Saturday, January 31, 2015

'We Solve This Health Care Problem...and You Will Have Saved The Lives of Millions of Registered Voters!'

'President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and every elected Member of the US House of Representatives and US Senate now in Washington, DC:

'This message is for you!'

When Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman in 'Ghostbusters' makes more sense than most of our politicians do, you might want to think something is wrong.*

But seriously, how in the world can Congress and this President do anything that will 'save the lives of millions of registered voters?'

Perhaps by doing nothing.

'Nothing' as in the sense of messing up whatever seems to be going on in health care nowadays.

Granted, Obamacare has made what was a colossal mess before implementation in 2013 even more of a colossal mess after implementation.

However, recent reports have pointed out that overall health care costs are moderating to around 3.5% annually, down sharply from the 7-9% annual increases that occurred for most of the 30-year period from 1980-2010.

There is a wide array of opinions ranging from the ACA advocates who say it is because of Obamacare, which is sorta weird since the slowdown began 4 years before the ACA actually started, to the experts who point out the lingering effects of the Great Recession to hospital administrators who say they are doing a great job mitigating costs.

The bottom line, right now at least is this: No one really knows for sure.

Which is why maybe we shouldn't do anything on health care for awhile. If health care costs are truly moderating, maybe we should let it happen on its own. Changing laws and regulations all the time might be causing some of the upward pressure on costs in health care.

We have written many times, early and often, about the severe impact rapidly escalating costs in health care across the board have had on the federal budget. Medicare and Medicaid, the two largest federal programs have grown a couple of percentage points relative to GDP over the last several decades vis-a-vis the rest of the federal discretionary budget.

Military and VA health care costs have exploded as well to the point that a former undersecretary of defense readiness once told us what he laid awake at night worrying about:

'Sure I worry about Al Qaeda and the Taliban (all pre-ISIS) but what I really worry about is the ever-increasing share of the defense budget now being take up by health care instead of providing guns and ammunition and ships and fighter jets to fight the enemy!'
Health care costs as a percentage of the defense budget are now at an all-time high almost 10%, up from 4% in 1990. It is a very real national security issue and problem.

But, just for a moment, let's suspend disbelief and assume that somehow, someway, we have knocked the underpinnings out from under the health care costs spiral that has been out-of-control for most of our adult lives.

Here's the Long-Term CBO Projections link you may want to look at. Take a look at this January 2015 budget projection chart as well and see for yourself.

If what the optimists are saying is actually 'true', that the back of health care cost inflation's back has been broken and we are in for modest 3% annual increases in health care costs for the foreseeable future, we may balance the budget along about 2019 or 2020 or so by doing nothing else.

Think about that. Despite all the mistakes that have been made in fiscal, tax and monetary policy over the years, and all the aborted attempts at health care reform here, there and yonder, of which the ACA seems to be the most egregious still, we have a chance to balance the federal budget in the next 4-5 years through almost no fault or credit of our own.

It would be as if Tinker Bell waved her magic wand over everyone and sprinkled fairy dust on the health care problem...and it just 'went away'.

We are not in that camp of belief. We just can not shed ourselves of the fear that health care costs are about to spiral again out of control after decades of hoping for them to be tamed and cured somehow.

Apparently, the CBO is not in the kumbaya camp either based on their projections that show health care costs ever-increasing over the years for various reasons, mostly the expansion of the ACA without the revenues to cover it. They show escalating deficits after President Obama leaves office in 2017, not reductions, going to $814 billion/year by the end of the next President's first term in office.

As Ruth Marcus points out recently in her recent article 'The Debt: Mission Unaccomplished'despite President Obama's rosy scenario talk in his recent SOTU speech and his press secretary Josh Earnest cheering like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders from the sidelines, one of the greatest failures of this President has been his almost oblivious disregard for the dangers ever-expanding debt can cause for our nation and futures of our children and grandchildren.

Maybe our health care costs are 'solved' as some wish it to be. And maybe CBO and every other budget expert will be proven wrong by health care costs dropping to  the rate of general inflation or less somehow.

As Professor Venkman told the NY Mayor, 'Lenny', if we do solve this problem, however or whichever way it happens, it will have saved the lives and the futures of millions of registered voters...and non-registered voters as well.

We certainly hope so.

(*if you can't see the video at the top of the article in the email distribution format, click on the link and you will be able to see it)

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ever Wonder Why We Can't Just Solve Some Of Our Biggest Problems?

You should see how hard it will be
to get a budget done this year
Such as infrastructure, for example.

The United States has close to 63,000 bridges that need to be repaired or replaced. Some estimates place the cost of such repairs and replacements at over $1 trillion. Some experts think it far exceeds that amount.

That number may sound excessively large when viewed in isolation. In truth, it 'only' represents 10% of all bridges in existence in America today which number close to 650,000 bridges across this great land of ours.

Just think about that the next time you cross some long bridge that looks like it was built before the 21st century. Especially in Pennsylvania which has the most deficient bridges in the country. Do you feel 'lucky' passing over the one you are driving on, or not?

Here's some facts to keep in mind as you start to see the US Senate go back into 'regular' order after 6 years of doing very little under Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Senate has already considered 15 amendments to bills in the last week or two alone in January 2015. They considered 15 amendments on the floor of the Senate...during the entire YEAR of 2014 under Harry Reid.

Remember that our federal budget today is just over $4 trillion. We still borrow close to $500 billion per year over and above what we take in in federal tax revenues from all sources. The GDP of America is just $16.9 trillion in 2014.

Spending $1 trillion on infrastructure improvements would represent a significant claim federal government resources. Whether it is spent all in a couple of years or spread out over the next 5-10 years, such spending would crowd out other much-needed and desired investments across the board.

When you also consider that the federal gas tax is providing less and less revenue to the highway trust funds over time due to more and more fuel-efficient cars, either a new funding source has to be found or other programs have to be cut to pay for such a massive amount of spending on new highways, roads and bridges.

If you are an advocate for any of the following issues, you have a stake in how our budget is set up; run and funded:
  1. Education
  2. Environmental Protection
  3. Defense
  4. Tax Cuts
  5. Homeland Security
  6. Science and Tech
  7. Housing
  8. Welfare
  9. 'Free' Community College
  10. Research Funding
Why do we bring this up?

Because the totality of our federal budget and national debt is something that never gets brought up in the press or on talk shows, cable shows or in polite conversation with people with whom you tend to agree.

We are today now paying for the decisions past Congresses and Presidents have made by not having the flexibility and the discretion to make decisions in the national interest no matter how important they are to the future of this country.

In essence, we have 'purchased' a $18 trillion national debt since 2000 and not used any of it to rebuild our national infrastructure which has been done in the past to improve our economic output, the Erie Canal being just one obvious example. Or any other major national investment.

President Obama may really want everyone to have 'free' community college for everyone but that is not going to happen with the GOP controlling both the House and the Senate with him asking for higher taxes to pay for it. They certainly are not going to stop funding homeland security or defense or housing to free up the funds for his proposal either.

The discretionary budget of the United States has fallen roughly 7% relative to GDP over the past 2 decades. Where has that money gone?

To Medicare and Medicaid. Our two largest federally funded health programs have grown massively in absolute dollars per year and in relative share of GDP over the same time period.

We have funded 2 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that totaled at least $1 trillion from 2002 to 2013. The vast majority of that came from deficit-funding through supplemental appropriations bills that occur during the middle of legislative sessions mid-year where they could be passed without having to be included in the annual budget process.

President Bush and the GOP Congress passed the 'temporary' Bush tax cuts that President Obama made permanent in 2013. So both of them now 'own' the tax cuts that so many people decried during President Obama's 1st and 2nd presidential campaigns.

All of these have contributed to add to the $18 trillion national debt we now own lock, stock and barrel. That national debt, and the debt service we will sometime soon owe on it, pretty much make it almost impossible to do anything on even a semi-grand scale to address the big problems we face today in America.

In other words, we have painted ourselves into the proverbial corner. Just as every prudent politician and economist said we would as far back as 1980 when Ronald Reagan started pointing out the dangers of running continuous budget deficits.

As we have pointed out many, many times before, the real danger is not in the absolute amount of the national debt at the current time. We have survived many other explosive periods of national debt at critical times in our national history, mostly during major wartime efforts.

The real skunk in the woodpile will be when interest rates return to their more 'normal' rates of interest, say 5-6%, way up from the 2%+ interest now being paid on the national debt.

When the national debt hits $20 trillion before President Obama leaves office in 2017 perhaps, and when interest rates hits just 5%, the annual interest cost will be $1 trillion. Per year. And growing.

$1 trillion of your taxpayer money going out as 25% of the national federal budget each and every year will dry up every available dollar for the programs you may want to see funded and then some. We need bridges to be rebuilt and, at a very minimum, all of our roads need to be re-paved but that can't be done with such pressing interest costs staring us in the face.

Same with community college tuitions. Or environmental protection. Or any of the programs you may like a lot and think are very important to the country and people.

Just keep some of these thoughts in mind as we start to see action in Washington DC unlike any legislative activity we have seen in the last 6 years.

We hope they work it all out. But it is going to be a tough slog for everyone from President Obama to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to Speaker John Boehner to you the American voter.

There are no easy choices left to make. They are all going to be very hard and very difficult to make.

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Monday, January 19, 2015

Duke Chapel, The Adhan and Tolerance in 2015

This is the Duke Chapel, Not the Duke Minaret
From the moment it was announced that a weekly Muslim call to prayer was going to be sent out over an amplified sound system from the top of Duke Chapel at Duke University last week, you knew it was going to be controversial.

After all, Duke University used to be Ground Zero for the training of many Methodist ministers in its Divinity School. James Buchanan Duke's own words lay out the reasons why he wanted Duke University to receive the lion's share of the Duke Endowment in the first place:
'I have selected Duke University as one of the principal objects of this trust because I recognize that education, when conducted along sane and practical, as opposed to dogmatic and theoretical, lines, is, next to religion, the greatest civilizing influence.” 

It was, and still is, a pretty amazing display of foresightedness and generosity that has not only paid off many times over in the state of North Carolina in terms of education and medical care and research but also around the globe.

It is also a pretty amazing example of the benefits we all, as a society, enjoy when some people succeed in the business world beyond ours and their wildest dreams. But that is for another time.

The thing that struck us last week when we heard of the proposal to allow the call to Muslim prayer from the top of what was set up originally as a Christian place of worship was how many people were confusing 'tolerance' with 'acceptance' and 'agreement'.

We think it is worth delving into further simply because this confusion permeates not only our religious world today but also our political speech world as well.

'Tolerance' for one another's religious beliefs does not mean I have to agree with another religious belief system. In fact, I can despise it and argue against it as much as I long as I don't take action to harm the other person or deny him/her their right to do the same to my religion.

There are tribes in Africa that worship the dung beetle since it pushes a clod of animal dung around and around and over and under a larger dung pile through tunnels. They worship the dung beetle because it symbolizes the rising and the setting of the sun, which if you think about it, makes some sorta sense.

Who are we to say they can't worship the dung beetle? We had a professor in college who said those same tribe members would ask a Christian why would anyone worship a man who had been crucified on a wooden cross?

Good point.

The point that some people seemed to have missed last week when they came out for the call to Muslim prayer from the top of a Christian Chapel of Worship is this:

'You will never see a call to Christian worship from the top of an Islamic mosque!'

Or from the top of a Jewish synagogue either! And they shouldn't. While all three religions are branches off the same tree stemming from Abraham in the Old Testament, each one has its own unique defining core beliefs that make full acceptance of the tenets of another contradictory to the belief of their own religion.

Each religion has its own unique places of worship; rituals, hymns, prayer meetings and language. Let them all stay separate for worship purposes. There is no need to blend them together like a smoothie in the name of 'tolerance'.

Both Islam and Judaism belief denies the existence of a Messiah named Jesus who declared Himself to be the Son of God and who died and resurrected and went to heaven and sent his Holy Spirit to guide His believers and followers.

Why would they ever allow a Christian minister or an evangelist such as Billy Graham in his hey day to climb to the top of any mosque or synagogue in the world to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ then?

They wouldn't. In many Muslim countries around the world, Christians are actively persecuted for their belief and either killed, forced out of the country or forced to convert to Islam. You don't even want to ask Jews how they have been treated in other lands over the centuries solely because of their religious belief.

If you want to see how 'free' we are to worship freely here in America, go to some of the Islamic countries now under control of the more fundamental leaders and try to talk about Christianity or Judaism in the public square. You may not come back.

Thank God we don't have that same kind of oppression here in America. Or Whoever you want to thank.

Let's compare excerpts from the Adhan, the Muslim Call to Prayer, with something as basic to the Christian faith as the Nicene Creed:

Muslim Adhan:

'I bear witness that there is none worthy of being worshipped except Allah.
I bear witness that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah.'

The Nicene Creed:

'We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
   the only son of God,
   eternally begotten of the Father,
   God from God, Light from Light,
   true God from true God,
   begotten not made,
   of one Being with the Father.'

Does anyone see where the inherent conflict is here?

There might have been a sincere, albeit naive, attempt to bring people of different faiths together with this short-lived effort at Duke University last week. That, we can all agree on, is a good thing.

We can all agree that we should treat our fellow man and woman with respect, love and mercy, yes? As long as those basic tenets of each faith are followed, we should all be able to live in harmony, no?

One of the strongest tenets of the US Bill of Rights has been our right to freely worship, and in context, 'freely associate' with others who share those same beliefs. That also means we are free to 'not' worship with any other faith or in a mosque or temple if we don't want to do so.

It also means we never have to accept those beliefs or worship any God if we so choose. Thomas Jefferson pretty much made that a mandatory factor in American life when he helped get the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom passed in in 1786.*

My father once described what he saw was the basic characteristic of North Carolinians he knew, or at least the ones he grew up with in independent-minded western North Carolina in Asheville during the Depression.

'If you ask them to help you, they will give you the shirt off their back. But if you tell them to give the shirt off their back, they will tell you to (well, you know where they will tell you to go)'

Same thing with people of a different religious belief. You can't 'tell' them or force them to agree with you. You might get them to see something positive in your religion if they see something different such as your kindness or generosity and gentleness of spirit perhaps but you can't force-feed someone else your religious beliefs.

The next time there is a furor over some religious issue in the press or on some college campus or in some city, because there will be, you can count on it, remember this lesson from the Muslim Call to Prayer from the Top of Duke Chapel Incident:

'America's greatest commodity is freedom. Let's try to keep it that way'.

*You should click the link and read it of the most important documents in our nation's history that doesn't hardly ever get its due credit)

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

'Time To Call A Spade A Spade'

Or a 'Radical Islamic Terrorist' a 'Radical Islamic Terrorist'.

It used to be that one could use the 'spade' quote before it became associated with a racial slur towards African-Americans, apparently because it brought in the connotations of being 'as black as the ace of spades' somehow.

The truth of the matter is that the ancient philosopher, and last man to have read literally every single manuscript there was to read in the known world at the time, Erasmus, used the spade quote to mean 'clarity of thinking and saying and doing'.

A spade was nothing more than a shovel, and still is called that in many places around the world.

After being called many different names as chief of staff to a US Congressman and US Senator, most of them 'bad', being called a 'shovel' would have been considered a compliment in any book.

Or an 'ace'. Instead of another 3-letter word.

With that in mind, here is the question of the day to ponder:

'Why in the world is the Obama Administration, and many in the media playing along with him, so afraid to call the thugs who caused the horror that took place in Paris last week and around the world for the past 6 years what they actually are: 'radical Islamic terrorists'?

Press Secretary Josh Earnest almost turned himself into a pretzel of monstrous proportions recently trying to explain why they don't call them 'radical Islamist terrorists' to NPR's Mara Liasson. It just doesn't make any sense.

Several things we should know by now from history:
  • There are always going to be crazy people doing terrible things to other innocent people
  • We have to call things as they are and not try to sugar-coat who they are or what their intentions might be when their actions clearly prove they are not after peace and love and kumbaya with everyone else on earth
  • A tiny fraction, relative to population, of extremely deranged people really want to dominate masses of populations and subject them to degrading pain and suffering and death for some unearthly reason.
They have to be stopped. Before they can do as much damage as the Hitlers and Stalins have proven can be done before them.

Before Pearl Harbor, isolationists and 'America Firsters' (yes, we have had them many times before Rand and Ron Paul came on the scene) such as aviation hero Charles Lindbergh had such an aversion to antagonizing the imperialist Japanese Emperor Hirohito or the insane megalomaniac Adolf Hitler, they refrained from calling them what they were: 'murderous Japanese and German terrorists and killers'.

These recognized 'leaders' of Japan and Germany were treated by such isolationist ostrich head-in-the-sanders as if they were respectable leaders of any other nation be it England, France or Spain. Appeasers such as Neville 'Peace in Our Times' Chamberlain and virtually every other British leader outside of the realistic Winston Churchill kept kowtowing and paying obeisance to these killers hoping that somehow, some way, Hitler had some smidgen of humanity in the deep recesses of his polluted brain somewhere.

He didn't. Adolf Hitler was a historic testament to the potentiality of the complete brutality of the human species when left unchecked, unchallenged and not utterly defeated and crushed.

The only difference between Hirohito and Hitler and the modern Muslim terrorists is that they were somehow duly-elected or appointed leaders of a nation. These modern Muslim killers are not; they are more like leaders of deadly guerrilla campaigns first used against the Roman Empire by King Mithradates of Pontus whom author Adrienne Mayor points out in her excellent book, 'The Poison King' is considered a hero of the modern Al Qaeda terrorists for his ability to stand up to the Roman Empire in the first century B.C.

'So what are we supposed to do today in 21st century America and around the world to confront these murderers in Paris and around the world?'

For one thing, it would help immensely if the Obama Administration and the news media would call these Islamic murderous terrorists what they are: 'murderous Islamist terrorists'.

That is not so hard to say, now is it? For some reason, the Obama Administration and the news media have assiduously avoided tagging these murderers as 'Islamic' or 'Muslim' terrorists. Why is that?

President Obama's entire Administration for the past 6 years has never tagged these murderous attacks as acts caused by 'Islamic' or 'Muslim' terrorists. It is as if they believe these hundreds of violent and deadly attacks have somehow mysteriously happened purely by random chance and none of the Muslims who have yelled 'Allah Akbar!' while shooting or blowing up innocent citizens around the globe have done it in the name of the Prophet Muhammad or the name of Islam.

They are certainly not motivated by their Christian faith, are they? They are not motivated by their Buddhist faith or Hindu faith or Shinto or Taoist beliefs as far as we have ever heard.

They are not even plainly motivated by sheer insanity. They all may be 'insane'; at least that would be one logical factor that would put some course of reason to these hundreds of attacks.

However, even if they are all 'insane', the one common thread is their consistent proclamations that they are doing what they do in the name of Islam and to protect the Prophet Muhammad.

We need to call them what they really are: 'Radical Muslim terrorists'. It is the only way we can clearly identify the enemy, such as they are, and try to figure out a way to crush them before they ascend to greater power as Hitler did in Germany.

If we haven't learned anything else from history, we should have learned this one crucial fact: mass murderers on a global scale such as Adolf Hitler need to be stopped before they get started.

The 'radical Islamic terrorists' pose the same threat. First to the nations in the Middle East. Second to the world at large.

There is a very small minority of Muslims who have been radicalized by the two wars in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.  They are fundamentally offended by the freedom, democracy and capitalism they see in western nations, especially the United States.

This includes freedom of speech, freedom for women, freedom to worship as you please or not please. You name it in the US Bill of Rights; the radical Muslim terrorists are against it.

You get upset about Christians bringing religious beliefs into American politics? What til you get a load of radical Islam, will learn immediately that there is NO separation of mosque and state. The Mosque of Islam IS The State.

The odd thing is that 'The Great Satan United States' was the primary supplier of war materiel such as Stinger anti-helicopter missiles and reconnaissance that helped free Muslim Afghanistan from Soviet occupation in February, 1989. Go figure.

Today's violence is not a new occurrence of confrontation between 'radical' Islam and 'modern' Christianity. The Judeo-Christian world has been at odds with Islam ever since Abraham sent Ishmael away into the wilderness close to 4000 years ago.

Even the Angel of the Lord was pretty clear about the temperament of Ishmael in Genesis 16:12:
'He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
Apparently, some of Ishmael's genes and temperament have passed their way down through 40 centuries and found their way into these radical Islamists of today.

However, it is fair to say that we in the United States are not 'at war with the overall religion of Islam'. We are not at war and never have been with any nation or people who want to live in peace with themselves and their neighbors regardless of where they live. We have one of the most pluralistic of all nations on earth when it comes to religious diversity and our Constitution guarantees that we can all choose to believe whatever we want to believe faith-wise or not believe at all in anything.

It is fair to say we are 'at war with radicalized terrorists who draw on extreme views of Islam to justify their efforts to kill us'.

Maybe this is a matter that moderate and sentient Muslims around the world will have to solve. Maybe the Western world can not be the ones to solve the problem of 'radical Islam'.

But we have to be the ones to defend our freedoms and safety. No matter what these crazy terrorists believe or why they invoke Islam and the Prophet Muhammad to do it, we have the right to defend ourselves and our freedom to live in safety and peace.

Ronald Reagan pretty much brought that attitude with him to the White House when he was inaugurated on January 20, 1981. The Iranian hostages were released 30 minutes before he was sworn in because they knew he would not stand by and try to flatter the Ayatollah Khomeni into releasing them back to freedom.

Dealing from a position of strength with these radical Islamist terrorists is the reality we have to face today as a nation. Our elected leaders from President Obama to Congress and the Senate have to act realistically to protect us as a republic of freedom-loving people.

Ignoring who they really are has not worked so far, has it?

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How Will We Know Who 'Wins' Under President Obama and the GOP Congress?

Well, if anything positive gets done on a bi-partisan basis, that would be a good first step.

We have long been concerned that American politics has been reduced to the ESPN level of 'who won/who lost'. If FSU goes undefeated for 2 whole years but gets whomped in the Sugar Bowl by 39 points (which didn't leave too many fans crying outside of Tallahassee, now did it?), does that mean they are 'terrible' or they got what they wanted 29 times out of 30 games over 2 full years of playing football: a victory?

Politics is not like sports in one crucial manner: You don't have to win the 'final' game each season to be victorious. You don't even really have to win 90% of the time or even 75% of the time to have a 'good year'.

You really only need to prevail 50%+1 of the time on each and every vote in both the House and the Senate and then get the President to agree with you. The calculus on each vote can be different with different votes in both the House and the Senate each time as long as it adds up to 50%+1 and is something the President can sign into law. Otherwise, the road to victory gets harder as Congress will have to find a 2/3rd's majority to override the Presidential veto.

That is the way the Founders set it up. So that is the way we have to play this game in Washington.

We bring this up because now that the Republicans have taken over the Senate by a 54-46 majority (Bernie Sanders is not truly a 'Independent' from Vermont; he is an avowed Socialist and we'll see if Independent Angus King of Maine ever votes with the Republicans on anything) and increased their majority in the House to historic highs not seen since President Truman days, we are probably going to see an avalanche of bills passed by Congress under normal order and sent to President Obama, perhaps even in the first 100 days as we saw under LBJ in 1965.

Will they ALL be vetoed by President Obama? Or will he take a page from Presidents Reagan and Clinton and learn to compromise along the way with the majorities in Congress? That is the key question the entire nation will face in the next 3 months for sure.

If you see the nightly news and cable shows start to report that President Obama is meeting regularly with the Republican leaders of the House and the Senate and his legislative liaison people are stampeding Capitol Hill for round-the-clock negotiations on everything from the budget reconciliation process to tax reform to repatriation of corporate profits overseas to modification of Obamacare, then you can start to let yourself be 'hopeful' that this could be one of the most productive sessions of Congress in the last 2 decades.

However, if you see a defensive posture on the part of President Obama in each and every press conference where he is wielding his veto pen, you can be assured of more of the same old, same old we have seen for the same two decades: lots of screaming and shouting about marginal issues and absolutely no progress on the issues of concern that affect us all, black and white, rich and poor, country and city, north and south and east and west.

What are some of those key issues and how can they be objectively measured?

  1. Balancing the federal budget and reducing the growth of national debt.

    This is such a basic core function of our elective leaders that you would think it would be easy to focus on and solve.

    It isn't. We heard one senior person close to the action comment that one basic test of whether a person could be considered 'eligible' to serve in Congress would be if he/she could read a simple balance sheet and explain what it means. Apparently, not many of them who have served for the past 20 years have any idea of what the federal balance sheet looks like or the income statement or the national debt statement.

    If you see an 'omnibus budget reconciliation' bill advancing through Congress that includes significant tax reform and simplification coupled with entitlement program spending reforms that reduce their rates of growth, that will be 'progress' this year.
  2. Getting More Americans Back To Work In Full-Time Employment

    There are over 2 million fewer Americans working in full-time employment positions today than there were in 2007 before the Great Economic Crash hit us all.

    Our population has grown by more than 16 million in those 7 short years. You can't say that the economy is terrific when so many adults and recent college grads are struggling to find gainful employment in fields where their expertise and interest lie.

    The workforce has not been reduced by that many Boomers officially retiring, although that is a contributing factor. 'Full employment' means everyone who wants to work can find a good job, not that they have left the workforce frustrated by not being able to find a job.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we are just now approaching the same number of employed Americans in the work force, 147 million, in 2014 that existed in 2007 pre-crash. However, we now have over 2 million more Americans employed part-time due to economic reasons who want to find full-time work but can't.

    Millions of jobs have been destroyed in the student loan and secondary mortgage industries, for example, due to the nationalization, in effect, of both under President Obama. Never to return, unless, of course, these financial markets are allowed to return to the private sector.

    Ask members of your extended family, friends, church-goers and colleagues at work if they know of anyone who is working at a part-time job or one below their skills level just to make ends meet. That will give you a pretty good indication of the weakness of the jobs market today.
  3. Reform of Health Care Insurance and Cost Spiral

    Yeah, we know, we know: 'Obamacare was passed so now everything is hunky-dory in the world of health care insurance and costs'.

    Well, if our recent re-evaluation of our individual health care plan is any indication, health care insurance is FAR from being 'fixed' as any advocate of the ACA would try to say.

    We have a high-deductible HSA that basically covers nothing but catastrophic health care costs over a $11,000 annual family deductible. When we asked BCBSNC and 2 other agents if we could do better under the exchanges, all 3 put us on hold for 2 minutes exactly and came back to the line to say this:

    'Stay where you are. If you change your plans, you will get screwed. The next 'best' plan will cost over $1000/month and the deductible will be higher to boot'.

    This is 'health care reform' at its best?

    The best that can be hoped for in health care reform is that the Republicans will chisel away at the ACA with logical, level-headed reforms and present them to the President and dare him to veto each of them singularly in advance of the 2016 presidential election.

    Efforts should be made to get at the heart of the medical cost care explosion rate over the past 30 years. Inflation has been about 160% since 1980. Health care costs have gone up about 480% during the same time period. (College tuitions have exploded by 750% but that is another matter)

    Single-shot bills such as 'allowing everyone to keep their plans if they like them...forever' would be one start. Another would be to repeal the employer mandate that has already been delayed twice by President Obama in order to help the Democrats at the polls in 2014 which didn't work out as planned.

    The Supreme Court is hearing a case, King vs. Burwell, this spring which could further cripple the ACA. The issue at hand is whether federal tax credits can be issued to anyone buying an ACA plan in a state that has not set up its own state-run exchange as outlined in the specific legislation passed by Congress in 2010.

    If the Supreme Court rules against the ACA in this provision, that could effectively knock the props out from underneath the ACA in the 30 states that have not set up exchanges which would effectively strike a crushing blow to the fate of Obamacare perhaps by June of 2015.
We have long-said that perhaps the ideal political matrix is for one party to control the White House and the other Congress. No party can ever get 100% of what they want under this setup, therefore, to get anything they want done, they have to compromise their rear ends off.

2015 could be one of those years. Reagan and the Democratic Congress under Tip O'Neill got a lot done. Bill Clinton and the GOP House under Newt Gingrich and the GOP Senate got a lot of great things done from 1996-2000, namely 4 budget surpluses in case you have forgotten.

It can be done.

(click on the title link of the post to view the video at the top)

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today