Deep Thoughts…with Euroranger

An outlet for my Tourette's-like thoughts (aka: you've been warned)

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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

America: Land of the Free, Home of Incurable Terminal Imbecility

Posted by Euroranger on October 16, 2012

Sad Newt

Yep, you really effed it up Newt. I’d say “next time keep it in yer pants” but I already dispensed that advice to Herman Cain.

So, as you can see, I’ve successfully held off posting a political rant for pretty much the entire year.  I didn’t mention the Republican primaries (I liked Newt), I haven’t mentioned the conventions (while I like Clint, if anyone needs a teleprompter more than Barry, it’s him) and I didn’t chime in on the debates (I thought Obama looked smug and Biden is nothing less than a national disgrace).  That all said, the pressure has been building for some time and while I haven’t been busy posting here of late, I have dropped opinions on several sites scattered about the intarwebz tubez and generally pissing people off through the power of, you know, actually being informed.  It’s this late discovered superpower that I’m here to discuss today.  A few minutes ago I had occasion to decide to end a running debate I found myself engaged in on a friend’s Facebook status.  I was happily rebutting ignorance with facts when one of my debating opponents snapped and suggested her point “was to[o] simple for some to grasp”.  I sat and ruminated on her comment for a time before I posted a response assuring her I got her point, that it was based on faulty information and that if being informed was now viewed as some kind of fault or flaw that I’ll simply have to find a way to live with it.  Naturally, she assumed that she had somehow won some kind of internet debating contest and couldn’t resist the urge to post even more ignorant blather which I’ve decided to simply let lie.  After departing the field with the opponent figuratively chanting “nana booboo” to my retreating back, I had a moment to reflect on the general state of affairs these days and have stumbled across a monumental glaring truth:

Many Americans these days are fucking idiots.

Now, now…I know, that seems like a rather shocking revelation but I assure you: my recent experiences reveals this as unmistakable, fundamental, universal, indisputable truth.  It was only this most recent episode that acted like the philosophical catalyst, finally delivering me over the unpalatable hump of my desperate hope that the mass ignorance I encounter everyday was just a freakish concentration localized to the places I occasionally stray online.  Alas and alack, this is sadly untrue.  No, instead, it’s been demonstrated to me so repeatedly that most people are dumber than a crate of anvils that I am now forced to regard such as a Law of Nature (much like gravity, the speed of light and cats always landing on their feet).  However, as this is my blog and I am a patriotic American, I feel a compelling need to expose this rampant idiocy.  To that end, I’m going to recap the subjects of just the last two debate events that I engaged in which covers merely yesterday afternoon and earlier this morning.

Subject 1: Banks are bad

Idiot Occupy protester

Sweet Jebus on a pogostick…the stupid is so intense with this typical Occupy protester, it literally burns.

Now, allow me to state at the outset: I dislike banks.  The reasons for my dislike are myriad.  I cannot fathom that a business that is engaged in the holding, lending and management of other peoples’ money can be as haphazard, careless and error prone as banks are.  We’re talking about institutions who make astronomical profits (BoA, for example made $2.1B in profits…just in three months this year, April, May and June) but who will tell you to your apparently assumed ignorant face that the computer system their teller uses cannot draw the same information their ATM draws and neither again can draw the same info you see when banking online.  It’s data for crying out loud.  It’s not fucking magic.  These same banks will do things deliberately to squeeze every last penny out of their customers (which seems like kind of a counter intuitive thing to do) via shady and inexplicable practices such as processing all debit transactions at the end of the day as a single value before they process any pending credit transactions…and then if your debits exceed your balance (because they haven’t credited your deposits yet) they assess NSF or overdraft fees against each single debit transaction.  Aside from bending you, their customer, over to roger your bunghole, there is no reason to operate like this.  Yet they do.  Anyway, with all that out of the way, there are a ton of people who believe, because it’s the standard party line of Democrats and the Occupy crowd, that the recent housing bubble collapse is all due to banks writing loans to people who shouldn’t have gotten them.  And that’s where the story ends.  Bad loans = blame banks.  It was voiced like this the other day in a comment thread by some anonymous poster:

So how about when a bank gives a $500,000 high interest mortgage loan to an uneducated, low income father of four with no credit check or verification of income. The bank then sells off the remaining mortgage payments to various hedge funds to ensure their profits avoid liability when the man defaults on his payments. 2 years later the man loses his job and can no longer make his mortgage payments and he and his family are fucked.

I chose to engage this particular comment because…well…I’d seen it echoed literally hundreds of times the past few years and I’m fed up that such uninformed ignorance drives opinion in this country.  My initial response:

Eh, you lost me when you said “…and the uneducated, low income father of four APPLIED FOR A FREAKIN’ HALF MILLION DOLLAR LOAN because his personal responsibility and self control had been kidnapped by a bank”. It’s stunning how many people completely skip the part dealing with personal responsibility in even asking for a loan they know they’ll never repay in the first place for things they can’t afford.

I was actually somewhat rude in an additional sentence that followed and regretted posting it so I’m not going to repeat my mistake here.  That said, the initial poster responded:

Ok, maybe a half million dollar loan was a bit dramatic. But to an uneducated man with poor financial management skills even a $100,000 loan may seem payable when realistically he doesn’t stand a chance of paying it off.

Believe me I’m a huge proponent of personal responsibility but when you get a poorly educated man in a room and tell him he can move his kids out of a shitty studio apartment and into an actual house, and that he can have the money now, you bet his judgment is clouded and those mortgage payments seem possible.

I don’t blame banks for wanting their money, I just think they should earn it ethically.

Earning things ethically is something I think everyone can agree on.  However, it was apparent that I was debating someone who lacked any real knowledge of how the housing crisis came to be and this is a very common blind spot with lots of Americans.   So, because he didn’t take offense at my omitted rudeness, I decided to try the oft failing educational route:

Fair enough…but if we’re being fair, let’s be fair all around. Banks made those loans because in 1993 and further in 1999 the federal government told Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loosen their underwriting standards for the loans they guaranteed low and middle income applicants (and especially those in inner cities) to banks so that those banks would write those notes and, presumably, get such folks into mortgages and out of leases.

This was done after a fairly racially charged campaign alleging banks wouldn’t write mortgages for minority applicants despite there not being a place asking for race or ethnicity on the application form (such being banned by the Fair Housing Law of 1968). In essence, banks were encouraged to write loans whose applicants would not normally qualify for such per their underwriting rules because of the increased risk of default. The federal government, in a move to pander to those voters, essentially overruled sound business sense and ordered the FMs to guarantee those loans so the banks wouldn’t be left holding the bag and would be encouraged to issue such loans.

There were no additional responses by the guy I was exchanging with so I don’t even know if he saw it.  However, in this campaign season we’ve all heard the oft trotted out mantra by Obama that Republicans are all for the rich at the expense of the middle and lower class and that Obama believes the failure of the banking industry and the subprime loan crisis is entirely the responsibility of the banks and thus requires more federal oversight.  Very few people appear to know that prior to the mid to late 1990’s, the home mortgage industry was on ridiculously solid ground.  They had long tested and proven actuarial data that informed their loan underwriting practices.  Then along comes Bill Clinton and, in the interest of pandering to minority voters, ends up having Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adjust their underwriting policies for FHA backed loans (banks wrote the loans, the FMs insured them) so that banks would increase their lending to minorities.  Essentially abandon sound business lending practices in favor of politically based practices, make the federal corporations (the FMs) assume all the risk and reap the electoral benefits.  However, as was expected and predicted by many at the time, all the new underwriting policies did was allow banks to write loans to people they normally would not have offered them to and, ironically, enough even though the entire scheme was designed to see more minority home ownership in low income neighborhoods, a study by the federal reserve concluded that it didn’t end up affecting those ownership rates at all.  All we got out of it was a glut of bad loans whose collapse was only staved off due to ever increasing property values.  Once those values stopped accelerating, people found themselves unable to pay and so, rather than have a housing foundation built on sound and proven business principles, it was built on speculation and consumer confidence.  It was destined to self destruct and it did.

So, monkey with sound business practices for short term political minority favor = people getting loans they couldn’t afford, shouldn’t apply for and when housing prices eventually imploded, the wealth accumulation vehicle of the middle class (home equity) gets virtually annihilated.  And rather than fess up that it was their idiotic pandering for minority votes that started the entire debacle, the Left in this country conveniently blames the banks…forgetting the government’s urging and complicity.

MLK, Jr.: lifelong Republican


Subject 2: Republicans hate minorities/are racists

This is one that’s entirely foisted upon the right by the left.  It’s a lot like the first Obama/Romney debate: all the negative political ads define the other guy and so some people (most people?) regard the targeted candidate as being as he/she was described in the negative ad and then when they’re actually exposed to the candidate some say “wow, that’s not at all what I expected”…and then those who were predisposed to dislike him anyway claim he’s flip-flopped on issues and/or he’s a liar.  I’m never at a loss to be disappointed in the total inability of many supposedly capable adults to discern their own inability to think critically and just simply swallow whatever the latest slogan du jour is from their particular party.  Much like how Democrats are portrayed  by some as Godless atheists (although mainstream media never lets that out over the airwaves), Republicans are always anti-minority no matter what.  This was the crux of the exchange I enjoyed this morning on Facebook.  The original topic was that campaign signs for Romney were disappearing from lawns and one friend had had their mailbox vandalized the same evening they planted a Romney sign in their yard:

And for your friend Doug, threats to shoot and shooting candidates has been going on for a very long time. In my lifetime we had George Wallace shot while running for president. Martin Luther King assassinated and Bobby Kennedy assassinated while running for president. I might add they were all Democrats but NO ONE EVER accused the the Republicans of conspiring to do these dastardly deeds. These things are done and committed by lone loose cannons just as in the case of Gabby Giffords. They are nut cases or irrespponsible people just playing pranks. They usually do not represent the candidates on either side. I have worked on enough campaigns than I can even count and it has happened since time immemoriam. It is a sad and dark side of campaigns and believe me it happens on both sides. Neither side is a sainted and neither side is full of that kind of scoundrel. There is enough guilt to go all around.

To which I replied:

MLK was a candidate?

I did that because so many people who identify themselves as Democrats make a very common error.  In truth, I was kind of baiting the one who commented seeing if she would bite.  She did:

Just majoy [major] figures in the Dem. Party at the time that had a tremendous empact [impact] on the politics of the day.

And so, with the fish swallowing and the bait in the mouth, I set the hook:

Um…about MLK, Jr. being a Democrat. He was a registered Republican as were nearly all blacks in the south at that time. I hear that one trotted out a lot and the standard line of how Republicans don’t care about the black folk (which would come as a rather large surprise to both MLK, Jr. and Lincoln).

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 for instance…better than 80% voted in favor by Republicans in both houses of Congress but only 62% by Democrats. Voting Rights Act of 1965 was much the same: supported by a 94% vote by Republicans, only 73% by Democrats. It wasn’t until LBJ and the 1964 Democrat congress began passing out money via welfare, Medicaid and such through the War on Poverty that blacks switched whole-heartedly to being Democrats.

Now, was I a troll to maneuver this clueless woman into this conversation?  Maybe.  But the intent was to expose and possibly educate people about a fairly common misconception.  The facts are that blacks were overwhelmingly Republican right through the mid-1960’s.  Republicans, ever since their very founding, were about rights for the black man in America.  That issue was literally their major founding principle.  Equality for all.  In addition to equality for all races, Republicans were the party of women’s suffrage as well.  Susan B. Anthony, the very champion of women voting, was a staunch Republican and derived the vast amount of her political support from the Republican Party…so when you also hear about the Republican “War on Women”, well, this is another example of how taking a stand on one or two issues is conflated by a hostile and biased media into something much larger, more sinister and essentially entirely fraudulent.  Anyway, having delivered the pertinent facts about who it was that was responsible for not only freeing the slaves but sponsoring and passing civil rights legislation, you’d think that those facts would have some impact on the fish.  Well, you’d be wrong.  I was presented with an entire non-sequitur (meaning, it wasn’t related whatsoever) and then, my failing to see the obvious connection of the two totally unrelated events was described as “Evidently to[o] simple for some to grasp“…implying that I lacked the requisite smarts to see the relationship where none existed prior to the moment I corrected her incorrect claims with actual facts.  It was at this point that I pretty much shook my head and mourned that this woman, who likely doesn’t call a local sanitarium “home”, will undoubtedly take her ignorance to the polls and using that as her guiding principle, will cast a vote.

The's pretty much like this.

The election…it’s pretty much like this.

I’ve done this kind of thing on FB quite a bit.  I see a reposted crock of shit political zinger by my friends and I correct them when the lie is so egregious and I see people posting the text equivalent of nodding in agreement.  I’m like the Don Quixote of Facebook.  And yes, I chide my friends on the right for their excessive, facts-bereft zeal when they indulge as well (although, in all truth, the things they take Obama to task for are fairly starkly established facts like the debt and deficit and such).  And yeah, I DO need to find a better hobby.

But in the meantime, my point is this: we have an election coming up.  We have two viable candidates and, in my personal opinion, neither is worthy of being the town dog catcher much less president of the United States.  However, we need to choose one of them and, again in my opinion, we ought to be looking at established facts.  Candidates will lie their everloving ass off to get that extra vote so I don’t hold to much of what a candidate claims he’ll do if elected/re-elected.  Congress is where legislation is introduced, debated and passed.  The president merely signs them into law…so much of what either Romney or Obama promises they’ll do is so much crap.  There are lots of facts to be found regarding either candidate and yet despite those facts, the primary driver of who will win the election will be how well they perform in two more debates (and perhaps the September jobs numbers that are due to be released just 4 days before the election).

So, to all Americans who intend to vote (and by that I mean those who aren’t illegal aliens, convicted felons and so on), I say this: cast your vote as an American and not as a Democrat or Republican.  Listen to what each candidate says, inform yourself of the facts and make an informed choice.  Mass ignorance ought not to rule this nation…or influence the outcome in the choosing of its leaders.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.


Posted in History, In the news, Politics | 1 Comment »

ObamaCare vs. SCOTUS, Round 1

Posted by Euroranger on March 27, 2012

Barry praying

Yeah...too little, too late, too false, sport. No amount of divine intervention's gonna save this steaming turd of a law now.

In the interest of holy brevity (which I rarely observe), I’ll try and keep this short today…mostly because, in a few months, this post will be rendered obsolete.

Today is day 2 of the Supreme Court hearing the case of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services et al v. Florida…or otherwise and more famously known as “Obamacare”.  So far, the news today is that one of the thought-to-be crucial swing votes, Justice Anthony Kennedy, has been posing some skeptical questions to the government’s lawyers (the ones defending Obamacare) which, in turn, makes people start to think the court may indeed rule against Obamacare.  This is all info that can be found practically anywhere on the web today.  What’s interesting though is that we have a fight in court simply because of political cowardice…and that cowardice ought to be nigh unforgivable should this law be struck down as unconstitutional (which, I believe, it will be).

Why cowardice?  Well, it’s because of the issue that’s actually being argued in court today: does the federal government have the right to compel a private citizen to purchase a product they may not want to purchase?  This is being argued because of the coverage mandate language of the Obamacare law that states that, with only few exceptions, everyone must be covered by a health insurance policy by some future date or risk being assessed a penalty (call it a tax as well if you like) by the IRS on your next tax return.  The government is arguing that they can enforce this clause via the rights ensured to Congress via the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.  The law’s opponents, naturally, have responded with the legal language equivalent of “bullshit”.

Anyway, if the federal government’s goal was for everyone to have medical insurance, wasn’t there a better and easier (and constitutional) way to do this?  Oh, you bet your ass there was.  It’s called “taxation”…something the federal government positively excels at.  The cowardice charge comes from me because this law SHOULD fail because the Congress didn’t have the stomach to do this the way they should have (if they were going to go this route of ensuring everyone is insured) and copped out by saying they were requiring people to buy their own.  Had the Democrats in Congress simply manned up and said “we’re imposing a new tax to pay for health care coverage”, issued people a voucher for X dollars per year to pay for it (probably via their tax return) OR simply given the taxpayer a choice of insurers their voucher could be sent to (so they wouldn’t simply pocket the money) so as to pay for the premiums then this law would likely survive and maybe do what it was intended to do.

But they DIDN’T man up, didn’t call it a tax when it really IS a tax and instead pussed their way out so that they could run for office back in 2010 without the claim hanging over them that they just ushered in the single biggest taxation increase in United States history.  What it boils down to is: they wanted to be re-elected more than they wanted (ostensibly) to help the country and its citizens.

Coming soon

This is one of those times you see the depth of wisdom of the Founding Fathers to have a Supreme Court to ride herd on the government.

The SCOTUS, I think, will strike down at least this portion of the law and rightfully so.  If you allow the Congress to get away with passing a law saying you MUST buy something then you’ve opened the Pandora’s Box a crack to allow them to decide you need to eat certain things, engage in certain activities, must read and possess certain texts, etc.  It is a way too intrusive step of the federal government into our lives and hopefully the Supreme Court will bitchslap this stupid law back to the frickin’ Stone Age.

You want universal healthcare?  Fine.  There’s really only one way to do it: expand Medicare to cover every single American for a minimum of basic medical coverage.  This will mean that your tax bill WILL increase but you get to do away with Medicaid and the VA.  Also, your private insurers will still survive because the coverage provided is basic…and they’ll sell supplemental policies which (if I had my way) would be strictly regulated.  But none of this will happen because our Congress doesn’t give a flying rat turd for the country when that care is opposed to their getting re-elected to office.  So, this law will fail, Obama was an idiot for proposing it, an even bigger idiot for going along with all the concessions he made to get it to pass and he deserves the full blame (along with Reid and Pelosi) when the court rightfully squashes this idiocy as it almost surely should and probably will.  And just so I’m on the record: I too believe we have a major problem with health care in this country and I believe the only ultimate solution is to go to some form of a single payer solution.  Only problem with Obamacare is: this ain’t it and it deserves to die so we can all deal with the shock of that and move to address the situation with a mature, comprehensive, bi-partisan plan.

I almost typed that last part without laughing out loud.  Almost.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Please make it stop

Posted by Euroranger on February 14, 2012

Obi Wan the Wise

Also, this is not the Hope and Change you were looking for...but it can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.

So, just a quick word today on something I kinda need to get off my chest.  I’ve made no secret of my dislike for Barack Obama’s presidency.  I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid like so many of my fellow Americans did 4 years ago.  I didn’t fall for all the Hope and Change slick marketing bullshit like so many did.  I didn’t go and cast a vote one way or the other based solely on the race of one of the candidates like so many did.  Barry is a product of the Chicago political machine and as Obi Wan once sagely observed, “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”  He also immediately followed that up with, “We must be cautious” but I guess nobody stuck around long enough to give THAT warning any real thought.  Anyway, despite my absolute misgivings over putting a complete political novice in charge of the world’s most prosperous and powerful country, for the sake of that same country, I really wished I was wrong and that he’d turn out to be at least not a complete unmitigated disaster of a president.  However, as we all know now, the only thing Barry’s managed to accomplish with his presidency, to me so far, is to make Jimmy Carter’s presidency look not quite as bad by comparison…and that’s not a good thing.  This all gets spit out here today because of the budget Obama squatted out a couple of days ago and, well, it really just pisses me off.

Why angry?  Well, let’s start with the nearly universally accepted acknowledgement that this budget will never be passed.  That’s right.  Barry knows it.  Both sides in Congress know it.  Every credible media outlet bothering to comment on it knows it.  Quite simply: it’s not a budget…it’s a campaign platform.  In other words, it’s outright lies.  The man is STILL the president of this country for almost another entire freakin’ year and something as serious to the country right now as our collective finances…and he completely abandons leadership and responsibility in favor of fucking campaigning.  Goddamn it Obama you asshole, YOU’RE ALREADY THE FUCKING PRESIDENT, START DOING THE GODDAMNED JOB!  I don’t think it’s too much to ask that this pathetic excuse for an entirely two-dimensional, manufactured, Chicago stuffed shirt grows a brain, spine or balls and does the job the idiot majority of the voters in this country elected him to do 3 years ago.  I mean, for crissake, when he won last time he won a FOUR year job.  It’s still got a year to go and he’s simply abandoning the job and diverting his attention to ask us to give him the same job for four MORE years?  How about you do the job you’re supposed to be doing now, do it well and, hey guess what?…people will re-elect you because you’re doing a good job.

Obama facepalm

"Oh shit...math. They told me there'd be no math."

But you’re not, you never intended to and this (our collective future) is just one goddamned great big game to you, isn’t it?

You said 3 years ago that you’d halve the debt.  When you were sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2009 the debt held by the public was $6.3 trillion.  The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (your own guys!!!) estimates that the debt held by the public will be about $12.8 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2013.  Half of $6.3 trillion would be $3.15 trillion.  Gee Barry, you only missed the mark by $9.65 trillion dollars!  Thaaaaat close.  You didn’t halve the debt, YOU FREAKIN’ DOUBLED IT!!!!  How does the most powerful man in the world not know the difference between “multiply” and “divide”?

So, after last year’s wildly popular, record setting $3.73 trillion budget proposal (I have to describe it as “wildly popular” because English simply doesn’t have an adequate term to relate the concept of “what-the-hell-is-the-matter-with-you” outrage) and huge public backlash against such ridiculous economic recklessness, what does the president’s budget this year look like?  Oh, it’s merely a $3.7 trillion budget adding an additional $1.3 trillion in new debt.  Keep in mind, the entire debt up to Obama’s presidency was $6.3 trillion.  His budget last year (2012) produced a $1.327 trillion dollar deficit and this one (2013), if passed (which, to be fair doesn’t have even the theoretical snowball’s chance in hell) would add another $1.3 trillion.  The magic of his first two years?  Yeah, that was $1.267 trillion (2010) and $1.560 trillion (2011). Hoping that Barry’s adding/subtracting skills are magically better than his multiply/divide confusion, that’s $5.454 trillion in new debt…IN JUST FOUR YEARS!  It took us 230+ years to amass $6.3 trillion, Barry would stack up an additional 87% to what was there when he took office…in just his first administration.

I have to break this part out so it doesn’t get lost in all the clutter.  In each of Obama’s 3 recorded years and his now one requested year, his budgets have never produced LESS than a $1.2 trillion debt.  But since I’m about to compare him with his immediate predecessor (whom he initially blamed for all this) we need to use similar measures and for that I need to express the Obama budgets in Bush era budget terms.  Barack Obama’s budget debts:

  • 2013 – $1300 billion (proposed)
  • 2012 – $1327 billion (all the rest are actual from here down)
  • 2011 – $1560 billion
  • 2010 – $1267 billion

Bush’s last 4 budgets by contrast:

  • 2009 – $1413 billion (that’s actual…his submitted budget had just $407 billion)
  • 2008 – $455 billion
  • 2007 – $161 billion
  • 2006 – $248 billion
Deficit chart

If you're like Barry, numbers can sometimes be hard to grasp. How about a picture? Does a picture help?

Those are pretty stark numbers folks.  Look, let’s be clear here for a moment: while I don’t by any means like Barack Obama as a president, I didn’t much care for Bush either.  But the hard evidence is that in Bush’s last 4 years his TOTAL submitted budgets added less to the debt than any ONE of Barack Obama’s last three SINGLE years.  That means that 3 years of Obama budgets are worse, debt-wise, that TWELVE years of Bush’s worst.  People flat out hated Bush and thought he was dumber than a stump…but is this brains by comparison?  Really?

Finally and personally, while Barry has yet to find a program he can’t resist throwing bushels of borrowed money at, this proposed 2013 budget of his, while claiming to highlight “new manufacturing and new sources of energy and new skills and education for the American people” actually CUTS NASA’s budget…which was already just $18.7 billion for 2012 to $17.7 billion for 2013.  For crying out loud, one of the few government programs that has ever done anything to further the human condition and this jackass can’t figure out how to fund it to the tune of better than 1/2 of one freakin’ percent of the entire federal budget?  For instance, he proposes a cut for Mars exploration of $226 million or 38.5%.  Lopping nearly 40% off scientific exploration and our future as a species in space…from the asshole whose administration gave Solyndra $535 million?  This idiot shouldn’t be trusted with his own milk money much less the finances of the United States of America.

Anyway, the entire upshot of all this (get this) is the generally perceived wisdom in the media (which has got to be a bigger oxymoron than any of us realize reading that) that this budget is Barry’s campaign platform for the 2012 election.  Pause a moment and think on that.  Obama introduces a budget solely as a political move (it’s not meant to actually, you know, run the frickin’ country…it’s solely for his personal quest to get re-elected) and it’s this gawdawfully bad.  I mean, if it’s anyone with a clue, he introduces a budget that he could point at and say “I’m working hard here to get the job done”.  But no.  Not Barry.  This document is analogous to a slacker at work, in the week before his annual review, showing up at the office in his bathrobe and then proceeding to take a nap in his office.  Not hustle and get some important work done to show he’s competent and capable.  No, double down on everything he’s done wrong to that point and go all in.  Mind you, maybe Barry IS intelligent enough to know that his record to this point is so absolutely awful that nothing he can do this late will save it…so he abandons doing the job at all and goes full balls out on a smoke and mirrors (Hope and Change again anyone) marketing campaign.

You see, while I don’t much care for any of the Republican candidates, literally anyone would be better in the Oval Office than this failed Chicago community organizer.  I don’t know if we can take another 4 years of him.  I know we certainly can’t afford it.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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I have an idea: #1

Posted by Euroranger on January 25, 2012

Bullshit detector

This thing has been going crazy lately...

So, it’s yet another political season and yet another occasion for all of us Americans to look around and marvel at how absolutely gullible and tolerant we are.  Gullible in that some of us actually believe what a politician says when he/she opens their mouth (Hope and Change anyone?) and tolerant in that we haven’t all collectively grabbed torches and pitchforks and marched on Washington with the intent of stringing the useless bastards up by their toes for their sheer collective ineptitude.  Well, maybe instead of “tolerant” we could use “lethargic” because I think that kind of defines most folks these days when it comes to politics in this country.  We just don’t believe things can be handled anymore by the system we have in place.  It’s a nice system, had worked well for quite some time but it’s now been hobbled by the notion that compromise is evil and wrong and that anyone that doesn’t hold fast to every single belief they claim to hold is wishy-washy and should be expelled in favor of another politician whose character is more ideologically “pure”.  It’s utter bullshit and it’s why we have a Congress that got nearly nothing done this past session and why we have a president who’s better at making insipid fucking slogans instead of actually being an effective chief executive.  And…it’s all our own faults for electing them and then tolerating their collective idiocy while the country slowly sinks into the cesspool of history.

But hey, good news: I have some ideas!

Yes, I have suggestions to solve several problems that plague our once great country and none of them involve mass executions of anyone in government (yet).  No, I’ve been sitting quietly by watching with barely detectable interest the GOP nomination contest for the next presidential election and wondering how it was we came to this place.  And yet, rather than wonder why we’re interested in Romney’s tax returns or whether Newt wanted to bang someone other than his repellent second wife (she really does seem to be a real shrew though) when we should be interested in identifying the problems in the country and formulating and applying solutions to them, I’ll just go ahead and toss out a few ideas and hope that someday, someone in a position of power and who gives a care about the country to the extent they may actually, oh I don’t know, decide they want to arrest our current downward slide into obscurity notices them and says “hey, not a bad idea”.  So, without further ado, let’s get on with it.  Life has taught me that in order to get things done you need to identify what things need to get done.  That seems simple but really it’s kind of necessary to cut through all the circus crap around politics.  We don’t deal with issues anymore.  Our politicians use issues as the reason they can hold a press conference and pontificate about how their political opponents are really just Satan in disguise and want nothing more than to ruin this country.  They don’t actually solve issues though.

Unemployed dog

At least he was out looking for work instead of sitting around and moaning and licking his balls...unlike the OWS crowd.

So, to my mind, issue #1 today is: the economy.  That seems kind of obvious, right?  But, have you heard anyone put forward an idea other than “we need more jobs”?  Anything concrete?  Yeah, me neither and that’s because the way to fix the economy is rather radical and won’t make anyone happy…but fixed is what it needs to be rather than watch it get worse and worse.  So, let’s define what’s wrong with the economy.  I believe what’s wrong with the economy is wealth disparity, the tax rate and lack of jobs.  Oh sure, there are others but I believe if you solve these three then the others kind of solve themselves.  Luckily, I know exactly how to solve all three with but one simple new law.  Seriously.  I can solve all those in one fell swoop.  That one law would be: mandatory profit sharing.

Now, before most of you go “what the hell…profit sharing?…what an idiot” let me explain why this fixes things.  Let’s start with the issue of wealth disparity.  The real gulf in wealth accumulation between the rich and the not-rich started, not coincidentally around the early to mid 1980s.  There’s always been a difference but it was around then that the wealthy really started to rake in huge piles of money and the rest of us were pretty much cruising along at the same rate we always had.  I know why this happened.  Remember something called “supply side economics”?  No?  “Trickle down economics”?  How about “Reaganomics”?  Well, whether you understand it or not, our economy has operated more or less under the tenets of this economic model since around 1982-83 or so (it took time to implement).  The idea itself seems pretty straightforward and obvious.  Supply side economics featured 4 major components:

  1. Reduce government control of the economy and let business do what business does (basically, reduce/remove regulations)
  2. Reduce taxes, namely the capital gains and income taxes (let the people keep more of their money and they’ll invest it in business)
  3. Use the federal reserve to control inflation (this is done by controlling the money supply via the setting of lending rates to banks)
  4. Reduce the increase in government spending (spending increases but not as much as it had been doing)

The idea was to take the leash off business and in return the economy would grow, jobs would be created, profits and the GDP would increase, federal revenues would increase right along with them and workers would benefit via better jobs and higher wages.  All those happened…except that last one.  And despite the cases of apoplexy it’ll cause on the left when I say this: supply side/trickle down/Reaganomics just plain works.  This truly isn’t up for debate.  However, it can be made to work better (and as intended by it’s namesake).

A look at any data since the mid 1980s bears out the fantastic success of supply side economics.  Controls were loosened, tax rates were lowered, inflation was strangled and, for a time, federal budgets were at least under some control.  As a result business boomed, millions of new jobs were created, money poured into the stock market and federal revenues actually went up despite rates being reduced.  Everyone was winning…except the average American worker.  You see, while the businesses everyone was working for were making enormous record profits, those profits weren’t being passed down to the people who helped make them.  For the most part, those profits were being routed back into the stock market via corporate investment and dividend payouts but not into higher overall wages.  As a result, those who had money in the stock market (the wealthy) made even more money in the stock market and American wages fairly stagnated.  Sure, there were 401(k) retirement investment accounts and real estate boomed…and that’s where most of the wealth of all the non-wealthy folk was being realized.  Your house became, not just a place to live but a vehicle to contain your wealth.  Nobody recalls it now but that concept was rather new in the 1980s and 90s.  Anyway, the whole issue is that while the government opened the floodgates at the top of the pipe, nothing more ended up trickling down at the bottom of the pipe than had been before the plan was put into motion.  Well, fabulous wealth was generated (that much is obvious) but it didn’t get shared with those at the middle and bottom of the ladder.  Mandatory profit sharing fixes that.

Reagan on TIME

Reagan had a great idea but it got implemented with the typical efficiency we've all come to expect from our government.

I propose a law wherein if a company (any size) realizes an operating profit (after all expenses including wages/benefits) then a portion of that profit gets distributed to the employees in the form of a profit sharing payment.  The portion wouldn’t need to be cripplingly large either.  By way of example, let’s look at two companies: ExxonMobil and Walmart.  In 2010, ExxonMobil made $19.28B in profits and had 83,600 employees.  If you took just 1% of that profit (meaning 99% stayed with the company) and equally distributed it to every one of their employees in the form of profit sharing, it comes out to $2306 per employee.  Just one frickin’ percent equates to an additional $2306 per employee.  Naturally, 2% is twice that and so on.  And for ExxonMobil, 2010 was a down year compared to just two years earlier.  Yeah, 2010 saw a 57% decrease in profits from 2008.  But how about Walmart?  In 2010 they had around 2 million employees and enjoyed a profit of $14.33B.  Take the same numbers we did for ExxonMobil and Walmart pays out a 1% profit sharing check of just $72.  However, of those 2 million employees, the vast majority are part time and some adjustments need to be made to the formula.  However, when the Bush tax refunds went out at $300 per taxpayer, it helped to stabilize the economy and inject cash flow into a sluggish market.  Using that as a measuring stick, Walmart would need to pay out just 5% of their profits back to their employees or roughly $360 per person…and they still keep 95%.

This idea has a number of attractive features.  For one, we’re not using the federal government via the IRS to tax those corporations so that the government can redistribute it via social services.  No, in this case, work (having a job) pays off.  It’s a direct transaction between the employer and employee.  If, for tax purposes, the employer wishes to put that money into better benefits or wages ahead of time, such would reduce their profits somewhat (because benefits and wages are expenses that reduce profits) then this is also good.  Further, what will those employees do with their one time checks do you think?  What would you do if you got a one time, extra check from your employer for $350?  You’d do what most Americans do with it: you’d spend it.  That spending generates commerce which makes more jobs, higher profits for companies, sales tax revenues for local governments, increased income tax for the federal government, some of it gets invested into the stock market, etc.  Notice what it does though: it places more money (wealth) into the hands of the non-wealthy classes, it stimulates the economy which means more jobs, and it doesn’t complicate the tax code any.  It addresses two parts of the three I identified as needing to be fixed to make the economy move again…and it does it all without increasing taxes one bit.  In fact, the federal government could probably drop the tax rates across the board by a half or one percent and still maintain and probably increase revenues.  Let’s find out.

Say we have a worker making $60K and who has an effective tax rate (what they end up paying on their 1040 each year) of 18%.  The government revenue for that person is $10,800.  But suppose that worker gets a $1500 profit sharing check and the government has reduced taxes to sell this notion such that the new effective tax rate is 17.5%.  Well, the new taxes come out to $10,763 which is a $37 or 3/10 of 1% drop for that one guy.  However, that employee has $1537 more in his pocket than he did…and he’ll spend that money.  Spending that money creates local taxes and the goods he buys means the company making those goods needs more employees to keep up with demand…which means more jobs…which means more taxpayers.  This all worked for Reaganomics/supply side/trickle down economics and it’ll work here.  More taxpayers means the government very quickly makes up that lost $37 plus a whole lot more.  And the poor employer who had to pay out that 1% profit sharing?  Yeah, the demand for their goods goes up along with everyone elses which means they sell more…which means they make more profit.

Essentially, my idea binds the fortunes of the employer and employee closer together and ensures that the employee enjoys some of the benefits of the ever increasing economy and corporate profits.  This all seems like a win-win situation right?  Surely though, there must be a downside or two…and there is.  One downside is that with that much more money in the economy you get inflation.  However, the federal reserve now has a reliable formula for combating inflation and that’s the interest they charge banks to borrow from them.  Right now, that rate is exactly 0%.  That means the reserve lends money to banks for free.  However, the economy was on virtual fire throughout the 1980s and 90s and the rate wasn’t astronomical to control inflation.  In short, inflation will happen but it can be controlled.  Who else suffers though?  Maybe Wall Street some.  With corporations not having that extra percent or two to put into investments there will be a dip in the amount of money that flows into the stock market.  However, that money didn’t just disappear and those employees who have it will want to invest in their own retirements and the stock market is an ideal place to do just that.  So, while there might be an initial dip, it should right itself when some of those employees realize they have that extra check each year they can do something responsible with.


It may not be fashionable but if we don't there'll be less cake than in Portal

Anyway, that’s idea #1.  As an aside, I’m usually a fiscal conservative when it comes to politics and yet this is an idea I’m putting forward.  I believe that increasing the cash flowing through the economy is the only viable way to get everything moving again.  I don’t involve the government in the form of confiscatory taxes (indeed, I suggest those taxes may even be able to be reduced a little) and I retain all the existing features of our economic model.  All I am doing is putting the mechanism in place to ensure that the unfulfilled promise of trickle down economics gets realized: that some of the largess from the scheme actually, you know, trickles down.  It was a great idea but missed that one important and crucial element.  Fix it and the model will kick the economy into gear like it did 30 years ago when it was first enacted.

This is just one idea I have.  I have others as well but hey, let’s start with this one.  The right should embrace it because it keeps the government out of things (they don’t act as middlemen), it validates the conceptual promise of supply side or Reaganomics and it does something concrete to spur business growth.  The left should embrace it because, while my very simple example was that profits were shared equally for every employee, the plan can be tweaked to be indexed against salary.  The lowest earners get a higher percentage cut while the higher earners’ cut is lower.  Everyone still gets a piece of the pie but it provides room to ensure that those who have less get more and those who have more get less (but still get some).  It also directly helps the American worker which is something the left has claimed to champion for some time.  Well, this lets them do that.  Business should support it because it will mean that the measure falls across them and their competitors equally (so nobody gets disadvantaged competitively by it) and the resulting better economy means more business for them all.  The average American should support it because, duh, more money in their pocket.

Oh hell…that was all just compromise, wasn’t it?  Well, maybe if we don’t tell them, they’ll still go for it.  One can always hope.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

From Heroes to Zeroes

Posted by Euroranger on July 20, 2011

Man on the Moon

Happy 42nd Anniversary! Too bad in just a few more years the world won't have a single living person who's walked on the Moon. Think about that. Two generations...wasted.

Off the top of your head, do you know what today is?  Aside from being a Wednesday and it being July 20, 2011, do you know what this date is an anniversary of?  Most won’t (because most are indolent turds for whom school was nothing more than fancy daycare) and so because of that, I offer my blog post today as sort of a public service announcement.  Gentle readers, today is the 42nd anniversary of man stepping onto the Moon for the first time.  That’s right, today was the day, 42 years ago that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin undogged the hatch to their lunar lander and hopped out to take an extraterrestrial stroll and to presumably give their enormous steel balls more room to roam.  Very rarely in the history of mankind has an event united humanity like the landing on the Moon did back in July of 1969.  We were at war in Vietnam, staring down the Soviets in Europe…and yet, when Americans had landed and were preparing to open the door and step out onto the Sea of Tranquility…everyone all over the world stopped what they were doing and watched.  Televisions weren’t nearly as numerous then as they are today and yet 1 person in every 5 alive at the time saw Neil Armstrong step from the lander onto the Moon and many more gathered around to the radio to hear it.  There have been other events since that have garnered more viewers but nothing has ever captured the imagination of mankind like man walking on the Moon.  It was a tremendous accomplishment.  From man’s first ride on a rocket in April of 1961 to walking on the Moon in July of 1969…barely 8 years had passed.  It was just 65 years from when Orville and Wilbur Wright flew at Kitty Hawk.  In that summer of 1969, the sky was no longer the limit.  We had conquered the sky and space and the Moon and were talking about permanent Moon bases, travelling to Mars and pretty much anything science fiction had suggested.

Today is indeed a day to be proud to be an American.  Sadly enough, though, tomorrow is not.

Tomorrow the Space Shuttle Atlantis will be returning to Earth and will be subsequently detailed and then sent off to serve as a museum piece…and NASA has no immediate plans for manned missions to space that don’t involve hitching a ride with the Russians to the International Space Station that we largely paid for and built.  Actually, that’s not at all fair to NASA.  They have plans.  They’re called Orion.  What NASA DOESN’T have is funding.  THAT was chopped by, you guessed it, Barack Obama back in October of last year by killing the Constellation program of which the Orion crew vehicle and Ares I heavy lift rocket were pieces of.  So, when the Space Shuttle returns tomorrow, the United States will have, for the first time in nearly 50 years, no active program to further manned exploration of space.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Thanks for the memories. I guess we'll just need to paint a big blue handicapped zone around launchpad 39-A, huh?

I won’t often be heard saying this but, I’ll be a little ashamed tomorrow to be a citizen of a country who’s busy bailing out banks and other private companies whilst turning their back on something that very materially advances the human condition. Every single human being benefits from the discoveries we make to circumvent the hurdles to space exploration.  I simply can’t believe the United States has strayed so far from where we used to be collectively as a nation that we all pretty meekly just accept that we’ll be stepping away from manned space exploration like this. We’ll throw endless good money after bad in a quest to educate our kids when what those kids NEED is a goal to aspire to. I’m sad to say but my son can’t actually have the same dream I had of what to be when I grew up.

If he says tonight “daddy, I want to be an astronaut when I grow up” I’ll have to tell him to aim lower…or learn to speak Mandarin.

There is still a chance that funding for NASA could be restored in future budgets but given how totally Barack Obama’s initiatives have saddled us with nearly unserviceable debt, I don’t hold out much hope that we’ll ever get back to our glory days as the Russians and Chinese move to take over a position we didn’t lose…we just walked away from.

It took 65 years from the time we figured out how to fly to put people on the Moon.  However, all we’ve done in the 42 years since then is make excuses for why the sons aren’t as capable as the fathers and grandfathers.  Instead of celebrating today, we should all be collectively ashamed to the point of rededicating ourselves to being the flag-bearer of humanity in space.  It’s a place of pride that Americans were challenged to achieve and we conquered.  It was a product of American ingenuity and exceptionalism and that product has been sacrificed by those who’d rather cater to the slackards and do-nothings in our society.  It’s the sort of thinking that plagues and infests our once-great country today.  It’s bad enough there are people out there without a proper education but what is truly abhorrent is the Cult of Ignorance that is so disgustingly prevalent today, where people are actually proud of being pants-on-head retarded about things and look down their noses (and all four chins) at intelligent and ambitious people with dreams because “them’s better ‘n us and that’s bad! Where do they get off thinkin’ that they’re better than the rest of us?”  And we have a government and president that panders to that crowd because it’s all about the votes.

Unemployed astronaut

I'm pretty sure nobody expected that Obama would have ensured that the 9.8% unemployment rate would extend to NASA astronauts. Still happy with all that Hope and Change® bullshit?

“Audacity of Hope” my ass.

My name is Euroranger and I approved (goddammitsomuch) this post.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Budgeting – Three Card Monty Style

Posted by Euroranger on February 14, 2011

Stupid people

Only when dollar bills become as sharp as ninja shuriken would this picture represent some kind of progress for the country.

Quick post today on one of the things that’s most wrong with our country.  There are two types of wrong people in the world: people who do the wrong thing even though they know better and people who do the wrong thing because they didn’t know better.  This is quick example of that second kind.

Lots and lots of people have opinions about all kinds of things.  By and large, most of those people are sane, level-headed normal folk like you, and most of the time, me.  How then on issues like politics do we have such a sharp divide in the United States?  When you encounter someone who disagrees with you on what you think is a fundamentally easy issue to agree on, have you ever considered that they’re simply not just brain-numbingly stupid?  People form their opinions using two tools: the facts and their values wherein they weigh the facts and determine the facts’ importance to them in coming to an opinion.  It’s easy to understand that not everyone shares the same values.  However, it’s not too obtuse to suggest that collectively, our values in many areas are pretty much the same.  If you accept that most Americans’ values on most things are fairly similar then it’s the facts portion of the formula for deriving an opinion that might could be the culprit.

For a long time certain groups in the country have railed against the bias of mainstream media and suggest that the facts are selectively delivered (or omitted) and accompanied by a large dose of political bias on the part of the journalist.  I happen to be a very discerning reader of the news and I do see this quite often…and today provided an excellent example of that.

Case in point: the president delivered his proposed 2011-2012 budget today.  I’d like you to read the Associated Press story on this budget that I just read via my Yahoo homepage a few moments ago.  If you’d prefer to skip it, I’ve helpfully bullet noted all the actual pertinent news the article contains (and some that it doesn’t but should) afterward:

Obama unveils $3.73 trillion budget for 2012

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger, Ap Economics Writer 2 hrs 2 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is sending Congress a $3.73 trillion spending blueprint that pledges $1.1 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade through spending cuts and tax increases.

Obama’s new budget projects that the deficit for the current year will surge to an all-time high of $1.65 trillion. That reflects a sizable tax-cut agreement reached with Republicans in December. For 2012, the administration sees the imbalance declining to $1.1 trillion, giving the country a record four straight years of $1 trillion-plus deficits.

Jacob Lew, Obama’s budget director, said that the president’s spending proposal was a balanced package of spending cuts and “shared sacrifice” that would bring the deficits under control. Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Lew said that Obama’s budget would “stand the test that we live within our means and we invest in the future.”

Senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the formal release of the budget, said that Obama would achieve two-thirds of his projected $1.1 trillion in deficit savings through spending cuts including a five-year freeze on many domestic programs.

The other one-third of the savings would come from tax increases, including limiting tax deductions for high income taxpayers, a proposal Obama put forward last year only to have it rejected in Congress.

The Obama budget recommendation, which is certain to be changed by Congress, would spend $3.73 trillion in the 2012 budget year, which begins Oct. 1, a reduction of 2.4 percent from what Obama projects will be spent in the current budget year.

The Obama plan would fall far short of the $4 trillion in deficit cuts recommended in a December report by his blue-ribbon deficit commission. That panel said that real progress on the deficit cannot be made without tackling the government’s big three entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — and defense spending.

Obama concentrated his cuts in the one-tenth of the budget that covers most domestic agencies, projecting $400 billion in savings from a five-year freeze in this area. Some programs would not just see spending frozen at 2010 spending levels but would be targeted for sizable cuts.

Republicans, who took control of the House in the November elections and picked up seats in the Senate in part because of voter anger over the soaring deficits, called Obama’s efforts too timid. They want spending frozen at 2008 levels before efforts to fight a deep recession boosted spending in the past two years.

They are scheduled to begin debating on Tuesday a proposal that would trim spending by $61 billion for the seven months left in the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30. They also have vowed to push for tougher cuts in 2012 and future years.

“Americans don’t want a spending freeze at unsustainable levels,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. “They want cuts, dramatic cuts.”

The president’s projected $1.65 trillion deficit for the current year would be the highest dollar amount ever, surpassing the $1.41 trillion deficit hit in 2009. It would also represent 10.8 percent of the total economy, the highest level since the deficit stood at 21.5 percent of gross domestic product in 1945, reflecting heavy borrowing to fight World War II.

The president’s 2012 budget projects that the deficits will total $7.21 trillion over the next decade with the imbalances never falling lower below $607 billion, a figure that would still exceed the previous deficit record before Obama took office of $458.6 billion in 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office.

Administration officials project that the deficits will be trimmed to 3.2 percent of GDP by 2015 — one-third of the projected 2011 imbalance and a level they said was sustainable.

While cutting many programs, the new budget does propose spending increases in selected areas of education, biomedical research, energy efficiency, high-speed rail and other areas Obama judged to be important to the country’s future competitiveness in a global economy.

In the energy area, the budget would support Obama’s goal of putting 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 and doubling the nation’s share of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

The budget proposes program terminations or spending reductions for more than 200 programs at an estimated savings of $33 billion in 2012. Programs targeted for large cuts included Community Development Block Grants, trimmed by $300 million, while a program that helps pay heating bills for low-income families would be cut in half for a savings of $2.5 billion while a program supporting environmental restoration of the Great Lakes would be reduced by one-fourth for $125 million in savings.

The biggest tax hike would come from a proposal to trim the deductions the wealthiest Americans can claim for charitable contributions, mortgage interest and state and local tax payments. The administration proposed this tax hike last year but it was a nonstarter in Congress.

Obama’s budget would also raise $46 billion over 10 years by eliminating various tax breaks to oil, gas and coal companies.

While Obama’s budget avoided painful choices in entitlement programs, it did call for $78 billion in reductions to Pentagon spending over the next decade by trimming what it views as unnecessary weapons programs such as the C-17 aircraft, the alternative engine for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and the Marine expeditionary vehicle.

Administration officials said that the savings from limiting tax deductions for high income taxpayers would be used to pay for keeping the Alternative Minimum Tax from hitting more middle-class families over the next two years.

Another $62 billion in savings would be devoted to paying to prevent cuts in payments to doctors in the Medicare program over the next two years. Congress has for several years blocked the cuts from taking effect.

The budget will propose $1 billion in cuts in grants for large airports, almost $1 billion in reduced support to states for water treatment plants and other infrastructure programs and savings from consolidating public health programs run by the Centers for Disease Control and various U.S. Forest Service programs.

The administration will also propose saving $100 billion from Pell Grants and other higher education programs over a decade through belt-tightening with the savings used to keep the maximum college financial aid award at $5,550, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the budget’s Monday release.

The surge in deficits reflect the deep 2007-2009 recession, the worst since the Great Depression, which cut into government tax revenues as millions were thrown out of work and prompted massive government spending to jump-start economic growth and stabilize the banking system.

Republicans point to still-elevated unemployment levels and charge the stimulus programs were a failure. The administration contends the spending was needed to keep the country from falling into an even deeper slump.

I know that’s a long article but what did you glean from all that?  Did you know that the tone of the article is set within the first sentence and paragraph and that most people will reiterate the general message of those words as though that was the facts the article delivered?  It’s true and it’s manipulation at it’s worst in this case.  Let’s re-read that first bit again:

President Barack Obama is sending Congress a $3.73 trillion spending blueprint that pledges $1.1 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade through spending cuts and tax increases.

Stupid people

How's all that "Hope and Change" bullshit feel now? Were you really that gullible? Next election, could you make an effort to remember that your own judgement isn't to be trusted? Thanks! Sincerely, the rest of the U.S.A.

Reading that, one might think that the president delivered a budget aimed at fighting the federal deficit and finally getting the message that we cannot afford to be spending borrowed money like it’s going out of style.  However, if you carefully read the article again a second time you will be exposed to these facts…although perhaps not truly appreciate their import in face of the article’s initial claim of “deficit savings”.  Some of those facts are:

  • He’s introducing a $3.73 trillion budget.  Know what the budget was last year?  The year voters supposedly got fed up with big government spending?  The election wherein Obama claimed “he gets it” and heard the will of the American people?  It was $3.456 trillion.  That’s right…Obama saying he gets it means we add another 7.9% to the friggin’ already bloated budget.  Remember now…the nice writers at AP told us this budget will result in “$1.1 trillion in deficit savings”.  How the hell is that?  IT’S A BIGGER BUDGET IN A YEAR WHEN TAX REVENUES ARE DOWN!  Increasing the spending when you’re not increasing what you bring in is called a deficit!
  • In fact, despite AP’s initial claim that the budget somehow (presumably through the use of magic) will result in $1.1 trillion in deficit savings, they do go on to admit “that the deficit for the current year will surge to an all-time high of $1.65 trillion“.  However, they manage to explain that away with the next line: “That reflects a sizable tax-cut agreement reached with Republicans in December”.  In case you’re keeping track at home: largest budget ever in history introduced, largest deficit in American history proposed, it’s all the Republicans’ fault for not letting the federal government tax us even harder.  Of course by “us” I mean those nasty rich people…so not really us.  It’s okay to be discriminatory as long as it’s on the basis of the rewards of success, regardless of how you manage to succeed.  American dream indeed.
  • This one needs to be quoted in its entirety because to chop it up would allow all the comedic gold to escape: “Jacob Lew, Obama’s budget director, said that the president’s spending proposal was a balanced package of spending cuts and “shared sacrifice” that would bring the deficits under control.”  Note to Jacob Lew: “balanced” doesn’t actually mean what you and Barry apparently think it means…not when “balanced” to you guys means a $1.1 trillion difference between what we take in and what we spend.  How the hell does anyone not currently suffering from a seeping head wound believe that a $1.1 trillion shortfall means bringing such shortfalls under control?!?!

The rest of the article contains the usual left leaning blame laying for and obfuscation of Obama’s horrifically outrageous budget and the fact that he obviously DIDN’T get it this past November.  The writers even quote the blue ribbon deficit commission that recommended somebody someday having to address the big three budget killers: “that panel said that real progress on the deficit cannot be made without tackling the government’s big three entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security“…but then simply couldn’t resist tossing in their entirely personally opinion based 4th item “and defense spending“.  It’s almost as if by quoting a legitimate study’s findings that mentions THREE programs that they believe nobody that reads their tripe will notice that FOUR quoted items isn’t THREE…but they might come away with the mistaken impression that the deficit panel included defense spending as one of the Big Three.  Hey, it’s just news…what’s a little political opinion, right?  Not like news should be objective and unbiased, right?

Look, I’m piling on Barry because it’s his budget.  I didn’t vote for the fraud but I am an American and I hate to see the future of our nation sold down the river by any president regardless of party affiliation…and this one is doing just that.  We don’t need MORE spending.  We need LESS.  Do you expect to get a 7.9% raise in your paycheck next year?  Well, if you didn’t what the hell are you doing?  Barry believes the government should get one…or at least will spend like they will (hint: they won’t).  You would think that this complete failure as a president would take a lesson from what’s happened in Tunisia and Egypt lately and realize that people have a limit.  In their cases, it was dictators.  In ours (as we demonstrated around 230+ years back) it’s fiscal repression by a government who can’t seem to be concerned with what they’re doing to the people they govern.  We’ve done it once and at the rate we’re going, we’ll end up having to do it again.

What’s almost worse though is that the mechanisms we the people are supposed to use to know what’s going on (a free and unhindered press) were at some point co-opted by those who seemingly cannot deliver a news story without trying to slant it to deliver some kind of political message.  And this is the AP.  I have to tell you, Reuters is unashamedly worse.  I can hardly read a new story coming from Reuters anymore without hip waders and a healthy fresh breath before I slosh on in.  How are Americans supposed to form an educated opinion on their own when the news they receive comes pre-tainted with this crap?

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

What now? Parts 2-5

Posted by Euroranger on November 17, 2010

Captain America

Cap could prolly fix it all by himself but how about we DON'T puss out. We can do this, okay?

So, last time I said this would be the start of a 5 part discussion on how to fix America.  Guess what, you don’t want to read 4 more rambling posts by me on politics and the economy any more than I want to write them.  These ARE important issues that do need to be discussed…but they’re not worth 4 more posts here.  Just one.  This one.  In fact, I was considering not doing them at all until I ran across this gem today from the New York Times: How to fix the budget.  You’ll need Flash installed on your browser to make this happen but if you do, this is an interesting little exercise for how to go about supposedly fixing the American economy.  It’s easy, somewhat explained and has exactly zero chance of ever actually happening.  Each one of those 40 proposals would be like World War 3 in Congress so this is all a pipe dream which is sad because this really is an important issue overall.  However, just for laughs, go try the NYT piece and post your link in the comments section so we can all compare notes.  For fairness, my solution (insofar as this piece would allow MY solution) is here.  For conversation’s sake, my solution balance works out as 16% tax increases and 84% spending cuts.  Having said that, I’d really need to say two things:

  1. How accurate are these numbers?  They don’t cite their sources in the piece itself and the potential for bias is quite large (especially considering this IS the New York Times whose motto is: “if it’s not news, we’ll make it news”).
  2. It’s an enormous delusion thinking that anything we could do today about the situation we’d have by 2030 would be effective then.  Seriously, think about it a moment.  Could anyone in 1990 have foretold the situation we’re in today and accurately produced a budget then that would fit us now?  No way in hell.  I’d only concentrate on fixing the 2015 shortfall projection. Never, not ever, has a federal projection insofar as money ever come in at what it was projected to be 20 years previously. Trying to manage 2030 today is a freakin’ joke. If we fix 2011, 2012, 2013 and so on…2030 will take care of itself.

So, since I’m gonna deal with the remaining 4 points of my Fix America In Five Easy Steps program, let’s get moving:

2. The Deficit/National Debt – This issue dominates all others because without this being solid, nothing else can happen.  This is what generates the money that everything else the government does relies on.  How important is this?  Well consider this: right now there are around 309 million people in America.  The current debt is around $13.7T (that’s T for Trillion).  In other words, for every man, woman and child of all ages in the country, the debt per person is a little over $44,000…each.  For each taxpayer (because not every citizen is a taxpayer) the number is even worse: $124,000.  And these numbers grow by the second.  This is an intolerable situation and it has to be brought to a halt.  The number one best way to control the debt is to stop incurring new debt.  Basically, if you’re in a freakin’ hole: stop digging.  To put the debt equation into simple terms, it’s what remains between the difference the federal government brings in in the form of tax revenues and the amount is spends.  This year the federal government will bring in around $2.2T in taxes and revenues.  However, they’ll spend nearly $3.5T.  The difference is the 2010 debt which will be around $1.35T.  They (the Federal Treasury) will finance that additional spending that is unfunded by issuing bonds, bills and notes that individuals and other countries purchase.  Unfortunately, we’ll pay interest to those who lend us money so that $1.35T for this year will actually turn out to be even more when you add on the interest.  So for the simple equation I mentioned above you can only make changes to two places: how much you bring in and how much you spend.  That means either raise taxes, cut spending or a combination of the two such that the debt becomes a surplus.  You see, it’s not necessary to only get the debt to zero because we’ve run deficits that we need to reduce (pay on).  We have a $13.7T debt already…we’re just adding to it with our $1.35T in additional debt this year.

My solution: reduce government spending drastically while fixing the overall tax code.  You reduce spending by:

  • reducing the federal workforce – The federal workforce has increased 1% per year for the past 10 years while the rest of the economy was busy losing jobs.
  • freeze their pay – Did you know that while the rest of us have been enjoying pay freezes and in some cases pay cuts, the average non-military federal worker has gotten pay increases?
  • get rid of earmarks – Better still, get rid of the ability to attach riders to bills in Congress (the way almost all earmarks get by).  Each bill should be voted on on its own merits.  Period.  Attaching a bill to fund abortions (for instance) shouldn’t be attached to a bill funding the pay of soldiers in combat and then requiring one vote for both.
  • eliminate farm subsidies and slap tariffs on imported farm goods to the level of American farm goods – American farmers are good at what they do but we can’t have a free market economy and subsidize the products at the same time.
  • reduce foreign aid – Until our economy is fixed and moving in the right direction, we can’t be giving taxpayer money away.  That’s simply stupid.
Deficit chart

Hey Barry?'re not helping.

There are quite a few additional ways to help.  One indeed is to fix our broke ass tax system.  For decades now the United States has been moving from a producing economy (heavy industry, building things for export, etc) to a service economy (banking, insurance, high technology, etc).  This new economy emphasizes spending (you earn a dollar, you spend it, the spent dollar buys something that someone else made which in turn means they have a job, for which they earn a dollar…lather, rinse, repeat as often as possible) but we are still mired in a tax system that taxes production and leaves taxation of spending relatively untouched.  What we need is a system by which income taxes are greatly reduced or eliminated altogether and a federal sales tax is instituted along with a minimal flat taxation rate on income.  Even in a down economy like we have now, people still need lights, food, water.  They still buy clothes, cars, TVs and such.  Much of that buying isn’t for American goods though so currently we’re not getting the benefit of taxing the companies that produced those goods…but if we instituted a national sales tax that was collected when they sold their goods here in our never satisfied buyer economy…well, that’d be a whole lot of revenue.  That scheme is helped along by reducing income taxes so the people have more to spend…which would raise sales tax revenues.  It would also help to eliminate tax loopholes for the wealthy (which the left in this country has an immense class warfare level hate for) because the wealthy buy expensive things.  You can reduce the sales tax rates on things like food and the necessities and increase the rate on discretionary and luxury goods.  In addition to that, the IRS would be greatly reduced (meaning that that “reduce the federal workforce” idea gets served) reducing the spending doled out to run that federal bureaucracy.  One additional benefit: it would mean federal revenues are pegged a lot closer to the experience of the average American household.  When times are good, people spend more and the sales tax revenues increase.  When times aren’t so good, the government gets to share the pain with us.

3. The Government Itself – I’ve already touched on this somewhat but there is a more fundamental message to be delivered here.  The spending cuts and the reduced taxes and the streamlining of the tax system all hint at a fundamental question that needs to be re-asked: what should the role of the federal government be in our country?  If you think the rise of the Tea Party movement is a fluke, consider that their main tenets are reducing the size of government, reducing government spending, returning the government to the role defined for the government by the Constitution.  Now, I’m not all on board with those notions across all facets of our society but I am with enough of them to recognize that the Tea Partiers are on to something.  The spending by the federal government this year for 2010 is going to account for almost 24% of our entire GDP.  That is, for each $4 the United States generates this year, the federal government will spend $1.  That’s way too much.  But what’s worse is that we continue to send the same people back to Washington.  This election midterm was all about expressing dissatisfaction with the government was it?  Well, we collectively sent 87% of the bozos back to Washington to keep doing what they’ve been doing all along: not much more than screwing the country into the ground.

Tar and feathering

I'm sure tarring and feathering didn't hurt THAT much. Maybe would should fix that oversight...

What this country needs is to completely change the job description for our Congressmen and Senators such that they regard the jobs the way they were originally intended to be: as representatives of the people they represent.  To that end, I propose the following changes:

  • the pay of representatives and senators be reduced and that such pay is their ONLY income during their term of office
  • the forever and ever pension that even one term representatives enjoy should be eliminated completely
  • the very generous medical insurance package that Congress (and the president) enjoys should be eliminated and they should be forced to make use of the same medical insurance system their legislation mandates for the rest of us
  • for representatives: no meeting with any lobbyist that does not maintain a presence in the district the representative is from.  Presence means headquarters, place of employment, etc.
  • for senators: no individual meetings with lobbyists period.  Instead, a lobbyist hour to be presented on the floor of the Senate for the lobbying interest to present their points of view to the senate as a whole.  They do deserve a voice like the people do: their voice however is a distilled voice of a collective…therefore they can be heard in the chamber housing the representatives of the distilled voice of the people
  • upgrade the crimes of corruption, bribery and graft to the equivalent of treason/sedition with the equivalent penalties for guilty findings
  • establish a spending cap on elections with the combined election proceeds from all candidates pooled and then distributed equally to all candidates – no more “buying” elections
  • no running for elected office if you are a convicted felon or have misdemeanor convictions for financial crimes (theft, embezzlement, tax evasion, etc)
  • eliminate the (R) and (D) from all ballots – party affiliation should be immaterial to voter selection (if you don’t know the candidates well enough to know their party and what they stand for skip voting for that election)

I’d also throw in there absolutely stringent voter qualification standards that include proof of citizenship, proof of residency and some demonstration that the voter knows something about the candidates’ stated positions on issues.  That last one would hit the Democrats harder than other parties but hey, we ought not to have ignorance ruling the day.

4. ObamaCare – It’s about here that I lose the support and respect of those on “the Right”.  I’m one of the few on “the right” that believe that we need to do something about health care.  Is what Obama did the solution?  No and far from it.  However, right or wrong, he did something that got Congress’ attention and focused minds on the issue.  I believe he completely screwed the pooch on it (as he does most everything he touches) but his intent, while incompetently expressed, was clearly understandable: health care in this country is broken, too damned expensive, not effective enough and needs to change.  I have lived in a place with socialized, single-payer medicine and I have to say it didn’t completely suck.  It CAN be done properly but none of the examples used by both the left and the right do it correctly anymore.


Think about it a moment. The same government that wants to handle your health care already handles health care for our veterans. Is that the quality of care you want? Really?

My solutions for ObamaCare:

  • Lift interstate restrictions on policy writing – Increased competition by insurers is necessary to lower premiums.
  • Require all insurance companies to pay into a solvency fund –  This ensures that if they do not collect sufficient premiums (due to competing) for their claims obligations that the claimants aren’t left holding the bag.
  • Eliminate hiring a lawyer on contingency and set up governmental controlled legal aid – If you wish to sue someone you must be able to pay for that action from your own pocket.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can apply to the state legal aid board for financial assistance (a loan) IF your case has merit.
  • Cap awards for malpractice pain and suffering – No amount of money alleviates pain or suffering.  Moneys awarded for such are punitive only.  If you wish to be punitive to a doctor, suspend or revoke his medical license.  Money should be awarded but ridiculous award amounts should be severely curtailed.
  • Create a competency score for doctors that is posted prominently in their office/place of work – Just like restaurant inspection scores are posted prominently in restaurants so patrons can see them, doctors should be given a rating compiled by the state medical board rating their effectiveness as a physician per malpractice claims, patient deaths attributable to their care (or lack thereof) and other objective measures of a physician’s quality of practicing medicine.
  • DO require mandatory medical insurance – This is one that tends to rankle the right but this is necessary.  Indigent care costs are passed on to all of us in the form of higher bills from the providers who have to absorb deadbeats.  Require everyone to have insurance (similar to the way everyone who drives has to have automobile insurance).  Can’t afford medical insurance?  The premium can be deducted from any tax return you might be expecting from the IRS.  Not expecting a return and still too poor to afford insurance?  You now belong to Medicaid until you earn a certain amount of money.  Failure to present proof of insurance relegates you to state health clinics that serve Medicaid only patients.
  • Combine Medicaid, Medicare and the VA medical system into a single program.  Three government run systems don’t need to exist to serve the same product: medical care.  Make sure each is solvent with a lockbox fund that cannot be borrowed against.  Period.
  • Rather than go to a single payer system, impose strict regulation on standards and performance of the insurers.  In addition, all health insurers would be converted to non-profit organizations.  Insurance companies, whose sole purpose is to make medical coverage affordable by pooling risk, should not derive a profit from such where people’s physical health is concerned.  Other insurance vehicles exist for generating a profit…health insurance shouldn’t be one of them however.
  • Allow insurance companies to set premiums that penalize unhealthy behaviors – Do you smoke?  Drink to excess?  Do drugs?  Are you obese?  Then expect to pay more for your slovenly habits.  We already allow insurers to set premiums by considering hazardous activities…we need to allow them to expand such criteria to unhealthy personal habits.  By contrast, do you not smoke/drink/do drugs and are weight/height/gender proportionate?  Congrats, your premiums will be less.

Making health insurance mandatory would mean more people would see doctors for preventative care which would lower the overall cost of health care.  Curtailing lawsuits would mean medicine would be controlled by doctors again and not by lawyers and insurance companies seeking to reduce exposure to lawsuits by encouraging barrages of tests that aren’t indicated.  This one gets almost no support from anyone because it’ll piss off everyone.  I’m sure there are other ways to fix health care as well…but ObamaCare ain’t it.  It needs to go.  We either need a full blast, 100% single-payer system OR we need to enact regulations and legislation to control the forces that are driving healthcare costs up far in excess of inflation.  Personally, I’m a lot more comfortable with the second one.

Illegal immigrant sign

The fact that we even have to have highway signs like this is pathetic.

5. Immigration – This one is exceptionally easy because we already have all the laws in place that we need to do an adequate job.  In order to do an outstanding job we’d need only a few more things.  However, let’s review what we have right this moment.  Currently our immigration policy is pretty damned liberal.  In 2005, for instance, the United States admitted over 1.1 million legal immigrants and almost 10 million in the 10 years leading up to and including 2005.  Right now, there are around 37 million legal immigrants in the United States or about 1 person in 8 (12%).  That’s LEGAL immigrants.  Our problem, though, isn’t with legal immigration…it’s with illegal immigration.  Alongside the 37 million legal immigrants, we have anywhere from 7 to 20 million illegal immigrants with most estimates pegging the number somewhere between 11 million and 12.5 million people.  Oddly enough, this past year has seen a rather marked decline in the number of illegals in the United States which is being mostly attributed to the poor economy and lack of jobs.

But let’s think on those numbers a moment.  37 million legal versus say 11 million illegal.  77% of all immigrants are legal, 23% are illegal.  Annually, the U.S. legal immigration quota is around 700,000 to 900,000.  That is, we grant visas to just less than a million new people per year…and that has produced the 77% portion of all immigrants (legal and illegal) in the United States.   With those people we get:

  • vetted healthy people who arrive here (mostly) with employable skills who contribute to the country
  • around half a million new taxpayers per year because all new visa holders get a social security number and most work and pay taxes
  • they tend to be law abiding upstanding citizens because if they’re not, they can be deported

What do we get with illegal immigrants:

  • undocumented unknowns who, because they lack legal means to work, tend to work at the lowest end jobs in our economy
  • they pay zero income taxes to the government (unscrupulous employers may deduct them but they don’t pay them to the government) which means they don’t pay for the things the government provides
  • they use public services (like schools, hospitals, transit, roads) but pay nothing to general fund
  • they tend to be associated with increases in crime in the areas where they are more numerous as they don’t fear deportation specific to illegal acts (as they can already be deported for just being here)

So, what’s the solution?  Simple:

  1. Build an impenetrable barrier along our southern border.  It’s not racist to acknowledge that the top 4 origin countries for illegal immigrants (Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) are all south of the border and comprise fully 3/4 of all illegal immigration.  Close the southern border and you lop off 3/4 of the problem.  This is a no brainer.
  2. For illegals inside the United States, once the southern border is secure, offer a 6 month period for all illegals to register and receive a temporary work visa for 2 years.  They undergo background checks and if they can pass the same stringent measures we have legal immigrants pass, they can apply for permanent immigrant visas after 2 years.  If they fail background checks they get deported immediately.  If they refuse to register and are caught they get convicted and then deported.  The difference is that they will not be allowed to apply for a permanent visa should they have a prior conviction for being in the country illegally.
  3. Vigorously prosecute any employer found employing illegal immigrants.  Make the penalties for such egregiously harsh to the point of prison time or closing businesses.
  4. Up the rates of immigration across the board so that people who want to come here badly enough can apply, go through the process and come here legally.

Just these four measures would mean we’d reduce crime, increase tax revenues, secure our borders better in this time of war with terrorists and ensure a higher quality of citizen to our country.  Wages, especially for labor jobs, would adjust upwards to reflect the relative lack of “cheap” illegal labor and that would likely cause some inflation…but this is a small price to pay for the benefits fixing our immigration situation would provide.

There.  Five points for how to fix the country.  Do these and the United States will be returned in short order to it’s rightful place as the pre-eminent first world nation we should be.  Oh there are myriad other problems to be addressed as well…but with these 5 issues taken care of and out of the way, any remaining issues will/should have a much less harder time getting funded and solved.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments »

What now? Part 1

Posted by Euroranger on November 3, 2010

Didn't work

Just so we're clear, this didn't fool anyone and was pretty damned insulting that you'd think it would

So, last night, the United States expressed their dislike for the direction the President and his party have been taking us the past 2 years.  It would appear that the shelf life of “Hope and Change” was somewhat less than 24 months.  As anyone knows that’s read this blog (yes, both of you), I’m not a fan of Obama nor do I tend to support the Democrat’s agenda.  To a great many people on the left this automatically labels me as a Republican and/or “stupid”, “racist” and “backwards”.  Problem is, like the majority of Americans who didn’t much care for the Obama/Pelosi/Reid show, I’m not a stupid, backwards racist.  What I am is an American who’s exceptionally concerned about the state of my country and didn’t have any place better to turn.  That is, a rejection of the Democrats is not necessarily an embracing of Republican/Tea Party virtues.  It just means that I care for one side less than I care for the other.  More than any other election I’ve cast votes in, this one was more of a voting against things than voting for them…and this troubles me a great deal.  Nothing good can come from a government that is the product of being viewed as the lesser of two evils and I don’t believe I’m alone in this.  I think my opinions on this matter are widely held by a great number of people.

So, with that in mind, we now have a Republican majority in the House of Representatives but a Democrat Senate and Presidency which means that unless someone decides to compromise on things, we’re in for 2 years of legislative gridlock.  In the midst of a struggling economy and with unemployment remaining stubbornly above 9.5% nationwide, this isn’t a good omen.  However, as I am a patriotic American and would like to see my country rebound and excel as I’m sure my personally hateful God would prefer, I am ready to offer some advice to our leaders as to how to fix the country.  Like all good ideas, my suggestions will be impossible to accept, will be panned by fools from both sides of the political fence and have as much chance of happening as a snowstorm in Hell…but that doesn’t diminish either their manifest need or their abundance of common sense.  Despite the fact that America faces around a gazillion problems right now, I’ll concentrate on only a few of the most important subjects.  These will be list items that, if solved or fixed, render the remaining list items as less important and can be solved at our leisure and probably a lot more easily with the bigger issues tackled and handled.  Because these items are SO large, I’ll list them here and handle one per post until they’ve been addressed.  They are, in order:

  • The Economy
  • The Deficit/National Debt
  • The Government Itself
  • ObamaCare
  • Immigration

So, to start off:

1. The Economy – This was, by far, the biggest issue with voters this election.  According to exits polls, Americans cite the current state of the economy as the biggest thing that motivated them to vote.  In this category, nearly 9 out of 10 people say the economy is in bad shape.  Now, when you say “the economy” to someone during an exit poll, you need to be careful what that exactly is.  In truth, it’s not “exactly” anything you can accurately define.  To most people though, this means unemployment (and underemployment), the deficit and national debt, the housing crisis and the stock market.  These are all likely to be the agreed upon definitions for what people would think of when you mention “the economy”.  That said, how do you fix “the economy”?

First, you need to realize that inherent in “the economy” is actually something less tangible that needs to be addressed first: Americans’ trust in the institutions that affect the economy.  Right now you have pretty much all time lows for Americans’ trust in their own government, in Wall Street and in the banking system.  Simply put: people don’t have as much confidence in these institutions as they once did.  Without that trust any economic recovery you make will be built on quicksand.  So, how do you re-establish the peoples’ trust in these institutions?  Simple.  You re-establish and enforce the regulation of Wall Street and the banking industries and in so doing you’ll be giving Americans a reason to believe in their own government again.  Now, regulating private industry is typically a Democrat talking point and I concede this.  However, as with most things in life, this is one of those areas where you need to be pragmatic and meet in the middle between leaving Wall Street and banks completely alone to do as they please and nationalizing them and running them as government businesses.  The happy medium is somewhere in between.  If we as taxpayers are going to set the precedent for bailing out these vital institutions (as both Bush and Obama have) then we need to make sure we craft laws and regulations helping to assure we don’t need to do it too often.

  • Regulating and approving the kind of investment vehicles available for speculation and trading (and making their contents transparent) is a good idea.
  • Deciding how much CEOs of private companies get paid for what they do is a bad idea.
  • Giving the Federal reserve and FDIC more power to ensure that banks are following every mortgage guideline and making penalties for their failure to do so exceptionally painful is a good idea.
  • Telling a bank how much it can charge for an ATM fee is not only a bad idea, it’s asinine and a waste of time.

This is one of those areas where we’ve learned (much to our personal pain and suffering) that letting the market regulate itself is a great notion but in practice it sucks.  It sucks because the existing laws in place to accuse and prosecute wrongdoing are too damned arcane and the penalties are too lenient, slow and difficult to apply to act as an effective deterrent to sloppy or criminal activity.  When people say Republicans are all about “laissez faire” and being pro-business they’re kind of wrong.  What Republicans are about (and have always been about) is following the rules and making sure the rules aren’t so restrictive as to crimp off performance.  What I’m proposing is better enforcement of existing rules, real and consequential penalties for breaking them, but not making the rules so restrictive as to make both institutions virtual branches of government.  Just like children, businesses need clear and unambiguous rules…and then government’s role is done with the exception of enforcing those rules.  Give business rules, tell them to play by them or they don’t get to play at all…then get out of the way.

Hope and change

When people voted for "Hope and Change" I'm pretty sure they didn't mean "I HOPE I don't lose my home because all I have is CHANGE to pay the mortgage with".

If you do this, home foreclosures will level off, lending will return, businesses will be able to generate capital for expansion and jobs will be the inevitable by-product.  In turn, people will be able to say “hey, government didn’t completely screw the pooch on that” and some small bit of confidence will return.  So, with Wall Street and the banking industry taken care of, let’s talk about another facet of the economy that’s in desperate need of fixing: tax policy.

The taxation situation in this country is…well…pretty damned awful.  Now, a fair chunk of this will actually be applicable to the next post’s subject (The Deficit/National Debt) but it also applies to the economy because of the effect it has on those being taxed (as opposed to the effect it has on government revenues which is better addressed next post).  The short answer for this problem is: we need to scrap the existing tax structure and start over fresh.  The current federal tax code is incredibly huge, unintelligible, is neither explicit nor consistent in its application and is too much in the business of promoting social agendas, certain industries, and government policies.  Its current regressive nature is inherently unfair and because the code is riddled with loopholes and avoidance maneuvers, is ineffective.  Here’s an example.  Yesterday I discovered that for the salary I earn I am in the 25% tax bracket.  I thought to myself, “wow…that’s a ridiculous amount of money to expect me to give up to the government”.  However, I also immediately recognized that I’ve never come close to actually PAYING the government 25% of my salary so I went and checked my tax returns for the past three years (2007, 2008, 2009) and discovered an amazing thing: my effective tax rate was anywhere from between 0.78% and 2.69% per year.  Now, think about that for a moment: I go from 25% down to less than 1%.  How is that?  Well, in my case it’s because I get to write off my wife, my kids, my mortgage, my business losses, my depreciation on several items and so on.  This is stupid.  I actually went back to 10 years ago when I was making around half of what I make today and my worst effective tax rate in any of those years was 6% (before I owned a house or had kids).  So, what’s so wrong with this you might ask.  I say: plenty.

First of all, I typically get a tax refund each year which means two things: the government took too much of my pay out of my check to begin with and they got to use that money interest free until they gave it back.  But consider for a moment what all that means.  It means that my employer has to calculate an amount of money to withhold based on whether I’m married, have kids or state whether I’m exempt from some things or want to withhold more from my check.  This requires forms, an accountant and a fair amount of effort in the form of time and salary to do correctly…and they still end up taking too much because I get a refund check in the end.  This is all increased costs for my employer.  On the government side, they need to collect this information about me, do their own calculations, keep track of all the money coming in and make sure it’s enough.  Again, this all requires forms, an army of accountants and an enormous expenditure of time and treasure: just to discover that while the government says I’m in a 25% tax bracket, I’m actually going to only be assessed, at most, less than 1/4 of that at the end of the process.  It’s a huge waste of time and effort and it can be simplified by simply scrapping the existing tax laws and enacting a new one that said “for each dollar earned, you give the government X cents of it”.  That could be 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 15 cents or whatever.  However, no loopholes, no marriage penalty, no bonus for having extra kids, no bonus based on whether you own your home or not…just a flat X cents per dollar.  The calculation is easy which means the IRS could probably be run by 3 guys with a PC working out of a closet in the Treasury department.  As an added bonus, the government’s revenue gets pegged to the GDP and the general financial health of the Americans being governed AND it gets the government out of the business of crafting business and social policy through punitive taxes.  If you want to craft business and social policy that’s what the Congress and Supreme Court is for…not the IRS.  If extended to business taxes, it eliminates all the attraction of headquartering outside of the United States.  In fact, if the rate was low enough, it could be an incentive for foreign companies to relocate here to take advantage of the simplified tax system which would mean even more tax revenues from business.  In short, as the government you greatly reduce your overhead while increasing your revenues.  A simple, common sense step.

There’s a ton more I could say about how to fix the economy long term but those are smaller issues, would make this blog post more like a blog novel and some will be covered in subsequent posts.  So, in summary, how you go about fixing the economy in a long term, sustainable and advantageous way is to revamp and enforce regulations for how Wall Street and banks work, give those regulations real teeth and actually police and enforce those regulations when needed as well as scrap the existing taxation system in favor of a non-biased, fair and across the board flat taxation rate with no loopholes or other political gimmickry.  Up next: The Deficit/National Debt.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments »

PSA Shout Out to Georgia

Posted by Euroranger on October 27, 2010

Georgia girls

I'm sure this is somehow political...or not. Who cares? They're from Georgia.

If you live in the United States, own a functioning television set and have been conscious for the past 4-6 weeks, you’ve probably noticed by now that an election is coming up this Tuesday, November 2.  If you live in the United States, own a TV and are anything like me, this Tuesday marks a momentous occasion: we get to vote for our elected officials to represent us in the various levels of government that affect us all everyday those goddamned insipid political commercials will finally disappear from the airwaves for another 2 years…unfortunately to be replaced, most likely, by that goddamned equally insipid Geico gecko.  Anyway, unless you live in the great state of Georgia, United States of America, this post will likely mean little to you as you, by law, will not be allowed to vote for the candidates and constitutional amendments our fair state is considering enacting.  The “by law” part means that unless you’re a legal resident of Georgia and an American citizen, and can prove such, you won’t be able to cast a vote for or against these attention-whores/questions.  Depending upon your particular political bent, however, you may make the argument that the following groups are exempt from that pesky residency/proof of citizenship law and can cast votes pretty much anywhere and as often as you like:

  • African-americans *
  • the elderly *
  • the poor *
  • the mentally infirm *
  • legal aliens *
  • illegal aliens *
  • Sigourney Weaver Aliens *
  • Mexicans *
  • Mexican’ts *
  • convicted felons *
  • dead people *

(* = as long as you’re planning to vote Democrat)

Anyhow, the lovely and eternally talented Mrs. Ranger asked me yesterday if I would be so kind as to summarize the ballot initiatives that we’ll be voting on here in lovely, bucolic Cherokee County, GA next Tuesday.  If you don’t live here chances are your life sucks and you have my immediate but tepid condolences with regard to your lack of residential vision.  However, if you live in Georgia, you’re allowed to visit our lovely domain northwest of Atlanta anytime you like…oh, and you can still use the content below as a proper guide to your ballot on November 2 (with my bolded commentary goodness…cause hey, it’s MY blog):

Ballot Question 1 – Allows competitive contracts to be enforced in Georgia courts:
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?”

This would clarify that the Georgia General Assembly and the Courts have the authority to pass and enforce laws upholding basic employment agreements such as non-compete contracts among businesses and between employers/employees.

I can understand the intent on this…but my work for the past year has been contract and a great many contracts stick language in there that tries to dictate in which industries and what kind of work I can do AFTER I leave the contract’s employ.  This issue is on the ballot after having passed overwhelmingly in the house/senate but I’ll probably vote personal interests and vote against it.  Contracts already enjoy several laws to enforce their provisions and I don’t believe Georgia suffers unduly from the lack of additional laws in this regard.

Ballot Question 2 – Adds $10 tag fee on private passenger vehicles to fund statewide trauma care expansion:
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to impose an annual $10.00 trauma charge on certain passenger motor vehicles in this state for the purpose of funding trauma care?”

This establishes a funding mechanism to ensure that Georgia can maintain a reliable trauma care network statewide.  It places an additional fee of $10 on annual vehicle registration payments that will be deposited in the Georgia Trauma Care Trust Fund, which funds medical evacuation and trauma care services statewide.

This is an easy one.  The Trauma fund cannot be raided by the General Assembly to fund other projects: it’s sole function is to fund trauma care.  Currently, adequate trauma care is available near and around larger cities but in rural and mountain areas, people needing immediate trauma care have to be flown to those cities and the additional transport time means people die en route.  Attaching the funding to automobile tags is sensible as most causes for trauma care are automobile accidents.  I’ll be voting for this.

Ballot Question 3 – Allows the State to execute multiyear contracts for long-term transportation projects:
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the Georgia Department of Transportation to enter into multiyear construction agreements without requiring appropriations in the current fiscal year for the total amount of payments that would be due under the entire agreement so as to reduce long-term construction costs paid by the state?”

This would allow the Georgia DOT to enter into multi-year construction contracts without having to pay for the total amount of a multi-year project’s cost in a single year’s budget.  Instead, DOT could fund the initial year’s cost and fund the contract on a yearly basis thereafter until complete.  The wording of this measure would not allow such contracts to exceed 10 years.  This will allow large multi-year projects to be done with less bonded indebtedness.

This sounds like a good measure on the surface and overall seems like a sensible idea.  However, I am concerned about the typical habit of construction contracts to exceed the cost estimates at the time of signing as the project progresses.  I’m not aware of what the downsides are to the current setup of issuing public bonds to pay for big projects.  In addition, this would ALLOW DOT to do this, not require them to.  They can still issue bonds for large projects.  I’ll probably vote for this but I’m not understanding why this requires an amendment to the constitution and it doesn’t seem as though our current method of funding big projects is insufficient.

Ballot Question 4 – Allows the State to execute multiyear contracts for projects to improve energy efficiency:
“Shall the Constitution be amended so as to provide for guaranteed cost savings for the state by authorizing a state entity to enter into multiyear contracts which obligate state funds for energy efficiency or conservation improvement projects?”

This authorizes state government entities (not counties or cities) to enter into multiyear contracts to fund energy efficiency projects in state facilities.  This would give state agencies the ability to enter into energy performance contracts in which private companies fully fund and execute energy efficiency projects (at their own risk) with their payment coming only from a share of the energy cost savings actually recognized by the State.  This measure passed the Georgia House by a vote of 154-2 and the Georgia Senate by a vote of 48-0.

Again, on the surface this seems like a good idea…except that the “payment coming only from a share of the savings” part isn’t defined.  That’s really not a big deal breaker for me because, unless that share is 100%, the state will be realizing some savings from energy efficiency and anything that cuts down the amount of taxpayer money the state spends is something to be applauded.  I’ll end up voting for this.

Ballot Question 5 – Allows owners of industrial-zoned property to choose to remove the industrial designation from their property:
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the owners of real property located in industrial areas to remove the property from the industrial area?”

This affects only a single location in Garden City, GA.  Because of a “local constitutional amendment” passed in the 1950’s to affect only one small area of the state (a practice no longer allowed by the General Assembly), an amendment to the Georgia Constitution is required to allow a defunct industrial area near Savannah to be redeveloped into a residential area and be annexed into a local city to receive city services.  This bill removes the requirement that real property be located “on an island” prior to the owner filing a certificate to remove it from an industrial area and be annexed by an adjacent city.

The effect seems to be a one time action and because of a previous amendment requires this measure.  I’ll be voting for this.

Ballot Question 6 – Provides for inventory of businesses to be exempt from state property tax:
“Shall the Act be approved which grants an exemption from state ad valorem taxation for the inventory of a business?”

This is a tax cut that would remove the 0.25 mill state property tax from the state portion of the business inventory tax.  At the rate assessed by the State of Georgia, this would be a tax cut to businesses of $100 per year per $1 million of inventory maintained.  This passed the Georgia House 166-0 and the Senate 46-6.

This is one of those questions that really needs to illustrate just how much money we’re talking about statewide.  When this bill was originally discussed it mentioned a $2400 tax break to a business that hired an unemployed person for two years.  That was in 2009 when the economy was still nosediving.  It’s leveled out now pretty much although the state unemployment rate is still around 10%.  Georgia is one of only 6 states that assess a state valorum tax on a business’ inventory.  While I’d very much like to know how much decreased business tax revenue we’re talking about here, I’ll vote for this measure.


Sadly, you likely have no idea how many Americans this will actually fool...more than you think.

So, those are the constitutional initiatives for our Georgia ballots this Tuesday.  Oftentimes, people arrive at the voting booth seemingly drunk and or lost and have no idea aside from party affiliation how they’re going to vote…and these constitutional ballot questions are exceptionally important.  All you need to do is to look as far as California to see just how badly “the people” can poop in their own supper plate (so to speak) vis-a-vis referendums.  These are important questions because once they’re decided they’re nearly impossible to un-decide.

BE the guy/girl in the booth who knows something about what you’re actually voting for or against.  It’d be a unique experience for a lot of people and it might eventually validate the founding father’s belief in government by the people, for the people and of the people…given that they neglected to define “the people” to exclude all the clueless dumbasses who seem to make up a majority of the eligible voting electorate these days.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments »

Well, glad THAT’s over…

Posted by Euroranger on September 29, 2010

Smiling Bob

You know why Bob’s smiling? He just sent me around a brazillion emails for “natural male enhancement”. The fucker.

Just a quick post today.  Yes, I know I’ve been gone for a time but hey, it’s hectic being me.  Even nerds get busy at times.  Anyway, a blog is like a chore sometimes.  You log onto it, look at how many people have visited, delete all the penis pill spam comments (believe me…there are a LOT of people who are really concerned about your lack of an erection) and you silently berate yourself for not tending to it properly.  I’m still sitting here wondering how I created a new source of self-imposed guilt as I write this.  So, quick recap of what’s been going on recently:

  • planted a garden for the summer
  • promptly ignored garden
  • garden died (if you don’t count all the grass and weeds…yeah, THEY did fine)
  • bought an old Jeep from my folks (they bought a new one)
  • drove it and really enjoyed it
  • it died (well the starter died anyway)
  • had a notion to lose some weight
  • whilst trying to lose weight, I nearly died (actually just a gall stone…well, it seemed like dying at the time)
  • as a result, the lose weight notion died
  • wife’s uncle (who is my age) was diagnosed with stage 4 adenocarcinoma (for real)

This will be the serious portion of the blog for a moment.  You know how you can have an irrational hate for inanimate things?  You know, like if you go to toss something into the trash from across the room you will “miraculously” hit the rim of the trash can so that whatever it is bounces off the trash can, rolls across the floor and ends up under the direct center of the couch?  Hitting the rim of the can?  Yeah, if you meant to do that you couldn’t do it in a million years…but if you’re just trying to exert a little laziness by not getting up and walking over to the can you can bet your odds of making the shot go way down.  They go down approximately 1003% more if the object you’re tossing out is nasty/sticky/smelly/likely to rot.

Anyway, in that same vein, I hate cancer.  It’s an easy disease to hate because it doesn’t fight fair and it doesn’t pick on the people who court it every day.  My little sister got cancer when she was just 10 years old way back when.  No 10 year old has any of the habits that would increase one’s risk of contracting cancer…and yet she got it and it was awful.  She beat it way back when but it came back later when she was in her early 20’s and this time it killed her.  She was 25 years old, had just gotten married and wanted kids.  Pretty damned unfair and it effected a permanent change in the way I view some things in life ever since.  Now it comes to pass that my wife’s uncle has cancer in the worst way.  You know what?  He doesn’t smoke, work with chemicals or huff asbestos and only discovered it because his best friend died from massive liver failure (his friend DID have the bad habit of drinking anything and everything that contained alcohol however) which prompted him to go get a checkup.  Docs come back and tell him he might want to have a seat because they have some serious matters to discuss.  How fucking fair is that?  Guy loses his best friend, decides to think of his family and make sure he’s good to go…only to find out that, once again, the universe can play some pretty goddamned awful practical jokes.  You know what’s worse?  He’s married (he’s actually a year younger than I am) and has 2 kids and his youngest, his son, just finished treatment for cancer HE had.  So, in a nutshell, he lives with the nightmare of his child having cancer, manages to get through that only to have his best friend drink himself to death and then gets the delightful surprise that he’s got stage 4 cancer himself.  Stage 4, for those that don’t know, basically means it’s incurable.  It’s an eventual death sentence.  I can’t imagine how his family feels: they just dodged a bullet with their boy only to discover that it hit dad.

Remember how I said this blog was kind of cathartic for me?  Yeah, this is one of those times.  My wife grew up with her uncle as though they were brother and sister.  I know and can remember with pretty unwelcome clarity how badly this will end…and there’s really nothing I can do to prepare her, shield her or make it somehow less awful for her.  Her uncle, incidentally, was pretty much the only normal “sibling” in my wife’s family when we first started dating (some of her 4 brothers and sisters have since wised up) and he was the only one I felt comfortable around or had anything in common with at first.  So moral of the story: God apparently doesn’t hate just me…and his sense of humor really sucks.

France Sucks

Even the almighty Google knows: France sucks.

However, enough about death and morbid things.  Let me tell you about something interesting I ran across the other day.  Once upon a time, way back in the mists of antiquity (when I was in school) I learned how to speak, read and write German (amongst a couple of other languages).  You see, I was going to school in Canada and one of the high school graduation requirements was having X number of credits in a foreign language.  That sounds silly to Americans but the idea there was to make sure the English speaking kids had an impetus to learn French (the country’s other official language) so that when they visited Quebec, they could get the full Quebecois effect by understanding all the obnoxious things the people there were saying behind their backs.  Well, I was a misplaced redneck fresh from the hillbilly country of Greenbriar County, West Virginia…so there was no practical way, with my accent, that I could ever learn to speak French and not have it sound like I had suffered some French version of a debilitating brain injury.  You may wonder then how it is that German was any better.  Well, as I learned German and was introduced to German culture I made a remarkable discovery.  Just like in the United States, in the southern part of Germany (Bavaria they call it) the people there don’t sound like the folks in the northern part of Germany.  In fact, the difference in the way they speak is quite similar to the difference in the way rednecks and damnyankees speak.  In addition to this, the southern Germans (just like rednecks here) have elevated the consumption of beer to a cultural touchstone.  Well, I couldn’t think of a language and culture better suited to my existent circumstances (southern drawling accent and a plan to thoroughly acquaint myself with beer when I grew older)…that and the Germans kick ass whereas the French are fucking pansies.  That part didn’t hurt either.

So, what does my speaking German have to do with my interesting discovery?  I was examining an online German magazine, Der Bild Am Deutschland (The Window on Germany…hey, it makes sense to them), when I ran across the following story headline: “Nach 92 Jahren – Am Sonntag endet für Deutschland der 1. Weltkrieg” (After 92 Years – On Sunday the First World War ends for Germany).  Now, being the astute student of history that I am, I was fairly certain that the First World War ended in 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.  In fact, that was only partially true.  As it turns out, the story of how the treaty came to be, how it turned into a document that hung the fault for the entire war on Germany (even though it was Austria-Hungary and Serbia who started it) and how the French in particular wanted to cripple Germany so badly that their insistence on such a harsh peace is what eventually led to the Second World War is quite an interesting story unto itself.  However, one of the details of the treaty (which Germany was forced to sign despite not having been defeated on the battlefield) was a demand for reparations (cash payments) to the victors.  The initial amount of the reparations Germany (and only Germany) was forced to pay was 226 billion Reichsmarks.  To give you some perspective, the German GDP in 1919 (when the treaty was signed) was just 156 billion Reichsmarks.  The debt was later reduced to 132 billion Reichsmarks but by then inflation had crippled the German currency (such that by 1924, just five years later, it took 4.3 billion Reichsmarks to equal 1 US dollar).  In other words, it was a bill Germany would never be able to pay…and by 1922 they started defaulting on their payments.  The French, in response, occupied the Ruhr valley where most of Germany’s heavy industry lay which meant that Germany couldn’t earn the money to pay the Allies and the situation spiraled out of control from there.  A series of German governments formed and fell, the socialists and communists moved into the void and Adolf Hitler and a nascent Nazi party made their first attempt to overthrow the government in late 1923.  The rise of the Nazi party, the Holocaust, the Cold War…all traceable back to the crippling reparations payments the Germans were forced to make at mostly French insistence.

Germans heading West

Germans heading west in 1916. Their mission: defeat France, locate the women and improve the French gene pool for the good of all mankind.

Anyway, what happens this Sunday you might ask?  Well, as it turns out, Germany will make the last of those reparations payments for World War One.  Didn’t know they were still doing that…what with all the World War 2 stuff and all?  Yeah, me neither but they’re about to pay the equivalent of around $94 million to the private individuals, pension funds and corporations holding the last reparations bonds that were set up in 1919…and with that, the Germans’ obligations under the Treaty of Versailles will be fulfilled and the war will technically be, finally officially be, over.  Imagine that: WW1, 1914-2010.  92 years indeed.  It’s just one of those odd historical footnotes to events that nobody ever hears about and which 99.99% of the population will never even know.  Except me…and now you.

So, even though no American news source picked up on that, this Sunday Germany will officially perform the last official act of WW1 and pay off the debt the French insisted upon that ended up paving the way for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to get elected in Germany, rebuild their war machine, conquer all of Europe, murder 6 million Jews, cause the deaths of anywhere from 50 million to 70 million people worldwide, require the invention of the atomic bomb, lead the way to the formation of the U.N. which, in turn actually appointed someone this past week to be space ambassador for extraterrestrial contact affairs.  I shit you not: the U.N. is about to appoint an “alien ambassador”.

Like I did back then and why it’s still patently obvious today, France and French things just need to be avoided at all costs.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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