Saturday, April 30, 2011

President Barack Obama: Meet President Bill Clinton

You know, we have been following the whole 'birth certificate issue' of President Obama with a shaker of salt.

Until his press conference last Wednesday.

As he was speaking, the 'hit rewind' button in our mental VHS started whirring and all we could think was: 'We have seen this show before'.

First of all, we thought his handlers said they couldn't find the 'long-form' a long time ago.  And that President Obama had revealed all he was ever going to reveal on his birth certificate so that was it, over and out!

Recall in 1998, President Bill Clinton made the following forceful statement on national television denying his involvement with Monica Lewinsky:

Bill Clinton’s ‘Monica Lewinsky’ Denial Statement, January 26, 1998
'Now, I have to go back to work on my State of the Union speech. And I worked on it until pretty late last night. But I want to say one thing to the American people.  I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again: I. did. not. have. sexual. relations. with. that. woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you.'
We were struck by some of the same-sounding phrases and sentence constructions found in President Obama's statement on Wednesday about his birth certificate. See if some of the similarly-highlighted passages below don't sound like they were taken from the same playbook:

President Obama’s ‘This is My Birth Certificate!’ Statement, April 27, 2011
THE PRESIDENT:  As many of you have been briefed, we provided additional information today about the site of my birth. Now, this issue has been going on for two, two and a half years now. I think it started during the campaign. And I have to say that over the last two and a half years I have watched with bemusement, I've been puzzled at the degree to which this thing just kept on going. We've had every official in Hawaii, Democrat and Republican, every news outlet that has investigated this, confirm that, yes, in fact, I was born in Hawaii, August 4, 1961, in Kapiolani Hospital.
 We've posted the certification that is given by the state of Hawaii on the Internet for everybody to see. People have provided affidavits that they, in fact, have seen this birth certificate. And yet this thing just keeps on going.
Now, normally I would not comment on something like this, because obviously there’s a lot of stuff swirling in the press on at any given day and I've got other things to do.

But two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we're going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate.  And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.
And so I just want to make a larger point here. We've got some enormous challenges out there. There are a lot of folks out there who are still looking for work. Everybody is still suffering under high gas prices. We're going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we invest in our future but also get a hold of our deficit and our debt -- how do we do that in a balanced way.
And this is going to generate huge and serious debates, important debates. And there are going to be some fierce disagreements -- and that’s good. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. And I am confident that the American people and America’s political leaders can come together in a bipartisan way and solve these problems. We always have.
But we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.
We live in a serious time right now and we have the potential to deal with the issues that we confront in a way that will make our kids and our grandkids and our great grandkids proud. And I have every confidence that America in the 21st century is going to be able to come out on top just like we always have. But we’re going to have to get serious to do it.
I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest.  But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press.  
We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do. We’ve got big problems to solve. And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them -- not on this.
Thanks very much, everybody.'
There are tons of things very pressing at the moment; the national debt; Iraq; tornadoes in the name it, we got it. But we were struck like by a sledgehammer with the following realization:
'If it was that 'easy' to present the long-form birth certificate to the American people last Wednesday, where was this 'real' thing 2.5 years ago when it all first started to swirl in the primary battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton?'
If this was not such a 'big deal', why didn't President Obama just present it during the 2008 campaign and wash his hands of the whole thing then and there?

To top things off, there is the very inconvenient issue of Lt. Colonel Terry Lakin.  LTC Lakin, who is a highly-decorated 18-year Army doctor, refused to be deployed overseas because of his view that the lack of a valid birth certificate by President Obama negated his ability to be Commander-in-Chief. Because of his very strong beliefs, he was court-martialed in December, 2010 and subsequently sent to prison for the past 6 months.

Now this 'real' birth certificate magically appears out of nowhere after he has been languishing in prison for the past 6 months....a decorated American military officer, in prison, for the past half a year? What is this honorable military officer supposed to do to get those 6 months of his life back now that President Obama has supposedly presented his 'real' birth certificate 'this time' out of his magic hat as opposed to not doing so previously which led directly to LTC Lakin's incarceration?

There may be an entirely plausible reason why President Obama's parents wanted to get his birth announced in the Hawaii paper in 1961 if he had, in fact, been born overseas. They might have wanted to insure that he was going to get the benefits of being an American citizen regardless of whether he ever ran for President and won. (What were the chances of that happening anyway? They should have called Las Vegas as well at the same time) Remember, Hawaii only became an official US state in 1959 and the operations of the new state could hardly have been very efficient or thorough without computers back in those days.

We get that. His parents might have been doing what any other caring parent back then, or even today, would have done: Try to insure that their offspring gets to enjoy life with American citizenship status. That is still golden in the eyes of most of the world.

Our take is that elected leaders should just put the truth out there and not try to get too cute with it all. The American people can 'handle the truth' but they have a very hard time accepting repeated lying. Bill Clinton could have accepted his responsibility in the Lewinsky matter at his first press conference instead of wagging his finger at us all; avoided an impeachment process and asked for the American people's forgiveness...and they would have given it to him.

We are a very forgiving society that extends second- and third-chances like no one else and America loves it when people get off the ground, straighten up and fly right and make momentous comebacks.

This sort of extended delay, legal maneuvering and clever statement-giving on the part of President Obama and his team just brings to mind the following scene:

'Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English)' when she fell into Wonderland.

Same thing must happen when people get elected to the White House. It is just plain 'weird'.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Abortion and Civil Discourse: All We Are Saying.....Is Give Peace A Chance

We are deeply concerned that the truly desultory level of civil discourse and manners in American politics has seriously impeded our ability to get anything done of any consequence that is important to our national life together.

Witness the $14 trillion+ national debt and growing as Exhibit A on the list of '21st Century American Political Failures' that future historians will scratch their heads over when they start digging through the ruins of America much like we dig through the ruins of ancient Greece, Rome and Israel.

Exhibit 1-A+ is the abortion issue.  If you ever want to clear out a boring dinner party, bring up the issue of abortion and the federal budget deficits and debt.  People suddenly will remember they left the gas on the stove burning or they need to go to the dentist to get a root canal 12:00 midnight.

Both are preferable to talking about abortion or the national debt, it seems.

I recently gave the following speech to over 200+ pro-choice advocates at a memorial fundraiser in my late sister's honor with the hopes that we could, at least, at the very absolute minimum, agree that the sky is, indeed, Carolina Blue and the sun rises in the east.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Maybe John Lennon's great song, 'Give Peace A Chance' would have been a fitting theme song for the evening.

One woman who helped organize the event announced to the crowd right after I gave this tribute and plea for comity and civil engagement and discourse: 'Thanks, Frank for that speech...even though we disagree with 99% of what you said here tonight.'

Hey! That is a at least a tiny victory for comity.  It meant there was 1%!!!! in the following speech with which she said 200+ people in attendance could agreed!

Take a look and see if you can find out what that 1% was.  We are hoping someone can tell us what it is so we can use that as a starting point.

(To be fair, several in the audience came up to me afterwards and said they agreed that there should be more discussion between the pro-choice and the pro-life crowds.  Right now, there is none, nada, below-Ground Zero discussions going on between the two sides.  That has to change and free civil discussion is the only way to we are ever going to get anywhere on anything we face as a nation, don't you agree?)

Tribute to Susan Hill
Pro-Choice North Carolina Dinner
April 21, 2011
Raleigh, NC

"Thank you all for being here tonight.

Susan would have loved to have been here….simply because she loved a good party!

I feel a little bit like Mark Twain must have felt at one of his first public appearances as a ‘public speaker’ out west over 150 years ago.  He was not very well-known by the public at that point and the only fellow who did know of him was not there that night to introduce him properly.

So they just chose a random guy out of crowd to introduce Mr. Twain and he said: ‘Our speaker tonight, Mr. Mark Twain, has never been in a penitentiary…and I don’t know why!’

To many in this crowd, I may appear to be the same as Mr. Twain.

There were many times when my sister, Susan, wanted to put me in prison…for stupidity; ignorance and just plain being wrong.  I felt the same way towards her….many times…more than I can even start to remember.

But that is why we are here tonight to celebrate the life of Susan Hill:  her spirit, her courage; her commitment and her fight.

I hope we can all only do justice to those qualities as we move ahead together.

Here’s the really ‘strange’ thing about being here tonight to talk about Susan:  She died a natural, yet courageous death, from complications due to breast cancer.  We all thought she would die by an assassin’s bullet; a firebomb or an anthrax attack, to be absolutely honest about it.

In fact, on many occasions, usually after an abortion doctor such as Dr. Tiller or Dr. Gunn was shot down in cold blood, she would look at me and say this: ‘Frank, when you speak at my funeral, I want you to tell everyone just how stupid and wrong these abortion-related murders are.’

So, here I am to tell you:  ‘Murdering people over their views of abortion is just plain out-and-out wrong.’  It is immoral; unjust; unethical; illegal and ultimately counterproductive to the whole concept of rational, reasoned debate that our great nation was founded upon.

One of the many times Susan wanted to throw me in the ‘Prison of Stupidity’, she looked at me sternly square in the eye and said the following words that seared into my brain:

‘Frank, you stupid ninny! (those were not really her words but I thought I'd clean it up for this audience)

NO ONE ‘loves’ to have an abortion! NO ONE thinks it is an easy decision! NO ONE doesn’t experience the pain and suffering of having to make perhaps the most difficult decision in their lives when they come in to meet with our counselors and doctors to discuss their options concerning abortion.

What do you pro-life people think we do here at Raleigh Women’s Health? We don’t run ‘2-for-1 specials’ on the weekends! We don’t run ‘President’s Day Sales’ for abortions! We don’t do this for the money! We do this because these are very, very difficult and wrenching decisions for these young women and we want to be there and help them go through the tough process and have abortions that are ‘safe and legal’!

And on top of that, we don’t want some old white guys telling us what to do with our bodies!’

Well, I don’t want ‘old white guys’, or anyone else for that matter, telling me what to do either! I gotta be honest about that…so we do have something in common: “No. More. Old. White. Guys. Telling. Us. What. To. Do.!’

(Can I get an ‘Amen!’?)

I think what Susan said to me that day actually can set the predicate for the abortion debate going forward.  If ‘no one’ loves the abortion issue, let’s do something about it.

We are never going to agree 100% one way or another in America on what to do about abortion rights….that is just not possible in a civil democracy as diverse and vibrant in free thought and philosophies as we are.

But can we here, tonight, in Raleigh, North Carolina, on April 21, 2011, agree together that we will engage with others from ‘the other side’ of the abortion debate and start talking ‘with’ each other and not ‘at’ each other?

On the behalf of myself and my sister, I am begging you all to commit to that one request...'Let's. Start. Talking. With. Each. Other!'

Susan was many things; a leader; a warrior; a visionary and a ‘change-agent’.  But above all was her ‘street-smarts'.  Susan could figure out how to negotiate someone into a corner better than anyone I have ever met in or out of politics and government.

She would have been a great Member of Congress or, God Forbid!, a U.S. Senator!

(One side note:  Our father, who was a hard-headed, red-headed and tough Irish Catholic-turned-Methodist, one time was drinking with Susan late at night and he said: ‘Susan, you have more balls than both of my two sons….combined!’

To which my brother, Dan and I, both heartily agree!)

Susan was not a lawyer….but she won 4 Supreme Court cases and lost none. She was never officially the ‘head’ of NARAL, NOW or any other organization…but she exerted her influence greatly behind the scenes to steer them in the way she wanted to see them go.

And on top of that, while others were talking about abortion rights, Susan was ‘doing them’ on the frontlines from Jackson, Mississippi to Columbus, Georgia to Fargo, South Dakota in the face of protests, lawsuits, firebombs and yes, assassination threats.

Regardless of where you might be on the abortion issue, you have to admire someone who has the intestinal guts and fortitude to fight through all the obstacles she faced.  After over a year of working on her estate, no one in this room, aside from Ann Rose and a few people she worked with, has any idea of just how much personal sacrifice and time and energy and money Susan Hill personally put into National Women’s Health Organization to keep clinics open across the nation.

She kept one open in Jackson, Mississippi, for goodness sakes!

It will be a very rare person indeed who will ever match Susan for her tenacity and singleness of purpose.

I can dwell on a lot of things and talk about how wacky Susan really was…her quick and sharp-edged sense of humor; her story-telling; her ability to stand toe-to-toe with men like my dad and all the politicians at the state legislature (you know who you are!) or in Congress over tables of bourbon and scotch and drink them under the table.

She was a great big sister to me and she never turned away from helping people; that was the social worker in her. I think at last count, we figured out that she had personally paid for and financed the college educations of at least 7 sons and daughters of co-workers and a few co-workers as well.

But in the spirit of celebrating something in Susan’s memory, let me throw out a few thoughts, since we are among friends, aren’t we?

I have a strong feeling that Susan Hill and I perhaps had the longest-running argumentative conversation in the history of mankind on the abortion issue, many times very passionately so.  I think I miss it, to be honest about it, as strange as that may seem to you.

Towards the end of her life as we talked as we always did, I actually started to think there might be some room for a reasonable ‘compromise’ on this volatile issue that will defuse it some and perhaps lower the tensions from both sides and perhaps, just maybe, might end the shootings of these abortion-providers.

We believe that the senseless shooting of Dr. Tiller just plain wore Susan out at the same time she was battling breast cancer.  She was tough and she could fight one…but not the other at the same time.

With the goal of some peaceful discourse and compromise from both sides in mind:

Why not consider then, from both sides, passing a constitutional amendment, at least at the state level first, protecting the right to an abortion in the narrow, limited cases of rape, incest and ‘life of the mother’ strictly defined as a starting point since 95% of all Americans seem to agree on those conditions?

Why not then consider, pooling resources from both sides to engage in a national sex education campaign via the internet, Facebook and Twitter and on cable where ALL the possible birth control methods are discussed openly and without prejudice and bias such as The Pill; abstinence; condoms; the ‘morning-after’ pill and any other technological devices that are soon-to-be invented to prevent unwanted pregnancies before they occur?

After all, we have spent perhaps billions of dollars by now on the ‘pro-life’ and the ‘pro-choice’ side of things and the number of abortions has stayed virtually the same for the past 30 years.  If our ‘goal’ is to truly make abortions in America ‘Safe, Legal AND RARE’, as Bill and Hillary Clinton have repeatedly called for,  then let’s actually start doing something to reduce the number of abortions in America instead of lobbing ‘hate bombs’ across the divide at each other.

Let’s have a ‘JFK moment’ right here tonight at this event in Raleigh, North Carolina and say it was the moment when both the pro-life and pro-choice sides in America decided to aim towards a goal of reducing the number of abortions in America by 50% by 2020.

And why not go a step or two further to get there:  Why not go after the ‘real’ perpetrators (which literally means ‘to father of’) of abortions in America…the millions of men who impregnate these women and then scurry off to the corners of the world like some sort of cockroach and don’t stick around to help the woman or their potential offspring grow up to maturity?

What sort of sick society are we where fathers, of all races, backgrounds and economic status, don’t stick around to raise their young?  I mean, even the wild animals in the forest do better than that.

I know this sounds like an ‘invasion of privacy’…because it is…but some sort of state statute enforcing reversible surgical tubal ligations for men who father children out of wedlock or leave their pregnant wives would seem to be one thing both the pro-life AND the pro-choice sides could agree on to get passed into law.

These men are first responsible for their own actions, their own fetuses and their own offspring. Those of you in the pro-choice crowd need to help pass this so men always remember that.

And finally, joint efforts by the pro-choice and pro-life leaders on reducing the incredibly high barriers to adoption services in every state would seem to be in order as a way to build trust and cooperation between both sides.

Why should an elderly couple or a young family with some sort of ‘medical condition’ (we all have ‘a medical condition’…it is called ‘life!’) be excluded from adopting the baby of a fellow American just because they are not in the ‘ideal situation’ to raise a child?

What else is needed if they are loving, caring and responsible parents?

All is this is a lot to consume…but if Susan Hill was nothing else, she was an inveterate ‘thinker’, ‘deal-maker’ and ‘willing to meet with anyone and anything to talk rationally about an issue’.

And…Susan was ‘A Talker!’  Her cell phone bill was over $500/month. By herself.

I suggest we all do the same…talk more ‘with’ each other and not ‘yell’ at each other.

So let’s have a beer and a scotch and water or two and help make abortion ‘not’ the slavery issue of our time.

Here’s to Susan Hill.

Thank you very much."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

‘Calling the Bluff’ On Tax Hikes and Balancing the Budget

President Obama has chosen the well-worn and worn-out ‘tax the rich!’ mantra to try to become the 19th US President to win re-election when he runs in 2012.

It seems like he never stopped running, does it?

But we think it is time for the Washington Republicans to agree to his wishes and ‘tax the rich!’ and get a budget deal done for the good of this nation….like next week.

‘How can you say that, Mr. Budgeteer!?  Have you lost your mind completely…again?’

Nope, we just think it would be a simple case of ‘calling the bluff’ of President Obama and the ‘Tax Hike First!’ crowd that have wrung the neck out of the class warfare chicken so many times it is near about dead by now.

First of all, do you know what percentage of the total federal income tax paid by the top 1% of the Rockefellers and the Carnegie-Mellons of 1981 was under President Reagan?


Know what percentage the Bill Gates and Warren Buffets of the top 1% of American taxpayers pay today?


Man!  Something the income-redistributionists have been doing seems to have been 'working' over the past 30 years, doesn't it?

If you are a great poker player, your opponent can never tell what you have in the cards in your hand at any time based on any facial tic, expression or sweat dripping down your face.

And if you are a truly superior poker player, you also know when to call your opponent’s bluff when he thinks you think he has a royal straight flush….and you know he doesn’t.

Now is the time to call the bluff on ‘raising taxes on the rich’ and here’s the reason why:

‘The truly and fabulously wealthy never pay the full amount of taxes mere congressmen or senators and their mortal staffs can come up with in the first place.’

Never, ever. Not at any time in the history of mankind after they evolved upwards from the apes. (Mark Twain thought otherwise; he thought man ‘descended’ from the apes and went downwards from there. ‘God made man because He was disappointed with the apes’, he once opined.)

Why? Because the truly wealthy can hire an army of high-priced and very talented tax attorneys and accountants to figure out ways to minimize their taxable income each year much like the NASA scientists figured out how to land a man on the moon with less computing power in their computers than what is now on your hand-held IPhone.


We have a friend who is now wealthy but went through all the crazy ups-and-downs of starting a business; borrowing against his second mortgage and credit cards; and sweating out weekly payrolls and potential bankruptcy several times before hitting it big in this wonderful thing called the American Free Enterprise System (try it sometime…it is much harder than you think)

Now that he has made it to the Other Side, he can afford many of the same tax lawyers and accountants mentioned above.

Know what he paid in federal income tax this year?


He probably earned more interest on his bank account at a measly 1% in a month than 95% of American households earned all year. Think about that for a moment.

We bet most of the people reading this column right now paid more than 20% of your net income in federal income taxes this past week.

See? That is his ‘effective tax rate’ but that is the ‘important’ rate, not the ‘marginal tax rate’ that 'Obama and the Tax Hikers' always love to rant about.

The effective tax rate is the amount you actually send to the IRS on April 15 each year. (April 18 for some reason this year)

Anyway, here’s where we think the GOP and Tea Party can ‘call the bluff’ of Obama and the Tax Hikers and do the nation a humongous service:

  • Agree to a ‘massive tax hike’ of whatever proportions they want on people making $1 million/year and more in return for just a few of the spending reduction proposals that will actually knock the legs out from under the ‘structural’ budget deficits that are out there and are threatening to suffocate us all under tsunami-style deficits, debts and interest payments to the Chinese and foreign sovereigns.
  • CBO can, and will, ‘officially’ score the tax hikes as going to bring in $2 trillion, maybe $3 trillion in new revenue over the next 10 years. (It won’t, but bear with us here for the time being)
  • Lock down in a steel-reinforced concrete ‘lockbox’ spending reductions by raising the retirement age in Social Security and Medicare to 70; change all of the federal entitlement programs to help only people who are poor and can not help themselves at all; and about $10 trillion in other spending reductions we have identified in these pages over the past 2 years now.
(The thing most of you will have to worry about in any tax deal is that the 'dreaded' AMT threshold will not be raised and you'll get sucked in the back door of higher taxes that you will never get out of.  But for purposes of this argument, we are focusing solely on higher marginal tax rates on people with incomes over $1 million per year...which ain't too shabby)

The total Grand Budget Compromise of 2011 will total about $13 trillion over the next 10 years and completely break the back of all negative expectations of our budget and economy going forward.

But the very wealthy will do what they have always done which is to be smart and hire the best people and continue to pay 14% in effective taxes instead of the insane 91% that was ‘law’ in some income tax brackets before Ronald Reagan took office in 1980.

You know what President Hoover tried to do in 1930 to address the budget deficit in the face of ‘The-Great-Recession-That-Was-About-To-Turn-Into-The-Great-Depression’? Raise taxes. Know how much was actually ‘realized’ when all was said and done?

5% of those projected revenues.

We are not sure how those 'truly wealthy' back then paid even that slight amount of 5%, or why, to be honest about it. Maybe they got rich by ‘dumb luck’ like some Jed Clampett ‘shooting at some food and up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude’.

Our wealthy friend? He will pay 14% of his income in federal taxes next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, just like he did this year. These new higher tax rates will mean nothing to him and his army of tax accountants and lawyers. He will pay what he wants to pay and that magic figure for him is ‘14%’, take it or leave it.

And it will all be ‘legal’ in this crazy, nutty, archaic, byzantine tax structure of America today.

Same will happen with this ‘Grand Compromise’.  Revenues from the higher tax rates will not be realized.  But the lockboxed structural changes in spending, which is the REAL problem, will be realized because that is what can be controlled and changed by Congress.

So we will get $10 trillion in spending reductions and therefore $10 trillion in reduced spending and debt not accumulated and the Republic will be saved.

And then we can focus on paying off the $14 trillion in debt we already have…but at least we will have a fighting chance then.

We are just very concerned that the Republicans and the Tea Party may not actually cut spending even if they agreed to a 'deal' with these higher tax rates.  70% of the Tea Party say:  'Keep Your Government Hands Off Of My Medicare!' which was a pretty darned enormous government program the last time we looked.

It goes both ways, doesn't it?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

'Make Love....Not Debt!'

Talk about truly ‘draconian’ solutions!

A couple of weeks ago, a young woman by the name of Jocelyn Nubel from NYU boldly announced a campaign to support the full funding of Planned Parenthood in the rather desultory ‘historic’ (not) budget agreement we have recently been discussing.

Her solution? Have every woman participate in a ‘sex strike’ with Republicans who did not support Planned Parenthood.

Her reasoning?  ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too!’ in a roundabout way of saying it.

She says: "There is something we all have the power to do, in order to send a real message to members of the GOP: stop having sex with them. Send Republicans a message. They can’t have their sex and restrict sexual health too."

Notwithstanding the inherent contradiction in her argument, namely, that abstinence works 100,000% of the time, and is the ultimate ‘nooclear’ solution as W would say, in the fight against unwanted pregnancies in the first place, she might be onto something very important in the way the American Republic can survive through the 21st century.

We kiddingly mentioned that perhaps one way to balance the budget was to have every spouse or girlfriend of every Congressman and Senator, from all political persuasions and background, ‘withhold’ themselves from the act of sex until and unless the federal budget is balanced.  In fact, let's expand it to include every voting person in the nation regardless of where they stand on any budget issue.

We think it would take about 15 minutes to come to some sort of ‘Grand Compromise’ and save the US Republic from economic ruin.

And then one of our learned advisors happened to mention that this idea of women forcing men to do without has a historical precedent dating back to one of our ‘favorite’ wars of all time, the 30-year Peloponnesian War between Athens, Sparta and Persia.

He was referring to the wily, smart and cagey Lysistrata in the Aristophanes’ comedic play by the same name. (Kindle it and see for yourself; $0.00 and it is delivered wirelessly right to your Kindle without going to Borders or the local library)

They called it a ‘comedy’ back then. Would not be considered as such if it were to happen today, would it?

As the story goes, Lysistrata (which literally means ‘army-disbander’ in Greek) organizes the women of Athens to withhold sex from their husbands in an effort to end the unrelenting aforementioned 30-year Peloponessian War. After all, they had been fighting it for 20 years when the play came out in 411 BC and nothing else seemed to be working.

We have been fighting the same budget battles for the past 30 years, or ever since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. After awhile, something has got to give.

But the wily and beautiful Lysistrata, through her ‘sex strike’ on the part of the women of Athens and Sparta, gets both the Athenian and Spartan ambassadors to meet to discuss a Writ of Peace. One of the tactics was to soften them up with fine wine which apparently worked: ‘This is the advice I’d give the Athenians---See our ambassadors are always drunk.’

Maybe we should consider dropping the overly restrictive ethics rules instituted by Newt Gingrich and the incoming Cardinals of the GOP Revolution of 1994. These restrictions have led to an over-polarization of emotions on Capitol Hill such that people on both sides can't stand the thought of being around their opposition from the other side, much less 'negotiate' and 'compromise' with them to get things done for our nation.

They took all the fun out of working on Capitol Hill…you can’t even play golf with a lobbyist without getting thrown into jail nowadays it seems.

No, we really think the model of Lysistrata has a lot of merit.

'Women of America: UNITE!'

Force elected male officials in Washington of all stripes, backgrounds and political philosophies to sit down with each other; come up with a budget solution that balances the budget within the next 5 years; or else ‘suffer the consequences’ of no female relations until you do.

See?  There really are lots of 'worse things' that can happen than higher taxes; reductions in Social Security and Medicare; cuts in defense spending and fewer pork barrel projects like 'The Bridge to Nowhere, Alaska!'...all things that people have 'sworn on my mother's life!' not to do once elected to Congress.

‘V-E Day’ in Europe and ‘V-J Day’ in Japan had nothing over the joy that will be realized when ‘V-B Day!’ (Victory in the Budget!) is finally accomplished in Washington, DC.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Remember Those M&Ms We Told You About?

We are glad we didn’t jump up and down and bet the mortgage that the ‘historic’ (sic?) budget agreement agreed to by President Obama and Congress last Friday was ‘a great leap forward for mankind’ as many of the politicians in Washington wanted you to believe.

Now that the CBO has come out with their explanation of the details, and Congress just passed it last night, we almost felt as if those M&Ms we ate as part of our market research are now coming right back up, to be honest about it.

There’s a lot of smoke-and-mirrors to this ‘historic deal’ so bear with us.

(You’d think politicians would get tired of lying, especially when things are not going so well, wouldn’t you?  Apparently not.)

Remember the M&Ms we talked about last week?  How this deal only amounted to cutting the equivalent of ½ of 1 M&M out of a pack of 55 for your kid’s daily sweet tooth quota of M&Ms?

Well, now that the details have been published and analyzed by CBO, we all of a sudden find out: ‘It won’t.’  It won’t cut the budget by the equivalent of even ½ of 1 M&M as we previously were led to believe.

It won’t cut the equivalent of  ¼ of 1 M&M either. Or 1/8th of 1 M&M. Or 1/16th of 1 M&M and not even 1/32nd of 1 M&M from your child’s daily sweet tooth diet.

As far as we can ascertain, we think this ‘historic budget deal’ will actually amount to the equivalent of licking 1 of the letter ‘M’s off the logo on the candy shell of 1 M&M in the entire packet.

THAT is what this ‘historic’ budget deal will save in actual cash outlays or money spent in relative terms between now and September 30, 2011.  Seriously.  This budget deal, by proportion, will amount to licking off the sugar molecules that are used to print just 1 measly ‘M’ on 1 M&M out of a pack of 55 M&Ms.

Sad, isn’t it?

The problem is that these budget chickenhawks decided to pull a fast one on the American people and focus on reducing something called ‘BA’ or ‘budget authority’ instead of ‘outlays’.  Outlays represent the actual cash money that has to be spent to fund federal programs.  Outlays are what we always focused on when we served on the House Budget Committee from 1991-1994 and helped put together $500 billion in ‘real’ hard money spending cuts over the 5-year time frame used back then.

BA was just a column of numbers that we didn’t pay much attention simply because it was passed by the authorizing committees and was always considered the high end of what could possibly be spent in the fiscal year coming up.

It just was not that ‘real’.

So now, your President and leaders in Congress are trying to get you and the rest of the American public to believe that something “HUGE!” was done to address our spending/deficit crisis.

Don’t fall for it. All they did was lower the outer bands of what could ‘potentially’ be spent, not reduce the actual dollars spent this year like we were led to believe just last week to the tune of $39 billion.

Think of it this way:  BA is what your parents would allow you to spend on a pack of M&Ms each day in the worst case scenario, even though they know you can buy a pack usually for $1.00.  Perhaps they think you might get stuck at a professional football game where a food service can price-gouge you because you have nowhere else to get something to eat.

Let’s say your BA was set at $1.50.  This ‘deal’ would say that from now on, son, your ‘worst-case’ BA is now ‘only’ $1.25 per pack each day. Voila!  Your parents have imposed ‘draconian’ spending budget authority restraints on you of close to 17%!

But you still get to buy the $1.00 pack of M&Ms every single day for the rest of the year. You haven’t exceeded your authority as long as you keep buying M&Ms at the regular price.

Because there is actually $350 million in cash being saved this year, (but not the $39 billion we were promised), there will be the equivalent of 1 licked-off ‘M’ from 1 single solitary M&M in the whole package of 55 candies. But it is not the $39 billion we were told it would be just last week.

We will acknowledge that the $39 billion in reduction of BA this year will lower the baseline BA projections for the next 10 years by commensurate amounts.  The total ‘lowering’ of BA accounts for over $340 billion over the next decade which means Congress will be slightly more ‘constrained’ by what they can and cannot spend over that time period.

But c’mon, people! $340 billion over the next 10 years is nothing when you realize they we are due to add on another $10 trillion in debt by 2022 unless we do something dramatically different and do it pretty soon.  That is 30 times the amount ‘saved’ in BA this week.

This budget deal is not all it is cracked up to be.  Even the M&M characters would melt in your hand over the shame of it all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The ‘Dumbest’ Debate in America: ‘Make The Rich Pay Their Fair Share of Our Taxes!’

This comes from the truly rationally disturbed and troubled file.

President Obama has once again resorted to his Felix the Cat bag of tricks and pulled out one of the dumbest and most manipulated ‘debates’ in American history:

'Let's Make the Rich Pay Their Fair Share of Our Taxes!’

He is just doing what his political handlers are telling him to do to get re-elected next year. They are telling him to try to assert that, ‘Yes, indeed, my fellow Americans, I am ‘serious’ about reducing our budget deficits!’ (‘that I helped increase by over $1 trillion per year…but let’s not talk about that!’)

Class warfare.  It has been a staple of American politics for centuries now.

Somehow, someway some smart political operative back in the 19th century looked at the Industrial Revolution boom that was going on in America and saw that guys like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller and James Buchanan Duke were getting rich as King Croesus and King Midas to boot…and most Americans were not by comparison.

So this smart person figured out how to tap into the primal urge of humans to assume that rich or ‘successful’ people somehow don’t deserve to keep the rewards of their sacrifice and hard diligent work to become a success in the first place.  Try starting a business sometime and see how ‘easy’ it is to make it last beyond 5 years, the average length of time for the vast majority of businesses to live in America.

‘Make the Rich Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes!’ this clarion of progressive populism started to sound. And so Congress did.  In 1913. When income taxes became constitutional through the amendment process.

The marginal rates of taxation were as high as 91%. If you thought your next dollar was going to be taxed at 91% and you would have to send $91 of every $100 in profit you made over a certain income level of, let’s say, $100,000…would you do it? And would you be happy doing it?

We hope not. There is something positively ‘un-American’ about the whole notion of someone else being able to confiscate most of your money LEGALLY! that really should unnerve every single person in America. That is one reason why people came to America in the first place; to be able to keep what they earned and not pay it to King George III.

This should be unnerving even if you are of moderate to low-income status today because:

'One Day YOU Might Hit the Lottery! Or become the next Bill Gates!’

That is what the American Dream is all about, isn’t it?

Ronald Reagan brought the marginal tax rates down in 1981 to more reasonable levels, at least, of under 40%. And for the most part of the past 30 years, we have had economic growth, job creation and wealth generation for the widest range of people unlike any in history. Any of them. Anywhere in the world in any era.

Here’s why this debate is so idiotic, if we can be truthful with you:  The rich are already paying 42% of all the income taxes paid in America today as it is. They also own a lot of stock in huge companies they have started or now run and these companies pay corporate income taxes before they distribute income to be taxed AGAIN at the personal level.

Do you want the rich 1% of all our wealthiest citizens to pay 100% of all the taxes in America?  That is when we cease being a democracy and become an oligarchy for sure.

And here is the other ‘fallacy’ of the ‘soak the rich’ argument: President Obama and others who have fallen for the siren call of this ill-conceived policy are deliberately confusing ‘higher marginal tax rates’ with ‘higher tax payments’. They are horses of two very different colors, of two different mothers or mares to be honest about it.


Because there is no reason in the universe why someone who makes twice as much as another person should pay twice the marginal tax ‘rate’. They pay twice as much in cash paid for taxes anyways.

Assume a rich person makes $1 million per year in salary.  Assume a flat-tax rate of 10% for argument’s purposes. He or she would pay $100,000 in federal income taxes this year. (Oprah would pay, what? $10 million in federal taxes?)

Assume a not-as-rich person makes ‘only’ $500,000 per year. He or she would pay $50,000 in federal income taxes this year. The very rich person would pay, then, twice as much as the not-so-rich person…or 100% MORE EACH YEAR!

That is the comparison we should be making…how many dollars does each person send to the US Treasury each year, not what their marginal, next dollar tax rate is!

And please, don’t give us the argument that they should ‘pay more’ because they use ‘more’ of the US services. We don’t think we have seen many people with 10 Rolls-Royces drive their kids to the local public school, hence, they are no drain on the local taxpayers. And those same Rolls Royces don’t wear out the roads and bridges of our nation’s highways any more than the tractor-trailers do on a daily basis.

Nope. This is now officially ‘The Dumbest Debate in America Since Prohibition’. Go to a consumption tax now to replace all of this silliness and demagoguery.

President Obama should know better. Our national problem is over-spending at the federal level, not under-taxation of anyone. Plain and simple.

Now, if President Obama wants to go after George Soros.....

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A ‘Historic’ Budget Agreement!---Say What?

There has been a lot of braying and bleating from the President to the leaders in Congress about the significance of this most-recently passed budget agreement that averted the shutdown of the federal government yesterday.

We think it is ‘a good thing’…but let’s not get carried away in the moment.

We like to put things in terms most people can understand.  So today, let’s use M&Ms.  Cause we all love M&Ms, right?

Think of the entire federal budget as being a $1 pack of plain M&Ms.  (We just checked and they cost $1.23 but we are rounding down for clarity’s sake.)

We just did a little market-research and went out and bought a pack of plain M&Ms.  Before we ate them, we counted and found only 55 M&Ms in each pack.  So you are paying about 2 cents for each M&M which also means you are popping 4.36 calories into your mouth for each 2 cent M&M you eat.

Let’s say you budget $1.00 every day to buy your kid a pack of M&Ms. (Not a good idea but follow me here)

Because you have a ‘historic’ budget summit agreement with your spouse, and agree to ‘draconian’ cuts as these were described by some on the Democratic side, from now on, your son or daughter will only get 54.5 M&Ms to eat each day.

Not 55 as packaged in the bag.  'Only' 54.5.

This ‘historic’ budget agreement would cut ½ of 1 M&M out of your kid’s daily sweet tooth diet.

For the entire year.

'Oh, mon Dieu! The pain!  The sacrifice! How will my kid ever manage?

Just keep this in mind any time you hear non-budget balancers such as Senators Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer or President Obama, who signed this thing, wail about how 'painful' and 'destructive' any budget reductions are in Washington.

You know, to extend the analogy a bit further, maybe everyone needs to cut back at least 1/2 of 1 M&M per day. You will feel 1% better and your future health care costs that will be paid for by the taxpayer through Medicare might go down by 1% perhaps.

So that will be a win-win situation all around.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What Do ‘Extreme’ Budget Cuts, Senator Chuck Schumer, 'Fiscal Sanity' and 'A Jeffersonian Rebellion' Have In Common?

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York was recently caught on tape talking about how to describe all Republican efforts to reduce federal spending as ‘extreme’ and ‘dangerous’.

No news there. He has been doing that for decades. Or ever since he entered public office. Whatever happened to the concept of serving a little while in office and then retiring and going back into private life?

And with Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin coming out with a long-term deficit/debt reduction package for the Republicans in the House on Tuesday, be prepared for some real 'squealing, moaning and groaning'.

But what is the more ‘extreme’ position anyway for an elected leader in our US Congress to take nowadays: 1) reducing spending from future outlays that amount to perhaps less than 1 penny out of every future dollar projected to be spent; (Nobody ever 'cuts' any is all merely a 'reduction' from future projections! (see 'Baseline') or 2) blindly raising spending as Senator Schumer always supports so that interest on our national debt overwhelms us and swamps us like the terrible tsunami that hit Japan recently?

We think that otherwise well-meaning and well-intentioned politicians such as Senator Schumer just got their reasoning mechanism stuck in ‘overdrive’ somewhere along the way.  They honestly and truly believe that they and their cohorts in government can make better spending decisions with your money than you do and they can help other people live better lives through their programs and ideas.

What do you think? That is the fundamental divide in current American politics. And you have to decide which side of the divide you are on.

Because as we just posted the previous article by the Managing Director of PIMCO, Bill Gross, increasing debt has its limits and damaging consequences to every American in the form of inflation, currency devaluation and abnormally low-to-negative real rates of return on government bonds and t-bills.

Guess who gets whacked by all of these 'bad things' first?  Senior citizens and poor people. Not the rich or merely well-off citizens of America.

So is that a ‘good deal’ for you or what, Mr. AARP and Mrs. NAACP?

We often wonder ‘WWJT’ of our current situation in the Great American Republic?  We are referring to ‘What Would Jefferson Think?’ of our current budget; spending profligacy, overseas entanglements and concentration of power in Washington AND in the White House.

After all, he wrote the Declaration of Independence and, through hundreds of letters of correspondence from France, significantly impacted the thought and words of James Madison that ultimately became our U.S. Constitution, still the greatest man-made document in the history of mankind walking upright on two feet.

We think….Mr. Jefferson...would be...appalled. He and Mr. Madison were already expressing grave doubts about the concentration of power given the federal government just 15 years later after the Constitution was ratified in 1789.

If he was concerned way back then when federal spending might have amounted to 1% of GDP in a bad year, imagine what would have happened to him in 2010 when it amounted to 25% of GDP, not counting the state and local spending on top of that!  His head might have exploded like the Martians in their space helmets in the great but almost forgotten Jack Nicholson movie, ‘Mars Attacks’ when they heard the haunting 1924 song, ‘Indian Love Call'...and rightfully so.

Here’s what would have galled Mr. Jefferson the most, we think. In spite of all the taxation and federal spending that we Americans have authorized and voted for over the past 50 years, we still have 40 million poor people in this country. You would have thought that we could have eliminated poverty through the 'New Deal' or the 'Great Society' or the 'Great Leap Forward'. (oops! that was China, our mistake!)

After all, once you have spent a couple of trillion dollars on solving a problem, you’d think we Americans would have been smart enough to have solved it by now, wouldn’t you?

Apparently not. Just ask Senator Schumer. He obviously thinks that if we cut one slim dime from any of the beloved discretionary spending programs in the federal budget that millions of people will be seriously affected.

Mr. Jefferson might have looked at this way: We are spending over $500 billion per year on domestic social programs in the federal budget. We have 40 million people living in poverty or below the commonly-accepted thresholds of poverty.

‘Why not, perchance,’ Mr. Jefferson might ponder, ‘just give every poor person in America $12,500 (simple math: $500B/40M) directly and let them do with it what they will?

A family of four would get $50,000 tax-free and maybe nuclear families would stay intact more now that there is a significant, almost overwhelming financial incentive to staying together instead of splintering all over the nation?

And on top of that, if you redistribute the designated-for-the-poor-only Medicaid program on the same pro-rata basis for poor people, the combined federal/state expenditures of close to $600 billion per year, and divide it by the same 40 million people in poverty, that would be another $15,000 per poor person to perhaps buy their own health insurance in the private sector.  Or that is another $60,000 for a grand total of $110,000 in public assistance per family of four.

They could buy the Rolls-Royce of all Cadillac health care programs with $60 Grand per year! Ya think that would work?'

In other words, ‘do something very different’, like what Congressman Ryan is about to unveil this week. Do something ‘radically’ different from what we have been doing for the past 5 decades under government statist defenders such as Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Do something ‘extremely’ different from anything that has been done before.

Like solve these vexing problems once and for all so we can get back to financial, moral and ethical sanity.

We think Mr. Jefferson might see the merit in providing some government assistance to those who truly are in desperate need, over and above what the churches, religious and reliefs organizations are able to do.  But we seriously doubt he would support government assistance for anyone way above the poverty line or entitlement programs that provide general taxpayer-supported retirement and Medicare benefits for the well-off, the well-to-do and the superfamous wealthy such as Bill Gate and Warren Buffett.

It just does not make an reasonable or logical 'sense'. So let's 'change things' so they do make sense.

Mr. Jefferson wrote these great words to James Madison January 30, 1787:

'I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.'

What rebels Messrs. Jefferson and Madison really were! They were the proverbial 'James Deans' of the 18th Century!

Why not in 2011?