Once upon a time people were farmers, bankers, businessmen, doctors or sea captains – and they also became senators, congressmen or President. They understood business, trade, working for a living and living on what you made. They went to the same doctors, bankers and shop keepers as the rest.
Today, we have lawyers who have gone to law school, learned how to argue whatever point they were issued to argue and grew up privileged. They come out of school and into politics, where they climb the ladder's rungs until they become congressman, senator or president. At that point, they have preferred and specialized health care, huge salaries and bonuses that they can vote to increase and a huge collection of perks that continue for life. Once a senator or congressman, or president, is voted out, the money, healthcare and perks continue in perpetuity.
I want that retirement package. Let me run for office, travel around, show up for a vote or two, laze off the rest of the time and get voted out of office for not doing squat. Then let me enjoy the ongoing perks until I finally kick on my 109th birthday.
Lately, 82% to 86% of the public, depending on who you listen to, is unhappy with the performance of the Congress (that is, Congress and Senate) and President. They just haven't been performing! Why? Because they are doing what they were trained to do, what their life and work experience has prepared them for: arguing the point they were told to argue.
It doesn't matter whether a law student believes what he is arguing or not – and it is called arguing – he must argue the point as if it was his life's calling. That is what we are seeing in the collection of talking heads who have been explaining what is going on with our economy. No matter who is doing the speaking, it is the same: an argument with a trained debater taking the side.
A nationwide disaster with global repercussions was narrowly avoided recently, along with a controversial lowering of the nation's credit rating. As soon as it was done, the Congress went on vacation. The President is at Camp David.
This is a game to these folks. They get their healthcare – different from what the rest of us get – regardless of their performance, they get paid regardless of the state of the budget, they get perks that never show up in the budget and cannot therefore be cut. Just like in college, when law students went into a debate, argued back and forth, then went out for beers and laughs, these lawyers, who have never worked a real job, never lived off of the money, never worried about their livelihood or that of their family, never worried if they will go broke by visiting a doctor, debated the pros and cons of the budget and then went on vacation.
Who's running the country?
The question is rhetorical. The only possible answer is: irresponsible law students.
What we need, in my humble but well-traveled opinion, is new candidates who have dirt under their nails and histories of running successful businesses, practices or farms. We need senators and congressmen who know what their constituents are going through and are willing and able to represent them responsibly. We need people in Congress who don't follow every tough week with a month-long vacation. And we need a President who knows the difference between good advice and bad advice. And in my personal opinion, giving millions of dollars to a handful of bankers who screwed up so they can screw up again, bigger, and get paid for it, is bad advice. (“Let's give it to AIG, they can't afford their next party.”)
I vote that we consider the education, experience and work history of the next people we vote into office and in the process vote out the Law Students. And I vote that we pass a law that when they are voted out of office or reach their term limits, they are done and are no longer paid – they have to go back to work like the rest of us and live on what they make.
It's just my opinion, but it ought to be yours.
It's time to leak the budget. The talking heads are pointing fingers, the media reports whatever they think will enrage the public and there is more condemnation of the Tea Party than ever before. (Gee! Do you think they might be doing something right?)
What's under discussion? Social Security, that which was paid for by working Americans since they first got a job, is said to be 66% of the budget. Military 40%, Medicare 28% and the Government is working for nothing, being only in it for the honor of serving the American people. Can that be true? No, it cannot! That would be 134% and we haven't even gone into the Department of Education!
There are at at least two major companies offering to finance a car “regardless of your credit.” When I worked in the credit repair industry, I learned that such things are a sign that there is a lot of bad credit out there. The new and used car industries are suffering because few people can pass a credit check anymore.
Unemployment figures are not an indicator because it does not show those who are not working in their industry, have gone past their benefits and are therefore no longer being counted, or those who have just given up and are doing something else – retired, left the country or changed their name to Gonzalez so they could qualify for government aid.
One politician said that every day people come into his office telling him to make cuts, but not their program. Yes, folks, there are programs – and they need to be cut.
Senators and Congressmen no longer in office still receive pay and medical benefits. Thousands of special interest projects funded by the US government are still operating, though they serve no useful purpose. The amount of money going to psychiatric and pharmaceutical research is staggering. Yet these programs are not even mentioned.
Foreign aide to countries that actively hate us – such as Afghanistan – are in the billions. We pay our enemies. What sane country does that?
How about foreign aide to people within our borders? I'm not talking about Americans, I'm talking about Mexicans living illegally in the US, and some living legally here, thanks to legal loopholes, and still receiving subsidies. Mexicans aren't the only foreigners we support; Armenians and other cultures get a huge cut. I have lived in Glendale and have seen Armenians, dripping in gold and leather, step out of a BMW, walk into a grocery and pay with food stamps.
And there are tax breaks. G.E., Exxon and the other power-producing companies are wracking up the highest profits in the history of the world and are not paying taxes on it. Wall Street bankers received trillions in bail-out money and are still crying the blues. AIG is still throwing parties and giving bonuses; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mack are doing just great, thank you very much. While those companies and executives are first in line (with the politicians) for the money, they are last in line to pay taxes. But I digress.
But all the press can talk about is cutting Medicare, Social Security and Military pay. Yet the US government is 30% larger than it was at the last presidential election. Is that the only way to go? To cut our throats to save on food?
I suggest we cut at the top, not the bottom. Instead of letting a couple of thousand teachers go, let the people who run the Department of Education go. Instead of not paying the military, don't pay Congress or the President, or the guys who are at the top at the Pentagon.
If that doesn't work, leak the budget, give it to us and we'll figure it out – but our decisions would be final. Where are my scissors?
You got to have a deal,
If you don't have a deal,
Then how you gonna get a budget through?
For those of you who remember South Pacific, the musical, the song, Happy Talk, you get the above reference.
The Happy Talk was all over the Sunday News Shows. Experts pointing fingers and talking about Raising Taxes and Cutting Entitlements. And Boy! Are they happy!
Oh, they may look serious and concerned, but they are tickled pink. They talk of Putting the Burden on Middle Class Americans and Catastrophic Damage to the American Economy.
But there is only the one budget they are talking about (when a question gets answered at all). Let's talk about the other budget. Let's define our terms.
Entitlements are being defined as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the one we all paid for from the first day we worked. These are the programs we love, so cutting them sounds horrific.
There are other entitlements.
There is Federal money going to support undocumented (illegal) aliens in several states – California, North Carolina and Texas for three that are pretty obvious. There are signs in Spanish at the border telling those who cross to get to North Carolina for a free pass. The free pass includes money, food, housing, transportation and education – all gratis.
There is Federal Welfare, which has a huge infrastructure to do nothing but give free money to those who contribute nothing to the national production.
There are millions and billions given to United States Territories, which receive the same benefits of states but pay no taxes.
And millions and billions given to foreign countries, some of which hate us and actively work against us, which get us nothing.
There are millions going to Federal Programs that have been over for years or are useless, such as the psychiatric study to discover why men in prison are depressed. Millions into the pockets of a small group of psychiatrists to study men in prison. Hm!
Would you like to cut tax breaks? Cut the huge tax breaks to two of the most profitable sectors in American Business – the oil companies, which are logging the highest profit levels in history, the history of any company in the world, and Big Pharma, which gets billions in tax breaks and even government money for “development” of new drugs, and then charges big-time for the results.
The argument, if it comes up at all, for these is that they are not very big categories and would not save us much if they were cut.
Horse-biscuits! In the first place, I don't believe it, because every time I read a report about these tax-breaks, it's in the millions, if not billions. In the second place, if it is true, so what? A little here and a little there could save Social Security.
Suppose your family sat down at the table to discuss the family budget. OK, I know, that's a fantasy, but suppose it happened, just for argument's sake. Would you cut out food, clothing and shelter first thing? Or would you look good and hard for things that could be cut without endangering life and limb?
Suppose you wanted to go on a diet. Would you begin by depriving your lungs of air, so they would shrink in size? Would you cut out your liver, spleen and stomach? No, you would believe there must be a better way.
The Sunday morning talk shows have been all about the budget today, but only two things were discussed, raising taxes and cutting entitlements. However, no one mentioned eliminating tax breaks to the sections of society already making more money than Midas, and no one mentioned eliminating the entitlements that are really sucking this country dry, the money going to people who are contributing nothing to our country except to the crime rate.
If we want to get the country back on it's financial track, we have to get some people on the job who are willing to look at the whole picture. Let's hear about the other budget, the one nobody seems willing to adjust.
Are there hard choices to make? Yes, there are. But the smart decisions aren't politically hurtful to the other party, so neither side wants to make them. The bi-partisan decision would be to cut the fat, the unnecessary expenditures, the old, retired programs and the favorites that help no one but a few special interest groups with loud front men.
Perhaps it would help if the Sunday Morning Talk Shows got some guests who are willing to really talk about the subject rather than stoke the argument, point fingers and lay blame. It's time for a new panel, one that gives us more than “Happy Talk.”
Suppose I told you that when I was a boy in school, I went up to the class bully and gave him my lunch money. Then he would beat me up and walk off laughing. So the following day, I would volunteer my lunch money and he would beat me up. What if I told you that went on for the entire year, every year, until I graduated. Would you say I was insane or just disturbed?
The United States has given Pakistan 18 billion dollars in aid since 2002. They allowed Osama bin Laden and his band of terrorists to come and go and to live in their cities without hindrance. They have aided the terrorists and we give them money. Are we insane or just disturbed?
President Obama has sought three billion ($3,000,000,000) in aid for Pakistan in 2012. Here at home, schools are letting teachers go.
We are giving Afghanistan aid. They protested us going into their country to kill bin Laden, who they were protecting in a border city. We are spending $36 billion on military actions in Afghanistan. We gave them $10.4 Billion in aid between 2002 and 2008. They have requested $50 billion over the next five years. Yet here at home, we are fighting over raising the debt limit and borrowing more from China.
If I, as a private citizen, gave all my money to help people on the other side of the world while allowing my family to go hungry and without shelter, people would say, “Hey! Weren't you the kid who used to pay the bully to beat him up every day?”
Enough with the class bully! Let's stop supporting countries that hate us and actively attack us and bring that money home to fund Education, Medicare, Social Security and all the other struggling areas of our beleaguered country.
Let's stop being insane and perhaps we won't be so disturbed.
My wife woke me up for Face the Nation this morning. She does that. She knows I like the show. I hate that it is on at the same time as Meet the Press, as I'd like to see both shows. Getting a fair and balanced view of what is happening in my state, my country, my world, is near impossible, with so many opposing sound bites out there.
By the time I had a cup of coffee and was focused on the guest speaker, Harry Reid, D – Nev, Senate Majority Leader, the question on the table was “Will the government shut down at the end of the week?” It was a question he did not answer. Instead he sang the same old song: Oh, the poor children! Oh, the poor vets! Oh, all our favorite causes!
The senator hit the high notes right on cue: “We're going to have to cut Helping Hand, all the aid to orphaned children and homeless veterans.” Every time someone brings up actually running the government on a budget, out come the widows and orphans, the homeless vets. Next comes the police, fire and education. (See my earlier blog on balancing the budget.)
What, does Senator Reid say, is causing the difficulty? It's the Republicans and the Tea Party causing all the trouble. Congress is afraid of the Tea Party, when there aren't any members around. Sn. Reid says that at the last rally, “there weren't thousands, there weren't hundreds, there were tens...”
We're talking about 12% of the budget, right? So what about the hundreds of redundant government agencies and top heavy bureaucracy? There are more people in the Department of Agriculture than there are farmers. If you go in with a paring knife and carve out some of the fat and waste in the government, you will find that we can run the country on a budget.
Going for the heart, lungs and brain as the first to go when cutting out fat is insane. Let's get rid of the crazy people and put someone sane in the government.
Then came Lindsey Graham, R – South Carolina, who brought up another ghastly waste of government funds, the proposed State Department Army.
Our choices seem to be, in Libya and other countries, 1) putting soldiers there for years and years, 2) arming the rebels or 3) putting a State Department Army there for years and years (see option 1 – only more expensive.)
Remember that we poured money into Libya for the current regime to stay in power. Now we should pour more in to oust him and put in another government? The rebels we arm today will be the enemy we fight tomorrow – and they will be armed with our guns. We have squandered American taxpayers' money giving it to other countries and now we are throwing good money after bad in expensive “Police Actions” which will be followed by expensive rebuilding. The United States is the only country in the history of the world that rebuilds a country after it destroys it. How stupid are we?
Teddy Roosevelt, a Democrat, gave us the Big Stick. We should , as Senator Graham has suggested, take the fight to the leaders, sitting fat and happy in their stronghold, and end this thing. Then let them rebuild without us. It will be a lesson to the rest of the world: “Mess with us and we leave you broken.”
Arm the rebels? No! Build a State Department Army to hemorrhage money onto foreign soil? No! Take the fight to Gadhafi and his crew? Yes – and then stop sending our money overseas, we have need of it here. You want to rebuild something? Rebuild New Orleans.
When there is a bully in the neighborhood, you take him out and then you go home. You do not then become the next bully. And when there is a household budget to trim, to make it fit within your income, you do not cut the buying of food, clothing and shelter first.
It has been a song heard too long by government voices, all chanting in unison: if you want to cut the budget, the first things to go will be the fire department, police department and education – then all your favorite charitable agencies. Oh, weep for the widows, orphans and homeless vets. They are the chorus of the old familiar song. What is missing from the song is the billions showered on the Middle East and countries that want us dead.
Great idea! A diet wherein the first things to be sacrificed are your lungs, heart and brain. Sound good?
It's called the Politicians' Budget Cutting Diet. It has been in use for decades and hasn't worked yet. No wonder it keeps getting implemented.
Here's how it goes in real life: You demand the budget get cut, everyone agrees, so those you trust (giggle!) to represent (giggle!) you go to work (giggle!) and start cutting expenses. The first things they cut are the Fire Department, Police Department and School System. Before you know it, you are screaming for the budget cuts to stop before we are completely stupid and defenseless. Of course, by then, you have no library system left, though no one knows (giggle!) where the money went.
It goes back to Proposition 13. The voting public told the California legislature that they demanded lower spending and the Police, Fire and Education cuts were the first, last and only cuts made. In North Carolina, education is 2% of the budget, yet it is the first thing mentioned by our governor when budget cuts are brought up.
There are redundant reports, useless studies (like the US study to discover why men in prison are depressed) and stupid projects galore in the budget, yet these remain in place while Fire and Police Departments go begging. We don't need another million dollar paper on the North American Blue Bird. We need a balanced budget.
Remember the ex-governor of North Carolina, Mike Easley? It took two years to investigate his abuses, financial and otherwise. He made millions illegally while in office, yet was charged $1000 in fines and $153 in court costs. So the taxpayers paid millions to investigate him and yet he is charged $1153? Give me a break! How do you balance the budget? Make him give all the stuff back and pay the money, covering the costs of investigating him and prosecuting him. Dock his pay. Wherever he goes to work, take it out of his weekly until the state is even again. Maybe that will be a deterrent to future criminals who want to make crime pay by going into public office.
It goes for state budgets and for the Federal budget. The President keeps talking about cutting domestic spending. Domestic Spending – does that bring up a question? What about International Spending?
For years we have heard about billions (Billions!) given to countries that hate us. It is not talked about a lot on national television, but we are still giving billions to countries with whom we are at war. We support them while fighting them, destroy them, then rebuild them – and they never give us anything back for all that. The only country ever to repay a war loan is Finland.
What if we stop giving our money to other countries, maybe we won't be in financial ka-ka ourselves. Let's start with countries we are at war with, then go to countries that merely hate us, then we can take the weekly allowance from countries that just don't care for us. Eventually, we will balance the budget.
See, I didn't even mention the politicians that served one or two terms and we are still paying them for it. Gee, if we just hired them like we do everyone else, we wouldn't have to pay them forever. But I didn't mention it. That's another blog.