“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"The Process IS The Plan"

I saw a priceless clip of Gerry Brown being interviewed on CNBC the other day. It was one of the more hilarious Q&As I've seen lately.

Brown, the Democratic candidate for Governor of California, was asked how he would close the expected $19B or so budget gap, were he to be elected in November. His reply was that he would 'go to the people' with the budget areas, 'line by line,' and ask them to prioritize where to cut spending.

When pressed by the reporter for where, specifically, he would cut government spending, Brown repeated his description of the process he intends to employ.

The CNBC reporter, growing impatient, said,

'But that's not a plan, that's a process.'

To which Brown retorted,

"The process IS the plan!"

Of course, it's no plan whatsoever. You don't need to elect a full-time governor to do what Brown suggests- hiring a polling organization and a professional mediator should do the trick.

If this is what Gerry Brown intends to use as his plan for budgetary action while campaigning this summer, Meg Whitman, his Republican opponent, has a lot for which to be thankful.

As the former CEO of eBay, I would bet Whitman has a lot more specific and cogently-themed plan for balancing California's budget, should she become governor.

Just thinking about this issue, it's so obvious that the least Brown, or any candidate, could do would be to conduct some focus group research, in order to illustrate what actual voting Californians think about budget priorities. This would provide some foundation for whatever priorities a candidate put forward.

It's hard to believe, especially as a former governor of the state, that Brown actually thinks he can be elected again without espousing any principles or priorities, and, instead, asking the voters to do their own budget-cutting.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Democratic Former Presidential Pollsters Lean Toward GOP Rout In November

Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell, former pollsters, respectively, for Bubba Clinton and Jimmuh Carter, co-authored an interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal nearly two weeks ago.

Entitled The United States of Throw the Bums Out, they contend that merely being the other party will confer some benefits on Republican candidates in November.

For example, they write,

"Given the general climate of disaffection and mistrust with Democrats and Republicans alike, it's clear that the Republican Party's greatest asset right now is that elections are binary choices and voters tend to turn against incumbents."

The former pollsters note that a recent Washington Post/ABC News Survey found only 29% of Americans supporting their House member in the next election. That's lower than the 34% reading of this measure prior to the 1994 Republican retaking of the House.

Later in the piece, the authors note that voters are truly concerned with Wonderboy's piling on so much more debt, and that those wanting action on spending and deficits rose from 13% in January to 20% in May.

Health care, too, remains unpopular, as do House members who voted for it.

The bulk of the piece is informative and strikes a hopeful note for conservatives. However, at the end, being Democrats, even these two have to display willful ignorance of the Congressional Republican attempts to inject sanity into health care, economics and financial sector regulation. Instead, they merely declare that the GOP doesn't offer any clear "core principles," nor "bold new ideas."

This is simply untrue. But, if you're a lifelong Democrat, I guess you're going to ignore conservative ideas when you see them, and claim there's just nothing there. Perhaps because it isn't a fancy new social spending program with a large price tag?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hillary's Unintended Support for Supply-Side Economics

Steve Forbes wrote a priceless editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Monday lambasting Hillary Clinton for her misguided support of Brazil's tax policies.

Quoting Hillary as saying regarding the US,

"The rich are not paying their fair share,"

Forbes went on to cite her extolling Brazil's tax-to-GDP rate.

Unfortunately for Hill, as Forbes pointed out, that doesn't mean Brazil has high tax rates on the rich. Quite the contrary, it's a textbook example of Reaganomics. The highest Brazilian rate is,

"a mere 27.5%, far below our top federal rate of 35%, which, given the complexity of our tax code, is actually closer to 38%."

This would be funny, if it weren't so sad as a commentary on the economic illiteracy of our current leaders and administration.

I'd love to hear Hillary's rebuttal when someone pointed out Forbes' editorial and asked her about her closet endorsement of low tax rates.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Government Spending, Borrowing & Priorities

I happened to view two troubling programs this weekend on the History Channel. They dealt with the crumbling US infrastructure for services such as fresh water, sewage, power distribution and, of course, the perennial bridge conditions.

As I watched, I was shocked to hear, twice, the phrase 'best quality materials were not available' when discussing the construction of critical infrastructure projects.

The first for which appropriate materials were not available was New York City's underground Delaware aqueduct from upstate New York. The second was the Tappan Zee bridge.

The aqueduct was finished during WWII, so high quality steel in adequate supply was unavailable. As a result, engineers were unable to stem a leaking section of the water supply pipe without essentially patching it with concrete and hoping that would hold.

It did, for a while. But now it is estimated that the water supply pipe sends upwards of a million gallons per day, if I heard it correctly, into the surrounding ground, causing sinkholes and serious land erosion problems in a town located about 100 miles north of New York City.

The Tappan Zee, according to the program, was unable, during the Korean War, to be supplied with sufficient structural steel, so wood was used instead in internal sections. The bridge is now on the verge of becoming unusable.

Other elements of the programs highlighted the routine bursting of waste water pipes from aging metal materials, the acid contents, and the snags caused by internal corrosion which exacerbate the problem.

What struck me, as I viewed these two chilling programs, was how warped and reversed our governments' spending priorities have become at all levels.

How many times do you hear municipal union members scream about cutting school, fire or police employees? Never mind that we've allowed schools to become bloated, and police to serve in many capacities which vastly overpay them, such as routine traffic control.

In many states, legislators, often due to federal government requirements, have been forced to spend money on non-essential programs. The overall level of governmental control, permitting and general invasiveness into our lives costs money, both in terms of time and the staffs we now pay to conduct all of this extra government business.

Truly, our elected representatives have behaved as if there is no limit to the funds they can spend on our behalf.

Meanwhile, we have communities which have to boil water to prevent infection by e coli coming out of their taps, due to waste water pipe failures.

Somehow, in the past 60+ years, we've forgotten to hold our elected representatives accountable for providing basic services crucial to the level of civilization we've come to expect in America.

That has to end. Concerns about special education, universal health care, green energy sources and various other second-order, or lesser, issues, must be put on back burners, while we force our governments, at all levels, to address basic services.

We're staggering under previously unimagined debt and tax burdens, only to have basic infrastructure falling apart.

Priorities have to change, and fast. Or we won't even continue to enjoy the basic qualities of life we've come to take for granted for the past hundred years.