Saturday, April 19, 2014

80% of Americans Pay More in FICA Taxes Than They Do In Income Tax



We have been on a lot of college campuses over the past 4 years.

At each stop, I have asked undergrads several questions such as:


-How many of you own a landline phone?
-How many of you have ever written a paper check to anyone?
-How many of you know what a 'FICA Tax' is?


Far less students know what a FICA tax is than own a landline or have written a paper check to anyone for anything ever in their young lives. Maybe only 3 had a landline phone in their homes for some reason. Only 3 or maybe 4 of them have ever written a paper check to anyone.

Hardly any of them knew what a FICA tax was. At all.

Of course, we older Americans know that a 'FICA tax' stands for 'Federal Insurance Contributions (sic) Act'. It is the money we send in every pay period to pay for Social Security and Medicare benefits of current retirees (not your own future benefits).

Well, get ready for this then:

80%+ (and growing) Americans pay more for FICA taxes than they do for federal income taxes today. Many will do so for their ENTIRE LIVES!

'Just wait til you start your own business and get hit with the self-employment tax of 15.7% of your income right off the top!' we tell them. 'Not just the 7.9% or so that is taken out when you work for a company...but double the rate!'

If you are young and you don't know anything about taxes, you might want to bone up on where your taxes are going since you are going to be paying them for the next 45-50 years or so.

Because your taxes are not going where you think they might be going.

The reason why so many people pay more in FICA taxes than income taxes is because approximately 50% of taxpayers don't pay any income tax at all every year. 0%. None. The breakpoint for a family of 4 to pay no income tax in 2013 was about $34,000.

However, everyone pays the FICA or SS/Medicare tax on every dollar earned starting dollar 1.  You can't get away from it; no deductions or exemptions allowed. It is a de facto 'flat rate tax' that opponents of the flat rate tax say 'we can never have in America!'

We already have one. It is called 'the payroll tax'.

One of the problems with modern American politics is that it is very easy to boil down to the core emotion of an issue that motivates people to vote. One of the favorites is that some program is 'for the children' and therefore 'critical to the future of this nation!'

Know how much of the US federal budget is actually dedicated to 'children'?

The Brookings Institute says that for every $7 in federal spending on seniors, $1 is spent on children.

We are surprised the ratio is even that low. Social Security and Medicare are almost 98% dedicated to support of senior citizens. Their combined budget for 2013 was over $1.3 trillion or about just under 40% of the entire federal budget of $3.4 trillion.

So whenever you hear some politician plead that 'we must do this for the children!', check out the budget first. You will see that 'we have already done it for the seniors!'

Once we lock in that huge amount for the seniors every year, there is precious little left for the children, notwithstanding environmental cleanup, road construction, welfare for the poor, welfare for the corporations....you know, everything else we say we want.

We have done this before as a public service to our nation but we beg you to take the time soon to read the April 2014 CBO Budget Projections so you too can become as well-informed as perhaps maybe 100 other people in this nation about the nuances and details of our enormous federal budget.

Ok, maybe 200. But who is counting?

Our hope is not that you agree with us on everything we have to say about anything. Our hope is that once you get the facts about our tax system and federal budget, you will be able to use your own native intelligence and basic math skills to be more informed about what is really going on in the federal budget and with your taxes so you will be able to persuade others to vote for people who can do the same.

Right now, it appears as if we have elected 435 kindergartners to Congress, 100 1st-graders to the Senate and 1 pre-schooler to the White House when it comes to fiscal and budgetary discipline.

That is an insult to every kindergartner, 1st-grader and pre-schooler out there who can actually add and subtract basic numbers.

Remember what has been commonly attributed to Winston Churchill when it comes to emotion in politics (although the Churchill Centre denies he ever said such a thing):
'If you are young and not a liberal, you don't have a heart. If you are old and not a conservative, you don't have a brain'.

Remember that when you get your first pay stub and start staring at the FICA box to see where the largest part of your withholdings are going.

You'll stare at it so long you may start the paper on fire as if you were using a magnifying glass to burn an ant on your sidewalk. That is your money that you earned. And it is not coming to you.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

'Well, Well, Well! Isn't That Special?'

The Church Lady
'Well, well, well. Isn't that special?'

The NY Times, of all people, reported that the Obama White House worked closely with the US Census Bureau to change the way they collect data on health insurance coverage from the American people.

Just came out yesterday. April 15, 2014.

They 'say' it is just 'coincidental' that this new survey occurs at the same time as the rollout of the ACA, aka Obamacare.

They 'say' it is intended to give a more accurate account of who had insurance in the past because people were confused by the questions about whether or not they had health care coverage during the last year.

They 'say' the Census Bureau was operating independently of any political concerns or pressures from the White House...except for the inconvenient fact that many of the questions were either submitted or edited by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which just happens to be the official budget scoring arm of the White House.

AND the fact that the new HHS Secretary who will take over for Kathleen Sebelius, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, just happens to be the DIRECTOR of OMB right now in the Obama White House.

Gosh! You have to wonder if maybe Ms. Burwell might have seen some of these new questions submitted to the Census Bureau as the OMB Director.

Naw. That would just be too preposterous to consider. That is almost as crazy as it is to believe that the head of the IRS enforcement unit, Lois Lerner, did not take any direction from anyone in the Obama White House or political operation in 2009 when it came to investigating Tea Party applications for non-profit status, right?

It is easier to believe that a tornado can sweep through an abandoned junkyard and assemble a Boeing 777 'all by chance', right?

It may appear as if we might be trying to make light of this but these are serious questions citizens have to ask of their elected officials whether they are Democrat or Republican, Whig or Bull Moose. If elected officials take liberties while they are operating in the public trust on our behalf, how will we know if anything is true or reliable or not?

We have made it quite clear that we think the ACA has many flaws, perhaps some mortal, from the beginning based solely on budgetary and policy concerns. We have pointed out many of the downfalls of the Bush Administration and the GOP-led House and Senate from 2001-2009 as well solely on budgetary and policy concerns in similar manner.

But this is getting to be almost ridiculous, wouldn't you be forced to agree?

When the Obama White House puts forth a bill that is now viewed unfavorably by close to 60% of the American population and then comes close to making it appear as if they are 'cooking the books' at the Census Bureau so the 'facts' (sic) later will look more favorable to them and the ACA, that has to raise even a little concern on the part of the most ardent supporter and admirer of President Obama.

The Church Lady made a career off of pointing out the logs in the eyes of her guests when it appeared that their hypocrisy was too much to bear.

This action by the Census Bureau to change their reporting and survey system right at this very time when we need solid comparative data year-over-year to see if the ACA is doing what it was intended to do appears to be trying to refute President Abraham Lincoln's famous aphorism:

'You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.'

It is hard to fool 310 million Americans at the same time. The Census Bureau should reverse this policy if for no other reason than to keep the rules of the game the same and not try to cook the books in their favor. Again.



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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Presidential Precedents

(Actually, Gerald Ford said this, not Jefferson)
We are very big believers in this important doctrine in politics:

'Be careful of what you wish for. Because you might actually get it!'


James Capretta of the Ethic and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC has posted a very interesting and intriguing postulation about what might happen to Obamacare when (if) there is ever another GOP President elected in America.

You know there will be another Republican President in your lifetime, don't you? Whenever someone says there is an 'electoral lock' for the Republicans or the Democrats, inevitably in the next couple of elections, the other side wins....and wins decisively.

After the 1984 Reagan landslide, pundits said there was an electoral lock for Republicans due to their strength in the South. 8 years later, Bill Clinton became President in 1993.

After 2004, pundits said the GOP turnout machine developed by Karl Rove in the christian community meant that the Republicans would rule forever. A very short 4 years later, Barack Obama trounced John McCain and then did it again by swamping Mitt Romney in 2012 with the 'Obama Machine'.

We love asking this question to anyone who asserts that the electoral map has gone permanently purple in many states heading towards deep blue for the Democrats:
'What do you think would happen in 2016 if VP Joe Biden is the Democrat nominee?

'Crickets' is the sound we usually hear from the audience. Almost deathly silence in some cases.

There is no way that the level of voter enthusiasm for presidential candidate Joe Biden will come within a light year of the enthusiasm shown for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

It is doubtful that even Hillary Clinton could engender or set off an equal level of enthusiasm should she run in 2016 as Obama did in 2008 and 2012. For one thing, she got beat by a veritable unknown political novice, Barack Obama, in 2008 when it looked like the stars were aligned for her nomination and her husband pulled in all of his chits for her.

Second, she now has a record to defend, not only on her own as with Benghazi and that ridiculous assertion of her State Department that the riot in Benghazi was caused by some cartoon in California but the whole Obama record as part of his Cabinet, up to and including Obamacare.

Mr. Capretta points out some 'inconvenient facts' about President Obama's persistent executive decisions 'delaying this' and 'postponing that' particular provision of Obamacare. 38 orders at this date and counting.

A bill that Obama supported and pushed through by the way. His non-execution of his own ACA would be like LBJ passing the Civil Rights Act in 1965..and delaying implementation of key provisions of the law for 3,4,5 or more years.

Here's the main takeaway of this article by Jim Capretta today:

'Whatever President Obama can do to delay implementation of the ACA today through executive order, a Republican President can do 10 times over once elected. On ACA or any other piece of legislation by Congress'
Our government operates pretty much on precedent, whether it be presidential executive orders, Supreme Court decisions or parliamentary procedure in Congress which was set upon its head when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the 'nuclear option' this year on appointments.

'Anything you can do, I can do better' goes the old song. Same applies to executive orders and actions by our presidents. Democrats don't get to do what they want without the Republicans being able to follow suit, you know.

Maybe we need a less activist President next time around. Like Calvin Coolidge, for example.

'It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones' said President Calvin Coolidge.

He also said: 'Congress always says 'Do'.  (I say) 'Do not do' or at least 'Do less'.
Amen, brother. Amen.
______________________________________________________________________________
WHEN A REPUBLICAN RUNS OBAMACARE

JAMES C. CAPRETTA | 04/08/2014

Though it is admittedly hard to imagine at the moment, a Republican could actually win the White House again someday.

That thought raises an interesting question: what would happen to Obamacare under such a scenario, remote as it might seem?

Democrats are hoping that by the time such an unpleasant turn of political events rolls around Obamacare will be solidly entrenched as an important component of the health system. The hope is that the public will have become accustomed to the law’s rules and subsidies, and that a growing number of people will actually be favorably disposed to the program because of their personal experiences with subsidized coverage.

Growing acceptance of Obamacare is certainly plausible given the history of citizen acceptance of significant government involvement in the health systems of other economically advanced democracies. At a minimum, Democrats are banking that tens of millions of people, especially those getting insurance through the exchanges, will believe the continued security of their health coverage is dependent on the continuation of Obamacare.


Republicans, meanwhile, hope that the election of a GOP President would set in motion a full legislative solution—repeal and replacement of the law with a market-based alternative plan. 

But what if a Republican gets control over the levers of Obamacare administration without also getting a clear path to a legislative solution (for instance, if the Senate remains under Democratic control or Republican control is sufficiently narrow or politically fragmented to slow the adoption of an alternative plan)?

If that were to happen, the decisions by President Obama over the past months and years to assert executive discretion over the interpretation of major sections of the law could come back to haunt the law’s supporters. Because of the precedents that have been set, it will be very difficult to complain if a Republican president were to use the same supposed executive authority to push the implementation of the law in a very different direction.

For instance, the administration has released a long list of conditions that satisfy the “hardship” exemption from the individual mandate tax. Among other things, a person may self-certify that he or she cannot pay the tax because of expenses associated with caring for an “ill, disabled, or aging family member.” It is not hard to imagine a Republican administration expanding the Obama administration’s list substantially, to the point where the mandate really does become meaningless, if it hasn’t already reached that point.

Similarly, the Obama administration has effectively gutted the employer mandate through 2015. The mandate is not being enforced this year, and the administration took the bite out of it for 2015 too by raising the employment threshold for exempted businesses from 50 to 100 workers. For those firms with at least 100 workers, they can comply by providing coverage to just 70 percent of their workers (most employers with over 100 workers already do so). A Republican administration could build on these legally-dubious “transition provisions” and assert that special rules are needed for several more years to prevent undue disruption of the labor market.

Further, in the on-going backpedal over the “you can keep the health plan you like” flap, the Obama administration has said it will not enforce insurance rules, for a period of at least three years, which would otherwise force the cancellation of millions of policies. This supposed “fix” fell far short of a real solution because many state insurance regulators chose not to allow the old plans to be reopened. Moreover, some insurers have not moved to reopen the plans they canceled in 2013.

A Republican president could take all of this a significant step further by: announcing the intention to allow the old plans to continue in existence on a permanent basis; by loosening the rules around what constitutes a canceled plan that can be reopened; and by allowing new entrants into the old insurance plans as well. He could also clarify that anyone in these old plans would be permanently exempt from the individual mandate tax as well. These changes would create a large escape hatch from Obamacare.


The Obama administration has also sent signals that it will work with health insurance industry to make the taxpayer-financed cushions against insurance losses in the exchanges as generous as possible. Administration officials hope to coax insurers into low-balling their premium requirements for 2015, and beyond. A new, Republican administration could easily take the opposite approach and tighten the rules wherever possible. One key provision—the risk corridor provision, which explicitly limits insurer losses—is expected to expire after 2016, but there is a broad expectation that the administration will do whatever is necessary to extend the concept through an indirect route. A Republican president could reverse direction and force insurers to price their products without the expectation of a taxpayer backstop if they lose money.

A Republican administration is very likely to quickly reverse course on the so-called “HHS mandate.” This is the regulatory requirement (not in the statute) which is forcing employers, including those with strong religious objections, to pay for products and services they find objectionable. Among other things, the regulation is forcing Catholic universities to include in their health plans for their workers all manner of contraceptive products and services, including those which can induce an early pregnancy abortion. If not struck down by the Supreme Court or lower courts, there will be enormous pressure on a Republican president to quickly dispense with the requirement altogether or, at a minimum, to carve out a generous exemption for employers with sincere religious objections to it.

The Obama administration’s creative use of executive discretion has extended beyond insurance rules and the exchanges too. In Medicare, for instance, the administration advanced a demonstration program in Medicare that paid Medicare Advantage (MA) plans an extra $5.3 billion above what was provided under the law. Most of the spending occurred before the November 2012 election and masked the cuts that Obamacare had made in the MA program up to that point in time.

This was the first time that the Office of Management and Budget had allowed such a sizeable Medicare demonstration to go forward that wasn’t budget neutral. What would stop a Republican administration from using this precedent to push billions of dollars more into the MA program and effectively undo the MA cuts in Obamacare on a permanent basis?


The most significant reinterpretation available to a Republican president would be to reverse the decision allowing premium credits to be paid by the federal fallback exchange. This is, of course, the subject of a pending lawsuit, with the plaintiffs arguing that the law is clear and only state exchanges are authorized to pay the credits. The Obama administration is relying on long-standing precedents to argue that the executive branch can make interpretations of this kind when there is ambiguity. If the courts side with the Obama administration, it would not preclude a new set of lawyers, under a new administration, from reaching the opposite conclusion about how to read the statute.

A reversal of this kind would be politically tumultuous, to put it mildly. By the time a Republican president has a chance to make such a decision, there could easily be ten million or more people getting premium credits from the federal exchange. It is hard to imagine a Republican president terminating these credits without first lining up a replacement program more to his liking. Nonetheless, the option would be there, and with it also the leverage to push Congress to enact an alternative plan.

The wide latitude available to a Republican president to reinterpret Obamacare does not mean it would be wise to take all of these steps, or any of them for that matter. The goal would need to be movement of the nation’s health system toward one which would provide secure insurance and stable costs for everyone—without the baggage of Obamacare. How a Republican president should proceed on these, and many other matters subject to interpretation, would depend on the overall plan to replace Obamacare with something far better.

For the moment, though, it is sufficient just to note that the current president has opened the door very wide to reinterpreting Obamacare after he leaves office. And creative use of that opening by a future president could lead to some surprising long-term changes in the nation’s health system.

James C. Capretta is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a contributor to e21.



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Thursday, April 10, 2014

'Bring Back Silent Cal!'

'I bet I can make you say 3 words'
'You. Lose'
Amity Schlaes has written a very good, comprehensive book on one of the most obscure Presidents of the United States that many people have never heard of: Calvin Coolidge.

Quick: A) Name the years he served; B) how he got there and C) what his record was as President. (no cheating or Googling)

See? It is almost as if he has disappeared from the US history books. (*answers at bottom of post)

A man of few words, President Coolidge was sitting next to a young lady at a dinner one time who wanted to challenge his reputation as 'Silent Cal'.

'I made a bet that I could get you to say at least 3 words to me tonight' the young lady said to the President.

Without looking at her, he said. 'You lose' and went on about eating his dinner.

We are only just beginning the book but let's take a quick look at some of the major achievements of 'Silent Cal' Calvin Coolidge from the introduction by Ms. Schlaes:
'It is hard for modern students of economics to know what to make of a government that treated economic weakness by raising interest rates 300 basis points, cutting tax rates and halving the federal government...
It is harder still for modern economists to concede that that recipe, the policy recipe for the early 1920's advocated by many men of both political parties, yielded growth on a scale to which we can only aspire today...
  • 'Under Coolidge, the federal debt fell.
  • 'Under Coolidge, the top income tax rate came down by 1/2, to 25%'. 
  • 'Under Coolidge, the federal budget was always in surplus.
  • Under Coolidge, the economy grew strongly even though the federal government shrank. 
  • When Coolidge retired in 1929, the federal government was smaller than when he had become president in 1923. 
  • The federal budget under Coolidge had military, veterans and interest on the national debt accounting for 50% of it
The robust economy of the 'The Roaring '20's' might have rivaled the Internet Boom of the 1990's when another President, William Jefferson Clinton figured out after his first 2 years he could not get much done tacking to the left-wing of the Democratic Party after HillaryCare was ignominiously and roundly defeated in 1993-94. (Obamacare is just HillaryCare on performance-enhancing steroids)

He made his best hire of his presidency when he appointed Erskine Bowles of North Carolina to be his chief of staff. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin brought confidence to Wall Street and interest rates plummeted.

The 'peace dividend' from the wind-down of the First Iraq War led to lower deficits.

The Budget Act of 1990, signed by President George Bush 41 after arduous negotiations with House Democrats at Andrews AF Base, flattened the growth in federal expenditures to about 2%/year from 1995 on to produce the only budget surpluses most of us will ever see in our lifetimes.

We don't even think President Obama knows that Andrews AFB can be used for anything else short of a convenient disembarkation site for his many vacations taken over the past 6 years.

The federal debt was paid down by close to $700 billion by the end of 2000. It stood at only $5.6 trillion when Bill Clinton left office on January 20, 2001. (although perhaps 1/3 of that amount was intragovernmental debt such as for Social Security 'trust fund' (sic) allocations meaning the 'real debt' we had to pay actual interest on a monthly basis at about $3 trillion)

Today, the federal debt is at $17 trillion+...and climbing daily. There is no way we won't hit $20 trillion in debt before 2020. None whatsoever under current policies advocating by President Obama.

The point of all of this?

Other than strongly encouraging you to get and read Ms. Schlaes' book 'Coolidge' today, the point is to show you how restraining or reducing the spending by the federal government coupled with the major cutting of marginal tax rates has led to economic prosperity in a big way in our nation's past.

It is not 'impossible'; 'crazy' or 'insane' as many defenders of Big Government Spending would have you to believe. Tell them they are wrong the next time they try to shout you down.

We remain of the very strong opinion that the next president can and should follow the lead of 'Silent Cal' Calvin Coolidge.We are pretty sure President Obama will never change his ways so the next president will have to lead to help systematically reduce spending in every federal program on a line-item-by-line-item basis.

Even the Defense Department was not spared the knife under 'Silent Cal'; the Navy was slashed 20% in one year alone.

We think that the first thing that needs to be done is to separate the entitlement programs from the rest of the discretionary budget.

Call it the 'decoupling' or the 'disestablishment' of entitlement spending on individual support from the rest of spending that goes more for the 'common good' in terms of transportation, defense and other annual discretionary programs.

Social Security should have been converted to personal savings/retirement accounts long ago. People retiring today could be sitting on nest eggs of $300,000 or more with monthly annuity payments far in excess of the meager $1700/month average most seniors will receive from the current outdated SS model.

Medicare should also be modernized where your payments into the Medicare system actually go into an account that can be used to pay your medical expenses not just in your golden age when you start to really break down but for your entire life!

Check this out: Under both of those plans described above, you would own the contracts and accounts, not anyone else.  Right now, you kick the bucket at age 65 years, 364 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes and you lose all of your potential Social Security benefits. (full retirement age is 66)

Do the same at age 64 years, 364 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes and you don't qualify for Medicare either! (full retirement age is 65)

How unfair is that?

We have written extensively about these in the past and published a myriad of ways other experts have figured out how to achieve both ends.

But read about Calvin Coolidge first. He may inspire you to be as frugal as he was which, at the same time, led to prosperity for all of our great-and great-great grandparents...and, for some of us, our very own parents.


* A) 1923-1929.  B) Coolidge was VP and replaced Warren G. Harding who died in office. C) Excellent...on all accounts.
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Friday, April 4, 2014

'All Is Well!' In The 'No Voter Fraud!' World...Except When It Isn't


On April 2, the state legislature heard 'stunning' testimony from the North Carolina State Board of Elections that 36,515 people in North Carolina had voted in past elections....and apparently also voted in one of 28 other states as well.

These people had the same first name, last name and date of birth...and voting records as having cast ballots in two different states in the 2012 Presidential year elections.

These votes do not affect just the outcome of the Presidential race. They also affect any Governor's races being held at the same time, US Senate races, all Congressional races and all of the down-the-ballot races from state senate and state house to municipal races to bond referenda.

Granted, many of the voters don't vote all the way down the ballot in any election year; the drop-off in vote totals is significant as you go from the Presidential race down to the judicial races. But still, with 36,515 questioned ballots, many of those people also voted illegally in the down-ballot races as well as the big ones at the top.

On top of that finding, 765 people in the group of 36,515 not only had the same first name, same last name, same date of birth but ALSO THE SAME SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER!!!

Wow. What are the chances that even someone with a name as simple as John Smith of Wadesboro, NC could have the same first and last name, DOB and SSN# as a John Smith of Lebanon, Virginia?

The answer is zero, in case you didn't know. Below 0 degrees Kelvin if you were scoring on scientific temperature scales. Because everyone is supposed to have a unique SSN#, remember?

We have long been aware and convinced of voter fraud along these lines over the past 34 years of being involved intimately with congressional and senate campaign off-and-on during that time. We are quite surprised this number is not more like 136,515 to be honest with you.

We have also been long tussling with people who have declared with all their heart and soul and mind: 'There is no voter fraud! There is no voter fraud!' 'There is no voter fraud!'

All we can say today is: 'There is voter fraud. Deal with it.'

The Voter Integrity Project headed by Jay Delancey in Raleigh has asked the Board of Elections to impound the voter authorization forms in every county so they can not be destroyed before legal action can be brought against the people who have committed fraud.  'Authorization to Vote' forms or ATV are signed sheets where you verify and prove that you are who you say you are.

Apparently, these 36,515 people just flat out lied when they went to vote. If they actually went to vote in their own skin and person, that is. Many people just walk up to the voting tables having memorized someone else's name and address, usually of someone who hasn't voted recently in other elections or dead people, who should be allowed to vote in any election but they do.

That is why the voter identification laws were so critical to pass in North Carolina and other states. As long as the ONLY place in the nation where you didn't need an ID was the voting booth, the opportunity to lie, cheat, steal and commit fraud was just too tempting to politicos intent on getting their guy elected...no matter what.

Now, we know there are going to be some well-meaning but misguided souls who are going to protesteth much too much that this is some sort of Republican conservative witch hunt to deny minorities, old ladies and young people their right to vote.

It is not. This is a legitimate attempt to make sure that every vote cast by legally registered and law-abiding citizens of every race and social standing is not negated by an illegal vote cast by someone else.

The first rather lame attempts to 'explain away' these numbers bordered pretty much on the SNL level of comedy.  As reported in the N&O:

'Bob Hall of the liberal watchdog group Democracy North Carolina said the public shouldn’t jump to conclusions until more details about the numbers are known.
He added that duplicate names don’t automatically signal fraud. “I know there is more than one Bob Hall with my birth date who lives among the 28 states researched,” he said. “For all we know, there may be 35,000 legitimate name and birthday matches.'

'For all we know, there may be 35,000 legitimate name and birthday matches'. C'mon, Bob! Give us a break! Take off the rose-colored glasses for a moment and look at the facts!

Let's try to examine the chances of that in detail in real world probabilities.

Across 28 different state lines, there may be hundreds of thousands of 'Bob Halls'. With a name as common as that, that is believable.

But there are 365 days on which to have a birthday, 366 if you count leap year. Even if all of those 35,000+ people were actually named 'Bob Hall', (which they are not by the way just to bring it back into the real world once again), and they were uniformly distributed among those 366 birthdays, you would still have close to 96 'Bob Halls' in separate states having the same name and birthday on every single day of the year!'

But what about if your name is 'Krzyzewski'. What if you see any same name match with the same birthday of that name? Or how about 'Wojciechowski'?

People who are intent on cheating the system couldn't even spell those 2 names, could they? (Not that anyone else can on their first or second try either...try to ask a friend today to spell both on the first try and then buy them a beer and steak dinner if they are successful)

Nope, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. This just about puts a final nail in the coffin of the 'There's Is NO VOTER FRAUD!' corpse. 36,515 matches of the same first and last name and birthday is ample evidence that people have been voting in different states with regularity and no fear of being caught. Because no one has ever cross-checked the voting lists like this before.

Welcome to the 21st century, American Representative Democracy!

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

'There's Something Happening Here....'



This song always gets us confused.

We always think it is the song called 'There's Something Happening Here' by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The only problem is that it is called 'For What It's Worth' and it was performed by a band called Buffalo Springfield for some reason.

We got to think about this song the other day when we were talking with a long-time Democratic consultant, operative and campaign manager in North Carolina. A 5-minute phone call turned into an hour-long conversation which led to some mighty surprising conclusions in these days when supposedly there is no 'middle ground' between the two major parties, the Republicans and the Democrats.

First of all, many people might be surprised we were even talking at all. But there are a surprising number of older, now more mature people who have grown up in and around North Carolina politics who are saying the same things at the same time...and they are not going to be of a lot of comfort to rigid, rock-ribbed believers on both extremes of the political spectrum.

After exchanging a few war stories to establish bonafides and have a few laughs to begin with, the conversation sorta went along the following lines:

'You know, we have been fighting the same battles for the past 30 years in North Carolina and federal politics...and not a whole heckuva lot has gotten done, especially in the last 10-15 years or so'.

'You are right about that. The more and more we get ideological purity on both sides of the political spectrum, the more extreme the nominees get coming out of the primaries and the less likely they are to compromise and work together to get things done for the common good.'

'Yeah. That plus gerrymandering during redistricting has made it a far more polarized state and nation.'

'Hey! Wait a minute! The Democrats in North Carolina sure were not even and fair-handed when it came to redistricting for the 140 years prior to the Republicans taking over the NC General Assembly in 2010, you know.'

'You're right. The Democrats kept a heavy thumb on the scale their way when they controlled redistricting, that is for sure. But what can be done about it now, today to get things back to where elected representatives and senators work to get things done during sessions and not just try to 'get re-elected' with polarized districts?'

'Well, I will tell you one thing I have noticed going on in North Carolina over the past 4 years. 50% of the young people I meet with say they hate the Republicans and they also hate the Democrats with equal passion! How's that for 'bipartisanship'? They have signed up as Independent/Unaffiliated voters in droves and there doesn't seem to be much movement away from that trend.'

'You are exactly right about that! Both the Democrat and Republican Party have closed their eyes to this and just hope that it will all go away somehow and the young'uns will somehow someway come back a'running to their Momma and Daddy's Democratic Party or the Grand Old Party as it was under Ronald Reagan!'

'The current Unaffiliated registration is about 30% right now in North Carolina. We have heard other experts say it may reach 41% by the 2016 presidential elections. If 50%+ of the young people are now running to register Unaffiliated in 2014, what will they do for the rest of their lives...stay Independent or not?'

'That is the $64 billion question right now. Most people stay in the same party they voted for for President the first time. But the young people who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 seem to be the same people who are now registering Independent all over the country so who knows what will happen with them?'

'What if someone charismatic who has run statewide before and is prominent in many ways raises his or her hand and says: 'You know what? I am fed up with the Republican/Democratic Party too! And I am going to run as an Independent and try to change things up here in North Carolina!'?

'That is what it would have to take to shake things up, but it would definitely shake things up, that is for sure.'


'What do you think the 'platform' if you will, of the NC Independent Party would have to be to attract these unaffiliated registered voters to vote as a bloc for the New Fearless Leader?'

'Well, for one thing, he/she would have to be a fiscal conservative and willing to run a tight financial ship as the head of government. One thing the Independents HATE is politicians wasting their tax money on stupid things. Especially the young people. They are going to have to pay for all the debt out there right now as it is.'

'That's for sure.'

'The other thing they are going to have to do is tell everyone that what goes on in the bedroom is nobody else's business! In fact, he/she might have to make it very clear that until we get the economy rockin'-and-rollin' again and everyone who wants to find a job can find a job, they would not try to advance or rollback any current law on social issues. Save those for a later time at a later date.'

'That is easier said and done.'


''Yep, it is. But it has to be done. An America where millions of people can't find a well-paying job and the economy is just barely puttering along is not the time or the place for a lot of rhetoric and polemics about abortion, gay rights and illegal immigration.'

'That sounds sort of like the '50's under Ike where everyone paid attention to their own lives and what went on behind closed doors stayed behind closed doors. On both sides of the political spectrum.'

'So be it then. We have been ripped apart by our profound differences on social issues for the past 30 years and we are no closer to solving the abortion issue than we were in 1980!'

'I have seen tons of pro-life and pro-choice people get elected solely because of their stance on that tough issue...and hardly a one of them have been leaders in reducing the federal debt; balancing the budget; fixing our financial banking system or solving world peace.'

'Precisely. We need more accountants, financial planners, CEOs, engineers, educators, nurses and doctors running for public office from the local municipal races to President!'

'We also need true leaders who will stop signing all of these hundreds of inane pledges and just promise the American people one thing and one thing only: 'I will do the best I can to support and uphold the Constitution...and if you don't like the way I do it, you can run against me in the next election and try to take my place!'

'Man. We need to keep this conversation going.'

'Agreed.'

There is indeed 'something happn'ing here' in North Carolina, in Ohio, in California and in Texas. There are hundreds of congressional districts where a Democrat or a Republican has less a chance of winning due to gerrymandering than a snowball has a chance to roll down a hill in Hell.

However, these very same 'unwinnable' districts are eminently winnable by someone running as an Independent or Unaffiliated voter assuming they have some reasonable sense of dignity, intelligence and reputation going for them. All they have to do is attract 90%+ of the Independents in the district plus maybe 20% of the minority party in the same district plus 10% of the majority party voters.

You need 50%+1 to win most 2-candidate elections, some primaries being the exception. However, in a general election with 3 candidates, the candidate with the plurality or most of the votes wins as long as the margin of victory exceeds certain limits to avoid a recount.

What happens if 1 person runs as an Independent...and wins? You think a second, a third and then a flood of people would follow their lead?

That is how political transformations have happened many times in American history.

Maybe we are just in the middle of one brewing right now and no one really even knows it yet.



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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Dangerous Allure of 'One-And-Doners'

 '1-and-doner' Andrew Wiggins of Kansas
Duke's '1-and-doner' Jabari Parker
You know what we are gonna say:

  • 'The game has been diminished due to one-and-doners'.
  • 'One-and-doners are inexperienced rookies'.
  • 'One-and-doners can't make the big shot or make the big free throw when it counts'.
  • 'Inevitably, one-and-doners will screw up and lose the Big One for us, the good guys, the home team'.
No, we are not talking about the collapse of the Dicky V. '3's: 'Super Scintillating Sensational' Diaper Dandy McDonald All-Americans Jabari Parker of Duke and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament that might as well be canceled for the next 2 weeks here on Tobacco Road in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.

We are talking about the only way that Republicans can not take over the US Senate in the 2014 mid-term elections: by nominating the latest flavor-of-the-month inexperienced candidate to run for one of the 100 highest offices in the land.

Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com fame was the fair-haired child of the national Democratic Party in 2012 when he 'said' President Obama was going to win a second term. Every time he 'predicted' a Senate victory in the Senate, House or Governor's race around the nation, he was feted with celebration and loud huzzahs from the DNC and praised as the 'Savant King'.

Alas, as the slave would whisper into the ear of a conquering Caesar coming back to Rome amidst great pomp and circumstance: 'Sic transit gloria mundi'. 'All Glory is Fleeting'.

Today, in 2014, the Democrats are slamming Nate Silver. Why?  Because he had the temerity to do what most good objective pollster people are supposed to do: report the truth of their polls and data.

Today, in 2014, it looks like Republicans will gain the 6 seats they need to take back control of the US Senate from Majority Leader Harry Reid after 8 (long) years. There is a 30% chance the Republicans may pick up 11 seats and go from a 45-55 minority to a 56-44 majority.

We suppose they will then tell President Obama the same thing he coldly told House Republicans in 2009 when they came to discuss some alternatives and compromises on health care reform: 'Elections. Matter'.

Nate Silver is not doing anything that anyone reading this blog could not do. He takes every reputable pollster's hard work; averages the numbers (which takes basic math skills) and then aggregated it in his blog...and became famous for his 'predictions'.

They were not his 'predictions' any more than any other pollster's declarations are 'predictions'. They are mere 'snapshots' of the mood of voting electorate (i.e. 'people are legally registered to vote') at the time they take the poll. Nothing more, nothing less.

What Mr. Silver was able to do was take a lot of data points produced by dozens if not hundreds of polling firms and then use the power of numbers to come up with his conclusions.

In 2008 and 2012, he was considered a hero by the Obama forces. In 2010 and now in 2014, probably not. Because most polls show that the GOP will gain at least 4 seats in the US Senate almost without question and probably the 5 to break-even at 50 or 6 to gain control.

Anyway, back to the 'one-and-doner' issue.

The ONLY way that Republicans can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory it seems in this 2014 election cycle is to do what they did in 2010 and 2012 when they failed to keep or gain 5 Senate seats:


Nominate less-than-stellar candidates in the spring primaries. 
  • The Tea Party 'thought' they had recruited 'the next' LeBron James when they nominated Christine O'Donnell in Delaware over incumbent Senator Castle. 
  • They thought they had recruited 'the next' Kobe Bryant when they nominated Sharon Angle to run against Harry Reid in Nevada. 
  • They thought they had recruited 'the next' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when they nominated Ken Buck in Colorado to run against Udall. 
  • They thought they had recruited 'the next' Wilt Chamberlain when they nominated Todd Akin in Missouri.
  • They thought they had recruited 'the next' Michael Jordan when they nominated Richard Mourdock in Indiana to unseat Rhodes Scholar Richard Lugar in the primary.
We all know what happened, don't we?
  • Christine O'Donnell went to the air to declare 'I am not a witch!'. 
  • Sharon Angle blew $39 million on the air in the arid TV market of Nevada and forgot to get all the blackjack dealers in the casinos organized to turn out the vote as they did for Harry Reid. 
  • Ken Buck lost his race to now Senator Mark Udall in a race that many observers think was his to win.
  • More infamously, Todd Akin said this about abortion in the case of rape victims: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” 
  • As bad as that comment was, Richard Mourdock trumped him by saying this about abortion: “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Both comments swung the election by perhaps 20-30+ points in a matter of days, if not hours, if not minutes, if not microseconds.

They are all now 'one-and-doners', aren't they? The Republicans lost 5 US Senate seats over the last two elections, 3 in the wave-year election of 2010 alone with these candidates.

Instead of wondering if Republicans would be gaining 6-11 seats today to gain the majority, Nate Silver and the other pollsters would be now wondering how many more seats the Republicans could gain from their 50-seat position of today in 2014.

To top that off, if you are a conservative or a Republican or a Tea Party member or whatever, the pressure on President Obama to become more realistic and pragmatic about Obamacare and his still non-performing economic agenda would have been far greater since 2011-on had these seats not been lost by the GOP.

As bad as we think the 'one-and-doners' are for college basketball and the NBA by extension, the loss of these 5 seats by the 'one-and-doners' nominated by the Tea Party have been far more damaging to the United States, don't you think?

Think about it before you pull the lever, punch the button or fill out your paper ballot this spring in the primaries.



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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How Business Really Works

We had lunch recently with a gentleman who has been very successful in the world of business.

He asked us to jump in his pickup truck to go get a sandwich before agreeing to squeeze in the front of our somewhat unkempt sedan whereupon we went about 250 yards down the road to his local restaurant.

'Great food. Not great service' he said. 'They only have one cook and need to hire more servers' he observed in his business-like view. 'But I like the place which I why I keep coming back all the time'.

He knew everyone's name including the server and cashier and as we left, he spotted 2 friends whom he went over to greet and catch up on their lives and families before we left.

We weren't in there more than an hour. But the lessons about business and life we learned in that hour could and should last a lifetime.

Which is why we are bringing them to you today.

There is a narrative, or better yet in modern parlance among the intelligentsia in the media and political circles, 'metanarrative' that goes like this:
'Businessmen (in particular as opposed to businesswomen) are bad. They take what they can steal from the poor and the working man and never give them a raise above the government-mandated minimum wage. They pollute the environment. They ruin the economy. We'd be better off without them so let's have the government run everything!'
Don't you just see and feel these negative vibes and venomous vapors coming off the newspaper editorial pages every day when you read them or out of the mouths of cable news anchors on a repeated loop cycle all day long?

This has been the position to which progressive liberals and populists have always defaulted whether it was true or not. It 'feels' good to have a boogeyman to blame for life's troubles and struggles and an obnoxiously filthy rich businessman smoking stogies after lighting them with $1000 bills is the perfect boogeyman and pinata to hit and hit and hit time and time again.

American businessmen historically have been horrible at telling the story of free enterprise and what is has done to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and lower living standards in America over our history. The lifestyles of the not-so-rich and not-so-famous middle American family are the envy of most of the rest of the world.

The only problem? For the vast part of American history, this metanarrative about the 'big bad old American businessman' simply is not true.

More typical is the case of our friend this past week whose story we are about to tell.

'How did you start your business?' we asked him.

'I was in my freshman year in college in 1957. I married a woman I fell in love with and figured out I needed to bring in some extra income to support us through college. I started a finance business and made loans and collected payments in between going to class and being a husband.

I made plenty of mistakes. More than I care to remember. But eventually I figured my business out and by the time I was a senior in college, I had several operating offices I was running which I then sold before graduation.

After graduation, I found a bankrupt business that I had some interest in so I bought it with the money I made selling my finance company. I made plenty of mistakes in that business as well and didn't really turn it around until several years after buying it. But I eventually got the hang of it and now, 40-some odd years later, we have thousands of stores and other outlets around the country.'

'How many people are working for your company today?'

'20,000, maybe 22,000. I am not sure to be honest about it'

'Good grief!' we said. 'You are a veritable job-creating, economic engine all by yourself!'

'Not really' was his modest reply. 'We have had hundreds of very good executives and managers along the way. We couldn't have succeeded had we not treated all of our employees as equals and had great products to see along the way.'

So far, we could not see anything wrong with his business success story. Can you?

'What have you done lately?' we went on to ask.

'Well, I decided to get out of the day-to-day operations of this company and I bought 2 small companies from someone I knew. We now have a couple of thousand people working for these 2 companies'.

'So those are no longer just 'small companies' are they?' we said.

'No, they are not' he chuckled. 'No, they are not'.

We were there to tell him about our efforts to find, recruit and train new and better-educated, experienced and smarter leaders to run for elective office through The Institute for the Public Trust which we have been running now for the past 4 years in the state of North Carolina.

'What bothers you the most in today's business environment?' we asked as a way to explain the importance of our efforts.

'The regulations we have to deal with on a daily basis. We can't just focus on making and selling the best product anymore as we did in the 60's, 70's and even through most of the 80's and early 90's.

We have constant meetings with lawyers and regulatory and compliance officers all day long. I just got out of a meeting which is why I was late to meet you where we were told that due to local occupancy requirements, if we reduced the width of the landscaping beds in front of the building from 7.5 feet wide to 5 feet, we would have to reduce the number of people INSIDE the building from 200 to around 150. All because of the width of the landscaping beds OUTSIDE of the door to the front of our building that WE own!'

Ladies and gentlemen: just how nuts is that? We have been writing about a lot of stuff for a long time now and have been in and out of government for close to 34 years as well and that is about as ridiculous and silly of a regulation as we have ever seen.

The size of a landscaping bed has no bearing on the number of people who can be inside the building working and providing for their families. That is just plain crazy, yes?

'I am not sure we could have built this company if we started today' was his final comment about it all before we paid the server and then he said hello to his friends and then left the restaurant. It is the same comment we have heard time and time again from other successful entrepreneurs of the past.

Think about that for a moment. Here is a guy who started a business all on his own without any help from the government while still in college. He went on to found another business that has been an incredibly success story and has had a hand in creating jobs for perhaps 250,000 to 300,000 people over the course of the lifetime of this company. Even in his post-exec days, he is still creating jobs to the tune of thousands of jobs at the previously small companies he has taken and grown as well.

Shouldn't this guy get the Congressional Medal of Honor or the Nobel Peace Prize or something? This person is a job-creating machine all on his own! Isn't that the sort of thing you would like to see happen again in America?

According to published reports, this man is extremely generous in his business partnerships with people he enters into working arrangements with. His philosophy seems to be: 'The best way for us to be successful is for you to be successful as well!'

For all we know, he has a foundation where he is able to help others meet their needs or achieve their dreams with grants and advice and support. America is built on the success of such people who have the gift of being successful in business.

The Carnegies, the Mellons, the Dukes, the Reynolds, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett all have done remarkable things with their wealth after they made it.  We all benefit from their generosity and largess when we go to the hospitals they have set up or the museums or libraries or hear about them inoculating children around the world to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The metanarrative of the 'big, bad old businessman' is in large part not true. Granted, there are business execs and Wall Street bankers who give every business person a bad name and should go to jail when caught and convicted of malfeasance and dereliction of duty.

Given the desultory economic growth and job creation ('job destruction' really since millions of people have left the work force) over the past 5 years and counting, wouldn't you rather see the shackles removed from job creators and business-makers such as this person so they can create new jobs for you and your family?

We do. We have seen it before in the 1980's and the 1990's. When the energy of the American free enterprise spirit is unleashed, it is a thing of beauty to behold.

The sad thing is, President Obama can stand up tomorrow and announce that his policies just aren't working as he had hoped they would and he is going to change his ways to a more pro-growth agenda for the last 2 years of his White House tenure. We are not holding our breath, truth be told.

We just hope our sons and daughters get to experience the wonder of the American free enterprise system sometime. Soon.






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Sunday, March 16, 2014

The 'True' March Madness

'Duke University will do more for
you than you will ever do
for Duke University'
Here's a statement we would all love to hear and see come out of the mouth of the leading college basketball coaches and their athletic directors soon after this season concludes with 'One Shining Moment' at the end of the CBS broadcast on April 7 in Dallas, Texas:
'We have enjoyed our run with the current format of NCAA eligibility for college basketball players. It has been fun while it lasted.
However, we realize that recruiting and training so-called '1-and-doner Diaper Dandies' to our universities and colleges has contradicted what a college education is all about in the first place.
This is the 'true' March Madness of college basketball. And September. October, November, December, January, February and April Madness as well.
We are supposed to be dedicated to: 1) helping young people get a first-class education so they can be productive citizens later in life and 2) winning NCAA titles for our schools and not serving merely as a jumping-off point for the NBA draft.
We really could care less if the Sacramento Kings get one of our players and if they ever win an NBA title somewhere along the way. Most wind up bouncing around from franchise to franchise anyway.
What we do care about very much is the reputation of the university or college that is written on the front of our uniforms and which we represent each and every time we take the court at home in front of our fans or away on courts across the nation.
We want our players from now on to come and get a full-degree education and win championships for our college and fans. Not NBA titles for the Minnesota Timberwolves or Cleveland Cavaliers. Who really cares about them?
That is what we pledge to do. Because it is the right thing to do.'
How many people would pass out from an angina attack if they read that in the news or heard it on SportsCenter right after the NCAA tournament was over?

Let's face it: The NCAA basketball world has been significantly diminished since the advent of the early departure rules for the NBA. No more Lew Alcindors staying in college for 4 years at UCLA; no more David Thompsons at NC State.

The NBA has been diminished as well. The highest rated NCAA Finals ever was the 1979 showdown between Magic Johnson of Michigan State and Larry Bird of the Indiana State Sycamores. All of those college fans would have followed them no matter what NBA team drafted them later.

Imagine if Kobe Bryant or LeBron James had gone to any college for 4 years and built a national fan base as the 'next' Magic Johnson or Larry Bird. The NCAA would have certainly benefited but so would have the NBA if the Magic/Bird example held true to form.

The sad thing about college sports in general is how much the value of a quality education has been diminished as a result of the lure of big contracts in the professional leagues nowadays. Many young people are completely deluded to believe that they will be the next Michael Jordan or the next Tom Brady who will parlay their talent and hard work into hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts and endorsements.

The reality is that 98%+ of all college football and basketball players at the Division I level have a higher probability of becoming a brain surgeon than a professional athlete. Assuming they can read and write and take advanced biochemistry and work harder at studying than they will ever work at being an athlete.

College sports needs to return to its original mission of being a complement to a young person's education, maturation and development into a productive, successive American citizen. not as a way-station on the road to riches in the NBA or NFL.

Former Duke football coach Wallace Wade made his mark on college athletics at the University of Alabama in the 1920's when he took the Crimson Tide to 3 Rose Bowls and 3 national titles before coming to Duke in 1931 and taking the new Blue Devils football team to 2 Rose Bowls in 10 years.

Know what sealed the deal for him to come to Duke other than being given the head football coach job, the AD job and a substantial financial package that seemed to defy the Depression that was going on around him in all of America?

Wallace Wade wanted to be the director of intramural athletics in addition to being the football coach and athletic director. It was a way to satisfy his desire to be a 'molder of men' and teach not only the talented football player how to win on the field but how to win in the business of life for all students at Duke University at the time.

Must have been the toughest director of intramural sports in the history of the NCAA.

He kept sports in its proper perspective on college campuses. He recruited the very best around the nation and when he met with a superstar high school hotshot from Pennsylvania, North Carolina or Virginia, his pitch was always the same:

'Duke University will do more for you than you will ever do for Duke University on the football field.'

Think about that for a moment. Every college or university which offers a hotshot young player the opportunity to attend its classrooms and meet people from every walk of life who will be successful in every field outside of sports will be doing them an enormous favor that will last a lifetime.

There are several ways to rectify this imbalance right away.

  1. Let any high school phenom go to the NBA right from high school if they want to enter the draft. 
  2. If they are not drafted or signed as a free agent in the summer, they can enter the incoming class of freshman in the fall with the college of their choice who offered them a scholarship. 
  3. Once enrolled in college, they are not eligible to go to the pros until their class graduates from college
  4. If they wash out of the NBA within 2 years, they retain at least 2 years of eligibility to attend college and play at the collegiate level and hopefully earn a degree which will help them later on life.

The truth of the matter is that only a very, very, very tiny percentage of high school players will ever go straight to the pros and dominate as Lebron James or Kobe Bryant have at the pro level. These changes would just recognize the reality of the situation in high-stakes American professional sports and allow young phenoms the chance to see if they can play in the NBA without forfeiting their chance to get a quality education which is supposedly what every college coach is supposed to be offering their players in the first place.

Right?

One thing we would add to the qualification specs for the young player who wants to go right to the NBA or enter college:

'If you can't make 75%+ of your free throws, you have got to go to Andy Enfield's All-Net Shooting Camp for a summer before enrolling in college! Mandatory.'


That way, we college basketball fans won't have to cringe every time one of our players 'bricks', 'doinks' or 'clangs' one off the back of the rim or misses it altogether.

Has there ever been a worse season for collegiate free throw shooting since Wilt Chamberlain was at Kansas?

Couple bad free throw shooting with the seeming lack of education being offered and received by the majority of these players in college and this has been a long season indeed.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

'Well La-dee Frickin' Da!'


























One thing that is pretty much confirmed over years and years of experience, empirical evidence and personal observation is this: 'If it appears to be too good to be true, it probably isn't true'. Right?

Politics and public policy isn't rocket science, you know.

The promises of universal coverage; no tax hikes; lowering health care costs and 'letting you keep your insurance if you like it' seemed to be just too good to be true.

And now, they are being proven to be so.

We will give the Obama Administration kudos for one thing, though. They have perhaps the best spin-doctors, spin-meisters and public relations spinners the White House has ever seen.

And that is saying a lot.

Take Obamacare for example. It was billed as a 'be-all/end-all' to the 'crushing' crisis of the uninsured in America, 50 million people perhaps at some time during any previous year.

Obamacare was going to soak up all of these 50 million uninsured people and put them into federal or state exchanges where they could buy 'Affordable Care' which represents the first 2 letters of the ACA, yes?

Care to guess how many of these 50 million uninsured people have signed up for Obamacare through January, 2014?

440,000. Give or take a few thousand either way.

The McKinsey Report cited above in the graphic and referenced in this Washington Post article surveyed people signing up for Obamacare and found that only 11% of those who did sign up were previously without coverage. We are giving the Obama White House Press Machine the benefit of the doubt and accepting their claim that 4 million people have signed up for Obamacare.

That means that 89% of those signees previously had health insurance under some other plan! Many are now receiving subsidies from you, the federal taxpayer and foreign sovereigns such as the Chinese who buy our debt so we can offer these generous subsidies without us having to pay the full freight today.

We have no idea how many of them actually paid the first month's premium or any thereafter. Could be 100% of them but more likely perhaps only 75% of them have actually followed through with the actual payment of the plan which would further diminish the numbers of actual paid enrollees into the ACA.

What happened to all those other 49,560,000 people who previously did not have any health care insurance coverage prior to March 2010 when the ACA was passed?

Tens of millions of them are younger 'invincibles' who just don't want to pay for their own insurance no matter what the subsidy is or the penalty was. They are healthy vigorous young people who simply don't see the need for carrying health care insurance. Their reluctance to sign up for the ACA by the droves just proves their rebellious nature and lack of concern for getting health care insurance.

Millions have enrolled in the Medicaid programs of the various states, either through expansion of Medicaid coverage by the state or through the 'woodworking' effect where people 'come out of the woodwork' once they hear about expanded coverage or a friend or company tells them about Medicaid coverage.

However, these people were not the intended targets of the passage of the ACA since it was presumed they would not be able to afford to pay for any part of their health care coverage in the first place.

The Obama Administration just announced very quietly last week that he was going to postpone the individual mandate for people whose coverage was cancelled by the ACA until, well...forever.

We surmise that the Obama spin-meisters in their polling departments figured out that the vast majority of the millions of people whose individual plans were canceled by his ACA after he 'promised' they could keep their plans if they want to' about 1000 times were also the same people who vote in almost every election.

Including this fall's congressional elections.  It appears that any incumbent Representative to the House or US Senate who voted for the ACA will have the word 'Obamacare' tattooed across their forehead in a million TV ads...and they will lose to the challenger who didn't support or vote for the ACA.

Let's recap the action for those of you scoring at home:

  • The Obama White House has delayed the business mandate to carry insurance; 
  • The individual mandate for those whose coverage was cancelled has been delayed forever; 
  • 49,540,000 uninsured people are still uninsured; 
  • Tens of millions of targeted young people are not signing up for the ACA because they don't want to pay for any part of it and because they also know there are really zero enforcement mechanisms in ACA to make them pay for their health insurance or penalize them if they don't.

)

All of this begs the following question:

'Why did we pass Obamacare in the first place again?'

The other question it brings to mind is the ability of this Administration or any government to accurately and adequately predict the individual actions and decisions of millions of folks, especially when it comes to something as personal as their health care.

Things are not looking so good for the Big Government side of the equation lately.

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

'Republicans Should Stand For Principle'-Ted Cruz

'Give me a workhorse over a showhorse anytime'
Ted Cruz found himself in the spotlight once again for saying something his Princeton and Harvard Law-trained brain might have and should have prevented him from doing.

He mockingly said 'Presidents' Dole, McCain and Romney should have stood for 'principle' and the American people would have voted them into the White House instead of Clinton for a second term and Obama for 2 terms.

Senator McCain perhaps had the best zinger back to the freshman Senator from Texas when he said: 'I wonder if he thinks that Bob Dole stood for principle on that hilltop in Italy, when he was so gravely wounded and left part of his body there fighting for our country?”

Apparently, like so many people in this nation, Senator Cruz never served in the armed forces where he might have learned a thing or two about real bravery, as in being fired upon by hostile enemies or liberating villages in Iraq from a monster such as Saddam Hussein.

Bob Dole is an honorable man. He served his country with distinction in World War II and then did the dirty work of legislating and leading over close to a half century while others went about working and living in the representative democracy leaders such as Senator Dole were working to preserve for them.

If you have never run for political office, or even thought about it one nanosecond, you might want to put your critique gun back in its holster for awhile until you do. Show us how to do it any better; stop talking about it or complaining about everyone else why doncha?

That being said, we came not to destroy Ted Cruz. Nor did we come to praise him either.

The point he was trying to make gave us the opening to talk about 'true principles' in American politics and the source of those principles, The US Constitution.

We think there are 2 over-riding, over-arching 'principles' that exist in America today and have been in existence ever since before the Constitution was written or contemplated:
  1. The US Constitution mandates 'compromise'.
  2. You either want a stronger,  more centralized government operating out of Washington...or you don't.
Everything else seems to come a distant 10th or below when it comes to discerning what political philosophy you are going to follow and believe and fight for to the bitter end.

First of all, if you have ever read the 4-page Constitution to begin with, you will know very clearly that the Founders were terrified of concentrated power in the hands of one sovereign person (the King of England, of course, but also the President of the United States) or in any one faction of political party or the other.

They took extreme measures in that document to make sure that no one, no party and certainly no President ever got 100% of what they want once elected and handed the keys to power in America. President Obama and the Democrats came as close as anytime in modern history to being able to shove through whatever they wanted to when they passed Obamacare 'without even reading it' according to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Subsequent Congresses are slamming the brakes on it now and the courts are having their say as dozens of states challenge its scope in the court system astutely set up in the Constitution by our Founders.

We don't have time to enunciate all of the checks and balances in the Constitution here today. However, suffice it to say that when you see President Obama bemoan the fact that 'I can't get everything done that I want to get done for the American people', everyone should breathe a sigh of relief whether you agree with Obama or not on most political issues.

Because if a US President that you agree with could ever get 'everything' done, then the next US President with whom you don't agree could get 100% of what he/she wants to get done as well.

Think about it.

Takeaway Point #1 today is this: Many people such as Senator Ted Cruz and leaders of the Tea Party forget that the US Constitution is synonymous with the word 'compromise'. Call it what you will if you hate the non-four letter word 'compromise': call it 'negotiation', 'deal-making', 'log-rolling'...'jambalaya', we don't care.

The bottom line is that we will cease to have a working functioning government if every elected official won't back off their utopian dreams of a world built 100% on THEIR principles instead of realizing that Principle #1 in the Constitution is that we have compromises and come to a 50%+1 consensus to get things done.

We have had a good 14 years now of seeing what it is like when both parties kowtow to the extreme fringes of their parties. We have also seen about 30% of the people nationwide leave both the Democrat and Republican Party as a result of this stalemate and register Independent or Unaffiliated (in the states where you can do so).

North Carolina is expected to have 41% registered Independents by the 2016 Presidential election. Do the math: Who will be the major party in terms of registration then, huh?

Richard John Neuhaus had a great quote when it came to religious people talking about their various religious denominational differences: 'It is the will of God that we not kill each other fighting over what the will of God is'

In a similar vein, Americans of all political persuasions would be well-advised to remember this concept from our Founders:

'It is the will of the American Framers of the Constitition that we not kill each other fighting over what the will of the Framers of the Constitution is. And...that you get something good and constructive done each and every session of Congress with 50%+1 of the vote for the good of the people as a whole and not just your puny little insignificant political career, such as it will wind up being if you don't remember this principle'.
Takeaway Point #2 for today is this: 'What is the overriding principle for each political party nowadays anyway?'

  • Is it not raising taxes for the GOP?
  • Is it preventing any improvements and reforms in Social Security and Medicare for the Democrats?
  • Is it abolishing abortion for the GOP?
  • Is it moving towards abortion-on-demand for the Democrats?
  • Is it taking a more proactive stance on the world stage such as in the Ukraine for the Republicans?
  • Is it retreating from the world stage by pulling out troops from everywhere for the Democrats?
We think the eternal debate in American politics from the beginning has been, and probably always will be, over the size and scope of federal government control of our lives out of Washington, DC. That was at the core of the debate over slavery at the Constitutional Convention in 1787; that was at the core of the debate over Obamacare in 2009-2010.

We think if the debate could get re-centered over this main over-arching issue, the role of the federal government in our daily lives, then we might have some productive arguments in the public square once again. We have hundreds, if not thousands of prudential decisions we have to make as a nation right now if we are to secure the blessings of freedom and prosperity for decades to come for our children and their children.

They are not all 'black and white'; 'great versus terrible'; 'stupendous versus just plain out-and-out insanely stupid'. Most of the time, political decisions are between 2 bad decisions, just one is not as 'bad' as the other.

For example, we believe the whole Tax Pledge movement has completely distorted the real debate which should be focused on the size of the government and how much it costs to run it including the accumulation of federal debt which is about the only thing that can truly crush a government.

We don't like taxes any more than anyone else who pays them but...we don't like the accumulation of federal debt and irresponsible federal spending even more than we hate raising taxes!

Put yourself to the test of sanity and rational man thought:

Suppose you could negotiate a deal in Congress as a Congressperson or Senator where you would be guaranteed $10 trillion of bonafide scored CBO savings over the next 10 years (which is possible to do if you raise the retirement age of SS/Medicare to 70 overnight plus about 50 other necessary reforms to all entitlement programs).

In return, because the Other Side wanted and demanded a tax increase in order to get the bill passed in both the House and the Senate, and since you and your party don't control both Houses of Congress or the White House, you had to accept a $1/head tax hike for the next 10 years on every single taxpayer and worker, including those who do not pay any income tax today (but they do pay massive amounts of their income in payroll taxes to support current retirees, including billionaires, as they draw their SS and Medicare benefits).

That is the negotiated deal: $10 trillion of savings for you so-called 'conservatives who stand on principle' out there in return for a $1 tax hike on everyone.

Would. You. Take . It?

If you say yes, then you would be the first self-proclaimed 'TRUE conservative' we have talked to since leaving the employ of the US Senate in 2004 to have done so.

'I can't take that deal because I signed Grover Norquist's 'Tax Pledge' saying I would not raise any taxes while in Congress!' such people say.

Well, here are two questions:
  1. Who the heck is Grover Norquist anyway and what elective office has he ever been elected to?
  2. Are you going to risk being labeled a complete idiot for the rest of your life and have this engraved on your tombstone: 'He/she could have saved America from fiscal ruin...but turned it down because of a $1 tax hike?'
Are you serious?  What kind of leader would you be anyway if you took the easy way out, even if it was dead-wrong for the United States of America and future generations to come?

Here's where you will know when politicians such as Ted Cruz 'stand on principle or not': when they introduce bills or proposals that actually do what they purport to do. And then they work their rear ends off to get them through the legislative landmines and obstacle course that Madison, Hamilton, Adams et.al. set up in 1787 to make it as difficult as possible to get things done in a legislative constitutional government.

If all you see a politician do is give speeches to rile up the red-meat eaters who are already in your choir singing from the same hymnal, then he/she is just a show horse, not a work horse.

Give us a workhorse anytime over a thoroughbred race horse who looks great in the stable but can't win on the track. At least over time, something will get pulled over the goal line.

So when Senator Cruz says 'Republicans should stand on principle!', just which principle is he alluding to anyway? Ask him for some details.


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