Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Public unions are out of control

A labor union, a collection of like-minded workers banded together to use their collective leverage to garner equitable wages and treatment makes a certain amount of sense in a labor intensive commercial enterprise. At one point in the history of America unions may have even been absolutely essential. Many of the benefits all "workers" take for granted today were brought about by men and women demanding a fair shake and we would be remiss in not recognizing these truths. However, once the world opened up for business beyond the U.S. borders private sector unions began disappearing at an incredible rate. They are not coming back.

Not to worry there are plenty of public sector unions...

It was President Kennedy, whom I'm told acquiesced against his better judgement to allow Federal workers to form unions. This is when the seeds of our current fiscal crisis were sown. Cities, counties and states  all over the fruited plain allowed unions to form inside their work forces and during the good times when economies and tax receipts rose year after year no one batted an eye.  Let the good times roll.

Getting a "government" job use to mean decent wages, though not great, but very good benefits and some measure of job security. When the economy began to change in the 1970's it was lower skilled manufacturing jobs in the private sector that disappeared and with them union membership. The industries that remained saw their unions lose power, wages stagnate and benefits cut. This was as much out of necessity as it was good old fashioned corporate greed - or they would see the industry leave entirely. In the meantime public sector unions became more powerful, demanding and receiving better pay and much, much better benefits. After all, the money was still rolling into state and local coffers.

While the paradigm shifted for everyone else the promises of excellent wages, wonderful pensions and marvelous medical insurance for public unions continued on unabated. The political machines responsible for them were rewarded time after time with generous campaign contributions and re-election.

So here we are today. The private sector has done away with unions for the most part - the worldwide labor situation dictated it and it became so. Now state, local and federal governments are broke and it has come like a monumental slap in the face just how much these outlandish contracts and promises are costing all of us. It is clear to everyone who is not in one of these privileged unions that it can't continue this way, it just can't. There is no more money.

Instead of going quietly along so that state and local governments can balance their books (they rely on tax receipts and can't print funny money like Uncle Sam) the unions have thrown a tantrum. The rest of us watch our measly 401k's tank as our PTO hours disappear on December 31st while learning our health care contribution and co-pays are going up again and look on incredulously at these babies who might have to pay a lousy $5 co-pay to visit the doctor's office.

These unions are bankrupting the country and they don't care. How many stories are we going to see of teachers and sanitation technicians and social workers retiring at 55 or 60 with 100,000+ pensions and full medical while the rest of us face working into our 70's to pay for them. Many paid nothing out of their wages for their own retirement. Just because they worked for a government employer instead of a private sector employer they somehow deserve and have the right to these generous retirement lifestyles.

We've learned recently that the Postal Service - which is a quasi governmental organization - is bankrupt. It has made extremely generous promises to it's union workforce and now that the paradigm has shifted they can't meet these obligations. The USPS's fate was sealed when Congress ordered them to fund a $5 billion pension obligation by the middle of next year. The Postal Service is going to have to lay off tens of thousands, close thousands of branch offices and lobby Congress to change the mandate from 6 days of door to door delivery to 5 days. The union will lose thousands of dues paying members, but those generous benefits will continue - and you and I (taxpayer) will end up with the bill, again.

Most of those who work or did work for a government employer worked hard and did necessary jobs that made our lives better, I'm certain of it. Still those of us in the private sector work hard too. What we do is important too - we help make lives better by creating and delivering products and services people need. Why are government employees deserving of worry-free retirements?

Plain and simple fact for you public unions - something's got to give.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Exceptional again?

Having reached the half century mark in 2011 I am starting to get the sense that I've been around the block a few times. Maybe this happens at a younger age for most people, but at last I feel like I have experience and some seasoning and maybe even a little wisdom. We start to see patterns and cycles in our culture and in our economics. These are things historians and professors thrive on. The rest of us come to see these things in the normal course of living our lives. We get to a point where we don't need to panic, and we can reassure younger folks that things will turn around. Up until the last few years I really thought that was true of this current "malaise" America finds itself in. Things will turn around, right?

If you read renown historian and thinker Victor Davis Hanson (and you should if you don't) you get the sense that history surely repeats itself and that the upside must be just around the corner. In a recent NationalReview.com piece Hanson covers the things that America does better than any other culture in the world. We are left with a sense of optimism, convinced an American revival is assured. But I wonder...

It's no secret that I don't care for President Obama at all. Anything the man has done that is good is so overwhelmingly shadowed by the sense of American decline he actively promotes. It is beyond me how anyone, anyone can support his agenda of decline and opt for four more years of it. Each aspect of Mr. Hanson's argument for new round of American exceptionalism as it were is being undermined by the Obama agenda.

1. American petroleum engineers over the last decade have discovered radical new methods of recovering previously unknown or unreachable reserves of oil and gas. Contrary to all conventional wisdom, America’s natural-gas and petroleum reserves just keep growing. Suddenly, we have enough known natural gas to supply 100 percent of our domestic needs for the next 90 years — (Hanson)

The Obama Administration and it's EPA have done everything to make it more difficult to utilize North American energy. The delay of the Keystone pipeline may be the most publicized, but the EPA's rulings on C02, mercury and the process of fracking for oil and gas are not conducive to a domestic energy strategy. Push back on new and expanding energy extraction and a policy of actively subsidizing loser alternative energy technologies is making the U.S. weaker. Every one can see the beauty of the vision of alternatives to oil and coal, but starving ourselves will only make getting to the promised land that much harder.

2. We are worried that China may soon deploy one aircraft carrier. Yet the United States now has eleven enormous carrier groups, each one more powerful than all the other aircraft carriers in the world combined. In areas as diverse as drone and space technology, counterinsurgency, battlefield experience, air power, armor, and ship design, the American military is the best-armed, best-trained, and most lethal armed force around — (Hanson)

The cuts in military spending - especially to our navel forces - will make our forces smaller than at anytime since before WWII. The readiness and abilities of American military will be significantly reduced at a time when China is building theirs up. Can any one honestly say that China will be a more preferable hegemon?

3. A billion adolescents worldwide are growing up with Apple iPhones, iPods, and iPads; with Facebook accounts, Amazon online ordering, Google searches, and Walmart discount purchasing. These are not Russian, French, Chinese, or Japanese companies, but American inventions that uniquely appeal to the human desire for economy, ease of use, wide choice, informality, and transparency. No other country could have invented them — or the next generation to come. The idea of a Chinese-invented Google is a paradox, a Russian Facebook a joke, a Japanese-inspired Walmart impossible. (Hanson)

Here Hanson is right - the ideas, the vision of American business and entrepreneurs is unique and always has been. However, the decline Obama promotes is going to make the brilliant people throughout the world less inclined to come to or stay in America to build their dreams. Many great ideas and products conceived in America have been perfected elsewhere and have benefited the workers of foreign nations. Simply because the poor primary education system and a post secondary system that promotes humanities and lawyers over science and engineering how long can we expect supremacy in the "ideas" arena. The Obama agenda is more and more Federal control over all education.

4. Race, tribe, and religion tear many countries apart, notably in the Middle East and the Balkans. Yet at the other extreme, racially uniform nations like Japan and China seem clumsy when dealing with even tiny minorities, since they define their citizens not just by national allegiance, language, and locale, but by the way they look. America alone –albeit often in rancorous and messy fashion — has no particular national ethnic or racial profile. Even in postmodern Europe, the idea of a Barack Obama as president of France, or a Condoleezza Rice as foreign minister of Germany, is the stuff of fantasy. We will see no prime minister of China or Russia who does not look like the majority of Chinese and Russians — much less a Colin Powell. Most of the world will continue to have some sort of practical or romantic claim on America because of the fact that anyone can be not just an American, but a very successful American. (Hanson)

So true, America is the melting pot. It is the only country in the world of any size that can claim this distinction. But the Obama, himself of mixed race, is far from a "uniter". He subtly promotes a Balkinization that undermines the uniqueness of the America experiment. He clearly courts Hispanics by demonizing anyone who demands the Federal  government secure the border with Mexico. His policies have only hurt Black Americans, further eroding any sense of a light at the end of the tunnel for millions of urban denizens. He has done nothing to take advantage of his unique position in history to heal the wounds of the sins of the past. In this his failure is epic.

To put it mildly Barack Obama is not proud of his country, and there is much to be proud of. There much to be ashamed of too, but the uniqueness of our system is that is it designed to allow us to correct the wrongs. Obama doesn't care about healing or bridging the gaps, he only seeks to divide and rub salt in the wounds until America itself cries "I give up". That is what Obama wants and it has nothing to do with being exceptional again.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Say it aint Joe...

If there ever was a modern day real life John Wayne the sheriff of Maricopa County Arizona is him. Joe Arpaio is the no nonsense lawman who has taken the political correctness out of law enforcement  - and now he has to pay the price.

The U.S. Justice Department released a scathing report saying that the sheriff and his staff have violated the human rights of illegal aliens, accusing Arpaio of violating the constitution. Arpaio has 30 days to respond or face Federal charges against him and members of his staff.

I think this could backfire on Obama's Justice Department. Sheriff Arpaio is perhaps the best known sheriff in the country precisely because of his no nonsense, common sense approach to the overwhelming invasion of illegals from Mexico into his jurisdiction. Furthermore the timing of this seems more than just a coincidence coming on the heals of the U.S. Supreme court agreeing to hear the Federal case against Arizona's immigration and border enforcement law.

Could this be designed as a distraction? The Justice Department is fiendishly fending off questions about the incredible scandal known as Fast and Furious. This is the scandal where the ATF (a law enforcement dept. under Justice) has been shown to have created a program to sell guns explicitly designed to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels for very specious purposes. In the aftermath those very same guns have been implicated in the death of thousands of Mexicans and at least one U.S. Border Patrol agent, namely Agent Brian Terry.

This scandal, which makes Watergate look like a game of paddy cake, is getting very little press attention. No one died at Watergate except the presidency of Richard Nixon. Here thousands are dead and the press has totally insulated Obama since the very beginning. You don't hear about this from  Morning Joe and Mika, nope. Not a word from Chrissy Mathews either. Tom Freidman isn't writing about in the Times and Brian Williams doesn't mention on the nightly news. But if it had been George Bush's Justice Department, well...

Back to Joe.

The good sheriff has had the ire of the progressives who long for open borders for quite some time, but the timing of this just ahead of the political season can be seen as another attempt to rally the president's Hispanic base.  To portray border security advocates as racist and anti-Latino is just another way to drive a wedge into his continuous campaign to Balkanize the United States. Obama and his lackeys have never been 'uniters'. They have no intention of bringing Americans together, theirs is always to divide and conquer. Those who stand up for law and order and enforcing the very laws the constitution requires the Federal government to act upon are somehow unlawful and have to be stopped. I don't know... Maybe America will rally behind Joe.

I'd bet that Sheriff Joe is more popular than President Obama.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Please God, not Newt

Is this the best the Republicans can do? Really?

Newt's a bright guy, no one is arguing that. Is he presidential material? In my opinion - no. Mitt Romney may not pass the smell test for conservative purity (but then neither does Newt). Mitt, however, is presidential, at least in look and manner. That counts for something. But Republicans can't seem embrace Mitt Romney. Honestly they can't seem to embrace anybody. Newt is literally the last man standing.

I find it hard to see the sense in replacing one self interested narcissist with another. 

I think it's pretty clear to those who oppose President Obama that he is a petulant little man. At one time he looked above the fray and quite polished. Now, just listen to the way he talks about those who criticize him... Unlike his predecessor his skin is as thin as crepe paper. To me he seems less presidential everyday. Still, with the press covering for Obama in every respect  -  personality and otherwise  - his failings are being suppressed. This would not be the same for Newt, and his effectiveness would be severely hampered. Mitt on the other hand is squeaky clean.

I think the Obamanauts are salivating over the prospect of Newt being the nominee. I think they worry about the middle of the road voter being disappointed enough in Obama's first term that they might look to Mitt. 

Mitt is not my ideal Presidential candidate, but Newt is my nightmare candidate. Of all of them he is one I wanted the least - I'd take Ron Paul over him, well, OK that may be going too far. Only Michelle Bachmann, whom I love on paper, is more open to slaughter than Newt is. Michelle, God love her, says really stupid things that betray her goodness. Newt does stupid things that betray his so-called genius. It's not his policies, or his smarts that worry me, in fact I agree with him most of the time. I just don't think he's electable in the general. Beating Obama is more important than purity.  It's that simple.

Please think twice about supporting Newt in the primaries and caucuses. Beating Obama trumps conservative purity. Plus someone like Rep. Paul Ryan, as impressive as he is in my eyes, may be too conservative in the eyes of the squishy middle where presidential campaigns are won and lost. If Newt does  win the nomination I will vote for him in the general enthusiastically - here's hoping it doesn't come to that.


Friday, December 09, 2011

The The World Looks a Little Brighter Today - Thanks Barney

It hasn't been since I heard that Yassir Arafat was proclaimed dead that I was so buoyed by a news story. I mean it was a great day for all the world when Yassir Arafat assumed room temperature. This news is a little more specific to the United States, but it's no less a ray of sunshine in what's been a terribly dark couple of years. The news that Barney Frank is retiring from Congress should set all American hearts alight.

Frank is one of the nastiest, most dangerous men in Washington. Dangerous? What do you call it when one of the men most responsible for destroying the mortgage lending market is put in charge of writing the new law to "clean-up" the very system he helped destroy. I call it dangerous!

The mortgage market meltdown has had worldwide implications. The damage caused by Frank and his co-conspirators is responsible for economic hardship on everyone but the super rich. This is not merely middle class folks missing out on a Mexican vacation, this is people losing their jobs and their homes. Frank can say what he wants about President Bush's role in all of this, but he is a liar. There has been deliberate obscuring of the government's role in the subprime crisis. Content to allow the public to believe all the blame belongs to Wallstreet and the "banks", Frank and his partner in crime Chris Dodd - also retiring - walk away millionaires while Rome burns. The passage of the Dodd/Frank bill regulating the banks into the ground will ensure a legacy that lingers (and I mean that in the worse possible "scents") long after they are gone. 

This video is so indicative of Barney Frank's arrogance and willful deception... 

As for the reason Frank is retiring - who cares? In all actuality it's the 2010 census gerrymandering that is the primary reason, he stands a real chance of losing this go round. I would have loved to have seen that.

After sixteen terms, that's 32 years in Congress, Frank will leave a wealthy man. He's just another in a long line of Washington elites that cashed in on his position. He was the benefactor of campaign contributions from the very GSE institutions he vociferously defended right to the point of collapse.

As Doc Zero (John Hayward) says: "Today the man whose personal ambitions and blind ideology wreaked havoc upon the American financial system said he has “no regrets,” and you can be damn sure the media won’t force him to find any.  The absence of regret is one of the things that makes Big Government so dangerous."

 Goodbye Barney - can't say I'm gonna miss 'ya. I'll be too busy trying to elect people who will try to undo the damage you have done.