Thursday, December 27, 2012

This is the Season of Generosity and Good Will

For those of the Christian faith, Christmas is the raison d'ĂȘtre for their religion, the fulfilling of God’s promise to send His Son to Earth more than 2,000 years ago. Christmas now is celebrated around the world by both Christians and non-Christians through the tradition of gift-giving.  In America, we not only exchange gifts, but also freely give of our time and money to help those less fortunate or who are in trouble during this time of the year.

In every community there are organizations that provide tangible benefits to the public and help others in need through volunteering for service projects and monetary and other contributions. Civic clubs and religious organizations raise and give thousands of dollars in assistance every year for medical care, food pantries, weatherization and home heating in the winter, building and repairing homes for less fortunate people and families, student tutoring and scholarships, animal welfare and spay/neuter programs, arts and cultural programs, assisting disabled persons, assisting police and fire fighters to purchase needed equipment, among other forms of aid.

Americans are regarded as the most generous people in the world. We give unselfishly to religious and civic organizations that support our charitable interests to help people both at home and across the globe.

In 2010 Americans donated more than $290 billion to their favorite causes, and four out of every five dollars donated came from individuals and bequests. The breakdown of charitable giving is: individuals, $211.8 billion; foundations, $41 billion; bequests, $22.8 billion; and corporations, $15.3 billion.

Americans donated $23.7 billion in corporate stock; $7.6 billion in clothing, and land valued at $4 billion. Leading the list of recipients of this generosity by a wide margin were churches and religious organizations at $100.6 billion, followed by educational entities, $41.7 billion; foundations, $33 billion; human services, $26.5 billion; organizations benefiting public and societal needs, $24.2 billion; health organizations, $22.8 billion; international affairs, $15.8 billion; arts, culture and humanities, $13.3 billion; and environmental issues and animal welfare, $6.7 billion.

And when disaster strikes anywhere in the world, we respond. We stepped up when the tsunami struck Japan, when an earthquake rocked Haiti. At here at home when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2006, more than $4 billion was raised to assist victims. We are still giving to victims since super storm Sandy struck in October.

However, as generous as the American people are, the economic crisis has significantly affected charitable giving, which remains $12 billion less today than when the recession began in 2008, and is predicted not to improve anytime soon. That is a real problem for the country: The nonprofit sector generates nearly 6 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, and pays $668 billion in wages and benefits to its 13.5 million employees.

The fiscal cliff further threatens charitable giving, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill consider capping or eliminating deductions, and a change to the charitable deduction could severely damage non-profits and the charitable work that generates enormous goodwill locally and globally.

A 2009 study by the Center on Philanthropy showed that the proposal to raise the marginal tax rate to 39.6 percent on those earning $250,000 or more and cap the charitable tax deduction at 28 percent would precipitate a 2.1 percent decline in giving, which works out to a $5 billion decrease.

However, a proposal by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force would be far worse. It proposes to eliminate the charitable deduction altogether and replace it with a credit like the one used in the United Kingdom. Applying this practice to the U.S. level of charitable giving would cost $260 billion, devastating charities across America.

The Charitable Giving Coalition urged both President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner to protect the charitable tax deduction as they deal with the fiscal cliff facing America. The charitable deduction encourages individuals to give to those in need, and to give more than they would otherwise give by allowing them to offset some of their tax obligation with charitable contributions. Data suggests that every dollar a donor claims in tax relief for charitable donations produces three dollars of public benefit.

The significance of the charitable work of American non-profits is one thing that sets us apart from less charitable nations. It is a reflection of the generous heart of America, and the charitable tax deduction helps to fuel that generosity. That is why it must be protected. If we fail to stop this thoughtless process, Americans will be substantially hampered in their financial support of people in need, and we will all be the worse for it.

To the extent that government continues replacing the work of charitable organizations with taxpayer funded government programs, or impedes the charitable impulses of the American people with short-sighted tax policies, those of us who give to charity lose the ability to decide which projects and causes receive our financial support.

And as the failure to control profligate government spending continues to be ignored in favor of political considerations, the likelihood increases that charitable deductions will be targeted to help raise revenue to feed the government’s spending addiction.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Going Rogue, Part IX: Expanding Power and Control over the People

It’s been nearly six months since the antics of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have received attention, but in the last several days two instances have sneaked past the mainstream media filter and become public knowledge, even though only a limited number of people will have seen the reports.

In the first example, a couple seeking to have a retirement home in New Mexico purchased 20 acres of land near Sante Fe. Over the years, the unused land had accumulated quite a lot of trash which the couple intended to clean up to make their property a suitable place for them to spend their remaining years. But no, cleaning up their own property for their own use will not be possible because the dedicated public servants at the EPA have cited the Clean Water Act and prohibited the clean-up saying it might harm the Rio Grande River.

Now, who among us would not want to prevent activities that pollute the nation’s waterways? However, it is difficult to understand how cleaning up tin cans, broken glass and other such trash could actually harm a river, unless the trash ended up being dumped in the river or on its banks, which the couple did not intend to do.

The EPA’s decree at first glance seems intrusive and absurd. Actually, it is much worse than it appears: the Rio Grande about which the EPA folks were so concerned is 25 miles away from the couple’s property.

This outrageous interference has driven property owners Peter and Francoise Smith to court to seek justice against this mindless government over-reach.  The case is being brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation on the Smith’s behalf, and the organization alleges that the land does not contain any relatively permanent, standing or continuous body of water that can be regulated by the Clean Water Act.

We’ll have to wait to see how this plays out in court.

In order to further expand its cancerous growth of power and control over the American people, the EPA stretches definitions to the breaking point, asserting that mud puddles that form after rain are “wetlands,” as illustrated in the second example.

The EPA now seeks to gain control over land alongside ditches, gullies and other spots where water may temporarily accumulate from rains or melting snow, claiming they are part of navigable waterways. Seriously.

They are not waterways or wetlands, of course, and they are certainly not navigable, but these temporary “waters” often interfere with how private property owners want to use their own property, to perhaps construct an out building, grow crops, raise livestock and conduct other activities in which private landowners may choose to indulge. But the EPA proposes to tell these landowners just how they may use their property.

“Never in the history of the Clean Water Act has federal regulation defined ditches and other upland features as ‘waters of the United States,’” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking committee member, and Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

In a related event, the EPA notified Virginia last December that it would have to take steps to reduce the amount of highway runoff from rain that eventually ends up in a particular stream in Fairfax County. The EPA considers this a no-no because the runoff contains sediment that collects in streams. The rub comes in how the agency has twisted reality to assume control over runoff: it treats rain as a pollutant.

Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the Democrat Fairfax County Board of Supervisors claim that the EPA’s position is illegal and say further that if the Commonwealth is forced to comply it would cost the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County hundreds of millions of dollars to comply with storm water regulations just for the one creek the EPA cited. To control the rain “pollution” VDOT would have to seize private land, evict persons living on it, tear down homes, businesses and other structures on the land, and plant grass that would absorb the runoff.

Reasonable people consider such radical steps as an idiotic solution for a problem with such a tiny effect on the whole of the Commonwealth.

The EPA is likely the most out-of-control federal agency, although it is not without challengers for that dubious distinction. It believes it has authority to do virtually anything it imagines will promote better environmental conditions, no matter how insignificant the perceived problem may be in reality.

It makes no difference to these public servants how many people are affected, how many jobs are lost or how much money is spent; no legal, moral or practical concern is sufficient enough to deter them from regulating themselves into power-induced ecstasy.

The fact that Democrat Congressman Nick Rahall joined with Republican chairmen of two House committees, and that the Democrat Fairfax County Board of Supervisors joined with Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in protest, illustrates the degree to which officials now believe the EPA is out of control.

Let’s hope changes are on the way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Looking at the United States of America by the numbers

 As the end of 2012 draws near, here are some interesting and revealing statistics about our country.

The Gross Domestic Product Growth Rate has been anemic all year, but had its biggest increase in the 3rd quarter, rising 2.7 percent. That was double the 2nd quarter’s 1.3 percent, and beat the 1st quarter’s 1.9 percent. From 1947 until 2012, the United States GDP Growth Rate averaged 3.2 percent.

* * *

In 2011 the population of the U.S. was 313.8 million and 153.6 million Americans were in the labor force. The nation produced total GDP of $15.1 trillion, roughly $49,000 in per capita GDP.

The U.S. Treasury collected tax revenue of a little more than $2.3 trillion and as a percent of GDP the economy is taxed at slightly more than 15 percent. However, the federal government spent about $3.8 trillion, creating a budget deficit of more than $1.3 trillion, or 8.63 percent of GDP. Each man woman and child citizen’s share of the cost of government is more than $12,000.

Currently, the national debt is roughly $16.3 trillion, which works out to about $51,000 per man, woman and child. This year’s federal budget deficit adds $3,500 or so of additional debt per citizen.

* * *

The November jobs report listed 146,000 new jobs and a U-3 Unemployment Rate of 7.7 percent, two-tenths lower than the October figure. Unfortunately, this news is not as good as it appears. To have a truly meaningful effect on unemployment, more than 300,000 new jobs must be created each month. The Labor Department revised downward new job numbers in October from 171,000 to 138,000, and from September in 148,000 to 132,000.

The drop in the unemployment rate resulted not from lots of people going back to work, but because 350,000 people dropped out of the workforce.

The Labor Force Participation Rate dropped from 63.8 percent to 63.6 percent. The 146,000 new jobs have a much greater effect on a smaller labor force than on a larger labor force. If the labor force remained the same as it was in January 2009, U-3 unemployment would be 10.7 percent. The more accurate U-6 Unemployment Rate, which includes not only those working and those looking for work, but also those who have become discouraged and given up looking for jobs, is 14.6 percent for November.

* * *

In June, a total of 142,415,000 people were employed in the U.S, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including 19,938,000 who were employed by federal, state and local governments. By November, the total number of people employed had climbed to 143,262,000, an overall increase of 847,000 in the six months since June. In the same six-month period the number of people employed by government increased by 621,000 to 20,559,000. These 621,000 new government jobs equal 73.3 percent of the 847,000 new jobs created overall.

* * *

Back in July of 2008 candidate Barack Obama said this about the $4 trillion in debt that we incurred under the Bush administration: “The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents – #43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back — $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That’s irresponsible. It’s unpatriotic.”

According to the U.S. Treasury, on July 2, 2001, the national debt was approximately $5.7 trillion. On inauguration day 2009, the national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. Last Thursday, it stood at $16.3 trillion. That means the debt has increased $5.7 trillion during Mr. Obama’s first four years, and that is more than all presidents through Bill Clinton, and the first five months of George W. Bush’s tenure. In the name of U.S. taxpayers Mr. Obama has borrowed more than $49,500 per man, woman and child.

* * *

Inflation in October was 2.2 percent, up from September at 2.0 percent, August at 1.7 percent and July at 1.4 percent. The highest level of inflation since 2000 was 5.6 percent in July of 2008.

* * *

Are we drowning in regulations? Ayn Rand’s classic Atlas Shrugged in paperback has 1,088 pages. The 2011 Federal Register totals 82,419 pages, nearly 76 times more than Ms. Rand’s book. A popular estimate of the cost of regulations on the economy is $1.75 trillion annually, which is nearly 76 percent of total amount of tax revenue collected last year.

* * *

In 1913 the U.S. tax code was 400 pages. Today, it’s more than 73,000 pages, which means we added on average 730 new pages each year. It is estimated that U.S. taxpayers pay $431.1 billion annually, or 19 percent of total tax revenue collected last year, just to comply with and administer the U.S. tax system.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Tax-and-spend policies have not and cannot solve America’s problems

British millionaires are looking for greener pastures. As reported in The Telegraph of London, “In the 2009-10 tax year, more than 16,000 people declared an annual income of more than £1 million to HM Revenue and Customs,” but that “number fell to just 6,000 after Gordon Brown introduced the new 50 [percent] top rate of income tax shortly before the last general election.” The story goes on to say that it “is believed that rich Britons moved abroad or took steps to avoid paying the new levy by reducing their taxable incomes.” Consequently, the increase in tax revenues Prime Minister Brown had anticipated turned into a nearly £7 billion loss.

This should serve as a cautionary tale for America’s tax-and-spenders in the White House and Congress, who want to raise taxes on “the wealthy,” but it likely will float past them un-heeded. When you consider the details of the first post-election offer from the White House, it is clear that the administration does not comprehend such economic realities. The proposal: $1.6 trillion in higher taxes over 10 years, $180 billion in new spending and vague promises to cut only the growth of entitlement spending at an indeterminate future date, all while giving the president the power to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling.

The proposal calls for double the pre-election tax amount, additional spending and no specific amount of spending cuts or dates certain for them to take effect. And, there’s that last item, which gets immediately crossed-off: it’s unconstitutional.

As idiotic as that proposal is, understand that President Barack Obama appears serious about it.

Big government liberals live on entitlement spending, and many would die without it. The president’s proposal includes allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making $250,000 a year or more, raising the top rate to nearly 40 percent, which he supposes will raise $80 billion annually. That’s enough to run the federal government for only 8.5 days. If America’s high earners follow the lead of the Brits and reduce taxable income or shift it into 2012, it will be even less than that relatively small amount.

But what is worse, when you understand that half of those affected by this rate increase are small businesses, it makes no sense to raise taxes on them with unemployment still more than 50 percent above normal levels nearly 42 months after the recession ended.

The tax-and-spenders need to get past their resentment of high earners and their appetite for their earnings, and get serious about fiscal reform. Out-of-control spending for entitlements, a bloated and inefficient government, a tax code that plays favorites, and other factors combine to produce huge annual deficits and 16 trillion in crushing debt, and it’s time to fix that.

Americans for Tax Reform has focused for years on getting newly elected U.S. Representatives and Senators to take a pledge against raising taxes, understanding that our problem is that we spend far too much, not that anyone needs higher tax rates. Grover Norquist, its president, is now a target of the tax-and-spenders for his organization’s efforts at controlling taxation. However, those Senators and Representatives didn’t make the pledge to Mr. Norquist, they pledged to their constituents they would vote against tax increases.

The problem we have today is not a new one. A Cary Orr political cartoon from 1934, in the midst of The Great Depression, shows a wagon filled with drunken people drinking from a “Power” bottle and shoveling bags of money out onto the road. On the back of the wagon is a sign reading, “Depleting the resources of the soundest government in the world.” And there’s a man on the side of the road painting a sign which says:

Plan of Action for U.S.
Spend! Spend! Spend!
Under the guise of recovery
Bust the government
Blame the capitalists for the failure
Junk the Constitution and declare a dictatorship

Other comments jotted around the scene say, “How red the sunrise is getting” near an ominous looking man labeled “Stalin,” and, “It worked in Russia.”

That is how Cary Orr saw what the government was doing then. And what is unsettling about this cartoon is the striking similarity to what is happening now.

He believed government’s actions were communistic. What our government is doing today may not be socialistic or communistic under the strict definition of those terms But an interesting coincidence is that the Communist Party USA is now organizing teleconferences and rallies supporting the plans to raise taxes and encouraging continued over-spending on entitlement programs.

We should recognize that no nation on Earth has ever achieved success that even approaches the level of success the United States of America achieved before it began changing from the capitalistic model that built it to a model that has produced mediocrity and fiscal peril worldwide.

We should heed the lessons of wrong-headed government policies that extended the Great Depression for years longer than it should have lasted, and try something different, like the economic principles of capitalism that built America.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Items in the news: Three examples of labor unions behaving badly

Private sector labor unions have all-time low membership, which results from the fact that workers see a relatively low value in belonging to a union. Despite the lack of necessity for their continued efforts on the part of employees, unions nevertheless continue interceding to “improve” conditions that are already good enough for the vast majority of workers, a condition which threatens the continued existence of unions and thus threatens their leaders’ political influence and high pay levels.

The total compensation of some labor leaders places them firmly among President Barack Obama’s 1 percent of people making more than the $250,000 threshold that he believes should pay higher taxes, such as: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka – $293,750; United Food and Commercial Workers President Joseph Hansen – $361,124; National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel – $460,060; and American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees President Gerald McEntee – $512,489.

In our still mostly-free country, if workers want to join a union they certainly may do so. But when you look closely, you see much union activity that does more harm than good, except for the relatively few workers that gain excessive benefits that hurt the businesses they work for and, of course, union leadership and the politicians with whom they are incestuously involved.

In one example from Thanksgiving week, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union was a party in a dispute that resulted in the closing of Hostess Brands, an 85 year-old company that made Wonder Bread, Twinkies, and 28 other products.

The company had 372 separate bargaining contracts for workers, 42 multiemployer pension plans, 5,500 separate delivery routes and a vast production system.

Hostess has had financial problems for several years and had previously gotten concessions from the 12 different unions that represent its workers, but in this last round the Bakery Workers, which represents about 5,000 employees, refused concessions, even after management said if concessions were not accepted, the company would shut down.

The union claims that vulture capitalists sucked out hundreds of millions of dollars by leveraging up the company, and that management had given itself millions in pay raises while demanding worker cuts.

Actually, Ripplewood Holdings injected $150 million in three rounds of investment as the company’s troubles grew, and lost every dollar. The raises were a tiny portion of the company’s losses of nearly $500,000,000 in two years, but Ripplewood rescinded the raises and made each executive work for a dollar per year.

Hostess paid out almost $100 million in health benefits for retirees last year, but over half of it covered workers who never had worked at Hostess. You see, the Teamsters’ “multi-employer pension plan” transfers the pension obligations of a bankrupt company to surviving rivals, speeding up the collapse of troubled companies.

Union rules designed to create more union jobs forced Hostess to run separate truck fleets for delivering bread and its sweet products. Instead of one driver delivering to each of Hostess’ thousands of customers, union rules required two, one for sweets and one for bread. Union restrictions on distribution routes made it unprofitable to serve tiny outlets, yet the union barred Hostess from using non-union distributors.

Workers were asked to take an 8 percent pay cut and pay 17 percent of their health-care costs, like most other workers do, instead of zero. In return, the union would have received 25 percent ownership of Hostess plus $100 million of debt to be paid back to the unions.

Instead, the union made a decision that closed the company, and nearly 18,500 workers will lose their jobs as the company shuts 33 bakeries and 565 distribution centers, and 570 outlet stores.

And then there is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that was voted out at Aviation Safeguards at Los Angeles International Airport by company workers who wanted out of the SEIU. In response the union brought in 1,000 members who weren’t employees of the company to block entrances to the airport, inconveniencing hundreds of innocent travelers.

“We petitioned to leave the SEIU almost a year ago, and the contract ended,” Frederick McNeil of Aviation Safeguards said. “And now they’re bringing in outsiders to block travelers who are just trying to get home for the holidays. It’s ridiculous.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers organized Black Friday protests against Wal-Mart, and the National Labor Relations Board refused to respond in a timely manner to a Nov. 17 Wal-Mart petition to prohibit the protest, saying the request would be dealt with the week after Thanksgiving.

Relatively few Wal-Mart employees participated, and one protester carried a sign that said: “I’m getting paid $5.50 an hour by the union to protest Wal-Mart paying $9.50 an hour.”

In the 1920s renowned union leader Samuel Gompers was asked what organized labor wanted, and reportedly answered, “More,” a philosophy that endures today. Unions raise employee costs beyond the competitive level, increasing prices to consumers and putting negative economic pressure on businesses. If unions are to survive, they must cease being enemies of business and become partners with them, working for the mutual success of companies and their workers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The cost of Obamacare seriously threatens businesses and jobs

It is a simple concept: A business is an organization that provides products or services that it believes people need or want, and if it provides good quality at a fair price it should succeed. Some businesses are single-person entities, but most employ a few people or as many as thousands of people to perform tasks related to the production and sale of its products or services, and in return for their labor they receive agreed-upon compensation that enables them to buy things from other businesses like food, shelter, clothing and other needs and wants. It is what makes America run.

Since Leftists don’t understand the way businesses work, they view them with suspicion and not infrequently seek to punish them for doing things they must do to stay in business. They sometimes even seek to punish businesses when they don’t do things the Left thinks they should do, but which have no business-related function.

When you combine the Left’s abysmal understanding of business operations with its compulsion for government solutions to every perceived problem, and add in the habit of implementing solutions without fully considering the repercussions, the stage is set for mass chaos.

Case in point: The ominous effects of Obamacare on employers, particularly small businesses, have been discussed since healthcare reform was just a poisonous glimmer in the Leftist mind. But despite the ample economic reasons for why this healthcare reform was a bad idea, the Left still doesn’t get it: Obamacare raises operating costs for businesses that implement the plan, and when costs rise, businesses must raise prices and/or cut expenses to offset the increase. Higher prices discourage customers, who either find a better price from a competitor or just buy less of that product or service. Both put businesses at risk.

But the Left freaks out when companies opt to protect their customers and themselves from the harmful effects of higher prices when they focus on the biggest expense most businesses have: employee costs.

Because the Left’s solutions are poorly thought out, they fail the common sense test and therefore fail to persuade people to accept them on their merits. The Left then resorts to forcing its ideas on us. Barack Obama’s manic effort to replace traditional energy with “green” energy is a prime example of an idea that people rejected because they saw that it couldn’t work. Nevertheless, the Obama administration declared war on coal and oil production to force us to use inadequate wind and solar energy because they arrogantly believe they know what is best for the rest of us.

Since Obamacare increases health insurance costs, often doubling them, businesses have to decide how to offset those costs. They can cut expenses, raise prices, or some combination of the two. Those who can’t justify increasing prices and can’t cut enough other expenses must look at employment expense, and reduce full-time staff below the threshold level through staff reductions and/or reduce full-time employees to part-time hours. Even companies that decide not to implement Obamacare must pay a $2,000 per employee penalty.

But despite the fact that rising employee costs are the problem, the Leftists reject staff and hour reductions as unfair; believing the money to cover the enormous costs of Obamacare will simply appear out of thin air. Thus, when the Papa John’s pizza chain said it must raise prices or reduce employee hours to get expenses under control, the Left suggested boycotting Papa John’s: To convince the company to do nothing about increased employee expenses, the Lefties propose that people buy their pizza from a competitor. Only the Left would react to an employer trying to stay in business by boycotting it.

Other chains also are boycott targets for the same reason: Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, and Applebee’s.

Obamacare’s anti-business and job-killing requirements are not the only reason the Left proposes a boycott; a business that doesn’t spend its money according to Leftist dogma also may be attacked.

A self-identified liberal website urges liberals to “bring these people down,” referring to a list of “fast food joints” that the website owner dislikes because of how they use their own money: Chick-fil-A, Cinnabon, White Castle, Waffle House, A&W, KFC, Long John Silver's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, IHOP, Arby's, Chili's, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Hardee's, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, Wendy's, and Outback Steakhouse.

All of these businesses deserve our support, and at least one organization supports businesses targeted by the Left’s loony idea. Rebooting America organized a Papa John’s Appreciation Day last week.

One employer who owns about 100 restaurants nationwide decided to pass on the costs to his customers along with reducing employee hours. He plans to put a 5 percent surcharge into effect to help offset the increased cost of health insurance and also to help customers see the harmful unintended or unadvertised effects of foolish, ill-considered policies like Obamacare.
In order to fix a healthcare problem that required only a little tweaking, our intrepid Leftist government instead tried to revamp an entire economic system and created a myriad of other serious problems. What’s really scary is that the worst is likely yet to come.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Peace Through Strength Needed

Commentary by Julianne Jilinski
Nearly 70 years ago, my father piloted a B-17 over Europe and dropped bombs on strategic German targets. They included airfields, oil refineries, factories, and bridges. The goal, shared by all Americans, was to win World War II. After completing more than 30 missions, he returned home safely, but many of his colleagues gave their lives to defend the cause of freedom.
Today freedom is still under assault. In many countries, American ideals and interests are being attacked. In Iran, scientists are laboring on a nuclear weapon capable of wiping Israel off the map and possibly attacking Europe and the United States.
Yet, despite being the world’s only superpower, the United States seems impotent and unable to act. The president and his administration are reluctant to use the word “terrorists” to describe the people who killed four American diplomats in Benghazi.
This is not the America that my father knew and that the Greatest Generation defended. In the past four years, our nation’s strength and standing in the world has been sapped by Obama administration policies that “lead from behind,” put elections before national security, and ignore the words of George Washington who said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace."
Rather than focusing on the nation’s national security, politicians are using our military as a pawn in a dangerous game of chicken over the deficit. If Congress doesn’t stop the so-called sequestration, nearly $500 billion will be cut from the Defense Department during the next 10 years. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called the cuts “a disaster,” warning that, “we cannot maintain a strong defense for this country if sequester is allowed to happen.”
The nation’s defense also could be hampered by the administration’s energy policies, which have wasted taxpayers’ money on green energy programs instead of encouraging a steady supply of crude oil, a commodity that is critically important for our military preparedness. 
During his first term, Obama and his administration imposed a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and issued a five-year drilling plan that will keep 85 percent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf off-limits to energy development. They promulgated new layers of regulations that make drilling more costly and time-consuming and directed several agencies to consider new federal rules on hydraulic fracturing, despite the fact that the time-tested production technique already is heavily regulated by the states.
The president also gave billions of dollars to Brazil to help it drill for offshore oil, saying he hoped the United States would become one of Brazil’s best customers. And in a move that can only be described as pandering to his political base, Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline which could have delivered 830,000 barrels of secure Canadian oil to U.S. refineries.
More recently, the administration has failed to grant a waiver that could reduce the amount of corn-based ethanol blended into gasoline. As West Virginia poultry and beef farmers can attest, the ethanol fuel mandate has pushed corn prices over $9 a bushel, sharply raised feed costs, and is pushing up food prices.
These counterproductive defense and energy policies are hurting families and the economy, reducing our national security, and emboldening our enemies. They should be reversed and America should reassert its leadership.
By removing the threat of defense cuts, the U.S. military could resume its plans to maintain our national security.
By encouraging the production and distribution of U.S. and Canadian oil, our energy security and our economy would be improved. Analysts at the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimate that policies encouraging drilling and approving the Keystone pipeline could generate 1.4 million new jobs by 2030.
By granting the ethanol waiver, West Virginia farmers could get some relief from high feed costs, and consumers could see their dollars go farther.
These actions could make America stronger at home and abroad. Restoring America’s might and global leadership should be a high priority for the next president.  I will vote for the candidate who believes in peace through strength.
Julianne Jilinski is a retired government contractor who lives in Mathias, W.Va.