Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'I Want To Cut FEMA!'- Who Said That?

MSNBC Talk Show Host Going Bonkers
Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and some other left-leaning writers (dare we call any of them true 'journalists' any longer?) tried to assert in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that Governor Romney said this in 2011 during one of the pre-pre-debates on the GOP side: 'I want to cut FEMA!'

Talk about politicizing a natural disaster where millions of people have been displaced and hundreds have been killed by this massive once-in-a-lifetime storm. The media is the worst at it, bar none, hands-down. Forget the politicians. They are mere pikers when it comes to being 'insensitive' at times like these.

Anyway, care to guess who actually has a budget proposal now pending in the US Congress to 'cut FEMA' as we know it?

Right.  President Barack Hussein Obama. The same man who is now trying desperately to hold onto the White House by a shred now that Govenor Romney has launched ads in the previously-considered blue 'safe strongholds' of Michigan, Minnesota and the big prize in all of this, Pennsylvania with its 20 electoral votes versus 'only' the 18 of Ohio.

Here it is in black-and-white ripped straight from his FY 2013 Budget Submission to Congress.  Click on this link and see for is written in as plain English as any convoluted budget document can possibly be in the first place.

Here's what we received late yesterday from one of our loyal readers who appears to have become a budget wonk over these past 4 years.  (If it comes from reading Telemachus, we sincerely apologize and recommend going to 'Budget Wonks Anonymous'...cause you probably need help)
'I do not have Washington expertise to understand their budgets, but stumbled on the attached excerpt from what appears to be FEMA's own budget summary.

And on page 152 is a chart labeled as Budget Request.  That chart has a column for FY 2013 Pres. budget.

Looking at the numbers in the FY 2013 Pres. budget it would appear that he is proposing: 

  • A decrease of 695 federal workers in FEMA compared to the enacted FY 2012 budget.
  • A $242 million reduction for salaries and expenses (presumably at the federal level) compared to the enacted FY 2012 budget
  • A nearly $1 billion decrease in the Disaster Relief Fund compared to FY 2012 budget
  • A $1.6 billion increase of funds for State and Local Programs.
In other words, Obama is reducing funding at the federal level for FEMA and shifting more funds into state and local programs just as Romney suggested should be done.

I'm sure liberal columnists would never look at the type of document I'm attaching for your perusal and opinion.  But before I would try to point out the silliness of their talking points I wanted to make sure I was reading Washington budget jargon correctly.'
He was reading it correctly. Good for him. Maybe he should consider becoming a journalist because he actually did his research and homework and got some corroboration before opening his mouth and inserting his foot in it.

Before you buy into anything the chattering head, blathering, blithering, blabbering 'personalities' on cable talk shows are feeding you, including the esteemed Mr. Robinson, do a little fact-checking of your own on this FEMA thing.

No one would ever want to do away with emergency help during natural disasters.  That would be clearly idiotic.

However, there are ways to make FEMA more efficient and more responsible in terms of the use of taxpayer funds (normally called 'your taxes') just as there ways to make every single solitary federal program more efficient and responsive in the entire US federal budget, as we have been describing over these past 4 years.

One common-sensical way would be to anticipate the annual expense of cleaning up after these natural disasters; budget for them and set aside say, $1 billion per year.  Make it $2 billion.  That would be approximately .0055% of the annual federal budget.

'Decimal dust' in Washington federal budget parlance.

Most of the cost of cleaning up and rebuilding places after a natural disaster comes from, yes, you guessed it, 'the same old 'mean' insurance companies that everyone likes to complain about...until they need them.

The great thing is if we would actually budget for FEMA repair and support this way with some annual foresight and careful planning, in the years where we fortunately do not have as many natural disasters (such as 2012 come to think of it before Sandy came barreling along late in the year), we could sock the surplus funds away in some sort of contingency fund and then use it when the natural disasters occur in the future.

Because one thing you can count in Washington: 'If you don't count on it happening, it will happen.'

We could even truly reform the FEMA emergency disaster relief program into some truly modern program whereby the US government could use these surplus funds to augment and supplement a true 'insurance fund' whereby the nation's insurers and secondary re-insurers across the globe could participate to mitigate the costs of any natural disaster whenever it occurs.

The main reason why this has not happened yet?  Because legislators 'love a good crisis' as Obama's first chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once famously said.

Whenever a Hurricane Sandy hits, legislators start rubbing their hands together because they know that Congress is about to pass a massive spending bill, one in which they might be able to tuck a non-pertinent, non-germane appropriations for their home district that they failed to get done on a regular appropriations bill.

When Hurricane Isabel hit North Carolina in 2003, we saw stuff going in that 'emergency appropriation' that had something to do with pig-farming in Arkansas or somewhere.  We are not kidding.  And we know Hurricane Isabel didn't flood any pig-farm way out in Arkansas 1000 miles away.

So before you listen to any commentator go bonkers over anything Mitt Romney has said about FEMA, take a look at President Obama's very own budget submission above.

And think to yourself: 'Who would I rather have looking at these federal budgets and programs anyway in the first place:  a former community organizer who has helped ring up the bell for close to $6 trillion in new debt in just under 4 years or a former businessman turned governor who knows what the heck a balance sheet and a budget are supposed to do in the first place?

We think you will come to the right conclusion.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

'Practical Wisdom': Who Has It, Obama or Romney?'

'Who delivered the cadavers to the alumni dinner?'
'Practical Wisdom' is a book by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe that seeks to find out what is missing in modern American life when it comes to ethical, responsible leadership.

They lean heavily on Aristotle who used the phrases we are sure all of you have heard lately:  Phronesis which means 'practical wisdom' which helps us all achieve eudaimonia or a 'life that flourishes'.

It is worth the read.  Pick it up off your favorite Amazon website someday.

President Obama said over this past weekend to Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezinski of MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' that the #1 priority for him, if re-elected, 'is to reduce the deficit and the national debt'.

Seriously.  Do you believe him when he speaks those words?  They sound good but have his actions and decisions over his four years now in office given you any confidence that he actually believes them?

This is where you as the American voter needs to exercise your own phronesis or 'practical wisdom'.  You need to use your own eyes and ears and brains to see the facts as they are, not as you wish they could be.

'Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence'--John Adams, 'Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,' December 1770

'Statistics are like a drunk with a lamp post: used more for support than illumination.'-Winston Churchill

'Who dropped a whole truckload of fizzies into the varsity swim meet? Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner? Every Halloween, the trees are filled with underwear. Every spring, the toilets explode. -- (No, not even President Obama can be charged with such underhanded shenanigans...this quote is from Dean Wormer, Faber College, 'Animal House', 1979 just to lighten the mood and ease the tension some here in the final days of this long campaign)

We have given you over 330 different posts to read here approaching close to 400,000 words over these past 4 years. All of them have been backed up by various reputable and non-partisan resources such as the CBO, GAO and fine print in much of the Appendices to the OMB reports to the President each year on the US federal budget.

We remain pretty confident that all of what we have had to say here is 'true' and 'verifiable' simply because we have relied on the raw data entombed in these resources and databases and not relied on the fulminations of anyone you might see on a regular basis on MSNBC, FOX, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, Al Jazerra or Pravda.

Like Chris Matthews, just to name one particularly over-the-top 'non-biased journalist'?

So here are 3 questions for you to answer in your heart of hearts here one short week out from the most momentous US election we have had in close to 50 years:

  1. 'Has President Obama done everything possible to right this ship of state?' 
  2. 'Do you have 100% confidence that he knows what he is doing?'
  3. 'Will what President Obama proposes to do 'work' and help get everyone back to work and send this economy off into the stratosphere where we all know the US economy can and should be once again?'

If you can honestly say 'YES!' and whole-heartedly mean it based solely on the facts as they have unfolded over these past 4 years, then by all means, go ahead and vote for him to lead this great nation of ours for the next 4 years.  You will be glad you did, even if the economy never returns to full steam, right?

However, if you can not honestly give a full-throated cry of approval for the way President Obama has conducted business as our national leader-in-chief while in the White House or made the right decisions to get us fully out of this economic mess by now, then how can you in good conscience vote for him again?

There may be other reasons why you would vote for him such as his position on some social issues or the inspiration he provided to millions of African-Americans, Latinos and young people in the 2008 election but none of that is leading to more jobs for everyone, is it?

We simply can not afford to take the immense and probable risk that the economy in 2016 will be just what it is today: Moribund with the following characteristics:

  • 23 million Americans un/underemployed; 
  • GDP creeping along at a 2% or less annual growth rate, which is not even enough to absorb the new entrants each year from college and high school; 
  • National debt of over $22 trillion and still climbing fast; annual interest costs approaching $1 trillion or more out of a $4 trillion annual budget and 
  • A frightened private sector that is unwilling to invest in new plant and equipment and hire new workers simply because of new Obama rules, regulations and taxes that weight them down like a millstone today.

Here's a terrifying statistic that you really need to remember before you vote this year (if you have already voted, Godspeed to you and thanks for being a responsible citizen of the United States of America!)

As much as President Obama would like to tout his record that 4.5 million people have found jobs over his tenure in office, TWICE as many people have become frustrated and left the work force because they can not find a job.  9 million of your fellow citizens.

And this is 'progress' (sic), 'change we can believe in' (sic) and 'a good thing' (sic) that President Obama keeps 'bragging about'?

This just plain isn't right in the United States of America. There are tons of opportunities, technologies and new products and services just waiting to be developed in America and each and every time some gutsy person invests in something and starts a business or grows the one they already own, we all benefit.  The fact that 23 million Americans are now without a fulfilling job is a national catastrophe and should not be tolerated by anyone on any side of the political spectrum.

President Obama had his chance to pull this nation together and make the right decisions coming out of this terrible economic implosion we all experienced in one way or another.  He chose poorly, especially in the areas of economic growth policy and budgets.

Mitt Romney is specially prepared by his background, training and temperament to come into the White House on Day 1 on January 20, 2012 and start fixing what ails us, which is the economy and by extension, the budget deficits and national debt.

Use your phronesis to make your decision and vote so that everyone can experience eudaimonia again.  If you haven't voted for Mitt Romney yet, go out and do so.  Today, if you can avoid Hurricane Sandy that is.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Somebody's Reputation as a Pollster is Going to Be Destroyed After This Election!

Ostrich Plumes for JEB Stuart's Hat
Who can you trust when it comes to predicting who is going to win the White House this November?

After all, people used to burn witches at the stake who professed to be able to 'see the future'.  Biblical prohibitions against divination prevented the soothsayers from practicing in or near places of worship.

Are modern-day pollsters nothing more than modern-day witches and soothsayers?

You gotta wonder in some cases.

Anyway, there are now hundreds of polls being taken on a daily basis around the nation.  Based on what we have seen and heard over the past year, we have come to this inexorable conclusion:

'Some of them ain't going to be in business on November 7!'

We have Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight (total electoral votes) that was bought out by the New York Times 'confidently' predicting a '71% chance of President Obama winning re-election'.

Mr. Silver apparently is some sort of statistician and sabermetrician which I guess is something to do with the 'Moneyball' tactics that allowed the Oakland A's to find baseball players who were cheap to sign but when put together, would win pennants like they did this past year, for example.

Our concern with his method is that: A) He has only been doing this for like no time at all and B) Baseball ain't politics.

On the other hand, you have these guys out in Boulder, Colorado 'confidently predicting' a 'Romney Landslide' based pretty much solely on economic indicators such as the unemployment rate and various other basic business conditions leading up to an election.

That scares us more than a little bit because, well, the same reason: 'Politics ain't business!'

Politics is emotion, peer-to-peer pressure and friendships, psychoanalytical, impulsive, thoughtful, visual, audial and about 20 other things that baseball and business will just never be.

Intrade is a investing (betting) service where you can buy shares of your candidate and try to make money based on him/her winning.  If they lose, you lose everything you invested.

The theory here is that people who invest money make better informed decisions on who is going to win or not because, after all, 'if they are willing to bet their own money, they must be smarter than the average person!'

That is not necessarily always true, is it?  Look at the millions of smart rich people who invested in Wachovia Bank or any other financial institution prior to the meltdown in 2008.  Were they 'smarter' than the average person then?

'Want to know how to make a small fortune in the stock market?' goes the old adage. 'Start with a big one.'

InTrade has Obama with about a 60% chance of winning the White House again in November.  That is down significantly from about 70% before the first debate between Governor Romney and President Obama but still significantly above 50%.

Who can you trust when it comes to national polls?

The Gallup Poll is the oldest and most trusted poll in the nation.  As a result, you have to give them some deference because of their history that has been pretty much on the money election after election after election.  They now have Romney up by 5% nationwide and slightly ahead in the 10 battleground swing states.

George Gallup made his first prediction in 1936 when he used survey techniques to predict that 'FDR will beat Alf Landon in the Presidential Election!'

That sounds great until you realize that FDR beat Alf Landon like a drum, 523-8 in the Electoral College and won 46 out of the then-48 states of The United States of America.  Your grandma could have made that prediction...and she probably did.

But Gallup failed in 1948 to predict that Truman would beat Thomas Dewey so they have definitely not been 'perfect', have they?  NO ONE saw that coming except maybe President Truman and his wife Bess and daughter Margaret who played the piano so well.

Gallup went on to do a poll that showed Harry S Truman to be the least popular President in modern American history when he left office in 1952 with an approval rating of 22%.  Richard Nixon only got down to 24% approval when he resigned during Watergate in 1974.

So:  'Who can you trust when it comes to national polling?'

We have a couple of rules of thumb to go by when it comes to listening to anyone who purports to 'know what is going to happen' in any election:

1) Have they done it for a long time?
2) Have they predicted 'bad' things for the side or people they work for as well as the 'good' outcomes?

For our money, the only people in the polling business we listen to seriously are the pollsters at The Tarrance Group in Alexandria, Virginia.  We worked with them in multiple campaigns over the years and found them to be consistently consistent when it came to getting the plain facts so we could do something with it, both the good and the bad.

They were like the scout teams or the reconnaissance soldiers who went out in to the territory to scout out the opposition and the terrain.  General Robert E. Lee used General J.E.B Stuart in the same way: to ride around the Union Army with a huge ostrich plume in his hat and then report back to General Lee on the placement and strength of the enemy battalions and cannon.

General Stuart wore the huge red or white ostrich plume in his hat to show the Union Army where he was at any time and to goad them because he knew they could never catch him or his cavalry officers.

John McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Group is a close second.  The Gallup Poll is always something to take a look at. We also love to read anything we can get our hands on from John Morgan who is a demographer but another person we worked with closely in 1986 when he accurately predicted the vote totals for former Congressman Alex McMillan of Charlotte (NC-9) and his opponent D.G. Martin to within 1 or 2 votes...per precinct, not percentages.

We would recommend that you sign up to follow the Tarrance Group or John McLaughlin if you are serious about getting up-to-date information on what is going on in this campaign today or for the future.  They both have a general analysis section in their website from time-to-time but you can sign up for a more in-depth subscription if you really want to get into the weeds on any poll they may do.

You might as well get subscribed to one of these guys because after the election, many of the would-be 'experts' are going to be out of business because their predictions are going to be so wrong.  Nate Silver and Red State are so far apart in their predictions that it is like one of them is on Mars.

We'll know for sure on November 6, won't we?

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

'My Opponent Has 'Romnesia'?

My Opponent has 'Romnesia'?

Is that the best President Obama can do nowadays?


It was such a strikingly bad slogan more befitting of second-grade humor (which we have to be honest, we still like in some situations) that we felt the need to go back and look at some of the other presidential slogans of the past to share with you.

See if you can pick out any of them that sound familiar in the current election or ones that you may have heard referenced during this seemingly interminable presidential campaign these past 4 years since the day President Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009:

Campaign     Candidate              Slogans*
1840 William Henry Harrison Tippecanoe and Tyler Too
1844 James K. Polk               54-40 or fight
1844 James K. Polk               Reannexation of Texas and reoccupation of Oregon
1844 Henry Clay                    Who is James K. Polk?
1848 Zachary Taylor              For President of the People
1856 John C. Fremont            Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men, and Fremont
1860 Abraham Lincoln            Vote Yourself a Farm
1864 Abraham Lincoln            Don't swap horses in the middle of the stream
1868 U.S. Grant                      Vote As You Shot
1884 Grover Cleveland           Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from The State of Maine
1884 James Blaine                 Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha
1888 Benjamin Harrison         Rejuvenated Republicanism
1888 Benjamin Harrison         Grandfather's Hat Fits Ben
1896 William McKinley           Patriotism, Protection, and Prosperity
1900 William McKinley           A Full Dinner Pail
1916 Woodrow Wilson           He kept us out of war
1920 Warren G. Harding        Return to normalcy
1920 Warren G. Harding        Cox and Cocktails
1924 Calvin Coolidge             Keep cool with Coolidge
1928 Herbert Hoover              A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage
1936  FDR                             Sunflowers Die In November
1940  FDR                             Better a Third-Termer Than a Third-Rater
1952 Dwight Eisenhower        I Like Ike
1956 Dwight Eisenhower        Peace and Prosperity
1960 Richard Nixon               For the future
1960 JFK                               A Time For Greatness
1960 JFK                               We Can Do Better
1960 JFK                               Would You Buy A Used Car From This Man?
1964 Lyndon B. Johnson       The stakes are too high for you to stay at home
1964 Barry Goldwater            In your heart you know he’s right
1968 Richard Nixon               Nixon's the One
1976 Gerald Ford                  He’s making us proud again
1976 Jimmy Carter                 Not Just Peanuts
1976 Jimmy Carter                 A Leader, For a Change
1980 Ronald Reagan             Are you better off than you were four years ago?
1984 Ronald Reagan             It’s morning again in America
1984 Walter Mondale            America Needs a Change
1988 George Bush                Kinder, Gentler Nation
1992 Bill Clinton                    Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
1992 Bill Clinton                    Putting People First
1992 Ross Perot                   Ross for Boss
1996 Bill Clinton                   Building a bridge to the 21st century
1996 Bob Dole                    The Better Man for a Better America
2000 Al Gore                        Prosperity and progress
2000 Al Gore                        Prosperity for America's families
2000 George W. Bush         Compassionate conservatism
2000 George W. Bush          Leave no child behind
2000 George W. Bush         Real plans for real people
2000 George W. Bush         Reformer with results
2000 Ralph Nader               Government of, by, and for the people...not the monied interests
2004 John Kerry                  Let America be America Again
2004 George W. Bush         Yes, America Can!
2008 John McCain               Country First
2008 Barack Obama            Change We Can Believe In
2008 Barack Obama            Change We Need
2008 Barack Obama            Hope And Change
2008 Barack Obama            Yes We Can!
2012 Barack Obama            Forward
2012 Mitt Romney                Believe in America

The hardest thing for any candidate to do is run on his/her record.  And yet, the powers of incumbency are strong and powerful.  Only 4 modern-day era Presidents who had been elected 4 years previously have been defeated by an challenger: Taft (1912), Hoover (1932), Carter (1976) and Bush 41 (1992).

Gerald Ford was never elected as President.  He was appointed by Nixon mid-term after Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973.

America is a lot bigger than campaign slogans and speeches.  And a lot bigger than any one person who serves as our President and Commander-in-Chief or any of the 535 other elected officials who serve in the public interest in the US Senate or House of Representatives.

But these are serious times and serious times demand more from our elected leaders than cute phrases on the campaign trail.

Early voting is now open in most states.  If you have read one sentence in any of these postings over the past 4 years, stop everything you are doing right now and go vote early and avoid any massive lines later.

Because this truly is one of the watershed years in our nation's history.

* mostly culled from a list from

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

'Victory Has A Hundred Fathers; Defeat Is An Orphan'-JFK

Candy Crowley's unfortunate interruption and incorrect 'correction' of Governor Mitt Romney in the second debate at Hofstra has brought to the fore the question:

'What did President Obama know about the Benghazi attack in Libya; when did he know it and what did he say about it....precisely?'

Just as we have done with most issues over these past 4 years, here is the actual transcript of the President's speech that is now in question that he made in the Rose Garden several hours after everyone found out the US Ambassador had been murdered along with other staff personnel in the US embassy in Benghazi.

Take a look and read it in detail for yourself before listening to any of the chattering heads on TV try to tell you 'what the President said' or 'didn't say'.  We have italicized every word that deals with the word 'attack' and then laid out some thoughts based on other things we have seen like this over the ages in Washington.

Transcript from 9/12/12 Rose Garden Remarks by President Barack Obama after the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 12, 2012
Remarks by the President on the Deaths of U.S. Embassy Staff in Libya

Rose Garden

10:43 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Every day, all across the world, American diplomats and civilians work tirelessly to advance the interests and values of our nation.  Often, they are away from their families.  Sometimes, they brave great danger.

Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi.  Among those killed was our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, as well as Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith.  We are still notifying the families of the others who were killed.  And today, the American people stand united in holding the families of the four Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack.  We're working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats.  I've also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world.  And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.  We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.  None.  The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.

Already, many Libyans have joined us in doing so, and this attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya.  Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans.  Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’s body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died.

It's especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save.  At the height of the Libyan revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi.  With characteristic skill, courage, and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries, and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya.  When the Qaddafi regime came to an end, Chris was there to serve as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy, and I think both Secretary Clinton and I relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there.  He was a role model to all who worked with him and to the young diplomats who aspire to walk in his footsteps.

Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still striving to emerge from the recent experience of war. Today, the loss of these four Americans is fresh, but our memories of them linger on.  I have no doubt that their legacy will live on through the work that they did far from our shores and in the hearts of those who love them back home.

Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourned with the families who were lost on that day.  I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.

As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it.  Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.

No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done.

But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark contrast to those of their attackers.  These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity.  They should give every American great pride in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with dignity.

We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory, and let us continue their work of seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children.

Thank you.  May God bless the memory of those we lost and may God bless the United States of America.

10:48 A.M. EDT

We have always heard in Washington politics, where you stand depends mostly on where you sit.

If you are favorably predisposed to President Obama, you will probably read this with a generous attitude towards him and give him the benefit of the doubt when he concludes by saying in the fourth to the last paragraph: 'No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation....'.  This will sound to you as if President Obama is directly equating the attack on the US Embassy with 'terrorist acts', yes?

Is this enough for you?

If you are not favorably predisposed towards President Obama and, in fact, would like to see him defeated in 3 weeks, there are several things that come to mind as you read this statement made just a few hours after hearing of the attack on the embassy in Benghazi:
  1. Where is the passion, the anger, 'the righteous anger' at this brazen attack on US personnel and sovereign property in Libya?
  2. Where is the Winston Churchillian-resolve to hunt these 'terrorist attack' killers down, just as George W. Bush and Barack Obama 'swore' to do with Osama Bin Laden and his henchmen post-9/11 and upon their swearing-in as Commander-in-Chief?
  3. Why was this speech given in the Rose Garden right before President Obama was about to jet off in Air Force 1 to a fundraiser in Las Vegas?  Why didn't he just cancel that fundraising trip and tell the press that he would have 'no comment' until he and his intelligence people had all of the information to make an informed judgment on what to do next?
But here is the real head-scratcher in all this. We have never seen ANYONE go out on the behalf of the President of the United States of America under any Administration; Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 or Obama up to 9/11/12 and say anything without the full vetting, approval and spin-doctoring by the very highest political/policy people in the White House, including the President on the major issues of the day.

No one. Never.  Not in 22 years in Washington, DC. We never saw any press secretary from any US Senator or US Congressman go out and start blabbing about anything unless it had been specifically vetted and approved by his/her superiors including the elected official.  And if they did, they were fired.  On. The. Spot.

Poor old White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was trotted out every day to try to explain the unexplainable to the Washington press corps about how this was 'a spontaneous attack on the embassy', even though somehow grenade launchers mysteriously appeared out of nowhere unlike most spontaneous riots where rocks are thrown and windows are broken.  

United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice was trotted out to every weekend talk show of any note that would have her over that next weekend where she repeatedly carried the company line that 'the unrest in Benghazi was a spillover reaction from the unrest in Egypt that was caused by some obscure video on YouTube that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.'

We haven't seen a high US official so brazenly used to sell a false story since Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the UN to assert that Saddam Hussein had access to 'weapons of mass destruction' in order to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The only thing that suffers true 'mass destruction' in cases such as this is the personal integrity and reputation of a public official such as Susan Rice and Colin Powell when they lay both down for the President they serve and paint falsehoods and fantasies in public.

It has now been over a month since the attack on Benghazi and the only person to fully accept blame for this attack has been Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  President Obama finally said in the second debate, by some sort of transitive property, that 'since she works for me', he will assume responsibility for the 4 deaths in the US Embassy in Benghazi.

Contrast this statement with that of President John F. Kennedy, when asked who was responsible for the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba soon after taking office in April, 1961:  
'There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan... What matters is only one fact, I am the responsible officer of the government.'
It is one thing to accept the accolades for the successful mission against Osama Bin Laden.  That is easy.  

It is a far different thing to accept the blame for mistakes, defeats and deaths that happen on the same watch as Commander-in-Chief.  That is the hard part of the highest and hardest job in the land.

Keep this transcript pf President Obama's printed out and nearby next Monday night when the third and final debate on foreign policy is conducted by Bob Schieffer in Boca Raton, Florida.  There is sure to be tons of argument about who said what when and where and why was this not said then and there.

That is part of American politics.  Except that this issue has already had deadly repercussions and is now a crucial part of the national decision to retain President Barack Obama for another four years or replace him with former Governor Mitt Romney as the next Commander-in-Chief.

We can only hope that the moderator Bob Schieffer is up to the task to steer the debate and keep out of it as a participant and let the nation see President Obama and Governor Romney talk about this critical issue without any interference or distraction.

Unlike the other moderators before him.

(We have asked a debate expert to come up with the 'perfect' debate format and hope to bring it to you soon so that we will never have to bear the insufferable self-importance of any political reporter to cloud any future crucial Presidential debate)

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

'Tommy Flanagan-Pathological Liar!' Should Run for President!

Old-timers will remember Jon Lovitz of 'Saturday Night Live' as 'Tommy Fla-NA-gan, Pathological Liar!'

Maybe he should run for POTUS sometime!

We are sure that both sides felt like 'the other guy' lied his pants off last night.  We don't have the time or the resources to go through and fact-check every single white lie, black lie or flat-out complete transgression committed last night in the second debate.

But we do know where to go to get some facts, as we hope we have proven to you over the last few years.  Here's some on the 'How Are You Gonna Pay for Your Tax Cut, Governor?' question put forth by President Obama simply because if we hear it one more time, we are afraid we might blow our brains out.

Here's a link to some very important information you ought to download and keep by your armchair at least for the remainder of this interminable presidential campaign.  (Regardless of who wins or loses on November 6, can we PUH-LEESE have a respite of at least 2 full years before we hear about Hillary Clinton going to Iowa or Marco Rubio planning a major speech in New Hampshire?)

We have done all the hard work for you and downloaded the entire Tax Expenditures chart put out by the OMB, the Office of Management and Budget in the White House each year under Republican and Democratic Presidents.

The numbers might have changed some over the years but for all intents and purposes, these estimates have been virtually the same for years.

(In millions of dollars)
Provision  2012      2012-16 
131 Exclusion of employer contributions for medical insurance premiums and medical care    184,460 1,071,210 (reduce deduction by 1/2)
58 Deductibility of mortgage interest on owner-occupied homes      98,550 609,180 (all by itself)
73 Step-up basis of capital gains at death   61,480 357,080
149 401(k) plans     67,590 356,260 713,340
62 Exclusion of net imputed rental income     50,640 302,800
172 Deductibility of nonbusiness State and local taxes other than on owner-occupied homes       48,640 292,290 595,090
77 Accelerated depreciation of machinery and equipment (normal tax method)     24,450 269,680
71 Capital gains (except agriculture, timber, iron ore, and coal)    38,490 256,280 525,960
125 Deductibility of charitable contributions, other than education and health  43,110 248,930
148 Employer plans   45,230 245,970 494,900
170 Exclusion of interest on public purpose State and local bonds    36,960 230,440
61 Capital gains exclusion on home sales    35,200 216,820 447,260
5 Deferral of income from controlled foreign corporations (normal tax method)    42,000 212,840
59 Deductibility of State and local property tax on owner-occupied homes    24,910 142,290
51 Exclusion of interest on life insurance savings    22,660 129,060 484,190
163 Social Security benefits for retired workers    21,830 129,040
152 Keogh plans   17,070 103,880
63 Exception from passive loss rules for $25,000 of rental loss   13,110 83,750
81 Deduction for US production activities   14,630 82,000
150 Individual Retirement Accounts   15,610 80,490
1 Exclusion of benefits and allowances to armed forces personnel    13,710 65,500 544,660
134 Deductibility of medical expenses    10,010 60,020
122 Child credit  10,580 49,200
161 Earned income tax credit   8,500 45,060
164 Social Security benefits for disabled workers    7,510 41,240
144 Exclusion of workers’ compensation benefits   7,410 40,940
132 Self-employed medical insurance premiums   6,690 38,840
64 Credit for low-income housing investments   6,290 36,070
7 Expensing of research and experimentation expenditures (normal tax method)    5,770 35,080
166 Exclusion of veterans death benefits and disability compensation   5,010 30,850
2 Exclusion of income earned abroad by US citizens   5,400 30,500
99 Lifetime Learning tax credit   5,530 28,620
110 Deductibility of charitable contributions (education)   4,900 28,300
98 HOPE tax credit  5,410 28,280
138 Deductibility of charitable contributions (health)  4,870 28,110 521,110
135 Exclusion of interest on hospital construction bonds  4,290 26,760
137 Credit for employee health insurance expenses of small business    3,440 20,640
4 Inventory property sales source rules exception   3,160 18,770
79 Graduated corporation income tax rate (normal tax method)    3,220 17,840
106 Exclusion of interest on bonds for private nonprofit educational facilities   2,840 17,710
165 Social Security benefits for spouses, dependents and survivors    3,270 17,390
84 Exclusion of reimbursed employee parking expenses   3,180 17,350
97 Exclusion of scholarship and fellowship income (normal tax method)    3,130 16,820
158 Additional deduction for the elderly   2,980 16,700
109 Parental personal exemption for students age 19 or over    3,400 14,690
74 Carryover basis of capital gains on gifts  1,990 13,860
133 Medical Savings Accounts / Health Savings Accounts  1,980 11,120
153 Premiums on group term life insurance   2,080 10,790
8 Credit for increasing research activities   3,080 10,320
104 State prepaid tuition plans  1,750 9,760
56 Exclusion of interest on owner-occupied mortgage subsidy bonds   1,490 9,300
15 New technology credit    1,740 9,250
156 Special ESOP rules  1,600 8,700
117 Employer provided child care exclusion  1,450 8,410
50 Exemption of credit union income    1,310 7,920
57 Exclusion of interest on rental housing bonds  1,270 7,920
123 Credit for child and dependent care expenses   1,710 7,900
173 Deferral of interest on US savings bonds   1,300 6,650
168 Exclusion of GI bill benefits    1,010 6,540
121 Exclusion of employee meals and lodging (other than military)    1,170 6,510
151 Low and moderate income savers credit  1,320 6,490
89 Exclusion of interest for airport, dock, and similar bonds   1,020 6,370
60 Deferral of income from installment sales  830 6,100
3 Exclusion of certain allowances for Federal employees abroad  1,070 5,910
10 Excess of percentage over cost depletion, fuels   1,120 5,820
102 Deductibility of student-loan interest  900 5,160
16 Energy investment credit   960 4,650
139 Tax credit for orphan drug research   650 4,630
127 Exclusion of parsonage allowances  750 4,310
105 Exclusion of interest on student-loan bonds   660 4,140
145 Exclusion of public assistance benefits (normal tax method)    710 3,860
35 Excess of percentage over cost depletion, nonfuel minerals    770 3,810
92 New markets tax credit   810 3,530
55 Exclusion of interest spread of financial institutions   550 3,450
36 Exclusion of interest on bonds for water, sewage, and hazardous waste facilities   550 3,450
46 Capital gains treatment of certain income   520 3,440
140 Special Blue Cross/Blue Shield deduction    680 3,120
119 Assistance for adopted foster children  530 3,030
85 Exclusion for employer-provided transit passes     520 2,990
91 Empowerment zones, Enterprise communities, and Renewal communities   570 2,940
114 Qualified school construction bonds  400 2,930
72 Capital gains exclusion of small corporation stock   290 2,730
80 Exclusion of interest on small issue bonds  200 2,470
9 Expensing of exploration and development costs, fuels   700 2,300
29 Credit for energy efficiency improvements to existing homes 2270 2,270
39 Tax incentives for preservation of historic structures   400 2,090
142 Distributions from retirement plans for premiums for health and long-term care insurance    330 2,020
126 Exclusion of certain foster care payments  410 2,010
154 Premiums on accident and disability insurance 350 1,810
160 Deductibility of casualty losses 320 1,800
23 Credit for investment in clean coal facilities  460 1,770
167 Exclusion of veterans pensions  300 1,770
19 Tax credit and deduction for clean-fuel burning vehicles 140 1,590
38 Expensing of multiperiod timber growing costs  290 1,540
143 Exclusion of railroad retirement system benefits 310 1,380
66 Discharge of mortgage indebtedness 1100 1,350
115 Work opportunity tax credit 680 1,280
33 Advanced Energy Property Credit 900 1,180
31 30% credit for residential purchases/installations of solar and fuel cells 220 1,150
20 Exclusion of utility conservation subsidies  220 1,070
53 Tax exemption of certain insurance companies owned by tax-exempt organizations  210 1,070
87 Exclusion of interest on bonds for Financing of Highway Projects and rail-truck transfer facilities   240 1070
44 Expensing of certain multiperiod production costs 150 860
107 Credit for holders of zone academy bonds 200 790
34 Expensing of exploration and development costs, nonfuel minerals 130 710
43 Expensing of certain capital outlays 100 610
90 Exemption of certain mutuals’ and cooperatives’ income 110 600
120 Adoption credit and exclusion 190 590
147 Exclusion of military disability pensions 110 550
47 Income averaging for farmers 90 470
41 Industrial CO2 capture and sequestration tax credit 30 450
101 Education Individual Retirement Accounts 80 450
25 Natural gas distribution pipelines treated as 15-year property 100 430
49 Expensing of reforestation expenditures 80 420
21 Credit for holding clean renewable energy bonds 70 350
13 Capital gains treatment of royalties on coal 50 340
37 Capital gains treatment of certain timber income 50 340
17 Alcohol fuel credits 130 330
27 Allowance of deduction for certain energy efficient commercial building property 90 300
75 Ordinary income treatment of loss from small business corporation stock sale 60 300
155 Income of trusts to finance supplementary unemployment benefits 40 300
11 Alternative fuel production credit 120 290
94 Credit to holders of Gulf Tax Credit Bonds 70 270
26 Amortize all geological and geophysical expenditures over 2 years 90 250
69 Exceptions from imputed interest rules 50 250
157 Additional deduction for the blind 40 240
42 Deduction for endangered species recovery expenditures 30 220
146 Exclusion of special benefits for disabled coal miners 40 200
52 Special alternative tax on small property and casualty insurance companies 40 200
14 Exclusion of interest on energy facility bonds 30 170
12 Exception from passive loss limitation for working interests in oil and gas properties 30 150
54 Small life insurance company deduction 30 150
32 Qualified energy conservation bonds 20 140
169 Exclusion of interest on veterans housing bonds 20 140
108 Exclusion of interest on savings bonds redeemed to finance educational expenses 20 120
96 Tribal Economic Development Bonds 30 110
45 Treatment of loans forgiven for solvent farmers 20 100
48 Deferral of gain on sale of farm refiners 20 100
83 Deferral of tax on shipping companies 20 100
88 Investment credit for rehabilitation of structures (other than historic) 20 100
113 Discharge of student loan indebtedness 20 100
124 Credit for disabled access expenditures 20 100
40 Exclusion of gain or loss on sale or exchange of certain brownfield sites 40 80
82 Special rules for certain film and TV production 30 40
86 Tax credit for certain expenditures for maintaining railroad tracks 30 40
159 Tax credit for the elderly and disabled 10 30
28 Credit for construction of new energy efficient homes 20 20
128 Employee retention credit for employers affected by Hurricane Katrina, Rita, and Wilma 10 10
6 Deferred taxes for financial firms on certain income earned overseas 0 0
18 Bio-Diesel and small agri-biodiesel producer tax credits 0 0
30 Credit for energy efficient appliances 0 0
70 Treatment of qualified dividends 0 0
95 Recovery Zone Bonds 0 0
100 Lifetime Learning tax credit 0 0
103 Deduction for higher education expenses 0 0
111 Exclusion of employer-provided educational assistance  0 0
112 Special deduction for teacher expenses 0 0
116 Welfare-to-work tax credit 0 0
118 Employer-provided child care credit 0 0
129 Exclusion for benefits provided to volunteer EMS and firefighters 0 0
130 Making work pay tax credit 0 0
141 Tax credit for health insurance purchased by certain displaced and retired individuals 0 0
162 Exclusion of unemployment insurance benefits 0 0
171 Build America Bonds 0 0 458,380
TOTALS OF REVENUES LOST TO TAX BREAKS $1,101,060 $6,465,280 Estimated 10-year cost
equals $14 trillion
22 Deferral of gain from dispositions of transmission property to implement FERC restructuring policy -150 -520
68 Cancellation of indebtedness  -130 0
93 Expensing of environmental remediation costs -140 -640
24 Temporary 50% expensing for equipment used in the refining of liquid fuels 520 -1700
136 Refundable Premium Assistance Tax Credit  0 -2540
78 Expensing of certain small investments (normal tax method) -710 -3290
67 Credit for homebuyer -2160 -5190
65 Accelerated depreciation on rental housing (normal tax method)  -1580 -5640
76 Accelerated depreciation of buildings other than rental housing (normal tax method) -13750 -74470
Totals of Revenue Gainers in Tax Code due to Tax Expenditure Policies -18,100 -93,990

On the right side are the expected revenue effects (loss of revenue to the Treasury) caused by each specific tax break. Note how many of them are targeted to the general middle-class of America, not just the top 1% President Obama and the Democrats always seek to demonize.

If you want to look for people who are 'taking advantage of the tax code', look no further than your own mirror if you have a mortgage you deduct interest on or a company who pays for your health care coverage and then deducts it from their taxes as 'part of doing business' nowadays.

The second to the right column is the one-year effect of the tax break.  The next is the 5-year accumulated budget effects of the tax break (as in 'lost revenue to the Treasury').

The notations in the far right are our running summaries of the amounts of the tax breaks that would have to be reduced or eliminated to 'pay for' the 20% tax cut that Governor Romney is talking about.  For example, if the tax breaks such as the ones afforded to the labor unions for their Cadillac health care plans were reduced by 50%, the bulk of the savings for paying for the 20% tax cut would be 'paid for' (as if anyone in Washington cares about PAYGO anymore.  This Obama Administration certainly has not.)

Or we could just eliminate the mortgage interest deduction and that would 'pay for' the 20% tax cut all by itself.

Now, getting both of these through Congress would be next to impossible, we understand that given the political popularity of both tax break programs.

One thing to take a look at, however is this juicy morsel:
'If you take the last 128 tax deductions and eliminate them in toto in terms of size of lost revenues to the federal budget, those would pay entirely for the 20% additional tax cut Mitt Romney has proposed.'

Here's an exercise you can do all by yourself on the link to the Google spreadsheet noted above this chart:

'Go in the tax code yourself and figure out which tax breaks can or should be eliminated, curtailed or cut in order to pay for ALL the tax cuts Mitt Romney has proposed or President Obama HAS PROPOSED HIMSELF!

Remember:  President Obama has proposed extending the Bush Tax cuts as well, except for the higher income people. He wants to increase the deficit by close to $3.4 trillion....and has never shown how he would pay for it to be revenue-neutral either. Ever.

The revenue generated by the hike on the top 1% would amount to about $680 billion over 10 years.  Hardly a drop in the bucket when you consider we have $16 trillion of debt to service, including $6 trillion President Obama has signed into law in his first 4 years.

If you want to extend the Bush tax cuts forever, as many want to do, you can simply eliminate EVERY SINGLE DEDUCTION listed above....and our deficits will not explode and the national budget deficit will flat-line.  Plain and simple.

However, if you want to pick and choose, be our guest.  Consider this your chance to be on the various cooking channel shows where someone throws a basket of stuff at you and expects you to concoct a gourmet meal in 30 minutes and win $10,000.

Contact us if you have any questions or need any clarifications.  We know that this stuff is as clear as the mud-filled Mississippi River.

After taking a look at this, if you are not totally convinced that the US tax code is broken beyond repair and needs to be completely thrown out and replaced with one simple consumption tax at time of purchase, then we really don't know what else to tell you.

Except as Tommy Fla-NA-Gan would say: 'You must be the smartest person in the universe!  Yeah, that's the ticket!'

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