Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Pelosi - Obama “Non-Stimulus” Plan

As of this writing, Democrats in the House have passed a $813 Million spending bill. Democrats in the House and President Obama have all called this an economic stimulus plan. In truth, it is a runaway spending plan with very little in it to actually stimulate the economy. I saw two quotes today that really scared me. The first one from the Heritage Foundation Website:

"We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work." – FDR Treasury Sec. Henry Morgenthau Jr., architect of the New Deal.

The second in today's issue of USA Today:

House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wis., said the goal is to act now and address problems later. During the Depression, he said, President Franklin Roosevelt "tried lots of things. We'll do the same thing."

The two quotes together don't give me confidence that Democrats know what they are doing right now. I really don't like the "act now and address problems later" part either. Obama campaigned on a new kind of politics in Washington. However, what we see is a plan that we are being told will stimulate the economy that includes:

--$20 Billion to increase Food Stamps

--$18.5 Billion for energy efficiency

--$20 Billion to renovate elementary and secondary schools

--$30 Billion for highway construction (out of almost $1 Trillion in spending)

This is without looking at the list of multi-million dollar line items that go to special interest groups such as ACORN, STD education and prevention programs at the CDC, national endowment for the arts, assorted federal "green" jobs, and of course the Smithsonian and the national mall. For more on these non-stimulating line items, see here, here, or here. The last link is from the National Review Online and is probably the best discussion of the plan anywhere. Are the programs in this bill worth funding? Maybe, maybe not. But they don't create jobs, and Democrats shouldn't call this a stimulus bill. An extra $650 million is going to help people convert their TV's to the new digital format. Approximately $80 Billion is going to states that can't balance their budget already.

Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are telling us that this is urgent. We must pass this right now. American jobs are at stake! However, the Congressional Budget Office is saying that less than half of the "stimulating" part of the bill, the $30 Billion in highway construction money, would get into the economy over the next four years! Only $26 Billion of the $274 Billion in infrastructure spending would be used by next fall! The American public is being sold a bill of goods with this plan. This massive spending plan won't stimulate the economy, and only 64 % of the entire bill will reach the economy over the next four years!

The only bright side to this is that Republicans (and 11 Democrats) voted against this bill today. Succeed or fail, this bill is 100% Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. It will fail, and I am afraid it will take part of the country with it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reverend Joseph Lowery and “Change”

Many point to President Obama's inauguration yesterday as a new point in race relations. If a Black man can achieve the most powerful position in the free world, then there is nothing a member of a minority group can't do if they are willing to work for it. This is what everyone wants, a day when people aren't judged by the color of their skin, but by their words and actions. I believe most Americans of all backgrounds are already like this. I believe most Americans want to send their kids to good schools, they want to work an honest job, and get paid a decent salary. Most Americans don't really care about the color of another person's skin.

Apparently that isn't the case in today's Democratic Party, and one has to question what President Obama's own beliefs are. Rev. Joseph Lowery ended his benediction at the Presidents inauguration with these words:

"Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around…when yellow will be mellow…when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen. Say Amen"

That paragraph is full of racist remarks. If you think I have taken the comments out of context, here is a full transcript of his remarks. Rev. Lowery is asking "brown" people to stick around, "yellow" people to become mellow, and "white" people to embrace what is right. If similar remarks were said by a white minister (or a white Republican minister) and directed at minorities, it would be wrong and it would be racist. The media would crucify a white minister for saying that. Rev. Lowery should be ashamed of saying that yesterday, and President Obama should be offended that Rev. Lowery would pick the Presidential Inauguration to say these things.

I am also offended that the media has chosen not to cover this story. There are a few stories simply reporting what he said. There seems to be no criticism of his remarks in the mainstream media. Over the last 24 hours, the only comments I can find on the story are from Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin.

If you think I am blowing this out of proportion, let me paint a different picture in your mind. Pastor Rick Warren gave opening remarks yesterday. What do you think would have happened if he ended his remarks by saying that the election of Barack Obama to President meant that it was finally time for "blacks to do the right thing"?

Monday, January 19, 2009

A New Gas Tax

I am usually against any increase in the Federal Gas Tax. My default position on any tax increase is to oppose it until I know more about it. However, I have been stopped cold by a new purposed gas tax increase. Charles Krauthammer writing in the January 12th issue of the Weekly Standard argues for a "Net-Zero Gas Tax". I have read this article a few times now, and I believe Mr. Krauthammer may be onto something. I wanted to discuss it here because I would like my readers opinions on the plan.

There are a number of reasons to support a gas tax. Typically, any substantial increase in a gas tax is usually government's way of trying to get the people to use less gas. Depending on your political stripe, you may support this in the name of a cleaner environment, or as a way of lessening our dependence on foreign oil. Europeans already have a much higher gas tax than ours. According to Mr. Krauthammer, our federal gas tax is about 18.4 cents on the gallon. In Europe, the fuel tax is closer to $4 per gallon.

The Net Zero gas tax is different from most tax porposals. Mr. Krauthammer argues for an increase in the federal gas tax of one dollar. This is a pretty big percentage increase and would make gas prices jump up to around $2.83 or so for a national average. This is typically not the type of behavior one expects in an economy where new stimulus packages are dreamt up and voted on every other week. However, Mr. Krauthammer couples his tax with a corresponding reduction of $14 per week in the FICA tax. This reduction is to hit the books the week before the extra one dollar gas tax rolls out. Why a $14 reduction? The average American buys 14 gallons of gas per week. By letting that average American keep the extra $14 in his pay check, he has the money for the additional federal gas tax. The net zero tax is designed to be revenue neutral. The federal government gets the same money it has been getting. However, Americans can now chose to continue to buy the same amount of gas each week, or cut back some and have a little extra money.

Are there challenges to this? Sure, and Mr. Krauthammer has a solution for many of them. What about people on welfare or social security? They would get an extra $14 on their weekly checks. What about truckers who buy much more than the average 14 gallons of gas each week? Institute some sort of exception or credit for them to keep the new tax from hitting them so hard.

What I see as the brilliance of this proposal is that it doesn't hurt most Americans and it could potentially cause many Americans to change their driving habits. Many of us are still driving like gas is $4 a gallon. If this tax were enacted soon, we could keep those driving habits and potential get a little money for it. Both parties can claim this as a victory. Democrats love new taxes, and can say this one is to fight global warming. Republicans can say this is a way to cut our oil use, thereby hurting heavy oil countries like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Russia. Both parties get a feather in their cap, we might do some good, and the tax becomes one we can decide not to pay by driving less.

The only way out of our economic problems are with creative new approaches. The Net Zero Gas tax is a creative approach worth looking at.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why An Economic Stimulus is Bad

It seems like all I am writing about now is the economy. However, I believe that the economy, and our response to it, can greatly determine where our country goes. I also feel like President Bush, President Elect Obama, and the Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the Senate are making poor choices with our money.

Glenn Beck had a great analogy on his show today. Any errors I make in retelling it are purely my own. I am going to paraphrase his argument. Glenn Beck points out what our leaders in Washington are saying: they don't know how to fix the economy, they aren't sure about the stimulus pacakage, but we have to do something. Mr. Beck says to imagine that our economy is a patient at a hospital. The patient is very sick, and the doctor isn't sure exactly what is going wrong. In order to save the patient, the doctor feels he has to do something. He starts using different experimental treatments much like the different stimulus packages are experimental ways to fix our economy. The more drugs the doctor tries, the more sick the patient becomes. Finally the doctor comes to the family and says, "We have to do something, so we are going to give him the biggest dose of the same experimental drug we have been using and we'll see what happens." What do you think the family would say?

Our economy is like that. As I noted in a recent post, CNN says we have allocated $7.2 trillion in economic stimulus packages. So far, our economy has continued into a recession. The patient hasn't shown signs of improvements. We shouldn't try the same drugs. We need a different solution.

The answer is to make our country the most competitive country in the nation for business. We need to lower our corporate tax rates to the lowest in the developed world, and maybe lower them some more. We need to cut taxes on investors and encourage them to invest and create jobs. We need to structure our economy so that any business that wants to survive the storm comes to our shores.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Quick Note: Washington

I have two books that I am reading every day. One is a daily devotional entitled "What Every Christian Ought to Know Day by Day: Essential Truths for Growing Your Faith". The other book I am reading daily is "The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America". Today's entry from What Every Christian Ought to Know had a paragraph I wanted to share with my readers:

A little known fact is how George Washington, the father of our country, died. He was sick, so the physicians bled him. When he didn't get well, the bled him again. When he still didn't get well, the bled him a third time. Without realizing it, they bled him to death! (Could it be that ever since, the politicians have been bleeding us to death to get even?) --emphasis in the original.

I thought this was amusing and decided to share it. Enjoy and have a good week!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

No New Economic Stimulus Package

In a speech today, President Elect Obama tried to gain support for an almost $1 Trillion economic stimulus package. "I don't believe it's too late to change course, but it will be if we don't take dramatic action as soon as possible," Obama said. Writing on the Real Clear Politics Blog, Marie Cocco argued against tax cuts in the new package, but also noted, "Without question, a large and quick stimulus is urgently needed." I wish to question the need for a government bailout that adds more money to the insane amount we have already wasted in hopes that something new will happen.

According to CNN Money, the United States allotted $7.2 Trillion in rescue funds for the failing economy during 2008. As of December 2008, $2.7 Trillion had already been spent, and the economy doesn't look any better today. These numbers don't include the FDIC Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program. This program has an unlimited budget, and it is unknown how much it has spent. We have already spent Trillions of dollars and we have allocated Trillions more, and now the President Elect wishes to spend another Trillion. The President Elect intends to spend a portion of this money on alternative energy, updating federal buildings, converting paper medical records to an electronic format, expanding broadband networks, and updating schools and universities. All of those are separate issues that are worthy of their own debate. None of them are going to spur our economy.

We have heard a lot about the infrastructure spending in the new economic stimulus package. Some states are planning their own infrastructure packages. None of our elected officials have bothered to look at Japan's economic infrastructure spending. The Heritage Foundation notes that from 1992 to 2000, Japan took the road most of our elected officials want the United States to take. The massive increase in government spending on infrastructure has caused Japans per capita gross national income to fall to 74 % of that of the United States. The Heritage Foundation notes that between 1992 and 2007 the Japanese economy was almost flat. Yet we are now expected to spend more money than the Japanese while not having the same terrible results.

"We have to do something!" seems to be the motto of today's politician. In any situation there is always the "do nothing" approach. Perhaps the U.S. government should simply get out of the bailout business and let our businesses solve these problems for themselves. Some will fail, others will succeed. That is the nature of a free market. People and business should be allowed to succeed or fail based on their own efforts, not the will of the government. Massive Government spending didn't help the Great Depression, and it won't help our economy either.

Monday, January 05, 2009

“Land of 10,000 Lakes”, More or Less

Minnesota has certified their election today and awarded Al Franken the Senate seat that has been in contest since November. On election night, Norm Coleman had a 725 vote lead. Now, after the combined efforts of a few county boards, and the Democratic Secretary of State, Democrat Al Franken leads Coleman by 225 votes. This election is sure to now head to the courts.

An op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal points out a few of the more laughable moments that have lead to this outcome. First, more than 25 of the precincts in Minnesota have more ballots than voters who signed to vote. According to the WSJ, "State Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson has acknowledged that 'very likely there was a double counting, '". Ramsey County ended up with 177 more ballots than there were recorded votes on Election Night.

In a number of counties there were discrepancies between the number of votes cast and the number of ballots available for recount. It appears from the news today that the state canvassing board decided to count which ever tally benefited Mr. Franken. More votes on election night than today? Go with election night if it helps Al. More votes today? They were probably lost; count them if they were for Al.

Before the recount began, we had a preview of what was to come. Election officials "corrected" typos on their reports from election night. These typos were to the tune of some 500 votes from Norm Coleman to Al Franken. John Lott, Jr. has pointed out that virtually all of these corrections occurred in three counties. Most of these changes occurred in the Democratic precinct of Two Harbors. Writing for Fox News, Mr. Lott points out, "To put this change in perspective, [Two Harbors] corrections accounted for a significantly larger net swing in voters between the parties than occurred for all the precincts in the entire state for presidential, congressional, or state house races."

After screaming "selected not elected" for eight years, it appears the Democratic Party is ready to show the nation how one truly steals an election. When this entire process started, The Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, remarked that Minnesota is known for its fair and open elections. I guess that reputation is a thing of the past.