Still Optimistic?

Blog-12

The United States is probably in its lowest point I’ve seen in my lifetime.

  • The government is more intrusive into our lives than ever before.
  • The Republicans focus on the war on religion.
  • The Democrats make up a war on just about everything else to get votes.
  • There is an entire industry designed to keep racism alive.
  • Education is failing to serve our needs because power is more important than the kids.
  • The Democrats sole purpose in life is to ‘manage’ society.
  • The Republicans constantly lose fiscal conservative credibility by losing their focus.
  • Everyone is so worried about being so politically correct, we can’t even exchange ideas.
  • The Democrats think everyone is entitled to everything and promise they can deliver.
  • The Republicans think we should be the world’s police force and pay for it.

Why am I still optimistic about our country?

  • The biggest effect we could have on the world is with a strong economy. If we opened up our energy industry we could truly become independent and have some economic power to influence others, not force. Government regulations at all levels have a choke hold on our economy. We are our own worst enemy.
  • I keep hearing about the concept of state being 50 laboratories of innovation. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Why there is a Department of Education at all amazes me. Do you think states couldn’t educate their children if they didn’t have the federal government to guide them? I personally think that all children should have a certain allowance that can be spent on any school they want to go to. We are our own worst enemy.
  • Our tax code is so convoluted even tax experts couldn’t possibly know all the loopholes. Corporations avoid business in the U.S. because taxes are so high. About half of the country doesn’t pay income tax. We really need to simplify taxes and make sure everyone has some skin in the game. We are our own worst enemy.
  • We need to realize that it is becoming a global economy and the world is becoming smaller, but at the same time we can’t just open our borders to anyone that wants to come in. We have to rethink the purpose of immigration and at the same time stop the violation of our sovereignty. We are our own worst enemy.

Do you believe we are seriously addressing any of these issues.

Why am I still optimistic about our country?

I have to be, otherwise we are in for a very rude awaking. If our government truly started to work on these issues, we could restore our nation, but the public needs to insist to their congressmen that these things be addressed, in a majorly significant way. It’s doable if we can get some integrity in power.

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Closed… Back In ? I’m Not Sure

Blog-11

Donald Sterling is a jackass. But from what’s being said, he’s always been a jackass. Just because he was recorded in the privacy of his own home people want to FORCE the sell his property.

In Colorado a baker was sued and compelled to bake a cake for a gay couple, even though it goes against their personally religious convictions.

In Albuquerque, a photographer declined to photo shoot a lesbian commitment ceremony and had a discrimination lawsuit filed against them.

Brenden Eich steps down as CEO of Mozilla because he donated money in 2008 to California Proposition 8. It was 2008 for heaven’s sake.

Kirsten Dunst made some remarks in an interview, in essence ‘don’t under value the contribution of a tradition women’s world’. Now she is being skewered by the ‘true’ feminists.

If you have any negative opinion about Obamacare you are a racist. Even if it is the reason you just had to lay off three people.

Earlier this year, a petition with over 110,000 signatures was presented to the Washington Post demanding that any article that doubted global warming be banned.

I can go on and on with examples.

The point of this post is, if you want to people to leave you alone so you can live your life peacefully…

DON’T THINK ANYTHING. If you have to think something, make sure it’s only heard in your own mind. If you have an opinion, make sure it can attributed to someone else.

Thank you for listening,

Jimmy Hoffa

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My Team’s The Best

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I have a high school nearby. I was out walking a while back and they were having a football game. I walked over and thought I’d check it out. It’s good that there are still big crowd’s supporting the kids. And the atmosphere was excited and loud. What fun! “We have the best team in the district.” As I found out later, their current record was 3 – 7. Not that great, but still the best team. And that’s the way it should be for your high school or your cities local pro team. But it’s not the way it should be when it comes to your politics.

I think a lot of people ignore some really important issues, just because there party spins it a certain way. There are many people I actual put in the category of Lemmings. Seriously… when it comes to politics they couldn’t think for themselves if there life depended on it. Of course I’m not talking about any of you, but I know… that you know… what I’m saying is true. Like I say, I’m not talking about you. You would never vote a straight ticket of Democrat or Republican.

But I’m concerned enough about our current State of the Nation that I have to yell… WAKE UP and start taking at least a casual interest in your country and some of the serious issues we have.

Some of my concerns include:

  • Our nation’s debt.
  • Our nation’s education and our ability to compete with the world.
  • The insertion of government in our personal lives.

You might have different concerns, but you should be interested in the things that effect your own life.

So here’s my call to every person… change your voter registration to Independent. You can still vote for whoever you want, but maybe it will cause you to learn a little more about the candidates and what they personally stand for, and not just which party they belong to. And if enough people go independent the major parties will pay more attention to what the people they serve are thinking.

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They Just Needed Killing

Blog-09

Most of you have probably heard about the Minnesota man that shot and killed two teenagers as they were breaking into his house. You might say that sounds reasonable until you hear some of the details.

  • He sat in the basement with a gun waiting for the intruders to come in.
  • He had wounded them and then deliberately shot again… the ‘kill shot’.
  • The teenagers are attractive young kids. Should it make a difference if it were the Elephant Man?

But at the same time, they were breaking into his home. There are some other facts that need to be considered.

  • His house had been broken into 12 previous times and no one was ever caught.
  • It’s been determined that the teenagers involved are responsible for at least one of the break-ins.
  • The girl had multiple drugs in her system.
  • The girl had texted to a friend that she and her cousin were a break-in team. (Texting a confession – Maybe she should have been put out of misery just for being so stupid)
  • The previous break-in was a violent kicking down of his front door.

The reality is this is a tough situation. You might say I could never kill someone, but is that really true or is it more I’d really have a hard time killing someone? We always use: Who far would you go to protect your child? If I were at home and I felt threatened, I am not so sure I would feel the threat is over just because I got the intruder down. In a situation like that I might think… If you can move, you’re a threat. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies were the person has the intruder down and then all of a sudden you’re attacked again.

The sixty-five year old Minnesota man seems like just a regular citizen living in fear in his own home. You’ll never convince me he was just waiting for a chance to have an excuse to kill somebody. It doesn’t fit.

You may believe he went to for, but Minnesota law allows deadly force when defending yourself in your home. And just because you wouldn’t have gone that far, doesn’t mean he doesn’t think… If you’re moving, you’re a threat.

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Education Is Failing?

Blog-08

What I love about blogs, is being able to talk about something you know nothing about. Today it’s U.S. education. I don’t want this to be a debate about whether or not our public education system is failing us or not. It doesn’t matter at this point. It’s what I see in real life that concerns me, and implications for our future. Taking responsibility for our own education determines our success, however you define success for yourself.

We’ve all have had the experience with the cashier that couldn’t make change if their life depended on it, without the cash register doing it for them. I love getting back eight dimes and a nickel change. (10, 20, 30…) You say that’s the exception, but I don’t think so. I think there are too many people not applying themselves. That we have convinced ourselves of greatness to the point we don’t think we need to apply ourselves to achieve success. We deserve it. It’s our right. And the unfairness of why others are succeeding while we are not.

It’s a competitive world out there and if you don’t have the education to succeed it’s a tough world. Now don’t think I’m saying everyone needs a college education to succeed. In fact I don’t think we give enough credit (or respect) to the trades and arts and agriculture and production. But I am talking about the quality of your education in whatever your interests are. The quality of your work, whatever you choose to do. Can you say ‘I really do quality work’ or is their more you could learn about your craft. If you can, more than likely you will be a success in your terms. For example manufacturing has drastically changed over the last 50 years. Today you need to understand the automation used in manufacturing and how and why it works. Mathematics, geometry and physics has never been more important in your line job. And never more lucrative if you’re good at it. Your success is directly associated with your education and it often seems we don’t take that fact more seriously.

Alright here’s the really politically incorrect part of the blog. Let’s divide minimum wage workers in three groups. The children that are learning how to work, the retired folks that just like keeping themselves active and get a little more money to spend, and finally those trying to raise a family on minimum wage. Yeah, I know there are more categories than this (blah, blah, blah). The point being, what percentage of that last group is doing anything  about their situation. Our solution shouldn’t be just to try to buy votes by raising the minimum wage, it should be to make sure every opportunity is made available to make yourself more marketable (educated). Then choose for yourself, but don’t cry to me about it. I’m treading water as fast as I can for myself.

Class warfare is not about the rich vs the poor, it’s about the educated vs the non-educated. The money is just a tangible by product. This is similar to the transition of racism to culturalism (Sorry, I don’t think I’ve been politically incorrect enough yet for this blog).

The reason in the beginning I didn’t say ‘our children’s education’ is because education doesn’t stop. EVER. I’m over sixty and I’m still learning. The graphic above is not a slogan (and we are great at meaningless slogans), it’s a prophecy.

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Borrow Money, Give It Away

Blog-07

In 2012 the U.S. borrowed $37.7 billion and then give it away in Foreign Aide. Since we are currently running a deficit you really can’t argue that, no matter what side of the fence you are on.

Why do we spend this money?

  • National Security,
  • Humanitarian Reasons
  • Promote Trade

So here are my simplistic thoughts.

#1: Never, ever give cash to anyone as foreign aid. If we are going to do it, hire U.S. companies to go to the country and train their citizens in how to build or distribute or sustain or whatever the aid is for. If it cannot be done safely for the U.S. personal then sorry, pick a project where it can.

National Security:

About $10.7 billion went to countries in the Middle East.

  • $1.7 billion of that Middle East number went to Iraq. WWHHHAAATTT! We give money to our enemy. There really has to be something unconstitutional about borrowing money I didn’t want to borrow and giving it to my enemy.

I have to interpret this whole issue as, the U.S. tries to bribe countries into behaving as we would like them to do. Have we not learned yet – That does not work.

My thought is this entire Middle East region has been F’d Up for decades and our government has been too stupid to realize that we cannot change their culture. They need to do it themselves. What’s that got to do with foreign aid, let alone military expenditures? I am not an isolationist, but this is a time when these countries just need to decide for themselves where they are going. And we don’t need to borrow a penny to spend on them while they figure it out. We just need to keep them isolated until they figure it out.

Promoting Trade:

Why do we need to promote trade unless the U.S. government has regulations that restrict trade? If we just get out of the way fair trade will take care of itself. Again many of you are thinking – This guy is really naïve. Whereas my counter to that is – Wow, people really like to needlessly complicate things.

Humanitarian Reasons:

Finally, the one valid reason for aid. Yet because U.S. citizens are truly the most generous people around, most of the real humanitarian work is being done privately. And if our economy was allowed to grow, private generosity would grow as well.

I’ve just saved us $37.7 billion. I feel better now.

 

 

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The Cost of Just Living

Blog-06

Do you ever stop to think how much you spend each month on what you consider to be living expenses. A couple of years ago I did and started on a (slow) crusade to cut down on these expenses. So I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve done to cut down on my monthly expenses. Yes… I know most of this is choice, but do you know what some of your choices are costing you.
The easiest place to start is food.

  • I started eating in and cooking for myself. The food’s better and actually I’m eating too much. Eating out a lot could EASILY cost $10 a day. Cooking at home my meals cost about $8 a day and I think I’m being generous. Yes, there is the convenience factor, but we’re not having that debate… just comparing some differences.
  • I used to go to Starbuck’s maybe once a week. On average I’d spend easily $20 a month. I just stopped going. In reality, I really don’t miss it that much.
  • I also really enjoyed an energy drink every day. What I really enjoyed is the carbonation. I switched from energy drinks to carbonated water and went from about $53/month to $6/month.

These three items are conservative estimates and add up to over $1,500 a year.
Another place I looked at was home expenses.

  • The first thing I want to talk about is switching to LED light bulbs. For this I just have to estimate, but I’m going to give it a savings of $180 a year. The main reason I wanted to include this is to say… Please don’t substitute LEDS for compact fluorescent. Set aside that CFs have terrible light quality, the mercury we are putting in our landfills from CF’s is enormous. Do you know anyone that recycles their light bulbs properly. There… I had to get one of my chest.
  • Everyone has to have a cell phone now. I used to spend about $75/mo. I don’t know what prices are today but a little research leads me to believe they’re still about the same. I switched to Boost (Sprint) with unlimited everything (including data) for a $50/mo. shrinking plan. I now pay $35/mo. That’s $480 a year savings.
  • I had a home phone. It won’t be long before kids will want to know what a home phone is. Anyway it was about $60/mo. for two lines. Now I have VOIP (Voice Over IP) and pay just the taxes, about $4/mo. That’s $672. Yes, I had to buy the equipment for $120, but after a couple of months I was saving.
  • Finally my home media. I was already paying for Hulu Plus and Netflix so they’re a wash. My cable bill for internet and TV was $180/mo. (Gotta have HD on every TV) I got rid of that cable and went totally online. My new high-speed internet includes very basic TV with the main networks, a few others and includes HBO. And it is standard definition (Boo….Hiss). But the real point is, as long as you have the basic service you can watch the shows online in HD. Yes, there are some shows you will have to give up, but between Online On Demand TV, HBO GO, Hulu Plus and Netflix I have more than enough content to watch. I forgot to tell you I now spend $53/mo. I’m saving over $1,500 a year for this inconvenience.

Like I said, I know this are just choices… but for me these choices are saving me $4,380 a year. That’s over $5,200 before taxes and that’s being generous. When was the last time you had a $5,200 raise?

Posted in Spending | Tagged | 1 Comment

Government Spending Is Simple: Part 2

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It’s been a month, so I guess it’s time to finish this thought with part 2.

In Part 1, we established that the federal government spends too much of our money and what’s worse, wastes it on a lot on things that we shouldn’t be paying for in the first place. If you don’t believe this than: 1) you believe the things the government is doing ‘for you’ are free, 2) you’re not paying for it so what do you care or 3) the U.S. could never really get into financial trouble. There are additional rationales, equally ridiculous and sadly in denial.

This is a vast topic that could never be covered here, but we need to have a serious discussion on how to get our government spending under control. This means most of all, not spending more money than we have. I really don’t want to throw out the extreme statements, but I have to say ‘Continuing to increase our national debt has got to be the single biggest national security issue we have.’ Let’s keep it simple. All I want to do is throw out some ideas. You can tell me all the reasons this can’t work (Debbie Downer) and that it’ll never happen because it’s such a massive change. Give me all the negative reason for doing nothing. I think that’s the point, how are you going to argue your point for going more and more in debt. I got to hear that.

Here’s the thought in a nutshell:

For EVERY dollar spent there needs to be a detailed budget. For EVERY dollar spent there needs to be a specific revenue source for that program. In other words no more pool of money that the government just gives to agencies whether they have the money or not. This along with the thought from Part 1 that every spending bill is voted on individually (no more hiding money in other bills) should help congress from spending money we don’t have.

Maybe it’s time to question if I even know what I’m talking about. It’s a valid question.

I’m just a taxpayer like the rest of you. I’m not an expert on what all federal programs do, but as I look at things I question them or should I say ‘They make me curious’. So I decided to take a 10,000 foot look at one of our Federal Departments. In this case, the Department of Transportation. This includes the following agencies.

 

I’ve got to get a life because I already have a ridiculous question. Why does the Department of Transportation cost the general tax fund anything. Yes, congress should provide oversight on how the department operates, but we shouldn’t need to provide them any money What? Wait! Are you crazy? How can that be? Let me layout my naive thoughts, and yes, I know there are a lot more details than I’m thoroughly simplifying here. But here you go.

  • All activities are paid for by related user fees.
    • People that use the service pay for the service.
    • What can be fairer sharer than that?
    • No revenue can come from a source that is not agency related.
    • Private industry works with federal agencies to insure that to insure intended regulations are implemented efficiently.
      • Congressional oversight of programs and fees.
      • General tax fund contributions = $0.

Simple. Here are a few examples:

  • FAA: The obvious user fee is commercial passenger fee, but I’m sure there are other logically related aviation fees that can be assessed within the aviation industry.
  • FHWA: Gas Tax – Repair the Federal Highways. If you need to expand your mandate you’re going to have to increase gas taxes.
  • FMCSA: The trucking industry pays fees for a federal safety program.
  • FRA: Railroad industry fees, FTA: Transit Fees, MARAD: Maritime and on and on.

Yes – All these fees get passed on to consumers, but everything gets passed on to the consumers. I know the anti-business readers won’t like this, but the checks and balances of private industry having to pay for government programs that private industry wouldn’t invest in isn’t the worst thing we could do. I think a perfect example is bullet trains. Why is the federal government taking my money and giving it to a private company to build a product?

I think we could apply this concept to every federal agency and tighten up what we spend and why we spend it.

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Immigration – Start Simple This Time, Please

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One thing I love about blogging is you can blather on about something you know nothing about. (SIDE THOUGHT: I was able to write a sentence that uses the word ‘about’ three times and still sound like a sentence.) Immigration is one those topics that has no direct impact on me, but might impact me indirectly in many ways… I don’t know. It certainly is in the news constantly. “WE NEED COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM.”

The first thing that comes to mind is… Haven’t we learned anything from recent history. I don’t want to distract from the topic, but look at Comprehensive Healthcare Reform. No matter what your position is on healthcare reform, this legislation has been a disaster. Not because the motivations were wrong, but because it was implemented in a comprehensive package. It’s so big there is no way to predict the unintended consequences. Especially when you’re disrupting, in a major way, a system that essentially works and maybe just needed some tweaking.

Take immigration. Do you really believe that Washington has a clue as to what the real undocumented count is and the demographics of this group. I certainly don’t think they know. Comprehensive immigration will only be effective when developed step by step. Each phase allows you to know what you’re talking about with some new information. Or at least have a better understanding of what’s needed. In addition, a step by step approach gets things moving now. A comprehensive approach will either A) never get done, or B) one side will just give up and/or ‘bargain’ away any hope for a quality bill.

One more point. I constantly hear that undocumented people aren’t looking for citizenship, they just want to work and eventually go home. If that’s the case, why is the Pathway to Citizenship always such a prominent part of the discussion? We have another disconnect here that needs to be clarified.

So going back to my original point… Washington Doesn’t Have a Clue

Here is my suggestion for Step 1 of an Undocumented Analysis

  1. Secure the Border – No matter what your politics, how would you argue… We do not need or want secure borders. Every country in the world wants this. Also, I see it as a great training opportunity for our military.
  2. Register With Your State – All undocumented persons need to register with some state agency. The DMV comes to mind but every state can figure this out. This means every man, woman and child. Period. No exceptions. I don’t want to hear all the excuses why this can’t be done. If you move to a different state – re-register (After confirming you were already registered in a different state). This is mandatory and needs to be done in a 60 day window. The information we collect should not be onerous as government questionnaires seem to be, but we should get a sense as to why you are here.
  3. You Will Not Be Deported – There are always exceptions. We don’t want people in the country that are dangerous to our citizens. But for the most part people will be left alone while we assess this new information.
  4. Incentive – Simple. If after the registration period ends and you are discovered in the country unregistered, you are deported immediately. No drawn out hearings and appeals and explanations and sob stories and blah, blah, blah. You are detained will confirming your status and then deported immediately if you are determined to be not registered.

So… let’s just get started with something simple, relatively easy to implement and minimizes the unintended consequences that government is so attracted to.

LET’S GET STARTED WITH A SIMPLE FIRST STEP… JEEZ

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Explain It Again: Why Do We Need Subsidies?

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As I started researching this topic I figured there are just a few subsidies in large amounts to look at. As it turns out there over 1,500 different subsidies buried within our federal bills. How do all this subsidies figure in to our national security and stability of our country?

I figure you don’t have time to read a 1,000,000 word blog so let’s just focus on farm subsidies. I have to admit I had it all wrong about how farm subsidies work. We don’t pay farmers not to grow something anymore, there are a variety of payments.

I found a good summary that explains this from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

  • Direct payments are paid at a set rate every year regardless of conditions.
  • Counter-cyclical payments are triggered when market prices fall below certain thresholds.
  • A new revenue assurance program provides for overall profitability for a given crop.
  • Marketing loans offer very favorable terms whereby farmers can realize tremendous gains through loan deficiency payments (LDPs) and commodity certificates.
  • Disaster payments recoup large losses due to natural phenomena. And the government subsidizes crop insurance to further insulate farmers from risk.

In order to guarantee a stable food supply in America we essentially take all risk out of being a farmer. Well not exactly. Food subsidies are predominately focused on only a few commodities. Corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. I guess if I were a farmer I’d choose a crop where my income is guaranteed and not one of those risky crops like green vegetables and fresh fruit.

This starts to explain why we pay subsidies to these very important farmers.

EWG reports that 11 House Members and 4 Senators received $237,912 in 2012. This is a small amount to pay to insure that food is kept on America’s table.

Some others that have helped to feed America from 1995 to 2012 are:

  • Agriculture Secretary – Tom Vilsack: $82,874
  • House Agriculture Committee Chairman – Frank Lucas: $40,613
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Member – Charles Grassley: $327,246
  • Former President – Jimmy Carter: $272,288

OK – I’m starting to sound like zealot so let’s talk seriously. We spend about $16 BILLION a year of farm subsidies. Remember we need to borrow this money from other countries.

So the bottom line question are…

  • What would really happen if we just didn’t spend this money?
  • Food our food supply collapse if we didn’t have this program?
  • WHY would prices skyrocket if you didn’t have this program?
  • Is it to effectively block imports from other countries?

It’s as simple as that.

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