Are we witnessing the American Idol Presidency? : If you have to ask the question..

Because something’s popular doesn’t make it good.  History is littered with examples of popular fads and leaders.  Opium was very popular in China for a time.  Hitler was very popular as was – and still is it seems  – Joseph Stalin.  One could rightly argue that the legacy each left was arguably – not good.  So it is this week we learn that the President is more popular than ever and America is on the right course.  Please ignore the spending, the unemployment, and the cozying up to thugs – these are merely sources of his popularity or so we are to believe.

What we are witnessing is the American Idol presidency.  He may not have a great deal of real talent but he can carry a tune better than the other contestants.  In other words he is better than nothing and we should give him a chance.  There’s a story about the transfer of executive power that goes as follows.  A departing CEO hands his successor four envelopes with the following instructions.  Whenever you get into trouble and your plan is not working open the envelopes in the order which they are numbered and the solution will appear.

As each successive crisis emerges he opens the envelopes.  The first says – blame it all on your predecessor.  The second says – form a committee to solve the problem.  The third says – hire a consultant to figure it out.  When he opens the fourth and final envelope he is greeted by the following message – please prepare four envelopes.

In the first 100 days the President has already opened three envelopes.  He has blamed Mr. Bush.  He has created a blue ribbon economic committee that includes the esteemed Mr. Volker that has implemented exactly no new economic ideas other than re-packaging the tired and failed Keynesian solutions of the past.  And he has hired the best and brightest to run the banks and auto companies as if the guys who ran them before were complete morons.  These are his policies to date.

Will Rogers said, there are two things no one should being made – sausage and politics.  At least sausage makers follow a moral code – do no harm and don’t poison and kill the consumer.  We can’t say the same about politics today.  Our politics is poisoning the country.  The process of ramming through unconstitutional policies without debate combined with the politics of guilt that seeks to engender a sense of national shame is driving a wedge through our electorate.  This is not leadership it is clever politics and he is popular at the moment because the hate for his predecessor makes him look great by comparison.  He has won the American Idol contest.   The problem is he is not the real thing. He is no Lincoln, though he may be a Roosevelt.

“Good” political leadership is aspirational and uniting.  Popular political leadership is rooted in fear and “gotcha” paybacks.  In my 54 years as a citizen I have never witnessed so much seething anger and hate in our political discourse.  We are a nation clearly divided.  The President instead of addressing this very real problem, is using this anger and hate to drive a big government agenda that is far afield from anything he campaigned on during his election.

He believes America is broken and needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up.  Really?  America does not need to be rebuilt.  It is not broken.  It simply needs to be put back on the course that worked so well for the first nine score years of the Republic.  During these years this country did great things that should make every one of us proud.  We fought wars to defeat tyrants.  We assisted the less fortunate at home and abroad.  We bravely addressed the original sin of slavery.  To this day we are perceived by the vast majority of enslaved peoples around the globe as a beacon of freedom and hope.  If it were otherwise, why do we have immigrants in large numbers crossing our borders legally and illegally every year, and why are Americans not moving en masse back to Europe and Asia?

If in the next 1,000 days this President can’t get his head around this “reality” and set an agenda that gets us back on course, then he had better prepare four envelopes.  Since this is not likely, the Tea Party movement matters more than ever.  It can be the conscience of this country.  The movement needs to keep faith in the knowledge of what’s right and not worry about being popular.  Fads as we know, come and go.  But your conscience is always with you.

My Mother is a Right Wing Extremist: At least the Left thinks so

My mother, all 81 years, 5 feet and 100 pounds of her, is a right wing extremist.  How did I find this out?  She attended a Tea Party and worse she was seen waiting in line for two hours at a book signing for Mark Levin’s new book “Liberty and Tyranny.”  Clearly she is a threat to our national security, our American Way of Life, a racist for disagreeing with our President’s omniscient policies, and virulently anti American for protesting the current Federal budget.  Or so some members of the US Congress, MSNBC and CNN would have you believe given the “coverage” and commentary of the April 15th Tea Parties that were staged in over 300 cities across the country.

CNN one of the prime promoters of the “Tea Partiers are enemies of the state” story line last week, had “journalists” reporting that Fox News was behind the parties in an “obvious” effort to discredit CNN itself and the CNN New America narrative (a favorite liberal concept).  Unless I am mistaken CNN has done a rather good job of discrediting themselves judging by their plunging ratings versus Fox News.  The latest ratings, by the way, are listed below.




FOXNEWS BECK 2,233,000

FOXNEWS SHEP 1,979,000


CNN COOPER 1,277,000

CNN KING 1,260,000


CNNHN GRACE 1,172,000

MSNBC MADDOW 1,052,000

CNN reported that the Tea Party crowds were dangerous.  Yet the video footage shows fathers holding infants, mothers with strollers, and yes my dangerous mother in a sinister looking trench coat milling around engaged in what can only be described as subversive conversations.  The scene was so horrific according to one reporter that the images she observed were not fit for “family friendly” viewing.  But alas there were ratings to be gotten and CNN bravely soldiered on with the coverage.

The defining moment for me came when a CNN reporter asked the father with the infant why he was there.  You can see the footage on YouTube.  He said that he was fed up with a government that overtaxed and over-regulated its citizens.  The CNN reporter fired back, “But don’t you know that the Government is giving you $400 back in tax breaks and has enacted a stimulus bill to put money into your community?”  It was at this point in the interview that I wish time could have stood still and let this father use one of his lifelines to “call a friend”, “use the 50/50”, or “poll the audience” before responding because clarifying an answer to this “question” is essential to the success of the Tea Party movement.

The question itself is a trap.  It is not a question at all but a point of view disguised as a question to establish a morally indefensible position for the Tea Party movement.  Worse the wrong answer to the question paints Tea Partiers as selfish and ungrateful.  And so his response was thusly interpreted.  First, it was reported that Tea Partiers do not want to pay any taxes.  What my fellow CNN viewers could be more selfish?  Second, the reporter wondered, “How could he be so ungrateful for a government that was doing so much to help him in this time of crisis?  I am shocked I tell you – shocked.  End of interview:  That’s all from here Anderson, as you can see these are bad people.  Let’s cut over to a few more important developing stories – the crisis in the naming of the First Dog and Michelle’s White House garden.

Had the father used his lifelines, he might have responded – you pose an interesting question, one that is at the center of this event today – what in fact is the proper role of government in our country today?  If one believes, as your question implies, that its role is to direct the choices of citizens, then taking the fruits of one man’s labor to give it to another at gunpoint is the logical policy that will raise the hopes and living standards of everyone.  If on the other hand one believes, as we do, that the government’s role is to protect the right to choose, then the taking of the fruits of one man’s labor is simply theft through extortion and diminishes the hopes and living standards of everyone.  We are not protesting, we are rallying for the freedom and dignity.  We simply believe our communities are better off when each man experiences the pride that comes from enjoying the fruits of his exertions, rather than the shame of dependency inherent in a handout.

This is what my seditious mother believes.  It is a dangerous idea.  It is dangerously extreme to those who do not believe it – the CNN’s and MSNBC’s of the world for example.  The standard and preferred strategy to dismiss people like the Tea Partiers is to attack their lack of team play – make them out to be selfish and ungrateful.  These are the same tactics employed by every dictator over the past two centuries lifted directly from the King George, Stalin, Goebbels, Castro playbook.  Use fear to demonize the opposition and crush it, while you anesthetize the population with “gifts” and false hope.

The tone and content of the CNN’s coverage demonstrates the increased level of fear the Tea Parties are creating amongst the Left, today’s Tories. They seemed shocked that the anesthesia is wearing off on so many people at once.  In fact, over on MSNBC Keith Olberman looked like Dean Wormer threatening to shut down the Animal House fraternities.  They are afraid.  And when backed into a corner the fangs and claws come out.

The Tea parties have real momentum because they are predicated on real ideals.  They are now credible and too large to ignore thanks to CNN and MSNBC’s generous coverage.  The next step is to hone the message of the movement to attract a wider and ready audience.  Too do that the movement must be able to communicate a simple moral response to the question, “Why are you here today?”

For those like my mother in the movement already, the answer to this question and questions like “Don’t you know that the Government is giving you $400 back in tax breaks and has enacted a stimulus bill to put money into your community?” are obvious.  It’s not the government’s job!   In the meantime if you see my mom be careful, she is a dangerous right wing extremist.  Lord knows what she’ll do.

The Worst Generation: Anyone else sick of the baby boomers?

There is no free lunchClean up your messRespect your elders. Our parents, the so-called greatest generation, taught us these ideas.  BOOORING.  What did they know?  What could they teach us in their Leave It To Beaver, old, black and white world?  They were so uptight and hypocritical.  With their martinis at night and working for the man, they were sell-outs.  Who could respect a sell-out?

We knew better.  We would live in full color.  We would break out and live free.  We would do what we wanted.  Nobody could tell us what to do.  And we did.  We were on the front page of every newspaper and magazine on the planet – for decades.  Baby boomers this, and baby boomers that.  Everything we heard told us how great we were.  We were changing the world!

We’ve spent the last 50 years in this grand “Nobody can tell me what to”, “I’m free”, “Stick it to the man”, sex, drugs and rock and roll experiment.  The results are in, and just as our stodgy parents could have predicted – it is not pretty.  Not just that the oldest of us can’t get it up anymore, or that the drugs we take now have names like Lipitor, or that we will pay $1000 to watch a 70 year old Keith Richards (that by the way that is not a pretty picture – not Keith, you at the show), we have made a real mess of things.

While our parents saved money, we borrowed it and spent it as fast as we could.  While they stayed married, we divorced, remarried and divorced again all in pursuit of our soul mate. While they went to church, we went to Woodstock.  While they actually talked to their neighbors and worked things out, we hired lawyers and sued the bastards.  And while we went to shrinks, our parents went back to work and sucked it up.

The truth is, we the great baby boomers, turned out to be selfish, reckless, and lacking in spine.  We still do not seem to understand that the world DOES NOT revolves around us, and that sacrifice is an essential life experience.  Never have.  Never had to.  But the chickens of our way of life have come home to roost.

And yet, too many of us still blame some else for the state of things.  We don’t see or want to see that on our mission to save the planet we adopted an ends that justify the means approach that is responsible for the mess.  How did it make any sense to any of us that in the pursuit of a pure environment, we formed organizations that burned down homes and destroyed property.  That in the pursuit of product safety we sued entire industries into non-existence (Asbestos, Silicon, Tobacco, etc.).  In the pursuit of child safety, we have forbidden play in playgrounds – for God sakes.  And if we keep at it, one day parents will be jailed for spanking their children.

We ignore the obvious problems because it takes real work and sacrifice to fix them, and instead we get all outraged and march in the streets to feel good about ourselves, instead of rallying in our homes, churches and neighborhoods to work things out.  As a result, we have abdicated our responsibilities and our lives to the  GOVERNEMENT to make these decisions for us.  Hello?

We are more worried about being liked, than being right.  So needy in fact (Bill Clinton is the poster child), that we would rather be friends to our children than parents.  The baby boomer chant – me me me and I I I I is the mantra we march to.  But we have worn out these pronouns, just as our parents – in our opinion – wore out the pronouns, we and us.

Fifty years later with the results in, we should realize, they had it right.  Yet to this day there are boomers sitting on couches retrieving childhood memories attempting to fix responsibility for their condition on someone other than themselves. Our problem is not our parents, it is – us.  We tried to cheat the basic laws of life they taught us.  The amazing thing is that we are so surprised. We were always cheating the man, cutting corners, looking for the easy way, looking for the free lunch, hoping someone else would pick up our tab – all the time congratulating ourselves on our cleverness.

The reality is, there is no free lunch.  The question is, “Are we willing to clean up the mess, or we will pass the tab to our children?  So what are you going to do?  Take the easy way out again?  Or are you ready to make the sacrifice, as your parents did.  It’s time we grow up and act a lot more like our parents.

Let’s start with the driving a stake through the heart of this awful stimulus bill.  We have done enough spending and borrowing already.  Time to cut spending – especially in that world-class home of narcissism – California.   There’s not much time left before there is no one left in the state.  I thought I would never leave California, now I think about it. This is not good news for California.  I pay taxes.

Next, let’s address social security and fix it by making us equally responsible with the government for our own retirement.  This includes dismantling the ridiculous pension funds promised to government workers.

Next, let’s kill this ridiculous economy-killing idea of socialized medicine, and instead allow and force us to own the choices we make for health care.  At the same time we must take the lawyers out of the malpractice extortion business, by making them pay when they lose, and by limiting the incentive of jackpot awards.

Then, let us agree to stop suing each other over every little peccadillo, and realize there is risk in everything we do.  In fact, let’s socialize the legal profession –just kidding.  No one ever argues for socializing lawyering.  I wonder why?

Finally, let’s all read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, (For many of us it will be the first time), so we can remember whom we are.  I recently watched the Lion King, again.  It could be the story of the baby boomers.  Hakuna Matata is over, baby.  Time to take our place in the circle of life – and grow up.

The Town Hall President: Why running the country is not the same as running for the office

I saw a man carrying a placard at the President’s Orange County Town Hall meeting that screamed SHARE THE WEALTH!  I leapt to the conclusion that this man did not count himself among the wealthy and maybe felt he had gotten the short end of the economic stick.  On second thought perhaps I had this guy all wrong.  Maybe he was a generous man and wanted to share his wealth with everyone in the crowd and was asking the President to tax him more.  You can draw your own conclusion.

I also made an assumption that he had fashioned the sign himself, which meant he could write.  He therefore had an education of sorts – though he may have been absent for his American History and Economics classes – if these classes were even taught at his schools.  Assuming he missed these classes he probably wasn’t aware of the fact that there is no stated or implied guarantee in the Declaration or the Constitution to equal wealth.  And since he missed Economics 101 he probably only had a vague notion about the economic mechanisms of investment, risk and wealth creation.  He was like many people in this country who believe there is a big vault in Washington with an infinite amount of idle cash waiting to be disbursed.

What exactly was he demanding when he wrote SHARE THE WEALTH!?  Was it just more money for himself, or was he protesting for more for everyone?  If just for himself then he would be no better than any other selfish capitalist. This altruist I concluded wanted more money for everybody.  This is a very noble fellow I thought.  Yet at some point we need to get pragmatic about all this nobility, and raise the question, “How much?”   Was the magic number $5,000, $10,000, $20,000?  His sign gave no indication so I made a guess.  How about $20,000 – would that be sharing?

I made a quick calculation by estimating the size of the crowd and arrived at a wealth sharing payment of $100,000,000 for this Town Hall gathering. Since this was just one Town Hall Meeting I extrapolated this to 1,000 more needy towns where the President might conceivably conduct such an event and arrived at a cost of $100 Billion.  This seems like a paltry sum to pay out to make people happy given today’s trillion dollar bailouts, handouts, and stimulus spending plans

In fact if the President did nothing but Town Hall meetings showing up with a big bag of cash we might not only get the economy going, we would heal all those wounds opened by decades of heartless capitalism.  The only stipulation for getting this SHARE THE WEALTH cash is the recipient would be required to sign an agreement stating that any further protests about “unfairness” would lead to repossession of the money.  Since the President and his merry band are into loyalty oaths and other such pledges this should not be a big problem.  As a result the President would resolve the “Two Americas” problem in short order.

I wasn’t convinced however that money was what this placard carrying man demanded.  In fact maybe the money would not make him happy at all.  Maybe it wasn’t wealth he lacked perhaps it was something else.  It’s not the about the money he said.  He wanted respect and an apology from the selfish “rich people” and a guarantee from this President that unfair wealth distribution would never happen again in America.  Funny, I thought, he wasn’t asking the president bring him up, he was demanding that he bring others down.  He wasn’t looking for inspiration.  He was looking for payback.

The President did not disappoint him either.  He told the crowd he was outraged by the AIG bonuses, the fat cats on Wall Street, and anyone who dared make over $250,000 per year.  He told them he would give them their respect back if would follow him.  The crowd loved it.  I could almost guess the man’s thoughts, “Finally a leader who will make my life better”. I had a different reaction.  Let’s call it horror quickly followed by a sense of doom.  Have we descended to such a level where men can promise other men self-respect?  And what kind of leader would make such a promise?

Many people adore the President and seem to believe that he can give them what they alone must earn.  Worse his message is now confrontational and is driving a wedge into the electorate – and he knows this.  He thinks he has the numbers to pull this New America off.  I am not so certain.  But this country is on collision course between the Two Americas to be sure – the Obaman vision and the traditional American vision of wealth and fair play.  This is a collision between Tea Party America and Town Hall America.  It is a confrontation between the proponents of envy and those of aspiration.  Its outcome will determine whether we become a weaker or stronger America.

Squaring off in the American electorate right now we have on one side the authority-hating “chip on the shoulder” parent whose says, “Son, we will never get ahead because those rich people are always at the head of the line in America”, and the new-age liberal parent whose says, “Son, America is awful racist place that mistreats its poor and the least we could do is give them some money because they have no chance of success in such a place.” This is the America that teaches its children the lessons of envy and shame.  This is the Obaman vision.

On the other side we have the parent who says, “Daughter, we are lucky to live in America.  You should be thankful that you have every opportunity to become what you want to be.  All it requires is a willingness to sacrifice and work hard.  And if you come up short blame no one but yourself, and know that you can pick yourself up and try again.” This is the America that teaches its children the lessons of generosity and pride.  This is the Founding Father’s vision.  Which lesson builds respect and self esteem, and which does not?

The President’s pandering to the mob’s envy and their shame and his finger pointing will not unite this country.  The President’s vision for America might be fine for some places on the planet, but it is not the American vision.  He may think that he has the numbers to see his vision through.  But I think he is grossly misreading his historic moment and underestimating the power the idea of liberty has in the opposition. He misreads his moment because it’s not economic poverty that ails the American people, it is a growing poverty of liberty.  This is what Tea Party America recognizes and Town Hall America does not – that freedom, generosity and pride trump envy, shame and money.

The New Sheriff in Town: Why We Should be Worried

Speaking with several Canadians in Alberta last week, I was asked the same questions by almost everyone.  Is the situation in the US really as bad as we hear? Is your government really serious about spending all that money?  And does everyone there think that it’s a good idea?  My answers were, it’s worse, yes they are very serious, and too much of the American public thinks the guy in charge knows what he’s doing.

Why should we care what Canadians think?  For one thing from experience they know that when the US gets a cold, Canada gets pneumonia and when we get pneumonia, which we now have, well … that worries them.  If a close friend like Canada is concerned about something, we should share their concern.  For another if the people of Canada – a historically more liberal country – think U.S. economic policy is way off track – this should raise some concern among Americans.

Motorcycle racers know that the most dangerous rider on the course is the arrogant amateur.  An amateur on the track is scary enough for the experienced rider, but the arrogant amateur is cause for great concern because they get other riders hurt.  The arrogant amateur doesn’t know the rules, and ignores the proper line around the track.  The proper line is the agreed upon and time-tested way to safely and rapidly navigate the course.  Accepted practices for track amateurs are: ask if you don’t know the rules, and follow the pros until you master the line.  The arrogant amateur ignores both these principles and are the cause of 80% of the wrecks that occur.

In his first 60 days in office the President has shown himself to be something of an arrogant amateur. We are experiencing a wreck that is far from over.  Unfortunately, it appears that he sees little virtue in the old rules, and instead is going to follow his own path regardless of what the pros think.  So in case you missed the memo here are the new rules of the road.

  • Every one has to spend money.  Spending is now more virtuous than saving.  According to the new rules the cure for the alcoholic DT’s is to drink more.
  • Rich people are bad and must be taxed to spread the wealth.  Taking someone else’s money is now more virtuous than making one’s own. According to the new rules the economy is a zero sum game where one person’s success is achieved at the expense of someone else.
  • Throw good money after bad.  After all it’s not fair that anyone should lose any money on any investment.  Settling one’s debt’s for pennies on the dollar is a sign of intelligence and virtue. According to the new rules if you pay all your bills, you are a fool.

The AIG bonus firestorm illustrates this arrogant amateurism. White House outrage at the bonuses is pure political theater staged for the adoring minions to demonstrate the necessity of government control of our economy.  The amateurism in this is the woeful handling of the AIG bailout.  The arrogance is in the cynical placing the blame where it doesn’t belong.  For those unfamiliar with the AIG soap opera, here are the cliff notes.   AIG was a very profitable company for over 40 years.  Some AIG employees saw an opportunity to make big money and made a bad bet on mortgage securities.  These same securities were the direct spawn of government policy coercing banks to lend to high-risk borrowers with the implied assurance that Fannie and Freddie would cover the bet.  As it turned out Fannie and Freddie were houses of cards whose primary function was funneling money to Democratic re-election campaigns.  (Reality check – have you seen anyone from these “institutions” hauled in front of a Congressional committee lately like the AIG CEO was?)

So when the housing market went south, government rules requiring “mark to market” accounting rendered the securities worthless, and AIG failed the capital sufficiency requirements created by regulators.  AIG was technically insolvent despite having tons of cash on hand, and having securities that in the real world were actually worth something.  The regulators created a panic by spreading the fear that the failure of AIG would tank the entire economy.

The guy who ran AIG for 40 years suggested a plan to rescue the company and minimize the damage to investors, but he was declared persona non grata (he is a rich guy), his firm was nationalized to the tune of $170,000,000,000 taxpayer dollars, and the Feds installed their own guy to run the show and disburse the funds.  AIG was saved.  Except today AIG is a bigger basket case than it was when this all started.  Billions of dollars of taxpayer money have been funneled to investment banks and hedge funds to pay for the bets that these banks made on… yes….  the same mortgage securities!

This is how government performs when it tries to run a business.  Instead of owning up to the awful mistakes made by this intervention, the President professes outrage and promises to punish the rich guys for taking and wasting taxpayer money.  Get it?  It’s the bonuses that are the problem, not the intrusion of inept Federal agencies in the private sector.  According to the President, if we get rid of all the overpaid rich guys, the government can step in and run it the right way.  This is a man who apparently lacks the irony gene, or has the arrogance gene in abundance.  It appears that lack of experience and knowledge is no impediment when it comes to his making decisions.

The real outrage should not be directed at the $160,000,000 in bonuses, it should be directed at the $170,000,000,000 spent on a bail out precipitated and worsened by government intervention.  I am not condemning or condoning the bonuses.  They were in fact promised to key AIG employees by the Feds to retain the talent necessary to unwind the toxic securities that started the entire panic in the first place.  The real concern should be the condoning of the idea that the President and the Congress have the ability, the power, and right to make day to day decisions about compensation, hiring, investment, and pricing in a private company.  That should worry Canadians and Americans alike.

Be careful experienced riders, there is an arrogant amateur on the track.

The Shot Heard Around the World: Why the Tea Parties Matter

I went to a political rally for the first time last weekend.  This one was the California Tax Revolt sponsored KFI 640 AM Radio in Orange County.  Fifteen thousand people showed up, and thousands more participated on the web and listened on the radio judging by the number of cars blaring the proceedings out their windows while driving around the rally.  I recommend participating in one of these “tea parties” especially if you feel as if you are the only person on the planet that thinks America is going insane, and simply to experience democracy in action.  You will find lots of other like-minded people not in the thrall of today’s hip liberalism.  Having participated I can’t help but wonder, “Is this the opening volley of a revolution”?

Given the diversity and energy of the crowd which included old people and young people, business people, soccer moms, motorcycle riders, college students, college professors and small business owners, it just might be.  I know there were college professors and small business owners there since I was standing next to them.  They were a couple.  We discussed the State of the Union while the crowd chanted and smashed Arnold Schwartzegger DVD’s with sledgehammers.  Some of the rally was perhaps a bit childish, but I witnessed far more juvenile behavior on Election Night at the Chicago Victory Party.  That scene was downright embarrassing.

She, the wife, is a college economics professor in the California State University system.  This was her first rally and she decided that she was angry enough to drive an hour just to “exercise her First Amendment rights”.  She is self-avowed capitalist and reviled for this by much of the faculty at her university – a group that somehow miss the irony of publicly slandering George Bush or any part of the conservative agenda, at the same time they demonstrate the greatest intolerance to the expression of any opposing opinion.  In fact, she and like-minded people at this institution have agreed to remain silent and “speak only in the closet” to avoid unpleasant retaliation and character assassination.  This was a coming out party of sorts for her and vindication that she was not the only American who thinks the country is sadly off course.

The husband is a small businessman.  His story in America starts with his escape from the Russian tanks that crushed the October 1956 Hungarian revolt.  He was a high school student at that time.  His family was jailed and released three times before they finally crossed the border at Andau into Austria and freedom.  After 50 years of living the American Dream, he was attending his first rally because “I could no longer watch this country slide into socialism”.  He is closing his business this year and retiring – taxes and regulations have made it nearly impossible for him to make money.  “If people in America could experience socialism as my family did, there would be 1,000,000 people here today speaking out for freedom”.  “When you don’t have it you appreciate it when you get it”.  “Hungary” he said,  “was a nation of thieves under socialism.  We had to steal what we needed everyday.  Everyday, everyman for himself.”

The good news at this rally was – there were no tanks.  This remarkable fact – which we take for granted – is the hard earned and precious privilege of freemen.  If you think this is not so, just ask the Chinese protesters at Tiananmen.  I sensed for many in the crowd this was a coming out of the closet party.  Perhaps for the first time many discovered they were not alone, and were not “defective” for embracing conservative views.  For others it provided renewed hope that America could reclaim the Dream enshrined in the Declaration and the Constitution.  Finally, perhaps for others it was a shot across the bow.

I received a mass email from a State Senator that night.  She somehow felt it necessary to explain at great length her voting record in an effort to distance herself from the Sacramento tax and spend agenda that she had actually voted in favor of!  I am willing to bet she watched the rally.  And the thought occurred to her that maybe – just maybe – Americans aren’t sheep, that perhaps there is real disagreement with the liberal agenda, and that her job might one day be in danger when these voters hold her to account. As sad as this seems, we should expect this of politicians.  While some are useful and some have some fine traits, courage is usually not one of them.  Courage is the purview of patriots.  Maybe that is what I witnessed today – patriots rallying for the American Dream.

The shot heard around the world was fired 234 years ago on April 19, 1775 at Concord Massachusetts.  History records that the result of those first Minuteman volleys was not a great military victory.  But its effect then as now was electrifying.  From that inauspicious beginning on that green in Concord, patriots built a shining city on the hill infused with the zeal only freemen who have been liberated can feel.  Perhaps these patriots in Orange County California have some of that same feeling, and believe that socialism in any form can only dim the lights of that great city, never power it.

The husband was right, we might need a million people before we get the attention of “those in charge”.  But for today at least 15,000 strong is a good start.  Next stop: Angel Stadium and 60,000 people.  That will be our Bunker Hill.  Now that battle changed things. Count me in.

Hope Floats Away: Why the President’s policies are all wrong

If the stock market reflects the hopes and aspirations of America, the future appears dim. Wasted stimulus spending, bailouts and higher taxes have American investors running for the hills.  It seems crazy but the Administration appears intent on deepening this depression. If the President and his people are really smart as we are constantly reminded, how could they get the economic recovery plan so wrong? One answer is that a depression is precisely what they want.  They HOPE that a market capitulation will provide the necessary leverage to declare capitalism a failure and ride to the rescue with their neo-statist vision.  Cynical?  Perhaps but how else does one explain the decisions of the Pelosi Democrats and the President’s men?

Let’s start with the stimulus plan.   Instead of hoping that a spending plan pocked with pork will somehow produce a magical GNP multiplier effect greater than 1X, why not adopt a plan that provides financial incentives for the private sector to increase infrastructure investment – an investment with a proven multiplier affect of 1.5X?  There are ample near term investment opportunities for increasing domestic oil and gas exploration and production, rail freight and interstate systems expansion, alternative energy development, and national defense spending.  These investments create real jobs, instead of government jobs.  But that would be the capitalist way: allowing investors and entrepreneurs to direct capital to projects that actually make money.  Instead this Administration believes that government officials should make these decisions, though most have never have run a business!

What about industry bailouts?  Instead of hoping that taxpayer money for failures in the banking, insurance and automotive industries will somehow make them better run companies, why not let them declare bankruptcy and work their way back to viability?   It would be cheaper to give every taxpayer a $20,000 coupon to buy a GM product or make a down payment on a foreclosed house than fund this handout.  Instead this Administration and the last one have opened the Treasury vault to the tune of $400,000,000,000 to fund this corporate largess.  But that would be the capitalist way: staking people to equity and letting them decide where best to invest it.   Instead the plan is to let government officials pick winners.

What’s with housing prices?  Instead of a hoping that more bailout money will magically heal the real estate market, why not let those who can’t pay go into foreclosure and let property prices fall to levels where they actually become AFFORDABLE to more people?  Right now 90+% of mortgages are not delinquent.  Furthermore 80% of delinquencies are in the hands of speculators and liars in 34 counties!  These include the Inland Empire in CA, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Florida where Alt A and liar loans created the asset bubble.  Certainly there are good people who got caught when the bubble burst and might lose their homes.  But shouldn’t the decision about those mortgages be left up to the banks and those very same people to work out a deal applying the old fashioned Four C’s of banking ­ character, credit, cash and collateral?  But this would be the capitalist way: allowing the people to determine who is loan-worthy and who is not. Instead this Congress wants to let local judges make these decisions.

Finally, there is this idea of raising taxes.  Instead of increased taxation, why not lower taxes and put more money in the hands of every American?  Executing this one idea would invigorate investors and spenders.   We all might buy stocks again, or go on vacation, or invest in new cars and home improvements.  But this would be the capitalist way: relying on and trusting in the good sense of Americans to make sound economic decisions.  Instead we are getting the socialist way, where the government believes it is smarter than all of us, and that the American people can’t be trusted.  It is a cynical point of view and the height of arrogance.  It is also the antithesis of the American Dream.

If successful socialist state is an oxymoron, then why does this Administration want this?  The answer is a nasty mixture of misguided mission, unchecked power and incompetence.  This Administration truly wants everyone to be equal.  He seeks a classless society where everyone has the same things.  This is a misguided mission.  It is not the American Dream laid out in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.  But if this what Americans really want, and we all want to go this way, then I suggest we cut to the chase and make it so.  Let’s guarantee every American the same pay, benefits and pension as a US Senator.  Then We The People will have the same deal as our noble representatives.  Yes, this also includes a free pass from the IRS when income is under reported.

The road to classlessness is accomplished through class warfare – or at least so said Karl Marx. This Administration has declared a war on one class of Americans – investors and earners.  In doing so he has provided Americans with a clear choice.  The first is neo-statism or socialism. In that world Nancy Pelosi will tell you how you run your business, and you will take whatever the government gives you be it a job, a pension, health care, a home, food, a car, or a bank account.  The second is capitalism where you control your destiny, have the opportunity to reap the rewards of your hard work, and dare to hope for a better life.  Under this system some people will make more money that others.

The stock market is depressed because the American Dream is under attack.  American investors feel somewhat hopeless about the future of the American Dream.  The market like Churchill has it right, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”  Maggie Thatcher added, “Socialism is a great idea until you run out of other people’s money.”  Gosh those crazy Brits!

We are at a moment in American history – where class warfare is increasingly inevitable.  The President has declared it, and has stated he wants as much.  We are on a collision course with destiny as much as we were in 1776 and 1861, where clear lines were drawn between liberty and subjugation, and slavery and emancipation. Who will win?

The President’s plan is running into the headwinds of national genetics.  Socialism simply is not part of the American genetic code.  American DNA has a code for self-determination that is unique on the planet.  How could it be otherwise?  We were born into and shaped by a unique history that is our alone.  In simplest terms we are not like the Europe so many of us immigrated from.  We are not shaped by a history of serfdom, monarchies, or social democratic government.  Our nation was forged in the fire of rebellion and war and has prospered on the principals of liberty, small government, and capitalism.  We reject socialism, as a transplant patient might a mistyped donor organ.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.  It wasn’t until eight years later that Cornwallis finally packed up and sailed back to England.  To provide some perspective the odds of Washington’s Continental Army defeating the British were longer than the odds of a high school football team beating the Pittsburg Steelers.  The Founding Fathers took on the longest of shots and in succeeding proved they were warriors.  These traits – self-determination and confidence in the face of long odds – reside deep in the DNA of every American.  For good or bad this is who we are.  As a result, an American living in socialism is like an Eskimo living in the tropics.  The President can expect an epic battle over his agenda.

At the same time however, there is something working in the President’s favor.  The DNA of too much of America has been watered down over the years as the memories of those battles have faded.  Too many are “fat” on the lifestyle the American Dream affords, and take liberty and the American Dream for granted.  They seem very willing to trade their liberty for the serfdom of that government provision for every need entails.

Just as in 1776, the class war cannot be won working inside the political system. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are as disconnected now, as King George was then. Witness the guileless statements of a Chuck Schumer who thinks Americans don’t care about billion dollar earmarks.  What he thinks he “knows” is that Americans can be bought off with free stuff – like Manhattan was bought for a chest of trinkets.  When the Founding Fathers realized that representation and redress were not possible within the mechanisms of the British monarchy, rebellion or serfdom were their remaining options.

Fortunately today the Constitution allows us to work outside our elected officials legally to press for representation and redress. Since it does we can fight this class war without guns.  First we have to accept the fact that no LEADER is going to appear to save us.  The Founding Fathers knew this – they had to look within to win their independence.  In addition, any “leader” from the Republican Party is already a part of the system and the problem.

Second, since all politics is local, we need to encourage local libertarian talk radio to rally people locally to gather and gain strength and make tax repeal and regulatory roll backs a critical proposition item to change broken state constitutions.  Benjamin Franklin and others rallied the colonists through the country’s first newspapers – papers King George could not control.

Third, a coalition of libertarian lawyers, radio personalities, existing taxpayer rights groups and the gathering “tea partiers” needs to be forged to determine, communicate, and implement a tax revolt that starves the state of tax revenues.  Lawyers are necessary to file the tax repeals and protect those the state would deem to make examples of.  We, the “tea partiers” must contribute money to this coalition, but we must also contribute our time.  The Boston Tea party is only the most famous of all the tax revolts.  Tax revolts took place in all the colonies.  The fact is we the people have the power of the Constitution and the purse on our side.  These powers are stronger than central government if we can organize.

If the Administration is not trying to tank the economy as I so cynically suggest, then they are incompetent.  Either way, we are in trouble.  Americans have a choice, fight for the Dream or let this government Forrest Gump-like allow it to float away.  As for me, that latter is not in my DNA.

Government in Charge: We get what we pay for

I got a jaywalking ticket while on my morning run at 6:30 AM one day last year.  The fine was $118.  In NY where I grew up this was not a ticket-able offence it was a way of life.   Nonetheless this got me thinking about the cost of traffic fines, the randomness of enforcement and what it means about us as Americans.  The inescapable conclusion is that fines are set to generate revenue, not to protect people, enforcement is simply a matter of opportunity, not necessarily upholding the law, and for Americans this means the difference between citizenship and serfdom.

Arbitrary Fines

I made a detailed calculation of the annual cost of employing the motorcycle traffic officer who gave me the ticket.  The cost of the MACHINE is $25,000 per year, which includes the bike, the gear, tires, fuel, and repairs.  I based my estimate on 60,000 miles driven per year.  The cost of the MAN is $150,000 per year.  This includes $75,000 for his salary, health care, benefits, plus another $75,000 for his amortized pension costs.  I based this estimate on 25 happy years the officer will spend retirement with his loved ones. The total annual cost for MAN and MACHINE is $175,000.  This is a big investment, which can only be paid for by traffic fines.

Now let’s assume that our traffic officer works eight hours per day, five days days per week for 52 weeks and he is able to write two tickets per hour.  That’s a total of 4100 tickets per year or more than $1,500,000 in revenue at $425 per ticket.  If the government only wanted to protect people, then we might reasonably assume that they would be happy to break even covering the annual $175,000 cost.  Were this the case the average speeding ticket fine would be $42.50.  However let’s assume that protection is not the only goal, and the government also wanted to punish offenders, then it would seem that five times that amount, or $225 would be sufficient to teach a lesson.  Yet the fine is $425.  I can only conclude that the cost of the fine is set to make the most profit possible.  It is simply just another recurring revenue stream relied on by the government and is in effect another tax on people – not a service to protect or to deter recidivism.  Since this is the case, and we all know it is, it would make sense for the government to sell speeding insurance.  We could pay a premium that would allow two speeding tickets per year at 10 to 15 MPH above the posted limit without fines, courts, and the insurance hikes.

Arbitrary Enforcement

Anyone who has driven freeways or streets posted at 50 – 65 MPH knows that actual the speeds are typically 10 MPH faster – it’s called the flow of traffic.  This means almost everyone is breaking the law at any given time.  It also means enforcement is the equivalent of shooting random fish in a barrel.  Anyone caught speeding has had the experience of wondering, Why me when everyone else was doing the same speed? The answer is you were the random fish.  To add salt to the wound while the ticket was written some lane-changing madman flew by while the officer ignored him.  If it were about protection and enforcement, shouldn’t we expect the officer drop your ticket and chase the dangerous lawbreaker?  Of course this doesn’t ever happen.  You instead are left to stew about the fairness of it all, wonder where you will come up with $425, and whether you will end up sitting between Mr. Angry and Mr. Big Round guy at nursery – I mean traffic – school.

My point is that the arbitrary nature of fines and enforcement is emblematic of the shift of power from citizens to government entities.  This shift has been going on for decades, yet only recently have we awaked to this fact.  We are like the proverbial boiled frog.

We are finally awakening to the reality that government entities through taxes and regulations no longer serves we the citizens, they in fact prey upon us.  Given the unchecked growth of government entities, the beast it is now larger, meaner, more ravenous, and more in need of revenue and control than ever.  Worse, they are accountable to no one.  Worse still, we now fear our own government.  Anyone who has been audited by the IRS, had to obtain construction permits, run a business, go to family court, or to renew a motor vehicle license understands this.  These government entities can at a minimum make your life miserable, and at worse they can ruin it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not suggesting that government workers are mean people.  They are simply part of a system of ever changing laws, regulations and disincentives.

We the people, the citizens of this country, have only ourselves to blame for this.  We allowed it to happen.  The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are clear, our representative only serve at our pleasure with our consent.  We have handed over our power to them, the power that was vested in we the people by the Founding Fathers.

After turning up the “tax and regulate” heat for decades, we the citizens are boiling in the pot.  Given the trajectory of government spending – now mainly to support itself – combined with unchecked government hubris, the future is bleak indeed.  Yet it is not hopeless.  Faced with their own boiling pot, the Founding Fathers did what self-respecting freemen do everywhere.  They ran up the flag of dissent – Don’t Tread on Me – and turned out a harsh and overreaching government.  The question then, as it is now is, Are we to be freemen and citizens, or subjects and serfs?

I went to court to fight the jaywalking fine.  The officer stated that I my actions endangered myself and others, and he therefore had no choice but to give me the ticket.  “What others?”, I inquired.  He and I were the only people on the road that clear sunny morning.  “Any reasonable man might have made the same decision given the impossibly low probability of anything hitting anyone” I testified.   Guilty, said the judge.  “A rule is a rule and I am bound to uphold the law, even as unfair as this may seem to you Mr. Kehoe.  But since you tell such a good story, I’m reducing the fine to $39”.

The country is nearing a boiling point.  Never have so many been so angry for what can rightly be called gross incompetence by the government.  But to boil quietly is to abdicate one’s responsibility as a citizen.  If the people don’t speak, then we get what we pay for.

Striking Out: Why the President’s policies are doomed to fail

The arc of the public opinion pendulum tends to swing to the extremes, but it eventually settles near the middle.  This inevitable tug to the center will have significant negative implications for the President and the current Democratic Congress.  They are and will continue to overplay their hand losing whatever mandate they perceive they now have.  The seeds of this inevitable decline were sown during the election.  The President and the Democrats seem to confuse America’s Bush Fatigue, with an embrace of socialist economic, liberal governance, and international isolationist policies.

Strike One

The stimulus bill “victory” will be a short-lived.  Long before Christmas when the economy is mired in worse shape than it currently is – and it will be – the American People will wonder what they purchased for $1 trillion.  At the same time they will feel worse about their employment, income, and retirement prospects.  That’s when the President will roll out Stimulus II:  The Sequel.  This is as certain as the continued bail out of the auto industry.  The problem for the President is that there will be no stomach for this future spending given the tepid support of 40% for the current spending.

As the recession deepens and jobs losses mount the failure of the stimulus and the growing national debt will be the subject of daily Conservative TV and radio.  They will have a field day selling the idea that this bill was never really meant to help the economy at all, that it was in fact designed to make the economy worse to set the stage for a complete socialist power grab.  As people lose hope may buy this conspiracy idea and question the capitalism has failed you message of the Administration.

Out of work Americans and those with ruined finances will be angry at the unfairness of entitlement largess doled out, while they must sacrifice.  The American People are happy to help others in times of trouble, but they will resent those who do not pay taxes and live off the government.  Even in good times Americans demand limits on entitlements and dislike the kind of welfare states that exist in Britain and Europe.  The Welfare reforms of the Clinton era reflected public opinion – 75% to 25% in favor – of reducing welfare entitlements.  The failure of the stimulus and the anger associated with an unfair playing field will hurt the President.  This will be Strike One.

Strike Two

As foolish as it seems, the President and the Democrats will try an end run on the First Amendment.  They are disconnected and arrogant enough to believe that Americans will not see through their assault on the freedom of speech in the so-called the Fairness Doctrine.  Americans will see it for what it is – censorship.   Considering the outrage and activism any legislative modification to the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) causes, any attack on the First, is likely to be loud and angry.  Even the ACLU would have to side with the Conservatives on this First Amendment assault.  Politics makes strange bedfellows.  On top of this any legislation would only end up in the Supreme Court and become a ratings bonanza for Rush, O’Reilly, Beck, Hannity et al.  The President would make these people heroes and himself the villain of liberty.  Americans are fond of, and protective of their basic liberties.  The right to free speech is at the top of the liberties list.  This will be Strike Two for the President.

Strike Three

As Joe Biden said, The President will be tested.  Whether that is insight or purely obvious, the fact remains that the world will not be a friendly place this year especially with economic hard times likely to test the legitimacy of non-democratic regimes.  Declining oil prices are causing popular unrest in Russia and the Middle East, countries that rely on oil revenues to inflate their economies and to buy “compliant patriotism”.  The economic disintegration of Eastern Europe and the weakening of many of the smaller Gulf States will open the door for international adventurism by Russia and Iran.  The message will be simple, America is the one to blame for the global meltdown.  Is there an easier way to distract your own people from their problems, than to blame it on an easy external target – like the US?

Russia and Iran will reassert their individual visions for the reunification of the old Soviet Union and Global Islam.  With a weakened Europe and Japan, the US will stand alone to face these hegemonists.  Diplomacy won’t be the answer to these challenges.  Power is the language they understand.  Running from this challenge or papering it over with “diplomacy only” will not make Americans feel safer or stronger.  Say what you will about George Bush, and he had his failures, the international community knew where America drew the line in the sand on global adventurism.   Too many of us remember Carter’s weak policies.  History shows that Carter had it wrong.  Reagan had it right.  If the President does not have the courage to use power, he will appear weak to the majority of Americans.  This will be Strike Three.

I do not want to see this President or any President fail.  Yet the seeds of his and our demise are sown.  Come September, the shine may be off this President.  I suspect many will still have “Hope”.  Yet for all the Kool Aid drinkers, you have to ask yourselves the question, “How did the people at Jonestown feel when they discovered that Jim was not the messiah”?  Did they feel used, or were they so intoxicated they followed him off the cliff to blissful oblivion.

Ordinary people – Where’s the outrage?

While the Congress is rearranging deck chairs on the stimulus bill Titanic, I have been wondering what it means to ordinary people and how we should be planning for the next four years.  And while the leaders of the Congress like Nancy Pelosi are congratulating themselves on their swift bold action (the Bay of Pigs was swift and bold action also), I have been wondering why too few of us are not upset at the proceedings.

Here’s the projected reality for ordinary people.  Building any kind of wealth for retirement or business investment is going to be very difficult given the policies and spending goals of Pelosi and the Obama-ites.  For ordinary people these policies will deliver initial low interest rates which means zero after tax and inflation adjusted returns, a stagnant economy with depressed and potentially further eroded asset values in real estate and the stock market, the potential for scary inflation a few years out that will rob the value of whatever assets are left, and increased taxation to pay for it all.

The math is inescapable – the government must fund the spending and current debt with a combination of printed money (inflation), borrowing, and taxation.  The people who will bear the burden of this taxation will be ordinary people.  These ordinary people are vilified by the liberal left as wealthy and targeted by the Congress simply because they have money and wealth the Congress needs to pay for it all.

Let’s look at the math

It is likely – given the government’s own numbers – that we will run increasing deficits over the next four years.  This will be as a result of declining collections at current tax rates, and increasing outlays for entitlement programs and interest.

To the current deficit of 11 trillion dollars – of which 4 trillion is currently foreign owned – we will add another 6.1 trillion dollars for stimulus (and there will be more) program spending, bank bailout / TARP, and son of TARP spending, and who knows how much more spent on bailing out selected industries autos.  The net effect of all this will be a Federal deficit that could double to nearly 20 trillion over the next four years.

In 2007, 139,000,000 people filed taxes.  Of this total the $85,000 and above group accounted for about 50% of these filers or about 69,500,000 (These are the ordinary people).  These filers paid 97% of the total taxes collected in that year – $1,212,500,000,000 of the $1,250,000,000,000.  This equates to an effective tax rate of 21% or $17,446 of the $85,000 earned by an ordinary person.  Atnd at the end of the next four years, the ordinary person would also “own” $286,882 of the Federal Deficit.

If we assume that foreign entities will continue to support our spending binge to the tune of 70% of the new debt created then China, Japan, Britain, and OPEC will have to increase their holdings of US debt by 56%.  They would hold over 10 trillion of the debt or over 50%.  This is up from the current 36% they own.  Keep in mind that all of these countries are having their own economic problems.

If we assume that we only pay for the debt created by the increasing CURRENT ACCOUNT deficit, then taxes collections must rise by $670,371,846,094 per year.  This equates to an additional $9,646 in taxes for an ordinary person.  This increases the tax burden from 21% to 32% – a 55% increase.  These taxes will come in many forms – not just income. This is the politics of hope.  If the Democrats have their way, they will tax your retirement and savings also.  Angry?  Scared?  Hopeless?

If the math is inescapable, depressing and sobering, then the outrage and action of ordinary people must be immediate.  The lack dissent to these policies now will result in a poorer future for everyone.  Once these policies are in place, they are hard to eradicate later.  In the last election 57MM people did not vote for these kinds of policies.  Instead of losing faith, howling at the moon and each other, we need to organize ourselves into a solid taxpaying majority and press our Return America to the People agenda in state governments first, then use this leverage to force real change in Washington.  I bet that the good people of South Carolina are none too happy right now to see their Federal taxes sent to profligate California to bail it out of its tax and spend disaster.

Quiet determination is not an option for ordinary people any longer.  Our dissent must be channeled into the same kind of organization the Obama-ites and the Democrats have built.  If we cannot do this, then we will watch our income, savings and property taxed to pay for their programs.  You have been warned.  You have the power of your wallet to drive change.  The Government cannot operate without our money – they need ordinary people to pay for the pork.  We also have the power granted to We the People by the Constitution and enshrined in the First Amendment to speak out against bad government.  Not only did the Founding Fathers believe this to be our right, they believed it to be our responsibility as citizens.  They were warriors and extra ordinary people, what about us?