Free Corn, or “Where is John Galt?”

Saw this story on a blog.  True or not, the sentiment is genuine, so I thought I would pass it along.

A chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab the Prof noticed one young man (exchange student) who kept rubbing his back, and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist government In the midst of his story he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked, ‘Do you know how to catch wild pigs?’

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said this was no joke. ‘You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence.

They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. The pigs, who are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat, you slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd.

Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening to America. The government keeps pushing us toward socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare, medicine, drugs, etc. While we continually lose our freedoms – just a little at a time.

One should always remember: There is no such thing as a free lunch!

Think what you want about our economic mess, but when individuals, We The People, abdicate our personal responsibility to earn a living “by the sweat of [our] brow” in favor of having the government provide for us, the system cannot long survive.

Instead of asking “Who is John Galt?”, I find myself asking “Where is John Galt?”  Where is the man or woman who will stand up against this tide of complacency and, dare I say it, fascism?  One who will call a spade a spade, who will stand on principles regardless of how unpopular that makes them?  One who will extol the principles and virtues that made this country the greatest on Earth instead of castigating those same principles in favor of world opinion?

I pray for this country every night, but with each news headline I read, I feel my faith that this country can turn itself around slipping away.  “Where is John Galt?”

Published in: on January 21, 2009 at 12:25 am  Comments (6)  
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Out of Town for an Astronomy Conference

Sorry I haven’t posted. I am in a hotel in Long Beach, CA for the American Astronomical Society meeting. As soon as I get back, I have grand plans to make sure I post something every day. Stay tuned til later this week.

Published in: on January 6, 2009 at 8:34 am  Comments (2)  

Suggested Reading List

I am going to post a section on the right column of my blog for a suggested reading list. Check out the books there as I think they shed a lot of light on where our country came from, where it is now, and where it is headed.

Published in: on January 1, 2009 at 4:03 pm  Comments (1)  

The Long Overdue Post

OK, so I never did get back to my blog that night.  Life is getting crazier around here.

So much has happened since I last posted that I don’t even know where to begin.  I am just going to briefly hit the highlights (in no particular order) and wrap up with some humor.

1)  Today, Governor Soon-to-be-in-jail-ovitch of Illinois decided to appoint someone to fill Obama’s vacated Senate seat, despite the fact that the Illinois Secretary of State refuses to certify his appointee and the fact that the Senate Democrats have refused to seat anyone appointed by the governor.  He chose Roland Burris, the former state Attorney General.  In a not-so-surprising move, immediately after naming Burris, who is black, Congressman Bob Rush (D-Ill) stepped up to the podium to play the race card.  “I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer,” said Rush (emphasis added).  Rush said, “I don’t think that anyone, any U.S. senator who’s sitting  the Senate right now, wants to go on record to deny one African American from being seated in the U.S. Senate.”  Blagojevich claims he made the appointment because the legislature failed to enact legislation that would have allowed a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat; however, the seventeenth amendment to the Constitution states, in part, “When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”  In other words, the states are required to hold a special election – the governor is only empowered to appoint someone until the election can take place.

2)  The Republican National Committee accused George W. Bush of embracing socialism in his bailout efforts.  All I can say is that they are a day late (or months late, as the case may be) and a dollar short (or several trillion dollars short, to be more accurate).  Where was the RNC during the initial bailout vote?!?  Where were they when alarms were going off over Fanny and Freddie?!?  Where was their concern over being the party of smaller government and not nationalizing industries when they were supporting John McCain and his universal health care plan?!?  Hipocrites really tick me off!

3)  Israel finally had enough of the Hamas rocket attacks and began air strikes on military compounds and a tunnel network used to smuggle in weapons and militants into the Gaza Strip.  I keep hearing pro-Hamas people on TV and radio saying that Israel’s response should be “proportional” to the casualties caused by Hamas.  These bone-heads need to look up the word proportional.  One thing can be 3000 times as large as another and still be proportional; it simply depends on the proportionality constant.  You don’t win a war by killing one enemy combatant for every one of your soldiers they kill.  You win a war with an overwhelmingly superior military response that inspires, as George W. Bush put it, “shock and awe” in your enemies.  Also, I would like to point out that Hamas long claimed that they were fighting Israel because there were Jewish settlements in Gaza; those have all been removed.  This is nothing more than Hamas’s desire to inflict civilian casualties on Israeli citizens, so Israel is giving them a taste of their own medicine, just using a much larger spoon!

I was going to include a few more, but it is getting late.  Instead, I will wrap up with a bit of humor.  The Yale Book of Quotations recently released its list of the Top Ten Quotes of 2008.  However, some of these quotes are pathetic and do not rival some potential quotes that could have been used.  Therefore, I present to you my Top Ten Quotes of 2008:

  1. Joe Biden telling Chuck Graham, a parapelegic, to stand up.
  2. Barack Obama visiting imaginary states on the campaign trail.
  3. Biden needs to learn how to count.
  4. I’ll leave this one as it stands:  “It’s not based on any particular data point, we just wanted to choose a really large number.” — a Treasury Department spokeswoman explaining how the $700 billion number was chosen for the initial bailout, quoted on Sept. 23.
  5. Obama sees dead people (long clip, but he makes the statement in the first 15 seconds of the video).
  6. Again, this one is a keeper: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.” — the Treasury Department’s proposed Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, September 2008 (emphasis added).
  7. Biden rewriting history (FDR wasn’t president when the stock market crashed – Herbert Hoover was, and television hadn’t been invented yet).
  8. Obama promising skyrocketing energy prices under his energy plan.
  9. For me, number 9 is a tie, but since the original article had a three-way tie for number 10, I feel justified.  For me, it is a toss-up between Jesse Jackson’s statement concerning Obama talking down to blacks and Obama’s medical perscription for asthma (breathalyzers are used to test for alcohol consumption, and there is no such thing as an inhilator – he means inhaler).
  10. John McCain has a Freudian slip that is more revealing than he would like to admit.

In case I don’t post again before Thursday, let me wish you all a Happy New Year.  And yes, one of my Resolutions is to post more often on my blog!  Let’s see how well I do.

Published in: on December 31, 2008 at 1:18 am  Comments (2)  
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Holiday craziness in my life

Sorry I haven’t posted in so long. Life has gotten very busy in preparation for … dare I say it in this politically correct environment? … Christmas. There has been a lot of stories in the news that I want to point out to you, so I will try to put together an informative post this evening. In the mean time, have a Happy Rama-Hanu-Kwanz-Mas!

Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 2:40 pm  Comments (1)  

What Happened to “Change”?!?

So I was looking over a list of people President-elect Obama has been naming to cabinet positions, and one thing has really struck me – the names are all familiar.  Obama ran on a platform of change…promised the end of “politics as usual” in Washington…and yet, when the rubber meets the road, he brings to the White House the same faces we have seen in Washington for decades.  The mixture of ex-Clinton cabinet members and current and former legislators reeks of yet another broken promise.  A rundown of the cast of charachters follows:

  • Chief of Staff:  Congressman Rahm Emmanuel – While Emmanuel is often listed as a moderate Democrat, he is also known for extreme partisanship.  He has a quick temper and has cussed out minority members of Congress.  He is also an ex-Clinton staffer.  The only up-side I see to his appointment is that Al-Jazeera (the Arabic TV station) was concerned that because he is Jewish and his father was born in Jerusalem, he would be “too pro-Israel” for their liking (I read the piece on their English website this morning, but now when I search for it, it appears they have taken it down).
  • Attorney General:  Eric Holder – A Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration.  He supported the District of Columbia handgun ban during the 2008 Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller.  He was also instrumental in obtaining a last-minute pardon from outgoing President Bill Clinton for Marc Rich, who had been on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list for years for tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran while that country was holding Americans hostage.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services:  Former Senator Tom Daschle – Former Democratic Senate Majority and Minority Leader.  He was one of the most ardent supporters of Clinton’s failed universal health care system.  Served in Congress for 27 years.

Other potential cabinet picks:

  • Secretary of Homeland Security:  Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano – OK, finally someone not connected to Washington.  She has taken a tough stance against businesses that hire illegal aliens, signing a law that would strip them of their business licenses.  She also took her state from a $1 billion budget deficit to a $1 billion budget surplus without raising taxes.  Sounds like we could use a few more governors like her!

I could go on, but those are the more prominent picks being discussed so far.  So, out of five picks, only one is not a “politics-as-usual” Washington hack.  20%….yeah, that’s the kind of “change” we were hoping for…NOT!

I have to say, the hypocrisy of politicians from both parties really irks me!  A lot of people voted for Obama because he promised to change the way the government worked; instead he brings in a team that epitomizes the “old boys network” of Washington politics.  I am very disappointed.  But then again, the politician’s lips were moving, so I should have known he was lying.

Published in: on November 20, 2008 at 11:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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Obama to Abandon a Sound Idea

On page 42 of President-elect Obama’s Plan for Change, I found a piece that I actually agreed with.  This is his support for a PAYGO system (i.e., pay as you go).  The idea is that if Congress or the President wants to raise spending, say on Medicare for example, they must pay for that increase by either raising taxes sufficient to cover the cost or by cutting another program or agency, such as the Department of Education.  This way, the budget is supposed to be balanced.  I am all in favor of that, and would love to see it implemented.  After all, as Obama has pointed out, under President George W. Bush, the national debt has gone from $5,700,000,000,000 ($5.7 trillion) to $8,800,000,000,000 ($8.8 trillion).  And of course, that doesn’t even factor in the debt that isn’t listed in that particular set of government books nor does it include the $700 billion from the bail-out bill.  I know, everyone pick your jaws up off the floor; I actually agreed with Obama on something.  Before you sink too deeply into shock, don’t worry – he found a way to get around this particular plank in his plan.

Imagine my “surprise” when I saw the following Reuters headline: “Obama says aiding economy trumps budget deficit.”  Some quotes from the article from Obama:

The consensus is this, that we have to do whatever it takes to get this economy moving again, that we have to — we’re going to have to spend money now to stimulate the economy.

And (consensus is) that we shouldn’t worry about the deficit next year or even the year after; that short term, the most important thing is that we avoid a deepening recession.

I wonder if when he says “…do whatever it takes to get this economy moving again…”, he considers the possibility that what it might take is to get Washington politicians out of the way ?!?  Of course not.  To paraphrase the Bible, “The government giveth, and the government taketh away; blessed be the name of the government.”  And also, always be very afraid when politicians speak of “consensus.”  There is no such thing in most fields!  There isn’t consensus on whether humans cause global warming, there isn’t consensus on whether the federal government can do anything positive for the economy by throwing money at it, heck, there isn’t even consensus over whether Pluto should be classified as a planet!

Am I the only one that remembers the bail-out bill?  Treasury Secretary Paulson went before Congress and in essence told them he was out of tools to stabilize the housing crisis.  He begged, pleaded, and cajoled to get them to pass the bail-out bill without the normal debate.  Paulson’s original plan was only three pages long.  However, it was defeated in the House.  When the Senate ramrodded through a version of the proposal, it had swelled to over 450 pages in just three short days.  Paulson’s plan had been to buy distressed mortgages from banks.  The theory was that if the government bought them, they could do so at a discount, hold them to maturity, and then “turn a profit” when the loan was refinanced or paid off.  This would restore “liquidity” to the credit markets.

Does it surprise anyone that Secretary Paulson has not used one dime of the bailout maoney to purchase a single bad mortgage?  Instead, he decided, without any oversight (since Congress and the President have not moved to fill those roles), that he would buy shares in banks, thereby beginning the process of nationalizing our financial institutions.  Now there is talk of bailing out the “Big Three” automakers.

I had really hoped that the Obama administration was going to at least make an effort, however half-hearted, to balance the budget and end these government give-aways.  No such luck!  The PAYGO system is dead in the water for at least two years.  And with the way this presidential campaign played out, that will be just in time for Obama to trot it out again for the next campaign!

A friend sent me the following.  While fictional, it still has the ring of truth to it.

How a bailout plan works

Young Chuck, moved to Texas and bought a Donkey from a farmer for $100.00.
The farmer agreed to deliver the Donkey the next day. The next day he drove
up and said, ‘Sorry son, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.
Chuck replied, ‘Well, then just give me my money back.
The farmer said, ‘Can’t do that. I went and spent it already.
Chuck said, ‘Ok, then, just bring me the dead donkey.
The farmer asked, ‘What ya gonna do with him?
Chuck said, ‘I’m going to raffle him off.
The farmer said, You can’t raffle off a dead donkey!
Chuck said, ‘Sure I can, Watch me.. I just won’t tell anybody he’s dead.
A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked, ‘What happened with that dead donkey?
Chuck said, ‘I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars a piece and made a profit of $898.00.
The farmer said, ‘Didn’t anyone complain?
Chuck said, ‘Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back.
Chuck now works for the government as a top advisor on the bailout Plan!

Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 10:39 pm  Comments (5)  
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Obama’s Plan for the Economy (part 3)

Tonight, we look at the next phase of Obama’s plan for the economy.  This part deals with home ownership and the mortgage crisis that sparked the government’s bail-out efforts (I refuse to call it a “rescue plan”).  Without further ado, I give you…

Plan to Protect Home Ownership

  • Protect and Promote Home Ownership

There are two parts to this part of his plan.  I will lay out my comments on both parts, then summarize my views on them taken as a whole.

  • Create a universal mortgage credit.

OK, I have already (in previous posts) expressed my dislike for refundable tax credits.  However, of all the tax credits I have reviewed so far, this one bugs me the least.  I understand that one of the big “advantages” of purchasing a home vs. renting is being able to write off the interest paid.  I do love the language of this section, though.  Here are the parts that chap my hide:  “…most of whom earn under $50,000 per year…” and “…primarily wealthy Americans benefit [from the existing deduction]”.  Is he trying to define those who make $51,000 per year (and who itemize their deductions) as being “wealthy”?!?  OK, so overall, I am leaning towards this part of his plan being OK…until I look at the pricetag.  He estimates that this proposal would give 10 million Americans an average refund of $500.  Doing the math:  10,000,000 x $500 = $5,000,000,000 (five billion dollars).  OUCH!  And of course, that money will have to come from somewhere…now let me see, there is nothing in Obama’s plan about raising taxes, so…hmmm…where could it come from?  I also love how this part ends: “This tax cut will provide direct relief to many homeowners who are struggling to maintain their mortgage payments.”  OK, let’s get real here, is $500 over one year going to do diddly to help them make their mortgage payments?    Even if the homeowner were diligent enough to put that $500 in the back and only take out 1/12 each month, that would put less than $42 per month in his or her pockets.  Yeah, I am sure they are feeling so much better about making their mortgage payments now!

  • Close Bankruptcy Loophole for Mortgage Companies

OK, I admit it…I know nothing about bankruptcy laws.  I have been pretty poor my whole life, but I never seriously considered bankruptcy, so I never looked into it.  I will assume that Obama’s claims are accurate about multiple-home-owners being allowed to renegotiate their mortgages and single-home-owners not being allowed to.  Again, this seems to fall under my definition of unfair (see my last post).  I think people should be able to renegotiate bad mortgages in bankruptcy, especially if it is their primary residence.  I think it should be strictly monitored by the judge presiding over the bankruptcy hearings to insure the new mortgage is fair to both the homeowner and the lender.  The one thing I disagree with Obama on is his unwillingness to place any blame on the homeowners who signed bad loans: “…regardless of whether the loan was predatory or unfair.”  Did I miss something here?  Last time I checked, mortgage brokers did not bring a gun to the signing.  These people signed these STUPID “125% of value, no-money-down, no-need-to-prove-your-income, balloon-payment-due-after-4-years” loans of their own free will!  If the bankruptcy judge determines that there is no equitable solution for the lender (while still being as fair as possible to the borrower), then they should lose the home.  As cruel as this sounds, it does not come from a mean-spirited feeling.  The government (and yes, I mean government, not banks, although they played their part as well) took perfectly good renters and turned them into terrible homeowners.  I rent an apartment instead of buying a house for many reasons, but one of the biggest is because I know it would stretch my income to the limits.  If any little unforseen expense came up, I wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage.  I am not foolish enough to take one of these scam mortgages just to get into a house I really can’t afford.  But even if I did, I WOULDN’T COME CRYING TO THE GOVERNMENT TO BAIL ME OUT IF I COULDN’T MAKE THE PAYMENT!!!

<Taking a deep breath now to calm down…>

OK, my views on how well these two points meet their stated goal of protecting and promoting home ownership…They don’t (on either count).  The only home ownership they even attempt to protect are those filing bankruptcy…a little late to help out, if you know what I mean.  And promoting home ownership?  Among who?  The people that are really looking forward to their extra $42 per month in tax credits?!?  Give me a break!

Prevent Future Crises in the Housing Market

Again, he has two subpoints under this part.

  • Mandate accurate loan disclosure.

He suggests creating some akin to the APR (annual percentage rate) so home buyers have a better way to compare mortgages so they can get the best deal.  I think it is a good idea (don’t fall off your chairs…I am trying to be fair here, but it has been very hard wading through this much Marxism).  However, I do have one concern with his idea.  Just as there are people who will finance cars at 14% interest because they have bad credit, you will still have people who have no business buying a house (because of bad credit) who will sign stupid mortgages even if they were mandated to have a flashing neon sign on them that said “You are getting ripped off!”  To quote Forest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

  • Combat mortgage fraud and subprime loans.

Mortgage fraud is a pretty serious charge, carrying a penalty of up to 30 years in prison.  However, when I looked up mortgage fraud on Wikipedia, most of the examples involved the borrower commiting fraud against the lender, not the other way around.  As the Wiki article points out, “Mortgage fraud is not to be confused with predatory mortgage lending, which occurs when a consumer is mislead or deceived by agents of the lender.”  Obama sponsored the STOP FRAUD act back on Valentines Day 2006, but it never made it out of Committee.  In fact, his speech introducing the bill is the only mention of it in the Congressional Record (he really faught hard for it, didn’t he?).  In addition, it didn’t deal with subprime loans at all.  As best I can tell, mortgage fraud did not cause the housing crisis.  What did, you ask?  Well, let me shed a little light on the subject for you…

The problem (which, you will notice from the first article’s language, was not perceived as a problem) started under the Clinton administration (don’t worry, I am going to bash Bush too in a minute).  Clinton’s HUD had raised the “target” for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to having 47% of their assets in loans to people making below the median (middle) income, or in other words, to the people in the lower half of the income scale.  President Bush didn’t do a whole lot to help either.  In 2003, helping Latinos become homeowners was all the rage.  I love a section from that story:

Some Latinos who are self-employed or accustomed to paying for goods and services in cash do not have established lines of credit or documented income, both significant requirements for being considered qualified to buy a home, group officials said.

To help people with nontraditional financial histories, the program has enlisted lending institutions that will look at other means of assessing an individual’s credit history.

Washington Mutual, which is part of the housing initiative’s advisory committee, is one of the lenders that has implemented a loan program that takes into account bills for utilities and mobile or home telephones as an indication of an individual’s financial track record, said Peter Villegas, a vice president with the company.

What a great idea!  Take people with no credit history but who have a home phone, and lend them $250,000.  Can they repay it?  Who knows…they don’t have to prove their income either!  In 2004, the Bush administration pushed the targets even higher.  The article claims they were trying to slow the growth of Fannie and Freddie by making it tougher for them to buy more loans.  Doesn’t seem like it worked too well.  Finally, in 2005, the problems started to become apparant.  John McCain and other Republicans introduced a bill to try to reign in Fannie and Freddie, but it never made it to a full vote.  So how did the mortgage giants respond to the rising targets?  Did it slow down their growth?  Of course not.  They just found a way to keep on lending.  And that, boys and girls, is how we ended up in the mess we are in.

Published in: on November 14, 2008 at 12:16 am  Comments (4)  
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Obama’s Plan for the Economy (part 2)

In this section of his economic plan, Obama lays out his tax cuts for working families.  The first thing I want to point out is the irony of claiming that people who earn the most money somehow are not “working families.”  THEN WHAT THE HECK ARE THEY?!?!?  Anyway, on to his policies…

Plan to Provide Middle Class Americans Tax Relief

  • Provide a tax cut for working families.

OK, his plan in this section hits one of my pet peeves.  He claims his plan, “…will restore fairness to the tax code…”  OK, I am still trying to get the concept of “fair” explained to my four-year-old son, so I will take the same approach here.  If the same thing happens to everyone, that is fair.  If one person has something bad happen to them while another has something good happen to them, that is unfair.

Our current tax system is UNFAIR.  The top marginal tax rate is currently 35%.  The lowest tax rate is 10%.  Millions of people in the lowest couple of tax brackets end up paying no tax whatsoever, and because of refundable credits, they actually are paid money by the government.  By contrast, the typical American family has to work from January 1st until April 23rd just to pay Uncle Sam.  This is known as Tax Freedom Day.

A “progressive tax” like the income tax penalizes success; the more you make, the more they take.  While progressive taxes may be viewed as “fair” by those who want to redistribute wealth to those that have not earned it, it nevertheless falls under the definition of unfair I gave to my son.

The opposite of a progressive tax is a “regressive tax.”  A regressive tax taxes people more who have less.  Liberals love to claim that sales taxes on food are regressive.  Now, if you and I each go to the store and buy the same amount of groceries, we pay the same amount in sales tax.  How is this regressive, you ask?  Well, if I make half as much as you, then each dollar of sales tax I pay represents twice the percentage of my income as it does relative to your income.  However, the definition of regressive tax does not make any reference to percentages of income.  If there were any regressive taxes in the U.S., these would also fall under my definition of unfair, but to the best of my knowledge, there aren’t any.

In between progressive and regressive taxes are “proportional taxes.”  These taxes are a fixed percentage, like the sales tax example given above.  If a proportional income tax were implemented, everyone would pay the same percentage of their income as everyone else.  In my book, this is the only kind of tax that does not penalize success.  This tax is also the only one that fits my definition of fair.

All of that is a long way of getting to why I don’t think Obama’s “Make Work Pay” tax credit is “fair.”  By his own admission, it would only cut taxes for a portion of “working families” and would result in no taxes being paid by an additional 10 million people.

Remind me later to tell you the Halloween analogy.

  • Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

Now Obama wants to provide a $4,000 refundable tax credit for college tuition.  I have two main problems with this:

  1. Refundable credits are paid to people meeting the criteria even if they do not have to pay any taxes. This means that for low-income people, this turns into taking money away from successful, hard-working families and giving it to those that have not earned it.  There is no mention in his proposal as to whether the recipients would have to actually pass their classes nor a cap on how long they could go on receiving this credit.
  2. The government owns you.  The requirement is that each person receiving this credit “…will be required to conduct 100 hours of public service a year, either during the school year or over the summer months.”  OK, in my case (I am an independent PhD student), this means that I would do some form of community service over the summer, when (in theory) I am not in school.  However, if I were an 18 year old freshman still being claimed on my parents tax return, does this mean that my mom or dad would have to work an extra hundred hours in free labor to pay for my tax credit?  And don’t drunk-driving offenders often get less community service than that?
  • Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

My main beef with this is that they want to make it refundable, but have it only pay up to 50% of the first $3,000 of care expenses.  Why not leave it non-refundable, and make it cover 100% of the first $3,000?

  • Simplify Tax Filings for Middle Class Americans

In theory, I have no problem with this, except make it simpler for ALL Americans; I loved Steve Forbes’ idea of a flat tax with a postcard-sized tax form.  However, in practice, this sounds like a nightmare.  His suggestion is to have the IRS prepare your taxes for you.  They would send you pre-filled-out forms for you to sign and pay.  “Experts estimate that the Obama proposal will save Americans up to 200 million total hours of work and aggravation and up to $2 billion in tax preparer fees.”  OK, but how many extra staff will the IRS have to employ to make sure the forms are filled out, stuffed in envelopes, and mailed to us?  How much will all those stamps cost?  How many hours will they have to work to customize approximately 150 million tax forms?  How will we know they are accurate or filled out in the way that results in the lowest legal tax burden to us?  How much will all of those extra government salaries cost us?  I am betting more than $2 billion.

  • Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less than $50,000

Let the pandering begin!  Oh wait.  The wording on this one is confusing.  He claims that this plan will result in 7 million seniors not having to pay taxes.  But then, he states “…27 million American seniors will also not need to file an income tax return.”  Does this mean that 20 million seniors will owe taxes, but not have to file a return?  How would they know how much they owe?

Also, note that in his proposals, he has now estimated that 17-37 million more people will not be paying any taxes.  So who will be paying for all of these tax credits and new programs Obama is proposing?  Oh yeah, that is the part he left out of his tax plan: the tax increases on those already paying the most taxes!  The top 1% of income earners already pay 39.4% of the total tax bill, despite the fact that combined they only make 21.2% of the nation’s income.  In fact (if you care to pick one of the many numbers Obama threw out on the campaign trail), if he only raises the taxes of the top 5% of income earners (who currently pay nearly 60% of the taxes), he will have to raise those taxes significantly just to make up for all the tax cuts and credits he has proposed.

The Halloween Analogy

I know, you thought I forgot about this.  I wanted to save it til the end because it sums up my dislike for the “redistribution of wealth” aspect of Obama’s whole tax plan.

Imagine if you will that you are taking your kids (or grandkids) trick-or-treating on Halloween night.  As you approach a door, a teenager, who claims his costume is that of a teenager (i.e. no costume at all), approaches the same door.  As you wait for the homeowner to answer, you notice that the teenager doesn’t have any candy in his bag; by contrast, your kids have been at it for a couple of hours and have quite a bit of candy.  When the homeowner opens the door, he glances into everyones bag.  Without saying a word, he then reaches into your children’s bags, takes out 1/3 of their candy, and dumps it in the teenager’s bag.  He then smiles at you and tells you that your children could afford to give more to support those that don’t have enough.  Gut check time…how would you react?

This is precisely what the government is doing and what Obama plans to vastly expand.  I am not saying I don’t sympathize with the poor (heck, right now I am one of them), but this country was founded on equality: equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

I end with the creed of Dean Alfange:

I do not choose to be a common man.  It is my right to be uncommon.  I seek opportunity to develop whatever talents God gave me — not security.  I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.  I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed.

This is the spirit of American free-enterprise, and something our government should not seek to stifle.

Published in: on November 12, 2008 at 1:35 am  Comments (1)  
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Obama’s Plan for the Economy (part 1)

The first plank in President-Elect Obama’s plan for America is his policy on the economy.  This is hardly surprising given that this was the foremost concern of most Americans going into the election.  Let’s take a look at his plan as found on pages 7-15 of his Blueprint for Change.  I will adress each point in a separate post.

Emergency Economic Plan

  • He proposes to impose a “windfall profits” tax on America’s oil companies in order to give every American family $1,000 to pay for the rising cost of their bills.

While getting $1,000 sounds good, let’s think about this for a minute.  My bills (and I am guessing it is the same for most Americans) come in every month.  A one-time check from the government is unlikely to get spent on my recurring bills, and will not be put in savings to offset the “rising bills” that will come in over the next several months.  Think about the “Economic Stimulus Check” you may have received under the Bush administration…did you use it to pay bills or to buy something you wanted but hadn’t been able to afford?

Now lets look at the source of his funding for these checks, the “evil” oil companies.  I swear that the only industry in America more villified than the oil companies are the tobacco companies!  In this country of supposed capitalism, oil companies are allowed to spend money exploring for oil (a risky investment to begin with) only to be told that Congress will not allow them to actually extract the oil they do find (which would have allowed them to recoup the cost of the exploration).  In addition, Congress will not allow new refineries to be built in the US, which means that oil that is produced here must be shipped overseas to be refined into gasoline, then shipped back to the US for consumption.  All of this drives up the cost of producing a gallon of gas.

In a June 2008 interview with CNN, John Hofmeister, the President of Shell Oil (the American arm of Royal Dutch Shell), pointed out the following fact:

Look at our revenues and our income for the last quarter. If we had made $7.8 million on $114 million of revenue, nobody would call that excessive, because that’s 7½ percent. We made $7.8 billion profit on $114 billion revenue — same 7½ percent. So to me that is not an excessive number when banks and pharmaceuticals and IT companies earn a whole lot more.

I am so tired of the notion that because a company or an individual is successful they must be punished with confiscatory taxes.  If we assume that gas was at a national average of $3.50 per gallon during the June interview, and if we assume that the average state and federal taxes imposed on consumers for each gallon of gas is $0.47 per gallon, that means that while Shell made $7.8 billion during that quarter, the governments (federal and state) took in $15.3 billion just in sales taxes (nearly $6 billion of which went to the federal government)!  For its profit, Shell had to pump the oil out of the ground, refine it, transport it, and sell it.  What did the government do to earn its share of that money?  NOT A DARN THING!  And that figure doesn’t even begin to include the amount of corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, environmental fees, lease payments to the Department of the Interior for any federal land they may be drilling on, import/export tariffs, etc that they have to pay to various governmental agencies.  But now the government wants to confiscate even more from successful businesses.  Oh, and let’s not forget that Shell has an obligation to continue to turn a profit for its shareholders and the economy in general (remember when the automakers reported their losses last week?  The Dow dropped by 10%).  So what will they end up doing if the government takes a bigger bite out of their profits?  You guessed it — increase the price of gas for us consumers.  This ends up being just another one of those “rising bills” the Obama administration was trying to help us with.  Oh well, just another vicious cycle of the government creating a problem, then making it worse by trying to solve it.

  • Provide $50 billion to turn the economy around and prevent 1 million people from losing their jobs.

First of all, there are no sources for his statistic that 1 million people may lose their jobs.  Second, the jobs he seems to be talking about are government jobs which, last time I checked, are notoriously hard to lose or cut.  Third, he is talking about subsidizing health, education, and housing (which the federal government has no constitutional authority to fund in the first place) as well as transportation (which it does have the authority to fund under the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitution).  And finally, the United States has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $14.3 trillion, so how is $50 billion (only 0.3% of the GDP) going to “turn the economy around”?!?  President Bush couldn’t do it with a $700 billion bailout.  There is also no mention of where the $50 billion would come from to pay for these programs.

Published in: on November 10, 2008 at 2:20 pm  Comments (2)  
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