Fri 29 Feb 2008
Posted by Tony Marini under Finance
, PoliticsComments Off
What one-on-one commercial competition couldn’t do, the US Air Force and supplicant elected reps and Senators did in one fell swoop. They essentially broke the back of our home-grown aircraft industry when they selected the Northrup Grumman-EADS KC-45 tanker to replace the aging fleet of KC-135 and KC-10 military air tankers. The deal, worth $US35 billion over 10 years to build 179 replacement tankers will ultimately be worth over $US100 billion over the next 30 years, considering upgrades and replacements of the entire fleet of 660+ tankers. It also gives EADS, the parent company of Airbus, a dominant toe hold in the US military aircraft marketplace. Such a position is unprecedented in our history.
The competiton pitted Boeing and it’s 767 passenger liner-based tanker modification, the KC-767 against the team of Northrup Grumman/EADS with their passenger airline-based Airbus A330, the KC-45(A). Although the Air Force/Department of Defense haven’t released their entire rationale for the selection, they cited that the larger size of the KC-45 as the key selection factor. According to Air Force Gen. Arthur Lichte: “More passengers, more cargo, more fuel to offload.”
But this isn’t the whole story. The Boeing KC-767 aircraft would have been fabricated/assembled entirely in the US, mostly at their Everett, WA assembly facility. The Northrup Grumman/EADS tanker airframe will be assembled in Europe, and will have final assembly converting it to a tanker here in the US at a new facility in Mobile, AL. This aircraft will also use GE engines manufactured in Ohio and North Carolina. There is talk that the A330 freighter production will shift to Alabama after completion of the new EADS facility there.
To say that an there was an incredible full-court press in the presentation and selection process by the Alabama Congressional complement is an understatement. In particular, Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby were key in delivering this contract to Northrup Grumman/EADS and insuring that at least 2,500 high paying jobs now, and many more in the future, will find a home in Mobile, Alabama.
But the bringing home of the bacon, as it were, by the good Senators of Alabama will only benefit the state of Alabama in the long run. As was mentioned previously, the entire airframe of the KC-45 tanker will be made by EADS/Airbus in Europe. As a result, the jobs to perform this skilled assembly work and the profits from the sale of the airframe will stay in Europe. Not in the USA as they would have if Boeing were selected. The selection of the EADS-team also means that for the very first time in our military’s history the US will be procuring a substantially foreign-designed/made aircraft and using it as a part of our nation’s defense. In the past, even though we were part of NATO and other military alliances whose member countries had military aerospace manufacturing capacity/capability, the US was the key supplier of military hardware in the relationship(s).
The selection of the KC-45 tanker changes this. Does this selection mean that our military is willing to outsource other (future) vital military hardware to foreign suppliers? How long will it be before we select a Chinese or perhaps Russian manufacturer for a future military aircraft requirement? Even though EADS is a European corporation that is sited within countries that have been our allies, it takes away an element of control and sustainability from the onshore purview of our military. It might seem xenophobic and nationalistic on my part, but I also think it unseemly that we have done something essentially unthinkable during the historical time periods until now — select a foreign aircraft over an American competitor.
Certainly I am in favor of open competition for government contracts, and we shouldÂ look for the best deal for our dollar. But the best deal isn’t just all about money! In matters of military procurement, there is an element of nationalistic pride, of self-sufficiency and of the protection of skilled American jobs. The military’s long-term relationship with Boeing did merit consideration and weighting, in my opinion, in determining the final outcome of this massive contract. Merit that I believe didn’t come into the equation!
If losing this contract harms Boeing, then we do have something to worry about. It signals that we have become so international-egalitarian in our thinking, even regarding our national defense, that we simply don’t care if our homeland military-industrial complex suffers. And because of this I fear the worst! I fear that this decision will come back to haunt us as a nation for many years to come. What happens to our national security interests when one of the nation-owners of EADS becomes a potential adversary of the United States in the future — how will we handle this situation? Will we just do without, because we put savings before security in the past? Could this potential situation put us at a strategic disadvantage?
I hope not. But as I’ve said before, hope is a poor substitute for the surety of a reliable, stateside supplier of military hardware. Alabama might profit from this arrangement, but their interests are not the interests of our entire nation. I pray that the Senators who are lauded for their tenacity in bringing home this deal to Mobile, Alabama won’t be seen as sellers-out of the interests of our country.
Only time will tell.
Thu 28 Feb 2008
Posted by Tony Marini under General
, ScienceComments Off
Advocates for wildlife conservation constantly remind the general public with alerts when a species becomes endangered or threatened, particularly by man-made actions. These folks are relentless protectors of “nature” and the welfare of the creatures on our planet, with one single exception: Human beings! It is as though man is some how unnatural or “supernatural”, and that anything that we do to craft our environment to our needs is an affront to nature and the natural order of things. To the wildlife conservancy and tree-hugging folks, we humans are irredeemable and live contrary to the will of Mother Nature.
Which brings me to the sad tale of the Whooping crane. The poor old Whooping crane: Just 50 years ago the species was on the brink of extinction with only several handfuls of their number remaining in the wild. We now learn in an AP story by Maria Sudekum Fisher today that these hapless creatures, whose numbers have virtually skyrocketed to 266 in a particular migratory flock by a concerted public and private conservation effort, are threatened by wind turbines and power lines in the prairie regions within their migration path from Canada to Texas. The story cites the leading cause of death of the Whooping crane is collisions with power lines. Advocates for this crane stress that it is protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty, and that the profusion of wind turbines and their large, spinning blades constitute a grave threat to the few remaining birds. The AP story also reminds us that “…the wind industry has been criticized for its impact on other birds and wildlife, as well as its visual effect on the landscape.”
So, what are we to do? As the AP story also states “Whooping cranes, the tallest birds in North America, fly at altitudes of between 500 and 5,000 feet – enough room to clear the turbines, which range in height from about 200 feet to 295 feet, and their blades, with diameters from 230 feet to 295 feet. The problem…is that the cranes stop every night. ‘It’s actually the landing and taking off that’s problematic…That’s when they’re most likely to encounter the turbines and transmission towers’.” I guess the conservationists and bird advocates would have us seek alternate venues for wind farms…perhaps in locales with less wind. Alternatively, we could just reduce our thirst for energy as a society.
I certainly feel sorry for the poor Whooping crane. BUT, there is a limit to my sympathy! The Whooping crane and our attempts to propagate the species is emblematic of a larger problem. A segment of our society has co-opted all things environmental, and they have made their aegis “The Big Lifeboat”. What I mean by this is that in their eyes, the world as it exists is essentially frozen in time — like a prehistoric insect trapped in amber. No species, particularly one that is compelling, visually attractive and that evokes sympathy, will go extinct on their watch. Extinctions are so 2 million years ago, and won’t be tolerated given our modern technology and a sympathetic US legislative and judicial system. Let’s not forget that the worst crime against nature is the extinction of a species at the hands of man. How dare we humans not act as the conservator and game keeper of the world? Do we not have a collective conscience and eco-responsibility?
Listen, God bless the Whooping crane. But if it’s either the future of this bird or a viable, renewable alternative energy source…then goodbye Mr. Whooping crane! The protection at all costs of such an apparently fragile species runs quite contrary to Darwinism. The “fittest” should survive…and all species on earth benefit from this process, including humans. We can only do so much for a species. When we start encroaching on the livelihoods of humans in order to save a barely sustainable species, then we commit a larger crime and affront to our human cohort. The intervention into the almost-extinction of the Whooping crane and other endangered species raises another question: Why is our human intervention in the prevention of extinctions considered appropriate and “natural”? Why is the cause of extinction of a certain specie or species by man-made contrivances like wind turbines considered unnatural and evil? The conservation-minded will answer “because it’s preventable” as their rationale.
I don’t buy this explanation. We need to act in our own best interests every once in a while. If our societal needs dictate the placement of wind turbines in a place where the hapless Whooping crane will come in contact with them and their power distribution infrastructure, then I have to side with the needs of my human Earth-mates. I wish the Whooping crane Godspeed and good luck, but I can’t condone changing the infrastructure required by 300+ million US citizens in order to save this bird. There has to be a place for common sense in the process. Saving a struggling species from extinction, at any cost, flies in the face of common sense.
It would be nice to save the Whooping crane, but is it essential to humanity, other species and the Earth in general? The answer is NO! The survival of the Whooping crane would make some of us feel good, but there is no particular irreplaceable function that this bird provides to its surroundings. (This must be so because of the very small numbers of the bird in the wild and in captivity.) So, the Whooping crane’s existence can be compared to decor — keeping them around makes nature look better and provide a more satisfying experience for those humans interested in the natural aesthetic.
Inasmuch as I’d like to see the Whooping crane survive and thrive, if it can’t evolve and find away to survive in a changing world (whatever the cause of the change), then I (and we all) must find a way to say “goodbye”. To hinder the advancement of the human species in deference to a struggling bird might be noble and high-minded, but in the end it it sheer madness.
And the sooner we recognize this simple fact, the better off we will be.
Sun 24 Feb 2008
Posted by Tony Marini under Famous and Infamous
, PoliticsComments Off
Whew. Raul Castro must be thanking his lucky stars for his “surprise” election to fill the void left by the stepping down of his older brother Fidel. The average Cuban can sleep well tonight knowing that their political system works so well.
It’s sad that this kind of political musical chairs can happen in the modern era. I heard some breathless, empty suit on one of the major networks exclaiming that the Cuban people had “chosen” a new leader. Well, frankly, that must be news to the average Cuban citizen! From my understanding of how the process worked, Fidel hand picked his replacement, namely Raul, and provided his “choice” to the ruling Cuban National Assembly for its rubber stamp approval. No surprises or citizen involvement there!!
And in a further heaping dose of nose thumbing at its citizens, the second in command candidate chosen was the only one proposed — Jose Ramon Machado, who fought alongside the brothers Castro in the 1950′s.
I may not adore the presidential or Congressional candidates who run for office in the USA. But I love the process that we have here. Unlike Cuba, our process has become corrupted by citizen apathy, leading to a lack of voter participation. This is a sad situation, as I imagine that the average-Jose Cuban citizen would cherish the opportunity to actually vote for their leaders and representatives.
The juxtaposition of the Cuban system with our own underscores the importance of vigilance and engagement for each US citizen. If you choose to sit out the electoral process, then you have little to complain about. Sure, you get leaders selected for you by others….but unlike your Cuban counterparts…you had every opportunity to have your opinion heard and your vote count.
The difference is that you can chose not to participate, but the Cubans have no choice! The get the best leadership that their leaders select for them.
Fri 22 Feb 2008
Posted by Tony Marini under General
, PoliticsComments Off
The following is an excerpt from last evening’s Democrat “debate” in Austin, Texas. I think we can all get a better view into Sen. Obama’s mindset by reading this quote, and I hope you all are as concerned, outraged and frightened by this man’s comments:
My number one job as president will be to keep the American people safe. I will do whatever is required to accomplish that. I will not hesitate to act against those that would do America harm.
Now, that involves maintaining the strongest military on earth, which means that we are training our troops properly and equipping them properly, and putting them on proper rotations. And there are an awful lot of families here in Texas who have been burdened under two and three and four tours because of the poor planning of the current commander-in-chief, and that will end when I am president.
But it also means using our military wisely. And on what I believe was the single most important foreign policy decision of this generation, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, I believe I showed the judgment of a commander in chief. And I think that Senator Clinton was wrong in her judgments on that.
Now, that has consequences — that has significant consequences, because it has diverted attention from Afghanistan where al Qaeda, that killed 3,000 Americans, are stronger now than at any time since 2001.
You know, I’ve heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon — supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon. Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq.
And as a consequence, they didn’t have enough ammunition, they didn’t have enough humvees. They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief. [emphasis added]
Now, that’s a consequence of bad judgment. And you know, the question is, on the critical issues that we face right now, who’s going to show the judgment to lead? And I think that on every critical issue that we’ve seen in foreign policy over the last several years — going into Iraq originally, I didn’t just oppose it for the sake of opposing it.
I said this is going to distract us from Afghanistan; this is going to fan the flames of anti-American sentiment; it’s going to cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives and overstretch our military. And I was right.
Sen. Barak Obama (D-IL)
I think that Sen. Obama doesn’t understand how the military works. Although this is provocative and politically useful rhetoric, the emphasized part of the statement is crazy, and just plain false. Military personnel are NEVER allowed to enter a combat zone without adequate ammunition. The lack of ammo would endanger themselves and their comrades. If you don’t believe me, go engage a veteran and ask if troops were allowed to enter combat or hot zones without adequate ammo.
So why would Obama make such a patently false statement in front of a national audience? Particularly in light of he fact that he touts that he’s “ready” to be our commander-in-chief. Wouldn’t he know that a platoon can consist of 24 soldiers, and not the “ideal” platoon size of 39? Or that a platoon is led by either a 1st or 2nd lieutenant? Not a captain, as Obama claims! And how does a smaller-sized platoon infer that there is a lack of ammo? The ammo is provided by supply/re-supply corps…and has little to do with the size of a particular unit. Unless they were cut off from re-supply for a protracted period of time by the enemy!
So I ask you…is the man who made these provocative comments worthy of being our commander-in-chief? This kind of talk props him up higher in the eyes of his adherents — you know, denigrating the “current administration” and calling any decision by George W. Bush as mis-informed or incompetent. Red meat talk means legions of happy “Obamites”! And these nuts will follow their fearless leader off the cliff or anywhere he wants to take them. Such is blatant idol worship and the using of an organ other than one’s brain to think and/or decide!
Choose carefully…it is easy to be seduced to select form over substance. He may very well “look presidential”, but looks are deceiving. Where Sen. Obama MUST prove himself is with substance.
And he must not be let get away with wishful thinking or bald-faced lies!
Wed 20 Feb 2008
Posted by Tony Marini under Famous and Infamous
, PoliticsComments Off
Sen. Barak Obama is running his presidential campaign using a number of bromides, like the catchy “Yes We Can” slogan. It leaves me with the question, “Yes We Can” what? It seems that the entire underpinning of the good Senator’s campaign is one of hope. He and his and campaign remind us that we need to restore hope in America to find a better day and a better future.
I don’t know about you, but I want government leadership that is a tad more confident than relying on hope. Hope springs eternal, as the old axiom goes…but there is nothing that beats experience. And this my friends is where Sen. Obama comes up short. To even consider this man for the office of president we must have collectively suspended disbelief. A partial term US Senator with two terms of state Senate experience, coupled with a career of private civil rights legal representation, gives this man the background to be the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful nation? In a critical, real world scenario, the answer is obviously “no way”! However, in this “American Idol”-ized and Oprah-fied social and political climate, the cachet required to qualify for president is greatly attenuated. He speaks a good line, and his race qualifies him for consideration as a means to ameliorate/rectify the horrible racial bigotry of the past. Simply put, he embodies the institutional guilt that has been heaped upon generation after generation of Americans. Voting for him, even in the absence of a cogent plan for his presidency or using only grasping at the straws of “hope”, will clear the collective consciences of white Americans and uplift the too-long-abused black community. If it were only this easy!
I’m suspicious and fearful of Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign because modern day Americans seem to have lost their way. It doesn’t surprise me that the current crop of political lemmings, at least on the Democratic side of the aisle, are willing to follow Obama off the cliff. These are the same morons, by and large, who were captivated by Sanjaya on American Idol and who follow Survivor like it is Masterpiece Theatre. Sen. Obama enjoys rock star status not because of his vision or leadership skills, but rather he has that “it” factor which helps propel movie actors into super stardom.
God help us when the metric by which we select the next leader of the free world is based on hope. I bet the average citizen/voter puts more thought into a buying a fridge or other major appliance! But hope is good enough for desperate Democratic leaders…because the angry masses (they’re angry because the prime time, mainstream media branch of the DNC has demonized President Geroge W. Bush) seem to embrace the concept of hope. They are willing to abandon the now-foundering Hillary Clinton campaign like rats off a sinking ship in order to capture that lightning in a bottle that is the Obama phenomenon. I predict you will start to see major endorsements of Obama in the not-too-distant future by sitting Democrat leaders in the Congress. Hey, they probably think there’s enough hope to go around! And hope is popular…it sells well, just like the Frisbee and the Hula Hoop! And one thing we’ve learned from Democrats is that they’ll take votes any way they can…they’ve taken them from the dead and from illegals, so why not from the masses stoked up by hope.
But I’d like to remind all of you “hopers” out there that there will be a tremendous dose of buyers remorse if the Obama candidacy leads to an Obama presidency. See, he might be effete and articulate…and definitely the stuff of movie stardom, but he is NOT a leader. A leader has plans and convictions, he/she doesn’t put much truck in slogans and sound bites. Obama might assume the mantle of power, but his will be a presidency that is run by advisers and focus group polls (much like another Democrat leader that we’re familiar with in recent years!). Certainly seasoned world leaders and trouble-makers like Putin, Kim Jong Il, Hamas, Ahmedenijad and Bin Laden will not allow for Obama’s on the job training. Rather, they will seek to take every advantage of this neophyte’s weaknesses and failings. And guess what? The results will affect you and me! I for one don’t look forward to being the potential target/test case for such international shenanigans because of a misguided selection of our leader.
To recap, I’d like to list those things where hope is an appropriate emotion (for the thinking-impaired who might wander upon this humble blog entry):
- I hope to win the lottery.
- I hope that the Red Sox win the 2008 World’s Series.
- I hope that a giant meteorite doesn’t hit the Earth in the next 10 million years.
- I hope that I’ll get to New York City this year.
- I hope I don’t get the stomach flu.
- I hope for a cure for cancer and AIDs in my lifetime.
- I hope to retire to Maine in ten years.
Get the picture? The determination of the outcome of the presidency is an improper use of the emotion hope. Hope does spring eternal, but in the realm of determining the president of the United States, hope has no place…and my God for rational people it can’t have a place! In this crazy world of touchy-feely self-absorption, we have become inured to hoping for the best and then dealing with the consequences (or letting someone else deal with them as the case may be). Let’s not do this for once. Let’s be clinical and analytical about our choice of leadership for the next four years. Because our choice will have sweeping repercussions not only in our lifetimes, but in the lifetimes of your children’s children. Your choice for president may make YOU FEEL GOOD…but I assure you that your offspring will suffer dearly for your self-indulgence.
I hope that people/voters come to their senses between now and November…but I fear that my hope is misplaced!
Tue 19 Feb 2008
Posted by Tony Marini under Illegal immigration
, PoliticsComments Off
With all the talk of recession in the air, even Americans with the most laissez-faire attitude regarding illegal immigration surely must be just slightly concerned. With job losses as a natural offshoot of recession, every American is at risk of losing their job and/or having a lower paid illegal worker replace them. It seems when the immigration issues hit home or close to home as an economic reality, wage earners take notice.
Well wager earners, take notice!
In a legislative climate where the Congress should be displaying a strong and unwaivering advocacy for American workers, they seem to again be obsessed with providing amnesty for the millions of in-country and future illegal aliens who we are told our economy sorely needs. Congressional Democrats, acting at the behest of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are exploring ways to attach a newly-hatched amnesty proposal to a bill which increases the number of legal temporary workers. The hope of Democratic Congressional leaders is that this arrangement will be palatable to Republicans, who will support this scheme in enough numbers for eventual passage.
According to Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for Numbers USA: “members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are spearheading the effort to approve a plan that would allow any illegal alien living in the United States to simply prove they have a job, pay a fine, and pass a background check, to receive the gift of legal status for five years.”
This plan is important because it would allow many illegals to live in the USA with perfectly legal visas as a stop-gap measure until the beginning of the second term of the next president. Democrats are confident that either Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama will be our next president, and that during their first term it would be tantamount to political suicide to propose and sign into law any amnesty legislation. So, the five year plan places a tacit five year moratorium on illegal immigration issues, like vigorous enforcement. The thought is with a Democrat securely elected for a second term, that amnesty could be safely considered and passed by a Democratic Congress and president. Or so the thinking goes.
The five year plan puts amnesty consideration and passage in the first year of the new president’s second term, and this plan is thought to be a win-win situaton for Democrats and the Hispanic Caucus (and the legion illegals in-country). If a president doesn’t have to worry about re-election, then they can essentially thumb their nose at public opinion and provide the Holy Grail of quid pro quo‘s to their loyal Hispanic operatives. It also allows the Democrats to curry favor with big business leaders, particularly in the food production ans service industries, who clamor for more and more low-pay foreign workers; often at the expense of legal American citizens.
Unfortunately, this plan screws the average American. There is no other way to put it! This is particularly true in a potential time of recession; a time when Americans will need access to any job available in order to make ends meet. But with a looming amnesty, taxpaying American workers get a double whammy — they must worry through a time of great employment uncertainty while paying taxes which support countless illegals on our “entitlement” doles.
Even worse, we must all suffer the indignity of being summarily ignored by our representatives in favor of individuals who have cheated our system. Time after time, the vast majority of American voters, citizens and taxpayers have said “NO” to illegal alien amnesty and “YES” to border enforcement and vigorous immigration enforcement. And we have done this in unambiguous terms. The Congress, particularly the arrogant Democrat majority, just can’t seem to get this fact through their thick skulls. In lieu of deporting the law breaking invaders, the Democrats are fixated on getting them absorbed into the “legal” immigration status and citizen roll. Obviously, the Dems get a multitude of loyal and beholding voters, a situation which has the potential to change the political climate in America FOREVER!
Well, I say to you that YOU can still make a difference in the defeat of this scheme. You still have time to contact your Congressional representatives and voice your opposition to this five year amnesty scheme. Additionally, with mid-term Congressional elections looming in the fall, you can use your precious vote (while it still makes a difference) to punish a legislator who plays deaf to your wishes.
Perhaps the threat of becoming “unelected” will be enough to convince the vote whores in Washington that we common citizens are serious about our opposition to amnesty, and that we can and will do something about it. I assure you that if they don’t understand anything else, politicians understand the weight of numbers…and being re-elected is far more important to them than displaying fealty to their Hispanic Caucus colleagues.
If you care anything about your country, it’s future, and your children’s future, this is one issue that you MUST get involved with. Time is running out, so please act NOW!
Sat 9 Feb 2008
Posted by Tony Marini under General
, PoliticsComments Off
With so many controversial events occurring in our country, it’s not unreasonable for an average citizen to wonder about the future viability of the United States of America. Opinion polls from multiple sources cite large percentages of Americans who question the direction of the country: They feel it is going in the “wrong direction”?. And most Americans, as well as the news media (perhaps wrongly) put the blame for our travails on the leadership in Washington, D.C. As you can tell from past blog entries, I favor personal responsibility and accountability as the solutions to most of our problems, regardless of their cause. After all, the documents that ensure our rights and liberties are documents of the individual, of the people. They are not documents of the government and for the government. The government, at all levels; local, state and federal is the servant of its citizens.
So then, why do people feel the nation isn’t headed in the right direction? I’m sure that issues like Iraq, escalating gas prices, illegal immigration, saving for a secure retirement and the general uncertainty of living in a dangerous world might cause a person to wonder and to rage at times. And the constant drumbeat of partisan politics from both sides of the aisle adds to the consternation of an already stressed citizen. But this doesn’t account for the seething, just below the surface that individual citizens feel. I believe it’s the tip of an iceberg that may lead to the eventual breakdown or breakup of the United States of America as we know it.
You’re probably thinking that I’m obviously paranoid, pessimistic and delusional: How can he possibly make such a statement? How can it be that the demise of the USA is fait accompli just because of a feeling? Well, I believe that the explanation is contained in two quotations from a speech in 1988 by Dr. Dixie Lee Ray, the former Head of the Atomic Energy Commission: the first is an excerpt from a letter to an American friend by Thomas B. Macaulay, a 19th century English writer and historian, dated May 23, 1857: “A democracy cannot survive as a permanent form of government. It can only last until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority will always cast their ballots for the candidates promising [the] most benefits from the public purse with the result that a democracy always collapses from loose fiscal policies, always followed by a dictatorship.” ; and the second was written by Professor Alexander Tyler (University of Edinborough, Scotland) when our democracy was still a fledgling in 1787: “The average age of the world’s greatest democratic nations and societies has been 200 years. Each has gone through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back again into bondage.”
To re-phrase what McCauley so presciently states, we are both creatures of and victims of our own vices. We want, we want, we want — without consideration of how much it costs or who has to pay for it. After all, we have the most powerful force in the universe working for us, our vote! And attached to each vote like a parasite is a politician, eager to return the favor by both promising and then delivering the “largess.” Entitlements, pork-barrel projects and government appropriations for infrastructure projects all conspire to curry our favor and harvest our vote for our generous benefactors. Aren’t our elected officials scorned or, even worse, voted out of office if they don’t bring home the bacon? It appears we really don’t want a George Washington or an Abraham Lincoln to lead or represent us; we’re looking for a cross between Robin Hood, Santa Claus and Dr. Phil! That certain someone who can ably grab us the goods we think we deserve without making us feel dependent.
This leads me to Prof. Tyler’s quote in regards to where we are today as a nation, given the manner in which we use our precious votes and our subsequent reliance on the government to hopefully act in our collective best interests. Where are we in the good Professor’s sequence? Our history has demonstrated that we have been a plucky, proud and determined nation with a “roll up your sleeves” attitude when correcting problems and injustices. We were, with the exception of the Depression-era, ruggedly independent and proud of it. But our present day attitude has been one of increased reliance upon the government to help us and to give us the answers that we seek to our contemporary problems. If we need something done, rather than looking in the mirror or to our neighbor, we relinquish our responsibility to the governments in Washington, Boston or locally to solve the problem for us.
So, I think the answer to where we are in the sequence is clear: We are very dependent as a people and nation. Furthermore, we constantly demonstrate our individual apathy by a reluctance to vote: An excellent nationwide voter turnout is considered forty to forty-five percent of registered voters! Sadly, a greater voter turnout occurs in nations like Afghanistan, Iraq or the Ukraine.
Does this then mean that the die is cast and it’s off to dictatorship and bondage for us as citizens? Perhaps if we continue with our self-serving largess quest when we do choose to vote, the answer is “Yes!” However, if we remember that each of us is the custodian of our own liberty and future, and if we act accordingly to change our expectation of the role of government in our lives, then we may not find ourselves so fated. We just need to constantly remind ourselves that good citizenship is far more than the act of casting a vote in our own self interest.
Sat 9 Feb 2008
Posted by Tony Marini under Finance
, The EconomyComments Off
The most powerful and addicting substance in the know universe is OPM. No, I don’t mean opium, though unfortunately many people fall under the spell of this opiate narcotic.
Rather, I’m talking about Other People’s Money. We all spend our lives working to acquire OPM: It is the lubricant of the engine that drives any capitalist economy. You have a good or service that someone else desires and the bartering agent is OPM. Your very life is determined in some measure by OPM, as after all, you are paid an hourly rate by someone else. By and large, if you work hard and shed blood, sweat or tears in order to earn it, OPM is a good thing. The amount that you earn is only determined by your skill, pluck and determination (and to some extent luck). In the free economic market, you are the determining factor of your success and how much OPM that you can amass.
There is only one area where this is absolutely not true — that area is the Federal government. The government cannot exist without money. And it absolutely thrives on OPM, which it uses as the fertilizer by which to grow. And government is the only place that you will be given OPM, unless you are a beneficiary of charity. Politicians use what is essentially government-sponsored charity to engage and create loyalties with their electorate. And to their eternal shame, they use it to sap many of the electorate’s initiative and enslave them, creating a vile co-dependency that is mutually beneficial.
“You provide me votes and I’ll provide you lots of OPM.”
Politicians also use the fact that other people have money at all to create derision and economic class envies. You see, class warfare and the attendant jealousy that it produces are powerful motivators.
“Listen, they have more money than you so they can pay more. And if they pay more, you can have more.”
They even, perhaps unwittingly, deride and disparage people with money in an effort to curry favor with those who do not. They use labels to describe those that they consider “rich” and they encourage anti-social and self-centered behavior by those who are not. We are, as a country and society, being inured with the belief that if something bad happens to any of us, the government is responsible for the remedy. Long gone are the days of that frontier spirit of self-sufficiency. Politicians who enjoy the high-life in office capitalize on this new belief, and they use OPM as the means to their political ends. To further this belief, they use nomenclature like “entitlement” and “benefit” to describe what are essentially gifts to the rank-and-file masses.
“We’ll have a more ‘progressive’ tax that benefits the ‘working class’.”
Contrary to being progressive, whatever that means, the tax system hoists the welfare of the working class squarely on the backs of those individuals with money. Our tax system is the largest re-distributor of wealth in the universe. It progressively takes more money from wealthier individuals based on an arbitrary system of increments of percentage tax versus income level. Those in the working class get a break, they pay the lowest percentage of taxes on their earnings. The average-Joe earner might get to the 20% tax bracket. However, those who make more money for whatever reason (and who are constantly demonized by politicians as not paying enough) can pay as much as 60%+ of their earnings. And the percentages don’t tell the whole story.
The average middle-class wage earner making $50,000 might pay $5,000 in total Federal taxes (including Social Security and Medicare) in a year, depending upon exemptions and deductions. Contrast that with someone who makes $1,000,000 dollars a year. Again, depending upon exemptions, etc., this person will pay at least $200,000 or more in taxes. It is a simple fact that 5% of Americans pay 95% of the income taxes collected. Individuals rarely think about this fact and its consequences — the Federal government services that the average American receives are paid for by someone else. And it seems that the average American wants more, more and more government services given the representatives (and the loose fiscal policies that they espouse) who they elect.
- As an example, the US military budget for FY2007 was US$440 billion. In the latest year that statistics were available, 2005, there were a total of 134.4 million income tax filers. Of this total, 90.6 million filers actually paid income taxes. Using the filing total for those who actually paid taxes, then the US military expenditure cost $4,856 per filer, with all things being equal. So, for a $50,000 per year earner, their income tax contribution just about covers the military obligation of the country. For my very primitive analysis, this leaves the average taxpayer with less than $200 to pay for social services, social security, infrastructure, and Medicare. The total Federal budget for FY2007 was US$2.656 trillion (including a US$312 billion deficit). Subtracting the US$440 billion of military spending, we are left with US$2.216 trillion in spending. Well, the remaining taxes per filer after we subtract just the military expenditure is US$122, and multiplied by the number of filers (90.6 million) yields US$13 billion. This covers the US$0.016 trillion part of the US$2.216 trillion total remainder. So, where does the rest come from? Where does the US$2.2o trillion come from? Not the “average” US taxpayer, that’s for sure! The answer is OPM! Certainly there are corporate, trust, investment and other taxes that are collected. But the lion’s share of the remainder of that US$2.2 trillion dollars comes from the “rich”.
The quest for OPM drives otherwise rational politicians and citizens into this blood-lust frenzy for more and more and more. If there is a social ill, the government can spend its way out of the problem. If the electorate clamors for a service or “benefit”, the the government will provide this for them cradle-to-grave. Social Security is the prime example of this benefit. It is a well-meaning social program that has become the Frankenstein’s monster of our government. When the Social Security Act was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, there were 10+ tax contributors per retiree drawing benefits from the system. At that time, only persons over the age of 65 could draw benefits. With time, the age demographic of the US worker has changed and today there are now many more retirees per US worker (~3 workers per retiree). Couple this with the fact that Congress has expanded this benefit to the disabled, survivors and others, and the age limitation has been removed, and the once meager and controllable government benefit has turned into the largest government program in the world. It accounts for approximately 21% of the total Federal budget. In fact, this expenditure is larger than the entire GDP of more than 166 of the 183 countries on Earth!
Where does this money come from? Obviously from OPM!
Just wait until we are provided mandated government-assisted healthcare for all citizens. Or some of the other government-sponsored goodies that are being thrown around in this presidential season. Taxes will have to go up and not just on the “rich”, and more OPM will need to be collected. The Federal government, thanks to misguided and selfish politicians, has become a beast whose appetite for OPM is insatiable. But this is an unstable situation, as what will we do when there are as many paying into the system as there are drawing from it? The old axiom does bear a lot of truth: You can’t draw blood from stone!
Now, you can look at this potential situation in two ways. You can rail against those rich bastards and opine that because they have more, they can pay more. After all, you want it all, don’t you? Why not have my eager politician (eager for my vote, that is) turn the legislative crank, performing that mystical socio-economic alchemy that they’re so practiced in, and POOF — provide more OPM! Or you can realistically and humbly look at your situation and be truly amazed how much OPM actually provides for you NOW!!
And, if you’re honest with yourself you’ll say a little “Thank You” under your breath to those who routinely pay the freight for just about everyone else in the USA.
Wed 6 Feb 2008
Posted by Tony Marini under General
, PoliticsComments Off
Yup. I’ve got that empty feeling. I feel like I just ate a very small piece of fat-free angel cake. It just wasn’t satisfying. That’s the way that the super Tuesday voting outcome has left me feeling. But I’m extremely proud to say that I voted yesterday, and furthermore I cast my vote for the ONLY conservative in the Republican race for president, Mitt Romney.
However, contrary to my expectations and wishes, the results of Super Tuesday have made it blatantly apparent that John McCain, or as I’ll refer to him in the future Senator McAmnesty, has pretty much wrapped things up in the Republican presidential primary. I’m not happy, and I don’t think I’m alone. Philosophically, I think I represent the very bedrock of the party: I am conservative. So it might not surprise anyone who knows me that I’m both disappointed and mystified at this turn of political events.
Regardless of his claims and entreaties otherwise, Sen. McAmnesty is not nor will ever be a conservative. So don’t insult my intelligence by making these claims. And don’t expect me to come running to your support simply because you won the party’s nomination. In short, you will have to earn my support…if you ever get it! I refuse to be taken advantage of or taken for granted. McAmnesy is the chameleon of this race, even though he tried to cast Romney as a flip-flopper on several issues.
The damage is done, and now we’ll have to live with the consequences. Whether I vote for the communist-leaning Democrat (in order to get the societal damage done once and for all so that the rebuilding can begin four years from now) or for Sen. McAmnesty, I’m left with an unsatisfying and personally repulsive choice for president.
Yeah…I’ve got that empty feeling…