Saturday, February 26, 2011

'Was America Founded as a 'Christian Nation'?'

And if it was so founded, is it still a 'Christian nation' here in 2011, 222 years later?

If you are ever in need of a sure-fire dinner conversation starter (or 'stopper' for that matter), just bring up the issue of whether or not America was founded by Our Founders (who else could have done it?) to be 'A Christian Nation', 'a shining light on a hill' and 'the last great hope on earth'.

You'll either talk way into the wee hours of the morning and consume many bottles of your best wine. Or your guests will suddenly remember they left the gas on in their stove and 'We just have to leave....RIGHT! THIS! VERY! SECOND!'

One of the things that fascinated us over 12 years of public service on Capitol Hill was to see the ebbs and flows of efforts to bring personal ethics and religious beliefs into the public domain by way of legislation and amendments. It is not as 'easy', or 'simple', as it seems.

On the one side, you have the 'Absolutists' who assert that Yahweh Himself wrote the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution on two stone tablets with His Righteous Finger just like he did with the two tablets He gave to Moses, the first of which Moses smashed to the ground in a fit of pique and anger. (at his nation's sin...imagine that)

On the other, you have the 'Deniers' who assert that we are just some sort of cosmic 'accident' that spontaneously combusted out of nowhere and therefore, there is 'No Heaven, and No Religion, Too!' (with apologies to John Lennon) so 'keep all talk of religious beliefs out of my face!'

Fortunately for us in the 21st century, neither extreme seems to be 100% 'right' or else we would not have an America in which we would want to live.  None of us would for the reasons stated below by our friend, Cheri Harder who heads up the very fine Trinity Forum in Northern Virginia and who writes about this tension about as well as we have ever read anywhere:

'Next week, the Trinity Forum will host what promises to be a fascinating and provocative Evening Conversation with historians Thomas Kidd and Bill McClay on the religious history of the American Revolution.

It has long been assumed that "victors write history"; the arrangement of historical events into a narrative is shaped by the triumphant rather than the vanquished. The founding of America is no different; and while certain facts are undeniable (e.g., the United States did declare – and then win – their independence from England as a colony), one can be fairly sure that British students learn a slightly different version of the American Revolution (or at least spend less time on the subject) than their American counterparts.

Even within the States, one hears different interpretations of America's founding, and the philosophical, intellectual, political, and religious convictions which animated it. Some assert that ours was definitively a "Christian nation"; others point to the flexible deism of prominent founders Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and others to suggest that Enlightenment thought guided the Founders more than faith convictions.

But whatever the current ideological and historical divides between evangelicals and skeptics, one of the most interesting aspects of the founding was the unusual alliance between them – which ultimately ushered in the religious liberty we now expect as an intrinsic human right.

At the time of the founding, as strange as it may seem, New England was far more religious – and churched – than the South. Most of the original colonies had established a state church (generally Anglican or Presbyterian) which, in some cases, eagerly prosecuted - and sometimes persecuted – such wayward religious factions as the Baptists, evangelicals, and Quakers. These minority Christian groups harbored no hopes for dominance, but they did advocate for the freedom to worship as they saw fit – and made common cause with the deists and Unitarians to oppose the civil authority of established churches (the Christian "power centers" of their day) to secure the freedom for full religious expression, unhindered by the privileging of one denomination over another.

As Professor Kidd noted in his insightful work God of Liberty:

"The evangelicals wanted disestablishment so they could freely preach the gospel; the rationalists and deists wanted disestablishment because they felt an enlightened government should not punish people for their religious views. The combination of the two agendas would transform America, helping make it both intensely religious and religiously free."

Trinity Forum Founder Os Guinness has written eloquently about the dangers of both a 'sacred public square' (which establishes religion) or a 'naked public square' (which banishes faith, or marginalizes it to the private and pietistic).

It is worth noting that one of the greatest achievements of the founding – the securing of religious freedom and disestablishment of religion – came about precisely because it was in the best interest of both the faithful and the skeptical to ensure that the public square neither privileged nor penalized the practice of faith, but secured the freedom to think, speak, and worship publicly, as well as privately. (italics added by us)

In the midst of the cultural battles between those who would marginalize or banish faith from the public square, and those who assert the cultural predominance of a "Christian America" it is worth reflecting on the gift secured by the alliance of the devout, the doubters, and the Deists.

Cherie Harder
The Trinity Forum'

(to learn more about The Trinity Forum, go to, join and'll be glad you did)

Further Reading

  • Thomas S. Kidd, God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (Basic Books, 2010)
  • The Trinity Forum, The Great Experiment: Faith and Freedom in the American Republic, Os Guinness edited with Ginger Koloszyc, (The Trinity Forum, 2001)
  • Paul F. Boller, To Bigotry No Sanction: George Washington and Religious Liberty, (Trinity Forum Reading, 1997)
  • Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, (Trinity Forum Reading, 2010)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

'On Wisconsin!’ Public Servanthood and PATCO

One of the great fight songs of all time is On Wisconsin! which is usually reserved for the Fighting Badgers of the University of Wisconsin football team.*

‘Forward’ is our driving spirit,
Loyal voices ring.’

‘Retreating’ and ‘running away’ from their elective duties seems more like their ‘driving spirit’ nowadays what with legislators running away from their own state to hide out in some Motel 6 across state lines in Illinois.

Thomas Jefferson considered public service to be the highest calling to which a person could be called. Public service has always been considered somewhat of a ‘sacrificial’ life career inasmuch as the financial rewards have always been considered secondary or tertiary to ‘serving your fellow man’ in such important and noble professions as public safety, the military and yes, elective political office.

You do public service because you think it is ‘the right thing to do’. Period.

The uprisings in Wisconsin and now Indiana and Illinois bring to the forefront of what a ‘public servant’ really is. In our minds and experience, it is an honor beyond measure. A person gets a chance every day to impact, hopefully in a positive way, thousands or perhaps millions of their fellow citizens. There are not many other areas of work where such an outcome can be reasonably expected on a daily basis.

What strikes us as odd is that the very 'leaders' (sic) in these states who were elected by their fellow citizens to be their 'honorable representatives’ in a civil legislature…are basically running away from their sworn constitutional duties to debate, argue, reason together and try to persuade without the use of bodily harm, threats or force in order to conduct the necessary business of the public.

In short, they are ‘cowards’ for running away from the debate. Any elected legislator who flees the arena of duty to hide out in some undisclosed location across state lines is not worthy of being re-elected to any office in the future.  Vote them out and vote someone in who will stay on the job and vote yes or no on a bill and then go home.

One solution for these yellow bellies might be for the Wisconsin legislators to vote in the Illinois legislature; the vagabond Illinois legislators vote in Indiana and the Indiana fleers vote in Madison, Wisconsin. That way, they can make their supporters ‘happy’ (sic?) by not voting on the bill they are opposed to in their home states and they can partially fulfill their duties to vote somewhere at least and not look completely idiotic and cowardly.

Here’s something to think about:  If public sector unions can dictate the operations of our duly-elected legislative bodies by having their supporters just leave their states and suspend activities on the floor of state legislatures, why do we need to elect anyone to fill the jobs of state representatives or senators? Who becomes the ‘public servant’ then? And who makes the tough decisions, the unions or the elective officials who were elected by at least 50%+1 of the registered voters in their districts, just like the Constitution said?

Even revered President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke of the dangers of government unions for this very  reason.

Recently-inaugurated President Ronald Reagan was faced with a similar dilemma in 1981 when the air traffic controllers at all of the nation’s airports went on strike demanding more pay and limiting their work week to only 32 hours. He cited a law that forbid strikes by government unions {5 U.S.C. (Supp. III 1956) 118p.} and told them they had 48 hours to decide whether or not to come back to work.

Only a handful did.

Reagan issued an order to fire the rest of them because their strike represented a "peril to national safety", (which it did…no one could fly without air traffic controllers in the airport towers across the nation) under the terms of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

Substitute air traffic controllers were found and hired and PATCO was decertified as a government union.

And the word got out that if you are a government worker, a public servant working for the rest of your fellow citizens first and foremost, not yourself, that you better not go on strike or else you would lose your job.

When was the last time you heard about a government union strike since then until this year in Wisconsin?

If the pay and conditions of a public sector job are not to a person’s liking, they have the option to do what every other American has had the chance to do since the beginning of our Republic:

Get a job in the private sector or start your own business and hope to become the next Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

Public sector employees are serving at the will of the people. Not the other way around.

*On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Plunge right through that line!
Run the ball clear down the field,
A touchdown sure this time. (U rah rah)
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Fight on for her fame
Fight! Fellows! - fight, fight, fight!
We'll win this game.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Stand up, Badgers, sing!
"Forward" is our driving spirit,
Loyal voices ring.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Raise her glowing flame
Stand, Fellows, let us now
Salute her name!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meditation on the Divine Will

'The will of God prevails.

In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God.

Both may be, and one must be wrong.

God can not be for, and against the same thing at the same time.

In the present war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party--yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect his purpose.

I am almost ready to say this is probably true--that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet.

By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest.

Yet the contest began.

And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day.

Yet the contest proceeds.'

-Abraham Lincoln, September 2, 1862.

Regardless of where you stand on any political issue, or have any religious faith or none at all, President Lincoln's private ruminations on the nature of current struggles ring true today, just as they did 149 years ago.

Maybe we are all supposed to learn some humility, or civility, or an ability to be more persuasive with each other in a peaceful manner with a pleasant countenance rather than resorting to ridicule, innuendo and hate-filled speech towards people with whom you might disagree.  From all sides of the political aisle.

More people died in the American Civil War than in all other American wars combined, including the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the War Against Terror.  Maybe God wanted them to 'try a little harder' before resorting to bloody warfare to settle their differences.

Maybe 'Old Honest Abe' was onto something.  Something to think about on the 202nd anniversary of his birth.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

President Obama Has Abdicated His Leadership Authority

A great movie, ‘The King’s Speech’ details the tortuous efforts of King George VI to learn how to overcome his stammering and become a leader for the British people as they faced the ultimate threat to their way of life, Adolf Hitler and the Germans prior to the Second World War.

What many people forget is that King George took his throne in 1936 because his older brother, David, (King Edward VIII, don’t ask why…English monarchial rule was never one of our strong points of interest) abdicated the throne in the face of looming danger and threats to his nation and empire in the form of the satanic and serpentine Hitler in order to marry the woman he loved, Lady Wallis Simpson of Baltimore….Maryland.

President Obama has, in his recent budget submission to Congress, done the same thing as King Edward VIII:

He has abdicated his responsibility to lead our country in the face of ‘looming danger’.

We started writing Telemachus two years ago and specifically stated that this was ‘not a blog to attack President Obama, nor was it a place to praise Republican policies.’ Our whole mission has been to lay out facts and figures from respected sources for you to get to quickly and be able to understand them so you can make you own conclusions, and not just accept ‘theirs’ or the spin-livermush scrapple of their advisors and Svengalis.

With this budget submission, our reluctance to attack President Obama’s policies has eroded to Ground Zero. He has simply failed to act responsibly as our President and ‘lead’ us a workable solution on the federal budget.

Instead, this budget is nothing more than a political document designed to make the Republicans in the House Majority make the first difficult move in this high-game of political and international finance chess. It is a childish game of ‘chicken’ that President Obama is playing when he should be a ‘leader’ like, you know, other brave presidents such as maybe George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? Franklin D. Roosevelt? Ronald Reagan?

First, a little background. The Constitution gives sole authority to Congress, specifically the House of Representatives, to raise revenues to pay for the spending it authorizes. The President has absolutely zero authority over the budget resolution and can not even veto it. Congress can pass a budget and operate under its parameters without any input at all from the White House if it wants.

The 1974 Budget Impoundment Act did authorize and require the President to present a budget to Congress each year, primarily because getting 435 Representatives and 100 Senators to agree on a budget at the beginning of the year was like herding cats. Big, stupid feral cats in many cases. It is near about impossible to get them to agree to a budget at the end of the year much less at the beginning.

Anyway, the presidential ‘budget submission’ was designed to be a way to get a single document to Congress to start with….and then mark it up and amend and change as Congress sees fit and is their prerogative to do.

Think of it like a Mexican ‘pinata’: it may be beaten to a pulp but at least it ‘gets this party started’ each year.

American Presidents always put forward their priorities and hopes and dreams for the nation for the upcoming year. President Reagan wanted defense spending to go up 7% per year in 1981 to face down the Soviet threat ….and got it.  And guess what? By the end of 1991, we had ‘won’ the Cold War when the Soviet Union finally dissolved.

What is the biggest threat we face today as a nation?

Clearly, it is the acceleration of national debt we have piled on in the last 2 years on top of the then-ridiculous amount of debt built up from 2001-2006 under President Bush and the Republican Congress. National Debt in-and-of-itself is not ‘bad’ up to a point; but an acceleration of interest costs on ever-increasing amounts of debt is ‘terrible’ and can become uncontrollable at any moment.

That is why we feel that President Obama has ‘abdicated’ his authority to lead us as our President. Apparently, his ‘priority’ in the face of exploding national debt and deficits is to do nothing of any real substance. Nothing. A third-grader could have put this budget together with crayons.

He has ‘failed’ to put anything in this budget that will reform entitlements, the biggest source of growth in federal spending. He has ‘failed’ to propose any significant cuts in the discretionary, including defense, budgets.

And to top it all off with a cherry, he has completely ignored the recommendations of the very same ‘Bowles-Simpson Deficit-Reduction Commission’ that he, President Obama himself, called for, supported and praised just last December when they presented their report.

President Obama could have just taken his very own Bowles-Simpson report, had his minions at OMB in the White House put it into legislative language, inserted into this FY 2012 Budget submission….and showed ‘leadership’ abilities that might warrant a chiseling of his visage into Mount Rushmore one day.

And politically, he would have put the GOP in charge of the House into one helluva quandary:

‘Do we agree with the Bowles-Simpson recommendations in the President’s budget…or risk opposing them and showing the American people we really don’t mean it when it comes to reducing the deficit and federal spending?’

The Tea Party would have exploded! And turned into the Washington Mall into the American version of Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Instead, all we got out of this President was this simpering, quivering response to the greatest threat we face to our nation’s security going forward by insulting common sense and saying, in effect:

‘We have to ‘reduce spending’ by ‘increasing spending’…and increasing the federal debt by more than $7 trillion on top of the $14 trillion we already have on the books and can’t really handle much longer to boot!”

The ‘Great Communicator’. Indeed. Not.

This President is not serious about managing the federal budget. He has abdicated his seat of authority. It is time to start ignoring him and start looking for someone who is serious about doing so….and we think that person may be Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana for reasons we will explain later.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Quick! Name The Largest Heist In American History….

Was it possibly that scoundrel Bernie Madoff who made off with hundreds of billions of dollars of client funds and lost them all after he took his big fat cut out of it first, of course?

Was it D.B Cooper jumping out of an airplane in 1971 with $200,000 in cash, never to be seen again? (Peanuts)

Could it possibly have been the ability of Wall Street financiers to run their businesses into the ground by 2008 by irresponsible use of debt and leverage only to run to Washington to be bailed out, made whole and then resume making multiple millions in annual bonuses these last 2 years?

None of them are even close to being the winner.  Not even in the same ballgame, ballpark or major league.

Nope, the Greatest Financial Heist of All-Time in the History of the American Republic was the ‘Save Social Security Act of 1983’.

And nobody has told you about it. Have they?

Here’s the scoop, just in case you are feeling particularly ornery today:

Since 1984, when the Federal Government increased YOUR payroll taxes supposedly to keep SS from ‘going broke’, (which it was in terms of collecting less than what was going out every day to senior citizens), Washington has collected approximately $3 TRILLION since then in surplus payroll taxes from your weekly paycheck.

And guess what?

‘Not one copper penny of it EVER went into your granny or grandpa’s monthly SS check!


We know this sounds harsh and it might strike you as being completely unbelievable…and it is shocking when you are finally confronted with the truth.

But the increase in SS payroll taxes since 1984 has wound up being nothing more than a clever confiscation of your hard-earned money that you have dutifully paid out in higher-than-necessary payroll taxes for the past 27 years.

Isn’t that long enough? Isn’t that enough to make you want to stop?

So-called ‘public policy experts’ (wonks) can cite you chapter and verse from the SS tax code about how this surplus money was used to set up the ‘Social Security Trust Fund’ (which is not a 'true' trust fund at all but just an accounting gimmick) and it has been ‘earning interest’ (‘imputed’ meaning ‘fictional and pulled out the air by some actuary in Washington each year’) and ‘it will be there to draw down when the Boomers start to retire (it won’t…and the Boomers are starting to retire in full force next year, 2012).

The truth of the matter is that every budget expert knows that there has been between $100 billion to $200 billion of surplus funds collected from SS each and every year for the past 2 decades through the magic of picking your pocket from payroll taxes dutifully paid each pay period which has made revenues appear ‘higher’ and the deficit appear ‘smaller’ than they really are on a current cash basis.

Think about it this way: Had the infamous 1983 SS Act not been passed, SS would NOT have gone ‘broke’ as they said. There would have been a much, much smaller payroll tax passed to cover then-promised SS benefits going out. And you, the collective American public, would have had close to $3 trillion more money in your collective pockets over the past 27 years to spend on whatever you wanted to spend it on.

Instead? Washington frittered it away on whatever THEY wanted to spend it on. Namely more federal programs ranging from defense to environmental protection to education to the Lawrence Welk Museum (which we guess really is a unique American national treasure come to think about it).

And how will this so-called ‘SS Trust Fund’ be ‘paid down’ when the Boomers retire? It will not be like drawing down an account at the bank or drawing an annuity from a fixed amount of endowed funds or whatever.

The ‘SS Trust Fund’ will be paid for in one of three ways, same as any federal program has always been paid for:

  1. Higher payroll taxes to the tune of 25%+ on YOUR children and grandchildren who will be working when YOU retire (hopefully!)
  2. Benefit Cuts to YOU while in retirement to the tune of up to 35%
  3. Borrow more from the Chinese to pay for it and send our country further over the High Cliffs of Debt than we are today.

(or some combination of all 3 above)

So. There you have it. The Biggest Financial Heist in American History…and none of it went to help your grandma in her golden years.

How does that make you feel right now?  Is there a way to get a Twitter Revolution going on here in America so we can fix this thing, now?

read more at 'Social Security: The Unfinished Work' or sign up to follow Chuck Blahous' great work showing us options to 'fix' Social Security on Facebook at, what else? 'Social Security: The Unfinished Work'!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Our ‘Constitution’ Means ‘Compromise’ At Its Very Core

There seems to be some confusion about what the ‘real’ intent of the Founding Fathers/Brothers was at Philadelphia in that hot, smelly, fetid summer of 1787. (Think about it for a second…no A/C; no refrigeration; no sanitation of streets where horses and carriages plied their trades)

Having the US Constitution in place means we have to find compromises in order to survive in our humble opinion.

While the words come from different roots and stock, they are intimately intertwined it seems. ‘Constitution' means ‘a set of rules and regulations’ to live by and ‘compromise’ means to ‘promise to accept a mutual agreement’ so the American Republic rests on our ability to do both.

We think the basic, core, hard bedrock principle that came out of Philadelphia was this hope and dream of all those brilliant guys:

‘We want everyone who comes after us to compromise after a period of enlightened, spirited debate based on reason and facts…so The People of The United States won’t kill each other through stupidity and hate and be thrown on the wasteheap of history like thousands of republics and governments before us.’

Of which James Madison and Thomas Jefferson knew about every single one of them, and they read about their collective demise in the original Greek and Latin. Have you?

How do we know that is what they wanted?

It is all embodied in the US Constitution, the greatest document ever written for secular civil government purposes.

Let us recount the ways:

  1. Total protection of the rights of the minority in this country.
  2. Small State equality in the Senate; 2 votes for each state regardless of size or population
  3. Freedom of speech for everyone at any time or place, not just the majority.
  4. Freedom of assembly for everyone at any time or place, not just the prevailing majority at the time.
  5. Freedom of religion for everyone at any time or any place, not just the prevailing majority.
  6. Presidential veto power, since he is the only official elected by the entire nation, over the duly-elected representatives of each state and each district.
  7. Super-majority of votes in Congress required for override of his veto on any bill; insures that minority party has a say in final legislation if the President is of their same political party and persuasion.
  8. Parliamentary procedures established by Jefferson led to the practice of the Senatorial ‘hold’ on any bill in the Senate where 1 Senator can hold up any bill for any reason under the sun, presumably to get a ‘compromise’ done.
  9. ‘Unanimous Consent’ needed in the Senate to advance a bill, meaning 100% of all 100 Senators agreeing to allow the consideration of a bill or amendment on the floor.
  10. Senate filibuster rules requiring 60 votes to break cloture and allowing debate on any bill to ensue.
  11. Constitutional amendments requiring 2/3rds majorities in both Houses of Congress AND ¾’s ratification of all 50 states.

There are more but this should be enough for now.

Now, with all of those constitutionally-installed and cemented-in-concrete principles protecting the rights of the minority in any consideration of any bill on any issue in the US Congress, how in the world are we EVER going to get anything done unless there is at least .000001% compromise from all sides to get a bill passed with 50%+1 majorities in the House and the Senate and signed into law by the President?

If you have never served in a legislative body in the minority party for 1 second, (we did it for 10 years!), you just can not appreciate just how important and critical it is to our national existence as the longest-running democratic republic on the planet that the Founders were brilliant enough to stick these minority rights in the Constitution and parliamentary procedures like a ‘bulwark never failing’ to protect all of our freedoms.

And if you have not ever served and just think that all you gotta do is spew vindictive and venom and hate and demand that ‘My Way…or the Highway!’ is the way to go, then you got a lot of learning to do about ‘winning friends and influencing people’ in the legislative arena at least.

Our take on such posturing is that such people are incapable of presenting the facts and ‘truths’ as they see them in such a persuasive manner so as to influence ‘the other side’ to agree with them, or at the very minimum, take their concerns into serious consideration and agree to even a tiny part of them. In other words, they apparently are not confident in their ability to educate, inform and 'sell' their ideas to a majority of legislators or the general public. This myopia applies to all sides; whether they be die-hard Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Libertarians or Martians sent to take over the Earth for the people of Mars!

If the choice is between agreeing 1000% with the calcified position of any so-called ‘leader’ of any faction in American politics today and getting nothing done ever on the big issues facing us as a nation or the reasoned, thoughtful insights of guys like Madison or Jefferson as expressed in the Constitution and the points highlighted above, we are going with Madison and TJ any time of the day, week, month or year.

C’mon! They agreed to let little ole Rhode Island come in as a state and have as many Senate votes (2) as big-state Virginia or Massachusetts or New York at the time! You think that went over well back home in those large states after Philadelphia?

But it was critical to getting the Constitution passed, the greatest civil governance document ever, if we needed to remind you.

We can compromise on getting the budget balanced, can’t we? $20 Trillion in national debt is coming up pretty darned quickly on the horizon, don’t you think?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

'Inflation Is Our Friend!'

There has been a lot of talk lately about 'QE' and 'QE2' regarding the efforts of the Federal Reserve to somehow ease the money supply even more than they already have done and help re-inflate the economy from its past depressed levels.

We came across an 'official transcript' from the days when the Fed and our government really took re-inflation 'seriously' and thought you needed to read it:

President 'Jimmy Carter' from the Oval Office, Washington, DC, October 1978:

"Good evening. On Tuesday, we Americans will have the opportunity to exercise our role as citizens in a free democracy. Yet, only a third of the eligible voters will actually cast ballots. The other two-thirds are, in a sense, very lucky. 

Because they do not know what's going on.

Last week, I delivered a message on inflation. Since then, the dollar has dropped in value, the stock market has sustained record losses, and the whole sow price index increased 0.9%. In other words, our economic system is screwed, blued and tattooed! We just have to face the fact that there is simply no way to fight inflation in a capitally-intensive, highly-technological, conflict-riddled, anything-for-a-thrill world of today. That's why, tonight, I want you to try to look for in inflation, an entirely new word:

"Inflation is our friend."

For example, consider this: in the year 2000, if current trends continue, the average blue-collar annual wage in this country will be $568,000. Think what this inflated world of the future will mean - most Americans will be millionaires. Everyone will feel like a bigshot.

Wouldn't you like to own a $4,000 suit, and smoke a $75 cigar, drive a $600,000 car? 

I know I would!

But what about people on fixed incomes? They have always been the true victims of inflation. That's why I will present to Congress the 'Inflation Maintenance Program', whereby the U.S. Treasury will make up any inflation-caused losses to direct tax rebates to the public in cash.

Then you may say, 'Won't that cost a lot of money? Won't that increase the deficit?' 

Sure it will! 

But so what? We'll just print more money! We have the papers, we have the mints.

I can just call up the Bureau of Engraving and say, 'Hi!  This is Jimmy. Roll out some of them twenties!  Print up a couple thousand sheets of those Century Notes!' 

Sure, all these dollars will cause even more inflation, but who cares? Everyone will be a millionaire!

In my speech last week, I said that America would have to undergo an austerity program, but since this revolutionary new approach welcomes inflation, our economy will be free to grow, and we can spend, spend, spend! I believe the watchwords for the 80's should be 'Let's Party!' "

And the 90's. And the New Millennium, at least up until or about June of 2008.

Actually, these words were written and spoken by the genius Dan Aykroyd as 'President Jimmy Carter' on 'Saturday Night Live' one week before the mid-term elections in 1978.

Did Aykroyd actually ever get elected to anything?  Could an actor ever get elected to any high office in this land and actually 'do something' while in office?  He sure sounds exactly like he knew what he was talking about, even in a comedic mood.

The fact of the matter, ladies and gentlemen, is that inflation is not our friend as we came to sadly learn by 1980 when it hit 12% annual growth and interest rates topped out at 21%.  For those of you who were not even born yet, yes, that actually happened the last time the US Congress and President left the barnyard door wide open on spending and neglected all fiscal discipline at the federal level.

The problem is not the Fed, or even the White House.  All Constitutional power is invested and remains with the elected representatives of the US Congress, most specifically residing in the US House of Representatives.  They control the level of spending and taxation in this country, not the President or the Fed. Congress is our duly-elected, constitutionally-sanctioned legislative vehicle that can unwind all of this madness.

After all, it is the same legislative vehicle that got us into this mess in the first place.

So call or email them daily and tell your elected representatives to turn off the spigot of spending and roll spending levels back to at least 2008 levels...if not 1978 levels.

'Jimmy Carter'....was wrong.  'Inflation is not our friend.'

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cleaning Out the Federal and State Budgets Will Require A ‘Herculean’ Effort…Like Cleaning Out The Augean Stables

‘But cutting spending is soooooooo hard!’ many political people say.

‘It is so difficult to dooooo!’ others will whine.

One of the reasons why it is so difficult to do is that so many legislators have absolutely no experience or training in running a business, large or small, and managing a budget with scarce resources to optimum benefit.

With so many lawyers serving in elective office, what are they primarily trained to do?  ‘Write more laws!’ silly!  That is the sine qua non of many self-respecting lawyer-type politicians, especially if he or she is eyeing a lucrative legal/lobbying practice post-public service.

We have some budgetary suggestions for our friends in elective positions in Washington and in state capitals such as Raleigh, North Carolina, mainly learned from 4 rugged years on the House Budget Committee in the early 1990’s.

Rule #1?  You can’t cut spending until you cut spending.  Plain and simple.
Rule #2?  Don’t ever forget Rule #1.

If you are of a mind to support small government, you have to cut spending and eliminate programs to do it. No amount of dancing around the table about raising taxes or cutting taxes or praying for a way to finesse the situation will work.

Former Congressman Alex McMillan and I took on the arduous task finding some savings in the politically radioactive account called ‘Medicare/Medicaid’ in 1991. We ‘found’ $177 billion in spending reductions over the next 5 years. And lived to talk about it.

Where were these ‘cuts’ found? In the wonderful CBO documents called “Spending and Revenue Options, 1991’* It was not that difficult to find. They were right there, ‘hidden in plain daylight.’

So we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that ‘it can be done!’

North Carolina just elected the first GOP majority for both houses of the legislature for the first time since ’98.  1898, that is, for you keeping score at home. 112 years ago. Yes. One century plus 12 years.

Their first Herculean ‘task’ they have got to pass? Find reductions totaling $3.5 billion out of a $19 billion budget this year. That is 18.4% just to make sure you are paying attention.

The Fifth Task of Hercules was to clean out the enormous stables owned by the rich man, Augeus. His stable had not been cleaned out in years and after hundreds of thousands of animals passing through the stables year after year, Hercules had to figure out a way to do it. In one day’s time, no less.

Hercules used his brains first to notice that two rivers flowed nearby the stable.  So he cut some trenches and built a few bulwarks and diverted the flow of both rivers through the Augean Stables by the end of the day. Presumably, he re-diverted the river back to their normal course of flow by breaking the dams and letting the stables dry out overnight.

So much for the EPA. Or the Water Purity Control Board of Hercules’ day and time.

Without engaging in the more gruesome and vulgar analogies that can be drawn from this story, what can we learn from Hercules?

1) It had been a long time since the last thorough ‘cleaning’.
2) The cleaning had to be quick and had to be done fast.
3) It was the ‘fault’ of hundreds of thousands of actions taken before Hercules’ time.

Here are some principles that we would suggest the new GOP majorities in Raleigh and in the US House of Representatives use as they draw up this next year’s budgets:

  1. Any government program that was passed into law before 1930 and is still being funded at any level most likely should be repealed without a whole lot of deliberation.
  2. Any government program passed during the dark days of the Great Depression from 1930-1942 is probably due for a significant overhaul and reform. Times have changed.
  3. Any government program passed before 1970 needs to be evaluated for whether it has ‘worked’ or not and achieved its stated objectives, if there were any specific metrics stated back then.
  4. Any government program passed since 1980 needs to be examined and held at a constant level relative to last year while committees take a closer look at them to see if they need to be continued.

In short, use this time to ‘clean out’ the Augean Stables of government spending for the first time in like 100 years.  Make Hercules proud.

Fortunately, North Carolina now has a Speaker in the State House, Thom Tillis, who can and will use his brains and experience to lead the way.  He is not a lawyer.  He has only been in government since 2006.  And he was a management consultant expert to boot for years prior to running for office.

The only thing left to think about is what river would be big enough to divert all of the ‘wasteful spending’ out of the US budget and which tributaries could be used to clean out the state budgets.

One wag suggested that the Potomac was too small to divert through Congress.  We are inclined to nominate Old Man River, the Mighty Mississippi Itself.

Even it may not be enough.

(*Now there are 2 Volumes:  'Budget Options, Vol 1 Health Care', since that is where most of the savings have to come from going forward and 'Budget Options Vol 2' which is everything else.)