Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Political Friends Economic Plan

As I write this post, it is the first day since Congress failed to pass the economic bailout plan. We were told all last week, all this weekend, and all day Monday, that something had to be done, and it had to be done quickly. When the $700 Billion bailout failed yesterday, the market continued a tank that had started that morning. However, this evening (or as I prefer to call it, Apocalypse +1), the market has rebounded some, and investors appear ready to see what Congress is going to do. Most Americans spent last week, this weekend, and yesterday, calling their elected officials with instructions not to vote for this bill, or look for a new job come this fall. Speaker Pelosi seemed eager to sink the bill when she launched a tirade on the House floor denouncing Republicans and the President. I think the last few days have taught has a few lessons.

First, we will survive if Congress doesn't hand over a $700 Billion check to someone who has no supervision on how to use it. Second, the market can handle Congress spending time looking at alternatives. And finally, most Americans don't like the idea of bailouts. It's against our nature. Most of us believe people should be allowed to succeed or fail on their own. One other lesson that is starting to become clear is that the people who got us into this mess (the Government) are probably not the best people to get us out of this mess.

Keeping all of this in mind, and the fact that I think less government involvement is almost always better; I thought I would present my own plan for success. Some of these approaches are controversial, some seem like common sense. I welcome your input. Who knows, maybe Congress will adopt the plan we come up with.

Point Number One: No More Bailouts. I realize the government has already said this, and then bailed another bank out, and then started asking for the "bail-out-to-end-all-bail-outs". This time we stick with it. A few companies or banks may have to fail for Wall Street to believe us, but if we stick with the message, they will believe.

Point Number Two: No More Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. This is the first controversial point. I don't think the government, or an agency backed by the government, should be in the home loan business. I have searched through my copy of the Constitution and I can't find the Amendment that grants the right to "affordable housing". A business shouldn't be able to take risks and assume the taxpayers are going to bail them out. This can apply to point number one as well.

Point Number Three: No More Capital Gains Taxes. This is a temporary (maybe) item. Republicans last week started talking about a two year suspension of the capital gains tax. My plan takes it out to five years to make sure we nip this thing in the bud, and then would require a new vote to reinstitute it. Last week we saw two companies raise $10 Billion in one day each. Articles that I have read suggest these companies could have raised more if they had tried. Well run companies attract investors, and more money in the market to invest is a good thing.

Point Number Four: 5% Less Tax For Everyone. If I am doing my research right, the U.S. currently has six income tax brackets. The lowest one is 10% (single person earning less than $8,025 a year) and the highest is 35% (earning over $357,700 a year). My belief is the more money in the hands of people, the more money available to invest. I would cut each of these brackets by 5% (bringing the range to 5% on the low end and 30% on the high). This would be a permanent cut. If it gets us out of this mess, then I have proven myself right. The government was ready to hand over $700 Billion, they can just do without it instead.

These points are based on reading a number of articles, and some mental exercise on my part. I am not an economist, but neither are most members of Congress. I think more people would be willing to try this plan than the $700 blank check plan. Let me know your thoughts. I think we are as smart as the Congress, let's figure out the fix for ourselves.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Palin Phobia?

I haven't heard much coverage of the Sarah Palin / Katie Couric interview from last week in the mainstream media. There could be a number of reasons for that. I didn't think the interview was remarkable, so maybe those in the MSM didn't think it was worth covering. Perhaps becuase the interview aired on CBS and was conducted by Katie Couric, many people aren't aware the interview even took place.

Unlike the MSM, the blogosphere has been alight with discussion of this interview. To read blogs on the far left, you would think that Mrs. Palin either (a) spoke in tongues, (b) threatened to invade Russia, or (c) asked a wheel chair bound person in the audience to stand up. I have watched the interview, and have included a link to CBS with the transcripts and a few clips.

I will be the first to admit it wasn't her best interveiw. In all fairness, Katie Couric was a bit hostile and interrupted her a few times. However, any politician is going to have to deal with that from time to time. A couple of the answers Mrs. Palin gave were tough to follow, and she tripped over her own tongue once or twice. However, I also thought she made a few good points. During the interview, she pointed out that the American people were waiting to see what McCain did during this crisis. When Katie points out that Obama has gotten a boost in the polls from the latest crisis, Sarah gives a great response:

I'm not looking at poll numbers. What I think Americans at the end of the day are going to be able to go back and look at track records and see who's more apt to be talking about solutions and wishing for and hoping for solutions for some opportunity to change, and who's actually done it?

Some on the left have looked as this interivew and have said they are truly afriad of Sarah Palin. They are beside themselves that John McCain would pick her to be his Vice President. Was the interview a good interview for her? It was "ok", but not great. But it also doesn't deserve the panic stricken response from blogs on the left. She will have others that will be better, and she has given better interviews. If this is the worse interview she ever gives, she, and Senator McCain, will have nothing to worry about.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Government 101 – Me and My Soap box

I have been spending some time this week reading up on the economic crisis. I have been struggling with the question of if I believe our Congress should give the Executive branch a $700 Billion check. Proponents say if we don't do it, then our economy (and the economy of the rest of the world) will collapse. Opponents say that bailing out the market is irresponsible, will saddle taxpayers with a huge debt, will devalue our dollar further (thus hurting our economy and the world's), and may not fix the problem. Some have argued for other solutions such as suspending the capital gains tax for two years. They argue that there is private capital out there waiting for the right price to jump in. Warren Buffets infusion to the market of $5 Billion yesterday sure seems to give this argument some weight. What is the right answer? Honestly, I think all of the arguments have their strong points and their weak points. The bailout check would be used to buy up bad mortgages. Managed correctly (which I don't know if the government can do) this could actually return a profit to the government and to taxpayers. I am always a fan of removing taxes and getting private capital flowing, but is suspending the capital gains tax for two years enough to get that money moving? If we have learned nothing from the Great Depression, we should have learned two lessons. First, business and the market hate uncertainty. It scares them. Businesses will hold on to money, and not invest, until they are sure what the government plans to do. Second, passing laws just to pass laws can sometimes make matters worse. What if giving the Fed's a $700 billion check simply delays a much worse crash?

My wife made me watch Glenn Beck last night. If you didn't see it, you should go look for it on CNN or YouTube. I found the transcript for the show here. If I am recommending you view a CNN program, you really should sit up and take note. Glenn Beck had former Shell Oil executive John Hofmeister on and asked viewers to call in to ask any question they wanted of Mr. Hofmeister. Mr. Hofmeister has a new organization called Citizens for Affordable Energy. While watching that episode, and talking to my wife about the economic crisis and the energy crisis I realized we haven't come up with the correct solution yet because we haven't asked the right question yet. The right question is: When are we going to start legislating like adults, and not like children who just want to feel good?

Go look for articles on the economic crisis. Most of them blame it on the "Sub prime mortgages" or "bad mortgages" or "questionable lending". This is code speak for "loans that were given to people who should have never gotten a loan in the first place." Congress encouraged / forced banks to give loans to people who wouldn't have qualified for them. They did it under the guise of "making homes affordable for everyone." This is the problem. Any sane adult should be able to take a step back and look at the world and realize there are people in this world who will never be able to afford a home. There are charities that have as their goal fixing this. This is a noble goal. However, it isn't a realistic one, and it isn't one our government should be legislating to fix.

Another example is Polar Bears. How? Simple. Recently our government, under the evil George Bush, placed Polar Bears on the threatened species list. Bear in mind (no pun intended) that the worldwide Polar bear populations are at a high point. There are now more Polar Bears in the world than at any point in the twentieth century. Why did they get placed on the threatened species list? Because it "felt good".

We can't drill in water closer than 50 to 100 miles from our shores. Even though the most productive oil rigs are within the 50 mile mark, congress has decided we shouldn't drill there. Why? Sun bathers don't like to see oil rigs. What if there is an accident? Who will protect the birds? The safety record of the oil industry is actually pretty impressive. You have heard of a few spills, but by and large, oil is moved around this country every day and the only time we hear about it is when our gas prices go up. For those of you who think we can get rid of oil and replace it with solar or wind power, you are living in a pipe dream. If you think political environmentalist are going to let you construct wind and solar energy "plants" you haven't been paying attention. Already there are concerns with wind mills killing migratory birds. Sane adults can pass a comprehensive energy plan that uses oil, coal, nuclear, solar, wind, hydro and anything else we can safely squeeze energy out of.

What about our tax code? Here is a colossal waste. We have a cumbersome tax code that is designed to make the wealthiest people in the United States give their money to the "poor". Think Robin Hood with a gun and the federal government. We don't tax business and individuals to keep the government running and for the government to do those things the Constitution gives it power to do. We tax to try and earn votes, and because it "feels good" to stick it to the wealthy and to Big Business. What this really does is to drive businesses over seas and to take money from the people who might be able to bail us out of our current financial troubles.

I have great faith in the American people. At some point, Americans are going to wake up and tell their representatives to start passing laws like adults and not like 60's era hippies. When that happens, you will see a real energy policy, a tax code that makes sense, and as Glenn Beck would say, the few surviving hippies running for the hills while the rest of us chase them there with torches, cell phones, and SUV's.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Quick Break from the Heavy Thoughts...

I saw this ad on TV while watching the NFL today. I thought my readers might like it:

I think everyone in Congress and the Senate should pay attention to the end of the commercial: ...the easiest job I ever had...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Preparing for my Trip to Washington...

A few months ago I wrote on here that I am planning my first trip to Washington, D.C. I asked at the time for any suggestions on sites to see and things to do while in the capitol. I picked up a copy of Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation's History by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

The book looks like it will be a perfect tour guide to Washington, D.C. It is written as a walking tour of some very prominent places in the capitol. It has selected photos, and a map. While thumbing through my copy, I found a quote I thought I would share here.

"The rights of man come not
from the generosity of the state
but from the hand of God."

-President John F. Kennedy

Food for thought...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What if Sarah Palin Becomes President?

I have asked a number of my more liberal friends what they think about Sarah Palin. One complaint I have heard is that they are afraid of her being, “a heartbeat away from the Presidency”. None of the people who have made this comment seem to understand what would happen if McCain were elected and died in office. I thought I would give a quick civics lesson to explain the order of succession.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that McCain and Palin win in November. They then take office in January, and begin the McCain presidency. If McCain dies in office (or is removed from office) Vice President Palin would then become President. Most people understand this. It is the next step that many people don’t understand.

The order of succession for the U.S. President starts with the Vice President. If for some reason the Vice President is unable to fill the spot, it passes to the Speaker of the House, then the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and on down the line. So, in the “parlance” of today, Vice President Dick Cheney is “one heart beat from the Presidency”; Nancy Pelosi is two; and Robert Byrd is three. I think a President Palin is much preferable to a President Pelosi or President Byrd. Many people assume the Vice Presidency follows this order of succession. In this line of thinking, if President Bush was to die in office, Dick Cheney would become President, and Nancy Pelosi would be Vice President. However, that isn’t the way it works.

According to Amendment 25 of the U.S. Constitution:

Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

The 25th Amendment has been used twice in our history. The first was when Nixon’s VP, Spiro Agnew, resigned. In that case, Nixon named Gerald Ford as Vice President, and the Congress approved. When Nixon resigned, Ford became President and nominated Nelson Rockefeller for VP, and again the choice was confirmed.

In our example from the beginning, if President McCain was removed from office, Vice President Palin would become President Palin. She would then submit to Congress the name of a possible Vice President. If Congress approved, that person would become Vice President. Both Obama and Palin have had their experience level criticized by the opposing party. Obama decided to name Sen. Biden as his running mate to give him someone with lots of experience in the VP position. If Palin were to become President, she could do the same thing.

I hope this amateur civics lesson helped. Class is now dismissed.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thank you, Mr. President

Sept 11, 2001 shocked our nation. We knew very quickly that we had been attacked on U.S. soil by terrorists. At the time, most everyone believed it was only a matter of time before the next attack. Seven years later, we haven't had another terrorist attack like we all feared.

Plots have been foiled over the last seven years. Some of them have been very public. There are untold numbers that have been foiled without the public ever hearing about them.

The number one job of the President is to protect the citizens of the United States from her enemies. The future will judge President Bush. Today, we should all pause and thank him for the job he has done over the last seven years.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Book Review: Sinner

A few years ago my brother gave me a book entitled Black by Ted Dekker. He told me that Ted Dekker was a "Christian Fiction" writer. He knew I was a pretty big Stephen King fan, and said that Ted Dekker was every bit as good as King. My thoughts went something like this: Yeah, sure he is. He's a Christian writer, there is no chance he is as good as Stephen King. When I was about 60 or 70 pages from finishing Black, and heading to the store to buy the sequel, Red, I had to call him an apologize.

I just finished my seventh book by Mr. Dekker. The more books I read by Mr. Dekker, the more I like him. His latest didn't disappoint me, and had a few themes I thought were directly related to this site. Sinner is set in the not too distant future (around 2033?). Sinner: The Books of History Chroniclesis the third in the "Paradise" series, and is possibly the 12th in his "Circle Series" of books. In the United States of the future, tolerance is preached above all else. Those who are religious keep it to themselves. Any public expression of faith is viewed as "odd".

A string of lynchings sets new dominos in motion. Two of the central characters of the book (and from a previous book) begin to work to change the U.S. Constitution to make any expression of faith a hate crime, punishable with federal jail time. Add to this mix a group of 3,000 who wish to practice their faith as they please. They simply wish to tell the world about their faith in Jesus. They do so without attacking anyone else's faith. For this, they are instantly considered public enemy number one.

Sinner is a very fast read, and a very gripping story. I read the novel in about three days, and really couldn't put it down. There were a number of points along the way that I thought made for very interesting political discussion. At one point, a character justifies the new laws by noting that some areas of free speech are already limited. There are slander, libel, and treason laws. This character doesn't like any religion telling other religions they are wrong. Don't people have the right to live their lives without that sort or harassment? Surely people understand that some freedoms have to be limited in the name of tolerance.

On his website, Ted Dekker argues that the world he paints in his book is already here in some nations, and is starting to appear in the United States. He argues that it is only a matter of time before our Constitution is limited in order to avoid making people "feel wrong". This is one point I disagree with Mr. Dekker on. I believe there are enough people out there who still believe in our Constitution to protect our rights. I think a few of the recent court cases support me on this. However, if the wrong President gets the ability to appoint a few Supreme Court judges, I may owe Mr. Dekker an apology.

Sinner is a very good read. I highly recommend it for both its Christian message, and its political discussion. Remember, if you are a Stephen King fan, you will really love Ted Dekker.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Why “Windfall Profit Taxes” Are Just Plain Wrong

There has been a lot of talk in the public sphere about energy. How do we solve the problem of expensive gas and energy? Some believe that a good solution is to hit "big oil" with a windfall profit tax. I want to spend some time today discussing why a "windfall profit tax" is a bad idea. Before I start, some definitions are probably in order. By a windfall profit tax (WPT), I am referring to a measure that would tax a company if it received unusually high profits during one particular quarter. The company would then be forced to pay a tax. When applied to oil companies, most proponents of a WPT want the money taken from the oil companies to then be used to subsidize alternative energies such as solar and wind power.

At face value, many people find this attractive. "Why do the oil companies need so much money? Aren't they just getting rich at our expense?" Remember, oil companies do everything big. The taxes they already pay are pretty high. The cost to get into the industry, to drill for oil, to ship it, and to refine it are pretty large. If you don't believe me, go buy your own oil rig and see how much it costs. Also remember that any tax the oil companies have to pay is going to show up at the pump. If the oil companies pay a tax because they make record profits, that tax becomes a cost of doing business. In order to make a profit, they are going to pass that cost along to all the distributers and gas stations, who will in turn be kind enough to pass it along to you. In reality, this WPT becomes a tax on anyone who buys gas or oil. This simply causes all of the costs associated with producing oil to go up.

It's also interesting that whenever Congress starts talking about the WPT, they don't talk about the gas taxes that are already in place. The Government already gets "X" amount of taxes per gallon of gas. As of July 1st of this year, the average gas tax in the United States was just over 49 cents per gallon. That is a combination of federal and state tax, and is only the tax at the pump. Any time the price of gas goes up, doesn't the U.S. Government (and most states) get a "windfall profit"? The U.S. government hasn't done anything to earn it. When the price per gallon goes up, should we demand a tax on the federal government be sent back to tax payers?

Personally, I find the thought of a WPT morally repugnant. If we are taxing oil companies in order to subsidize their competitors, how are we treating the oil companies fairly? Would we even consider passing a tax on McDonalds in order to get a smaller veggie burger chain up and running? How is it fair to take money from one company and give it to its competitor? Also, isn't a WPT counter to the very nature of our free market system? The American Dream is to build a company up and make huge sums of money. Why should the government come in and tax that money just because someone in Washington thinks you have made too much money?

In the end, a windfall profit tax is wrong and just a bad idea. It won't help out our government, but it will cause the price of gas and energy to go up. We need a real discussion with real ideas, not pandering without a real solution.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Best Attacks on Palin?

Some of the criticisms that have been leveled at John McCain for picking Governor Sarah Palin for Vice President have alternated between insane and laughable. I thought I would devote a few sentences to rebutting those I have found the most humorous.

She doesn't have any experience. This is lobbed at the McCain camp from Democrats supporting Obama for President. She has executive experience, which neither Biden, Obama, nor McCain have. I saw Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Fox News tonight shoot the best holes in this complaint. He pointed out that Biden and Obama have never run a city, have never run a state, have never administered a budget, and have never been responsible for making a decision. Mayor Giuliani points out that she had more executive experience than Obama and Biden combined after her first day in office as mayor. On her second day in office she had twice as much.

She doesn't have any foreign policy experience. I am really expecting this to be hit out of the ball park by either McCain or Palin. As Governor of a state sandwiched between two foreign nations, I think she has some foreign policy experience. Remember one of those nations is one hostile to the United States. As Commander in Chief of the Alaskan National Guard, I am going to guess she has had to run through a few "What if" scenarios.

McCain is just pandering to Clinton supporters. McCain is just pandering to the fair right / Limbaugh parts of the party. Surely we call all agree that he can't possibly be doing both of these things at the same time. Do Democrats really expect us to believe that women will vote for someone simply because they are a woman? Exactly which party is sexist?

She is embattled in scandal in her home state over a State Trooper. This remains to be seen. She is undergoing an ethics investigation. The details haven't been released, but it appears that a State Trooper her sister was married to threatened to kill their father. The question is whether or not she used her office to force his firing. A member of the investigating committee said that Mrs. Palin's office was cooperating fully. We will see where this goes, but I don't think it is going to resonate with the public.

She laughed when the President of the State Senate was called the "b" word. Really? This is your attack on a Vice Presidential candidate? Not that her issues are wrong, but she laughed when someone else used the "b" word? I did some looking into this one. Anonymous provided a link to the Huffington Post article that talked about this. If you have about twenty minutes to kill, go read the article, and listen to the full audio clip. Then read this article written at the time of the "incident" that goes into a little more detail. I am not sure I disapprove of the use of this word in this context.

And while we are on the Huffington Post, how about another article by them critical of Mrs. Palin. Why? Because she isn't what a feminist is suppose to be. Sarah Seltzer writes, "When I saw that John McCain had picked Sarah Palin as his running mate this morning, I was on the elliptical trainer, and my rage propelled me to the most furious workout I've had in a while." It amazes me that the writer would describe her "rage" at the Republican pick. I think William Kristol of the Weekly Standard captured what really scares liberals about Mrs. Palin:

A spectre is haunting the liberal elites of New York and Washington--the spectre of a young, attractive, unapologetic conservatism, rising out of the American countryside, free of the taint (fair or unfair) of the Bush administration and the recent Republican Congress, able to invigorate a McCain administration and to govern beyond it.