Department of Agriculture

Let the Cutting Begin: Department of Agriculture

by Bill O'Connell on April 4, 2011

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Department of Agriculture1—elevated to Cabinet level at a time when agricultural employment in this country was 70–80 percent of the population. In 2008, agricultural employment was about 2–3 percent of the population. Why do we still need it? –Liberty’s Lifeline

 The haggling over the 2011 fiscal year budget is reaching a climax. Later this week House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan will present his budget plan for FY 2012. It promises to be extraordinary and you can expect fireworks to soon follow.

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Cutting the Federal Beast Down to Size

by Bill O'Connell on December 9, 2010

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In the recent election campaign, lacking anything positive to say about their record, when Democrats were not making personal attacks on their opponents one of their diversions was to taunt their opponent by saying, “Oh yeah, what specifically would you cut from the federal government, and don’t say waste and fraud.”

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The Progressive War on Federalism

by Bill O'Connell on December 6, 2010

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I still find myself in awe of our Founding Fathers who created our form of government.  The competing ideas that they sifted through to come up with our Constitution and the safeguards in it is wondrous.  The designs upon it by the progressives is by equal measure disturbing.


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Agricultural Merry-Go-Round

by Bill O'Connell on February 14, 2010

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A recent article in the New York Times, “Once Stigmatized, Food Stamps Find Acceptance,” talks about how Food Stamps are now, thankfully, accepted and people can get the help they deserve. 

I remember the first time I encountered food stamps.  I was in line at the grocery store behind a woman with a cart piled high and among its contents were soda, potato chips, and other tasty luxuries.  When the bill was tallied, she took out her book of food stamps and handed them to the cashier.  I related this story to a friend who told me that you can’t use food stamps on junk food so it must have been applied against the other items in the cart.  Even so, I thought back to when I grew up.  We weren’t poor but we were no where near rich.  Things like soda and potato chips were a rarity reserved only for those times when relatives were coming from a distance for a visit.  Otherwise it was home brewed ice tea and supermarket generic cookies.  But even those treats weren’t purchased through a subsidy of our food staples.

New York is now actively recruiting new food stamp recipients in all languages imaginable.  It seems that it is not enough to provide the service but you have to make sure that everyone who can get food stamps is taking advantage of them.  Let’s see, government employees paid by taxpayers going all out to make sure that a taxpayer funded program is using as much taxpayer money as possible including a program on Rikers Island (the city jail) to enroll inmates as they leave.  The article describes one woman who was actively recruited to join the program:

A big woman with a broad smile, Ms. Bostick-Thomas swept into the group’s office a few days later, talking up her daughters’ college degrees and bemoaning the cost of oxtail meat.

“I’m not saying I go hungry,” Ms. Bostick-Thomas said. “But I can’t always eat what I want.”

Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb here.  By a “big woman” can we take that observation to mean she is not lacking in caloric intake?  She says she doesn’t go hungry.  She talks about her daughter’s college degrees.  So why are taxpayers tasked with helping her eat what she wants?  And what is that anyway?  Steak? Lobster?  Twinkies?  Ice cream?  Why aren’t the daughters with their college degrees helping their mother?  Maybe they could invite her over once a week and feed her the foods she favors?  And if they are not local, why not ship her a box of Omaha Steaks?  Why does some other taxpayer have to pick up the tab for her after they worked hard to feed their own family?

The Other Side of the Coin

On the other side of the coin, from the budget of the same Department of Agriculture, we pay farmers not to grow food in the form of farm subsidies.  Why?  Well, if we didn’t, the prices of farm products, aka food, would become too cheap for the farmers to make a decent living.  In my simple economic model of supply and demand that would seem to indicate that maybe we have more farmers than we need.  But you see farming is a way of life as much as it is an occupation, and taxpayers must be sensitive to preserving that way of life whether or not it is economically justified.  I am sure there are several million unemployed people in this country who would like to have their jobs subsidized.  Unemployment compensation is when the government gives you a check (actually its funded by your employer) when you lose your job.  Farm subsidies are when the government (no employer funding here) pays farmers to keep working at their job.

Add to that another government program to pay farmers to produce corn to make ethanol, another uneconomic subsidy.  Ethanol is pitched as a substitute for gasoline, but it takes a lot of energy to make it, it cannot be transported via pipeline like petroleum products, and when the corn is diverted to produce ethanol, the cost of almost all food goes up.  Corn is used for feed for cattle, as seed to produce corn, for corn syrup as a sweeter.  So on top of regular farm subsidies, we have ethanol subsidies to further drive up food prices.  In the case of corn syrup, sugar could be a substitute, but our government places a very high tariff on imported sugar, to protect our domestic sugar producers.

Coming Full Circle

So, on the one hand we have several government programs, funded by taxpayers, that drive up the price of food.  Then we have another program, taxpayer funded, to help people buy food because food is too expensive.  And then we have government workers and programs, taxpayer funded, that are actively marketing the food stamp program to overweight people, who never go hungry, have college educated children who could help them but don’t seem to, so that the recipient can eat the things she wants to.  But if you see a problem with this, don’t worry.  Michele Obama is about to use more taxpayer dollars to launch a program to fight childhood obesity.  Can we get off this Merry-Go-Round?

How about we shut down the Department of Agriculture?  It’s function is not in the Constitution and so it should not exist at the federal level.  End farm subsidies.  If that means we have a few less farmers, so be it.  The American people do not owe anyone other than themselves a way of life.  To the farmer who can make it, you have my complete admiration.  End ethanol subsidies.  If ethanol is a viable fuel, it should be able succeed on its own, not because Archer Daniels Midland spends millions on agricultural lobbyists. Negotiate free trade agreements so that our successful farmers, instead of being paid not to produce, produce and sell their goods around the world.  Likewise end high tariffs that protect our farm products.  These steps should lower the cost of food.

With lower food costs we shouldn’t need a food stamp program.  End it at the federal level along with the Department of Agriculture. If there continues to be a need it will probably be a much smaller one and let each state decide if it wants to start its own program.  Also, with everyone saving on food there is a greater likelihood for people to contribute to food banks to help the truly needy.  But to have one government program create a problem and another government program to try to solve it is lunacy.

With our economy hurtling toward a cliff with out of control spending, we don’t need to be on both sides of a problem.

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To Protect and Defend

by Bill O'Connell on January 25, 2010

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“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  – Presidential Oath of Office,  Constitution of the United States of America, Article II, Section I

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” — Constitution of the United States of America, First Amendment.

“This ruling strikes at our democracy itself,” Mr. Obama said, adding: “I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.” — NY Times, January 25, 2010

Last week in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the Supreme Court struck down a provision in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill that prohibited “electioneering communication”, that is, broadcast ads that name a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary election or within 60 days of a general election.  It is what I and many others dub the “Incumbent Protection Act”, because it tips the scales heavily in favor of incumbents who have the name recognition, and the communication power of their office as an advantage in an election.  In addition, the 30 days or 60 days are when many voters really start paying attention.  Our elected representatives love to talk tough about reform, but that reform typically ends up making it harder to replace them.

Obama Weighs In

As the above quotes demonstrate, President Obama’s job is to uphold the Constitution.  The Constitution protects free speech.  So why is President Obama attacking a Supreme Court ruling that protects Free Speech?  Is that what he is supposed to be doing?  Instead he says it “strikes at democracy itself.”  He doesn’t mention that it also lifts restrictions on the speech of unions that typically favor the positions of his party.  Perhaps that is because with the Obama administration unions have extraordinary access to the White House. From January to July, White House logs show that Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) visited the White House 22 times, more than anyone else in the visitor logs.

If President Obama is truly concerned about the influence of lobbyists, it does no good to drive them out of advertising on TV into personal visits to the White House.  Of course, the president would be selective in who has an audience with him.  If you really want to reduce the number of lobbyists, then reduce the reasons for them to lobby.  If, for example, you want to reduce the lobbying effort of the giant agricultural corporation Archer Daniels Midland, then get the government out of the business of ethanol subsidies, farm subsidies, and shut down the federal Department of Agriculture.   Lobbyists will call on Washington less, if they have less to call about.  Shrinking the federal government will reduce the number of lobbyists and their influence, reduce the deficit, help balance the budget, and make the government more manageable so that we can reduce or eliminate waste and fraud.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens blasted the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision saying that the ruling is not grounded in the writings of the Founding Fathers.  His argument being that certain groups could have their speech curtailed and only individuals had their speech protected.  Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a separate concurring opinion to address Stevens argument.  In part:

“I write separately to address JUSTICE STEVENS’ discussion of “Original Understandings”… This section of [Stevens'] dissent purports to show that today’s decision is not supported by the original understanding of the First Amendment. The dissent attempts this demonstration, however, in splendid isolation from the text of the First Amendment. It never shows why “the freedom of speech” that was the right of Englishmen did not include the freedom to speak in association with other individuals, including association in the corporate form. To be sure, in 1791 (as now) corporations could pursue only the objectives set forth in their charters; but the dissent provides no evidence that their speech in the pursuit of those objectives could be censored….

The [First] Amendment is written in terms of “speech,” not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals–and the dissent offers no evidence about the original meaning of the text to support any such exclusion. We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is “speech” covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise.” – Antonin Scalia, concurring opinion in “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

Newly seated Justice Sonia Sotomayor voted against free speech.  I always marvel when people who succeed against tough odds attack the very principles of this country that allowed them to succeed.  The Bill of Rights was designed to protect against the tyranny of the majority by defining certain rights of every individual that could not be infringed upon.  It is one reason why people around the world fight to come here for a chance to succeed.  Because they know that these principles will allow them to do so if they have the drive to succeed.

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Good Government, Bad Government

by Bill O'Connell on November 18, 2009

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If I asked you a simple question, what government organization works well, what would you say?  Let’s take a look at two government organizations and compare their effectiveness and motivation.

The Military

Whether you support our troops on the battlefield or want them to always stay home in their barracks, most Americans will say the military does a pretty good job.  Why? That is, why are they effective, not just why do people think so?  Well, they put a lot of investment in training and technology.  They seem to have solved the problem of integration, being based on merit rather than racial prejudice.  These are all important things, but I don’ t they get to the core of the issue.  The key question is, what happens if they don’t do their job?  They die…they die, the guy beside them dies, their buddies die, and depending on the size of the conflict, their families and country may eventually die.  With that kind of motivation, race is not even secondary.  If the guy next to me has got my back and I have his, I don’t care what color he or she is.  We do it right, we live;  we don’t, we die.

The K-12 Teacher

K-12 education comes under fire in this country, and rightly so, for failing to produce an educated workforce.  In New York, for example we spend over $14,000 per student, per year on education, far above the national average of around $9,000.  Are students in New York 50% smarter than the country in general?  Hardly.  Is the nation as a whole turning out well educated students?  Sadly, no.

Our K-12 public schools are a government run monopoly.  So what happens to a K-12 teacher if they fail to do their job?  If they have been in the job long enough to get tenure, nothing.  They will get a raise like everyone else.  So what motivates them to turn out outstanding students?  I’ll wait.

Let me be clear that I don’t want to lump all teachers together.  They are many teachers who, by having what  I suppose is a strong moral streak,  do a great job because they want to teach.  Okay, so let’s look at the teaching profession where there is a group that does their best because they get satisfaction from doing a good job.  Now, some studies come out that say the way to improve results is smaller classroom size.  The teachers’ unions get behind it and eventually push it through.  So what does that mean?  If you cut the size of the class in half, you double the number of classes.  If you double the number of classes, you have to double the number of teachers and thus have to go deeper into the labor pool to find them.  Before you took this step, we can probably assume that all the self-motivated teachers were already on the job.  So the additional teachers are motivated by what?

Co -conspirators

That brings us back to the teachers’ unions.  When government’s come under pressure to cut educational expenses, the airwaves are soon flooded with the heart wrenching commercials pleading to restore the funding “for the children’s sake.”  What you don’t hear is the trailer that says, “This commercial paid for by the PTA,” or “This commercial paid for by the Association of Concerned Parents.”  No, what you typically hear is, “This commercial paid for by the X Teacher’s union, Joe Blow, President.”

Who do the unions really represent…really? The students? or the teachers?  They want the funds restored so that their membership is not hurt and their dues are not curtailed.  If their true concern was for the students, why not support school vouchers and charter schools?  They fight the former with a vengeance and the latter, if it is not union organized.

Let’s Not Pick on K-12 Education

Let’s look at other government areas.  Government is the only area where union membership is growing.  How many people relish going to their Department of Motor Vehicles?  How efficient is the Post Office?  Amtrak?  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a bonus compensation plan, which is a step in the right direction unless it leads to cooking the books and making extremely risky loans that lead to the near collapse of our economy.  How can we get this under control?

Controlling the Uncontrollable

Our government is trying to install a massive health care program that will cost a trillion dollars.  At the same time, tens of billions of dollars are stolen from Medicare every year and they can’t stop it.  Early this year, the Obama Administration passed a $787 billion stimulus package, spent $18 million to build a website to track it, and put Joe Biden in the role of watch dog.  How is that working out?  A recent report from ABC News, of all places, found that credit for creating jobs was given on the web site to Congressional Districts that do not exist.  A $1,000 grant was purported to have created 50 jobs.  The New York Times investigated and found that the $1,000 went to purchase a lawn mower.  It took from the time of the founding of the Republic until about the mid 1990s to accumulate $6 trillion in debt.  It has doubled since then, and it is projected to go from $12 trillion to $14 trillion by next year!

It cannot be controlled.  It is impossible to control.  The only solution is to cut the federal government down to size.  Take out the Constitution and read what the true functions of government are supposed to be.  The military, absolutely;  the Post Office, yes it’s in there; coin money; establish patents and copyrights; establish the courts; control the District of Columbia; regulate interstate commerce; make treaties; give the State of the Union address.  That pretty much sums it up and everything else should be left to the states and local government or the people.

We should jettison all the rest and cut this government down to size and get out of debt.  Department of Labor–gone;  Department of Health and Human Services–gone; Department ment of Housing and Urban Development–gone; Department of Transportation–gone; Department of Energy–gone; Depatrment of Education–gone; Department of Veterans Affairs–gone, rolled into the Department of Defense;  Department of Homeland Security–gone, rolled into the Department of Defense; Department of the Interior–gone; Department of Agriculture–gone.

The amount of money saved would be enormous.  Selling all the real estate and buildings would bring in more money.  We could then cut taxes to jump start the economy and run a surplus to cut the debt.  The next step would be to make it illegal for unions to organize government workers without a referendum approved by all the voters.  Side benefits would be less campaign money because there would be less government to influence.  Government would be more accountable to the people because it would be closer to the people, that is, at the state level or local level.  We can do this proactively, or wait until the government is bankrupt and we have to sell off the parts to the Chinese.

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Junk Science Kills Tens of Millions — Oh, Well

by Bill O'Connell on April 27, 2009

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In 1962 Rachel Carson wrote a book called Silent Spring, about which some have credited the beginning of the environmental movement.  It also led to the subsequent ban of DDT in 1972.  DDT was accused of causing cancer and in damaging wildlife, particularly birds by causing eggshells to thin.

Prior to this DDT was believed to be a miracle, and the scientist who discovered it, Dr. Paul Muller, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948.  During WWII, GIs would cover themselves liberally with the substance before heading into the jungles for protection against malaria.  It is also believed that its use eradicated malaria in the U.S. and other developed countries.

Flawed Science

A 1969 study found a higher incidence of tumors in mice that were fed DDT.  Let’s think about that.  A single study found an increase in cancer in mice fed DDT.  However over 20 years of widespread use among humans did not show any increase in the cancer rate among those populations that used them.  Upon closer examination of the study they found that both the subject and control groups had increased levels of tumors. Oops.  It appears that both groups were fed moldy food that contained a carcinogen.  When the test was repeated, neither group had any tumors.

The studies of birds whose eggshells were thin, were also given closer scrutiny.  It was determined that the cause was due to a calcium deficiency, not DDT.  Actually during the period of greatest DDT use in the U.S. many of the bird species under study grew in numbers rather than fell.

Don’t Let Science Stand in the Way of Politics

In 1971, authority for pesticides was transferred from the Department of Agriculture to the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency.  What better way to kick off a new government bureaucracy than some bold action:

“In April 1972, after seven months of testimony, Judge Edmund Sweeney stated that ‘DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man. . . . The uses of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other wildlife. . . . The evidence in this proceeding supports the conclusion that there is a present need for the essential uses of DDT.’” — Sweeney EM. EPA Hearing Examiner’s recommendations and findings concerning DDT hearings. 25 April 1972 (40 CFR 164.32)

However, two months later, the new head of the EPA, William Ruckleshaus, instituted the ban on DDT.  This was done without him attending a single hearing on the matter as it was discussed over a seven month period or reading the transcripts.

The Tragic Results

In Ceylon, modern day Sri Lanka, widespread use of DDT cut the number of malaria cases from 2.8 million in 1948 to 17, that’s right, seventeen in 1963.  Spraying was stopped in 1964 and by 1969 the number of cases had risen again to 2.5 million.

It is estimated that in the last ten years alone the number of deaths worldwide from malaria is over 27 million.

There is an aggressive program today to raise money to buy bed nets to protect children in Africa and other parts of the world where malaria is still rampant.  Billions of dollars are estimated to be needed to buy and deliver these nets.  One of the positive factors about DDT was that it was inexpensive, around seventeen cents per pound.

If only had cooler heads prevailed, and the “science” looked at with a reasonable dose of skepticism, tens of millions of lives would have been saved and malaria, perhaps eradicated.  But when some in the environmental movement latch onto a position it soon moves into the realm of settled or consensus science.

The Next Blunder

So before we drive the world over the next environmental cliff, perhaps it’s time to tune out Al Gore, take a cleansing breath, and take a closer look at the science with clear eyes.  What the global warming, er, global climate change crowd is proposing would cost in the trillions. Let’s ask if what some scientists are saying that global temperature peaked about ten years ago, why is the earth cooling if we continue to pour more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?  Why are we calling carbon dioxide, which is essential to life…we exhale it, trees take it in and give off oxygen…a pollutant?  What if we eradicate the pollutant, carbon dioxide like we did DDT?

Will there be anyone around to count the damage?

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Is the Groundswell Starting?

by Bill O'Connell on February 20, 2009

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The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people — Amendment X, United States Constitution

“I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going To Take It Any More”

That quote from the movie “Network” popped into my head as I read about a legislator in Oklahoma, calling for legislative support for the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.  It passed the state assembly unanimously.  So what does this mean?  The sponsor of the bill, State Senator Randy Brogdan, explains:

The “federal government has been putting the screws on (the states) a little tighter and tighter each year” along with unfunded mandates of varying sorts.

And each time this happens, Brogdon explained, “We lose a little bit of our freedom and liberty.”

The federal government has been growing enormously and taking on more and more things that used to be handled locally, such as education, and welfare.  Other programs have not changed as the economy has, for example, as the percentage of the population that farms has decreased dramatically has the Department of Agriculture shrunk accordingly?

You Must Obey!

The way the federal government works around this is by saying, okay, you don’t have to do what we tell you, but you will get no federal funding if you don’t.  It seems like a Catch-22, no?  Since the 16th Amendment, which authorized the income tax, the federal government can decide how much to tax incomes and there is little that the states can do about it.  They take money from your pocket under threat of imprisonment, and will give it back to you only if you comply with their rules.

How Do We Fix This One?

It may require a constitutional amendment to fix as the 16th Amendment says:

The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration. — 16th Amendment to the Constitution

I’ll leave the legal mechanics to those better qualified, but I would propose the following.  That the federal budget shall include a breakdown of projected revenues derived from income taxes, broken down by source: individual, corporate, etc.  A state should then be allowed to refuse mandates and programs from, say, the Department of Education, and withhold from the IRS that proportion of tax dollars destined for the Department of Education from that state.

Certain departments should be deemed mandatory, such as Defense, State, Treasure, to name a few as these departments serve all citizens.

The legislation under consideration in Oklahoma will have little effect if the federal government can suck up as much money as it wants to from the states, via their citizens and then just keep the money if the states refuse to participate in the programs.  How do you determine which programs should be subject to the states discretion?  No money should flow from a state, to Washington, and then back to the state.  That is just plain stupid and wasteful, or a distribution of wealth, none of which is a government function. Paying for roads and infrastructure that does not cross state lines should be funded locally.  It is ridiculous that the federal government pays 90% of the cost of a highway that lies entirely within a city.  Look at the scandalous “Big Dig” in Boston.  Billions of dollars spent and parts of it are falling down.  Why should any of this be paid for by the people of Kansas, Oklahoma, Alaska, New York, Florida, et al.?

But the real answer is following the 10th Amendment.  It clearly states that the role of the federal government is spelled out in the Constitution.  If it’s not in the Constitution then that responsibility is left to the states or the people.  Show me where in the Constitution it says that the federal government is responsible for education.  It’s not in there and that department should be shut down tomorrow.

It’s Time to Rein the Monster In

The anger in the country is growing.  Those who acted responsibly are being told they have to bail out the irresponsible.  They are being told by “Buck a Day Biden” that it is their patriotic duty to pay higher taxes to help out.  Meanwhile half a dozen Obama appointees haven’t paid the taxes they owe, let alone paying more.  I give Biden the “Buck a Day Biden” moniker because that is how much this millionaire gives to charity.  He doesn’t want to spend his own money on charity, he wants the government to take your money to fund government programs to do that.

If you don’t think the anger is growing take a look at this.  Rick Santelli

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Borrow and Spend — Isn’t That How We Got Here?

by Bill O'Connell on January 8, 2009

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The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan was unveiled today.  Well, a little short on details, but if there is anything true about Washington, it’s that the first thing you have to do is come up with a catchy name.  Once you craft a name that is as American as Motherhood and apple pie, the details are only a distraction.  You have to start with a name that members of Congress would be afraid to vote against.  “You mean, Congressman, that you are opposed to recovery?  And you’re against reinvestment?”  You can hear Katie Couric incredulously asking that question as the Congressman, undoubtedly Republican, struggles for an answer.

Mr. Obama said in his speech:

“It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe,” Mr. Obama said. “Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy — where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.”

Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy?  Okay, so the government is going to borrow and spend $1 trillion dollars, give or take a few billion, and that is going to solve the problem.  Borrow and Spend?  Isn’t that how we got here?

Between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, The Community Reinvestment Act, Janet Reno in the Clinton Administration threatening banks if they didn’t make enough subprime loans, we had the housing bubble.  Millions of people borrowing money they couldn’t pay back for the sub prime people, and millions of people borrowing against the equity in their homes so they could spend on the good life.  The bubble burst, housing prices collapsed, mortgages went under water, and a deep recession followed.

So Barack Obama proposes borrowing $1 trillion and, unless he has a very large piggy bank from where he’s getting it, spending it to get the economy moving again.  If a significant number of Americans can’t manage their debts now, how are they going to shoulder another $1 trillion?  Let’s not forget, it’s We The People, the government is us.  There is no rich Uncle Sam who made a killing in pork bellies, who is going to foot the bill.  It is us, our children, and our grandchildren.  What we have to do is live within our means.

  • Make the Bush tax cuts permanent.  That will remove the uncertainty that has been hanging over the economy ever since the presidential campaign, blaming Bush for tax cuts for the rich.  Face it, folks, tax cuts work best when they are given to people who actually pay taxes.
  • Take the tax code and shred it and recycle it.  Let’s go to a flat tax that you can file your return on a post card.  It may put a lot of accountants out of work, but it costs Americans about $200 billion a year to prepare.  After five years that’s $1 trillion back in the economy.
  • Cut the federal government down to size.  Start with the Department of Education.  Since 1980 Congress has appropriated $1.06 trillion to the Department of Education.  How’s that working out?  My father dropped out of high school in 1934, and I would put him up against many of today’s high school “graduates” in being able to put a sentence together properly.  So what has all this education spending gotten us?  I’ll wait………….  Still scratching your head, I’m not surprised.  I know it’s gotten us a lot of teachers.  When your goal is smaller classroom sizes, rather than results, the only result you get is bigger payrolls.  So not only has the Department of Education squandered $1 trillion, many school districts have seen their property taxes skyrocket.  Why?  Well, once you hire all those teachers you have to pay them and in many, if not most areas, that funding comes from property taxes.  So the Department of Education hits your left pocket for $1 trillion and your tax assessor hits your right pocket, and what do we have to show for it?  Many colleges now have to teach remedial classes to their incoming freshman to get them up to a level where they can handle freshman courses.
  • Social Security and Medicare — These have to be tackled NOW.  This is the next ticking time bomb.  Social Security is a ponzi scheme that makes Bernie Madoff look like a piker.  Social Security’s inflation adjusted rate of return is about 1.23%.  Any effort by Bush to allow future retiree’s to divert a portion of their contributions into a fund that gets a better return, was shouted down by the Democrats and demonized as trying to starve granny.  Well, keep yukking it up, and call for another round of drinks, but the bill is coming due and when it does there will be no where to hide, and we better not be trying to digest Obama’s trillion dollar deficits at the same time.
  • Couple saving Social Security with term limits.  If you are not a politician for life, you might have the guts to do some heavy lifting, but if you are always running for office and your goal is to offend as few people as possible and give out government goodies to as many people as possible, you are naturally disposed to make the government bigger and delay any tough decisions until after you’re.  So don’t fix Social Security, just make it solvent long enough for you to pick up your spoils and go home.
  • Campaign Finance Reform — this folly gets rolled out around each election.  Here’s my modest solution.  If you hack back the size of government, there will be a lot less for lobbyists to lobby about.  If they have nothing to lobby about, they will have to go find something else to do. For those that are left, it will be a lot easier to see what they’re up to, since there won’t be that many of them.
  • Go back to every government agency and look at the legislation that created them.  Has that original mission been accomplished?  If so, shut them down.  When I worked in telecommunications, one of the Federal Regulatory bodies was the Rural Electrification Administration.  This agency was created during the Great Depression to bring electricity to farms.  I wondered what that had to do with telephones.  Well, the problem of bringing electricity to farms was pretty much solved, so they needed to do something else, so why not telephones.  I am sure that cell phones will be next if they are not already working on that.  But what we should really do, what we should have done years ago, is throw a nice party, thank all the employers and managers for a job well done, send them on their way and put the buildings up for sale.  But that doesn’t happen in Washington, agencies created for one purpose just morph into something else.
  • Following on the previous point is the Department of Agriculture.  It was raised to cabinet level in 1889.  In 1870, 70%-80% of the population worked on farms.  Today that percentage is 2%-3%.  So why do we still need a Department of Agriculture? Today it has an annual budget of $95 billion, so in the next ten years about $1 trillion will be spent in the Department of Agriculture.  The Federal beast grows without bounds.

There you have it, $3 trillion between tax filing, the Department of Education, and the Department of Agriculture.

The federal government must tighten its belt like everyone else and stop soaking up an increasing share of the economy.  Barack Obama and the federal government aren’t going to create jobs unless it is by making the beast bigger.  The majority of jobs are created in this country by small businesses.  What this economy needs is a degree of certainty.

If Obama really believes in fiscal discipline he should say the bailout window is closed.  It was opened to keep money flowing during a crisis, now all companies should get off the line, and go back to running their businesses.  As long as the window stays open there is uncertainty.  Can I get a bailout?  That company got a bailout, why not me?

What roils the markets is uncertainty.  If the market doesn’t know if the government is going to act or not act;  if the Bush tax cuts are going to continue or be rolled back;  if the auto companies are going to get bailed out or not;  is the government going to spend a trillion or not.  The U.S. economy and the American people can work this out.  The more government stays involved, the longer the uncertainty will remain, and the longer and deeper the recession will be.

As General Patton said, “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.”

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