Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Nation of Cowards

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

That's what Attorney General Eric Holder called America earlier this year, "A nation of cowards." Do you agree?

Is there an American political topic that is more talked about, more beaten to death, than race relations? The race card is the Democrats' hole card, played as needed to obfuscate real issues that need public debate. Tawana Brawley was an example. BTW, did you know that her lawyer was disbarred for treating poor clients badly? (You mean clients like Ms. Brawley but without national notoriety?)

"Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we average Americans simply do not talk enough with each other about race...". -- Eric Holder

"I think it's fair to say that if I'd been advising my attorney general, we would have used different words." -- Barack Obama

But you're his BOSS, Barry. Gotta agree with the prez on this one, though. I even might have used the words "race-baiting coward", but that's just me.

* * * * *

Eric Holder's stewardship of the DoJ is open to some question. He doesn't want to prosecute Black Panthers who intimidated voters this year. I don't understand that so I impute nefarious race-baiting cowardly motives to what might be a simple matter of DoJ resource conservation. From here, it looks like Eric being a judge rather than an Attorney General. Or maybe that coward thing. Hey, those BPs had big sticks and, y'know, a guy could get hurt if had to stand up to big guys like that.

He dismissed the indictment of ex-AK gov Ted Stevens, the indictment that successfully convicted him of corruption charges, in order to avoid the potential stain of prosecutorial misconduct. He was convicted, Eric. Let the court decide if it was misconduct or not. You don't have to be Stevens' judge either. Eric cowardly imposed his values on your judicial system when he didn't like the system's results.

Today the murder trials of five Blackwater employees were thrown out. Turns out the DoJ promised them immunity for their statements, then relied on the statements in their prosecutions. I am NOT for letting murderers (if that's what they are) go but I AM for the government keeping its word. Eric knew all this but unlike in the Stevens case, he said nothing. Coward. The one guy who ratted out his fellow Blackwater-ites in return for a plea deal is probably wondering when his number will come up. Bad idea, ratting out guys with lots of guns. Nice touch, Eric. Gonna keep him locked up now? Coward.

Eric isn't a big fan of waterboarding, either. Well, who is? Certainly not the three guys the US has used that technique on. Eric might change his mind if it was his life on the line and not yours, I suspect. That's what cowards do, sell out their principles. Your life is expendable in his zeal for justice. His isn't, I speculate, because he's special... him being the AG and all, and you're not.

* * * * *

EricH is agenda-driven while the DoJ is supposed to be JUSTICE-driven. Thus the J in their name. Rather than list his agendas (agendae?) and risk missing a few, I'll just summarize them by saying his are anti-you and serve only to advance his personal political best interests.

Eric represented a big Swiss bank (UBS) in the private sector. I don't blame him for that. Money is money and banks, as bank robber Willie Sutton noted, are where the money is. As AG, when UBS was accused of American tax fraud Eric nobly recused himself from involvement in the prosecution, THEN... wait for it... held private meetings with the Swiss Minister of Justice. Agenda-driven? More like client-driven, but the AG's only client is... you. Guess he forgot.

* * * * *

I really can't close today without mentioning GMAC again. They make loans, right? Congress converted them to kinda-like-a-bank status in order to give them $13.5 bil in free money. Your money, true, but free to the gummint. Yesterday they gave GMAC another $3.8 bil. So, $17.3 bil and what did American taxpayers get in return? Some preferred stock that is supposed to pay 8%. The US now owns 56.3% of GMAC and all of GM and Chrysler.

GMAC, GM and Chrysler have one thing in common. They are victims of their own decisions and the gummint has chosen them, and a few others, to become captive quasi-gummint organizations, propped up (perhaps indefinitely) by capital infusions from... YOU. Is that really what you had in mind, gummint ownership of what used to be the biggest private entities in America?

* * * * *

Neither a borrower, nor a lender, be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. -- William Shakespeare

* * * * *

Happy New Year, good and faithful readers.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Health Care, Bribes and JanieN

We tax all the others and pass the savings on to you

I can't write my end-of-year column yet. No one knows yet what's going to happen with the health care bill but what a farce it's been so far.

The health care bill (now the health insurance bill) is in a lot of trouble. Turns out that the Dems have had to bribe at least a few of their own in order to get their vote. $300 mil for Dem Sen. Mary Landreiu's Lousiana, complete exemption from Medicaid increases forever for Dem. Sen Ben Nelson's Nebraskans. Political hardball: Nelson says he will vote for the bill only if "nothing's changed".

This even irritates the NY Times, according to an editorial. Federally-subsidized vote-buying, they call it. Some doofus Dem strategist named Bob Shrum has the onerous job of trying to sell this as everyday politics, American style. I'm tempted to say "Don't believe it" but I already know you don't. No one does.

Don't get me wrong here. They would have bribed any Repub senators they needed to but they refused them admission to the talks in the first place. So it's all Dems all the time for this one. Stand by for a ram.

* * * * *

I've done a lot of international traveling over the past eight years or so, beginning in October, 2001, a month after the 9/11 attacks. I've had to endure everything you've gone through but probably a lot more times. I've missed flights and endured indignities that I couldn't have imagined beforehand. Still, I tried to grin and bear it because it was for the greater good. So did you. Now it turns out that Homeland Security failed in every detail regarding this week's terror attack on an American aircraft.

Janet Napolitano and her TSA employees have pulled me aside (no criminal record, no threats, nothing to indicate why) but they let a guy board who was on the terror watch list AND had been reported as a terror threat by his own father! Hey, JanieN!!! How's that $44 bil budget working for you? Need some more?

JanieN had the temerity to tell CNN (thus you and me) about this near-disaster that
"The system worked." Oh, really, Janie? Then she told NBC it hadn't. She was for the system before she was against it. Hello, John Kerry.

JanieN thinks that "disgruntled" military vets might be a terror threat. I'm a vet and I'm hardly ever gruntled so that must include me, by definition. But cancel the visa of
this guy after they had been put on notice, or even at least add him to the no-fly list? Well, no. It might offend some sensibilities, maybe even cost a political point or two. Might cost a couple hundred lives, too, but so?
* * * * *

JanieN doesn't like the term "terror attacks", either. Way too insensitive. She likes "man-caused disasters". You know, like global warming, distant and hard to define and therefore hard to assign responsibility for while still being urgent enough to throw money at. No use in telling us what our real risk factor might be.
"I referred to man-caused disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur."

Ummm, would one of those risks be
known terror threats being allowed to board flights to the US? We weren't prepared for that even though it had happened before and we knew about it this time? Hey, Janie! When did that stop being your responsibility? My kid could have gotten that one right.

It doesn't matter who your employer is, hasn't there always been someone around who was completely ignorant of what they were being paid to do? In government, they usually get kicked upstairs. Now we have a lawyer-politician in charge of Homeland Security, reporting to a guy whose biggest risk before becoming president was deciding to vote "Present" rather than yea or nay. Did we really imagine that it would be different with them?

* * * * *

"Nonetheless, to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it's been across the Canadian border. There are real issues there."

Janet Napolitano

* * * * *

"Can't anyone here play this game?"

Casey Stengel

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Story - The Original

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found May and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed as what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

From Matthew 1:18-2:12

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place this way. When his mother had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so has it been written by the prophet: "And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel."

Then Herod secretly call for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage."

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Too good to be true? To some, I suppose. To good to have happened? No, it really did happen. I believe.
Merry Christmas, good and faithful readers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Universal health care -- except for women

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

New gummint study yesterday tells women to forego mammograms before age 50 and then get them, oh, maybe every couple of years or so. You know, if you really want to.

That's not the American Cancer Society saying that, mind you, it's the gummint. There are already spokesweasels mentioning that, btw, it's still OK to get earlier mammograms but... wait for it... now they may not be covered by your health insurance plan. Universal health care, except for women.

Brings us in line with Canada, we hear today. That's what you wanted, right? To be like Canada? Canada, where sick people come to the US for treatment because they can get treated now and not a year from now. That Canada.

And say, about those self-exams? Nah ladies, don't worry your sweet little heads about those either. No, really. Because, y'know, sometimes they're wrong and that can be really inconvenient and hurty.

And, besides, they can cost your insurance company some money, checking you out and all. Sure, sometimes they're right, too, but in the health insurance industry it's only the bottom line that counts. Your life? Don't mean nothin' to the bottom line. Just ask the gummint. It's healing that costs money, not death.

WARNING -- Anecdote follows:

My darlin' wife found her breast cancer by means of a self-exam. No, you can't draw broad conclusions from anecdotes, much as politicians want you to believe otherwise. But you can tell them to others and say what they mean to YOU. In her case, it means that she's going to live. What else do you need to know about breast self-exams?

End of anecdote.

There are lots of places to learn about breast and other cancers. The American Cancer Society is one of them, at . A superb source of information about breast cancer is the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation at . If you or someone close to you is threatened by cancer, or if you just want to know more and be more aware, those are good places to start.

There don't need to be death panels in the proposed health care legislation as long as the gummint keeps telling you to ignore those darn pesky lumps, unexplained bleeding and pain where you never had pain before. It's the ostrich approach. Maybe they'll go away... and maybe they won't.

Please, please, please. Do your self-exams and get your mammograms regularly. They are acts of love.

* * * * *

You are not your circumstances. You are your possibilities.
Oprah Winfrey

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cancer Lessons -- Your Contributions Invited

My darlin' wife is enjoying a gratifying recovery from breast cancer. It is her second experience with a very threatening disease. Her first was in 1996, a different cancer. Back then she was given "less than sixty days to live." That was 13 years ago. It's a fact. Take whatever you need from it.

I have reflected on what I would pass along to others going through the cancer experience. She's out of town and I haven't collaborated with her about this so she may correct any or all of my meanderings. My fears and thoughts are those of a loving husband. Others are invited to share their experience, strength and hope here as either a patient or a support person.

1. It is a very rough and scary experience and sometimes it hurts. BUT... you can survive it and come through on the other side smiling. Smiling. It just doesn't always feel like it. No kidding. You really can do it.

2. Do what you can to reduce your personal cancer risk. That includes
  • Don't smoke
  • Avoid over-exposure to the sun and tanning booths. My mom didn't.
  • Be aware of your own body and pay attention to changes
  • Ladies and men, do your self exams
3. Don't let your doc put you off with "It's probably nothing". The same for your own denial. It doesn't matter if your dad or mom never had cancer. They're not you and you simply don't know enough to have an informed opinion. If you suspect that something's wrong have it thoroughly checked out. Second opinions are good... get 'em.

4. Take the meds your docs prescribe. If you insist on supplementing with non-traditional medicine, do it alongside your prescribed treatment, not instead of it, and keep your doc informed about what you're doing.

5. Go all the way with your treatments, don't stop no matter how much you want to

6. Don't deny yourself familiar pleasures along the way. Enjoy them as best you can without interfering with your treatments.

7. Chemo really sucks. Yeah, your hair is likely to fall out. IT'S NO BIG DEAL! Puking? Yeah, it happens. Sorry, but it's no big deal either and the meds for it are a lot better than they used to be. If you can keep the juice/cookies/Popsicles they offer at the chemo clinic down, enjoy them. They taste good and they'll distract you for a moment. You'll want that.

8. You're going to be scared. Don't keep it in like I tried to. Talk about it and share it with those close to you. Try to remember that fear is an emotion and like all emotions, it will change. It doesn't have to own you. It's OK to cry. I did.

9. Participate in support groups. You need what they have, whether you are new and needy or a long-term survivor who proves that you can overcome.

10. Take walks during your recovery, as many as you can, more than one a day if you can. You need to see that the world is still there and the sun is still shining. You need the exercise, too.

11. Let others care for you in any way they can and want to. They love you and, like me, are often at a loss about how to show you. Tell them what you want and need and let them show you they care enough to do for you. You both need that. Don't be jealous of others who care and want to help. If you are a support person you might as well admit that you can use all the help you can get.

12. Pay attention to newly documented cancer risks and treatments. Avoid the risks when you can and investigate newly proven treatments with your doc.

13. Pray. There's no downside.

OK, enough for today. I hope you'll join in here and pass along your experiences so that others can benefit.

I love my darlin' wife's smile.

* * * * *

If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell.
Lance Armstrong

Thursday, October 29, 2009

TimmyG Changes His Mind, Sort Of

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

Fox Business today tells us that TimmyG has re-thought the whole bail-out thing. Bailouts should only be offered to solvent firms and only as a last resort, he says now. Yep. He told Congress today that it turns out that loaning money to people who can't pay it back isn't a good idea. He says in part:

"Any firm that puts itself in a position where it cannot survive without special assistance from the government must face the consequences of failure"

He also testified that

"We cannot put taxpayers in the position of paying for the losses of large private financial institutions" and "the government did not want to provide a false impression that such firms would be protected from failure by the government in times of stress."

Didn't we already know that? Sure we did, but there must be an exception when the borrowers are Timmy's friends and the lender is his old employer and it's lending under his direction. Try searching for TIMMYG in this blog and see what we have written so many times.

TimmyG is the man who directed the $350 bil Wall St. bailout to firms that were under his direction when he was the director of the NY Federal Reserve. He okayed or ignored the massive AIG bailout and its compensation and bonus plans, supervised bank bailouts, auto industry nationalization and so much more. Remember, he has never had a private sector job that didn't involve consulting the government on financial issues. Based on that was been given authority over America's private business sector, even including the power to control wages of non-bail-out companies.

Now he tells us that his earlier ideas were, well, bad. That train has left the station, Tim.

* * * * *

Remember Cash-for-Clunkers? Sure you do. Cost us $3 bil and ran out in a few days instead of the planned three months. That one., the car people, reports today that CfC accounted for 125,000 new car sales. Simple math, each new car sold cost American taxpayers $24,000. Average cost of the new cars, net of rebates? $25,248. Do you remember that the ONLY goal of CfC was to reduce carbon emissions? Finally, do you remember that I suggested we would be better off if the administration just gave $4k to anyone who turned in a clunker and let them buy a new car only if that fit into their plans? Simple math again, that would have cost us $500 mil instead of $3 bil and resulted in the same carbon reductions.

Some fraction of the attributable new car sales would have been lost, sure, but how much do you really care? $2.5 bil worth? Only if you owned a couple of car companies. Which you do, of course.

* * * * *

Sort-of-unrelated note: Consumer Reports reports yet again that Chrysler products have the lowest reliability rating of any brand tested. 42% of GM models exceeded the reliability norm, 58% didn't. Didn't we know in our hearts that Ford, if the government would just stay out of their way, would exceed quality expectations? We did and Ford did.

Do you remember that Chrysler's merger with Fiat was supposed to result in world-class quality? Fiat got 35% of Chrysler... for free. Fiat is still so unreliable that they can't be sold in America. Good luck with that merger, Chrysler. Good luck with your 401(k)s, America.

* * * * *

Say, did I mention that our car czar doesn't have any auto industry experience? No finance industry experience either. Nevertheless, US News and World Report tells us that we're about to slip GMAC another $5.6 bil. No, really. A minor disclaimer: GM only owns 49% of GMAC these days, but I digress. Here's some of the text:

The Detroit News reports, "The Treasury Department plans to inject up to $5.6 billion in new capital in GMAC -- the latest effort to help the auto finance giant, a government official confirmed late Tuesday." The government will accept preferred shares of stock in return. "The new government infusion would be on top of $12.5 billion in government support extended since December."

So why is this important? Allow me to repeat my first couple of paragraphs regarding TimmyG's testimony to congress TODAY:

"Any firm that puts itself in a position where it cannot survive without special assistance from the government must face the consequences of failure"

He also testified that
"We cannot put taxpayers in the position of paying for the losses of large private financial institutions" and "the government did not want to provide a false impression that such firms would be protected from failure by the government in times of stress."

It is impossible for me to reconcile the two reports. Maybe you can.

That flushing sound is your money.

* * * * *

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Obama, Limbaugh and Us

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

The prez won the Nobel Peace Prize. That's fine with me. A lot of talking heads are getting air and print love for their remonstrations. Sounds phony. The protests, not the award. Well, the award no more than the ones they gave to Arafat and Gore. Arafat and Gore? I don't much care for Jimmy Carter, never have, but at least he did something they could point to. But I digress. It's the Nobel committee's business and none of my own. Never has been.

The Nobel is a distraction for the prez and for us. Let's keep our eyes on the ball, not the prize. I don't care much about Nobel Prizes or awards of any kind. Grammys, Oscars, Tonys, Best In Show, Outstanding Camper... all of them have agendas and none of them concern me. Way to go, prez, and congratulations on donating the $1.4 mil to charity. How many of your predecessors have done that? Now will you make some decisions about the war and the economy? Please?

Rush and his pals want to buy the St. Louis Rams NFL team. Again, not something that concerns me much. He's got the bucks and the interest, so why not? Lots more talking heads are getting even more air time than usual to present their case against Rush. "He's Rush!" is pretty much their position. Politically inflammatory, a contrarian and obstructionist in their world view. Their question seems to be "Why should a rich self-made man with strong opinions be allowed to buy a football team?" My question is, who cares? If Mark Cuban can own an NBA team then the character test for pro sports owners has been set low enough that Roman Polanski, much less Rush, could fit right in.

What links these two events? Fair question. It's this. We had no involvement in either of these decisions and no stake in the outcomes and we still insist on making statements as though we were involved. We're not. More than that, beyond voting we are likely never to be involved in decisions outside of the world we have created for ourselves. Even there we'll find a lot of room for attention and improvement if we honestly admit our shortcomings.

Freedom of speech? Sure, you've got all you'll ever need, but so what? Do we really think we should weigh in on Nobels or NFL ownership or any other distraction of the moment? Tend your own gardens, feed and protect those who depend on you and improve your own life, for them, for yourself and for your nation. If you are drawn to action, great, do something meaningful rather than carping at the meaningless.

* * * * *

I can forgive Alfred Nobel for having invented dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.

George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cash for Clunkers - The Morning After

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

Fox Business reports that September auto sales... suck big-time. GM is down 45%, Chrysler is down 41%. Wow, who could have seen that coming? Here's part of what I wrote in my August 9 column:

As a consequence, post c-f-c sales will be dismal and jobs will be lost.

And that's with the gummint forcing its new fleet purchases to its captive car companies, regardless of what the fleet managers say they need. Total car sales were down 4.8 million units. Ford, the remaining private American car company, was down only 5%. Go figure. Maybe there is something to be said for the private sector. If the two bailed-out car companies can't sell cars without taxpayer-paid incentives then they don't belong in the market. Oh yeah, and then we lose the $63 bil in bailouts. Do you care?

* * * * *

The Wall Street Journal ran a story about an investigation into possibly improper payments to the NY Fed (hello, TimmyG) from Lehman's bankruptcy. Who could have seen that coming? Here's a comment in passing from my April 30 column:

Chrysler will either fail in bankruptcy or succeed by renegotiating or voiding its debt and contracts, including salaries, pensions and health insurance. A judge will decide and s/he won't prefer one group of same-class creditors over another.

But lo and behold, the judge did allow payments to junior creditors. TimmyG rigged the results of Lehman's bankruptcy so that the gummint would get money that it wasn't entitled to. That really irritated a bunch of those senior creditors and they want their money back. They are relying on the same creditor laws that apply to all of us, laws that TimmyG ignored when he made the loans and when he got some of the gummint's money back.

TimmyG's NY Fed lent Lehman $46 bil without any security. $46 bil is a LOT of money, at least here in Cottage Grove, Oregon. TimmyG's Fed's loans were behind all sorts of secured (and under-secured) creditors but he wanted to be paid ahead of them, in total disregard of the bankruptcy laws. In bankruptcy you get paid according to your creditor status. TimmyG's Fed's status was, well, think Confederate bonds.

I also wrote in the same blog, after TimmyG told us that the auto bailouts were really just loans and they were going to be repaid:

Now Chrysler is bankrupt and we have whatever creditor status we (the US gummint) are allowed, probably not "secured creditor" status because there was nothing left to secure our loans or otherwise give us a priority over other lenders. Since we were likely the last major lender, our money is just gone. Gullible junior creditors lose big time in most bankruptcies.

* * * * *

Getcher new cars, hot new cars here, buy 'em now!!!

In my March 31 column I wrote:

Next up: Bailout loans get paid out as purchase incentives for suckers who buy cool new cars they can't afford. You heard it here first.

Really, I didn't want to be right, to be able to see that the bailouts are and always have been a government Ponzi scheme in reverse. But it wasn't that hard. In my April 30 column I also wrote:

The new spin is that the NEXT Chrysler loans must be repaid before Fiat completely takes over. Fiat? See my March 29 column. "New" taxpayer money will be repaid in that case, but not ALL taxpayer money. Fiat will get to keep the "old" money. It's a Ponzi scheme in reverse, paying off new investors with old investors' money. BernieM is smiling. We've been reverse-Madoffed. Hide the kids.

* * * * *

We've had Cash-for-Clunkers and we're living through the predictable (and predicted) aftermath. Same for the bailouts. Now we're rolling out of bed, naked and ashamed, and TimmyG and his posse are still passed out all around us with big grins on their faces. We've been used and we know it. We could have said "No, don't do that, I'm afraid of the consequences", but we didn't. We went along because it seemed like a good idea at the time and besides, all the cool kids were doing it.

The Chicago Mafia always relied on its customers to like and want what it was doing to them.

Still does.

* * * * *

Vote early and vote often.
Al Capone

Monday, September 28, 2009


We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

Is federalizing a word? We federalize the National Guard in times of need. Should be a word, the taking of local authority by the federal gummint. As opposed to, say, socializing: The gummint taking rights and property formerly believed to be inherently private.

No end of examples of the latter. Whoever believed that the gummint would own GM or AIG? BTW, don't start believing that AIG and the other bigs are going to repay their bailout debt. Some of it, yes, but only enough to make you get off their backs. They'll keep overpaying themselves, sure, but somehow there will never be quite enough money for you.

But federalizing is different. We have a Dept. of Education, y'know. $46.7 bil budget authorization for 2010. $46.7 bil is a LOT of Ameribux. But look at what we get for it. Just look. Uh, look. There's got to be something, doesn't there?

Not really. Since the earliest days of American history, education has been a quintessentially local issue. An important local issue because we think that we, not disinterested far-off strangers, should be in charge of what our kids are learning.

The DoEd does, essentially, nothing. For that nothing you pay the $46.7 bil. Part of that goes to the cost of tax admin, part to funding the DoEd bureaucracy - salaries, rent, equipment - itself, part just adds to the deficit and part goes to funding whatever it is that the DoEd decides to fund. ALL of it comes out of your pocket. One thing they're NOT funding is your kids' schools. Nope, that's still mostly up to you.

The DoEd funded a bunch of bailouts of the Detroit school system. Detroit really needs help - education in Detroit is a cruel failure - and a lot more. Complete bailout failure though, much of the money unaccounted for. Now the prez wants to do it again without even looking at why the previous attempts failed. Hear that flushing sound? Oh, and they're taking over the entire national student loan system. They did so well investing in Chrysler, GM, AIG and the like that they want to put major Ameribux into the loan market.

Is the gummint federalizing the loan market? So far they have student loans, home loans and car loans. They're telling the credit card companies how they can do business. What other kind of loan did you want?

The point is, American gummint is supposed to be limited, not an unlimited provider of all things to all people. But that's not the way things are heading. The core conservative principle of limited government, abandoned by Bush 43 and Clinton before him and now the prez, still exists. Its voices, Ron Paul the clearest but sadly the goofiest, still speak. Not likely to be heard again without a major national crisis, though. Really, free health care sounds a lot better than health care (just as an example) you have to pay for.

The gummint is federalizing autos, major investment firms, health care, loans and education. The various state national guards are already pretty much federalized and have been for years. What else can you think of? The airwaves, maybe, by way of a "Fairness Doctrine"? Energy? Who else would or could sacrifice people and energy for political expediency in the name of greening America? Hello, San Joaquin Valley. While they're at it, California has a $27 bil deficit and wants its own bailout. Will we federalize California? If so, why not all the other states?

Yes, of course there is a role for the feds. No doubt about it. There is also a role for local control over local issues. Where the locals have acted irresponsibly - Little Rock comes to mind - then federalizing may be called for. But federalizing is a last resort, not the first one.

The question to ponder is whether there is room for local control over anything at all or will we surrender it intact to the federal gummint? Popular sentiment, as expressed through the last election, is for the latter. Do we really need proof that local control over most functions is preferable to an engorged federal bureaucracy that never stops feeding on your - and your great-grand-kids' - wallet?

No individual should be forced to accept the tyranny of their own people -- Barack Obama

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Afghanistan -- Where's Our Leadership?

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

The administration can't decide what to do in Afghanistan. No surprise, I can't think of a single invader/occupier/major influence in history that has successfully handled that problem. Certainly Bush wasn't up to the task, nor Clinton.

The NYTimes tells us today that the prez and his top advisers met and couldn't come up with a consensus on what to do. So, naturally, they're going to hold more meetings. That's what politicians do when they won't make a decision that they may be held to account for.

VP Biden -- who never served in the military because he was "pre-occupied" (thank you Wikipedia) -- wants us to reduce our forces, generally ignore the Taliban and concentrate on surgical strikes on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan using Special Forces and air. Call it the Arthur Tedder approach to modern warfare. And btw, no war has ever been won by air power alone. Or did you forget?

The problem is, the Taliban is not planning a corresponding pull-back. Biden wants to involve fewer troops and concentrate on one enemy and generally ignore the other. Trouble is, they're intermingled. Biden's plan would be like (and here I show my age) ignoring the Viet Cong, withdrawing troops and concentrating our remaining forces on the NVA.

Hey, wait a minute. That IS what we did in Vietnam. Do you remember the outcome? I do. How much more proof do we need that this is an idiotic strategy?

There's not a single "thing" in Afghanistan worth the life of one American soldier. Nothing, because there isn't anything of value IN Afghanistan. It is a hiding place for our enemies and that's why we're there, to kill our enemies. Therefore, our strategy should be to kill or capture as many of our enemies as we can and destroy their means to resist. If we destroy the opium crop or stabilize a faltering government in the process, fine, but that's NOT why we should be there. Whatever it takes, that should be our strategy. If it's NOT our strategy then our soldiers are dying in vain.

Are our soldiers dying in vain? That is a forbidden statement in DC, the idea that we may, yet again, be sacrificing our best and brightest without cause. Any politician who utters it is afraid of it being used against him in the next campaign. As in, "Why did you vote to send our troops into harm's way when you couldn't even define why you're doing it?"

Alexander the Great failed in Afghanistan. So did the British Empire and the Soviet Empire. The Soviets had armor and complete control of the air, just we do today, and they still couldn't do it, even with more than twice as many troops as we have there today.

Nuclear weapons, even tactical nukes, are permanently out of the question. At least we hope they are, along with chemical and biological weapons. So then what? It seems that we're stuck with the same two choices we had in 1971: We either make a truly massive commitment of our armed forces or we get the heck out of Dodge.

Either choice involves heavy risk and cost. Either choice may, likely will, end political careers. Either choice will certainly have major unintended consequences. But either choice is better than no choice. Either choice plans an end game and charts a course toward it. Either choices staunches the blood.

So choose, Mr. President. You've had enough meetings. You've listened to your most trusted advisors. You know that Gen. McChrystal wants more troops and VP Biden wants fewer and you know how to weigh the value of all those recommendations. You'll be surprised how many of us will rally around you if you chart a well-reasoned course for us in Afghanistan.

Please, Mr. President, just make a decision.

* * * * *

In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason.
Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How Cash-for-Clunkers Should Have Worked

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

The Cash-for-Clunkers program, scheduled to run until Nov. 1, will end for the second time on August 24. The administration spins it as wildly successful, more objective observers, not so much. It was a simple concept. If your trade-in qualified, you got a government subsidy of $3,500-$4,500 on the purchase of a qualifying new car.

Why did this program exist? You can download the bill, 13 USC 1301 et seq, HERE. It's all about getting you out of a low-mpg car into a higher-mpg car, thereby taking a major step in freeing us from dependence on foreign oil. That's it, that's what C-f-C was for. That's all it was for.

What about less pollution, safer cars and stimulating the auto industry or the economy in general? Nope, not a thing. At best those are intended ancillary benefits. Guesstimated reductions in greenhouse gases are supposed to be included in a wind-up report. Good luck with that SWAG. It's a sop to the greens, nothing more.

Most people would agree that better mpg is a desirable goal. So is less pollution and we're told the economy badly needs stimulation. The logical fallacy lies in tying those goals to the mandatory purchase of a new car. For instance, wouldn't we be less reliant on foreign oil if, after you handed over your clunker, you didn't replace it at all? The same for reducing pollution. As for the economy, stay with me. There was a better way.

What if, all requirements remaining the same, you brought your clunker in to your local dealer and he paid you a reimbursable $4,000 that you could keep and do with as you please? The gummint pays the dealer $500 more for doing the paperwork, disabling the clunker and towing it to the scrap yard. The scrap metal guy gets the clunker for free or maybe he gets $100 but he has to destroy it and not vulture the parts.

What would change? First, you get $4k to spend any way you want. The car dealer gets first crack at you, though, because you have to deal with him to get the payment. If he can sell you a car then more power to him and I hope you enjoy your future clunker. The gummint achieves its stated goal of better mileage from the car you drive.

What if you don't buy a new car at all? From the standpoint of achieving the gummint's goals, that's even better. Using zero gallons of gas is better than 12 mpg, right? The gummint over-achieves its stated goals and you start taking alternate transportation. Win-win. Sure, a few people might buy down, picking up an older-than-25-years vehicle, but not many. Really, how badly do you want to put your family in a $500 '74 Pinto or Caddy or Datsun, even if you get to pocket a cool $3,500? And if you do, why would we object to that? The car was too old to qualify and it changed hands. So what? There might be a little leakage here, but not much.

If you don't buy a replacement vehicle then the entire economy is yours to choose from to spend your $4k. Pay your debts, stimulate the credit and retail industries and improve your cash flow. Put it into a down payment on a house, stimulate the housing industry. Buy some securities for your retirement, stimulate the investment industry. Save it for the next rainy day, stimulate the banking and S&L industry. The list is endless.

What about the auto industry? Remember, they get first crack at you. Marketing geniuses that they are, if they can't convince you to buy a new car with a leg up like that, then maybe you really don't need that new car. At the very worst they have a new high-margin revenue stream of processing clunkers. If the auto industry isn't stimulated by your $4k then other industries surely will be. Christmas sales, right around the corner now, might pick up far beyond the current dismal expectations, resulting in more jobs and the retail multiplier effect.

How can we be sure this will work the way I say it will? Because we have an example to guide us. Remember the stimulus plan from earlier this year, the one that gave you $400 for nothing? We were told it was a magnificent success at stimulating the entire economy. Let's believe that.

If $400 for nothing was good then how can $4,000 for something very real and beneficial not be better? Consider the removal of low-mpg, high-pollution vehicles from our roads and all of a suddenly there's no downside. There's the cost, of course, but that money was already allocated. The question then was how best to spend it. What did you get from C-f-C? Nothing, I bet, unless you bought a qualifying new car. That was just one of the drawbacks of C-f-C. There wasn't something for everyone.

There's only one scenario in which this idea doesn't make sense and it is this: The purpose of C-f-C was never the purpose that was written into law. It was only to funnel $3 bil more into the auto industry in the guise of an energy bill. It was never meant to substantially reduce mpg -- and our aging auto fleet will do that for us anyway, without any incentives -- and its ancillary benefits are merely fortuitous. In this hypothetical scenario C-f-C was a sham, borrowing near-term future car sales and shifting a portion of the economic crisis from the industries that created it to non-critical-thinking buyers who will be burdened by greatly increased consumer debt with little of lasting value to show for it.

I leave it to you. Was there a better way to run C-f-C and still achieve its stated and ancillary goals and more? I think there was. I even think that Congress might have stumbled on it if the "emergency" measures which are being forced on us had been calmly debated in Congressional hearings. After all, that's their job, not just to vote according to orders from their leadership.

You remember Congressional hearings, don't you? Where individual congress members had to debate and defend proposed legislation? In those days, town hall meetings actually mattered. Our reps could hear our voices and vote accordingly. Congressional hearings have been replaced by repeated cries of "Fire! Fire!" and we're told to grab any bucket or new law and throw it on the flames, and do it now.

No, now is the time for reflection and debate. Take the time to find better ways.

Suppose you were an idiot; and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. -- Mark Twain

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Speak softly, listen loudly

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

In my July 7 half-year retrospective column, in the "jury's still out" section, I recalled my May 19 prediction, to wit: Just as we're going to get mileage taxes plus gas taxes to make up for better fuel economies, we'll surely hear a push to tax pot, and is it such a leap to then tax all forms of now-illegal products? (May 19).

Sure enough, CNN reported on July 22 "Oakland, California, passes landmark marijuana tax". Jury isn't out any more.

* * * * *

Busing, 2009. Some of our elected reps are busing loads of supporters to their town hall meetings (and who's paying for that?) and waiving the first-come, first-served rules they apply to people who just show up according to the announcements. That creates the image of support where little real support exists. The prez is doing it and having little girls shill as random attendees as well. Others among our reps are doing it, too. Few reliable reports from the loyal opposition, but that doesn't mean it ain't happening. C'mon prez and any other bozos doing this, isn't that beneath you?

This just in: Busing is supposed to correct inequalities between equally qualified groups who have suffered discrimination, not create inequalities between equally qualified groups with different opinions who have not.

This is the political equivalent of busing in out-of-town police to put down Dr. King's march across Selma Bridge on Bloody Sunday in 1965. It is the complete abandonment of dialog in favor of the politics of brute strength in upholding an entrenched establishment. No police dogs... yet. "Ax Handle" Maddox would feel right at home. Feels more than a little bit like ballot box stuffing, too.

Note to pols: Speak softly, listen loudly, give your constituents as much of your time as they need. There is no need to restrict your meetings to an hour. If your ideas have merit you will prevail. If they don't, you have to go. That's essentially the premise they all initially ran on anyway, isn't it? Time to apply it.

* * * * *

Did you see Hilary bristle when someone asked her what her husband would do? Something about not being able to channel Bill. But Bill went to North Korea and saved two of Al Gore's employees from certain death in a forced labor camp. Gotta give it up for that. Nice job. But why Bill? More gravitas than our SecState? Obama was too busy? Hilary was, what, doing something more important? No one is minding the American foreign policy store and the neighborhood kids are vandalizing it.

* * * * *

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot lift the wage-earner by tearing down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich. You cannot keep people out of trouble by spending more than your income. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot establish security on borrowed money. You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves. -- William Boetcker

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Come On In -- An Invitation

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

Got something on your mind and want to see it in cyber-print? You are invited to submit an entire column (that's what I still call these blog posts) or just a paragraph or two. I prefer that it be emailed to me so I can devote main blog space to you but you can also submit it in the form of a comment.

I got this idea from Dr. Russ Burgos at UCLA. When I objected (perhaps overly rudely, I might add) to some things he said in his blog Splunge! (if you want to find my several posts search the blog for Chuck S or just click the link) he invited me to do what I am inviting you to do. Prof B and I don't agree on much. I'm a neocon to him and he's, well, at least he was polite enough to allow me my say.

* * * * *

Count Switzerland in the group of tax havens that have new disclosure agreements with the IRS., as early as next week. If you have big bucks hidden in a Swiss bank account and don't move it by say, this afternoon, you might be in for a big bite of IRS-style justice. Of course, your records will still be there and be shared but your money could be in, say Dubai. Just sayin'. I don't admire MSNBC but this is a pretty good overview.

* * * * *

As long as you asked.

My darlin' youngest daughter, a TV news producer, writes:

hi pops,

so dad, i know you're a republican and everything, but i also know that you're not a lunatic. so could you weigh in a little bit on these crazy town hall meetings about health care reform that are practically devolving into riots? what kind of a discussion can be had if people are acting like disgruntled toddlers?

i want to hear a debate, no question, even though i am for reform. but this seems wacky. it's about something else, i just can't figure out what. is it racial? is it party-driven?

enlighten me. please. you're the only republican i trust.

To which I replied:

Good Morning My Dear Youngest Daughter

Thank you for the question. I have been following this issue.

If I understand the format of town hall meetings it is as follows: An elected representative takes a position on an issue. S/he makes it known by public statements and voting record. "Town hall meetings" (THMs) have devolved (I like that word) to a sales pitch for said positions. They originally were meant for an elected official to hear the views of constituents and then to vote according to their wishes as s/he understood them from the meetings.
Keep in the forefront of your mind that this is the way a representative democracy is supposed to work. We vote them in, tell them what we want and they vote our wishes within the boundaries of their own consciences, national policy and our Constitution, as ever was. If they don't, we vote them out the next time around and pick someone who will.

i want to hear a debate" THMs were never intended as a debate forum and they are not now such a forum. It would be peculiar indeed for a constituency to elect a representative, then enter into debate with said rep. I can't recall ever hearing of an ad hoc debate between an elected representative and anyone else and I don't expect one now. Neither should you.

As you know, the administration failed in its initial attempt to re-structure/reform American health care, promising a resolution by the August congressional recess but unable to deliver. The majority leadership in both houses decided that "town hall meetings" (with few if any actual town halls involved) would be an effective way to quiet opposition and sell the plan before they re-convene in September, when they envisioned claiming to vote according to a ground-swell of support and demand from their constituents. They seem to have forgotten, inter alia, that almost none of them are effective public speakers. That has hurt them.

The administration wants either health care reform or health insurance reform. They can't make up their minds and we see Ms. Pelosi (for instance) and others demonizing the very health insurance and health care industries they are concurrently working with. The administration has been unable to explain and justify its plan in terms of coverage, cost, benefit, changes and constitutionality. Now elected representatives from Harry Reid (but not Nancy Pelosi, yet) are back in the hustings trying to sell the current plan that was, BTW, rejected a couple of weeks ago by them. They're not doing a good job.

The reps open their THMs by reading a prepared statement for the record (and one wonders why they don't speak extemporaneously), then allow time for attendees to speak. What the media (you, for instance) has been showing are vocal objections from presumed constituents (they have been pretty carefully screened for that and asked in advance what they want to say) who are mostly in opposition to the health care plan as currently envisioned by the administration and supported by the rep of the moment.

The THM plan has backfired, as you have seen with the angry objections to the sales pitches of some of the reps. "Eggs on their faces" comes to mind. It is the right and expectation of constituents that their reps will vote as I outlined. Voting Democrat or Republican is not a rubber stamp for every Democratic or Republican measure that is floated or submitted to Congress. People want to be heard on critical issues. Thus, THMs.

"Is it racial?" No.

"Is it party-driven?" To some extent, yes. The THMs on this issue are almost (but not quite) exclusively being held by Democrats, who have done a poor job of it. I have seen no anti-reform THMs from either side of the aisle. Reform opposition is encouraged by some conservative elements, no doubt about it, but that isn't necessarily party-driven even though it may be ideologically driven. However, it would be terribly mis-informed to think that all those vocal constituents do not believe what they are saying or have a right to say it, even within the tightly controlled confines of a THM. As you may have noticed, many reps who have yet to hold a THM are now declining to do so, even after they committed to them. Others simply refuse to meet in the open at all. As I wrote, that isn't the way representative democracy is supposed to work. Another thing to notice is the lack of popular support for the administration's/rep's position on reform. Where are the "pro" people? They have an equal right and invitation to appear and speak. Let them. I'll listen.

"what kind of a discussion can be had if people are acting like disgruntled toddlers?" It's not supposed to be a discussion as we might generally think of discussions, as you may have gleaned already.

Disgruntled toddlers"? I suppose that depends on whose ox is being gored. Such characterizations may serve the intent of the speaker or writer but are the factual or do they only further an "us" versus "them" approach?

"you're the only republican i trust." I'm sorry to hear that. There are many trustworthy Republicans and Democrats. For instance, I trust my representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat. If health care reform was only an issue of party loyalty then it would already have been decided along party lines. It's not. It's an issue that will fundamentally change 1/6 of our economy and people want to know why and how and whether their reps read the bill before they voted on it. This one issue will change Lucy's life and she will bear the cost, along with her children. Isn't it fair that people want to know why and how and how much will it cost?

Thanks for asking. Keep an open mind and read my blog.

Love, Daddy

Sunday, August 9, 2009


We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

Cash for clunkers has come a-cropper. Let me summarize:

1. The gummint takes over two of our three major car companies, paying wildly more than they are worth because "they're too big to fail" and, um, that's what the UAW wants.

2. Gummint can't move their cars any better than the old owners did but they have an ace up their sleeves.

3. Gummint can give away taxpayer money to people who will please please please buy a new car. The people who get the money, in the form of a cash-for-clunkers payment for their undesirable trade-ins, are mostly the same people who would have bought without an inducement. Sales are front-loaded into the current period, the equivalent of borrowing new car sales from the near-term future.

4. As a consequence, post c-f-c sales will be dismal and jobs will be lost. The economic crisis will further shift to consumers, other new purchases will have to be abandoned or postponed because of the new car debt. Expect holiday sales to be way down. Look for 10% unemployment by the end of the year.

C-f-c was supposed to last for a little more than three months. It lasted four days before the gummint had to beg another $2 bil. Not close, no cigar, the folks who set this up didn't have a clue about selling cars OR giving rebates. Pretty predictable, given that the car czar, like the chairman of GM, knows nothing about any aspect of the car business nor, apparently, about any other business.

* * * * *

Nine banks that lost a total of $81 bil last year have paid out $32.6 bil in employee bonuses. More than 4,800 employees received bonuses in excess of a mil each. Citigroup and Merrill Lynch lost more than $54 bil, received more than $55 bil in TARP handouts and paid out $8.9 bil in bonuses. Bozo bonuses, we called them earlier, paid from your money to the people who in large part caused the economic crisis. How much was your bonus? (Thank you, Washington Post.)

* * * * *

Meanwhile, governments increasingly desperate for revenue turn to the least able among us to fund its programs. WSJ tells us of the new 400,000 sq ft casino in Pittsburgh, 3,000 slots (3,000!) and several bars and restaurants. All this when there are four other major casinos within a 2-hour drive. Sin taxes ("lifestyle choice taxes") are where the revenue is thought to be. Could be, but it's not inexhaustible. So drink, gamble, smoke to your heart's content, just as long as gummint gets the share that used to belong to Uncle Vito. Call it cash-from-idiots. Here's something you can safely bet on: Pennsylvania will increasing rely on this revenue stream. Then, when it peters out, they'll ask you for a bailout. Hey, it was fun while it lasted.

* * * * *

Here's another prediction: GM is failing. Maybe one, maybe two more rescues is about all we can handle. Then gummint will discover what you already know, that if you're not competitive you don't belong in the market. Hear your money being flushed down the toilet, do you? Not, of course, before your various czars and their staffs are handsomely compensated. Think Citibank and Merrill Lynch.

BTW... remember when Fiat was supposed to be the savior of the American car industry (something like three months ago), taking over GM (but not actually paying anything, f''hevvin's sake) and all that? What happened to that pipe dream? Where is their contribution?

* * * * *

Health care needs to overhauled. Few disagree. Consider TARP, the auto industry, bozo bonuses. bank bailouts to tax debtor corporations and $3 tril in new deficit spending with 9,000 pork projects in the current budget. Do you really want gummint in control of health care? Really?

* * * * *

When the czar has a cold, all Russia coughs -- Russian proverb

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'll Have the Free Health Insurance, Please

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

Stop the presses! Yesterday's USA Today/Gallup poll revealed that most Americans favor national health care... as long as they don't have to pay for it. Then who should? Employers, for the most part, disregarding that higher costs mean fewer jobs. "All those rich guys" comes in second, a soft drink tax is third. But we already know there's no free Mexican food, remember?

The employer idea comes with the kicker that if employers don't provide health insurance then they have to pay a "fee" to the gummint. For what, exactly? Presumably to reimburse the gummint for providing health care of its own. But doesn't that make the gummint the health insurance provider of first resort? Yes, it does. You're an employer and you have a choice between finding an insurer and negotiating rates and claims and all the rest or just pay that fee and be done with it. That would be a no-brainer for most over-worked employers. Expensive, maybe, but simple.

This only makes sense if you believe that health insurance coverage is the right of everyone in America. If you believe that, then you might also believe that everyone is entitled to own their own home. That's what BarneyF and ChrisD (of the sweetheart loan that you didn't get) have been pushing for a decade and look where that got Fannie and Freddie... and us.

There is a reason this business model doesn't work anywhere. For instance, GM isn't going to give away 2010 Volts to anyone who wants a car because they're in business to make a profit. Remember profits? They're good, not bad. If you want a Volt, save or borrow or do without. Same with health insurance. You're free to get it and you're free to do without and yes, we'll make exceptions for those unable to fend for themselves. The slogan "From each according to his needs, to each according to his ability" has never worked anywhere.

I also lean toward the message in the warning "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until the government provides it for free."

* * * * *

Private jetter Steve Rattner was our car czar. You knew that, didn't you? He quit yesterday after six months of orchestrating an auto industry bailout that may cost American taxpayers $100 bil. Seems as though he's been named in a pay-to-play investment scheme in NY. (Is pay-to-play all they do in NY?) TimmyG spun it that Rattner had "decided to transition back to private life and his family in New York City." OhhhKay! A multi-state, multi-line car dealer put it a different way: "They just did everything wrong." You mean like spending $100 bil -- a half-bil+ a day -- in six months? For nothing? The new czar is a steelworkers union exec. He doesn't know anything about cars either.

* * * * *

Fun facts #1: Goldman Sachs (GS) earned $9.54 bil in 2006 and $11.6 bil in 2007, dipping to $2.04 bil in 2008. In the second quarter of this year (2Q09) they earned $3.44 bil.

Fun fact #2: GS received $60 bil in bailout money, either directly, through loans or funneled from AIG.

Fun fact #3: GS set aside $11. bil for salaries and employee benefits for the first half of this year. That's, um, an $772,854/year average salary, company-wide. Of course the janitors don't get that, just the Ivy Leaguers and Stanfordites who caused the financial meltdown in the first place, so figure ten times that for the upper, say, third at GS. Assuming a 2,200-hour work year, your stim was just over an average hour's pay for all of them, five minutes for the upper third. In return for that, they wrecked the American economy. Can you even remember where your stim went? Can you remember where your country went?

Fun fact #4: Median American family income in 2007 (most recent year reported, half higher and half lower) was $50,233. That's, oh, around ten hours pay for my mythical upper third at GS. You = $23/hour, they = $3,512/hour.

Not-so-fun conclusion: The gap between them and you is insurmountable. They can't see you from where they are, so how can they understand your troubles? Your economy may be in the tank but theirs is just fine, thank you. You got a $400 stimulus payment, remember? They got $60 bil, of which they re-paid $10 bil and think it was payment in full.

Do you really think they're going to mind a soft drink tax? Health care will NOT be paid for by the rich. It will be paid for by you. Problem is, you're not going to get what you're paying for.

Just remember this simple phrase: "Your failure to plan does not create a crisis on my part."

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
Thomas Jefferson