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

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, January 7, 2011

About That "Fairness" Thing

Liberals, especially Wonderboy, make much of "fairness." To hear them, it's not fair if one person in America is poorly-off while anyone else is wealthy from the sweat of their own brow.

But let's consider another type of fairness for a moment.

What about fixed-, defined-benefit social transfer payment programs? How are they fair?

Sure, most well-intended Americans want to help the less well-off. But  consider what has happened since our idiotic Congress, in 1932 or thereabouts, enacted Social Security.

Between that program, and its descendants, Medicare and Medicaid, the US Congress bestowed upon society fixed-promise payment schemes, regardless of the means of the country to afford them.

Yet, ironically, even paradoxically, those working Americans who pay taxes to fund these programs are exposed to all sorts of income risks. Being America, few of us are guaranteed jobs, or lush unemployment benefits if we lose a job.

So we have the bizarre situation, which, in my opinion, only Congresses full of mediocre civil servants who couldn't make a living the honest way- working in the private sector- have designed welfare programs which require fixed payouts from taxpayers who assume all the risk.

Any sensible person would have designed the three programs differently. Ideally, they'd have been individual-account, defined contribution schemes from the start. Further, and this is the really important part which I've never seen elsewhere, annual payout levels would be contingent upon the relative health of the US economy, in real terms.

By this I mean some benchmark year, with a benchmark GDP/person, GDP growth rate, and price level, would be used from which to calculate a standard real dollar benefit/person for each program. Thereafter, the effects of the three measures would attenuate how much money each payee received each year.

This way, we wouldn't have the current fiasco, whereby the country's infrastructure and defense spending, to name two important governmental tasks, are subject to cuts due to budget deficits, but social welfare spending is seen as fixed, sacrosanct, and on auto-pilot.

Why shouldn't the country's poor bear as much burden as the taxpayers funding their generous stipends via Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

It seems only right that all society's members bear the pain of recessions and inflation. That nothing in the federal budget is fixed and off-limits during periods of financial pain.

Doesn't that seem truly fair?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

About Congress, the Constitution & Detailed Powers Attribution for Legislation

Much has been made recently, especially by Congressional Democrats, of today's reading in the House of the Constitution.

One Democratic Representative derisively snorted that the GOP is treating the Constitution 'like some sacred document.'

As Monica Crowley observed on Fox News yesterday, sometimes these Democrats make the Tea Party's task almost too easy.

But, seriously, there's a legitimate issue here. In the lead staff editorial in today's Wall Street Journal, California's ultra-liberal Representative Henry Waxman was quoted as saying he was taught in law school that the Constitution means, or is, 'whatever a judge says it is.'

Thus, Waxman inadvertently explains the Progressive approach to legislation, i.e., Constitution be damned, just pass what you want and leave it up to a judge to decide.

That's wrong. That's not upholding the oath we all heard the entire House swear yesterday.

Instead, as Waxman mistakenly illustrated, Progressives will keep passing unconstitutional laws, knowing that they only need a few judges, serially, to expand Congressional powers via judicial writ, while they have unlimited time and attempts to achieve that objective.

However, if they were held to a higher standard a priori, i.e., providing a detailed, public justification from the Constitution, for legislation, much of their power-expanding agenda would be revealed for what it is.

You see, until we get term limits for the federal bench- all of it- Waxman's approach is a major loophole in our system of checks and balances.

When 435 Representatives and 100 Senators have to publicly justify voting on the existence of a Constitutional source of power for legislation, they are liable to removal for supporting legislation of overly-expansive Congressional and federal power. But when they can pass anything, and force a lawsuit to allow a judge to rule on the Constitutionality, they both evade responsibility, while also moving the issue from one of a vote among 535 elected legislators to one life-appointed federal judge. Perhaps a few more, if the case is appealed up through the federal chain to the Supreme Court.

So requiring Congress to be more specific in identifying the source of power for new legislation is actually quite important in our system. It's about 'sunshine,' transparency, and the clear articulation by legislators of their views on limited versus expansive federal powers as described and enumerated in our Constitution.

Bucking these issues to the courts, knowingly, is subterfuge and a conscious undermining of the system's designed checks and balances.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CNBC's "Big Brother" Media

We don't need to wait for a government-controlled media to see 'Big Brother' style media in action.

Simply watch CNBC.

The network seems to be aiming to make mediocrity its watchword. Consider this morning's program.

For two hours, upward failure Jon Corzine was a guest-host. Constantly referred to as "Governor," Corzine primped and opined with an assumed wisdom which belies his actual record.

Originally a Goldman Sachs bond trader, Corzine first stumbled by trying to take the firm public when co-running the place. Although many outside the finance world don't understand, Corzine was deposed by his partners, who subsequently sold the firm to the investing public for much more than Corzine wanted, via an IPO.

From this failure, Corzine moved to ape New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, promptly buying the next Senate seat up for election. Eventually tiring of serving in the minority, Corzine again showed his awful sense of timing by leaving the Senate to buy the NJ governorship just before the Democrats retook the upper chamber in Washington. So instead of chairing a Senate committee, Corzine ended up with the real headache of wrestling with the finances of his dysfunctional state. He lost re-election this past November.

Why anyone would invite this clown onto a major business cable television program is beyond me.

Joining Corzine, for 'balance,' for one segment, was Howard Dean, the failed Democratic presidential candidate.

Corzine sagely nodded his bearded head and tut-tutted over incoming House Speaker Boehner's being advised by this mornings lead staff editorial in the Wall Street Journal to lay the basis for a GOP president in 2012. Dean continued his mad-dog, illogical ranting on higher taxes.

For his part, Corizne, who claims to read the WSJ, evidently missed this editorial, and went on to claim that deficit reduction just has to include hefy tax increases- there's no other way!

You might ask yourself what a business network is doing using explicitly political icons- failed, at that- on its lead morning program? Good question.

If analysis of governmental actions and their impacts on business were the point, surely there are less-partisan, more qualified guests/hosts.

Who needs a government-run media when CNBC does the job so nicely in the private sector? Thank God you can also watch Fox News.

Petty Tyrants & Tin Ears

I chanced upon an acquaintance recently who is a local elected municipal official. Not having seen him since November, I asked him, a Republican, if he were pleased with the GOP House majority?

He sort of wrinkled his nose, and said words to this effect,

'Do you mean the Tea Partiers? No.'

I quickly mentioned my attendance at two Capitol Hill Tea Party events, which quieted him. Then I cautioned him that failure to listen to and satisfy active, angry voters like me would make the GOP a minority party once more.

As we discussed the root causes of political ineffectiveness, I opined, as in some of my prior posts, that much would be accomplished with a single Constitutional amendment limiting terms for Congress and all federal judiciary, adding that health care and pensions should be revoked for Congress. He quickly attempted to disabuse me of this, citing certain corruption by said officials to top up their desired compensation.

Is this not the height of arrogance and insensitivity? A record number of House seats were lost by Democrats, not to mention the larger tide of state legislative seats, and an old-style Republican local pol lectures me on paying Congress appropriately, or they'll steal the rest from us under the table!

Worse, this local official sees the Tea Party as one of those undesired, uncontrolled forces of voter passion which spoil his quiet world of largely anonymous labors with little oversight.

This is why we need to all, regardless of our partisan leanings, become more engaged in the political process and collaborate to more closely examine what is done by elected and appointed officials in our names, with our tax dollars.

Local elected officials like my acquaintance feel, I am sure, that they are doing us all a favor. But not when they deride a movement which simply seeks a return to Constitutional limits and more accountability for spending.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rick Scott Aims To Govern Florida As A Business

Stephen Moore wrote an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal on December 31 regarding Rick Scott's aims as the new governor of Florida.

I tend to be suspect of governors who swear they will run their state "like a business." Which Scott does. Regardless of how wrong-headed or wasteful you believe a governmental unit such as a large state or the federal government to be, it's not a business. The government is a structure meant to effect certain necessary social and political duties of and for a group of citizens.

What is positive about Scott's focus is on job creation. His campaign had as its centerpiece the replacement of some 700,000 jobs lost in Florida since the start of the recession.

But when you read Moore's piece, the bulk of Scott's cost-cutting is pension- and health benefit-related. Sounds familiar to anyone from New Jersey.

Oddly, what Moore's interview with Scott demonstrated for me, along with familiarity with New Jersey's Chris Christie, is a reinforcement of my observation in this recent post,

"If you think about it, aren't our wealth-transfer payment programs the ones which are deemed 'non-discretionary' and breaking our budgets? Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and related transfers, enacted with no global or macro budgetary conditionality? As communal, unlimited spending pots, the withdrawals from which are on individual eligibility bases, not apportioned and pro-rated based upon budgetary limitations?

It's ridiculous! Thanks to Congressional idiocy in the 1930s and 1960s, we've elevated the poor and destitute ahead of every other need of our Republic. They never are required to share in the economies and belt-tightening shared by our other national governmental spending and taxation realities."

Now we see two large state governors struggling with budget issues which are overwhelmingly driven by state and municipal union compensation and benefits.

I find myself wondering why state workers, as well as government transfer payment recipients, should not be exposed to the vagaries of the fortunes of the taxpayers who ultimately fund their claims. Why are there no pro-rata, or normalizing conditions on any of those taxpayer-fund recipients?

It's as if those who actually create the value which is taxed are subject to risks and uncertainty, but those feeding from those tax revenues are immune.

It's completely wrong.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Austin Goolsbee's Debt Ceiling Lies

I happened to catch the perennially wan-looking administration chief economic hack, Austin Goolsbee, on CNBC this morning. Or at least some recently-recorded remarks by him.

The topic was the House Republicans' threat to maintain the US debt level ceiling, rather than, as is typically done, automatically vote to raise it.

Doing so is much like your credit card issuer routinely raising your account limit every time you come within a few dollars of exceeding it, no questions asked.

To illustrate how surreal administrations, particularly this one, have become, Goolsbee claimed that failing to increase the debt ceiling would cause a US default.

Isn't it interesting that Goolsbee chose not to argue for drastic federal budget slashing, in order to fit spending within the existing debt ceiling by cutting new borrowing?

The administration's culture is simply out of touch with America's current fiscal reality. We indifferently run continuing annual deficits and ever-increasing external debt, while continuing to fund overly-generous transfer payment programs which are unlinked to the national economic health.

I hope Congress does hold firm on the debt ceiling, citing fiscal prudence. Then the administration will be forced to come to terms with its lavish spending and begin to live within the existing debt levels.

Let the spending rollback begin!