Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More federal government control has made things much better, right?

Most Americans probably have at best a foggy concept of the degree to which the federal government intrudes into their lives, and just how many people are paid to conduct that intrusion from dozens, perhaps hundreds, of departments, agencies, bureaus, divisions, boards and other bodies.

In March of this year the U.S. Census Bureau reported that as of March 2010, the last year for which complete data exist, there were 3,007,938 total federal employees, 2,583,768 of them working full-time, with a payroll that month of $16.2 billion.

Depending upon whom you believe, federal employees either make lots more than their private sector counterparts (according to Republicans and other small government advocates) or lots less than private sector employees (according to Democrats and federal employee union leaders). Looking at total wages and benefits, the Republicans and small government advocates are closer to right, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

A CBO report in January of this year concluded that federal employees with no more than a high school education and those with a bachelor’s degree averaged higher total compensation than their private sector counterparts by 36 percent and 15 percent, respectively. But where benefits are concerned, the lower the education level of the federal employee, the greater the disparity in paid benefits. “Average benefits for federal workers with no more than a high school diploma were 72 percent higher than for their private-sector counterparts,” while those “whose education ended in a bachelor's degree were 46 percent higher” than for similar workers in the private sector, whereas workers with “a professional degree or doctorate received roughly the same level of average benefits in both sectors.”

We euphemistically refer to federal government employees as “public servants,” but increasingly it seems that it is we who serve them. And just what is it that they are up to?

Many of them are madly creating rules and regulations with the force of law and enforcing them. Most of them were not created by Congress, the only government branch empowered to create laws, and Congress is not even specifically aware of many or most of them, except when someone writes a letter of complaint. Furthermore, all of this regulating and penalizing often occurs without oversight by anyone besides other bureaucrats.

“A man’s home is his castle” is a phrase that once represented America’s personal freedom, meaning that people enjoyed the position of rulers in their homes, and others had no right to enter without the householder's permission. That is no longer true; now, Washington is in charge.

This situation has become so perverse that attorney and author Mark Levin describes it thus: “America has become a society in which the people are wise enough to select their own leaders, but too incompetent to choose the right lightbulb.” In his brilliant book “Ameritopia: the Unmaking of America” he cites as one example of the degree to which the feds have become entangled in our day-to-day lives the government’s involvement in the food industry where “the federal budget for regulating nearly all aspects of food, from production to consumption, exceeds the entire country’s net farm income.”

And that is just for our food.

Here’s a test: Before reading further, make a list of the things in your most personal space – your home – that government at some level doesn’t regulate. It will not be an impressive or long list.

Now that you have completed the test, here are some of the things in your home about which you have little to say, courtesy of Mr. Levin: washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, dishwashing detergents, microwave ovens, toilets, showerheads, heating and cooling systems, refrigerators, freezers, furnace fans and boilers, ceiling fans, dehumidifiers, lightbulbs, certain renovations, fitness equipment, clothing, baby cribs, pacifiers, rattles and toys, marbles, latex balloons, matchbooks, bunk beds, mattresses, mattress pads, televisions, radios, cell phones, iPods, and other digital media devices, computer components, video recording devices, speakers, batteries, battery chargers, power supplies, stereo equipment, garage door openers, lawn mowers, lawn darts, pool slides, toothpaste, deodorant, dentures and virtually everything one could put in a medicine cabinet.

Things are not improving under President Barack Obama. Dr. Robert Moffit, writing for The Heritage Foundation, reports that “[s]ince President Obama took office in 2009, federal agencies have issued 75 major regulations with an annual additional cost to the economy of $38 billion. Taken altogether, the Small Business Administration last year estimated that the total cost of America’s regulatory burden reached $1.75 trillion—more than twice what Americans pay in individual income taxes,” and more than the annual budget deficits each year since 2009. And that is just from the federal government; state and local bodies also contribute.

And if it isn’t bad enough that these multitudinous rules and regulations stifle productivity and make things cost a lot more, some of them are manifestly stupid. In order to close down a business, Milwaukee, Wisconsin requires purchasing an expensive license, submitting a pile of paperwork on the inventory to be sold, and a fee based on the length of the "going out of business sale."

What has happened to the “Land of the Free” and the self-reliant spirit that made this country great?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More business-like habits in Washington might rescue the country

Some Americans fully understand the potentially cataclysmic economic situation facing the country. They are not the ones we have to worry about.

Who we have to worry about are the ones – the millions – that either do not fully comprehend the problem, or have some level of understanding and either are unconcerned about the problem, are using it to their advantage, or have no idea what to do about it. Many of the people in this group hold positions in the federal government, and are responsible for creating the crisis and/or perpetuating it and making it worse.

While government and business are distinctly different creatures, there are aspects of sound business operation that belong in the Federal Government Operators Manual, and Chapter I is “Fiscal Responsibility.”

The Prime Directive, derived from the U.S. Constitution, is a simple one: Government must remain small with limited scope and interfere minimally in the lives of the citizens it exists to serve. It must be a good steward of the people’s finances, taxing minimally and spending frugally.

If such a manual existed and if it had the force of law, many politicians and bureaucrats would have been jailed or fired for their part in creating a crisis that more and more resembles to a frightening degree what now threatens socialist Europe.

The situation is this: The U.S. has borrowed debt amounting to $50,000 for every citizen in the country totaling nearly $16 trillion. Despite this enormous and growing debt, in most years the federal government willfully spends more than it takes in, averaging deficits of $1.3 trillion annually since 2009, which is approximately 40 percent more than revenue, and has increased the national debt by about a third.

To say it is foolish and risky to have done this for years on end produces one of those “well, duh!” moments. Yet, that is what we have done, and continue to do. Those Americans more concerned with the fate of the nation than with their own political well-being know that we cannot continue on this course.

There are three options to correct this crisis: Reduce spending; increase revenue; or a combination of both. The latter is the best option.

Some people advocate deeply cutting the out-of-control and frequently wasteful and fraudulent spending. These people are responsible citizens and conscientious public servants. They are accused of wanting to throw people out on the street, take food from babies, and other equally cartoonish slurs by those who want to maintain the status quo, people who a) benefit from wasting your tax dollars or b) benefit from government misspending.

Government taxation and spending is where common business practice should be applied: what would a business with costs 40 percent higher than its income do? Unlike government, which can – but shouldn’t – print money at will, if it wants to survive, a business must have more income than spending. Government should have a balance of the two.

One of the first things a business would do is cut non-essential expense. Here, the federal government has a vast array of opportunities: combine the dozens of wasteful duplicated services, reduce employee expense through attrition; fire unproductive and self-serving federal workers, and take the virtually unprecedented step of shutting down programs that do not work. Like Head Start, a true tribute to government inefficiency that a Department of Health and Human Services study found has wasted $150 billion since 1965, but produces no lasting benefits for participants.

It could scale back the frenzied regulatory efforts of the EPA and other agencies that spend our money killing jobs, raising costs for businesses and consumers, but produce negligible improvements, or do more harm than good. It could stop agencies like the GSA from robbing taxpayers to fund lavish get-togethers posing as training activities, and stop giving away the public’s money on dumb ideas like the half-billion President Barack Obama “loaned” to the failed solar company Solyndra, and other self-defeating assaults on the private sector. It could sell the 14,000 federally owned real estate properties that now sit empty and unproductive.

The government could give up its predatory attitude toward businesses and the wealthy in its futile effort to increase government revenue, and the politicians could replace their efforts to gin up class envy with practical steps that would foster job creation, thereby broadening the tax base and actually increasing tax revenue. The idea of raising taxes on rich folks might cause some people to get all tingly, but it won’t make a significant difference in balancing out the treacherous over-spending in which the federal government continues to indulge.

Federal government fiscal negligence predates Mr. Obama’s presidency by many years, but the sign that proclaims “The Buck Stops Here” is on the desk he campaigned so aggressively to earn in 2008, and before he asks a single American to pay a penny more in taxes to support a bloated bureaucracy or higher costs resulting from excessive regulation, he needs to get his administration under control. Some or perhaps most of the ideologues now running the administration are not up to the task, but the country has lots of capable people outside government that can do the job.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Liberal U.S. media working to subvert Mitt Romney’s candidacy

The experiences of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last week illustrate how the media fail to provide adequate, objective and balanced coverage of serious campaign issues.

Campaigning in Colorado last week, Mr. Romney gave an interview to a local TV reporter, no doubt wanting to talk about his ideas for combating the horrible economic conditions, the need for jobs, and other weighty problems that threaten the nation.

The reporter began by asking about Mr. Romney’s inability to connect with Colorado Republicans, and following his 24-second answer then moved to same-sex marriage. Mr. Romney gave what he said was the same answer to this question as he has given from the beginning. The reporter then asked follow-up questions on that same subject. After two minutes of questions and answers on same-sex marriage, the reporter then asked if illegal aliens should receive in-state tuition. And then after that she asked Mr. Romney about medical marijuana.

So, given the opportunity to interview the likely Republican nominee for the office of President of the United States, a local reporter spends three minutes of the four and one-half minute interview asking about social issues.

Mr. Romney had about all he could stand, so he protested, since medical marijuana, same-sex marriage and tuition for illegals are neither the most important issues facing the nation, nor something about which a President of the United States should be concerned, since they are state issues.

And, indeed, there are obviously more important issues needing attention, such as the $16 trillion national debt that runs to $50,000 for every one of the more than 300 million Americans. How about the highest corporate tax rate in the world that makes U.S. corporations less competitive in the world market? How about the 16 percent of American workers – about 13 million, all together – that can’t find a job at all, or are underemployed? What about a nuclear Iran, and the mess in Afghanistan? How about the fact that the Democrats in charge of the U.S. Senate have shirked their obligation to pass a budget for three straight years?

None of that seemed important to the reporter, but she finally did get around to asking questions about energy.

While the Colorado reporter was focusing on less relevant topics, the intrepid investigators at The Washington Post were busy looking into Mr. Romney’s high school days, searching for archaic dirt. And, they found some.

Some of the former governor’s high school classmates from 1965 said that he had indulged in boyish behavior, and one incident allegedly involved forcibly cutting the long blonde hair of a boy a year younger than Mr. Romney, who the classmates said may have been gay. If true, this was clearly wrong and indefensible. But it was nearly 50 years ago in high school, and appears to be an isolated incident. Yet, The Post thought it was important enough for 5,000 words starting on page 1 above the fold. And since then these allegations have “evolved” into proof that Mitt Romney was a homophobic bully. He also is accused of pulling classmate Susie Jones’ hair in the third grade.

The Post’s crack investigators successfully found this 47 year-old story about Mr. Romney (13 times longer ago than the last budget passed by our Democrat-controlled Senate), but gave little attention to Barack Obama’s history with former members of the Weather Underground and his admitted “enthusiastic” drug use, and were unable to find any information about his mysterious college days, including his grades, his formal papers, his days at the Harvard Law Review, his friends, etc.

Some people’s past apparently deserves closer scrutiny than others. You can understand why The Post might regard Mr. Romney’s past as more important: he’s running for President.

It is relevant to note that the family of John Lauber, the victim of Mr. Romney’s alleged brutish haircut, is appalled that their relative would be used for political purposes. His older sister, Christine, was unaware that Mitt Romney, or anyone else, “bullied” her brother, who passed away from liver cancer in 2004, but she was clearly not pleased by the story. “Even if it did happen, John probably wouldn’t have said anything,” she said. “If he were still alive today, he would be furious.”

“The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda,” she said. “There will be no more comments from the family.”

The treatment of Mitt Romney in 2012 and the treatment of Barack Obama in 2008 couldn’t be more different. In the Romney story, an unproved allegation of bullying gets front page treatment from The Washington Post, but admitted drug use, et al, by Barack Obama goes virtually unreported.

By emphasizing peripheral issues like same-sex marriage, illegal alien tuition, medical marijuana, and high school behavior, the liberal media distracts attention from President Obama’s dismal record on the critical economic problems. And in the attempt to discredit Mr. Romney, The Washington Post story denigrates John Lauber’s memory and upsets his family, presumably because of its obligation to inform the public. Well, about some things, anyway.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Manmade climate change theory continues to be battered by reality

Two of the major concerns of environmentalists are manmade climate change, and in response to this theory, the absolute necessity of green energy sources to replace the relatively inexpensive conventional energy we now get from coal, oil and natural gas.

Although our air is cleaner today than at any time in the last hundred years or so, it’s not clean enough for the environmental zealots inside and outside of government agencies. Hardly anyone would argue that if the activities of humans seriously damage the Earth’s atmosphere and raise its average temperature, it just makes sense to move away from fossil fuel energy toward non-polluting green energy. All they need is a plausible scenario that human activity is indeed warming the planet to dangerous levels, and people will accept moving to green energy.

However, as time passes more and more evidence comes forth weakening the case for manmade climate change; the data no longer support the idea that climate change is an imminent crisis, or a danger so great as to justify the drastic action the radical environmentalists and the Obama administration favor.

When the dirty little secrets of some climate scientists escaped a while back, revealing the manipulation and outright falsification of data they utilized to make their case stronger, that should have convinced even the staunchest climate change defender that something was wrong with their theory.

However, that did not faze them, but maybe this will: Announcing to the world that “I made a mistake,” British scientist James Lovelock, “the maverick scientist who became a guru to the environmental movement with his ‘Gaia’ theory of the Earth as a single organism, has admitted to being ‘alarmist’ about climate change and says other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too,” according to MSNBC.

“The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing,” he told the cable network. “We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened.” He went on to say that “the climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said, but “the world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising,” he added.

We should all be happy that those doom-filled prognostications have not materialized, because despite the grand efforts of government agencies that are doing such tremendous damage to the economy and such a disservice to the American people, the green alternatives continue to come up short as replacements for coal, oil and natural gas.

Now we learn that not only is wind energy expensive, generally unpredictable, and reliant upon rare earth metals that are found almost exclusively in China, wind farms actually warm up the surface of the land underneath them during the night. This inconvenient truth was discovered using satellite data collected from 2003 to 2011 over a large area of Texas, which has four of the world’s largest wind farms. The study showed an increase of night-time temperatures of 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit on the wind farms.  During the period of the study the number of wind turbines in the region increased from 111 to 2,385.

This data suggests that wind farms have a greater warming effect than the fossil fuel sources they are intended to replace.

The study notes that this wind turbine warming could harm local agriculture, which has already suffered through serious drought conditions over recent years. In addition to its contribution to our food supply, Texas agriculture contributes $80 billion to the Texas economy, second only to petrochemicals.

Wind turbines also take a toll on birds and bats, and make disturbing noises that affect nearby residents. And now we hear that solar farms also have problems that have stirred objections of environmentalists interested in protecting threatened species.

The desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is the official reptile of California, and the creature is fighting for its life against the expanding encroachment of solar facilities into its native habitat of the Mojave Desert in California, and there is now a lawsuit against the government to block the multi-billion dollar Calico Solar Power project, which would cover 4,000 acres of the turtle’s vital habitat.

What an interesting juxtaposition: one of the preferred energy sources needed to overcome the climate change crisis, that one group of environmentalists tells us threatens our very existence, poses serious problems for the concerns of another group of environmentalists over green energy facilities that threaten the existence of some animal species.

Wind and solar energy are already expensive, too expensive to be a viable alternative to fossil fuels, and the pending legal battles between opposing environmental interests will not make that better.

Ultimately, this new information argues not against wind and solar power development, but for common sense and moderation to prevail in implementing these immature technologies, and in the dangerous aggressive war on fossil fuels. Moderation and common sense, however, are characteristics with which liberal environmental ideologues are neither familiar nor comfortable.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

You can’t make this stuff up: reality is often stranger than fiction

A couple of items recently in the news illustrate the weirdness of some of the ideas that are put forth for serious consideration these days, and that actually gain support from some Americans.

Labor unions in Indiana are upset over the state’s recently passed right-to-work law. According to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a right-to-work law “affirms the right of every American to work for a living without being compelled to belong to a union. Compulsory unionism in any form – ‘union,’ ‘closed,’ or ‘agency’ shop – is a contradiction of the Right to Work principle and the fundamental human right that the principle represents.”

Individual freedom such as the option not to belong to a labor union was a fundamental component of the United States Constitution, but that concept has Indiana’s unionists all out of sorts. They fear the new law will cause a decline in union membership, something that is so far not supported by the data in other right-to-work states. Nevertheless, Indiana unions recently filed a suit to overturn the law. The suit cites two reasons that the law violates the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude. First, the suit complains that it requires dues-paying union members to work alongside non-dues-paying workers, terming that condition “compulsory service and/or involuntary servitude within the meaning of the amendment.”

Translation: If all workers are not forced to join the union, union workers effectively become slaves.

The second point, however, seems a fair criticism: that it is unfair to force “unions to furnish services to all persons in bargaining units that it represents, but it may not require payment for those services,” and once again they make a “slavery” connection. However, this complaint is even more foolish than the first one, since the unions asked for and received monopoly rights over collective bargaining, meaning they asked to be the bargaining agent for all workers, and were granted that status. You cannot rationally seek and accept the monopoly right to bargain for everyone, and then complain that representing non-union members effectively makes slaves out of union members.

Moreover, if we are talking about slavery, it is a far more persuasive argument that forcing workers to join the union and pay dues in order to have a job makes slaves of those who prefer not to join the union.

Next, in an irrational effort at political correctness (excuse the redundancy), the Applied Research Center (ARC) and its news site,, are demonizing Americans who use perfectly proper language to accurately describe a law-breaking activity.

“Drop the I-Word” is a movement that attempts to do through distraction and demagoguery what rational thinking precludes. The “i-word” – illegals – is “a harmful slur,” according to the ARC, “a racially charged slur used to dehumanize and discriminate against immigrants and people of color regardless of migratory status. The i-word is shorthand for ‘illegal alien,’ ‘illegal immigrant’ and other harmful terms,” it says. The organization hopes that a majority of Americans will fall for this grand fraud that attempts to persuade us that the criminal act of people who sneak into the United States is really not a crime.

Somewhere in the Great Beyond George Orwell is smiling.

By accurately labeling the method willfully chosen by illegal immigrants to enter the U.S., the ARC asserts that we are denying people “basic human rights.” “No human being is illegal,” it proclaims. That may be true, but human beings can do illegal things, and sneaking into the country is one of them, thus the completely appropriate terms “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant.”

Like the Indiana unions, the ARC does identify one piece of truth: “Immigrants without documents are regularly hired as cheap, exploited labor.” But this is not a result of correctly labeling them “illegal,” it results from the failure of the federal government to stem illegal immigration by enforcing immigration laws and guarding our borders. Businesses cannot hire and exploit illegal immigrants unless they are available to be hired and exploited.

Taking this absurdity to its illogical extreme, a video posted by the radical leftist organization says calling illegal immigrants “illegal” fits the definition of a hate crime and calls for the word to be banned when used in the context of immigration. Rather than discuss the pros and cons of this issue, prefers to silence the opposition, or better yet, imprison opponents to keep them from challenging goofy ideas like this one.

For Indiana unionists, apologists for illegal aliens/immigrants, and others inhabiting this strange other-world, working beside non-union workers is “slavery,” and illegal aliens are not illegal. Fitting nicely into this madness is the case of a Muslim U.S. Army officer crying "Allahu Akbar" while committing the jihadi murder of 12 soldiers. He is considered to have committed "workplace violence," but an American citizen with a Tea Party bumper sticker is regarded as a "domestic terrorist."

In this bizarre world the trees are a bright orange, the sky is chartreuse, the clouds are a rich puce, and standards and definitions change with the political winds. A society in the throes of such idiocy cannot long survive.