Another Write-wing Conspirator

Commentary, observations, musing, and ranting from the middle of the road (or just to the right of center. Usually.) featuring The Curmudgeon

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  • Welcome to The Curmudgeon’s lair

    Welcome to my curmudgeondom. As you’ll soon learn, your reactions to my missives here are likely to range from fear to loathing to tears to outright rage—and I just might even evoke from you an occasional sober nod or two.

    If you see a posting you like and wish to share it with others, by all means feel free to do so. I'd prefer that you send the link to your friends, but you're also welcome to reproduce anything here—as long as you retain my identity on the document. If you have a web site of your own and wish to post a link to this blog (or to a specific post), again, feel free to do so.

    The purpose of this blog is simple: to provide me a vehicle for sounding-off on whatever topic suits me at the moment. While there’s sure to be no shortage of politically-oriented palaver here, it is by no means all (nor necessarily even most) of what will be proffered to your discerning mind. You’ll also find that my personal politics, ethics, morals, and standards are pretty much “all over the map” (according to my mother-in-law)—so, don’t be surprised to see rants regarding, say, the interference of churches in politics, politically-correct anything, “nanny” laws, taxes, the United Nations, Congress, the Commissioner of Baseball, the State of Ohio’s speed limits, steroids, Jesse Jackson, the “mainstream” media, ultra-liberals, ultra-conservatives, the price of cigarettes, Obamarxism, regulating sales of alcohol, gasoline price manipulation, Muslim foot baths, illegal immigration, laws banning the sale of adult sex toys, cell phones, heavy-handed cops, meddlesome politicians, Hillary, Billary, our all-but-self-proclaimed uncrowned Queen Nancy, “W”, eminent domain, freedom of speech, and the designated hitter all in succession. It is, as I said, my curmudgeondom — and I have the credentials and bona fides to lay claim to the title of The Curmudgeon. So, there.

    Some of the postings you'll encounter may seem familiar—especially to those who know me personally. By way of explanation… I once had an ongoing relationship with a local newspaper, and had a number of published opinion pieces—some of which may be posted here. My arrangement was for a feature entitled An Opposing View; given that the editorial staff had a generally liberal, left-of-center view, it stands to reason that my "opposing" view would generally be perceived as coming from the right (in more ways than one, in my own humble opinion). These posts will be annotated as having been previously published.

    Comments, of course, are always welcome. You may agree or disagree with me. Doesn’t matter. Of course, I reserve the right to completely ignore you — but, feel free to let your feelings be known, anyway. And if you don't want to comment directly here, my e-mail address is: jimseeber@gmail.com .

    Oh, and…yes, I can spell. That "Write-wing" is only a play on words. So, there. Again.

    Welcome, once again. Strap in and hang on.

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    Armchair philosopher, politically-incorrect political commentator, raconteur, retired air traffic controller, dilettante truck driver, US Army veteran, recluse, sometime-writer, redneck convert neè Buckeye, ne'er-do-well, bon vivant, unrepentant libertine, unapologetic libertarian, and (of course) curmudgeon…

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Archive for the ‘economy’ Category

The Obama Doctrine: “Stop Me If You Can—and You Dare to Try”

Posted by The Curmudgeon on January 3, 2011

Government by fiat has become the new standard.

With the recent court challenges to ObamaCare, two very telling details have emerged: First, that Obama (as widely claimed during the contentious legislative process) over-stepped his authority in mandating state adoption of his massive power-grab, and, second, that he probably knew damned good and well that he didn’t have that kind of authority—and simply didn’t care.

He basically dared his opposition: “Stop me if you can.”

Back in the dark, recent past when he enjoyed an overwhelming numerical superiority in Congress, Obama could count on a broad base of support for most of his schemes. To be sure, he had a continual problem with dissent within his own party ranks, but he for the most part enjoyed rubber-stamp approval.

Now, he has a much bigger problem: With the Democrats’ crushing loss of the House and decreased power in the Senate, the Obama regime can no longer whip-up support on the scale he previously enjoyed.

Predictably, Obama also has a solution to that problem: Ignore it.

Rather than attempt to ram-through a hostile Congress legislation he knows he can’t get, he’s opted for simply issuing rules through various agencies—and essentially daring his opposition to try to stop him.

For example, the EPA recently issued a series of rules that appear manifestly improper; previously rebuffed, Obama seems to have merely had his minions issue mandates that bypass Congress entirely—and until (unless) such actions are challenged in court, they will stand with the full force of law.

Those who’ve been asleep throughout recent weeks may not have noticed the similar power grab by the FCC as it moved to expand government control of the internet and pursued the Obama agenda of squelching conservative talk radio and his nemesis Fox News. (This campaign is being prosecuted by an Obama appointee — FCC “Chief Diversity Officer” Mark Lloyd — who’s on record singing the praises of Hugo Chavez and his increasingly iron-fisted control of Venezuela’s media.)

Nor is Obama content to merely delegate his dirty work. The recently-ratified “New START Treaty” is a much-maligned accord apparently not fully understood by anyone—and it’s largely the result of Obama’s own negotiations and demands. Though the Senate did ratify the agreement, it did so with only minimal examination or challenge—and it certainly doesn’t reflect the standards established in the U.S. Constitution, which expressly vests treaty power with the Senate. Indeed, Obama recently called for a viable missile-defense system (though he seems to have not actually allocated any resources for the effort)—despite Russian contentions that such a system is specifically prohibited. Stay tuned.

Moreover, with a growing list of issues ranging from amnesty for illegal immigrants to cap-and-trade, the manchild-in-chief seems to be daring anyone with sufficient intestinal fortitude to knock the chip off his shoulder; until someone dares to do so, he’ll keep right on doing whatever he damned well pleases—apparently with the blessing of his party.

In retrospect, recently defeated Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA) may have summed up more of the Democrats’ behavior than merely their profligate spending habits when he proclaimed: “If you don’t tie our hands, we’ll keep stealing.”

He certainly described his party’s standard-bearer to a “T.”

Or to an “O.”

__________

 

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Posted in border security, cap-and-trade, congress, corruption, deficit, democrat, economy, health care reform, illegal aliens, immigration, immigration reform, obama, ObamaCare | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Soon They Forget

Posted by The Curmudgeon on December 15, 2010

Congressional amnesia strikes again.

Shortly before the “shellacking” he received last month, Barack Obama suggested that Republicans were pinning their hopes on voters suddenly developing amnesia. In an earlier comment, he also asserted that “elections have consequences.”

For those with short memories (that would apparently include most of Congress), voters overwhelmingly jettisoned Democrats in droves (sixty-three of them, to be precise) — giving Republicans control of the House of Representatives, narrowing the Democrats’ margin of control in the Senate, and delivering an unmistakable message to the Obama regime.

How soon they forget.

Just today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stood before the Senate and bluntly asked whether all of Congress was “tone-deaf” and stricken with amnesia.

The reason?

A massive, 1.2 trillion-dollar “omnibus” spending measure being rammed-through the lame-duck Congress by soon-to-be departing Democrats apparently intent on looting the nation’s treasury on their way out the door. More than 2400 pages long and delivered to members of Congress only three days ago, it’s apparently been read by absolutely no one (does this sound familiar?) and loaded with “earmarks” and hidden pet projects.

In other words, they (Congress) didn’t learn a damned thing. They heard us, loud and clear—and simply don’t give a damn about what we want or what we have to say.

To be sure, it isn’t just Democrats responsible; indeed, at least two of the leading “earmarkers” are Republicans. That said, the entire effort still is being shepherded by Democrats—many of them lame ducks with nothing to lose.

Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is intent on ramming-through his backdoor amnesty program (aka “The Dream Act”)—again relying on colleagues with nothing to lose by supporting the measure.

And just to round things out, “always-in-campaign-mode” Obama seems to think he’s still gearing-up for last November’s election, likening Republicans to “hostage-takers” in the ongoing battle of the soon-to-expire Bush era tax cuts. (Ironically, some of his stiffest opposition is yet again within his own party.)

However all this shakes out, everyone needs to keep one thing in mind: Though the lame ducks are already on their way out, they won’t be able to carry it off without help—and those who remain in office will be up for re-election in 2012.

Let’s hope voters hold the culprits accountable just as they did last month; since this batch of crooks obviously didn’t get the message, perhaps their replacements will.

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Posted in budget, congress, corruption, debt, deficit, earmark, economy, election, illegal aliens, immigration reform, income tax, obama, politics, pork barrel spending, Reid | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Prodigal President Soundly Spanked

Posted by The Curmudgeon on November 3, 2010

The voters took away his car keys; so…now what?

Shortly after his inauguration, Barack Obama fired-off a few terse comments at Republicans:  “Elections have consequences”…”That’s why we have elections”…and (my personal favorite) “I won.”

Having thus spake, he made clear far in advance that he now knows what to expect in the wake of yesterday’s election debacle.

As Joe Biden might put it: This is a big f– – – – – g deal.

Not as big as Republicans (and sensible voters everywhere) had hoped for—but still big.  Very big.

The message sent to the Obama regime (sent—but not likely to be well-received) was clear: We ain’t happy—and you’re to blame.  It was a repudiation of Obama’s agenda, with scores of Democrat whipping-boys bearing the brunt of the voters’ wrath.  The numbers clearly show voter disapproval of ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.  Had the Democrats been pushing weak candidates, the message might’ve been less concise; however, many longtime incumbent Democrats were sent packing—and those who backed Obama’s unpopular policies fared the worst.  Obama himself suddenly seems about as embraceable as plutonium, and survival-minded Democrats appear to have been prescient in distancing themselves from him during the weeks preceding the election.  Indeed, Obama’s intense campaigning seems to have been ineffective (if not harmful) in most key races; those nine trips he took to Ohio attempting to bolster relatively popular Governor Ted Strickland, for example, became instead an embarrassment as John Kasich won a close contest that many see as a bellwether.

That’s gotta hurt.

Nor could this be seen as merely a reactionary “throw the incumbents out” election, as incumbent Republicans in fact enjoyed widespread success.  Moreover, Republicans fared well in contests for open seats both in Congress and in a record number of gubernatorial contests.  Those two indicators pretty well establish this as more of a “throw the Democrats out” election.

Where does this leave us?

Well, the Republicans captured solid control of the House of Representatives, and the Democrats’ hold on the Senate is now tenuous.  The Democrats’ majority is a slim one, and there’s much doubt as to how many of their “majority” will toe the party line; in particular, their most high-profile victor of this election — Joe Manchin of West Virginia — is seen by many as more of a Republican than many Republicans are, having already denounced both ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.  Moreover, Democrats in both houses who survived the massacre are now faced with re-assessing their own stands on key issues—making Congressional support of Obama’s agenda somewhat less than reliable.  (With twenty Senate Democrats and only ten Republicans up for re-election in 2012, the message delivered via this 2010 election will reverberate for a long time; having had a glimpse of what may be in store for them in two years, who’s likely to drink the Obama Kool-Aid with such a likely fate awaiting?)

The Tea Party contingent played a role (much to the consternation of the Democrat leadership), but it was a mixed message.  Some Tea Party-backed candidates (most notably Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky) ran well, but losses by their highly-publicized candidates in Delaware (Michelle O’Donnell) and Nevada (Sharron Angle) in races that many felt should have been easy pick-ups by Republicans helped Democrats retain Senate control.  (Still, it’s pleasant to visualize soon-to-be former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi choking on Astroturf.)  It’s clear that Republicans need to take seriously their input, and make adjustments to party stances accordingly.  The newly-elected Tea Partiers are likely to exert pressure to control spending and taxes—and the Republican leadership would be well-advised to listen.

The runaway spending has to stop.  Period.  If no other message came across from this election, that one has to.

The Democrats’ ever-expanding dream of an ever-expanding government must also be reined-in.  The people are beyond simply being wary of government intrusion into business, finance, medicine, and (especially) into our everyday private lives.

In short: Less government is better government.

True to form, Democrats are already murmuring about the coming gerrymandering (you know: the gerrymandering that they had planned to control—but that control was largely lost with the ascension of all those Republican governors) of district lines, proving once again that they can get in that first punch ahead of Republicans with disturbing consistency.  (One can only hope that Republicans will eventually learn.  “Get there firstest with the mostest,” counseled Nathan Bedford Forrest—a lesson Democrats long ago embraced.)  With the imminent re-apportioning of congressional seats and the inevitable re-drawing of district lines, GOP governors will be able to influence the political landscape for years to come.

And what of our favorite flagellant—the manchild-in-chief?  Will he take this to heart and mend his ways?

Don’t count on it.  It’s far more likely that he’ll “double down” (in the current parlance) and merely adjust the means by which he tries to force-feed us his agenda.  For now, anyway.  It’s doubtful that his prodigious ego will allow him to do otherwise.  If Republicans have learned nothing else since the 2008 election, they should’ve at least concluded that the only way to do business with Obama is from a position of strength.  They’ll have to ram their agenda down his throat—just as he has force-fed us all since his ascendancy to the White House.  He’ll never play ball unless there’s a gun placed to his head.

With this election, Republicans acquired such a gun.

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Posted in ballot, budget, cap-and-trade, debt, deficit, economy, election, federal bail-out, health care costs, health care reform, illegal aliens, manchild, obama, ObamaCare, opinion, Pelosi, politics, Reid, stimulus, vote | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Who Would REALLY Benefit from Voter “Amnesia”?

Posted by The Curmudgeon on November 1, 2010

There’s much that Obama would have us forget, too.

Hip-deep in his perpetual campaigning, Barack Obama derisively pointed out to voters last week that Republicans were pinning their hopes on the electorate’s suddenly developing “amnesia”—then reiterated once again his oft-repeated claim that responsibility for everything currently going awry anywhere in the known universe should be laid at the GOP’s feet.

As usual, there was a modicum of validity to the manchild-in-chief’s assertion; after all, has there ever been a political candidate who didn’t wish the voters would forget about something?

Obama should keep in mind, however, that there’s also much that he would like to erase from the voters’ collective memory. Though not actually running for re-election himself, the imminent midterm election is very much a referendum on his record—and the outcome is crucial to his future plans. To a candidate who won the preceding election owing largely to voter vacuity, the continued cluelessness of the electorate is of inestimable value.

Our manchild-in-chief would much prefer, for example, that we not remember the intense pressure brought to bear by his regime to ram through his unpopular ObamaCare travesty far enough in advance of this election that we wouldn’t remember the promised transparency that turned to occlusion. We’re likewise expected to forget the behind-the-scenes deal-brokering and outright bribery that made his showcase legislation possible, notably the “Cornhusker Kickback” and the “Louisiana Purchase.” It’s supposed to fade from memory that the prohibition on using federal funds for abortions was inexplicably left out of the grand health care reform legislation, a claimed oversight that Obama promised to correct via executive order (the order was in fact issued—but it now seems to have less in the way of teeth than was claimed at the time signed it).

Though Obama has stubbornly clung to his habitual hammering of his predecessor for the nation’s economic woes and rising employment, the simple fact is that his own profligate spending (you remember: the spending that he insisted was necessary to hold unemployment under eight percent) has buried us under a mountain of debt from which we may never recover—and unemployment has now crept perilously close to ten percent.

He would dearly love for us to forget all about the problem of illegal immigration and his own scandalous refusal to secure the nation’s borders. (How very curious…we haven’t heard a word about “comprehensive immigration reform” for a few weeks—have we?) He’d like us all to forget that his response to the chaotic border situation was to sic his Justice Department on the state of Arizona for daring to do what he refused to do. He wants us to forget all about the efforts to secure amnesty for some twelve million future Democrats illegal immigrants.

It’s supposed to slip our minds that our first “post-racial” chief executive has in fact fanned the flames of racism. We’re supposed to no longer recall the specter of New Black Panther Party goons convicted of intimidating voters in Philadelphia—only to be sent on their merry way by Obama’s Justice Departmant, which inexcusably declined to pursue the case. We’re supposed to conveniently forget Obama’s own rash (and obviously incorrect) berating of the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. James Crowley—who, as it turns out, hadn’t acted so “stupidly” as Obama had claimed. We’re supposed to not notice when he manages to find that “Negro dialect” that Harry Reid said he lacked—when he’s busy whipping-up support among a black crowd by creating an “us-versus-them” atmosphere.

We’re supposed to forget about the steady procession of tax cheats, avowed communists and socialists, and far left-wing whack-jobs he’s welcomed to his regime. We’re supposed to forget the blatant power grabs and attempts to exert direct government control over banking, manufacturing, communications, and the media (it’s telling when Helen Thomas — hardly a conservative icon — criticizes the administration for doing so).

He would like for many of us to forget how badly he needs to emerge from the midterm election with Democrats controlling Congress — though he’s quick to remind those who voted for him in 2008 that it’s essential for them to keep the faith, as he needs that power base “to continue with my agenda”…whatever his agenda may comprise. (His obsession with secrecy and hidden deals leaves us constantly guessing.)

We’re expected to forget all about the vacations, travel, and high living that his regime is enjoying at taxpayer expense while much of the nation struggles just to make ends meet. We’re not supposed to remember the unprecedented arrogance shown by himself and his henchmen. We’re expected to forget the tax that isn’t a tax, then is, then isn’t—depending, it seems, entirely on what our narcissistic dear leader is trying to pull at any given time. He wants us to forget the political thuggery that Democrats have freely exercised from the moment they grasped the reins of government.

Let’s hope enough of us have better memories than he gives us credit for.

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Posted in ballot, border security, budget, corruption, debt, deficit, economy, election, federal bail-out, health care reform, illegal aliens, immigration, immigration reform, manchild, media corruption, national security, obama, ObamaCare, politics, Reid, stimulus, tax, unemployment, vote, waste | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Memo to Conservative Commentators: Shut Up—Before You Ruin Everything

Posted by The Curmudgeon on October 26, 2010

No chickens have yet hatched; now, stop counting.

Recent months have proved very encouraging for Republicans, tea-partiers, conservatives in general, and everyone else who regards the Obama-Reid-Pelosi triumvirate with a level of disdain ordinarily reserved for toenail fungus. Poll results for the Obama regime have been in virtual free-fall, Pelosi is widely viewed as the long-lost twin sister of the Wicked Witch of the West, and opinions are split as to whether Reid should be medicated and escorted to a padded cell or merely voted out to pasture. Indeed, congressional Democrats in general are scurrying for cover with a vigor more commonly observed in cockroaches caught out in the open when the lights are turned on, distancing themselves from their standard-bearer and onetime champion as they frantically seek to preserve careers seemingly doomed by their association with their dear leader.

Not surprisingly, conservative pundits are having a field day, trumpeting daily poll results and confidently predicting a resounding defeat for Democrats in the upcoming mid-term election. They’ve been positively giddy, smugly delighting in the Democrats’ apparent distress, speculating on whether control of one or both houses of Congress will change hands, and even boldly formulating their post-election agenda. Indeed, the GOP euphoria has soared to such a level that prominent commentators seem nearly at a loss for ideas on what to do next.

I have a suggestion for them: Shut the hell up. Now—before you screw everything up.

The grandstanding, chest-beating, and overconfidence are having an undesired effect: They’re now serving to energize the Democrats’ base.

Republican operatives should take particular note of the more subtle indications emerging from those polls. As predicted here months ago, the shake-up in the power structure that seems imminent is not the result of voters falling madly in love with the GOP. Don’t forget that they voted Republicans out not so long ago. As is often the case, this is less a matter of people voting for a party’s agenda and more a matter of voting against another party’s agenda. It’s not that everyone suddenly embraced the philosophy of the Republicans; rather, they’re now at least as disgusted with Democrats—and apparently even more so (for the moment, anyway; voters, however, are notoriously fickle).

If Republicans learned nothing else from political developments of the past several years, at least two clear messages should have sunk in: First, that the strategy they adopted back when they last had control of the government (and lost it) is a proven loser, and second, that the framing of the message is sometimes as important as the message itself. Pundits, power brokers, and voters alike have expressed outright revulsion over the arrogance shown by Democrats—and especially by Obama; for Republicans to now bombard everyone with essentially the same appearance borders on plain stupidity.

Yes, the Democrats have shown a remarkable talent for shooting themselves in the foot. Yes, Obama’s silver tongue seems to have turned to clay (thanks, Jim Croce, for that line). Yes, predictions of the disastrous effects of the Democrats’ actions now appear to have been correct. Yes, the poll numbers have been encouraging.

However…

The single most important variable at the moment is the question of how many people will actually get off their butts and vote this time around. Indications there have been favorable for the much-motivated Republicans, with apathy and complacency among Democrats and uncommitted independents boding well—but, if Republicans aren’t careful at this point, they’ll succeed only in talking their way right out of what seems an almost-certain victory. Would-be Republican voters may note this viewing of the election outcome as a foregone conclusion and not bother to vote, thinking it’s already in the bag. It should also be noted that the grandiose claims of Republican leaders have been seized upon by Democrats, and they’re using that ammunition to whip-up support. (For those who hadn’t noticed…many key Congressional and gubernatorial races have suddenly tightened within the past few days.)

Stop obsessing over polls; the only one that counts is the last one. The rest should be viewed as nothing more than indicators of where support should be bolstered.

Remember that no chickens have yet hatched; you guys haven’t actually won anything. Not yet. Stop acting like the boss—at least, until you actually become the boss.
 

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Posted in economy, election, obama, Pelosi, politics, Reid, vote | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Money Pit: An Old Law Holds True

Posted by The Curmudgeon on August 11, 2010

Parkinson’s Law meets Obama…and Pelosi…and Reid…

In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson first advanced a concept which eventually became known as “Parkinson’s Law.” Though it’s undergone some revisions and refinements (and led to a number of corollaries), its basic premise remains: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

For example, imagine a worker performing a routine task normally requiring sixteen man-hours (nominally, two business days) to complete. Now, imagine that some genius efficiency expert determines that forty hours (one work week) should actually be alloted for this task. According to Parkinson’s maxim, over a period of time our worker will adjust his routine to expend all forty hours alloted for the task—though he’d previously accomplished the same task on numerous occasions within the constraints of the old standard of sixteen hours. (It could also be argued that for a unionized operation there would be an additional demand for overtime—but, that’s fodder for a different rant.)

One popular corollary of this basic premise will sound familiar to most readers: Data expands to fill the space available for storage (i.e., go ahead and buy that humongous hard drive that makes your current drive look puny by comparison—but, you’re still gonna fill it up).

Another corollary is attributed to Parkinson, himself, and is sometimes referred to as “Parkinson’s Second Law”: Expenditures rise to meet income.

Based upon that assertion, one might reasonably deduce that the esteemed Mr. Parkinson must have at some point studied the spending habits of Democrats.

One might also be inclined to pose a hybrid corollary: Congress increases spending to consume whatever money is available—and even spends money that ain’t there.

Most budgets (whether business, military, or household) are intended to establish limits—not goals to attain. Employees are — from the top down — generally encouraged to find ways to reduce spending. Bringing in a project “under budget” is regarded favorably, as doing so makes available previously committed funds to be applied to other projects; should an overly-generous authorization be encountered, it’s not considered acceptable to spend more lavishly in an effort to insure that all alloted funds are exhausted. Exceeding the budget isn’t allowed; when one runs out of alloted funds, there simply isn’t any more money to spend. Work stops. The household has to wait until next month to buy that new television. The Army parks its tanks, trucks, and helicopters because there’s no money to purchase fuel. Plants close. Employees are furloughed.

Conversely, consider recent comments made by Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) to a gathering of his constituents:

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned up here, and I didn’t really need to come up here to learn it, is the only way to get Congress to balance the budget is to give them no choice. The only way to keep them out of the cookie jar is to give them no choice. Which is why, whether its balanced budget acts or pay as you go legislation or any of that—it’s the only thing.” (And now for the best part—with emphasis added…) “If you don’t tie our hands, we’ll keep stealing.”

One scarcely knows whether to be aghast at Perriello’s unexpectedly frank admission or curiously relieved by the refreshing honesty of it; at any rate, it at least confirmed what many already believed. (We’ve been known to sing the praises of an honest crook from time to time.)

Of course, Mr. Perriello overlooks recent history. Obama himself (after racking-up trillions in debt) exhorted Congress to adopt “paygo” to ensure that future expenditures would be deficit-neutral. Congressional Democrats enthusiastically(?) accepted the challenge and shepherded the legislation to passage.

…then began side-stepping their own brand spanking-new rule less than a week later.

More recently, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) cut short Congress’ summer recess, summoning members back to Washington to pass new bail-out legislation, tweeting that “I will be calling the House back into session early next week to save teachers’ jobs and help seniors & children.” (more on that in a moment) The price tag? More than $26 billion added to the staggering deficit (forget actually paying for the measure; all this spending merely adds to the mounting debt—for which there are no funds). Actually, the measure as written assigns the tax debt to U.S. firms operating in overseas markets; however, if these firms respond by simply not shifting funds back home to be taxed, the burden for the resulting shortfall (added to the potential loss of $120 billion in profits that might also be kept overseas) would be transferred to…us.

The latest? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (you know; the federally-financed lenders on which Congress just spent billions upon billions of bail-out dollars it doesn’t have) just crawled back out of the woodwork, hats in hand, to beg for another $3 billion in federal alms. (Don’t breathe a sigh of relief, just yet; this latest request is merely intended to cover the shortfall for the current fiscal quarter. Stay tuned.)

Oh, and (in case it escaped anyone’s attention) there was yet another report released a few days ago showing that the massive “stimulus” package last year had been squandered in large measure on such boondoggles as:

  • $762,000 to create interactive choreography programs at the University of North Carolina
  • $296,000 for a study of dog domestication at Cornell University
  • $2,000,000 to send researchers from the California Academy of Sciences to islands in the Indian Ocean to study exotic ants
  • $500,000 for new windows at the Mt. St. Helens visitors center in Amboy, Washington. (The building has been closed since 2007 and there are no immediate plans to reopen it.)
  • $89,000 to replace sidewalks in Boynton, Oklahoma (The “old” sidewalks had been built only five years before. Moreover, one of them goes nowhere near any houses or businesses and leads directly into a ditch.)
  • $1,200,000 to create a museum in an abandoned train station in Glasboro, NJ

It should be noted that it’s unclear whether this “stimulus” package — intended to create jobs — actually created more than a relative handful.

How does this happen?

No great mystery. Remember the health care reform package? Remember how scandalized we all were to learn that virtually no one in Congress had read it prior to voting on it? It was 1,017 pages long.

This year’s federal budget is 2,450 pages long; how many people do you think have read all of that one? Or last year’s? Or the year before?

Pork-barrel projects are generally concealed very carefully within such spending measures; it’s sometimes nearly impossible to figure out who inserted specific expenditures (if anyone even notices them). In many cases, it’s a matter of “you vote for mine, and I’ll vote for yours.”

And we give these clowns the key to the treasury. Which probably explains why it’s currently empty.

As to Pelosi’s latest effort? Forget saving teachers’ jobs; that’s not what it’s about.

This bail-out is superficially intended to help debt-ridden states (those that refused to rein-in spending…California and New York, for example—blue states, it should be noted) to balance their budgets. The fix will be temporary, as these states have yet to make the necessary cuts in expenditures to ensure long-term viability (last year’s $862 billion “stimulus” package included $145 billion to balance state budgets—and it obviously didn’t last very long). So, Congress will now be voting to decide whether the states that practiced fiscal responsibility are ultimately going to be taxed to bail-out those that refused to.

But, wait; there’s more (R.I.P., Billy Mays). Consider these figures compiled by Americans for Limited Government in a recent newsletter:

Out of the estimated 3.3 million public school teachers nationwide, teachers’ unions were expecting about 160,000 layoffs this year—roughly 4.8 percent of all teachers. Slightly more than 38 percent of those expected layoffs are centered in just three states: 9,000 in New Jersey, 16,000 in New York and 36,000 in California.

About 57 percent of those 160,000 teachers are unionized, with contributions to state and local unions averaging $300 per teacher. Add another $162 per teacher to the National Education Association and $190 per teacher to the American Federation of Teachers (as reported by Education Next), and Congress will in effect be voting to pump no less than $40 million (emphasis mine) into the political coffers of teachers’ unions.*

Quickly, now; which party do you think will be the beneficiary of union contributions?

In other words: If you’re a Republican in a state that has a balanced budget, you can expect to be taxed not only to pay for wasteful spending in California and New York, but also to contribute indirectly to Democrats’ campaign funds.

Not that Queen Nancy (from California—just in case you’ve forgotten) has such thoughts in her mind. She just wants to help teachers and old folks and children. Oh, and cops and firefighters (again, widely unionized). Just ask her.

Just don’t ask her exactly what’s in the measure, nor what it’s actually intended to achieve. (Remember that she once said that Congress “has to pass the legislation in order for you to find out what’s in it.”)

Her mission is, at best, to spend more and more money that we don’t have.

Once again, Parkinson is proven a sage.

So is Congressman Perriello.

Somebody tie Washington’s hands—quickly.

 

 

UPDATE: The $26 billion in spending has been approved by Congress and awaits Obama’s signature.

The watchword now is “BOHICA.” (Bend Over, Here It Comes Again)

* ALG drew heavily from the following sources:

NetRight Daily How 39 Dems and Snowe and Collins Gave $40 Billion to Teachers Unions
EducationNext The Long Reach of Teachers Unions
The Heritage Foundation Teachers Unions Stifle Education Reform

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Posted in budget, corruption, debt, deficit, economy, education, election, federal bail-out, labor, obama, Parkinson's Law, Pelosi, politics, Reid, stimulus, tax, waste | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Yearning for Simplicity

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 27, 2010

…starting with income taxes and voter registration

For those of us who undergo that annual transmogrification from rational human beings to raging, babbling idiots when presented with a tax return to complete, it came as some ironic comfort to learn that even IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman doesn’t tread in the shadow of the tax code. “I find the tax code complex,” said Shulman, “so I use a (tax return) preparer.”

It was, at least, a bit more entertaining than the revelation that (then) Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner had “carelessly” failed to pay some $34,000 in income taxes. (I’ll set aside for a separate rant the dubious logic of having an alleged tax cheat who’s that “careless” about both money and compliance with tax laws placed in charge of the U.S. Treasury.)

These are but two examples one could cite in calling for a “flat tax” to replace the monument to esoterica that is the United States Tax Code.

Actually offering-up such a suggestion, however, invites a familiar litany of responses including rolling of the eyes, exaggerated sighs, dismissive waves of the hand, and condescending insistences that “It won’t work” (with the addition of “you imbecile” unspoken—but generally understood).

What it doesn’t seem to ever evoke is an explanation. Though quick to dismiss the notion, none of these supposed experts ever gets around to telling us why it wouldn’t work—which leads many of us to suspect that it actually could.

There might have to be some adjustments, of course. Claims that such a tax scheme would unfairly burden the poor seem unfounded, but might warrant excluding income below a designated minimum threshold. And there may have to be some allowance for extraordinary circumstances — such as a catastrophic illness or devastating loss from natural disaster, for example — but, that’s it. Just have everyone pay the same percentage of their income and be done with it. (Opinions vary, but 15% seems to be the most commonly suggested—though some speculate as low as 8%. Whether to keep the personal exemption is another question, and there are those who also advocate allowing exemptions for dependents.)

Though there’s again no shortage of really smart people who claim that it wouldn’t work, there are also a lot of really smart people who insist that it would. Given how well the present system has worked out (hold your laughter, please), it might be time to consider it.

While we’re at it, let’s take a look at voter registration; in fact, it could be made to dovetail nicely with a tax code revision.

Consider the following:

First, require that a tax return be filed by everyone eighteen years of age or older (whether they had any income or not) and by everyone — regardless of age — who has income of any sort. If the new scheme is to continue allowing exemptions, then everyone would get to claim one exemption for themselves — just as under the current scheme — and one exemption may also be taken for each dependent child. Require also that both names and Social Security numbers for filers and dependents alike (yes; even infants) be affixed to each return. (Those under eighteen who are claimed as dependents would see their tax withholdings refunded. It’s only fair; many are high school kids with part-time jobs, anyway—and it’s simply wrong to demand taxes from those who are not yet old enough to vote.) There may also be room in this proposal for allowing the dependent exemption to continue until a later age (twenty-two, perhaps?) for full-time students. All other income withholding continues in its current format (e.g., Social Security, disability, etc), and tax is assessed only on net income.

Since Social Security numbers are required for tax returns, there’d be greater accountability both for tax revenue and to ensure that those who file returns are eligible for employment in the U.S—an added bonus that just might help curtail illegal immigration. Funds withheld and deposited to Social Security accounts that are not accounted for by corresponding tax returns would trigger an alert to IRS—and to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

That’s it. No deductions. No exceptions.

Upon IRS receipt of the tax returns, filers who are also eligible to vote would automatically be registered to do so, and would be issued voter eligibility certificates that must be presented when voting. And since everyone would be required to file a tax return, other manners of voter registration — notorious for being rife with fraud — could be done away with altogether. Voter registration would expire after one year; it would then be automatically reinstated with the filing of the succeeding year’s tax return, and a new eligibility certificate issued—obviating the need to maintain voter rolls.

You pay taxes according to a code that doesn’t require a Rosetta Stone to decipher, you file a tax return, you vote; it’s just that simple. No more ACORN-like voter registration scandals, no more non-citizens voting, and those long-buried corpses that miraculously spring back to life every few years (just long enough to cast ballots) would finally be laid to rest—permanently.

Would all this work?

Only one way to find out for certain—but it’s unlikely to be any worse than the current system, in any event.

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Posted in ballot, border security, corruption, deficit, economy, flat tax, illegal aliens, immigration, income tax, national security, obama, opinion, politics, tax, vote | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Case for Government Sticking to the Job It’s Actually SUPPOSED to Do

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 25, 2010

An object lesson in how not to provide for the common defense and secure the blessings of liberty.

At a time when the federal government seems obsessed with by turns either boldly thrusting or slyly insinuating itself into a seemingly endless array of initiatives in which it doesn’t belong, it might be nice to see our fearless leaders occupy themselves with addressing a few minor issues lying within the realm of authority that they actually have.

Securing the nation, for example, springs to mind.

Unburdened for the moment of the crushing pressure of dealing with such crucial matters as athletes using steroids, major league baseball going on strike, publicly spanking corporate executives, and removing salt from our hot dogs, Congress might now be disposed toward turning its attention to the nation’s southern border—preferably before that particular handbasket actually completes its long-unfolding journey to Hell.

With the memory of rancher Rob Krentz’s murder (allegedly at the hands of an illegal immigrant) still fresh, Arizona’s legislature finally decided that several decades of federal neglect was enough and took steps to crack down on illegal immigration—ordinarily (and by law, arguably) the exclusive domain of the federal government. Refusing to be dissuaded by criticism from immigrants’ rights activists, lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a measure granting police broader authority in identifying and apprehending illegal aliens. Though police are required by law to enforce this legislation in accordance with federal standards already in place, the great hue and cry over immigrants’ rights and hand-wringing over perceived threats to civil liberties commenced even before the measure was passed.

Making good on her stated intent to sign the legislation, Governor Jan Brewer remarked that “We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”

Coincidentally, the White House also found use for the term “misguided” as Barack Obama condemned Arizona’s action.

He’s probably correct—to a degree.

Border security is rightly a federal matter. So is immigration. No argument, there.

The problem is that the federal government has been profoundly — some say willfully — neglectful of its duty to secure the border, and long ago lost any semblance of control over the flood of illegal immigrants, with an estimated twelve million illegal aliens now in the U.S. Obama acknowledged the federal government’s failings, as well, though in a back-handed manner—and with a different agenda altogether.

In keeping with his regime’s policy of never letting a good crisis go to waste, Obama seized the opportunity to blame Congress for not enacting comprehensive immigration reform — and of course urged lawmakers to do so forthwith — claiming that federal complacency has led others to act precipitously.

He’s partially correct—but demanding the wrong solution.

Arizonans didn’t act out of frustration over Congress’s inability to enact comprehensive immigration reform; they acted out of frustration over the federal government’s utter failure (or refusal) to enforce existing law.

We’ve heard for several years the mounting cries for comprehensive immigration reform, and those demands consistently include calls for amnesty or pathways to citizenship—measures overwhelmingly opposed by the populace. Indeed, there’s common belief that lax enforcement has been but one tool employed in applying pressure for passage of this so-called “reform,” allowing proponents to cite the resulting state of affairs to bolster charges that the immigration system is “broken”—which it isn’t.

Stripped to its essence, Obama’s renewed demand for “reform” is nothing more than political opportunism, attempting to capitalize on Arizona’s exasperation by reviving proposed legislation that’s currently stalled in congressional doldrums—legislation which includes an amnesty provision. Indeed, it could be argued that the Arizona legislature may have unwittingly supplied the Obama regime with the perfect vehicle for advancing his amnesty-and-citizenship scheme; on the other hand — possibly lacking adequate support in a Congress still reeling from the recent health care reform nightmare — Obama may now be forced to abandon his plan in order to soothe tensions in the region and focus on the remainder of his agenda.

Back when nationwide media attention was first drawn to the Minuteman Project’s efforts to monitor the border, numerous suggestions and requests went out for troops — whether Regular Army or National Guard — to be deployed to safeguard the border and establish a presence intended to keep a lid on things; each either fell on deaf ears or was greeted with a laundry list of reasons (including legal uncertainties) why this couldn’t be done. Mindful of a growing list of crimes committed by illegal aliens and mounting losses incurred by area residents, I speculated at the time that (a) as tensions rose, the likelihood increased that there’d be a general flare-up of violence in the region, and (b) that troops might eventually be dispatched to preserve order—but also that there was at least an even chance that they’d be tasked with ensuring the safety and well-being of illegal aliens rather than with safeguarding the lives and property of the citizens they’re intended to protect and serve.

Owing to Arizona’s actions, we may soon find out.

It’s said that Nature abhors a vacuum; it could be argued that government does, as well. Arizona lawmakers acted — for better or worse — simply because the federal government repeatedly failed to do so. By chronically ignoring one of its most fundamental responsibilities, the federal government created a perfect storm of unrest and danger.

Something for the nation’s political leaders to think about the next time they decide to address matters that lie beyond their rightful scope of authority—all the while neglecting their statutory duties.

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Posted in Arizona, border security, corruption, economy, election, illegal aliens, immigration, immigration reform, national security, obama, political correctness, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 20, 2010

…and de facto wards of the state

In a recent blog entry, “Swan Trumpet” — who sometimes comments here — brought up an interesting vignette about taxation and the effects thereof.

To briefly recap: Years ago, Democrats forced the imposition of taxes on certain luxury items—including yachts. Yacht-building was then a well-established industry in Maine. Apparently being better at basic arithmetic than the average congressional Democrat, the rich folks who wanted to buy yachts quickly deduced that they could obtain their stylish boats more cheaply from foreign suppliers not subject to the effects of taxation. Not surprisingly, yacht sales in Maine plummeted, jobs were lost, and a thriving industry died—and the Democrats never did get the tax money they’d sought (one cannot tax what isn’t produced).

Thus, we become re-acquainted with The Law of Unintended Consequences, the current vernacular for which is often expressed as “Didn’t see that coming.” (During my Army days, this was commonly referred to simply as “piss-poor prior planning”—reflecting the often-pithy nature of soldiers.) In addition to the results noted above, consider the following:

– loss of revenue previously generated by now-defunct (or much-diminished) firms.
– cost of unemployment benefits paid to laid-off workers.
– loss of income tax previously paid by the laid-off employees.
– declining tax base in the surrounding community.

In other words…far from becoming the cash cow envisioned by Democrats, the venture resulted in a substantial net loss. (“Swan Trumpet” also comments on the cultural impact; her blog entry may be viewed here: Being a Democrat Means You Were Born Yesterday).

Now…ordinarily, this might be pretty much the end of the story. I’d come up with some witty comments to tack on, press “Enter,” and go on to the next target.

Ordinarily.

However, I mentioned the story to my wife. And we talked about it.

I should know better.

Smart girl, my wife. After I mentioned how the whole scheme had backfired, she zeroed-in like a laser on another idea. “I don’t think Democrats would really see that as a loss. Having more people dependent on them would be seen as a gain. Isn’t that what they’re really after?”

At about this point, my pinkie finger suddenly froze, poised over the “Enter” button.

As often happens, my mind began to meander around…

Her comment reminded me of something Star Parker had written likening the welfare system to a modern enslavement of sorts, even referring to it as “Uncle Sam’s plantation.” The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. (It should be noted that Ms. Parker is far from being the only commentator to see in welfare assistance a cycle of dependence, and she’s not alone in perceiving a racial component; interestingly, it’s a frequently-held view among conservative blacks—though it is by no means an exclusively-black issue. Jesse Lee Peterson has been even more vocal in his denunciation of a system that he insists blacks must cast-off. Noted scholars Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have both weighed-in similarly.)

Was this creation of a dependent class also an unintended consequence?

Many years ago, a study conducted by the Wharton School of Business pinpointed the one constant in virtually every election: People vote their pocketbooks. In good economic times, voters support the incumbent who has benefited them; when times get tough, they support the candidate showing the greatest potential to improve their lot. (Noted political consultant James Carville famously hung a sign in the White House that summed it up well: “It’s the economy, stupid.”) This applies both to the electorate in general, and to individual voters.

Before too-hastily condemning the welfare system as the cause of all our troubles, however, consider also that our dependence on Uncle Sam can take many forms; welfare is merely the most visible—and most maligned.

Have you noticed lately the size of the federal workforce? Though not a form of financial assistance to the poverty-stricken, it is nonetheless another source of federal cash; the employees within this system are every bit as dependent on their earnings as welfare recipients are on their dole—and will likewise vote for the guy who’s going to benefit them the most…like, maybe…oh, I don’t know…perhaps the one responsible for creating that federal job?

Now, consider all those “pork barrel” projects and set-asides. They create jobs, too (though not very efficiently)—and they also add to the pool of voters dependent on the flow of federal money.

Add to this the massive effect on communities surrounding federal installations in the form of tax-base computation, spin-off businesses, and vendors.

Though not always readily apparent, the impact of federal funds grows more and more pervasive—with a concomitant increase in the strings attached to that money.

Again the question arises: How much of this is “unintended consequence”—and how much is by design?

The premise is simple enough: By gradually increasing the people’s dependence upon the government, the government essentially ensures that the people will acquiesce to what would otherwise be unacceptable government demands in order to perpetuate the government’s support. Moreover, those dependent on that support can be expected to vote to retain the government that spoon-feeds them; factor-in a smattering of “what have you done for me lately” mentality, and one has the makings of a very loyal base.

And for those who dare to resist, a clear message is imparted: Get with the program—or we’ll withhold the goodies.

This is a system that works well when training pets—and when transforming the populace into virtual wards of the state.

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Posted in corruption, economy, federal contract, government contract, politics, vote | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Beauty of Brevity—and the KISS* Principle

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 12, 2010

*Keep It Simple, Stupid

It’s said that Calvin Coolidge was once approached by the wife of a prominent political figure at a dinner party. “Mr. President,” she told him, “my husband bet me that I wouldn’t be able to get you to say three words all evening.”

“You lose,” replied Coolidge, as he turned and walked away.

They didn’t call him “Silent Cal” for nothing.

This vignette is presented in stark contrast to Barack Obama’s seventeen-minute televised response to a simple tax question that could practically have been satisfied with an equally simple “yes” or “no.” Indeed, no one in recent memory is so adept as Obama at transforming a ten-second response into a speech of indeterminate length addressing a topic totally unrelated to the question presented. (Bret Baier of Fox News was recently excoriated by the left for vainly attempting to compel him to remain on-topic and furnish something resembling a straight answer—though he was probably destined to be excoriated, anyway, because…well, just because; such is the level of adoration showered upon The Anointed One by the “mainstream” media.) Having now endured countless Obama appearances spanning seemingly endless hours of empty talk, many who at the time ridiculed Bill Clinton’s then-legendary marathon speechifying now yearn wistfully for his relative brevity.

For politicians to exhibit galling degrees of verbosity and posturing is neither unusual nor even particularly new — there is a rich history of renowned orators and speeches immortalized for posterity — though Obama’s rather extreme performances are a little surprising, given the established trend toward parceling information in neat little sound bites. The practice is likely a by-product of avoiding taking firm stands on delicate issues or being tied to specific data; speaking in euphemisms, vague generalities and ambiguous terms lays the groundwork for later claims of “plausible deniability” and even outright reversals of policy should the need arise.

Nor is this wordiness confined to oration; need we be reminded of the recent epic-length health care legislation?

In general, we prefer that matters be kept more brief. Most of us lose interest in a speech the length of the State of the Union address after only a few minutes and a smattering of insincere standing ovations. We’re even less likely to read the entire health-care bill than Congress is (any bets on how many representatives still haven’t read it?). How many people have never read an entire installment contract when making a major purchase? We know we should—but most consumers simply don’t have the patience and self-discipline to choke the whole thing down (and are quickly befuddled by legalese, anyway). Even those same congressional representatives who are so practiced at wasting our time have established time-allotment rules regarding their own guests; office visits are uniformly short and sweet—and lobbyists long ago perfected the art of maximizing this “face time.” Apart from our severely-strained attention spans, we grow (rightly) suspicious when confronted with protracted speeches or documents of daunting length; more often than not, the speeches are intended not to inform or explain, but to sell—and book-length legislation typically conceals as much as it reveals.

Charles Krauthammer wryly noted that the aforementioned Obama soliloquy was many times longer even than Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—and said far less. While Lincoln was himself noted for his own lengthy speeches, one might surmise that he was under the influence of Robert Browning’s immortal missive that day, adopting the “less is more” approach. Indeed (contrary to popular belief), Lincoln was not the keynote speaker at the dedication of what was then known as the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg; noted orator Edward Everett was. Everett’s presentation had lasted a full two hours when Lincoln finally rose to deliver what was listed in the program as “Dedicatory Remarks”—and stepped into history.

The difference between the two men’s efforts? Everett summed it up in a brief note he penned to Lincoln the following day, requesting a copy of Lincoln’s address:

“Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

That’s right; two minutes. *

Ah, the beauty of brevity.

We have our favorite eloquent speakers and writers who delight us with elegant prose; what we need now is a crop of public figures who get to the point, give straight answers, and know when to shut the hell up.

Which is why I virtually deify Calvin Coolidge. Can’t say that I know much about the man’s politics — nor care — but he had (borrowing a line from Sir John Gielgud’s characterization of “Hobson” in the film Arthur) “a wonderful economy with words.”

At a press conference amid growing economic concern, a reporter asked Coolidge for his thoughts regarding the inflationary trend that was then insinuating itself into the financial picture.

Silent Cal’s reply?

“I’m against it.”

Oh, bless that man.



* Don’t believe me? Go read it—and time yourself. I dare you. (It’s still a good read, by the way.) Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

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Posted in bloviating, economy, election, health care reform, hot air, obama, ObamaCare, opinion, political correctness, politics, speech, speeches | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »