Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"We Have Met the Enemy…and He Is Us!”

Pogo the Swamp Possum in Walt Kelly’s great comic strip that ran from 1948-1975 parodied Commodore Perry’s famous message in 1813 after the Battle of Lake Erie: “We have met the enemy…and they are ours!”

After ruminating about the insatiable desire of Americans to buy cheap underwear from China and our overspending at the federal level which has since put us into a dangerous debtor status with the same nation, some of our readers got us to thinking about some other odd contradictions in modern American life where, in essence, “we” are our own worst enemy, just as Pogo opined.

And since this is the time of year when we all make New Year's resolutions and 'swear to do better next year!', maybe it is a good time to think about where we are as a society collectively and individually.

We think we can do better, all of us as individuals and as a national community. We know we can. We simply have to.

Seriously, is there any problem out there that is really and truly ‘someone else’s fault’, as we like to think and hope so we can ‘blame them’ for all of our current troubles?  Is there some ‘boogeyman’ out there, either here in America or overseas that we can just fix blame to and direct all of our anger for the public policy problems we now face?

We assert that the basic laws of classical supply-and-demand apply to maybe 99.9% of our problems since we Americans typically ‘demand’ to have it all now, regardless of the implications or costs down the line, unlike every other generation of Americans that has preceded us. It just doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to us, to be honest about it.

Surely there are some external culprits we can blame such as Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda but here are some that might not be 'their' fault, whoever 'they' might be:

  1. The drug crisis would disappear if we and our children stop using cocaine and marijuana for recreational purposes.  Drug pushers don’t force it down our throats; we willingly buy it and use it and talk about it as if it was something to be proud of.
  2. ½ of all health care costs in America, over $1 trillion per year, would disappear overnight if we collectively would lose 25% of our body weight with better diets, cessation of smoking, stop excessive use of alcohol and start exercising.  If you hate the trial lawyers for holding up tort reform or the big insurance companies for 'gouging' the public, maybe we should stop eating Ho-Hos and Fritos (mea culpa) and drinking so many soft drinks (yikes!) while smoking and drinking cases of beer on the weekend. (Stop it! I can't take any more criticism!) You’d be amazed how much smaller our health care costs might become in the near future.
  3. We could probably send the Saudi sheiks and Al Qaeda to the unemployment line if we all drove Priuses that got 60 mph or drove advanced diesel cars instead of the monstrous SUVs that get what, 12 mph on a good day?  We still have the freedom to choose what size car we want to drive but we can't complain about the Saudis if we do drive the gas-guzzlers.  Is there any wonder they have us over a barrel of oil today?
  4. What gives us the ‘unalienable right’ as declared in our precious Declaration of Independence to be ‘dependent’ on the government for anything, from entitlement program spending to special tax breaks for wealthy corporations or individuals? We don't mind helping out people in need or in medical distress who need help but does everyone in America need assistance from the government nowadays?
  5. Are we ‘for’ huge subsidies for Medicare to ‘help’ senior citizens, like we all hope we are going to be one day, or are we just doing it so we don’t have Grandma and Grandpa move in with us so we have to take care of them? (they took care of us growing up, didn’t they?)
  6. Is it fair to proclaim that we ‘hate’ illegal immigrants and want to send them all back to Latin America when, at the same time we hire them, without asking for their immigration papers beforehand, to put an addition on our mansions (by the world’s standards) for 1/3 of the market cost, take care of our landscapes and nanny our children, all for a fraction of the cost of hiring ‘legal’ American citizens?
  7. Is it right to be railing against the social mores of other people in our communities, most of whom we do not personally know, when there are dysfunctions in our own families, in mainline and evangelical churches as well as non-churchgoing families?  Trying to get the speck or log out of someone else's eyes is awfully hard to do under any circumstance.
  8. Shouldn’t we be doing a better job of teaching our own children about the faiths we choose and the morals we want them to adopt by teaching them and showing them what they mean in the sanctity of our own homes?  Do we really want to believe that is the duty and responsibility of underpaid and overworked professionals in the public school system to teach all of our kids good manners if they don't see it at home?
  9. Do we really want 'freedom' and 'free enterprise' or do we want some sort of national guaranteed insurance program to pay for all of our mistakes and poor decisions through congressional action?  We can't have it both ways...somewhere along the line, we have to decide which way we want our country to go: capitalism or socialism, take your pick.
We know there are some things going on that we really cannot control and truly are beyond our means to influence and change.  Human nature, for one, is so tricky and when you throw in international and cross-cultural differences, that makes for a Rubik’s Cube of infinite variations to solve.

But can we accept the fact that most of our current problems facing us as a nation are self-inflicted wounds caused by our own conflicting desires?

Pogo the Possum might say it is. He might also say we can do better because we have to, starting in 2010. We think we can do it. Don't you?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Jefferson Bible and Health Care Reform

Thomas Jefferson apparently found the life of Jesus to be of utmost fascination in that he considered Jesus to be the foremost of all philosophers who have ever lived to have conveyed the superior moral code by which we should all live.

Jefferson just didn’t think Christ was born of the Virgin Mary and performed all the miracles as the New Testament said He did, being the reasoned child of the Enlightenment that our third President was.

So one day at Monticello, he took some scissors and cut out all of the stories about the miracles Jesus performed from the Bible and hence, was left with a pure moral code that became known as 'Jefferson’s Bible’.

We suggest a similar effort be done with the health care bill that just passed the Senate this morning as sort of a Christmas tree gift to America, laden with all sorts of favors and ‘gimme-that’s’ such as the Medicaid-free-for-life cards given out to Senators Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. 

(Why not just go ahead and make Medicaid free to all 50 states while we are at it?  If it is good enough for Nebraska and Louisiana, isn’t is good enough for North Carolina for example?)

Let’s take a look at all of the ‘miracles’ that will have to occur for this health care bill not to blow a monumental hole in the federal budget over the next 2 decades.  (We will wager dollars-to-doughnuts that this bill will wind up costing at least 3 times as CBO currently projects.  Why?  Because every other health care bill has always wound up costing at least that much and more)

Here is what the CBO Director, the one whom Senator Reid and President Obama are hailing as the guy who says this bill will ‘reduce budget deficits over the next 20 years’, has said in his letter to Senator Reid.

There is so much ‘CYA’ and caveating going on in this letter that you almost have to feel sorry for this guy.

‘In the subsequent decade, the collective effect of its provisions would probably be continued reductions in federal budget deficits if all of the provisions continued to be fully implemented. Those estimates are subject to substantial uncertainty.

Key Considerations. These longer-term calculations assume that the provisions are enacted and remain unchanged throughout the next two decades, which is often not the case for major legislation. 

The legislation would maintain and put into effect a number of procedures that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time.

The long-term budgetary impact could be quite different if key provisions of the legislation were ultimately changed or not fully implemented.”

We suggest you curl up before the fire over the next couple of days and try to read the CBO director’s letter in its entirety before you make up your mind about this health care reform bill.  You won’t get this information anywhere on the cable news media or in the local newspaper.

In the spirit of Christian charity and Christmas, we hope that the President and Senator Reid are correct when they assert that this health care bill will indeed bring down future deficits for the sake of our children. We are cautious enough to want to hedge our bets on the downside that it won't.

And if this bill truly reduces the rate of growth in medical care cost inflation, we, once again, will commit to starting to raise funds to chisel the President’s visage alongside of the other great Presidents on Mount Rushmore.

So start saving your pennies….just in case.

Mount Rushmore picture courtesy of www.howstuffworks.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ben Franklin Was Right: Death and Taxes Are Certain, But Do They Have To Be At the Same Time?

(This was written as a response to an editorial in the Charlotte Observer on 12/13/09)

Elaine Meija of the NC Budget and Tax Center makes an impassioned plea to keep the federal estate tax at higher rates after it expires in 2010. The question everyone should ask is:  “Why do we ‘need’ to keep this tax in the first place?”

If the purpose of the estate tax is to ‘punish’ wealthy families for working hard, taking risks or just plain being lucky, then just say so. Don’t hide behind the pretense of taxing wealthy people by trying to do something ‘good’ in the public interest; we all want that.

The truth of the matter, from a federal budget perspective, is that the estate tax does not raise a very high percentage of federal revenues. Ms. Mejia asserts that we would increase our debt by $1 trillion if we allow the estate tax to expire. We have not collected $1 trillion from the estate tax over its entire history since 1916! It is expected to raise only between $26-$30 billion per year as it is today and even that presumes many wealthy people will just pay the tax willingly without a fight and not use every available financial planning tool to minimize their exposure.

The estate tax has been never been that important in terms of raising substantial amounts of revenue relative to overall federal tax receipts. In 1969, estate taxes accounted for only 2% of all federal tax revenues.  By 2007, estate tax revenue had declined to 1% of all federal tax revenues.

Here is a revolutionary idea: How about if we ‘pay for’ these ‘lost’ estate taxes by cutting spending in other categories of the federal budget?

Surely we can find savings in the rest of the bloated federal budget of over $3.5 trillion to cover the $26 billion we would ‘lose’ from estate tax revenues, can’t we?

Check out the most powerful book in Washington from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Budget Options, Volume 2 that has a couple of trillion dollars of savings outlined in exquisite detail.

All Congress has to do is pass them.

How about in the defense budget to begin with?  We could save $17 billion, or just under the amount ‘lost’ by the repeal of the estate tax, by buying DDG-51 Destroyers to replace the canceled DDG-1000s.

How about in the area of welfare? We could increase the percentage of rent payments made by tenants in certain federally-assisted housing from 30% to 35% over a 5-year period and save $24 billion over a 10-year period.

How about in Medicare or Social Security, two of the largest cost components of the federal budget?  Here’s one idea that deserves some consideration: Take all senior billionaires and multimillionaires off of both programs. There is no reasonable rationale why Bill Gates and Warren Buffett should be ‘forced’ (yes, it is the law; they are forced to go on taxpayer-subsidized Medicare) into receiving Medicare benefits. They can buy their own hospitals if they so desired.

Ms. Mejia paints an attractive utopian ideal when she implores Senators Hagan and Burr to extend the estate tax so they can ‘(p)rovide opportunities to middle-class families or improve their economic status.”

You know how these families can have their lives improved?  By being able to start their own business or enterprise and not have the federal, state and local governments confiscate so much of their hard-earned profits (it is not easy to make a profit year after year…ask any banker or real estate person here in Charlotte). Or perhaps a wealthy person, or their progeny might invest the family fortune in a new business and then hire the same middle-or-lower income people to do a real-live paying job.

Government does not create wealth, ever.  Government can only redistribute wealth already created by clever and ambitious people willing to take a chance and sell a product or service to people who want it.

We have more than enough tax tools in our quiver through income and payroll taxes than to worry about taxing dead people in their graves, don’t we?

The problem is not that we don’t tax the American people and economy enough.  Our current fiscal dilemma has to do solely with the fact that we are spending too much on everything.  We have never cleared out the detritus from federal programs established as far back as 80 years ago and we continue to add on more daily it seems.

Before you fall victim to the popular populist notion of ‘making the rich pay their fair share’ (they already pay for 42% of our income tax revenue today as it is), think seriously about where you want this nation to go in the next 10 years.  Is it towards a higher tax, higher spending, higher debt-ridden national economy or one that is leaner and more efficient and allows the economy to grow and expand on its own?

It is up to you to decide in your political views and in your voting decisions in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Ben Franklin courtesy of www.positivepsychologynews.com

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Would Modern Financial Disclosure Rules Have Kept Jefferson, Madison, and Washington Out of Federal Public Service?

Since it is a Saturday morning, let’s step back into the Wayback Machine with Sherman and Mr. Peabody and see what the conversation might have been with Mr. Jefferson when he was contemplating ‘standing’ for office (no ‘running for public office’ for those guys back then, too undignified):

“Let’s see, Mr. Jefferson, you’ll have to report all that land you have down there around Monticello, and of course, the slaves. How many books do you own, Mr. Jefferson, anyways? 25,000? They must be worth at least $10,000 Continental dollars, I would presume.

Just how many bottles of wine did you import from France last year, Tom? 10,000? Wow….those must have been some dinner parties! Were any of them ‘gifts’ from a foreign sovereign? You know how much we hate that….bad publicity for you there, my man.

Do you have a vacation place in the Poplar Forest?  Something along the Rappahannock River maybe?

And what about that nail-manufacturing operation you started a couple of years ago? Didn’t you make a mint off of that? What, oh I am sorry, I didn’t realize it went bankrupt. But still, you are going to have to disclose it and all that residue you poured in to the Rivanna River will surely make the environmentalists angry.

What do you mean ‘you don’t think it is worth it’ to file all these personal financial disclosure papers and ‘stand’ for office? You are the best we got! You went to William and Mary, for goodness sakes and studied Latin and Greek! Waddya mean you are just going to go back to Monticello and read books and study plants and fauna here in the New Country?”

How many Jeffersons and Madisons of our generation have declined to serve on the local county commission because of such heightened public scrutiny and financial disclosure rules? Our question is: Does it really make that much difference whether someone owns 100 shares of Coca-Cola or has inherited billions of dollars from a great-grandfather who invented toilet paper?

Let’s think about this seriously for a minute or two. Would you rather have people with real-live, real-world experience in the private business sector world try to solve these monstrous problems now facing us? Or would you rather continue to vote for professional politicians who have really done nothing but write legislation all their lives and have to learn about farming and manufacturing from paid lobbyists and lawyers?

One of the utopian hopes of Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison was that farmers, bakers, bankers and educators would run for office and bring their real-world life experiences to Congress and the state legislatures. We would all be better off  with a wide cross-section of viewpoints and experiences represented in the public discourse. For example, perhaps it would have been nice to have had more great accountants or auditors serving in Congress prior to the Wall Street meltdown last year who might have been able to see the danger signs coming and helped take steps to at least mitigate the damage that was caused.

We also strongly believe, and know from experience, that with close to 75% of elected officials having a law degree and very few having any sort of budgetary or corporate executive management experience, the chances of balancing budgets in Washington are practically non-existent.

Excessive financial disclosure rules mitigate against a successful businessperson from running for public office by pompously declaring that every single bit of investment and asset a person has is ‘in the public interest to know!”

What do we care if a guy has 100 shares of stock in Coca-Cola? Is he or she going to vote for more access to the marketplace than Coke already has? Except in some very extreme situations where a noble person would just recuse themselves from the vote, (and there are still some noble people who are in Congress, believe it or not) we can see very little use in such painful and excruciating financial disclosure reporting.

Abolish it, wipe it out and start over, we say.

And so it goes, ladies and gentlemen. In our effort to elect a Congress and legislatures full of the next Popes-in-waiting and Pollyannas, we are most likely keeping the next Jefferson, Madison and George Washington out of the arena.

It is our loss, not theirs.

courtesy of www.concurringopinions.com

Monday, December 7, 2009

US Debt to China and Cheap Underwear, Part II

Our last rumination on why the Chinese are content to earn such a low rate of interest when buying most of our enormous federal debt brought forth many responses, some curt, some erudite and all enlightening.

The following came from a certain gentleperson (so as to not give away their gender) who has worked at the highest levels of our citizen-run democratic republic and served on many business boards and international commissions…let’s call this person ‘Alex Hamilton’ for confidentiality’s sake:

‘As you know, many high-level business deals among men occur in two sacred places: the golf course and the men’s restroom.

I feel sure that if ever a U.S. Treasury Secretary confronted a Minister of Finance for China in the men's room away from the negotiating table with a complaint about the artificially low and manipulated official yuan exchange ratio to the US dollar, the Chinese Minister would probably say, "Screw you, Mr. Treasury Secretary-of-what-used-to-be-the-most-powerful-nation-on-earth!

Why do you think we enjoy an enormous trade surplus with the United States in the first place? Because the American desire to have everything they want at low prices has allowed us to put you over a barrel. We sell Chinese stuff like cheap underwear to the US at a 30% discount to real market costs. We have imposed a premium price of 130% through tariffs on imported US goods. And there is nothing you can do about either as long as your people keep buying our cheaper stuff so we gotcha there as well, Mr. Secretary!

The fact is we accept 'below normal' rates of interest income on U.S. Treasuries because it is a fraction of the dollar trade advantage we enjoy with your country nowadays. It is more than worth it to us on a cost/benefit analysis.

So what if we 'lose' $50 billion per year in lost interest income from you guys?  Last year, 2008, we exported over $338 Billion worth of goods to US consumers alone. Just our exports to the US in 2008 represents the 28th largest entity in the world if ranked by GDP...ahead of the entire GDP of Argentina and not far behind both of the GDPs of the oil-exporting nations of Saudi Arabia and Iran!

Not to mention the enormous benefit of having a robust economy and generating jobs for our peasants at about 100,000 new jobs per week and funds for our capital investments. (sotto voce….And if we don’t keep the peasants busy, 1 billion of them will come rushing the Capital City of Beijing and cut our heads off so we have GOT to keep those rags and machines humming’*)

We don't buy your Treasuries, Mr. Secretary, as a sound financial investment. It's just ‘payola’ or ‘baksheesh’ to keep your economy open to our products.”

One other investment advisor informed us that there is a relatively new bond the US offers that offers inflation-protection against the loss of any asset value called TIPS (Treasury Inflation-Protected Security).  TIPS adjust the principal of the bond to the CPI so the interest payments increase to offset the negative effects of inflation.  The Chinese government basically demanded them as a pre-condition for future bond purchases.

So while the stated interest rate stays the same, TIPS offer a much higher return in actual effect plus protection against inflation's deteriorating effect on bond value.  Good for the lender; not so good for the borrower…i.e. starring you, as the American taxpayer…once again.

So much for the standard laws of economics as put out by Adam Smith and all the other classical liberal economists of the Enlightenment put forth. ‘Heads you win; tails, the American taxpayer loses’ should become the new national slogan that printed on every U.S. dollar bill and bond issued from now on.

Between the need for preventing a billion-person Revolution in China, (pretty hard to imagine 1 billion angry people since during our Revolution of 1776-1781, almost as long as our current occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, we never had more than maybe 17,000 American militia in the field fighting the dreaded Redcoats) and the adroit way the Chinese government has forced the US to issue things like TIPS to protect their investment in our debt, it looks like the Chinese are going to be in the driver’s seat for a long, long time when it comes to influencing American policies.

And as long as President Obama, the Democrat-controlled Congress (for the next year anyway) and the GOP probably after that, continue to spend recklessly unlike any government since the latter days of the Roman Empire, we are always going to be under some influence of our symbiotic relationship with the Chinese like some lichen on a tree.

Choose your own bad analogy if you wish…lichen, fungus on a host, cancer…they all apply.

picture courtesy of www.nysportsjournalism.com
song lyrics courtesy of Rose Royce, 'Car Wash'

Friday, December 4, 2009

Why Don’t the Chinese Just Stick It To Us And Charge 10% Interest to Hold Our National Debt?

If you think about it, the Chinese government, which is holding close to $1 trillion of our national debt and another $1 trillion in dollar reserves, already has us by the throat in terms of dictating what we can or can’t do regarding any more federal spending.

And, in fact, the Chinese government might be the only thing that will finally force Congress and us spendthrift Americans to change our wicked ways and start balancing out budgets once again.

Take a look at this attached article, ‘The Last Great Dollar Crisis’, written for the Wall Street Journal by Joel Harris, a smart young whipper-snapper now graduated from Oxford University whom we knew on Capitol Hill.  (One of the cardinal rules of the jungle on Capitol Hill is to be nice to everyone you meet on your way up, and on your way down, cause they might wind up being the next Secretary of Treasury, like Young Harris might wind up becoming one day)

In it, he argues pretty persuasively that in the late 1970’s, the Carter Administration and Congress didn’t start to take inflation of our currency seriously until Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC nations started to threaten to buy oil in other currencies than the dollar and make investments in other denominations around Europe.  Less demand for the dollar would only exacerbate the falling value of the dollar, hence, American political leaders finally ‘got the message’ and brought in Paul Volcker to clamp down on inflation from the Fed.

Here’s something we think, and fear, the Chinese might do one day to us in the 21st century (don’t we read history anymore and will we ever learn not to be so stupid?):

-Demand a 10% interest coupon on all future US bonds the Chinese buys from the US for all this debt we are projectiling out right now.

As it is, we are probably paying the Chinese 1-2% interest to buy our new bonds.  And they keep doing it!  Why and for what on earth reason could that be a ‘good deal’ for them?

After all, the incipient risk to the Chinese government is that they are holding $2 trillion in dollar reserves and growing mainly because no one else has the reserves to buy such humongous amounts to finance our profligacy.  And if and when inflation rears its ugly head like maybe to 5% or 7% after this recession ends, the value of their US bonds might fall by 10-20% overnight.  Try losing $400 billion in asset value overnight and you won’t like it one bit.

Why do the Chinese not demand a 10% premium to take on any more debt from us?  We might do it to them if the tables were turned and we had very little confidence they were going to shape up and balance their budgets anytime soon.

One main reason we always heard was that the Chinese have ‘more to risk’ than we do in this transaction.  Why?  Because everything we want to buy cheap, and they want to sell, comes from China!  They fear rising protectionism from the US government if they ding us on not buying any more debt.

"Memo to the Chinese leaders:  The American public is not going to rise up in arms if you demand higher interest rates to hold our debt.  They will rise up in arms if Congress clamps down on imports from China and we have to start paying $5 for every pair of undershorts we buy at Wal-Mart instead of a pack of 3 for $3.99!"

As Tip O’Neill once said: “In politics, everything is local.”

And there is nothing more ‘local’ than cheap underwear, we always say.

The point is this:  The Chinese have us over a barrel and they can basically do whatever they want now because we have stupidly opened up ourselves up now to foreign manipulation of our internal policies because they are the holders of our debt. 

Like the old Gospel tune: “He’s got the whole world in His Hands!”…the Chinese have our whole future in their hands.

And nothing would get us out of that dilemma faster than balancing our budgets and paying off our debt obligations to the Chinese government first and foremost.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Next “‘Profile’ in Courage”?

A loyal reader wrote and asked if there was ‘any hope’ that this health care reform (sic?) bill will die an ignoble death in the US Senate because it is so expensive, cumbersome and won’t improve health care in America.

Which are the exact opposite outcomes we all wanted from it in the first place.

President John Kennedy supposedly wrote 'Profiles in Courage’ before his run for the White House as a way to get his name out there among the American people.  Ted Sorenson actually wrote it, just as he wrote many or most of Kennedy’s speeches, but you gotta have great assistants and staff if you are going to succeed in American politics, don’t you?

We think the next book might be very brief, like 2-3 pages long, because it might be named: “A Single Solitary Profile In Courage’ starring either Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Blanche Lincoln-Lambert of Arkansas or Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

Those are the 4 Democrat Senators who have expressed ‘serious reservations’ about the health care bill, although Senator Landrieu acceded to the old Louisianan adage, ‘My vote can’t be bought…but it can be rented for a little while!’ when she got $100 million in Medicaid funding for Louisiana to vote for cloture and allow debate to begin last week.

It will only take 1 Democratic Senator (as long as Republicans such as Voinovich of Ohio and Snowe and Collins of Maine vote ‘no’ which is an ‘iffy’ proposition) to stand up in opposition to this health care bill on final passage to send it back to the drawing board, or the trash heap of history, as another failed attempt to install a massive government-run and controlled health care system in America.

We think it will be Senator Lieberman…we hope and pray, and we’ll explain why.

First of all, you have to understand the rules of the U.S. Senate, the ‘World’s Greatest Deliberative Body’, like when political giants and orators such as Daniel Webster and Henry Clay are there, not so much lately with the current crop of Senators.

We went through several days of training by a former Senate parliamentarian early in the term of Senator Elizabeth Dole in 2003 and learned all about the history of the rules and procedures.

The important thing to remember is that the Senate is an organism governed by seniority first and foremost and senatorial courtesy and comity second.  One senator can muck up the whole process for the 99 other senators through such mechanisms as ‘unanimous consent’ (necessary to advance a bill on the floor) and the senatorial ‘hold’ where 1 senator can place a hold on any bill that would prevent it from being considered by the entire body.

Such procedures are an out-growth of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson’s reading and complete understanding of the Roman Republic and how those ancient senators considered legislation.

But the most telling thing we ever heard out of the former parliamentarian’s mouth was this stunning comment:  “Just always remember:  In the U.S. Senate, the only rule is that there are no rules!”

Which we found to be true. So basically, a U.S. Senator has more power to directly or indirectly influence legislation than the President or any member of the House of Representatives.

Which brings us back to Senator Joe Lieberman.

He was spurned by the Democratic Party in Connecticut and then elected as a true blue Independent Senator by the constituents of his state. He has no reason not to be objective and clear-headed about his decision on final passage.  He is a deeply devout Jew who regularly attends Scripture reading groups on Capitol Hill and regularly votes his conscience despite his political affiliation.

We can all hope and pray he votes on the health care bill in the best interests of the nation with a clear conscience.

He has the power to shut this whole health care debate down on final passage if he withholds his vote on cloture which will deny the Democrats the 60-votes necessary to do so.  Otherwise, debate can go on forever and ever like it used to do during the great filibusters of our history.

Senators would read the Bible and the dictionary into the Senate record and stay on their feet for days at a time and hold the floor so no one else could talk about anything. Senators would do anything possible to delay the final vote which was one significant way the senate rules sought to allow the minority party some leverage and power to shape final legislation.  The tactic was used to shape some reasonable compromise more in the middle of the political spectrum, not stay on the fringes of either side as we have gravitated to over the past two decades.

And, if voting in the national interest is not enough, Senator Lieberman has one more over-riding prime objective to defeat the health care bill if it has a ‘public option’ in it in any way, shape or form:  He is from Connecticut, the home to the major health insurance companies, and hundreds of thousands of employees who are his constituents and who can either vote for him or against him.

Always remember that this is the most important factor in the minds of any elected politician: re-election.

As Professor Venkman said to the Mayor in ‘Ghostbusters':  "But if we're right, and we can stop this thing, Lenny (Joe Lieberman)...you will have saved the lives of millions of registered voters!"

And saved future generations trillions of dollars we don't have to spend.

courtesy of www.afpn.org