The Source of My Venom

July 19, 2012


A bit about the author and where my personal politics/beliefs come from:

What you’ll find from my personal politics is that I am a libertarian with a little ‘l’ (which by definition isn’t really even a party) and thus, a Jeffersonian in my political philosophy. It goes without saying I’m conservative, but I am an open-minded, truly ‘big tent’ conservative that would appear to be a moderate by some definitions. Like Jefferson, I am overly idealistic (almost to a fault) but I will fall on my sword of principle and point to our American values and source documents like the Constitution and ask ‘is this the intent behind this in the best interests of the country or a special interest’. On the corollary, I then also ask ‘is this consistent in the purpose of how our republic was founded’. Case in point – abortion. I am personally pro-life. However, I respect that this is not a gray area legally with Roe v. Wade (Even though I disagree with it) and its is certainly a personal decision when it boils down to it. So, taking my libertarian stance, as long as you are not forcing my wife to have an abortion when she doesn’t want one…why do you care what the woman/family beside you do with such a personal choice? Sure, you think they are going to hell – but that is your opinion, it might not be theirs. They are not pushing their value system of being agnostic or unitarian or atheist on you…why then would you push your Christian-right faith on them? You can’t have such a double standard in a society that says that protects its citizens from religious persecution, says abortions are legal, AND values liberty. Those 3 points are not relative. They are absolutes in this nation. Thus the issue of abortion falls into both of those quoted questions in italics above and is why I take the stance I do. My stance may not be popular with many on ‘the right’ where potential supporters would fall and may brand me as a moderate…and make me un-electable should I ever run for office HOWEVER, what I have done is definitively tell you my stance and why, and I stick by it. That is the exact opposite of how most politicians operate and should be far more valued, but it’s not and that is why such a stance is probably unelectable.

The problem with my overall political stance is that it creates a lot of personal heart-ache because my political leanings and philosophy are so foreign to how our country is run. It’s also why I think I am right and why I have no faith in our politicians because I think they’re going about it all wrong – it also leads me to think dimly of our citizenry’s concept of sovereignty and personal involvement in our republic – i.e. they don’t have it and it’s not important to them. Voting the same set/type of charlatan politicians over again and again and then wondering why our country is going to pot is a perfect example. We are getting what we are paying for…would you rather have someone who you know has integrity and may not represent you perfectly, but also doesn’t insult your intelligence and only tells you what you want to hear irrespective of the larger interests of the nation and what it stands for. Unfortunately, people key much more in on their own narrow personal interests and throw the larger picture out. The governance of our nation should not be boiled down to single issue politics no matter how passionately one feels about any given subject. If we didn’t do that as a nation, I believe we could get better people to run for office because they would think they had a chance to win without violating their personal code by having to sell out to win.

Thus, I get so worked up because I disagree fundamentally with how our country is being run. Its being run into the ground with this Republican vs. Democrat fued that is more about party identity and political point scoring than by actual governance. Its also why everyone knows that Congress sucks – obstructionism to the other party is no way to run any government, especially the most important one in the world. Remember, politics is supposed to be about the art of compromise. I think that has been by and large lost in the halls of our nation’s leadership. Instead, we have politics and campaigns that are fueled by sound bites on TV ads and big money donors via shadowy super PACs. I also disagree with the Hamiltonian philosophy that feeds this mindset of ever more centralized and elite control of government. I don’t think corporatocracy and elitism that is what makes America great or competitive…but changing that would mean the current system with those in power at the top would have to abdicate that power voluntarily. Why would they do so when the masses sheepishly vote the same type of politician into office again and again? They are getting away with it election cycle after election cycle with people’s response being to flip flop between two flawed parties. Thus my frustration. The root-issues of the underpinnings of our democracy and its governance are not even on the table to be talked about. Everyone has accepted the broken status quo!

My beef isn’t with any political view/belief. that is way too narrow, this country is way to diverse its in makeup and geography to think that my narrow political views have all the answers. Contrary to what is displayed in DC, one can have passionate beliefs about one topic and then respect someone who has a vastly different opinion than me as long as we both can agree to disagree – we are all still Americans and unless you are a radical, you probably agree with me in general broad strokes on 60 – 80% of things – its just how we get there is different. i.e. – I agree that health care should be accessible and affordable to all Americans, lets talk about how we get there in ways that get to the bottom of why medical care costs so much and is so inefficient and not spout differing party platforms. That’s not good governance or even intelligent reasoning. Nothing I say in theory is un-American or contrary to our basic tenants of life-liberty-and pursuit of happiness that by and large, frame the American dream. It’s just how I go about it isn’t how its done in DC is vastly different than how it could be. I may think it’s the right way, but not enough people actually take a step back and go…why is government so ineffective?

It’s not the debate of abortion vs.right to life or guns vs. guns control, or any other devisive political issue in the country that pits Repub vs. Dem, its how the politics and the media and the voters and the gridlock all combine into our country knowingly wasting time and money while we slowly watch the country I love so much being run into the ditch when it is perfectly preventable. That is why this snake has so much venom.


The Gay ‘Marriage’ Debate

March 26, 2012

I’ve decided to make a new sub-section of this blog – a dedicated “Solutions” tag.  It’s an extension of the awkward solutions tab.  If that tab is no longer there, I  have migrated everything to the solutions tag and deleted it.

So, the first one I’m going to address is gay marriage.  I think it’s an easy fix so that the national discourse can stop the wailing and gnashing of teeth and move on.  We as a freedom-loving people and the government have other fish to fry.

The simple solution:  A compromise.  Allow full rights of the ‘marriage’ of gay couples, just like a heterosexual couple…but it isn’t and can’t be called ‘marriage’.  Call it something else.  ‘Civil Union’ is already in the legal lexicon of an alternative, so why can’t there be another?  My suggestion is a ‘Rainbow Union’.  I don’t care.  Call it “bathysxenophil”  I DON’T care.  Yes, it may be semantics of calling it something and it being the same that it always was pre-solution, but I am attacking the heart of the matter.

The religious right’s main contention is that ‘marriage’ is defined as between a man and woman.  That is what DOMA was for.  So be it.  ‘Bathysxenophil” legally, by title, and by definition is not ‘marrige’ as it is a joining, either spiritual and/or legal between members of the same-sex.

All the gay community has to give up is calling what they want ‘marriage’.

You see the disconnect and why it is so ridiculous to have the ongoing culture war?  It’s merely the use of definitions and language that take away the main arguments of both sides and yet give the other side what it wants at the same time.  It’s not hard.

The implementation doesn’t even have to be top down with a Supreme Court ruling.  Let the states adopt this policy – one by one.  Obviously, the more progressive states would adopt this first, but just like inter-racial marriage that was illegal in the 60’s and is common-place today…times change.  Society is far more accepting of being gay than they were even 10 years ago.

Lastly, I want to call a spade a spade.  The real disconnect and one that is TOTALLY invalid is that some religious organizations contend that gay marriage or being gay is a sin.  Fine, no one is going to change that opinion/conviction.  You are also not going to change people from being gay by calling them a sinner.  They don’t believe they are.  Unless they want to not be gay, which generally comes from this religious conflict – this is not going to change. (and whether a gay person can become straight is a completely separate issue).

To judge people by your own personal faith convictions in a country that was founded in part because of freedom from religious persecution is patently un-American.  I don’t judge you for being baptist…you shouldn’t judge me for being a catholic..and same should apply for being gay.  I personally believe that the act of homo sexuality is a sin, but that is my moral call and I see how other’s would disagree with me.  As long as I’m not forced to be gay, I’m fine.

Faith is always a personal matter and to unwantingly push your beliefs on others is again, un-American.  It’s not your call to make and you do not have the right to do so – your freedom of speech granted in the First Amendment is just that – speech, not action.  Its not your call to make…its God’s; no matter if you think you are acting on his behalf or not.  Nothing gives me the right to impose my personal religious belief structure on others ‘to protect them from themselves’ or because its evil or its a sin.  As long as you aren’t breaking any laws (think Satanists and human sacrifice or other equally horrible atrocities done in the name of religion), your belief in what is sinful or not should not impede others pursuit of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.

It is for these reasons that we have a proud history of the separation of church and state…and why it is a good practice to continue.  Otherwise you have needless and easily solved problems like this.

Character Counts – A Lesson From Tim Tebow

December 2, 2011

Laugh if you want - but then ask yourself how that reflects upon your character

I will be honest – I am a recent convert to liking, believing, and rooting for Tim Tebow; not because of his current surprising success as the new QB for the Broncos, but because I have learned more about who he is and what Tebow believes in…and understanding where that success comes from.  I want to share that understanding.

This goes beyond the fact that he is a devout Christian (but that fact certainly helps since J.C. is a pretty good role model), beyond the fact that he is inspiring his team to win because of his leadership and example, even beyond the fact that he is the shiny example of all things right.

Even better, many claim he isn’t even good enough to be a professional quarterback in the NFL.

What most people do not get is that Tim Tebow is a man of deep, deep character – and that is THE foundation for himself and hence, his success.  Everything else comes from it.  In part, this comes from his faith, but it comes from other things like values instilled by his upbringing and his life experiences as well.  He lives the Boy Scout Law – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.  Everything stems from this foundation of character. 

He is the guy you want your daughters to marry and your sons to be.  You may publicly mock him and snicker at my line, but deep down you know I’m right.   He is not bothered about you mocking him or his faith through ‘tebowing’.  He speaks through his actions and determines himself based upon his own personal character, not others’ opinions of himself.  That is a core tenant of why he is successful and determines his own destiny.  For example – he is not a victim of his own hubris.  Look at his counterparts who have shot  themselves in the leg, commited vehicular manslaughter, chased after Pittsburgh jail-bait, funded dog fighting rings, and got off of murder raps because the ‘glove didn’t fit’.  Guilty or not, putting yourself and the decisions that led to those situations speak of a failing of character.  Even worse,  those men were role-models so their perils are that much worse as their example is magnified.  People of character understand the unsaid social contract of being a role-model and responsibility therein.  I am sure that Tebow does not take that responsibility lightly.

This is normally a political blog, so here is the angle:  Our country is in such dire straights BECAUSE our politicians generally do not make the same ‘for the good of the country’ type of choices that I know Tim Tebow would make because they lack character.  They simply can’t make the tough decisions and then they externalize and make excuses as to why.  This transcends party, personal politics, ideology, or constituency.  Just look at the ‘front-runner’ crop of Republican presidential candidates – one of whom I will unfortunately have to vote for (as it will be the choice between a lesser of two evils).  All these candidates have problems in electability because at their core, they have character issues that lead to flip-flopping, sexual affairs, influence pedaling, and a general sense of the sleazy politician who we can’t exactly pin down.   Transversely, Chris Christie has far more character – and hence why so many wanted him to run even if they didn’t know that was the core to their reasoning.  This is also why I like Ron Paul more than any of the other candidates even though I know he will never get to front runner status and be a real contender.  In part, his character threatens the corrupt establishment.  I believe what he is saying even if I do not agree with everything he says.  I also know he would be able to make the difficult choices that only a person of character can make. 

Our politicians, media, and society in general lacks the necessary character for America to live up to the values our Founding Fathers and previous generations instilled into the fabric of this nation.  By going astray,we now find ourselves in dire straights as a nation.  We reap what we sow due to malignant values that many in our society follow:  get-rich-quick, keeping-up-with-the-jonses, hollywood celebrity, etc; they all reflect a lack of good personal character that then leads to a lack of societal character.

To John Elway’s chagrin, Tim Tebow can lead ‘real’ NFL players not because he is the best at his position but because there are 10 other guys on the field who make the team larger than its individual parts.  It is leadership creating synergy.  This is the reason why the Colts are a completely different team without Peyton Manning.  Yes, his hall-of-fame quarterbacking is key, but his leadership is just as important.    Each man WILLINGLY follows Tebow’s (or Manning’s) outstanding example and gives their fullest because his character inspires them to be better and have more character themselves by working harder and focusing on the team rather than themselves.  That then leads to personal success – so it creates a positive cycle and reinforces itself.  They do better, are better men for it, and then they want to be even better.  Tebow is a proactive, hard-working guy who believes in himself and those around him.  Through that, the Broncos have manufactured wins AS A TEAM where they should have lost; and in the process, have done far more than they each could individually.  Independence is not the extreme virtue, interdependence is.  Republicans and Democrats should take note of that fact.

The winning streak will end as they always do, but it does not change the fundamental character of the person driving the change.  Tebow said it best when he gave the pep talk before the Bronco’s last win:

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another – Proverbs 27:17

Tourniquets and Feces

July 15, 2011
The debt ceiling debate – a false choice fostered by Republicans

He’s Going To Turn Green Next!

 I have opined at length in the previous article and I felt it was way too scattered and didn’t drill down to the point, so I crafted this post to refine it.

 The bottom line is that the Republicans are wrong on this one.  I philosophically agree with their stance on containing big government, but this is not the way you go about it AND they are showing the part of the problem in Washington by being more concerned with politics than what is best for our country.  This is due to:

 1)      Raising the debt ceiling is not a question.  It must be done, it is a foregone conclusion.  To state that raising the debt ceiling itself is a compromise is a false premise.  The consequences of not raising the ceiling are catastrophic and is not an option, hence what they are offering is not a compromise and understandably something the Democrats can not agrree to.  If you disagree with me about what a default would mean, just read a couple of articles from the Washington Post, New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal.  It is very, very bad and unnecessary.

 2)      Which leads us to point #2.  The definition of compromise is that both sides give up things they want to meet in the middle.  You aren’t 100% happy with the end result, but you can live with it and the deal moves forward.  The Democrats offered up their sacred cow of entitlement cuts, the Republicans must offer up their sacred cow of raising taxes. 

3)      Raising those taxes isn’t on middle class or the poor.  It’s on the wealthy and on corporations, both in explicit raises and loophole closures.  Those guys have been getting breaks for years, it is only fair that they pay their fair share.

 4)      It is a false statement to then claim that the Democrats are raising taxes on ‘job creators’.  That is BS because if these ‘job creators’ really needed or wanted to create more jobs, they could.  Small business entrepreneurs are who are getting crunched – and those are the guy who DO hire employees and shouldn’t have their taxes raised.  I’m not saying raise taxes on them.  Large companies have been making record profits of late – they are FLUSH with cash.  They have plenty of money to reinvest in their companies, expand business, and hence hire more employees.  They don’t not because they can’t but because they won’t due to ‘uncertainty in the market’.  If they put their money where their mouth was and expanded their business, they would put more people to work, stabilize local economies, and add more money to government coffers via additional taxes; helping government revenue figures as well. It would create a virtuous cycle instead of a downward spiral, but it is an exercise in the chicken or the egg that no one can force big business to make. 

 5)      Transversely, we should also help small business out any way we reasonably can, even if it means spending money because the return will be far greater than the investment.

 6)       The exercise is as simple as only raising taxes on wealthy individuals and on medium and large companies, but exempt small business (places with 50 employees or less).  Also, redefine wealthy.  The current tax system classifies my father in law as wealthy, but he is simply well-to-do, upper middle class.  However, he has a neighbor who while is not filthy rich, he is wealthy and can afford more taxes because in part, his expenditures have less bang for the buck by having large sums of dollars go into the hands of a certain expensive enterprises.   The neighbor pisses away hundreds of thousands of dollars on unneeded prize llamas and wings to an already huge house in addition to already having two other homes.  The money doesn’t trickle as far or into as many places in the economy.  I am not saying he doesn’t have a right to do this; what I am saying is that he can afford to be taxed more because raising his taxes is not going to negatively impact the economy.  On the other hand, I see my father-in-law spending money in the real economy, just like the rest of us.  He has a budget, retirement, and real financial concerns.  The only difference between him and the average American is that he makes more money, but not to the point where his spending is luxurious, profligate, or wasteful.  He isn’t the one you tax; instead it is his neighbor, Lady Gaga, and the Wall Street bankers are they who you raise taxes on.  Besides, letting my father-in-law keep some of his money instead of going to the tax collector is more efficient.  It is more efficiently spent back into the economy by him directly rather than wasteful, more centralized government control.  Thus the line of proposed taxes on ‘the rich’ is not $250K.  I don’t know if its $350K or $500K or $1MM, but it is somewhere between what my father-in-law earns and what his neighbor makes.

 7)      Given dedicated time on the issue, the size and scope of government could be cut way back while also finding the common-sense and fair places where taxes can be raised.  There are so many loopholes and people and institutions that take advantage of the tax code that it needs reform to reduce the overall tax rate while actually raising revenue.  Savers should be rewarded and not punished for their long-term outlook

 8)       On the other side of the house, the government is so large and has so much fraud, waste, and abuse in it, that there are plenty of ways to cut government across the board, save hundreds of billions of dollars, and get the same result because government becomes more efficient.  ABUSE:  How many times have you heard of overpaid, lazy government workers who do not fear for their jobs?  Fire those people, pay their replacement a fair wage, and expect more out of them.  If not, fire them too.  Real unemployment is somewhere around 16.5%.  WASTE:  How many times have you heard people in government spend money because it’s there to spend?  If they don’t use it, they lose it.  It is that mentality of ‘other people’s money’ that leads to the waste.  Break that cycle through alternative incentives – possibly shared monetary compensation for efficiency.  FRAUD:  How many people scam the federal government on rigging their welfare, healthcare, and other forms of government assistance to both the states and individuals?  Root those people out, stop the bleeding of money, and throw those people into jail to show the rest of the cheats a lesson.

 9)      If anyone is serious about reigning in government AND getting the country’s fiscal house in order, they know that a 4 trillion figure in deficit spending cuts is just the beginning.  Anything less that is proposed is an insult when $4 trillion in cuts is on the table.  I believe the President because of the mantle that he has assumed in trying to solve this problem.  I do not believe the Republicans.  The Republicans don’t want to give the President the political advantage of having a solution to make real inroads into solving this problem.  Like they say, he owns the economy.  Republicans are more worried about politics than what is right for the country, thus they wouldn’t want the President to get the credit since he owns the economy for good just like he would for the bad. 

 10)    Lastly, a grand bargain of $4 trillion dollars in cuts over 10 years is a great start to getting the country’s debt problem in order, but it is just the beginning.  That still means deficit spending, just slowing the growth of it.  To get to a budget that actually has money left over at the end to pay down the national debt means you have to have cuts to spending programs AND you will have to raise taxes.  THERE. IS. NO. OTHER. WAY.  We have already gone too far down the path of fiscal irresponsibility to only have cuts.  We need both.  Anyone who tells you either is not looking at the long term trend nor are being honest with you.  As we have seen, taxes can be cut, but not until the books are back in the black.  There is nothing saying taxes increases have to be for perpetuity.

  I am a true libertarian, I am told in the auspices of Jeffersonian Liberalism.  I am a conservative, but not a Republican, and certainly not a partisan fool.  It is better to ‘tear the band-aid off and eat your peas’ now, then do it later when the country is in a true survival situation (because this is an optional crisis) and the analogy shifts to applying a tourniquet and eating your own feces…

– G.S.

A Game of Chicken

July 13, 2011


I will take a break from my ‘solutions’ series and interject an article about the current politics of the nation and the game of Chicken that quite frankly, my Republican friends are playing.  Yes, you heard me right, I am siding with the Democrats on this one, but just in political substance, not policy.

You see my fellow citizens, the Republicans are giving a false choice to you.  They say that their ‘compromise’ is the raising of the debt ceiling at all.    They will raise the debt ceiling and the Democrats have to enact entitlement program cuts.  Taxes per Grover Norquist are OFF THE TABLE for the Republicans.  That is a red-herring fallacy.

Not raising the debt ceiling is not an option.  It has to be done because there isn’t any time left to make a problem that would truly stem the tide of rising costs.  They haven’t done the legwork to truly figure out how to pare the federal government down without ripping the country apart since its presence is felt everywhere.  I agree it needs to be done, but you don’t cut out cancer with a broadsword, you use a laser scalpel.  Since the Republicans have frittered away the MONTHS of time that they had where they could have made such a plan, they now posit the untenable position of simply targeting entitlement programs and not the huge amount of fraud, waste, abuse, cronyism, and special interests that actually make government so large, expensive, and inefficient.

Not raising the debt ceiling is also not an option because of the  completely unnecessary financial and economic crisis that would descend upon this country.  We saw it before in 2008 – the markets are all a confidence game.  You lose confidence and the bond-holders go running.  Even if it is voluntary, the costs to further debts in the future due to rising interest rates would be long-term and real.  It would cost more to borrow money.  It will even sit worse with the electorate if the US pays its debt holders first (China) and doesn’t send Grandma her Social Security check.  For political reasons of voter wrath, there is no way that a politician thinks that is a good way to get re-elected.

Scarily, it is the President that is actually showing leadership on this one.  He recognizes what compromise is and if people are serious about curbing national debt, then they’ll take the current opportunity to take a real chunk out of future spending.  he honestly proposed touching liberal third rail issues and give on them and expected the Republicans to do the same.  I believe he is generally misguided in what he thinks is best for the country, but he looks like a centrist who appeals to centrist nature of the country more than the Republicans who truly believe are posturing at this point.  I honestly do not believe the Republicans are sincere on wanting to really make the best effort possible of curbing debt because we have dug a hole that is way too deep for ourselves as a nation to not have tax increases and even reasonably expect us to get out of this mess.  It is a combination of loyalty to Grover Norquist and his pledge for fear of what a negative endorsement will do, and it is also due to the fact that a failure on the President’s part is good for them.  Maybe so, but it’s certainly not good for the country – just like a default scare or wasting a bunch of time on a scare good for the country.  There are plenty of problems to solve – unemployment, energy, trade deficits, etc and this is basically all Washington has done for months.  Absolutely pathetic.

Also, don’t tell me that raising taxes and closing loopholes on the riches of Americans and corporations will hinder growth.  Major companies are reaping record profits and are sitting on the cash.  They are not expanding their businesses or re-investing it.  They claim uncertainty and weakness in the markets…but what comes first, the chicken or the egg?  People won’t feel good about the economy or spend money if they continue to see layoffs.  BUT, if a company took some of the those record profits and reinvested into a local economy and opened up a new division…  The same argument can be said for the richest of Americans as well.   They as a percentage of income pay less than the average American.  There is a point where their wealth doesn’t efficiently go back into the economy.  For every yacht that a fortune 500 company CEO owns, how much could the livable wage be raised for the rank and file hourly workers making $10 an hour whose empire is based upon their work.  You know that $10 an hour is not a livable wage, so those people have to get a second (or third job) sometimes.  Undue taxation for wealth-creators is un-American, but also is not paying your fair share back to a system that you have greatly benefited from while also semi-victimizing the same people who enable your empire.  I’m the furthest from a socialist that you’ll find, but this is a country based upon freedom and having to work 80+ hours a week just to scrape by at $10 an hour is just a form of economic bondage and is also un-American.  There has to be a balance and asking the most vulnerable in our society to have cuts to the programs that help support them while not asking the richest of institutions and individuals to give up a dime is simply wrong on top of bad policy and economic fantasy.

Thus, I propose finding that line where a business is no longer small and an individual ‘has more money than they know what to do with’.  At that point and higher, that is where you raise taxes.  You are getting the most economic bang for the buck as you are not hindering the real engines of economic growth – small business, but you are also not taking bread out of the mouths of people who actually put the money back into the economy versus just pissing it away of opulent, foreign-made luxury items.

So, with all that said, you can see that I am yet again proud of my libertarian stance.  Its shit like this that makes me glad I am not a Republican.  I disagree with Democrats philosophically in most ways, but they make the sound and correct argument in this case. 

Lets just say the US does default and the government has to pick and choose what obligations it pays.  How will it look to the voters (especially the most active block – seniors) when we dutifully make our interest payments to the Chinese, but Grandma’s social security check doesn’t go out in time?  The Republicans would get blamed and they’d get washed out in the tide of the 2012 election, Obama would get re-elected, and then the country would be set up for even worse things to come with an emboldened and empowered Democratic legislative and executive branch.

I weep for my country and the lack of leadership that we have.  I’d be kicking somebody’s ass if I was the President.  It would be time to pull out the weapons-grade, Ross Perot style charts and insultingly lucid Jon Stewart interviews that show all the holes and fallacies in the opponent’s argument.

–  G.S.

Solution 1B) Entitlement Reform – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

July 6, 2011

"Well now your back's going to hurt!"

So here is where the hard part begins when I specifically start talking about entitlements.  Before I begin on how to actually fix them, I must point out two oxymoronic aspects of entitlements in general.  The first is that everybody is generally for a getting the nation’s fiscal house in order by fixing the budget and the deficit.  Everyone generally knows that the government spends too much, even if it admittedly does a poor job at collecting taxes from entities that should be paying them.  Secondly, everyone generally also knows that it is the big three entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) are really what imperils our nation fiscally.  The liabilities in the future for the same level of care and money provided to more and more aging baby boomers is completely unsustainable.  Why then, does everyone know these two facts but just continue to stick their head in the sand?  The longer you wait, the worse the problem will get!

With that set of observations out of the way, I am prepared to tell you the hard, ugly truth about entitlements.  It is not meant to be offensive, critical, or an attack.  This is simply the blatant truth.

Entitlements create the false choice of promising something this nation, as great as it is, cannot deliver.  Every year, we spend more and more money that we do not actually have on an elderly population that has a disproportionate sway on government (because they actually vote unlike other demographic groups – but good for them!) and that money/healthcare is seen as a something the elderly population is entitled to collect.  That money goes to a generally unproductive strata of society that was over-promised a system of support in their waning years and underpaid into it due to bad government programs and policies of the past.  It hurts to say it but its true.  Its also highly unpopular and not fair to just pull the plug on Grandma.  Meanwhile, that same money that is keeping her alive but giving her years of sub-standard quality of life standards at a retirement home could have been reinvested in education, energy development, infrastructure, or co-opting domestic business development; all things that yield a return on the money spent.  Outside the fact that some of the money is spent outright on consumption in this consumption-drive economy, money spent on entitlements just goes up in smoke .  This is not to say that we leave the elderly on the streets, but it is a painful amount of federal and state monies being spent on the past, not the future.

The problem and difficulty with entitlements is that it is really, really easy to promise something that was cheap 40 years ago, but really hard to pay for it today or claw it back when the expenses have greatly gone up.  The rules have changed.  People are living longer, more complex medical procedures cost more and then they keep people alive longer as a form of double whammy.   A great example of how things have gone awry is the Social Security retirement age.  Social Security benefit ages have not risen as fast as life-expectancy in this country.  FDR’s administration originally designed it with an age bracket in mind that most Americans never lived to see.  Many paid into the system, but didn’t collect from it.  That is how it was sustainable.   Society today is also far more likely to ship parents and grandparents off to the expense of a home rather than have the ‘burden’ of them living with family once they get too old to take care of themselves.  Hence, the tax-payers pay for the greater cost of care than the cheaper alternative of the elderly staying with family…even if further subsistence payments were available for family-based care.

The same general principle can be applied to health-care for the poor.  “It’s not my money, it’s the governments so why do I care?”  Well it is your money in a very direct sense every April 15th.   Indigent care, unneeded ER visits, and other forms of “disinvested” spending are ways that great sums of money are wasted.  And that is a problem my friends – we spend way too much money to get substandard results of an impoverished elderly class, expensive health-care, and a culture of dependency in welfare.

My statements do not mean that the poor should die in the streets, that the elderly should just hurry up or die, or that you have to pass a ‘contributing to society test’ in order to get help should you fall on hard times.  My statements are aimed at how we strive for noble social goals to take care of our most vulnerable citizens and we yer fail both them and our future citizenry grandly by continuing to contribute to the fraud, waste, and abuse of the current system.  Good enough just won’t cut it much longer.

The Solution(s) –They are actually very hard, but amazingly simple.

1) The first and the greatest is the solution I proposed to make medical care cheaper and more effective from the previous article.  By following that program, you lower everyone’s costs and it makes it a lot cheaper to care for the elderly, the poor, and everyone in between.  That right there has a direct effect on how wealthy a person actually is from the social security check when only a fraction (instead of 2/3rds) goes to prescription, co-pays, and medical charges.  And obviously, cheaper healthcare means cheaper Medicare and Medicaid costs.

Such reforms only get us treading water however.  There are still too many promises and IOUs in the accounts of these programs.  Instead of making a patch that will last for 25 – 30 years, like the US did in  1983 for Social Security before it needs to get fixed again, lets put the problems to bed once and for all.

2) Social Security:  Raise the retirement age.  Early retirement 64-66.  Standard retirement 66-70.  Delayed retirement 72-74.  Something like that.  I purposefully put a range in as this is nt supposed to be hard and fast, but give you an idea of what I’m thinking.  You see, there is some misconception in this country that you work for X years and then you don’t have to anymore.  THE WORLD DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY IF YOU DON’T PROACTIVELY SAVE FOR THAT DAY.  Solely depending upon social security is what keeps over 40% of our elderly citizens out of poverty…and even then it’s not like they have a lot of money to work with.  This country needs to get off the mindset that someone will be there to take care of you, so you don’t have to make financial sacrifices now in the form of an IRA or a 401(k) to ensure your financial security in the future.  Too few people save and its the savers who get punished by low interest rates (like today’s environment) or possibly later.  All it will take is Congress’s writ and things like ROTH IRAs could be taxed despite already being taxed as regular income when the money was deposited.  Platitudes like ‘shared responsibility’ and ‘helping your fellow American’ are all to easily thrown out when times are depression level tough and money has to be raised.  While this is mere conjecture, look at the current batch of charlatans in Congress, look yourself in the mirror, and try to lie to yourself and say they wouldn’t do it today if push comes to shove.

Lastly, if you’re one of the lucky few who have a retirement program, good for you…but you are in a dwindling minority.

3)  Social Security:  After a certain lifetime income, benefits decrease until they are gone altogether.  Call it a ‘success tax’ if you will.  This program doesn’t affect the middle class or even the well-to-do, but the actual truly wealthy people in this nation who have millions in brokerage accounts, have yachts, a home in the Hamptons, and in retirement, could maintain a middle class existence on the interest payments from their assets alone.  These guys don’t need the help of the American tax-payer.  Yes, they paid into a system they never get to benefit from…but they did benefit – from ree market, American style capitalism.  Their success, their profits, come from the people whose hard work made them money and their wages bought their products.  They directly and indirectly benefitted from people who were monetarily less successful than them but buoyed their success.

4)  Medicare:  Make the free market the cost standard – not the other way around.  Today everything is based upon what Medicare bills.  In my solution from the previous article, it is the market…and that is what medicare pays.  It is just another way to dampen bubbles and pay fairly for services as Medicare would still be a large buying block of patients in any market.  The rest of solution 1 addresses the directly reduction of Medicare costs.

5) Medicaid as a subset of the welfare system:  It’s the carrot or the stick.  The truly poor, helpless, underaged, and defenseless sectors of society need to be protected no matter what, no strings attached.  Solution 1 at least makes it cheaper.  However, there is a portion of the populace that abuses the system, to include their health care.  They choose to be ‘poor’ because it actually enriches them.  Why work at a crappy job, make $400 a week and have to pay food, rent, day-care, and health insurance costs and not have ends meet because you are lazy and have no other opportunities for employment other than working at a McDonalds when instead you can be on welfare, do nothing, and get food stamps, WIC, child-based welfare checks, and a Medicaid card?  Then you may only get a check for $300 a week, but its all discretionary as the government pays the rest of your bills?  A self-interested person would of course choose the second option, especially if they have no qualms of not contributing to society.  The welfare state for the unworthy and the willingness to take advantage of it are both un-American and I take a very dim view.  We need both the carrot and the stick.  Those who can’t pass drug tests, keep jobs, and generally be contributing members of society despite being able-bodied need to be cut off.  It is not government’s responsibility to subsidize their sloth.  However, if we are to take such a hard approach, we must have a carrot as well.  Workers must be given a living wage.  This is a combination in  a raise in minimum wage, a reduction in costs of life’s necessities where possible (food, energy, etc – I’ll cover in another segment), and more investment in social services that teach job skills, place jobs, and dust people off and get them back on their feet.  If they are willing to work hard and contribute, then the welfare system is working how it should.  This section was much larger than just Medicaid, but that program is a subset of a much larger issue that is hard to separate Medicaid from, so I covered the major points while admittedly going off topic.

Finally, I don’t admit to having all the answers.  I probably have more in my head and there are more out there.  This article was designed to give you some specific solutions, but also take 3 steps back and evaluate entitlements and how they are viewed in general.  If you can come at them from a fiscally sustainable obligation that is fair while not stealing from the future of the next generation of Americans, then you’ve arrived at the same conclusions I have.

– G.S.

Congress = Off Kilter Moral Compass

June 7, 2011

Being a pugilistic dick has its consequences when you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar - no one else gives you any quarter either

I could rant and rave about good ‘ol dis-Honorable Representative Anthony Weiner (you couldn’t make this up folks!) went from lies to cries, but I won’t.  It pleases me to see a liberal blow-hard fall, and fall hard all for lame choices that didn’t even get him laid…but that is a partisan angle and not what I’m trying to get at, as juicily scrumptious as it is.

There are two types of corruption – one more moral and the other more ethical.  Ethically, you have the Charles Rangels, Barney Franks, and the Tom Delays of the world who bend then break rules for their own financial gain…be it outright money laundering or cut-rate deals for their gay partner.  That’s bad stuff, and could evoke its own article from me, but I’m interested in the guys who are thinking with the wrong head.

Those would be:  Anthony Weiner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, John Edwards,  Mark Sanford, JFK, and many, many others who are just a list of recent or infamous names of politicians who thought they could get away with it and so they strayed despite the possible consequences to the body of work they’ve worked hard for their whole lives to establish.  Even a paragon like Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t resist having multiple affairs with multiple women.

Why is this?  Two reasons.

I call the first the ‘second rule of modern politics – power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

(the first rule by the way is that job #1 for the modern politician is to get re-elected rather than actually govern).

The other reason generally has to do with attractive young ladies who lack the self-respect they should have.

When you mix the two, you have a politician who thinks he is above the rules everyone else has to play by….  i can hear the thought process now:

“Have occasional sex with the ONE woman I’m married to who doesn’t put out anymore because she knows she’s got me?   Pffaah!  Why do that when I have all these hot twenty-something interns fawning over me?  They don’t call it sleeping your way to the top for a reason…its good to be on ‘top’!  Mwahahahahah”

You’d think this analogy would especially apply to Ah-nuld, but somewhere he confused what was ‘hot’.

In any case, these guys are not used to someone telling them ‘no’.  When the one person in their life who can say ‘no’ does because she is your wife and knows you better than anyone else; and possibly knew you before you were ‘powerful’…she is now immune from your prowess..she knows the man, not the myth.  Well, when she has a headache, Mr. powerful eventually can’t take it any more and the slippery slope starts.  At first it’s just flirting over cocktail drinks…but then the dopamine gets kicking in that male head of theirs and they get swept up, making one poor decision after another.  It may take a while, but its the classic story.  Cheat a little.  Cheat a lot.  Get caught.  Deny and Lie.  Come clean…and most likely with your political career in tatters.

What’s the most interesting part about this is the current story is the fact that Mr. Weiner only had virtual relationships.  Given time, it is not unreasonable to believe he’d  have gone further, but that is just speculation…you think the guy would be cut some slack..but the fact that he’s such a dick to people he doesn’t like doesn’t help him.

Bottom line:  these guys aren’t sorry.  They’re just sorry they got caught.  They have a brain, they must be somewhat capable if they were elected to office (no comment), and they have logic, reason, and the fear of hungry divorce lawyers carving them up all on their side…but they. just. can’t. do. it….  The supple young body  who is interested is just too irresistible.

Oh yeah – and she doesn’t want you for good looks or charm.  She wants you for your money (think Anna Nicole) or because she is a woman and she has her own inexplicably illogical biological reason to get in bed with an old dude twice her age.  In part, it is instinct that attracts her to the alpha male of the pack…the one in power… and who evinces more power than a U.S. Congressman, the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, or the President of the United States?

In the end, its just one more example of how broken our government is.  I’ve already washed my hands of most all of them.  How many more have their eyes on a pair of boobs rather than the sad state of this country and just haven’t been caught?  There are always more.  This is just another reason to ‘drain the swamp’ on both sides of the aisle.

An elite political class forgets how to lead just like its constituency forgets to hold it accountable.

– G.S.