video conference setup there is - it's like being there. Heck - take the cost of ONE trip to anywhere - and buy all of your world leader buddies a high def video conference setup. Then you can chat whenever you want. Really - that shit works.

There are many other ideas out there for cutting our budget but I'm running out of time. One of the biggest things we can do is removed the corruption that has been accepted in our political system. There's too much money being handed out. Whether it's a PAC, a Party, a Union, a lobbyist, or just some rich dude who wants to influence markets. There are too many folks in congress that show up being fairly well off and leave office as a wholly wealthy person. And that ain't off a $180k a year salary. My previous post on how to remove the influence of the almighty dollar from the equation would go a long long way to getting our representatives to, well, represent us instead of whoever has the checkbook.

Finally, (for the moment) we need Congress to stop transferring it's powers to the Executive Branch. I mean, we're paying good money (over $93million in salaries per year, not counting benefits or their minions) to have these folks make decisions on our behalf - and they abdicate authority over and over again to the President. Passing stupid laws like "the president has the authority to go attack anyone that looks at us funny" with no sunset clause, no defined purpose or limitation, all because they are busy playing political games and too chickenshit to make the decision. You folks were hired to represent us. You claim to be able to make good decisions on our behalf. Start doing it. Keep your promises. Stop treating the American electorate as if we're petulant children that can be distracted and nuanced. Stop looking over the horizon at the next election and do the right things. If you're doing what your constituants want you to do, the next election is in the bag. If you're not, but have a good reason, then stand up and tell us and deal with the potential blowback. But you've gotta stop abdicating authority, making back room deals and buying into the notion "we have to pass the bill so you can see whats in it" crap.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Campaign Finance Reform: A modest proposal to end the corruption.

Honestly I'm not sure how modest this is because I think the solution is so common sense and awesome that I'm surprised it came outta my head...and the odds are good that I assimilated the idea in the past and it just popped up, so if you are the originator, my hat is off to you!

Let's keep campaign finance reform simple with a one line piece of legislation.

You are only allowed to raise money from those that you represent.

That's it. Short. Sweet. To the point. No more lobbyists. No more strong arming from the DNC/RNC to vote a certain way. No more sharing funds between politicians. Corruption removed. Responsibility to constituents restored.

Representatives can only raise money from their districts. Senators can raise money from their own state.

I am by no stretch of the imagination a lawyer, but this law shouldn't have the limitation of freedom of speech problem the McCain-Feingold had. Businesses can contribute - but only if they are located in the specific district/state of the donation recipient. This actually levels the playing field regardless of whether the district is a tiny rural one or contains a huge metropolis. Haven't been serving your district well? Perhaps you won't get the funding and that'll be your sign.

In a day and age where bills are not necessarily based on common sense and are 2000+ pages long this would be quite refreshing. Keeping it simple removes the loopholes.

So what do you think?

WOW. has it really been 9 months?

No - I have not been pregnant as that would've at least made the pages of the National Enquirer or Weekly World News. I haven't been missing. I haven't been on a secret mission. I've been paying more attention to two things are more important than my rants - My Family and My Business. When I start posting here regularly I tend to think about "the next post" far too much. So I stopped.

What has brought me back for a guest appearance on my own blog? The uprising we see in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. The article that made me start composing a post in my head (much to my chagrin) is about Jordan and how the tribes are starting to talk trash about the royalty ( Jordan tribes break taboo by targeting queen). This in itself is remarkable, but a specific quote from this article is what started my head spinning.

Arab peoples used to fear their authoritarian regimes. Things have changed and now Arab leaders fear their peoples.

That's a powerful change of mindset and one that should reverberate over here. It's too often that our leaders forget that they work for the citizenry. It's too often they don't "fear their peoples". Not fear in a fear of violence way, but in a fear of other retribution like getting voted out. There seems to be a pattern of doing whatever the lobbyist/national committee tell them to do until it's re-election time.

Perhaps a little of that fear during the in-between years would go a long way towards making better decisions on our behalf.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Unions and Barack's Jack booted Thugs

If it wasn't already becoming obvious that the Campaigner in Chief was openly beholden to the Unions (card check anyone?) here are three more examples - one of which stomps all over states rights.  I guess this is what $100 million in donations to Democrat campaigns last year will buy you.

This is the case of Chrysler lenders - with secured loans - being screwed over and intimidated by Obama in favor of unsecured lenders, the UAW.  It's a mugging pure and simple.

In a nutshell - unions won't have the disclosure requirements for how they spend their member's dues.   There are non-profits that have a use on this planet that have to report more detailed info than these gangster run unions.

So California - being this biggest entitlement state in the US - is having a budget crisis.  A big one.   So part of their efforts at balancing the budget included cutting the wages of some employees.   Of course, these are Unionized workers, so Barack "Che" Obama has stepped in and is once again strong arming on behalf of the unions.  And completely stampeding states rights in favor of his One Big Global Government ideal.  

And finally, for today, in addition to strong arming anyone that gets in the way of his Union buddies (you know the ones, "Rocko", "Sticky Fingers", "Big Nose", "Fat Tony" and the rest) - now he's doubling his army of tax enforcers.   Sheriff of Nottinghams if you will.  

I'm no Oracle but even I can read these tea leaves (sorry for the mixed metaphor).  

The USofA I grew up in is not going to be the same one that my little girls will get to enjoy.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In a developing story....

And one that brings to light the folly that is more government oversight and intrusion into our lives.   The Commonwealth of Virginia's big pharmacy cross-check database has been hacked

Well, hacked may be technically correct.   

What's really happened is that this database of over 8 million residents of Virginia has been stolen and held hostage.   Not to mention the 35 million prescription transactions associated with these 8 million residents.

Can you say HIPPA violation?

Can you say lack of oversight by a government that has outsourced it's IT?

Can you say lawsuit?

Why did it take a week before the story broke?   What if those extortionists have already started using the information for identity theft?   The citizens of Virginia may already be screwed.  

What I want to know is how much oversight into the Campaigner-in-Chief's new sweeping electronic health care record initiative will his new Chief Technology Officer (CTO) be involved in?  I only ask because he was the guy in charge of Virginia's now hacked and stolen IT systems.

My next question is why does the government need this personal information?   You can claim it's to avoid prescription drug abuse, but really?   Seriously?   How are there 8 million citizens in there?   Are they worried about birth control abuse?   Are you telling me that there are 8 million people just in virginia using serious narcotics that need to be tracked?    As of July 2008  there are only 7.7 million citizens - and I know I'm not on any prescriptions.   Hell, most people I know aren't on any heavy mind altering prescriptions.  

So why are there so many?  And how long does Big Brother and King Kaine plan on keeping this hacker smorgasbord of identity information up and online?   Forever?   

And what is the Commonwealth going to do when they find out that these thieves are from russia, the ukraine, north korea, or wherever?   Will they pay the ransom?   Will we all learn who is taking oxycontin, zoloft or AZT?  

And what will they do when those Names, Addresses and Social Security numbers hit the net? 

My guess is they'll play Alfred E Neuman and say "What?  Me worry?"

They don't seem to have worried much about protecting the information, so why start now?

Be very afraid - and very opposed - to the Teleprompter's big plans to be able to hold your healthcare data.  

It's big Brother.

It's unnecessary.

It's just a bad idea.

A new legacy for Iraq

Brought to them straight from the United States.

The withdrawal timeline calls for US troops to be out of the cities by June 30.   There is understandable concern that the Iraqi Police and Troops aren't quite ready to take on that job.  Commanders on the ground have said as much as recently as last month.

But, in a move straight out of American politics, the Prime Minister is more worried about his political future than that of his nation.   From the article linked above:

Asking U.S. forces to stay in the cities, including volatile Mosul in the north, would be embarrassing for Iraq's prime minister, who has staked his political future on claims that the country has turned the corner in the war against Sunni and Shiite extremists.

I hope this isn't the only legacy we've left after so many years.