Attack on American Business by Obama “packed” NLRB!

G’Day!

The latest union-driven government-supported attack on business and free markets is against Boeing and South Carolina. This is another very, very dangerous anti-business precedent being attempted by the unions with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reinforcement, which would increase both union & government central control over free market business decisions.

After 4 crippling union strikes in Washington State in the last 2 decades (with 2 nearly back-to-back) and the most recent in 2008 costing Boeing an estimated loss of over $5 billion in revenue, Boeing decided to build an expansion plant for the 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina. Twenty-two (22) States, including South Carolina, are “Right to Work States” which don’t require (or prevent) hiring union workers. The Boeing plant in South Carolina is nearly complete and approximately 1000 workers have already been hired with 1000s more to follow (many from the soon to be closed NASA/Kennedy Space Center). Interestingly the new Boeing plant, if it is allowed to open in South Carolina, will be 100% powered by a combination of renewable energies.

The International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers at Boeing in Washington State filed a complaint with the NLRB to prevent Boeing from completing the new plant in South Carolina with non-union workers (as permitted by law). The NLRB, with a majority of union-supporting members has agreed with the Washington State-based union (big surprise). Obama temporarily packed the NLRB during the March 2010 Congressional recess by filling 2 of the vacant positions with Craig Becker and Mark Pearce without Senate confirmation. Subsequently Pearce and a Republican nominee, Brian Hayes, were confirmed by voice vote in the Senate in June 2010 but Becker was not. Becker, union activist and former Associate General Counsel of the AFL-CIO & SEIU, remains a temporary voting board member until the end of 2011. This currently gives the NLRB a majority of members supporting union causes and biases their decisions in favor of labor and against American business. Please note, the Democrat-controlled Senate prevented former President Bush from filling the 3 vacant appointments to the NLRB in 2007-08.

This will likely turn into another expensive and delaying lawsuit which, if unions and the NLRB win, will force businesses to get union or government approval on where and how to locate and operate their business operations within the US. This would be another potential disaster for capitalism and freedom in our economy and further encourages American businesses to move offshore. At a minimum it is a threat to all expanding businesses and the twenty-two (22) States that have “Right to Work Laws”, which were enacted to encourage competitive business operations and free markets. Timing could not be worse as we are just coming out of a recession and need job growth. Boeing has already committed significant time and money to the plant, which could be lost, and improved global competitiveness is crucial to the future success of American business. Is anybody in the Obama Administration really interested in economic growth and private-sector job creation?

Obama and his policies are increasingly turning our nation into a centrally controlled socialist welfare state. These policies are not the foundation upon which our country was created and which made America great.

It’s time to take back our country as soon as possible and return to individual liberties, free markets, economic growth, and limited government.

The Old Guy PhD

 

Is Obama Really Serious about Debt Reduction?

G’Day!

The answer is apparently “NO”, based on the 1st & 2nd Obama budget proposals for 2012 and the Democrats tooth-and-nail fight before agreeing to a miniscule and questionable $38 billion (a mere 3-4 days) in spending cuts this year from a current projected deficit of $1.7 trillion for 2011! However, they are serious about political posturing, fear mongering, and demagoguery against Paul Ryan and the Republicans for even proposing an earnest plan to resolve the crisis. As indicated last week in “Obama Ignores Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission – AGAIN!”, their answer is SPEND, SPEND, SPEND and TAX the success of the real investors and hard-working small businesses who are the genuine creators of economic growth, job creation, and wealth in our country. Their only solution is to tax the “Rich” when approximately 45% of the households pay no federal income taxes at all and the “Rich” (Top 2%, incomes over $250,000) already pay over 40% of the total! Tax reform is necessary but Obama’s proposals are neither the serious leadership our country needs nor even a nod of recognition for the fiscal and debt crises we face.

The Fed can’t print enough money to solve this problem without major devaluation of our currency and significant increases in inflation and interest rates. History has repeatedly shown that excessive government spending financed by debt combined with extreme increases in money supply usually results in a collapsed economy and crisis in government. Many other nations have tried this and failed miserably. For example, France tried this before and during the French Revolution and it ultimately led to the collapse of their currency, their economy, the failure of their government, and the rise of Napoleon as dictator. Germany tried this after WWI and it lead to the collapse of their currency, their economy, the failure of their government, and the rise of Hitler as dictator. For more information about financial crises see, “This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly”, by Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, who analyze financial crises in 66 countries in their 2009 book. Regarding “This Time is Different” they conclude, “It almost never is.”

America is not immune to the workings of economic forces and cannot continue as a great nation if we do not put our bloated and inefficient government spending on a sound fiscal path, cap government spending as a percentage of GDP, and appropriately modify (not eliminate) our currently unsustainable entitlement and social programs for long-term viability. Recent history suggests the sustainable level for federal government spending has been approximately 20% of GDP. Federal government spending was 20.7% of GDP in 2008, 23.8% in 2010, and is expected to be over 25.5% in the current year (the highest level in history, other than WWII). This is a +5% increase in the size of our federal government in the first 2-3 years of the Obama Administration! This is madness and must be corrected!

There is no question that many (but not all) government social programs are desirable; they are just not affordable or consistent with a vibrant, innovative, expanding economy, and rising standard of living for the American people. As I said last week, “We cannot continue as a great nation if we base economic policies on the failed socialistic principles of taking from those who work hard and succeed and redistributing their earnings to those who don’t.” Most other developed nations, including Russia, have learned the incentives and benefits of free market capitalism and our government needs to relearn them as well.

If President Obama was sincere about debt reduction, he would be listening to and acting on the recommendations from the bipartisan Debt Reduction Commission he established. The Bowles-Simpson Co-Chairs’ Proposal outlines how to achieve results through comprehensive and specific actions to improve revenues through tax reform, to reduce government discretionary spending including defense, and to reduce entitlement programs through healthcare and social security reform. All of these reforms: taxation, discretionary spending, entitlements for healthcare and social security are essential to a comprehensive solution for our country’s problems and, if we are to succeed, ALL must be addressed.

Our fiscal and debt problems are correctable if our government seriously addresses the needs of the country and not their political desires for reelection. If Obama, Democrats, and Republicans can’t agree on comprehensive legislation to reduce government spending and bring the size of government back to sustainable levels consistent with a growth economy, our country faces a potential sovereign debt crisis similar to those described in the book by Reinhart & Rogoff referenced above. I agree with Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the “outlook” for US Debt based on the political turmoil in our Government. The outlook for a government solution before the 2012 election is not good and I don’t believe Obama and the Democrats want a real solution. Currently, it appears Obama and the Democrats believe the American people are not intelligent enough to see the need for real government spending reform and are too self-interested to revise the social programs to sustainable levels. I do not agree with this view. I believe the American people are intelligent and don’t want to leave to future generations of Americans a damaged economy with an authoritarian bureaucratic government controlling our lives.

In my first post on this website, “Big Government IS Our Problem!”, I described in more detail the current Administration’s trend toward big government collectivism and the dangerous omens it portends for the future of our lives and our nation. In the 2 months since that posting, the situation has become worse and the socialist agenda of our President and the Democrats has become very clear. They do not appear to be serious about debt reduction or reducing government spending. If we are to have a successful and prosperous country in the future, we must take back our country and reestablish the principles of limited government, free markets, individual liberties, and sound fiscal & monetary policies. Get “Big Brother” out of the way and off our backs, reform taxation & spending, and our economy will recover faster and the future of our nation will be assured.

The Old Guy PhD

 

Obama Ignores Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission – Again!

G’Day!

Spend and Tax! Tax and Spend! Spend, Spend, Spend! This is the clearly defined policy framework outlined in Wednesday’s political speech by President Barack Hussein Obama. As noted in a previous post, “Big Government IS Our Problem!”. Unless we replace Obama and the Senate Democrats in 2012, big government, reduced personal freedoms, and unsustainable economic policies will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future. Why does the President continue to reject the bipartisan comprehensive proposal by the Debt Reduction Commission, (“Bowles & Simpson have It Right!”)? Can’t Obama and the Democrats do math?

In President Obama’s speech presenting his 2nd new 2012 budget proposal in two months, he again, as usual, failed to exercise leadership by trashing the serious Republican debt-reduction budget plan of Paul Ryan, and by again refusing to incorporate important recommendations from the Debt Reduction Commission’s proposal. The President’s theme was to incorrectly accuse Republicans of taking money from Senior Citizens and Medicare to provide tax cuts for the “wealthy”. Obama knows better and, as President, should be ashamed of his attempt to mislead the American people. The Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission’s proposal is excellent and the President, the Democrats, and the Republicans should immediately and seriously pursue this comprehensive bipartisan recommendation, which was approved by a majority (61%) of the commission members. Our economic, fiscal, and debt problems cannot be solved by half-hearted and halfway measures. Everything must be on the table, considered, and acted on through an overall, thoughtful, bipartisan solution that benefits the American people not the political ambitions of the politicians.

In this regard, Obama’s speech was disappointing and pure politics, apparently intended to support his announcement to rerun for President in 2012 (hopefully unsuccessfully). The speech essentially ignored the Debt Reduction Commission’s recommendations and lacked real substance or specifics. In response to the Republican’s budget, Obama did propose to reduce the fiscal deficit from his 1st 2012 budget by promising to raise taxes on the successful job-creators in our economy – not a good idea for growth and innovation if you understand economics. The speech primarily engaged in inaccurate political demagoguery aimed at Republican Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal. VP Joe Biden was so impressed that he dozed off during the President’s delivery! The prospect of either the 1st or 2nd Obama 2012 budget proposal is potentially the same: a larger, bankrupt nanny-state in a slow-growth economy with lower than possible living standards, and a devalued currency with entitlements for non-producers supported by the few motivated and successful business managers, investors, and job-creators. Obama’s plan is an arrow aimed at the heart of entrepreneurs, innovators, and commerce.

In 2-3 short years Obama has increased government spending from an annual rate of $2.9 trillion in 2008 to an expected $3.8 trillion in 2011, increased our budget deficits by over $4 trillion and increased our National Debt by approximately 40% to nearly $14.3 trillion (over $1 trillion owed to China). In addition to this massive increase in the size and scope of government (which Obama now wants to “lock in”, not reverse), he has reduced our individual freedoms in healthcare choices (Obamacare), increased government control over our financial and consumer markets (Financial Regulation Bill including the powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), taken over private companies, halted domestic oil development, and expanded unsustainable fiscal and monetary policies. Obama is eroding virtually all the policies in which I personally believe and which made our country great, (see “Is Obama Our Worst President or Just the Weakest?”). How did we ever allow ourselves to believe his campaign rhetoric and fail to see through his lack of experience, leadership, and knowledge of the workings of an economy and foreign relations?

What is now quite clear is Obama’s personal commitment to increasing an already bloated and inefficient federal government and expanding bureaucratic control over our lives and our economy. He is attempting to change our entrepreneurial spirit of independence and freedom into a socialist state of citizens dependent on government handouts for our very survival. I would not be totally surprised if Obama adopted Herbert Hoover’s campaign slogan, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”, with this addition: “Paid for by the US Government”.

We cannot continue as a great nation if we base economic policies on the failed socialistic principles of taking from those who work hard and succeed and redistributing their earnings to those who don’t. Even Russia learned that Karl Marx was wrong when he said, “From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need.” History has shown that socialist policies, if pursued to their ultimate end, result in reduced individual incentive, slower economic growth, lower living standards, and domination by state bureaucrats over the lives of people, (see Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, “The Road to Serfdom”, F. A. Hayek). Obama and the Democrats do not appear to have learned this yet. They appear to have the elitist belief that government bureaucrats can make better decisions for the people than people can make for themselves. Capitalism and democracy aren’t perfect but they are far better than a government-controlled command economy and authoritarianism.

The incentives of capitalism combined with free markets, individual freedoms, and limited government are the best ways to achieve economic growth, prosperity, improved living standards, AND to remain competitive in the global economy. Our US Constitution supposedly protects these fundamental principles but they appear to be increasingly in jeopardy through the actions of our current government. Let’s stop this decay, get back to our traditional foundations, and correct the trend as soon as possible.

The Old Guy PhD

 

Government Shutdown, Who’s to Blame?

G’Day!

Our federal government is facing the distinct possibility of a shutdown this week. If the government is shut down, President Obama and the Democrats will have no one to blame for the crisis other than themselves.

Last year Obama and the Democrats devoted their time and effort on passing an ill-advised and budget-busting healthcare bill, which added significantly to an already unsustainable debt problem for our country. During this same period, President Obama and the Democrats, with total control of Congress and the Administration did not even pass a budget for our current 2011 Federal Fiscal Year!! This is not leadership and represents a total disregard of their responsibility to our country. If Obama and Democrats had performed their duties to the American people last year, the current budget crisis would have been avoided and there would be no possibility of a government shut down this week. They have NOT performed responsibly and did not fulfill their obligations to the nation.

As bad as last year’s performance was, it is now history and must be corrected by the new Congress with the old President. So, what has happened in 2011 to handle the current Democrat-created budget crisis? The new Republican-led House of Representatives passed a bill over 40 days ago repealing the Obamacare healthcare fiscal disaster, passed a bill calling for only $61 billion in spending reductions this year (approximately 6 days of government spending, see “Is Our Government Broken?”), agreed to Continuing Resolutions to keep our government functioning until April 8, and have just proposed another Continuing Resolution to avoid a government shutdown.

On the Democrat’s side, Obama submitted his 2012 Budget to Congress (an irresponsible fiscal and debt-busting budget disaster), which ADDS an expected $1.6 trillion to the deficit next year and $7.2 trillion over the next 10 years (see “Is Our Government Broken?”). The President’s 2012 Budget Proposal includes NONE of the suggestions from the Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission Proposal submitted in December, (see “Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!”). Until this week when, at the 12th hour, he finally called Congressional Leaders together, Obama has been absent from the process of resolving this critical problem. Even the Democrats have complained about his lack of leadership on this issue. In addition, Obama has rejected the current Republican’s proposal for another Continuing Resolution beyond April 8. Obama has, however, found sufficient time during the first 3 months of 2011 to engage in golf, political speeches and fundraisers, and “Presidential Tourism”, while displaying a remarkable lack of leadership in the various Middle East crises, especially Libya. For their part, the Democrats in the Senate have failed to pass ANY bills regarding the budget problem, have stifled any progress on legislation to resolve it, and have engaged in political posturing by persistently blaming Republicans, especially the “Tea Party”, for the stalemate. Specifically, they did initially offer $10 billion in spending reductions this year (1 day’s government spending) and, reportedly are now offering a “non-specific” reduction of $33 billion (3 day’s government spending). It is important to repeat that the Senate, under the direction of Harry Reid (D-NV), has FAILED TO PASS a single piece of legislation on this year’s budget issue except the Continuing Resolutions, which end April 8. The House, under the direction of John Boehner (R-OH), passed legislation over 40 days ago.

It seems absolutely clear that President Obama and the Congressional Democrats are not serious about resolving the issue of this year’s spending and resolving the limit on our National Debt. My suspicions are they want a government shutdown and expect the Republicans will get the blame. I believe the history and facts are clear, if non-essential government services are forced to close, President Obama and Democrats in the Senate are fully responsible for the closure. I also believe that the American people are sufficiently intelligent and informed to recognize this and will properly hold President Obama and the Democratic Party accountable at the next election in 2012.

Frankly, as I have said before, other than national defense and essential services, shutting down the Federal Government might be a good thing. Certainly our government is too big and its growth, especially under Obama and the Democrats, is out of control. If all “non-essential” government workers were furloughed, we should have a clear indication of what size our government should be. By definition, “non-essential” means unnecessary. A case can always be made for “desirable” but “unnecessary” services. The key is the cost to the American taxpayer of the “desirable” service provided. The American people cannot afford to pay for every “desirable” idea and should not be forced to do so through taxation.

“Big Government Is Our Problem” and we MUST stop its growth and reduce its size. We need to return to our nation’s principles of free markets, sound fiscal and monetary policy, and limited government. Let’s elect national and state leaders that support these views.

The Old Guy PhD

 

Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!

G’Day!

In my previous posts, “Big Government IS Our Problem” and “Is Our Government Broken”, I laid out the current and projected fiscal and debt problems facing our nation and argued that significant contraction in government spending is immediately essential. Also essential is tax reform. Our taxes MUST be simplified, the tax base broadened, and tax rates reduced (especially business taxes), if we are to be able to compete in a global economy.

The Debt Reduction Commission’s “Co-Chair’s Proposal” released in December 2010 by the Co-Chairs, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson and submitted to the President in February 2011, is an excellent and understandable overview of the recommendations, which, with minor modification, were approved by 11 of the 18 bipartisan members (61% approval) in December 2010. Unfortunately, the final vote fell short of the 14 votes necessary for the “Supermajority” needed to directly submit the recommendations to Congress. While the Co-Chair’s Draft Proposal differs slightly from the final report submitted to the President, it is worth reviewing for its importance, focus, clarity, and brevity. They have done an excellent job and their proposal deserves the immediate attention of the President and Congress. While no one will be fully happy with all of the commission’s proposals, rational behavior combined with cooperation and compromise by our elected government is necessary if we are to remain a solvent and great nation. The time for government to act is NOW!

The bipartisan Debt Reduction Commission worked from April – December 2010 to develop and present overall comprehensive recommendations to solve our country’s short and long term fiscal and debt crises. They have done their work well. The report addresses all the necessary areas required to resolve the issues including setting out ten (10) objectives, “Guiding Principles and Values”, beginning with “#1-We have a patriotic duty to come together on a plan that will make America better off tomorrow than it is today”; and “#2-The Problem is REAL – the Solution is Painful – There’s no Easy Way Out – Everything Must Be On the Table – and Washington Must Lead”. The other 8 can be read by clicking the link in paragraph above. After establishing the Guiding Principles, the following comprehensive “Five Part Plan” is recommended:

  1. Enact tough discretionary spending caps and provide $200 billion in illustrative domestic and defense savings in 2015.
  2. Pass tax reform that dramatically reduces rates, simplifies the code, broadens the base, and reduces the deficit.
  3. Address the “Doc Fix” not through deficit spending but through savings from payment reforms, cost-sharing, and malpractice reform, and long-term measures to control health care cost growth.
  4. Achieve mandatory savings from farm subsidies, military and civil service retirement.
  5. Ensure Social Security solvency for the next 75 years while reducing poverty among seniors.

Implementation of the comprehensive Five Part Plan is projected to achieve nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020, in addition to other specific improvements in debt and budget reductions summarized below:

  • Achieves nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020: 50+ specific ways to cut outdated programs and strengthen competitiveness by making Washington cut and invest, not borrow and spend.
  • Reduces the deficit to 2.2% of GDP by 2015, exceeding President’s goal of primary balance (about 3% of GDP).
  • Reduces tax rates, abolishes the AMT, and cuts backdoor spending in the tax code.
  • Caps revenue at or below 21% of GDP and gets spending down to 22% and eventually to 21%.
  • Stabilizes debt by 2014 and reduces debt to 60% of GDP by 2024 and 40% by 2037.
  • Ensures lasting Social Security solvency, prevents projected 22% cuts in 2037, reduces elderly poverty, and distributes burden fairly.

The proposal outlines how to achieve the above results through specific recommended actions to improve revenues through “Comprehensive Tax Reform” alternatives, to reduce spending through “Discretionary Budget Options” including Defense cuts, reductions for entitlement programs through “Mandatory Budget Options” for healthcare and “Reforming Social Security”. All of these reforms: taxation, government spending, entitlements for healthcare and social security, are essential to a comprehensive solution for our country’s problems and all must be addressed if we are to succeed.

The Co-Chair’s Proposal is controversial but responsible, realistic, and deserves the serious consideration of the President and Congress, who are currently engaged in irrelevant political bickering over trivial spending cuts instead of the substantive fiscal and debt problems we face. Congress and the President should get together, agree on or revise as appropriate the “Guiding Principles and Values” above, and start to work for the American people and our country. Political posturing for re-election is NOT a valid course of action.

Currently, neither the Congress nor the President is addressing our fiscal and debt crises with any sense of urgency. The President and the Democrats are not only totally ignoring the problem but are fighting to avoid even minimal reductions from the inflated budget spending of the last 2-3 years. Federal Budget inflation nearly tripled our federal deficit from $0.459 trillion in 2008 to $1.3 trillion in 2010 and is expected to increase again to $1.7 trillion this fiscal year. Obama’s recent budget proposal for 2012 continues spending at $3.7 trillion and the deficit at $1.6 trillion. Additionally, Obama’s new budget projects a further cumulative deficit of $7.2 trillion for the next ten years – bringing our debt to approximately $22 trillion! This is not leadership; it is madness! Only the Republicans are even attempting to address the issue and, to date, their proposals are woefully inadequate. To be fair, the House Republicans through Representative Paul Ryan are promising to present a comprehensive budget in April that does address the looming long-term catastrophe we face. I hope they deliver.

Given the magnitude of our fiscal and debt problems, the current congressional squabbling is an inappropriate distraction from solving the overall crises facing our nation! Without an agreement on debt limits and/or spending cuts by April 8, our government may shut down. As noted in “Is Our Government Broken”, except for national security and some essential services, shutting down might actually be a good thing. Our government is too big, too irresponsible, and too self-centered. Can’t our Congress or Administration do math?

Where is President Obama’s leadership in all of this? Actually, at the time of this writing he’s currently travelling again and making speeches at a Democratic Party Fundraiser – big surprise. As usual, when leadership and responsibility for our country are required, Obama is absent. Last week with a national debt deadline imminent, Congress took a week off rather than stay in session to attempt to resolve the current national debt limit issue. Brilliant! Our elected representatives need to make financial solvency and economic growth a priority and get to work NOW!

We are on unsustainable fiscal and debt crises that, if not corrected quickly, will lead to potential financial and economic disaster for our country. Our government is oppressive and out of control, its growth must be stopped, and its intrusion in our lives and businesses reversed. We MUST maintain the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for economic growth and global competitiveness. We need to bring back the constitutional freedoms and personal liberties that led us to become the greatest nation on earth. Our government should immediately take up the Bowles-Simpson Co-Chairs’ Proposal.

The Old Guy PhD

 

Is Obama Our Worst President or Just the Weakest?

G’Day!

While I did not vote for Obama, I did have great hope for his presidency. Even though I believed him to be too inexperienced and unqualified to be President, his slogan, “Yes we can!” combined with his soaring rhetoric was inspiring and motivating. Unfortunately, my initial fears have been realized. Perhaps Anna Pukas said it best in her recent article, “Barack Obama: The Weakest President in History?” when she described him as “INEFFECTUAL, invisible, unable to honour pledges and now blamed for letting Gaddafi off the hook. Why Obama’s gone from ‘Yes we can’ to ‘Er, maybe we shouldn’t…” To Anna Pukas’ observations, I would add aloof, elitist, and indecisive.

It is actually too early to tell if the outcomes from the legislation of the Obama government will make him our worst President but current and future implications for the massive increase in big government socialism, continuing fiscal catastrophe, unsustainable levels of debt, and diminished international respect for the United States around the world, clearly make him a contender. More worrying is the apparent weakness and inability of President Obama to accept leadership and responsibility for the direction of our country. His ambivalence as a leader and his priority with the “perks” instead of the responsibilities of his office are unprecedented in our current time of crisis. In issue after issue he has withdrawn from the actual decision-making process and, during his first two years in office, deferred to Congress or leaders in other countries to set our government’s goals and priorities. Besides golf (60+ times since taking office, I’m retired and haven’t been able to play that much), political speeches, extensive travel, and a totally unearned Nobel Peace Prize, he has largely been an observer on domestic and international issues. Professor Peter Morici recently indicated on national television, Obama appears to be more interested in “Presidential Tourism” than in dealing with the critical issues facing our nation. Virtually all Presidents in at least the last century have been strong leaders. Some of their actions have been right and some have been wrong but they were willing to take responsibility and actually lead our country. Perhaps Harry Truman expressed it best when he said, “The Buck Stops Here!” With Obama, “The Buck Starts Here!”

We were warned by Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primary Campaign that Obama, while in the Illinois legislature, declined to take a position on issues by voting “Present” (neither yes nor no) 129 times. While in his partial term in the US Senate, he missed roll call 314 times (24%). These should have been indications of his personal lack of commitment and inability to take a position on legislation. Since becoming President, Obama has essentially been a pitchman for the Democrats, notably the unions, and has punted important domestic decisions (Stimulus, Healthcare, Financial Reform, Federal Budgets, and National Debt) to the Democratically-controlled House and Senate and international decisions to the State Department and foreign leaders. With foreign leaders he has been persistently weak and apologetic concerning America’s historical role in fighting for and defending freedom, democracy and US international interests. He has consistently been indecisive and ambivalent in dealing with China, Russia, Iran, the Middle East, and now Libya.

In responding to the current Libyan crisis, he has dithered and deferred to the leadership of Britain, France, and the Arab League and has now bypassed Congress (perhaps illegally) and subordinated US national interests to the UN Security Council for the current military actions. All this while he and his entire family engaged in “Presidential Tourism” to South and Central America. At the time of this writing, our US policy on Libya is a confused mess. Obama has no clear long-term objectives and he has still not addressed the nation or properly communicated to Congress a coherent government plan. Astonishingly, Obama’s currently stated goal for Libya is to WITHDRAW US military authority over the actions in Libya, pass command to “somebody else”, and voluntarily abandon American leadership in a time of international crisis. He appears to be willing to give command and control over our military to unknown foreign powers “to be determined”! This is another example of Obama’s avoidance of responsibility and lack of strength. Unfortunately, his weakness as a leader and lack of belief in the greatness, strength, and historical contribution of America in the world, has undermined our international stature in the world and created a power vacuum that other nations are trying to fill. Even our long-time allies have been embarrassed by his deference and obeisance to the leaders of problem nations. Remember Obama “bowing” to the King of Saudi Arabia and cancelling President Bush’s Anti-ballistic-missile Defense Shield for Central Europe when challenged by Russia. These are not the actions of the President of the World’s greatest nation.

I don’t know if Obama will turn out to be our worst President but he doesn’t look good and the future of our country is in peril on many fronts, especially our fiscal and debt crises and our foreign policy. I do believe that what little political conviction he has is directed toward expanding socialist government, reducing personal freedoms, and exercising more control over our lives (see “Big Government IS Our Problem!”). This is not good! I am also very sorry to say that I believe that Obama IS our weakest President in at least the last century and has not demonstrated the personal strength to handle the conflicts and confrontations that are a necessary consequence of the domestic and international issues confronting America. This is very unfortunate given the variety of crises we face. Fortunately, the November elections gave control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. This, at minimum, will halt the growth of collectivist government for the next two years.

Our nation was founded on constitutionally protected principles of individual freedoms, free markets, and limited government. Let’s stop the rot, get back to our roots, and reverse the trend as soon as possible.

The Old Guy PhD

 

Is Our Government Broken?

G’Day!

Yes, our government is currently broken and it needs to GET TO WORK! The events taking place in our national government and some states do not represent the principles of elected representative government upon which America was founded. We elected our officials to serve the needs of the people, not the desires of their political party, big business, or unions.

President Obama, both Democrat and Republican Congressional Representatives and Senators (with minor exceptions) are not currently working for the long-term benefit of America. Nearly all are posturing and working for what they perceive as the good of their political party and personal reelection. Citizens have common sense and know that we have fiscal and debt crises that are too large and unsustainable. We must get our State and Federal Governments in order.

Our overall national debt is currently $14.2 trillion and growing. It is nearly the size of our annual GDP.  Disturbingly, over $1 trillion of this debt is held by China, not our most reliable or friendly partner. Our fiscal deficit in 2008 was $0.459 trillion, by 2010 it nearly tripled to $1.3 trillion, and the expected deficit in 2011 is $1.7 trillion. Additionally, we currently have unfunded “entitlement” liabilities for Social Security of $14.8 trillion, Prescription Drugs of $19.6 trillion, & Medicare of $78.1 trillion. This is a total current obligation for future generations of $112.5 trillion, nearly 8 times our total annual output and just over $1.0 MILLION per current taxpayer. This is madness and is crippling our economy and economic growth.

We actually have NO FEDERAL BUDGET for 2011! Obama’s unapproved 2011 “budget” is expected to reach $3.7 trillion this year. This amounts to $10.1 BILLION PER DAY. In the current congressional debate concerning raising the debt ceiling, Democrats have offered  “real” cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year of $10 billion (1 day’s spending) and the Republicans are offering approximately $60 billion (only 6 day’s spending). Neither proposal even remotely addresses the magnitude of our problem. If agreement can’t be reached in Congress, the Federal Government may be forced to shut down. Frankly, except for national security and some essential services, this might actually be a good thing. Our government is too big, too irresponsible, and too self-oriented. Can you imagine what the Founding Fathers would think of what is happening in our government today? A temporary shut down might force us to be more responsible and self-reliant, as the founders of our nation and our Constitution intended.

As noted, the magnitude of our nation’s financial problem is enormous, increasing, and untenable! So what is our government doing to correct the crisis? Last year, the Democrats, who controlled the Administration, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, failed to even pass a Federal Budget for fiscal 2011. They were, however, able to compound our future fiscal and debt problems by passing a massive and unpopular healthcare bill and a financial reform bill, both of which further increase the size of government, with more regulations and control over important sectors of our lives. This legislation further erodes our liberties and free-market economy. Do we really want to become a collectivist country with the government dictating our lives?

For his part, President Obama has virtually abdicated all leadership in this crisis by proposing a new budget for next year projecting spending of another $3.7 trillion and an addition to the deficit of $1.6 trillion. Over the next 10 years the new Obama budget proposal is expected to produce a further cumulative deficit of $7.2 trillion, bringing our overall national debt to approximately $22 trillion. President Obama is spending (pun intended) his time travelling, golfing, and giving political speeches; and his proposed budget is an embarrassment given the magnitude of our country’s ongoing financial problems.

In Congress only the Republicans are even attempting to deal with the fiscal and debt problem and so far they are dealing with trivial, not real spending or fiscal reform (although it is promised). The Democrats are essentially ignoring the problem and blocking even the inconsequential cuts proposed by Republicans for the remainder of this year (see above). When real leadership is essential, Obama and Congress have abdicated their responsibility to the nation and chosen posturing and rhetoric over work and accomplishment for the American people.

At the State level a few Governors are trying to deal with similar budget issues, but some Democrats have deserted their State Houses and fled their elected responsibilities (see “State Democrats Shun Democratic Process!”). Unions are sponsoring demonstrations in several states, which are disrupting our democratic processes and interfering with the ability of our democratically elected representatives (when present) to perform their legislative duties. This is a travesty and is not the way our democracy is intended to work.

Yes, our government is currently broken and it’s time to get to work. What should they be doing? First, after quickly resolving the ridiculous political stalemate over the debt limit and budget for the rest of this year, they should NOT make the fiscal situation worse and the government’s out-of-control spending and inefficiencies should be eliminated as soon as possible. The GAO report “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue” has already identified unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation existing across our Federal Government totaling BILLIONS of dollars in ANNUAL SAVINGS. This is a good place to start.

Second, they should employ proven strategic management techniques. Any basic management course indicates that solving problems and capturing opportunities requires: setting long-term goals, reviewing historical performance to identify strengths and weaknesses, identifying and prioritizing alternative “comprehensive” solutions, acting on the best “comprehensive” solutions, and measuring and correcting course to improve performance. Our government needs to follow this agenda. The Bowles-Simpson, Co-Chairs Draft Report, “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility”, is a reasonable draft proposal for identifying and establishing these goals and actions (some painful) to resolve the long-term financial crisis we face as a nation. It addresses all areas of government including its size, spending, and revenues and suggests major reform in income taxation and entitlement programs. This is also a good place to start. To date, neither President Obama nor Congress appears to be seriously considering the information and recommendations in either report.

“Big Government is Our Problem”! Let’s fix it and put our country back on a solid foundation with individual freedom, free markets, sound fiscal and monetary policy, economic growth, and limited government!

The Old Guy PhD

 

Are Public-Sector Unions Destroying Democratic Government?

G’Day!

The fiscal and debt crisis facing many of the 50 states and the bankruptcy of General Motors have highlighted the critical role public and private-sector unions have in our ability to compete globally and in the functioning and long term solvency of our state and federal governments. The demonstrations in Wisconsin and similar events in Indiana, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Ohio, not to mention the budget crisis in New York and California, are emphasizing the magnitude of the controversy and crisis facing our governments over well-intended but overly generous and unsupportable public-sector union benefit packages. Unlike the private sector, public-sector workers are paid by taxpayers, currently receive benefits and wages that are above the average paid for similar work in the private sector, and have greater job security. Without significant change and fiscal sanity restored, many states will ultimately face one or a combination of undesirable choices: raising taxes on business and/or the general population, cutting services, reducing salaries and benefits of public-sector workers, or declaring bankruptcy and starting over.

Originating in Europe, unions transferred to the USA in the 19th and especially the 20th century.  They began in the private sector with legitimate goals of fair pay, better & safer working conditions, and fair bargaining for labor contracts. In the private sector unions work because in a competitive free-market there is an objective economic outcome, which, when successful, maintains profit for the owners and appropriate wages and working conditions for the employees. If owners are too greedy, good employees will leave and the firm will fail. If employees are too greedy, costs will be uncompetitive and the firm will fail. Under either situation both owners and employees will lose, so both parties have incentive to balance their demands so that the firm succeeds. It was the excessive bargaining power of the unions combined with increasing competition that led to many private U.S. firms’ bankruptcies (think General Motors and the Airlines) and that ultimately led to a decline in private-sector unions. Private-sector union membership peaked in 1953 at 25.5% of the labor force and has declined steadily afterwards. I support private-sector unions in a competitive, free-market economy as long as they are “open shop”, represent “right to work” conditions, have “secret balloting” for elections, and are not biased by legislation.

Public-sector unions did not exist until the late 1950s, when, Robert Wagner, Mayor of New York City, in an appeal for votes (an omen of things to come), signed an executive order authorizing the city workers to unionize. Other Democrat-led local and state governments followed his lead and President Kennedy, also by executive order, authorized federal workers to form unions in 1962. Prior to this, public-sector workers were expected to earn less than private-sector workers in return for job security and service to the public. Even union leaders recognized at that time that collective bargaining by government workers was biased in favor of workers, unfair, and inappropriate.

Public-sector unions do not represent the conditions necessary for fair and balanced negotiations with elected government representatives. Government jobs do not have a competitive market (governments and essential services don’t compete), don’t have an objective economic outcome that forces compromise (governments don’t go bankrupt, yet), and the taxpayer owners are represented by temporary agents who negotiate for wages and benefits with workers who vote them into office. The contracts from these negotiations endure permanently into the future long after the elected politicians negotiating for the taxpayers have departed. There is clear bias when short-term reelection partially depends on the votes of these employees. This process is further biased where public-sector unions are large and have full  “Collective Bargaining” rights, as is currently the case in 26 states.

Because wages and benefits to public-sector workers come from taxpayers, ALL taxpayers in total are funding these contracts AND union dues. A portion of these union dues is recycled into the election and lobbying process as political support for union favored candidates and laws (like the current “Employee Free Choice Act”, which is union biased and should be killed). In 2007-08 unions spent $165 million on elections and proposed legislation. Andy Stern of the SEIU bragged that the union spent $60 million to get Obama elected. Not surprisingly, the majority of these recycled union funds go to support the Democratic Party and no wonder that Democratic Senators in Wisconsin and Indiana have fled their states and elected responsibilities in support of union protests against proposed limits on union power and benefits.

Do the public-sector unions really have a legitimate complaint? Are they underpaid? Are their benefits unfair? Is their job security worse than the private sector? The obvious answer to all these questions is, “Hell No!” The US Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2009 indicates that unionized public-sector workers have a 31% advantage in wages and a 68% advantage in benefits over nonunionized workers (with a much larger advantage in defined-benefit pensions and health insurance) and their job security is almost assured, especially in education. Public-sector union members generally contribute little or nothing for their healthcare and pensions and in many cases can retire at a significantly earlier age than private sector workers. And remember, taxpayers are the source of their wages and benefits. I ask the questions, “Does the service and value provided by public-sector workers justify their higher-level of pay and benefits over the private sector?” If not, why are we, the taxpayers, paying it?

The chart above represents the trend in public vs. private-sector union workers since 1973. It illustrates that union membership in the private sector has declined by over 50% from approximately 15 million to 7.1 million to approximately 8% of the workforce. During this period public-sector membership has increased by over 150% from approximately 3 million to 7.6 million and represents more union members than the competitive private sector for the first time in history. This growth in government workers and spending must stop and proper priorities set on what we can fiscally afford as a nation. Our government cannot do every “desirable” project. Endless growth in State and Federal Governments promoted by unions is increasing regulations, increasing the size and cost of government, stifling economic growth and innovation, and restricting private sector job expansion. We, the people not the government, must accept primary responsibility for our families, our neighborhoods, our country, and ourselves.

So what should we do? First and most important, where it still exists, collective bargaining for the public sector, which should have never been permitted, should be ended, the proper balance between taxpayers and government workers restored, and its undemocratic and prejudiced influence in the electoral and negotiating process halted. Second, effective immediately, all new hires into public-sector employment should have a new retirement age consistent with those in the private sector, revised pension and healthcare contracts in which they must contribute appropriately to their health and pension plans, pension plans that are based on defined-contribution not defined-benefit, wages based on performance not longevity, and where it exists, “tenure” should be abolished. Third, existing retirement contracts for long-term government employees approaching retirement age (to be determined but within approximately 10 years of retirement) should be honored, but they should be required to begin contributing to their healthcare and pension plans as above. Fourth, employees with longer than approximately 10 years to retirement age should also begin contributing and have their retirement phased-in as appropriate to match the new retirement age.

These major recommendations are admittedly oversimplified for brevity and will differ by State and between State and Federal workers depending on existing contracts. However, they will significantly reduce the current and long-term fiscal crises facing our state and federal governments. Other non-union related issues and recommendations will be the subjects of a future post.

The near-monopoly stranglehold public-sector unions have over large portions of our state and federal governments must be broken or the unsustainable budget and debt problems will continue to erode and potentially destroy our democratic institutions of government. Public-sector workers must be compensated like private sector workers based on value-added.

It’s time to curb public-sector unions, return power to the taxpayers, and restore fiscal sanity to our government.

The Old Guy PhD

How to Solve Healthcare Part II

G’Day!

In “How to Solve Healthcare Part I”, I addressed the simpler ways free-market alternatives to “Obamacare” could be used to solve some of the healthcare issues we face as a nation. These issues were identified as: 1) cost reduction, 2) coverage for “pre-existing conditions”, 3) patient choice in doctor selection & treatment, 4) portability of existing coverage in relocation, 5) coverage for catastrophic events, 6) tort reform, and 7) coverage for those involuntarily uninsured because of need. This post will address the more complicated issue of the separation of the patient from the payment and insurance coverage process through employer-based insurance programs. Coverage specifically for catastrophic events will be the subject of a future post.

Since WW II, the healthcare industry has become “layered” with various institutions, which have resulted in financial and personal separation of the patient from his or her doctor, treatment, and payments. Between the doctor and patient payment system, we now have insurance companies, health maintenance organizations, accounting firms, and employers. Some of these institutions are justified specializations that reduce cost or help manage risks. The inclusion of employers in the system is not one of them, is unnecessary, and has created its own set of issues. If fully implemented, “Obamacare” will add a new layer of government to this already complex process. As indicated in Part I, more government control over healthcare products and pricing will ultimately lead to higher not lower costs, fewer choices, higher taxes, more debt, and less competition. Perhaps the best indication of forthcoming problems with “Obamacare” is that the Obama administration has already granted delayed implementation “waivers”, because of higher cost and reduced-benefit concerns, to nearly 1,000 unions and major companies.

Employer-based healthcare plans and other “fringe-benefit” programs expanded significantly during WW II as a reaction to government “Wage Controls” and currently comprise nearly 60% of health insurance coverage in America.  Because of government-controlled wages, employer-sponsored healthcare was created to provide valuable services to employees without violating arbitrary wage limits. These employer-based plans have persisted long after wage controls were removed. Since 1954 these employer-paid insurance benefits were no longer considered taxable income to the employee but are a deductible business expense for the firm, which further complicates the issue. The practical effects of this approach have been to insulate the individual patient from the financial implications of doctor choice, medical fees, tests, consultation, and treatment. In addition, individual freedom of choice has been replaced by limited “standard packages” or “one-size-fits-all” from which employees must choose. The alleged benefit for employees is cheaper cost, supposedly resulting from a larger company insurance pool and standardization. In this regard, it should be noted that the “packages” for unions (especially public-sector unions) and for management employees are frequently better than those offered to general employees.

If the employer “layer” was removed from healthcare and current business insurance costs paid directly to the employees as increased wages (with the same tax deductibility provision available to business), the healthcare insurance choices could be made by individuals based on their own cost/benefit analysis and financial choices for doctors and treatment would become more transparent. Coverage would be personalized to the needs of the actual consumer, not the desires of the employer. Because of the impersonal separation of the consumer from actual healthcare costs (other than a small “copay”) individuals generally consider these costs low or negligible and tend to overuse the system. Insurance coverage for separate and smaller employer pools should cost MORE NOT LESS than a larger nationwide competitive pool of all citizens, in which all individuals would have freedom of choice over the plans and costs that fit their personal needs. Why should personal choices for healthcare insurance be different from choices for auto, life, or other forms of insurance simply because of a 60-year old system designed to circumvent temporary government wage controls for WW II? Give back freedom of choice to the individual.

Removing the employer from the system, along with nationwide competition (see Part I) could also solve the “portability” issue of coverage during relocation or loss/change of job and retirement because the employee would own the insurance policy, not the company. Why shouldn’t healthcare insurance for the individual and his or her family be fully portable, like car insurance or life insurance?

Transition to personal-based vs. employer-based insurance could be accomplished by requiring employers to give employees the choice between continuing existing company-paid plans or receiving the company-paid contributions as tax-free employee compensation, as they are categorized under current tax law. This would allow freedom of choice to individuals and gradual adjustment to the new alternative. Besides freedom of choice, the “portability” advantage of personal-based insurance noted above would be another important consideration in the choosing between the two alternatives.

Employers have no reason to be another layer in the healthcare process, add no apparent value, and have created additional problems. If individuals are given the freedom to make their own cost/benefit choices in a free market with nationwide competition, individuals will have more alternatives and will be more aware of their actual healthcare costs. This should result in more responsible use of the system. Individual freedom to control their own healthcare insurance choices and the resulting additional financial transparency should result in more and better personal decisions and lower costs.

Individual freedom of choice, in a free and competitive market with temporary safety nets only for those truly in need, is a better healthcare solution.

The Old Guy PhD

 

State Democrats Shun Democratic Process!

G’Day!

Are we living in a Third World Country? What are the Democrats thinking?

The actions by the elected Democrats in Wisconsin are now spreading to other states and are a disgrace to them, the voters in their states, the Democratic Party, and our country. This is not the way our Founding Fathers intended our nation to function and is an embarrassment for the USA in the rest of the world. At all levels of government, America should be an example of the proper functioning of the democratic process to those countries that are struggling to establish representative governments. The actions in Wisconsin are not the way to do this. Perhaps the only actions left for the Democrats to further stifle and prevent the democratic process from working is to engage in actual physical restraint against the elected Republican majority. This is not pretty and is a travesty.

On the other hand, although I do not agree with the nonelected Democrat and union demonstrators in Wisconsin, I fully support their rights do so, as long as they remain peaceful and nonviolent. I also commend Governor Scott Walker for his restraint and appeals to absentee Senators to return and perform their responsibilities.

At local, state, and national levels, our democracy is based on periodic free and fair elections by the people of representatives to meet, debate, and vote on issues important for our society, subject to the limits of our Constitution.  The Democrat Senators in Wisconsin (and now Indiana) are shunning their responsibility to the people of their state by abdicating their obligations to perform the functions for which they were elected. In doing so, they are violating the trust of the people, shutting down the government, and undermining our democracy. The people in Wisconsin and other states have already spoken with their votes and deserve better from their elected representatives. The elected Democrats are morally, and I hope legally, required to perform their proper role by returning to the state, debating the issues, and voting on them. They are not entitled to simply walk off the job and shut down the governing process because they disagree with elected majority. They should not be paid and would be fired in the private sector. This is not how our democracy works.

The democratic process is currently broken in Wisconsin and a properly functioning government needs to be immediately restored. The nonparticipating Democrats are cowards who need to be censured for their refusal to appropriately represent the people who elected them. Upholding the freedoms upon which our country was founded also means the fulfillment of responsibilities by elected representatives.

The Democrats need get with the program and support our democracy.

The Old Guy PhD