Friday, November 28, 2008

A New Era in Iraq

To all the naysayers and opponents of the Iraq War, see Exbibit One: the Iraq's new democratic Parliament has approved, by a vote of 149 to 35, to what they refer to as "The Withdrawal Agreement", which sets a timetable of 3 years for the complete withdrawal of US troops in the country. Other American forces may remain for healthcare, economic, and education purposes after that point. But the remarkable thing about this document is the show of democracy at work in this country of sharply divided sects, whose animousity towards each other goes back thousands of years.

Here in our parochial American bubble, it is easy to protest vehemently about the war we have fought in Iraq, which toppled a dictator infamous for mass killings of his own people, and who defied UN Security resolutions for years. 4200 American troops have given their lives in the conflict, and while many believe they have died for naught, the reality is that history will tell a much different tale. History is objective, not emotional, and the actions taken in Iraq by the US and coalition troops will be a bright shining spot of which both Iraqis and American's will be proud. A conflict which built a democracy, set against the ancient timeline of this country's tumultuous history and sectarian rifts, will be seen as a new era. An era when the all of the people, and all of the sects, finally have an equal say in how they can live their lives. That, my friends, is something to celebrate this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Effects of Credit Gluttony

An interesting commentary on the free market system:

Published in the New York Post on November 26, 2008

The subprime mortgage crisis is only the Sarajevo which caused the financial collapse. The real reason is the massive explosion of debt at all levels and in all forms that has engulfed the world. Since 1992, the total of debt in the world has gone from a level equal to global GDP to a level that is now 3.7 times as much as global GDP. This debt explosion, explained in Charles Morris' book (no relation) The Trillion Dollar Meltdown, consists not only of mortgages, but bonds for corporations that can't repay them, credit cards for consumers who are neck deep in debt, car loans for drivers who can't meet the payments, student loans that are swamping young couples, and default insurance sold by companies that can't make good on their commitments. This massive debt has to be sweated out of our global economic system like a heroin addiction. But we won't have to go cold turkey. Governments around the world are committed to mitigating the pain. They are not about to ask us to go through the agony of another Great Depression. They have learned the lessons of the 30s. So government will ease our pain with stimulus packages and corporate bailouts to protect us and the companies that sustain our employment base. These bailouts and stimuli will not solve the problem. They are simply pain killers - methadone - designed to mitigate our suffering. It is only the private sector shakeout, "creative destruction" in the words of Joseph Shumpeter, that can eradicate the bad debt and bring the economy back to health. To fail to go through this process would put us in the same situation as Japan, which evaded a reckoning with its bad debt crisis and has suffered with twenty years of stagnation as a result. But to go through withdrawal, even with methadone, will be a long and painful process. Liberals -- demand siders -- and conservatives -- supply siders -- disagree on the remedies for the crisis. The demand siders feel that we need to stimulate demand by passing out checks and cutting middle class taxes. The right points out that this will only be a drop in the ocean of global demand and that much of the money will be used for debt reduction and to buy Chinese products. The supply siders plead for a cut in corporate taxes and capital gains levies. Critics say that the current lack of confidence in the economy inhibits investment no matter how much the tax code incentivizes it. Both solutions and both criticisms are correct. The proper medication - the right methadone - is a balance between the two. But, conceptually, what is happening is the end of the consensus around free market economics engendered by the fall of communism. The era of free market consensus lasted from 1989 through 2008. It is now over. Bush and Obama will leave us with a legacy of government regulation, at a minimum, and control, at the maximum, over the economy. When the Republican version of the bailout, calling for loans and insurance instead of outright grants of money to corporations, was rejected (thanks to John McCain), the fate of the free market era was sealed. With the bailout cash came the reasonable demand for "equity for the taxpayers" in return. Enter the government. Now the federal government is the major shareholder in most of our important financial and insurance companies and in many of our manufacturing corporations. Now we hear this leverage articulated in reasonable demands for limits on corporate executive bonuses and compensation. But soon it will metastasize into calls for a public voice in lending policies and government management and control. Obama and a top heavy Democratic Congress will accelerate this trend and there is nothing the Republican Party will be able to do about it. In the meantime, Obama will pass his entire radical agenda by dressing up the expansion of health insurance and his other schemes as part of a "stimulus package." Thus sanitized, the most massive pork barrel in history will be rubber stamped in a matter of days by the new Democratic Congress. Obama will be freed from the discipline of the balanced budget. With a bi-partisan consensus t hat deficits are vital in fighting the crisis (or mitigating the pain) there is no constraint on Obama and his party. The sky is the limit on spending. Indeed, spending is now a national duty. The inevitable result is massive inflation. And since the deficit spending will have been simply to reduce the pain of the depression and not to cure its cause, it will be a stagflation beyond anything we have ever known. A depressflation. Then the question will be: When will we realize that government controls are magnifying, not solving the problems that caused the depression? When will the patience of the public with Obama's remedies run out? When will we realize that the inflation the deficits are causing are more painful than the unemployment they are mitigating? Eventually all this will come to pass. Our guess is 2010. But maybe it won't be until 2012 or alter. In the meantime, the era of big government is back!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wolves at the Door

The numbers being thrown around by the Fed to bailout various entities is staggering. I'm not sure how many zeros are involved anymore; I simply can't keep up. Our current leader, Bush, tells us there will be more where that came from, while our future leader, Obama, is busily crafting another $500-$700 billion stimulus package which he plans to sign on Inauguration Day. While we are in the midst of a significant financial crisis, this country has been through it before, and has survived.

My concern is that Obama and his posse of Democrats in Congress see this as an opportunity. An opportunity to push through the biggest changes in our government since it's inception. They are licking their chops at the opportunity to drastically alter the landscape by using our fear and our panic. "Don't worry, we'll take care of it. We're really, really smart, and we know better than you. Don't you worry your pretty little heads about this." In times of deep stress, particularly when the situation is complicated, most people will hunker down and let their leaders do what they may. They put their faith in their leaders out of lack of confidence in themselves and their ability to effect change. To do that in the current environment would be a huge mistake, and create irrevocable damage to our country.

Step into the future for a minute. Hopefully, we've weathered the storm, a little bedraggled, but still here. What will our country look like in terms of it's economic principles? With the government owning stakes in banks, insurers, homeowner's mortgages, automakers, and God knows what else, along with a government run healthcare system, tighter government regulations, and a massive redistribution of income, what will we call ourselves? Certainly not capitalists. The principle of liberty, which our founders wrote in stone in our Constitution, will be thwarted, because without the individual ability to control our own destiny, we lose our freedom. We lose our freedom to pursue happiness through our own endeavors. Our nation will lose the very essence of what makes it great.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Snookered: $24,000 Per Man, Woman, and Child

Eye-Popping Numbers from Bloomberg today:

Fed Pledges Top $7.4 Trillion to Ease Frozen Credit (Update1)
By Mark Pittman and Bob Ivry

Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government is prepared to lend more than $7.4 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers, or half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, to rescue the financial system since the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.
The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $2.8 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the only plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.
When Congress approved the TARP on Oct. 3, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledged the need for transparency and oversight. Now, as regulators commit far more money while refusing to disclose loan recipients or reveal the collateral they are taking in return, some Congress members are calling for the Fed to be reined in.
“Whether it’s lending or spending, it’s tax dollars that are going out the window and we end up holding collateral we don’t know anything about,” said Congressman Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican who serves on the House Financial Services Committee. “The time has come that we consider what sort of limitations we should be placing on the Fed so that authority returns to elected officials as opposed to appointed ones.”
Too Big to Fail
Bloomberg News tabulated data from the Fed, Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and interviewed regulatory officials, economists and academic researchers to gauge the full extent of the government’s rescue effort.
The bailout includes a Fed program to buy as much as $2.4 trillion in short-term notes, called commercial paper, that companies use to pay bills, begun Oct. 27, and $1.4 trillion from the FDIC to guarantee bank-to-bank loans, started Oct. 14.
William Poole, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said the two programs are unlikely to lose money. The bigger risk comes from rescuing companies perceived as “too big to fail,” he said.
The government committed $29 billion to help engineer the takeover in March of Bear Stearns Cos. by New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. and $122.8 billion in addition to TARP allocations to bail out New York-based American International Group Inc., once the world’s largest insurer. Yesterday, Citigroup Inc. received $306 billion of government guarantees for troubled mortgages and toxic assets. The Treasury Department also will inject $20 billion into the bank after its stock fell 60 percent last week.
“No question there is some credit risk there,” Poole said.
Congressman Darrell Issa, a California Republican on the Financial Services Committee, said risk is lurking in the programs that Poole thinks are safe.
“The thing that people don’t understand is it’s not how likely that the exposure becomes a reality, but what if it does?” Issa said. “There’s no transparency to it so who’s to say they’re right?”
The worst financial crisis in two generations has erased $23 trillion, or 38 percent, of the value of the world’s companies and brought down three of the biggest Wall Street firms.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average through Friday is down 38 percent since the beginning of the year and 43 percent from its peak on Oct. 9, 2007. The S&P 500 fell 45 percent from the beginning of the year through Friday and 49 percent from its peak on Oct. 9, 2007. The Nikkei 225 Index has fallen 46 percent from the beginning of the year through Friday and 57 percent from its most recent peak of 18,261.98 on July 9, 2007. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is down 78 percent, to $53.31, on Friday from its peak of $247.92 on Oct. 31, 2007, and 75 percent this year.
Regulators hope the rescue will contain the damage and keep banks providing the credit that is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy.
Most of the spending programs are run out of the New York Fed, whose president, Timothy Geithner, is said to be President- elect Barack Obama’s choice to be Treasury Secretary.
The money that’s been pledged is equivalent to $24,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. It’s nine times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Congressional Budget Office figures. It could pay off more than half the country’s mortgages.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Bob Eisenbeis, chief monetary economist at Vineland, New Jersey-based Cumberland Advisors Inc. and an economist for the Atlanta Fed for 10 years until January. “The backlash has begun already. Congress is taking a lot of hits from their constituents because they got snookered on the TARP big time. There’s a lot of supposedly smart people who look to be totally incompetent and it’s all going to fall on the taxpayer.”
New Deal
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, when almost 10,000 banks failed and there was no mechanism to bolster them with cash, is the only rival to the government’s current response. The savings and loan bailout of the 1990s cost $209.5 billion in inflation-adjusted numbers, of which $173 billion came from taxpayers, according to a July 1996 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office.
The 1979 U.S. government bailout of Chrysler consisted of bond guarantees, adjusted for inflation, of $4.2 billion, according to a Heritage Foundation report.
The commitment of public money is appropriate to the peril, said Ethan Harris, co-head of U.S. economic research at Barclays Capital Inc. and a former economist at the New York Fed. U.S. financial firms have taken writedowns and losses of $666.1 billion since the beginning of 2007, according to Bloomberg data.
“This is the worst capital markets crisis in modern history,” Harris said. “So you have the biggest intervention in modern history.”
Federal Lawsuit
Bloomberg has requested details of Fed lending under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and filed a federal lawsuit against the central bank Nov. 7 seeking to force disclosure of borrower banks and their collateral.
Collateral is an asset pledged to a lender in the event a loan payment isn’t made.
“Some have asked us to reveal the names of the banks that are borrowing, how much they are borrowing, what collateral they are posting,” Bernanke said Nov. 18 to the House Financial Services Committee. “We think that’s counterproductive.”
The Fed should account for the collateral it takes in exchange for loans to banks, said Paul Kasriel, chief economist at Chicago-based Northern Trust Co. and a former research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
“There is a lack of transparency here and, given that the Fed is taking on a huge amount of credit risk now, it would seem to me as a taxpayer there should be more transparency,” Kasriel said.
$4.4 Trillion
Bernanke’s Fed is responsible for $4.4 trillion of pledges, or 60 percent of the total commitment of $7.4 trillion, based on data compiled by Bloomberg concerning U.S. bailout steps started a year ago.
“Too often the public is focused on the wrong piece of that number, the $700 billion that Congress approved,” said J.D. Foster, a former staff member of the Council of Economic Advisers who is now a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “The other areas are quite a bit larger.”
The Fed’s rescue attempts began last December with the creation of the Term Auction Facility to allow lending to dealers for collateral. After Bear Stearns’s collapse in March, the central bank started making direct loans to securities firms at the same discount rate it charges commercial banks, which take customer deposits.
In the three years before the crisis, such average weekly borrowing by banks was $48 million, according to the central bank. Last week it was $91.5 billion.
Lehman Failure
The failure of a second securities firm, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., in September, led to the creation of the Commercial Paper Funding Facility and the Money Market Investor Funding Facility, or MMIFF. The two programs, which have pledged $2.3 trillion, are designed to restore calm in the money markets, which deal in certificates of deposit, commercial paper and Treasury bills.
“Money markets seized up after Lehman failed,” said Neal Soss, chief economist at Credit Suisse Group in New York and a former aide to Fed chief Paul Volcker. “Lehman failing made a lot of subsequent actions necessary.”
The FDIC, chaired by Sheila Bair, is contributing 20 percent of total rescue commitments. The FDIC’s $1.4 trillion in guarantees will amount to a bank subsidy of as much as $54 billion over three years, or $18 billion a year, because borrowers will pay a lower interest rate than they would on the open market, according to Raghu Sundurum and Viral Acharya of New York University and the London Business School.
Bank Subsidy
Congress and the Treasury have ponied up $892 billion in TARP and other funding, or 12 percent.
The Federal Housing Administration, overseen by Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steven Preston, was given the authority to guarantee $300 billion of mortgages, or about 4 percent of the total commitment, with its Hope for Homeowners program, designed to keep distressed borrowers from foreclosure.
Most of the federal guarantees reduce interest rates on loans to banks and securities firms, which would create a subsidy of at least $6.6 billion annually for the financial industry, according to data compiled by Bloomberg comparing rates charged by the Fed against market interest currently paid by banks.
Not included in the calculation of pledged funds is an FDIC proposal to prevent foreclosures by guaranteeing modifications on $444 billion in mortgages at an expected cost of $24.4 billion to be paid from the TARP, according to FDIC spokesman David Barr. The Treasury Department hasn’t approved the program.
Bernanke and Paulson, former chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, have also promised as much as $200 billion to shore up nationalized mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The FDIC arranged for $139 billion in loan guarantees for General Electric Co.’s finance unit.
The tally doesn’t include money to General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. Obama has said he favors financial assistance to keep them from collapse.
Paulson told the House Financial Services Committee Nov. 18 that the $250 billion already allocated to banks through the TARP is an investment, not an expenditure.
“I think it would be extraordinarily unusual if the government did not get that money back and more,” Paulson said.
‘We Haircut It’
In his Nov. 18 testimony, Bernanke told the House Financial Services Committee that the central bank wouldn’t lose money.
“We take collateral, we haircut it, it is a short-term loan, it is very safe, we have never lost a penny in these various lending programs,” he said.
A haircut refers to the practice of lending less money than the collateral’s current market value.
Requiring the Fed to disclose loan recipients might set off panic, said David Tobin, principal of New York-based loan-sale consultants and investment bank Mission Capital Advisors LLC.
“If you mark to market today, the banking system is bankrupt,” Tobin said. “So what do you do? You try to keep it going as best you can.”
“Mark to market” means adjusting the value of an asset, such as a mortgage-backed security, to reflect current prices.
Some of the bailout assistance could come from tax breaks in the future. The Treasury Department changed the tax code on Sept. 30 to allow banks to expand the deductions on the losses banks they were buying, according to Robert Willens, a former Lehman Brothers tax and accounting analyst who teaches at Columbia University Business School in New York.
‘Wells Fargo Notice’
Wells Fargo & Co., which is buying Charlotte, North Carolina-based Wachovia Corp., will be able to deduct $22 billion, Willens said. Adding in other banks, the code change will cost $29 billion, he said.
“The rule is now popularly known among tax lawyers as the ‘Wells Fargo Notice,’” Willens said.
The regulation was changed to make it easier for healthy banks to buy troubled ones, said Treasury Department spokesman Andrew DeSouza.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said he was angry that banks used the money for acquisitions.
“The only purpose for this money is to lend,” said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. “It’s not for dividends, it’s not for purchases of new banks, it’s not for bonuses. There better be a showing of increased lending roughly in the amount of the capital infusions” or Congress may not approve the second half of the TARP money.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Barack's Brainiacs

In his recent column, New York Times writer, David Brooks writes "Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).
The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).
This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes."

Obamaniacs are euphoric over the Obama team's intellect factor. Lest they forget, it was a bunch of valedictorians on Wall Street who came up with the brilliant new financial markets of derivatives based upon mortgage backed securities which sent the economy into it's downward spiral. Intellect alone does not guarantee common sense or good policy making. From my persective, Obama's picks so far have been somewhat comforting, not based on their Ivy League pedigrees, but simply for the fact that they are not a group of left wing loons. While they are not conservative, each one is at least a bit more centrist in their views than their leader. (It will also be so entertaining to see Barry and Hil and Bill playing in the same sandbox!)

Obama's pick of Tim Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury sent a reassuring message to the markets on Friday, at a time when confidence is sorely needed. Since the election, the Dow had dropped 16% before rebounding with the leak of Geithner's name as the man who will hold the money bags. But the big elephant still stands in the room, hovering over the markets like a blanket of doom. If the economy is to recover, and not falter into a deep recession or even a depression, simply naming a team is not going to cut it. Neither will promising to invest billions of dollars into infrastructure improvements and green autos to create new jobs, as Obama mentioned in his weekly radio address. The government alone cannot jump start this jalopy. Obama must come out soon and say that he will NOT raise taxes on anyone in this economy. That message alone will pump up confidence, sooth the market jitters, and help get small businesses back on track to create the jobs Americans need. Come on, Obama, do the right thing. JUST SAY IT.

Update: Good news from the NYT- it seems he has said it!

November 23, 2008, 11:00 am — Updated: 11:08 am -->
Obama Considers Delaying Tax Increase
By Sharon Otterman
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is considering delaying his proposal to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in light of the economic downturn, two aides said on Sunday.
Bill Daley, an adviser to Obama and commerce secretary under former President Bill Clinton, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it “looks more likely than not” that President Obama will delay any tax increase until after 2010, when the Bush cuts for those making more than $250,000 are due to expire.

New Update: David Axelrod, Obama's chief campaign advisor, when interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News, waffled on the issue of whether Obama will let the Bush tax cuts simply expire in 2010, or raise taxes in 2009. So again, no certainty about this issue.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Life On Mars

Have you seen that new tv show in which the cop hits his head in a car accident and wakes up from a coma in 1973? He has no idea why or how he got there. I'm kind of feeling the same thing these days, as if I am living in some sort of alternate reality, in which everything I took for granted has been turned on its head. For instance:

1) I see Barney Frank on tv in his dandy striped suits lisping his socialist, "thank God I'm here to save the little guy" nonsense, and who is now saying that perhaps the automakers will need a $100 billion loan. Isn't this the same guy who refused to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and who "wanted to roll the dice with the housing market" some more? You know, the same subprime housing market which has sunk us into the worst financial crisis since the Depression? And this guy was promptly voted back into office by the geniuses in Massachusetts with 60% of the vote.
2) Bankers, Insurers, and Big Three Automakers are lining up to receive their share of the gazillions of dollars of taxpayer money because they took advantage of the system, and failed miserably. Some bankers have stated that they would give up their giant bonuses this year and (gasp) take only $600,000 in pay. AIG, the nation's big insurer, has taken our money and gone on executive spa retreats. And the Big 3 CEO's flew to the HILL to beg for money in their individual corporate jets at a mere cost of $20,000 per trip. That's Detroit to Washington, DC, a $300 round trip ticket on a commercial airline.
4) Homeowners who bought more house than they could afford, with no money down, and who are now defaulting on their mortgages, are clamoring for part of the $700 billion dollar bailout. Sure, give the delinquents a reduction on their principal owed (basically a free down payment on their house). After all, Christmas is coming and they need to buy a new flat screen tv for the family.
5) Blue states and municipalities with their overbloated budgets and union strangleholds are lining up for some moola too. Sure, let's pay for some more overlapping, unnecessary services and money draining contracts. Don't bother cutting back on spending. That would be a bit Grinch-like at this time of year.
6) Students are getting in on the act. Why not? Why should they actually have to pay for school? And homebuilders are asking for a $22,000 per home tax credit for homebuyers next year, as well as a government subsidized 2.99% mortgage rate. Golly, if I'd only known that, I'd have waited a year to buy my new fixer-upper.
7) Obama, the man who shouted "CHANGE" from the rooftops for his 22 month campaign, is filling his White House with a bunch of Clintonistas. Perhaps I'm actually living in 1992?
8) Pirates have emerged as a big international threat in the waters off of Somalia. Only instead of cannons and swords, they use AK47's and speed boats. I wonder if there will be a movie with Johnny Depp.
9)Iran's ready to build a nuke and Israel is standing on alert. Our good buddies in Russia, China, Cuba, and Venezuela are all playing nicey-nice with each other in our own backyard.

Meanwhile, those people who played by the rules, saved some money, and lived within their means have lost half of their investments over the past 2 months, are losing their jobs, and are living paycheck to paycheck.

Am I missing something here? Is this the United States of America, the country which prides itself on working hard for the chance to get ahead, self reliance, personal responsibility, and innovation? Why is failure being so eagerly rewarded by our government? Where the heck am I?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Heading for a Primary Care Train Wreck

From Reuters:

"Primary care doctors in the United States feel overworked and nearly half plan to either cut back on how many patients they see or quit medicine entirely, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
And 60 percent of 12,000 general practice physicians found they would not recommend medicine as a career.
"The whole thing has spun out of control. I plan to retire early even though I still love seeing patients. The process has just become too burdensome," the Physicians' Foundation, which conducted the survey, quoted one of the doctors as saying.
The survey adds to building evidence that not enough internal medicine or family practice doctors are trained or practicing in the United States, although there are plenty of specialist physicians.
The Physicians' Foundation, mailed surveys to 270,000 primary care doctors and 50,000 practicing specialists. The 12,000 answers are considered representative of doctors as a whole, the group said, with a margin of error of about 1 percent. It found that 78 percent of those who answered believe there is a shortage of primary care doctors.
More than 90 percent said the time they devote to non-clinical paperwork has increased in the last three years and 63 percent said this has caused them to spend less time with each patient.
Eleven percent said they plan to retire and 13 percent said they plan to seek a job that removes them from active patient care. Twenty percent said they will cut back on patients seen and 10 percent plan to move to part-time work. Seventy six percent of physicians said they are working at "full capacity" or "overextended and overworked". "

Why does this matter to you? Obama and the Democratic Congress will at some point address the issue of healthcare reform, and their plan is to provide insurance to 47 million new patients, including illegal immigrants. Most of these already get free care, although their primary care tends to come from the emergency room MD. Once these 47 million new patients are insured, they will get their primary care where the insured do- with a primary care doctor in their community. With PC's leaving the profession in droves, who is going to absorb all of these new patients?

There simply are not enough incentives for medical students to choose primary care as their profession. Most choose a specialty, which offers much greater pay (in many cases double or triple what primary care doctors make). Part of this choice is dictated by the enormous costs of medical education, which can leave a new doctor $250,000 in debt. That's a tough burden when you are 30 or more years old and are at the point where you might want to start a family and buy a house. Part of the choice to choose a specialty over primary care is that it is stressful, and requires one to keep up on a huge range of medical topics from infectious disease to cardiology. As the gatekeepers of medicine, they have to know enough about every disease in order to provide the correct care or triage to the appropriate specialist. Not an easy task. Over time, the burden and stress simply wears down even the most idealistic and enthusiastic doctors.

If Obama wants to reform healthcare, he'd better realize that electronic record keeping is not going to solve the problem of what is driving doctors from primary care. Because if he doesn't, we'll all be waiting in very, very long lines to see our doctors.

If Only Liberals Were As Smart

Today I have to go and paint the house we are renovating, so I'm posting a little Republican humor for the day (sent to me by my father- Happy Birthday, Dad! And brother, Johnny, too).

I was talking to a friend of mine's little girl, and she said she wanted to be President some day. Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, "If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?" She replied, "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people." "Wow - what a worthy goal!" I told her. "You don't have to wait until you're President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I'll pay you $50. Then, I'll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food or a new house." She thought that over for a few moments because she's only 6 years old. And while her Mom glared at me, the young child looked me straight in the eye and asked, "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?" And I said, "Welcome to the Republican Party.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thinkin' He's Lincoln

It is now so clear. It turns out that our President-elect, a tall, skinny guy from Illinois with great oratory skills and a cool, detached demeanor, thinks he's got a heck of a lot in common with Abraham Lincoln, another tall, skinny guy from Illinois with great oratory skills and a cool, detached demeanor. Both came from humble beginnings, and shared the sense that their position was one of destiny to unite a divided country. And clearly, one cannot miss the irony of the fact that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation set the course for Obama to eventually reach the pinnacle of government in a nation that once enslaved African Americans. I'm willing to bet that during the campaign when he was sarcastically referred to by the far right as the second coming of Jesus Christ, Obama thought, "No, you idiots, I'm not the Messiah, I'm the second coming of Lincoln! And I'm gonna finish what he started."

Aside from the superficial coincidences, does Obama really share similarities and philosophies with Lincoln? Healthwise, Lincoln suffered deeply from what was referred to at the time as "melancholia", and is now know as depression. Since Obama has refused to release his medical records, we do not know if he too suffers from depression, or any other condition, for that matter. And while Obama makes much ado of his belief in Lincoln's leadership skills, we know nothing of Obama's abilities in that regard, as he has never held an executive position. His intent to create a Team of Rivals in his cabinet and amongst his advisors looks more and more like a Team of His Rival's Husband's Old Buddies. Virtually everyone named thus far has a connection to the Clinton White House. Are they really rivals the likes of whom Lincoln choose for his cabinet?

Lincoln, lest we forget, was also a Republican, with very conservative philosophies regarding the notion of redistribution of income. He would never have gone for Obama's proposed tax plan. This is where Obama must believe he is finishing off what Lincoln started. Lincoln freed the slaves, and now Obama wants to pay the African American community back for those past injustices by spreading the wealth around. Since blacks have a lower median income than whites, a higher percentage of them would enjoy the benefits of such a plan. Take from the rich whites, the surrogates of slave owners of years past, and give to the poor blacks. Obama undoubtedly believes that this is for the good of the country, just as Lincoln strongly believed keeping the union whole and freeing the slaves was worth all of the blood shed during the Civil War. Of course, Lincoln repeatedly demonstrated honesty and good judgement, something which Obama clearly lacks based on his fringe element associations and the fact that he has repeatedly lied about these connections. Thankfully, Abe's good character led us through an extremely precarious time in our country's history. We now face another huge challenge. Will the character of Barack Obama be enough to get us through this difficult time?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Barackonomics Effect on the Markets

The Wall Street Journal featured an op-ed piece this week discussing the impact of the looming Obama presidency on investors. It states that "No President-elect in post-war history has been greeted with a more audible hiss from Wall Street". Indeed, since the election, the Dow has lost 1128 points, almost 12% of its value. Much of this is due to other factors, including dismal earnings reports from the corporate sector, but Obama's stated economic agenda has certainly contributed to pushing the markets lower.

Obama's plan, which he reiterated in his post election press conference, is to raise incomes on those making over $250K, as well as to raise corporate, capital gains, and dividends taxes. As the market reacts with a sell-off to lock in today's lower capital gains taxes, households see their nest eggs shrinking, and panic. The result is lower consumer spending, which is a significant factor in our economy. When businesses make no profits, they close or lay off workers, causing more angst and bad economic news which in turn effects the markets. It's like a Circle of Doom, spiralling ever downward.

Obama had a perfect opportunity to throw the markets a bone during his press conference. When specifically asked whether in this current economic climate he plans to raise taxes, he dodged the question and tapped danced back to his tried and true campaign rhetoric, saying that his plan was for an overall tax cut, and he still believes it is the best plan for the economy. He never answered the question. In some cases, uncertainty is worse than knowing, and this is especially true of the stock market and consumer spending. Uncertainty creates loss of confidence and fear for the future. Obama should have taken the opportunity to reassure markets by saying that he would hold off on any plans for raising taxes, which would effectively stimulate the economy by pricking the balloon of uncertainty which currently hovers over Wall Street.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


In the spirit of our 43rd President, I will occasionally create new words to reflect this brave new world we face. Or, should I say, this farcical new world we face. Today's word is "bamboozlization" or the act of bamboozling. This is exactly what the myriad banks, insurers, former credit card companies, mortgage companies, defaulting mortgage holders, and now manufacturers are doing in an attempt to swindle as much of our money into their coffers as possible. It's like the '49 Gold Rush, with wild eyed prospectors racing across the country to collect their piece of the pie. Except instead of the land being pillaged, it is the responsible American who gets up and goes to work to pay his taxes and his mortgage, and resisted living high on the hog in the heady years of easy credit for everyone, who is taking it on the chin. It is these people whose retirement savings, college funds, and home equity have taken a whalloping hit, from which they may never recover.

From the $700 billion bailout, thus far, 52 financial institutions have reportedly received preliminary or final approval for about $172 bn of the $250 bn available under the government’s capital-infusion program, according to Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, with another 23 companies that have submitted applications for an additional $4.6 bn. We've got the Big Three Automakers looking for another $25 million in addition to the $25 million in loans they just received, American Express looking for $3.5 billion, $150 million pumped into AIG (apparently to support executive spa retreats, but hey, it's been a tough year), and now Fannie Mae is looking for more moola. Home builders have proposed $268 in tax credits for homebuyers in 2009. As if that is not enough, the new mortgage rules instituted to help homeowners are geared specifically for those who have already defaulted, not for those people on the edge who are doing everything possible to pay their mortgages on time. Gee, I wonder what effect that will have? In this tough economic climate, do you suppose that a homeowner struggling to make payments might just think "I'll take a 3 month break from paying my mortgage, keep the cash for Christmas, and then let the government restructure my loan so it'll be easier to handle in the future"? Seems like a no brainer that this is the tact that many people will follow, thus resulting in a landslide of restructured, government assisted mortgages.

Face it folks, we were bamboozled by a corrupt Congress, Wall Street, Fannie and Freddie, ratings agencies, insurers, the SEC chairman, The Fed, and that was BEFORE the financial meltdown. We were bamboozled into handing over $700 billion pronto, or the country would implode. Now new bamboozlers are lining up in droves for handouts, because they know this is a free for all, that there is NO accountability for anyone's nefarious behavior (witness the re-election of all of the major Congressional bamboozlers who had their fingerprints all over the sub-prime mess which created this house of cards). We just stand there, mouths agape, wondering who is on our side. Nobody is on our side. We have to affect change ourselves, because the swindlers think we are sheep. It's time to revolt. It's time to get our "revolution" t-shirts and go to the Hill.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Let Them Fail

In a capitalist society, there are great risks and great rewards. America's capitalist nature is a result of the outlook and mindset of the people who live here: it's in the genes. People from all over the world chose to come here, usually at great peril to themselves and their families for the possibility of great opportunity. They left their more risk averse friends and relatives back in the homeland, bringing with them little else besides optimism, faith in their ability to succeed, and a propensity to throw the hail mary pass in hopes for a big return. This is what we are made of. We are a nation of doers, always striving, and with great expectations.

This expectations thing is part of what separates our overall outlook from our European friends. Most of Western Europe falls under the umbrella of a Social Democracy: nanny states with high taxes, and cradle to grave care for all. Under this system, the benefits to all citizens are more equalized, but innovation is suppressed. Large amounts of the countries' GDPs are spent on government programs, and people do not expect much upward mobility. Denmark recently topped the list of having the happiest people in the world. It turns out that their expectations are lower, so they do not face disappointment as readily as in the USA, where one often has to fail in order to succeed.

Most successful people, particularly business owners, will tell you that they have failed more often than they have succeeded. What sets them apart is their ability to get back in the saddle, put everything on the line, and try yet again to attain success. They learn from their failures, and consequently their innovative skills are honed, so each time they fail, they learn what to avoid and how to best move forward. This very American concept needs to be applied to the Big Three Automakers.

The Big 3 are clamoring on the Hill for more government funds from the $700 bailout bill, in addition to the $25 billion loans they just received. The bailout was specifically designed to buy up troubled assets and infuse capital into financial institutions to grease the credit market and get cash flowing. There was no part of the bill designed to assist any other industry or group.
The fact is, the Big 3 are losing money at breakneck pace due to lack of innovation, and lack of ability to control overbloated union benefits. The taxpayers should not support a bailout of an industry which does not learn from its mistakes. This would be tantamount to a handout to unions and inept politicians from Michigan. Indeed, there are upwards of 3 million people associated with the auto business in some way, but if the Big 3 were to fail, either big foreign automakers or other more innovative companies would move in to provide jobs for the unemployed. Nature abhors a vacuum, and this is especially true in a capitalist country. To an entrepreneur, a vacuum is an opportunity.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Tribute to Our Veterans

On this Veteran's Day, 2008, I would like to pay a special tribute to all the men and women who have served our country both here and abroad in the US Armed Forces. They have sacrificed more than the rest of us could ever imagine to protect our life and liberty, and we remain forever grateful to them for that. May God Bless them in this tumultuous time in our history, and May God Bless America.

To honor our Veterans, please click on this rendition of God Bless America by Martina McBride which will be sure to make even the most stoic among you a bit teary-eyed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Swansong of the American Entrepreneur

Just a little letter from a guy in Texas...

October 25, 2008

Mr. Obama,

Given the uproar about the simple question asked you by Joe the plumber, and the persecution that has been heaped on him because he dared to question you, I find myself motivated to say a few things to you myself. While Joe aspires to start a business someday, I already have started not one, but 4 businesses. But first, let me introduce myself. You can call me "Cory the well driller". I am a 54 year old high school graduate. I didn't go to college like you, I was too ready to go "conquer the world" when I finished high school. 25 years ago at age 29, I started my own water well drilling business at a time when the economy here in East Texas was in a tailspin from the crash of the early 80's oil boom. I didn't get any help from the government, nor did I look for any. I borrowed what I could from my sister, my uncle, and even the pawn shop and managed to scrape together a homemade drill rig and a few tools to do my first job. My businesses did not start as a result of privilege. They are the result of my personal drive, personal ambition, self discipline, self reliance, and a determination to treat my customers fairly.

From the very start my business provided one other (than myself) East Texan a full time job. I couldn't afford a backhoe the first few years (something every well drilling business had), so I and my helper had to dig the mud pits that are necessary for each and every job with hand shovels. I had to use my 10 year old, 1/2 ton pickup truck for my water tank truck (normally a job for at least a 2 ton truck). A year and a half after I started the business, I scraped together a 20% down payment to get a modest bank loan and bought a (28 year) old, worn out, slightly bigger drilling rig to allow me to drill the deeper water wells in my area. I spent the next few years drilling wells with the rig while simultaneously rebuilding it between jobs. Through these years I never knew from one month to the next if I would have any work or be able to pay the bills. I got behind on my income taxes one year, and spent the next two years paying that back (with penalty and interest) while keeping up with ongoing taxes. I got behind on my water well supply bill 2 different years (way behind the second time... $80,000.00), and spent over a year paying it back (each time) while continuing to pay for ongoing supplies C.O.D..

Of course, the personal stress endured through these experiences and years is hard to measure. I do have a stent in my heart now to memorialize it all. I spent the next 10 years developing the reputation for being the most competent and most honest water well driller in East Texas. 2 years along the way, I hired another full time employee for the drilling business so that we could provide full time water well pump service as well as the well drilling. Also, 3 years along the path, I bought a water well screen service machine from a friend, starting business # 2. 5 years later I made a business loan for $100,000.00 to build a new, higher production, computer controlled screen service machine. I had designed the machine myself, and it didn't work out for 3 years so I had to make the loan payments without the benefit of any added income from the new machine. No government program was there to help me with the payments, or to help me sleep at night as I lay awake wondering how I would solve my machine problems or pay my bills. Finally, after 3 years, I got the screen machine working properly, and that provided another full time job for an East Texan in the screen service business. 2 years after that, I made another business loan, this time for $250,000.00, to buy another used drilling rig and all the support equipment needed to run another, larger, drill rig. This provided another 2 full time jobs for East Texans. Again, I spent a couple of years not knowing if I had made a smart move, or a move that would bankrupt me. For the third time in 13 years, I had placed everything I owned on the line, risking everything, in order to build a business.

A couple of years into this, I came up with a bright idea for a new kind of mud pump, a fundamentally necessary pump used on water well drill rigs. I spent my entire life savings to date (just $30,000.00), building a prototype of the pump and took it to the national water well convention to show it off. Customers immediately started coming out of the woodworks to buy the pumps, but there was a problem. I had depleted my assets making the prototype, and nobody would make me a business loan to start production of the new pumps. With several deposits for pump orders in hand, and nowhere to go, I finally started applying for as many credit card as I could find and took cash withdrawals on these cards to the tune of over $150,000.00 (including modest loans from my dear sister and brother), to get this 3rd business going. Yes, once again, I had everything hanging over the line in an effort to start another business. I had never manufactured anything, and I had to design and bring into production a complex hydraulic machine from an untested prototype to a reliable production model (in six months). How many nights I lay awake wondering if I had just made the paramount mistake of my life I cannot tell you, but there were plenty. I managed to get the pumps into production, which immediately created another 2 full time jobs in East Texas. Some of the models in the first year suffered from quality issues due to the poor workmanship of one of my key suppliers, so I and an employee (another East Texan employed) had to drive across the country to repair customers' pumps, practically from coast to coast. I stood behind the product, and made payments to all the credit cards that had financed me (and my brother and sister). I spent the next 5 years improving and refining the product, building a reputation for the pump and the company, working to get the pump into drill rig manufacturers' product lines, and paying back credit cards. During all this time I continued to manage a growing water well business that was now operating 3 drill rig crews, and 2 well service crews. Also, the screen service business continued to grow. No government programs were there to help me, Mr. Obama, but that's ok, I didn't expect any, nor did I want any. I was too busy fighting to make success happen to sit around waiting for the government to help me. Now, we have been manufacturing the mud pumps for 7 years, my combined businesses employ 32 full time employees, and distribute $5,000,000.00 annually through the local economy. Now, just 4 months ago I borrowed $1,254,000.00, purchasing computer controlled machining equipment to start my 4th business, a production machine shop. The machine shop will serve the mud pump company so that we can better manufacture our pumps that are being shipped worldwide.

Of course, the machine shop will also do work for outside companies as well. This has already produced 2 more full time jobs, and 2 more should develop out of it in the next few months. This should work out, but if it doesn't it will be because you, and the other professional politicians like yourself, will have destroyed our countrys' (and the world) economy with your meddling with mortgage loan programs through your liberal manipulation and intimidation of loaning institutions to make sure that unqualified borrowers could get mortgages. You see, at the very time when I couldn't get a business loan to get my mud pumps into production, you were working with Acorn and the Community Reinvestment Act programs to make sure that unqualified borrowers could buy homes with no down payment, and even no credit or worse yet, bad credit. Even the infamous, liberal, Ninja loans (No Income, No Job or Assets). While these unqualified borrowers were enjoying unrealistically low interest rates, I was paying 22% to 24% interest on the credit cards that I had used to provide me the funds for the mud pump business that has created jobs for more East Texans. It's funny, because after 25 years of turning almost every dime of extra money back into my businesses to grow them, it has been only in the last two years that I have finally made enough money to be able to put a little away for retirement, and now the value of that has dropped 40% because of the policies you and your ilk have perpetrated on our country.

You see, Mr. Obama, I'm the guy you intend to raise taxes on. I'm the guy who has spent 25 years toiling and sweating, fretting and fighting, stressing and risking, to build a business and get ahead. I'm the guy who has been on the very edge of bankruptcy more than a dozen times over the last 25 years, and all the while creating more and more jobs for East Texans who didn't want to take a risk, and would not demand from themselves what I have demanded from myself. I'm the guy you characterize as "the Americans who can afford it the most" that you believe should be taxed more to provide income redistribution "to spread the wealth" to those who have never toiled, sweated, fretted, fought, stressed, or risked anything. You want to characterize me as someone who has enjoyed a life of privilege and who needs to pay a higher percentage of my income than those who have bought into your entitlement culture. I resent you, Mr. Obama, as I resent all who want to use class warfare as a tool to advance their political career. What's worse, each year more Americans buy into your liberal entitlement culture, and turn to the government for their hope of a better life instead of themselves. Liberals are succeeding through more than 40 years of collaborative effort between the predominant liberal media, and liberal indoctrination programs in the public school systems across our land.

What is so terribly sad about this is this? America was made great by people who embraced the one-time American culture of self reliance, self motivation, self determination, self discipline, personal betterment, hard work, risk taking. A culture built around the concept that success was in reach of every able bodied American who would strive for it. Each year that less Americans embrace that culture, we all descend together. We descend down the socialist path that has brought country after country ultimately to bitter and unremarkable states. If you and your liberal comrades in the media and school systems would spend half as much effort cultivating a culture of can-do across America as you do cultivating your entitlement culture, we could see Americans at large embracing the conviction that they can elevate themselves through personal betterment, personal achievement, and self reliance. You see, when people embrace such ideals, they act on them. When people act on such ideals, they succeed. All of America could find herself elevating instead of deteriorating.

But that would eliminate the need for liberal politicians, wouldn't it, Mr. Obama? The country would not need you if the country was convinced that problem solving was best left with individuals instead of the government. You and all your liberal comrades have got a vested interested in creating a dependent class in our country. It is the very business of liberals to create an ever expanding dependence on government. What's remarkable is that you, who have never produced a job in your life, are going to tax me to take more of my money and give it to people who wouldn't need my money if they would get off their entitlement mentality asses and apply themselves at work, demand more from themselves, and quit looking to liberal politicians to raise their station in life.

You see, I know because I've had them work for me before. Hundreds of them over these 25 years. People who simply will not show up to work on time. People who just will not work 5 days in a week, much less, 6 days. People always looking for a way to put less effort out. People who actually tell me that they would do more if I just would first pay them more. People who take off work to sit in government offices to apply to get free government handouts (gee, I wonder how things would have turned out for them if they had spent that time earning money and pleasing their employer?). You see, all of this comes from your entitlement mentality culture.

Oh, I know you will say I am uncompassionate. Sorry, Mr. Obama, wrong again. You see, I've seen what the average percentage of your income has been given to charities over the years of 2000 to 2004 (ignoring the years you started running for office - can you pronounce "politically motivated"), you averaged less than 1% annually. And your running mate, Joe Biden, averaged less than ð% of his annual income in charitable contributions over the last 10 years. Like so many liberals, the two of you want to give to the needy, just as long as it is someone else's money you are giving to them. I won't say what I have given to charities over the last 25 years, but the percentage is several times more than you and Joe Biden. combined (don't you just hate google?). Tell me again how you feel my pain.In short, Mr. Obama, your political philosophies represent everything that is wrong with our country. You represent the culture of government dependence instead of self reliance; Entitlement mentality instead of personal achievement; Penalization of the successful to reward the unmotivated; Political correctness instead of open mindedness and open debate. If you are successful, you may preside over the final transformation of America from being the greatest and most self-reliant culture on earth, to just another country of whiners and wimps, who sit around looking to the government to solve their problems. Like all of western Europe. All countries on the decline. All countries that, because of liberal socialistic mentalities, have a little less to offer mankind every year.

God help us...

Cory Miller
just an ordinary, extraordinary American, the way a lot of Americans used to be.

P.S. Yes, Mr. Obama, I am a real American...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Singing the Blue State Blues

According to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, twenty eight states and the District of Columbia face a budget deficit for the fiscal year 2008-2009. Twenty of these 29 voted for Barack Obama and are thus considered "blue" states (or in the case of DC, a district). California faces the biggest deficit ($16 billion), as well as the largest deficit per taxpayer ($740). My home state of RI is 4th on the list according to deficit per taxpayer at $550 per person, and also has the largest unemployment rate in the nation at 8.8%. So why would does Barack Obama's economic plans rely on the same failed policies employed by these "blue" states which are bleeding red ink?

Rhode Island has a long time Democrat run State General Assembly. In fact, after this year's elections, only 10 Republicans remain in the 113 seat legislature. The state is plagued by cronyism, strong unions, high personal and corporate taxes, entitlement programs which attract the non- working as well as illegal immigrants, and rampant political corruption. And yet the voters, in their ultimate wisdom, continue to reward the same self-destructive policies and politicians without fail. The Republican Governor is all but ham-strung by a legislature which works concertedly to thwart his every policy proposal to grow the state's economy and create a business friendly environment. Rhode Island recently made national headlines when Jack Welch held it up as a dismal place in which to do business. Unless there is change, this does not bode well for the state in the years to come.

Blue states such as California and New York are lining up to ask the federal government for bail-outs. In addition, the Big 3 automakers from Michigan (another blue state that is "in the red" and which has the 2nd highest unemployment rate) are asking the federal government for loans of $25 million to stay in business, despite the fact that they admit that they have not shown innovation and failed to control the strong unions which have squeezed them dry.

Obama and his advisors are currently prioritizing which policies to enact when he transitions to President. He stated at his first press conference that he believes the policies he campaigned on are still the best way to go. Is this the economic policy that is going to shape our entire country under Obama's plans: high corporate taxes, unimpeded unions, engorged and newly created entitlement programs, and innovation busting taxes on successful small business owners, combined with a Democratic supermajority? Throw in stringent carbon emissions caps which will increase energy costs for all, along with a protectionist trade policy and a picture emerges of a downturn of which even Rhode Island couldn't dream. Perhaps Li'l Rhody's economy will be held up as example as to what we can all expect to"enjoy" under our new President-elect's direction. The rest of you have no idea what you're in for.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Does Something Wicked This Way Come?

What is it about Obama that continues to gnaw at a huge number of people? His election as first African American President of the USA is, and should be, a source of pride for all Americans. It sends a message loud and clear to the rest of the world who harbor notions of our deep seated racism that it is they, who have never elected a minority to their highest office, who should look inward at their own collective feelings about minorities.

But there is something about this man, color aside, that deeply disturbs. It goes beyond his far left record in the Senate, and his radical, fringe element associations of the past 20 years. There is something elusive, and dare I say, creepy, about this person, Barack Obama.

Nobody seems to know the real Obama, not even his closest associates. While giving his convention speech, he surrounded himself, Zeus-like, with Greek columns. He stood alone on that giant stage in Grant Park, Chicago to give his victory speech on election night. No kids, no wife, no running mate to detract from all eyes upon HIM. Simply viewing him on TV, one can sense the arrogance, as if he transcends above us regular human beings.

Many politicians, perhaps most, have narcissistic tendencies. It is their desire for adulation that propels them onward. Obama, who is clearly a gifted politician and orator, seems to take this to the next level. It is all about Obama, all the time. This will make for interesting times in the years ahead, as he has never been in the position of actually having to make unpopular decisions and deal with the consequences. In the Senate, he voted Present for difficut bills. On other votes, he followed the party line, so as not to arouse the ire of his party leaders. This is a man who works the system to his own benefit and advancement. He clearly will not want to be ousted in four years. So how does he keep the wackier elements of the Democrat party happy, without irritating a centrist electorate who simply wanted change, any change, and who will turn on him should he prove to them that his brand of change is not what they thought they bought into?

Many charismatic leaders throughout history have demonstrated such self grandiosity. But a President of the United States of America should be most interested in serving the people, not in calculating how to most brightly make his own star shine. Perhaps someone should inform him that he is merely human, or he is destined to fail and bring us all down in his agonizing self-realization. I sure wouldn't want to be the one to tell him.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rebuilding the Ground Game

The Republican Party got smacked upside the head the other night. Part of the thrashing was well deserved, part of it was outside anyone's control, and part of it was manufactured by a concerted media effort. Whatever the causes, what's done is done, and it's now time to suck it up and get back in the saddle.

We've heard lots of conciliatory garbage from the politicians and taking heads alike. At the end, Obama campaigned on a centrist message. Nancy Pelosi is now playing the part of Queen of Bi-Partisanship. Conservative commentators are saying let's work together. Blah, blah, blah. What a bunch of hooey.

Obama's pick of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) as Chief of Staff sends a pretty clear message. I'm out to fight, I'm out to win. Emanuel grew up in the same dirty Chicago political machine as Obama, and is known to be extremely partisan and sharp elbowed. As for Pelosi, she wouldn't know how to cross the aisle if her daughter's life depended upon it. House congressional committees are right now meeting to discuss how to go about confiscating workers' 401K plans and IRA's to put into a government trust fund like Social Security. And the Fairness Doctrine, which would bar any dissenting talk radio media, could be enacted as soon as June 2009. So much for working together. Two days after the election, Obama and his thieves are already out to put forth the most liberal, government run agenda EVER in the history of the USA.

That leaves the Republicans in Congress, with their tiny bit of leverage, left to the gargantuan task of holding back this tsunami of liberal over-reaching. Democrats up for re-election in 2010 had better pay heed. Those who voted for Obama did not do so to endorse the take-over of the country by the government. They idealistically (and ignorantly) wanted change. And if the change that comes is not what they thought they bought, they will abandon Obama and the Democrats in droves.

We must pay attention to every move made by our new Dear Leader. We must ACT when we do not agree, and make our voices heard. We will not let them turn our country into a socialist, propagandized dictatorship on our watch. America, it is now Time to Revolt!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Perfect Storm

Barack Obama has made history and is now the first African-American President Elect of the United States of America. Swept up by the combined gales of massive campaign funds, a disgruntled electorate, and the financial crisis, while the media barred any headwinds in his path, he rode the winds unimpeded into the most powerful office in the world. His campaign was well run, and centrist, belying all that his actual record demonstrates. And in their anxiety, clinging to hope, a little more than half of the people in the land bought into his message. As a northerner, I see the results of this election as something akin to driving in a snow storm. When a car hits a patch of ice and slides, an inexperienced driver will instinctively turn the wheel forcefully in the opposite direction, overcompensating, which results in disaster when the car plunges off of the road or into a tree. A fearful electorate has similarly now lurched too far to the left, and we are all stuck with the potentially dire consequences of their actions.

So many questions remain unanswered about Obama, the man, and his campaign. With the Congress now comprised of even more Democrats, and the potential passing of the "Fairness Doctrine", which will effectively shut down all dissenting media, it is doubtful that answers will come soon. One hopes that future generations will bring the truth to light. But for now all we can do is wait and see how Obama governs. With the current state of affairs in the country and the world, he's got a tough row to hoe ahead of him. He will need the backing of all of the citizens of this great land. But he will have to earn it first.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Vote For McCain and Against All Congressional Incumbents

America is at a watershed moment, and the choice for President could not be more clear.

John McCain: An honorable war hero, who fights for what he believes in, has a long and strong bi-partisan record, who will guide us through these rocky times and grow our economy, while protecting us from all those who would do us and our allies harm.

Barack Obama: A neophyte with no record of bipartisanship in his short Senatorial career, whose mentors represent the very worst that America has to offer, and who, along with Pelosi and Reid, would turn this country into an inwardly focused, socialist nation, leaving our global enemies unchecked.

Congressional Races: As I stated in my first post on this blog: Vote out Every incumbent in Every race! That's the change we need.

And most of all, please just VOTE!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Do You Like the Money You Have Earned?

The tax argument has been discussed non-stop during this campaign. Let's just cut to the chase and show how taxes would effect you and your family, based on both Obama and McCain's proposals. See for yourself and make your decision.

For those among you who have more money than you will ever need, save your time and do not bother to read this post. For the rest of us who are still working with mortgages, children and grandchildren or retired living on a pension and or Social Security perhaps you will take a couple of minutes to read the proposed changes in the American tax system. Sharing this email with others can make a difference on November 4, 2008; for our citizens and our country.

This is something you should be aware of so you don't get blind-sided. This is really going to catch a lot of families off guard. It should make you worry.Proposed changes in taxes after 2008 General election:
MCCAIN 0% on home sales up to $500,000 per home (couples) McCain does not proposeany change in existing home sales income tax.
OBAMA 28% on profit from ALL home salesHow does this affect you? If you sell your home and make a profit, you willpay 28% of your gain on taxes. If you are heading toward retirement andwould like to down-size your home or move into a retirement community, 28%of the money you make from your home will go to taxes. This proposal willadversely affect the elderly who are counting on the income from their homesas part of their retirement income.
MCCAIN 15% (no change)
OBAMA 39.6 %How will this affect you? If you have any money invested in stock market,mutual funds, college funds, life insurance, retirement accounts, oranything that pays or reinvests dividends, you will now be paying nearly 40%of the money earned on taxes if Obama become president. The experts predictthat higher tax rates on dividends and capital gains would crash the stockmarket yet do absolutely nothing to cut the deficit.
MCCAIN (no changes)Single making 30K - tax $4,500Single making 50K - tax $12,500Single making 75K - tax $18,750Married making 60K- tax $9,000Married making 75K - tax $18,750Married making 125K - tax $31,250
OBAMA(Reversion to pre-Bush tax cuts)Single making 30K - tax $8,400Single making 50K - tax $14,000Single making 75K - tax $23,250Married making 60K - tax $16,800Married making 75K - tax $21,000Married making 125K - tax $38,750Under Obama your taxes will more than double! How does this affect you?

No explanation needed. This is pretty straight forward.
MCCAIN 0% (No change, Bush repealed this tax)
OBAMA Restore the inheritance taxHow does this affect you? Many families have lost businesses, farms andranches, and homes that have been in their families for generations becausethey could not afford the inheritance tax. Those willing their assets toloved ones will not only lose them to these taxes.

NEW TAXES BEING PROPOSED BY OBAMA* New government taxes proposed on homes that are more than 2400 square feet* New gasoline taxes (as if gas weren't high enough already)* New taxes on natural resources consumption (heating gas, water, electricity)* New taxes on retirement accounts and last but not least....* New taxes to pay for socialized medicine so we can receive the same levelof medical care as other third-world countries!!!

Thank You to Robert D. Jenkins, Vice President - Investments for this information

As a final note, ask yourself this question: When was the last time you got a good paying job from a poor person?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rocking the Vote

Those who do not take action against an unscrupulous adversary at a time of momentous importance shall never know if their apathy, and that of those like them, were the final nails in the coffin of this land of opportunity. Everyone can make a difference. Get up and do something today!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Lessons From The Past: Security Matters

While the economy eclipses all else as the banner topic of this election, and America looks inwardly at its growing financial pains, there are critical lessons from the past that we cannot afford to ignore. As comparisons are made between the current economy and that of the Great Depression, one should take note of what occured as a result of the government policy of the time to focus internally while ignoring international security issues.

During the Depression of the 1930's, America was not at war. While FDR worked to address the economic mess left by the Hoover administration, America's financial crisis spread outwards to Western Europe, resulting in a similar inward looking focus in those countries. This left the previously weak military powers of Japan and Germany to blossom and grow unchecked, which ultimately resulted in Hitler's rise and the the first invasion of US soil in 130 years by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.

In today's era of easy international travel, combined with the advent of biological and chemical weapons, dirty nuclear bombs, assymetrical warfare fought by Islamic terrorists, and the unstable and emerging nuclear powers of Pakistan and Iran, an inward focus would prove to be even more devastating than in the past. No longer is America as geographically protected as in the 1930's, when the vast expanses of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans served as a natural defense barrier. We cannot afford protectionist policies, and a decreased military presence. Despite our current economic pain, we cannot afford to focus inwardly, while allowing rogue nations to build their power unchecked. When Hitler invaded Western Europe and pushed the Brits back to England, America was there to bail them out and defeat the Nazi's, and subsequently end the war with the defeat of Japan. If such a global conflict were to arise today, and we needed someone to watch our back, who would be there to save us? That's correct. Nobody.