What’s Wrong with Washington

This is a new world’s record for me – two blogs in two days.

But I promise this one will be short.  I saw a link about it somewhere (see below) and saved it in my Reading list in Safari.  Then I saw something about it on TV.  It’s an old story, but I think it underscores for us all that our Congress is fundamentally broken and has been for some time.

As the story goes, Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican, Utah), speaking at an event for technology companies, made the following statement:

“If you want to get involved in business, you should get involved in politics.”

His advice, in a nutshell, was for companies to hire some lobbyists and spend some money on political campaigns or expect Washington to make your business life miserable. 

What would you call this?  Words like extortion and blackmail come to my mind.

Now, you might be thinking something like, “Big Deal – it’s always been that way.  They all do it.”  That may be true (with the possible exception of Representative Ron Paul – I hear that lobbyists don’t even try to see him), but as I thought about it, I really started to get worried.

This means they are all for sale.  Every member of our Congress is for sale (except maybe for a few of the new guys who haven’t been there long enough to really get in the swing of things).  No matter what they say; not matter how loud they trumpet their righteous indignation; nearly every one of them is in someone’s back pocket.

Many of us have the attitude that nothing really bad will happen because they will not let things go too far down the path of destruction.  They’ll come to their senses and do the right thing.  It’s becoming clear to me that, when the chips are down, our legislators will all vote their own pocketbook – no matter what the issue, not matter the consequences.

So what’s the solution?  I’ve heard a few things that make some sense.  Things like making it illegal to lobby (probably not feasible) and putting politicians’ money in a blind trust while they are in office.  I doubt either of these would work very well.

I’m thinking that the real solution is to limit their terms and eliminate any long-term special privileges that they get as a member of the Congress.  They get the same retirement, tax liabilities, and healthcare that the rest of us get.  The original reason for all the special privileges was that we didn’t want a former member of Congress to be caught living in poverty.  From my point of view, that’s probably as unlikely as anything I know – If a man or woman has enough guts and drive to get into Congress, well, I think they’ll do just fine after they leave office.

I think if we don’t figure out how to fix this, we are in deep trouble.  Why?  Because, at the end of the day, some people with deep pockets own our government.  People like Microsoft, big banks, George Soros, and lots more.  Really, it’s anyone with enough money and a political agenda.  So that means every vote in Congress is actually not a vote for the constituents, but a contest between benefactors. 

Think I’m wrong? Ask yourself what has really changed over the last 50 years.  No matter what each new President says, we still fight undeclared wars.  Taxes fluctuate, but they trend up.  Inflation continues because of our money policies.  Overall, no matter what political party is in charge, things still remain the same with a few fluctuations.

The approval rating of Congress is about 10%.  That’s awful.  If they are so bad, why don’t we vote them out?  Probably because most folks think all the other guys are crummy, but their own Congressman is one of the few good ones.  So we still see the same faces, year after year.

I don’t know about you, but this scares me to death.

 

Saint Leo

 

PS:  If you have any comments, please leave them on the blog so that Wisiwuv and I will see them. As the dolphins are famous for saying, “Good luck and thanks for all the fish!”

 

http://washingtonexaminer.com/carney-how-hatch-forced-microsoft-to-play-k-streets-game/article/2500453

 

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“If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made it happen.”

For a guy who’s supposed to be smart, President Obama sure misses the mark in my book.  His comments about business and who is responsible for their success left me scratching my head and thinking he is working hard to turn the middle class against the people who make the economy grow.

On Friday in Roanoke Virginia, he made the following statement (The link below provides the entire text of the speech):

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

He’s trying to make the case for higher taxes for the wealthy, but I believe we are seeing a glimpse of how he truly feels here.  “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made it happen.”  The unspoken next line is, “You don’t deserve what you have and you shouldn’t have it”.  You can make up the next line for yourself.

I beg to differ with the President on a lot of levels, but here are a few of them:

First of all, the person who owns the business is the person who was willing to take a risk.  He or she put up their own money for the opportunity to fail or succeed.  In the beginning, they did all the work for their business, maybe in some cases not getting a paycheck so that their employees would get one.  As they grew bigger, they continually took more risks with their own money (and maybe someone else’s money who also took a risk to invest with them).

Secondly, I’m not sure who the President is indicating did it for them.  Their employees?  Sure, they did a lot of work for the company, but they took no risk and they were paid a wage for it.  The employees got their reward already.  Their reward was commensurate with the risk they took. 

It’s true they didn’t build the roads and bridges.  Those were generally built by the Government  – the American taxpayer.  I daresay that most business owners have paid for plenty of roads and bridges through their taxes.  According to “About.com” (link below), the top one percent of taxpayers paid more than a third of all individual income taxes in 2002. Maybe they aren’t in the top one percent.  But the top fifty percent paid nearly ALL of the individual income taxes paid.  They are surely in that group.  I suggest that insinuating that they don’t pay enough is ridiculous.  To me, fair share means everyone pays an equal percentage of their earnings. To suggest that they didn’t contribute to building the roads is disingenuous.

The President also stated that the internet was created by the government “so that all the companies could make money off the Internet”.  Rubbish.  The DARPA network (the father of the internet) was created by the government to create easy, secure communication between research facilities in the name of the National Defense.  I give the government lots of  credit for recognizing the benefit to free enterprise by making it accessible, but it wasn’t the reason they created it. 

I’ll give the President some credit for the “great teacher” clause, but only a little.  I was a teacher earlier in my life, and I know that a teacher can be the catalyst to flip a switch of understanding for a student, but all a teacher can really do is provide an idea or help a person learn to open up their mind to ideas.  But if there was nothing special about the student, then what happened to the other 150 students that teacher had?  If the teacher gets the credit, then why were the others not successful as well?

This argument wears thinner and thinner with me as time goes on.  Our President is trying everything he can think of to stimulate the economy or blame it’s failure on someone, but none of it works because he doesn’t believe that business is the engine that runs the economy. And that engine is standing still because of the uncertainty. 

Let me ask you a question.  In your personal finances, what would you do?  If you have no idea what you are going to owe in taxes and you don’t know what your health insurance is going to cost, are you going to think twice about a major purchase?  Of course you are.  If you don’t, you run the risk of going bankrupt.  If you’re smart, you start putting some money aside, just in case.  Businesses have the same problem, only worse – they make their plans over several years because they tend to lose money during the early period of expansion – the expenses are higher than the income initially.  So a tax break for the next year is great for the short term, but it’s really no help because they still have long-term uncertainty.  No wonder they aren’t expanding and creating new jobs.  They are socking away their profits to make sure they survive if the worst happens.

There are those who think President Obama is purposely trying to create a financial crisis in America.  I don’t know, but it sure seems to me like he’s barking up the wrong tree on a regular basis.

 

The President’s speech

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/13/remarks-president-campaign-event-roanoke-virginia

 

About.com reference:

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/incometaxandtheirs/a/whopaysmost.htm

 

Why is Uncle Sam working so hard to promote Food Stamps?

I heard a radio spot the other day, trying to sell folks on what a great deal Food Stamps are.  There were two women talking about how great one of their friends was looking and hinted that she was eating right and it was (somehow) because she’s on Food Stamps.

Some times I think I have just lived too long. When I was a kid, you didn’t want anyone to know that you were on Food Stamps.  Rightly or wrongly, there was a stigma attached to you if you couldn’t fend for yourself.  If you were on Food Stamps, it was temporary and you got off them as soon as possible.

I’m sure I will hear back from someone that the reason for the radio spot is to make sure the poor know it is available.  I don’t buy that argument at all.  Rich folks talk, middle class folks talk, and poor folks talk. All people talk – everyone tells their friends about good deals that they know about.  Food Stamps have been around a very long time and if someone doesn’t know about them, it’s by choice.

Some have turned it into a racket.  One of my wife’s friends related a story from the local supermarket.  A woman purchased a bag of groceries with Food Stamps.  She went directly from the cashier to the service desk, where she returned all the groceries and received her refund in cash and left.  I know you all have heard similar stories.

I admit I’m somewhat of a novice where Food Stamps are concerned.  But I thought the purpose of them was to help someone get enough food to live on so they didn’t starve.  I’m hearing now that you can buy quite a few things with them that some consider to be…well…non-essential.

I think Food Stamps exist because there is a legitimate need.  I’m fine with that – the poor in America, especially the children, should not be permitted to go hungry. But why in the world are we promoting it on the radio like it’s the new cool thing to do?  I don’t buy that they’re just trying to get the word out.  Trust me, Uncle Sam – THE WORD IS OUT!

With all the budget problems we have: owning so much to China, too much deficit spending, employment trending down, etc – Why in the world would we actively be spending money to drum up more demand for a program everyone already knows about?  Why is our government actively selling this program so they can increase participation in the program?

There’s only one reason I can think of for this – a concerted and deliberate effort to make more people dependent on the government.  Now, why would we want to do that?

Saint Leo