Saturday, February 28, 2009

Obama’s Iraq and Afghanistan War

I am reassured by President Obama’s announced policy on Iraq and Afghanistan. I have no way of knowing weather we ought to get out or Iraq in 16 months or 19 months or 23 months. I have no way of knowing the size of the ideal residual force to leave behind. Nevertheless, based on what I think I know, I find Obama’s policy on both Iraq and Afghanistan reasonable and reassuring.

I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq from the very first. I always thought it was a rush to war that could have been avoided. The fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction seems to validate that the war was unnecessary. The attempt to tie Iraq to the 9-11 attack on America was deceptive. It certainly appears, as has been alleged, that George W. Bush was determined to invade Iraq from the time he was first elected and nothing was going to deter him from that decision. While I was opposed to going to war in Iraq, it also seemed to me that we were withdrawing from Afghanistan before the job was finished.

Despite being opposed to the initial invasion of Iraq, I did not think we could just pull out once we were in. Our invasion created chaos and instability and a withdrawal without creating a measure of stability could have led to a bloodbath, an expanded regional war involving several nations, and a strengthened Iran. Thankfully the surge, which Obama opposed, was a success and made a responsible withdrawal possible.

Obama’s current policy on Iraq is essentially a continuation of the Bush policy. Under the Status of Forces agreement Bush negotiated with the Iraqi government, all US troops will be out of Iraq by 2012. If McCain had been elected we would not have waited until the last minute to withdraw all of our troops, so a staged withdrawal under McCain would probably not look much different than what we are getting under Obama. Leaving up to 50,000 troops behind is not a complete withdrawal anyway. 50,000 troops is a still a lot of troops.

On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly promised a withdrawal within 16 months and did not mention that that withdrawal excluded 50,000 troops. I am pleased that he is acting responsibly when it comes to national security and not honoring an irresponsible campaign promise. Despite Obama’s campaign pledge, he never was the most anti-war of the Democrats. He was much less pacifist than either Dennis Kucinich or Bill Richardson, who tried to outdo each other in their pledge to quickly exit Iraq. For those who voted for Obama, they had other choices if an immediate withdrawal form Iraq was their primary concern.

As soon as Obama had the Democratic nomination secured, he started moderating his campaign pledge of a quick withdrawal and started talking about acting in consultation with the commanders in the field and evaluating the situation in Iraq. As the candidate of the Party, he sounded more reasonable than as a candidate for the nomination. Now, as President, on national security matters he sounds not that much different from his opponent John McCain.

I fear that Afghanistan may prove a difficult war that drags on for a very long time. Nevertheless, I think we are doing the right thing. I hope we have benchmarks for achieving progress in Afghanistan and I hope we have clear objectives. I hope we have an exit strategy. I hope we have a good estimate of the cost of this war and do not have unrealistic expectation. I wish Obama would present a more detailed plan for Afghanistan and hopefully he will.

I suspect that if McCain was President and had announced he would leave a residual force of 50000 troops in Iraq and was sending more troops to Afghanistan that the anti-war crowd would be in the streets in massive numbers. Obama has such strong support among the electorate that hopefully the anti-war crowd will not gain traction and derail his announced policy on Iraq and Afghanistan. Hopefully the anti-war crowd has been marginalized and most of those who would normally be in that camp have been co-opted by Obama.

Today the cult of Obama is so strong and he has so much political capital that he can lead the American people anywhere he wants to take them. When flag-draped coffins start coming back from the war in Afghanistan however, I wonder how long the anti-war left will stay in his camp. I suspect that if things do not go well in Afghanistan that many of those who celebrated his victory will turn against him. I hope Obama has the strength of character to put America’s national security interest first even when the going gets tough and people are no longer cheering but are booing.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The housing crisis: I saw it coming.

To tell you the truth, two years ago I didn’t know the difference between a credit default swap and a collateralized debt instrument, but I knew a housing crisis was brewing. I did not know how widespread it would be or the impact it would have on the rest of the economy, but I knew something was terribly wrong.

I have been Director of Housing Services for a non-profit housing counseling agency for the last sixteen years. For most of this time our primary housing service has been providing prior-to-purchase, housing counseling. We provide two types. We offer single session, eight-hour housing workshops, which we call “Fast-track." We also offer in-depth, long-term counseling, which we call “Homebuyers Club.”

Fast Track is for people who are already eligible for a home mortgage. People are often motivated to take the class because it is required in order to be eligible for certain down-payment assistance programs or preferential interest rate programs. In an eight hour class the client learns all they need to know about working with a realtor; getting a good mortgage; protecting their investment; purchasing homeowners insurance; getting a home inspection; down payment assistance programs; and closing on their home.

Our Homebuyers Cub program is quite different. It is for people who have serious obstacles to homeownership. While clients learn the same things as participants in the Fast Track, the focus is on getting people ready to get a mortgage. Most of the clients in our Homebuyers Club are single mothers. Most are African American. Most are low income. Clients attend class for an hour and a half, once a month, for a year. Many clients are still not ready after a year and they re-enroll and stay in class. For many of our clients it takes two or three years before they are ready to purchase a home.

In a Homebuyers Club, we not only teach the mechanics of home buying but, more importantly, we change people’s values and habits. We teach the virtue of delayed gratification. We teach people how to clean up their credit and improve their credit score. We encourage people to get a checking account and to stop using check-cashing services. We teach money management skills and encourage savings.

Many times, after being in a Homebuyers Club for a while a Club member may decide that, rather than pursuing homeownership at this time, they are better off getting their GED or skills or training that will enhance their potential to earn more money, and then at a later time try to become homeowners. Many participants in our Homebuyers Club never buy a house while in our program but make other positive changes that will improve their lives. While the primary measure of success in this program is the number of people who actually become homeowners, the number of people who improve their lives, yet do not become homeowners, is a greater number. I have always felt like we helped a lot more people than simply the number of people who became homeowners. Since the start of our Homebuyers Club we have had over 735 people become homeowners. Unfortunately, not many of these successes occurred in the past three years.

At one time we had sixteen Homebuyers Clubs and average attendance in each club was about twelve. Now we have four clubs and attendance is only about six per club. About three to four years ago attendance started dropping in our clubs, and when we offered new clubs we had few takers.

Managing a Homebuyers Club requires providing a lot of encouragement to participants. Clients can easily get discouraged. Prior to a meeting, clients get a reminder call and a reminder post card. If a client misses a couple meetings, we try to reach them to find out why they have not been attending.

It was about three years ago that I noticed a disturbing trend. I would call a client and the conversation would go like this: “I noticed you missed the last couple of Homebuyers Club meetings and I just wanted to see what was going on.”

“Mr. Rod,” the client would say excitedly, “I have good news. I bought a house.”

I would immediately have a sinking feeling in my stomach. I knew the client was not mortgage-ready. “Great!” I would say. “Tell me about it.”

The client would start describing her new home. Then I would say, “Tell me about the financing. What kind of loan did you get?”

More often than not, the client did not know. I would ask the client to bring in her mortgage papers for review. What I would find is that our clients were getting terrible loans. They would buy their homes with no money down. They often were getting 80/20 loans with the 80% loan a hybrid adjustable, with a low teaser rate fixed for three years and then adjusting every six months thereafter. These loans had high margins and payments that would adjust steeply after the end of the fixed period. The 20% loan was often fixed but with very high interest rates of 12% to 22%.

Most often the clients had no idea what they had gotten themselves into. If they would have just stuck with our program, they could have gotten a FHA fixed loan but they did not. The temptation to do it the easy way was just too great. Also, the clients were often misled and told they could refinance before the loan reset. They were told this as if it was almost automatic. They were not told that they would have to meet income and debt and credit standards in order to refinance their loan. It was presented as something they could do almost automatically.

After a while the problem was not that our clients were dropping out of our program and getting bad loans, they were never enrolling in the first place. They no longer needed us and the discipline our program required. With “creative financing” they could buy a house without saving any money or changing their habits. They could get a loan without becoming responsible. Income and credit were not necessary. Knowing the clients I was serving, I was shocked that anyone would give these clients a loan in their current circumstances.

I saw this crisis coming. It was like watching a train on a collision course; I knew without a doubt that many of these clients were going to default.

I still believe in the goal of helping poor people become homeowners. If done the right way it permanently helps people escape terrible environments. It causes people to be more responsible. It builds wealth. It lifts people out of poverty for generations to come. It changes lives. Helping low-income people climb out of poverty is good for society and is the right thing to do.

If done the right way, low-income people can be given assistance to help them become responsible homeowners and it does not have to lead to foreclosures. Handing out mortgages to undeserving people, however, who have not leaned new skills, behaviors, and values can be detrimental to society and it betrays poor people in the process.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Crisis of Credit Visualized

by Jonathan Jarvis

Comment

This animation does good job of illustrating the role of CDOs, credit default swaps and leverage in causing the current economic crisis. I find that many on the right want to blame the crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act and the push to expand homeownership and those on the left want to blame deregulation. The problem is more complex than either simple answer. This animation helps explain the complexity of what led to the current crisis.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Huge payout for UT president would be a disgrace

by Gail Kerr, The Tennessean, Feb. 22, 2009

Recent presidents of the University of Tennessee have not been very good to our state. But the state sure has been good to them.

The last three presidents have all resigned under fire. The most recent is UT President John Petersen, who unexpectedly announced he was quitting last week. Even though he did not have a contract, he is eligible to receive 16 months of pay for doing nothing. That amounts to more than half a million dollars, to hang out at home. (link)

Comment

This is a great editorial from Gail Kerr. She details the history of our pevious UT presidents who also were fired or forced out and how they also got golden parachutes.

As Gail says, "Giving John Petersen almost 16 months of pay to do nothing is shameful. It is an insult to every hard-working Tennessee taxpayer who is struggling to make ends meet right now."

Gail: Congratulation on this article. Please do not let this issue die. Hold the feet of the UT trustees to the fire. Call for their resignation. Make the candidates for Govenor take a stand on this issue.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

If you find it hard to achieve and maintain growth, maybe Stimulis is right for you.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

UT Board votes $1/2 million for President they forced to resign

The headline in this morning's Tennessean announced “Embattled UT president resigns.” According to the report, University of Tennessee John Petersen announced his resignation as the UT Board of Trustees was preparing to complete an unfavorable five year review. With Petersen announcing his resignation a Board spokesman said there was no need to continue the review.

According the Tennessean, “He will continue on paid administrative leave for four months, through June 30, and then receive a $410,177 severance on top of that, equal to one-year salary.”

What? The man does a lousy job. He is going to get an unsatisfactory review and yet they are going to give him a half million dollars severance package! Not only was his salary $401, 177, he lived in University provided housing and had an expense account, a car, and other perks. Maybe that is what it takes to get a university president. I am not going to second guess the pay package. But, I do question giving the man a bonus as you kick him out the door.

With UT facing a $90 million budget short fall this year I do not see how they can justify giving this man who did a poor job a half million dollar going away present. He was not even under contract, his contract having expired last June. In defending the severance package UT Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Jim Murphy said the package was in line with typical deals for departing presidents. If it is in line with typical deals, then we should not be typical

Maybe ½ million dollars could have made tuition increases less. Maybe with an extra half million some classes that will not be offered could be offered. Maybe half a million dollars would fund a few scholarships. I don’t know what a half million dollars would have meant to the University but with a $90 budget shortfall, I am sure the money could have been put to good use.

Board members are appointed by the Governor, who also serves as chair of the Board of Trustees. Governor Bredesen should be ashamed of himself for allowing this outrage to occur. Where was his leadership?

The next Governor should ask for the resignation of every board member who voted for this severance package and should appoint people who will take their responsibility seriously. Maybe it is time to have some people of modest income on the board who think that half a million dollars is real money. Maybe it is time to let the non-voting student board member have a vote. If I was on the Board, I would not hesitate to vote against a severance package for a departing president we are kicking out the door.

In the next few days, I will be at meetings where I will get to hear from Republican candidates for Governor, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Congressman Zach Wamp. I intend to ask each of them what they think about this. I want to know what kind of people they would put on the Board. The candidate that shares my outrage about this event and promises to appoint different type of people to the Board will go a long way toward winning my support.

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First-hand Report from the Mortgage Default Trenches

As a housing counselor for a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency, I see first-hand the problem of home foreclosures. Unfortunately, we can continue to expect high rates of mortgage defaults for sometime to come. It is estimated that one out of five subprime loans issued since 2002 will fail. In addition to the people with subprime loans who are at risk, many other borrowers are also at risk due to the declining economy. I personally counsel about eight people a week who are on the verge of losing their home and I supervise other housing counselors so I see a lot of people who are in default. While my experience is not a scientific sampling, I observe five categories of clients who are at risk of losing their home and the people I serve are about evenly split between the five categories. There is some overlap in these categories and often a client fits in more than one category.


(1). Good people to whom bad things happen: Illness, lost of job, divorce, and reduction of income or unplanned increases in expenses cause many people to become late on their payment.


(2) Homeowners who bought too much house. Many customers took out loans they could not afford. People in this category often could have qualified for a $100,000 house with a good loan, but instead got an adjustable rate mortgage or some other "creative financing" so they could buy an $180,000 house. Many times they were steered into a bad loan by a realtor or a loan officer, nevertheless the homeowner should have exercised due diligence and educated themselves before signing on the dotted line. Often the house payment on the $180,000 mortgage, during the period that the loan had the introductory teaser rate, is no higher than the house payment would have been for a $100,000 mortgage with a good loan. During the introductory teaser rate period the buyer is fine, but as soon as the loan resets the homeowner is in trouble. The customer did not think ahead about what would happen when the interest rate reset.

(3) Clients who should have kept renting. This is similar to the case above but instead of buying too much house, these are people who should not have bought any house. Since they were poor credit risk, the only loan they could get was a loan with a high interest rate. These clients are also often “house payment burdened.” They are spending too large of a portion of their income on housing. They often have poor money management skills and when the loan resets or they have any other financial difficulty they default.

(3) Clients who have poor money management skills and make poor decisions. Many people fail to build any saving, live payday to payday, and live beyond their means. A little bump in the road puts their home at risk. They feel entitled to a nice home and a new car. They may not be able to pay their house payment yet they spend $100 a month for cable and $250 for cell phones and eat out often.

Recently I had a couple come see me who was three months behind on their house payment. The wife had had a problem pregnancy and had missed several months work. The couple had exhausted what little saving they had. While working with them on their budget, I noticed that just a couple months before the wife had had to take unpaid sick leave from her job that they had purchased a new car and had taken on a $465 car payment. I asked them why they had taken on such a large care note. The new mother explained to me, “Well, I got pregnant, and we had to have an SUV.”


(5) Clients who are victims of predatory lending or poor lending practices. I have witnessed inflated appraisals, phony "gift letters", falsified income, and people having their loan product switched the day of closing and then being pressured into closing.

I recently had a client come to me, who had inherited a house in the Belmont area of Nashville about eight year ago from her aunt who passed away. The house was paid for but was in bad need of repair. The new owner borrowed a little over $40,000 to repair and upgrade the home. Despite having credit that would have made her eligible for a good loan, she was giving an adjustable rate mortgage and a loan with high closing fees. About a year later, the same loan officer called her and told her she had a bad mortgage that was going to adjust to a higher payment and he offered to refinance her to a new loan that would keep the payments from going up. She refinanced, and again the same thing happened about a year later. All together, in eight years, she got the original loan and was "flipped" (refinanced) four times, each time losing equity in her home. After the fifth loan she could not be refinanced anymore and her gross annual income was actually less than the total of her annual house payments. Unfortunately, this lady lost her home.


Part of the problems that caused the flood of foreclosures has already self-corrected. Investors are no longer buying subprime loans so few new borrowers will find the same easy credit available as did the homeowners who got the bad loans. Nevertheless, there may be a need for reform and greater regulation so this does not happen again. We may also need new laws against some predatory lending practices. More than new laws however, we need vigorous enforcement of existing lending laws and prosecution of offenders. A lot of people need to go to jail. Mortgage lending needs to become a profession with licensing and a code of ethics. We also need basic financial literacy taught in schools and we need policies that encourage savings.

More than anything, we need a change in societal attitudes so that people don’t feel ‘entitled’. No one owes you a new SUV just because you are pregnant and if you can only afford a $100,000 home, you are not entitled to an $180,000 home. You can't have it all.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's time for U. S. drug laws to be reformed

Sometimes a Smoke is Just a Smoke

Kathleen Parker, WASHINGTON, February 13, 2009

Drink and drive and it's grrrrrrrr-eat! Smoke pot and your flakes are frosted, dude.

So seems the message from Kellogg, which has decided not to renew its sponsorship contract with Michael Phelps after the Olympian was photographed smoking marijuana at a party in South Carolina.

In our peculiar obsession to track down the Willie Nelsons, Rush Limbaughs, and now Michael Phelpses of society -- nonviolent, victimless imbibers of drugs -- we've actually made society less safe. That's the conclusion of 10,000 cops, prosecutors, judges and others who make up the membership of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. (link)

Comment

Great article! I agree. Like Kathleen Parker, I am not convinced that all drugs should be legalized but it is time for the silliness of pot prohibition to end.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stimulus Bill to the Rescue


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Meetup Announcement: 1st Tuesday Group

Meetup Announcement
1st Tuesday
Your group has a Meetup Tuesday, March 3, 2009 11:30 AM!
What : 1st Tuesday with Mayor Bill Haslam
When : Tuesday, March 3, 2009 11:30 AM
Where: Waller Lansden 511 Union St Floor 27 Nashville TN 37201
How Much: Price: $20.00 per person
RSVP Now

Here's what people are saying about this Meetup Group

"Wonderful professionals..... A great way to meet top notch individuals."
— Paula

"For those interested in gettng to the roots of Tennessee Politics."
— Bob the Builder

Learn more about this Meetup
Meetup Description
Mayor Bill Haslam of Knoxville and Governor Candidate will speak. He will be coming early so join us early and pay early now.
As usual, we will meet at the Law Offices of Waller/Lansden - 511 Union Street - 27th floor. Alexander's Catering will have lunch available at 11:30 -- $15 for those who have paid 2009 dues and $20 for guests
Just a reminder, starting for our big MARCH meeting, we will be taking RSVPs on line.
Pay On-line

Comment
If you live in the Nashville area and are looking for an opportunity to network with fellow Republicans and stay informed, this is a great opportunity. The 1st Tuesday Group has been meeting in Nashville for about 20 years, or so someone told me, but I just discovered it.

The first meeting I attended was in December where we heard a debate on the proposed English Only charter amendment. The January meeting featured a speech by Jason Mumpower, the man who was going to be Tennessee's Speaker of the House until Republican turncoat Kent Williams maneuvered to gain the post with the backing of the entire Democratic minority.

The setting for the meeting is the 27th floor of 511 Union with a beautiful view of the city. The food is good. In addition to a speech there are opportunities for Q&A and you hear announcements and discussion of other issues. The official meeting starts promptly at noon and ends at exactly 1PM. Parking can be a problems, but I have parked in the public parking garage beneath the library without any trouble and that is only two blocks form the meeting site.

If you are in Nashville and looking to get involved, I recommend you attend this meeting.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

How to Drive Drunk

I have never been arrested for drunk driving but I admit I have been guilty of it. I guess I have been lucky. As a young adult I was more often guilty of it than I have been as an older adult. Nevertheless, from time to time, I still have probably technically met the blood alcohol level for being drunk.

I don’t encourage anyone to drive drunk. Don’t do it. Drunk driving kills people. Getting arrested can be costly and humiliating. It can ruin your life. You can go to jail and loose your license. Have a designated driver. Call a cab. Have a friend drive you. Having said all of that however, there may be times when you will have a sufficient amount of adult beverage that you could register drunk even though you don’t think you are drunk. I am offering this guide to help you improve your drunk driving skills.

Know that you don’t have to be “drunk” to register DUI. You do not have to be sloppy, falling down drunk to register as DUI. If you go out with your friends and spend an evening drinking and partying you very well may end up drunk. If you think you should not drive then by all means don’t. Often you will not know if you are drunk or not, so unless you know exactly how much you have had to drink and weather or not that would constitute drunk driving, then assume you are technically drunk.

This weekend, I had a dinner at my sister’s house where we celebrated the birthday of her two children. We had wine with dinner then had mango-peach flavored brandy with coffee for desert. This was not a wild party but we had a fun evening. I was not drunk. No one was drunk. But, I don’t know how many drinks I had and it is possible that I or someone else at the party had enough alcohol to fail a Blood Alcohol Concentration test. You do not have to appear intoxicated or have any of the symptoms that we think of as “drunk” to have a BAC that legally makes you guilty of Driving Under the Influence. If you drink and you drive you have probably driven “drunk.”

Track your consumption and don’t have “one for the road.” At the birthday party at my sister’s this weekend, I don’t think I had too much to drink, but I did not keep track of my intake. That is what often happens. If you are having dinner with friends and you have a pre-dinner cocktail and wine with dinner and after dinner liquore with coffee, you might register drunk. Try to keep your alcohol consumption to a level that falls below the BAC limit.

On occasion I like to go to Lower Broadway to listen to live music and party. If I have 8, 12-ounce beers in a four-hour period I should have a BAC of about .068, however if I have 9 beers in four hours that means I have a BAC of .085 and am legally drunk. “One for the road” could put me over the limit. Actually, I seldom have eight in a four hour period, but it has happened.

My wife and I like to go to the monthly “art crawl,” an event on the first Saturday of every month where several art gallery have openings. A shuttle takes you from gallery to gallery. Most of the galleries serve h’orderves and wine. Five 5-ounce glasses of wine in two hours is under the limit; six glasses in two hours is over the limit. On the normal art crawl event, my consumption would be well below the BAC limit but sometimes it may approach that limit.

A female can drink less than a male and a slender person can drink less than a heavy person. For a 115 pound female, three glasses of wine in two hours is drunk. Don’t try to keep up with the other people in your party. Know your limit. Skip a round. Drink slower. Some people assume that wine is less inebriating than tequila shots. That is not so. A 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits have the same impact on an individual's BAC level.

Here is a calculator that will give you guidance on how much alcohol you can consume and an estimate of BAC. Please be aware that this is only a guide. If you are drinking on an empty stomach, your BAC may be higher than indicated in the calculator.

Plan your trip. Avoid places where the police might see you. When I go to the honkytonk strip on lower Broadway to party, I never park on Broadway. I live on the south side of town, so I park a block or two south of Broadway on one of the one-way streets heading south. The less exposed you are to the police the less chance you have of getting caught.

Be aware that you are impaired. If you didn’t keep track of how much you drank then assume you are may have had enough to register drunk and use your best drunk-driving skills. "Thinking" skills, like perceiving and evaluating risks, or processing information are not easily visible to outside observers, but they are the first skills to be adversely affected by alcohol. Be aware of this.

Stop the Party. You are having a good time. You are joking and singing and laughing. You hate to end the party, but if there is any chance that you are driving with an elevated BAC, then stop the party. Say, “OK folks, we need to straighten up. I need your help in getting us home.” Don’t sing or engage in distracting conversation. Turn off the radio. Don’t talk on the cell phone. Give driving your undivided attention. Don’t let anyone in the car have an open container.

Check the checklist. Have a mental checklist. You don’t want to get stopped because you failed to use your turn signal. I was once stopped by the police on lower Broadway and forced to take a Breathalyzer. I knew I had only had two beers in a two-hour period so I was not concerned. The reason they stopped is that I had not tuned on my headlights as I pulled out into the street. The downtown area is well lit and this was just an oversight. The police are looking for excuses to stop you; don’t give them one. Seat belts? Check. Adjust the mirror? Check. Turn off the radio? Check. Turn on the headlights? Check.

Consecrate; pay attention. Be aware of your driving. Don’t relax. Keep both hands on the wheel. Don’t be distracted. Make sure you do not weave. Are you staying within the lines? Drive just below the speed limit. Don’t tailgate. Pay attention to the car in front of you. If they put on their brakes, notice it. If you are approaching an intersection with a traffic light, pay close attention. Plan that traffic light stop. Don’t run a yellow light.

Use your co-pilot. Ask the person in the passengers seat to help you drive. Ask them to tell you if you weave or tailgate or go too fast.

If you get stopped. Unless you are certain that you have had less than the number of drinks it would take to raise your BAC level to the .08 level, then common wisdom holds that it is a good idea to refuse the breathalyzer test. It generally is more difficult to convict a driver of drunk driving if no chemical tests are taken.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Democrats Delay Bill Release to Conceal Details

by Connie Hair, Human Events, Posted 02/13/2009 ET

Democratic staffers released the final version of the stimulus bill at about 11 p.m. last night after delaying the release for hours to put it into a format which people cannot “search” on their home computers.

Instead of publishing the bill as a regular internet document -- which people can search by “key words” and otherwise, the Dems took hours to convert the final bill from the regular searchable format into “pdf” files, which can be read but not searched. (link)

Comment
Didn't Candidate Obama promise something about "transparency?"
Updated Comment
In the comments below, Robert and Orient-Lodge offer a counter argument. They each make a valid point. Facts may be on their side. I may have been hasty in jumping to conclusions and in accepting the opinion of the author of this news item. This may very well be much to do about nothing.

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Obama Lied!

There is no nice way to say it. Obama lied.

He promised an administration that would be transparent. He promised there would be no lobbyist in his administration. He promised that government would not draft laws in secret. He promised no pork barrel spending. He promised that before he signed a bill, it would be posted and he would wait five days to sign it.

He is planning on signing the Democratic super spending bill, which is pork laden and was drafted in secret, on Tuesday, a little less than four days since it was passed. We won't know what is in it until after it is signed. Even the Congressmen who voted on the 1100- page bill do not know what is in it. To watch him lie, see the following video. Has he no shame?

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Update: Cooper caves.

I retract the nice things I had to say about Congressman Cooper. I guess party is stronger than principle.

Cooper changes vote, backs final stimulus bill
Bill Theobald, The Tennessean, Saturday, February 14, 2002

WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim Cooper, who received national attention as one of the few Democrats to vote against the economic stimulus bill when it first passed the House, voted in favor of the revised $787 billion package Friday.
Kudos to Cooper

My congressman, Democratic Representative Jim Cooper, was one of only eleven Democratic House members to vote against the stimulus bill. While nine of the Democrats voting against the bill are from distincts that went for John McCain in the last election and potentially face tough Republican challengers in the next elections, Jim Cooper represents a safe Democratic district. It took courage to stand by his convictions and oppose the Party and do what was right.

Thank you, Congressman Cooper! I admire your courage.

The Dems who bucked Obama
By ALEX ISENSTADT, Politico, 2/2/09 8:22 AM EST

The day after his no vote, Cooper, a budget hawk and member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition, expressed frustration over what he said was leadership’s lack of outreach in the drafting of the bill.

“They really don’t care what Blue Dogs think,” Cooper told Politico, noting that he stood before a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus on Monday and outlined his concerns. “There’s huge frustration.”

Cooper said he had spoken to other Democratic fiscal conservatives who said they wanted to vote no but felt they couldn’t, though he declined to specify any by name.

“We wish we could be more relevant in the discussion before they got more advanced,” Cooper added.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

“Eleven hundred pages, not one member of this body has read,”

GOP Leader Boehner Floor Speech Opposing Democrats' Trillion-Dollar Spending Bill

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The Only Thing we Have to ....


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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bill would drop travel restrictions to Cuba

By Alexia Campbell, South Florida Sun Sentinel, February 10, 2009

While most of the nation focused on the stimulus bill winding through Congress, nine representatives introduced a bill calling for an end to the 46-year-old ban on travel to Cuba. (link)

Commentary
It is past time to lift the restrictions on travel to Cuba.

Tourist can freely travel to Vietnam or China but not Cuba. What kind of logic is that? Americans are not even prohibited from visiting countries such as Iran or North Korea.

We not only need to lift travel restrictions on Cuba, we need to lift the trade embargo. During the recent campaign, Obama promised he would change our policy toward Cuba. That is one campaign promise I hope he keeps. We do not need to wait any longer.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and perhaps as far back as the Nixon opening to China, our policy toward Cuba has been wrong-headed, illogical, and counterproductive.

The embargo of Cuba began in 1960. The intent was to pressure Castro to democratize. The policy failed. Instead, it had the result of pushing Cuba further into the arms of the Soviet Union. The embargo made a martyr out of Castro and helped prop up his regime. Cuba has been able to blame all of their failings on the United States and the embargo rather than Castro’s socialist policies.

I realize that Cuba is still a Communist dictatorship but I don’t think we need to wait until Cuba establishes democracy before we lift the embargo. We did not wait for democracy to flourish in China or Vietnam before we engaged in trade with those nations. We did not demand that China and Vietnam free all political prisoners before we normalized relations. While neither China nor Vietnam are perfect democracies, neither are they orthodox Communist nations. Our engagement and trade surely contributed to the liberalization in those two countries.

Since Castro’s ill health and retirement, we have seen positive change taking place in Cuba. The government has legalized private taxicabs, it has given individuals the deed to their homes, it has allowed Cubans to own cell phones, it has permitted Cubans to stay in luxury hotels, and it has encouraged and expanded private farms. These changes are significant and encouraging.

If the US would end the embargo and travel restrictions, we would see an acceleration of Cuba’s transformation. If American dollars could flow freely to Cuba, we would see concession on the part of Cuba to accommodate investors. With opportunities to make money, we would see an evolving Cuban entrepreneurial class. With more dollars to spend, Cubans would not be dependent on the government for everything, other spheres of influence would emerge, and the socialist totalitarian mold would be broken.

Cuba is changing despite the policy of the United States. We should help accelerate the change that is taking place in Cuba by ending the travel restrictions and trade embargo. Lifting the embargo will not change us but it will change Cuba. The cold war is over. Lift the embargo now.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Green Libs: Act Now to Stop the Nuclear Energy Stimulus Bill!

I know we on the right are doing all we can to stop this super spending bill, so I wanted to give our friends on the left a reason to join us.

To all of those people who think the only way to save the planet is for people to shiver in caves, the stimulus bill is bad news. To those who think that nuclear energy has no roll in curtailing greenhouse gas emission and think that we can replace dirty energy with nothing but solar and wind, you need to act now to stop this bill. A nuclear power plant is going to build in your backyard and you are doing nothing to stop it! I am not conning you. Here is a report from a good liberal blogger.


Why is that $50 billion radioactive antique toilet still in the stimulus bill?
By Harvey Wasserman
Created Feb 9
2009 - 9:29am


The infamous $50 billion nuke power loan guarantee package meant to use your money to build new nuke reactors has gone missing from saturation media coverage of Obama’s Stimulus Package. But it’s still in the Senate version of the bill, it could be voted on this week, and it could kill us all.

We have days---maybe hours---to stop it. While aid programs to the states, for education and the truly needy are slashed, this gargantuan boondoggle is poised to sail through with virtually no public knowledge. Published on The Smirking Chimp (
http://www.smirkingchimp.com/)

If you really care about the planet read the rest of the article and act now. If you don’t act then we could become like France and get 70% of our energy from nuclear power.

I know if you are good liberal you don’t want to kill this bill. The only government programs that liberals ever disapprove of are national defense. So, I am not asking you to encourage you Congressman to kill the bill; I am asking you to call your congressman and Senator and ask them to remove this offensive provision.

Now I am for nuclear energy so why would I suggest this? Because this provision does not belong in a stimulus bill just as a lot of other things to do belong in the stimulus bill. Funding nuclear power plant insurance should stand or fail on its own merits. If Democrats get enough calls about this issue, they may decide to slow down the process of approving this bill and hold hearing to determine what is really in the bill. So, Liberals, please call your congressman now. If you don’t, then when they are building a nuclear power plant in your backyard, don’t blame me.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

“The following is a paid advertisement and does not reflect the ……”

An opinion expressed in an advertisement on this blog does not imply that A Disgruntled Republican endorses the message or the product advertised.

If you look to the left you will see that there is an advertisement for “Get USA Made.” I have recently posted several essays in which I warned of the dangers of protectionism. One post of mine, Please Don’t Buy American, was posted on February 2. At the same time it was running the “Get USA Made” advertisement was also running. Several people emailed me to comment on the discrepancy. One simply commended that it was ironic and another called me a hypocrite. I figured that if several people bothered to comment, others must have noticed the discrepancy and had an opinion.

Once it was pointed out to me that the “Buy USA” ad conflicted with my editorial policy I considered deleting the ad but kept waiting, hoping that someone would simply outbid that ad and it would go away. That hasn’t happened so I am making a decision to let it continue to run. I am not endorsing the “Buy USA Made” message but neither am I endorsing “Home Laser Hair Removal” which is also advertising on this blog. I have never tried “Home Laser Hair Removal.”

I have several different resources for the publishing of ads. With entrecard I accept or decline every individual ad. With some of the other advertising services, I could have the service set so that I approve or reject each ad individually but choose not to. I have set my ad publishing services to accept all ads except “adult.” I always have the option of deleting an ad at any time. I have never thought that by carrying an ad I was giving it a seal of approval.

I don’t think I have ever rejected an entrecard ad. I have accepted all kinds of entrecard advertisements. Some are from other conservative bloggers with whom I have profound disagreement on certain issues. I have also carried advertisements for liberal blogs. My view is that if these blogs want to advertise with me, they may. That does not imply that they agree with me nor does it imply I agree with them. I know some bloggers take a completely different view. I have had my ads declined by other bloggers and they have stated they disagreed with my positions and did not want to promote my blog. That is their right. I just do not view carrying someone’s ad as an endorsement.

Part of the reason, I have a liberal advertising policy is that I don’t think it hurts to be exposed to other views and I also hope others will reciprocate and allow me to advertise with them. Surprisingly, some of my most traffic-generating advertisements have been placed on blogs where I would have initially assumed the readers of that blog would have had little interest in my point of view.

In addition to my advertising, you may also notice that I have some liberal blogs listed in my blogroll. I list blogs that I think are interesting and well written. I do not always agree with the opinion of all of the blogs listed on my blogroll. I am simply recommending you visit them.

My policy on what advertising I will accept will continue to evolve as I am presented with an ad that creates a dilemma. I would not want to carry a racist ad or an ad from a 9-11 denier or Holocaust denier. I would not want to carry an ad for an avowed Communist website or a terrorist-friendly website. I would have to think about posting an ad that featured a peace sign, simply because I find the peace sign offensive. I know I may be the only person who feels that way, but it is my blog. For now however, I will advertise almost anything, but that does not mean that I endorse it.

This blog is my hobby and I have never made any money off of it. By carrying advertising I either earn credits or money that is used to purchase advertising. Please take time to visit my advertisers. A lot of advertising is either sold or evaluated based on the number of “clicks” the advertiser generates from the ad. Please help me out by paying “Buy USA Made” as well as my other advertisers a visit.

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Petition Against the Stimulus Bill

While passage of the stimulus package looks like a done deal at this point, there is still a chance to kill it. After the Senate and House negotiate their differences the bill will have to go back to each house to be voted on again. Amendments can not be considered and the new bill must be voted up or down.

As people learn more about the wasteful spending in the bill and how it will do little to stimulate the economy, the public is turning against the bill. A new CBS poll shows that while a majority of Americans still support the stimulus package, support for the bill has fallen 12 points since January, and nearly half of those surveyed do not believe it will shorten the recession. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed support the stimulus package, while 39 percent do not. An additional 10 percent don't know. Last month, 63 percent supported the package and just 24 percent opposed it.

It House and Senate members hear from their constituents, some may switch to a “no” vote. So, stopping the Bill at this point may be a long shot, but it is possible. The pressure to defeat this bill needs to continue.

As John McCain has said, “no bill is better than this bill.” If this bill fails to pass, Congress can go back to the drawing board and pass a real stimulus bill. If you have not taken any action to express your opposition to the bill, below is a link to the John McCain PAC where you can sign a petition against it. A personal letter, phone call, or email to your congressmen is better than signing a petition, but this is quick and easy.

Click here to sign the petition: http://www.countryfirstpac.com/petition/economic.aspx

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Micahel Steele's Weekly Republican Address

Dear Rod,

I hope you'll take a moment to review RNC Chairman Michael Steele's weekly Republican address. Thank you for your continued support.

Click here to download the mp3 audio.Click here to watch the video.

Transcript:

"This is Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Democrats have controlled both branches of government for less than a month. And you have to wonder if all that power has gone to their heads.

"For the last two weeks, they've been trying to force a massive spending bill through Congress under the guise of economic relief.

"All of us -- Republicans and Democrats -- agree the government must act to kick-start the American economy. American families are doing their best to balance their own budgets and pay their mortgages.

"The fastest way to help those families is by letting them keep more of the money they earn. Individual empowerment: that's how you stimulate the economy.

"But the Democrats have a different philosophy. Instead of leaving money in the family checkbook, they want to send it to Washington, run it through a slow and inefficient government, and hope that does some good.

"When families keep the money, they spend it, save it, or invest it. And the private sector economy benefits when families and businesses buy consumer goods or invest it for the future. But when Washington spends the money, some of it may flow into the economy, but all too often, much gets wasted.

"Democrats in Congress want a one-trillion dollar spending bill. You've heard about the pork-barrel programs they want to fund... 45 million dollars for ATV trails and removal of fish passage barriers is one that caught my eye. Exactly what is a fish passage barrier and why does it cost 45 million dollars to stimulate the economy with it?

"That's why Republicans in the House voted against uncontrolled spending. This is not a bragging point, but rather a statement that at least Republicans would stand with the American taxpayer.

"But voting 'no' is not enough... and Republicans have offered innovative ideas to help struggling families and small businesses. We've offered plans to spark job creation and investment through lower taxes, to stop the taxation of unemployment benefits, and to help Americans keep their jobs and their homes.

"The comprehensive Republican plan would lower taxes for all working American families. If you're married, the first 16,750 dollars you make this year will be taxed at ten percent. Why don't we cut that rate in half to give instant buying power to every working American family?
"Good ideas... lots of them... all left out of this plan by the Democrats in Congress.

"Republicans stand ready to work with reasonable Democrats to do what is right for America.

"But it will take more than bipartisan words from the President. It will require fair-minded action from Democrats in Congress.

"Thanks for listening."

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The Michael Phelps' Bong Hits


“Does embattled Michael Phelps Deserve a break for his indiscretions?” is the headline of an article on the Op-ed page of the Tennessean. That is also the type of question being asked on talk shows and by pundits across America. I think it is the wrong question. The question we should be asking is, “Isn’t it time to end the hypocrisy of pot prohibition?”

Olympic Swimmer Phelps got caught smoking dope. Some pundits are saying it is a teachable moment to explain to your kids that all people are flawed. Others are saying he is young and deserves a break for doing something stupid.

Was it stupid for Michael Phelps to smoke dope? Was it a forgivable indiscretion? What is the lesson? He was stupid. He was not stupid because there is anything inherently wrong with smoking a little dope but he was stupid because he risked million of dollars in earnings from product endorsements. He was stupid because he thought he was partying with friends. He was stupid because he failed to realize that he is a celebrity and cannot do what normal people do.

The lesson is that you should not get caught. The lesson is that if you do get caught you have to act like you did something wrong and ask for forgiveness.

I know the response of many to this argument is that marijuana is illegal and he should respect the law. Actually, I think a little disrespect of the law can be healthy thing. Many otherwise respectable people drank booze during prohibition. If everyone had respected the law we would still have prohibition. When the national speed limit was 55, many of us continued to drive 70. Many of the sex practices that people routinely engage in were once illegal in many of the states. It was once illegal for two unmarried people to have sex. Oral sex was illegal. Sex between people of different races was illegal. Should we have all respected the law? Sometimes the law is not worthy of respect because it is a stupid law. If everyone obeys the law it doesn’t get changed.

After getting caught Phelps had this to say: “I engaged in behaviour which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.”

It is unfortunate but this is the kind of groveling, hypocritical, self-serving statement one has to make if they get caught. I wish he would have said this: “I smoked a little dope at a party and don’t regret it. I regret getting caught. I regret that an activity which is relatively harmless is illegal. I am a successful athlete and enjoy a little pot from time to time. I hope that this incidents helps to dispel the myth that dope smoking is only for losers and slackers. I regret that society considers this incident newsworthy or inappropriate.”

Like Michael Phelps, William F. Buckley, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin and tens of millions of other Americans, I have "tried" marijuana. Unlike Buckley I tried it more than once. Unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale. Unlike Sarah Palin, I did enjoy it. It is OK to admit that you did it at some point in the past, just don’t admit or get caught doing it in the present. I suspect that a lot of people who hold important jobs and are accomplished and responsible routinely smoke a little dope. But, they cannot say, "yeah, I like to get stoned every once in a while." They may say that in their youth they "tried" the drug, but they do not admit to currently using it. Such bullshit! Such hypocrisy.

Marijuana is a harmless drug. It is absolutely ridiculous that society continues to ruin lives and waste millions of dollars arresting and jailing people for engaging in such a harmless activity. If we had more marijuana and less alcohol the world would be a better place. Maybe, if marijuana was legal, more people would choose to get high rather than drunk. The worst thing you can say about marijuana is that it makes people have a stupid grin on their face and think that Oreo cookies are the best thing they ever tasted. People stoned on marijuana are not prone to domestic violence or barroom brawls. Stoned people find life amusing and, by and large, are easygoing and peaceful. Marijuana may be a net plus for society.

Millions of Americans routinely engage in the harmless activity of smoking pot but yet have to lie about it. Making millions of people be liars and hypocrites is the least of the things wrong with our drug policy. People really do get a police record or go to jail or lose their jobs or their scholarship or lose child visitation rights because of using marijuana.

Isn’t it time to end the hypocrisy of pot prohibition?

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Remembering Ronald Reagan


February 6, 1911-June 5, 2004

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on this day in 1911 in Tamico, Illinois. Along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan was one of the best Presidents of the United States. He was responsible for changing the course of world history by defeating Communism and ending the cold war. Under his leadership, the Communist march toward world domination was reversed and Communist governments began to crumble and millions of enslaved people were freed. Communism was placed on the ash heap of history and discredited. The collision course that was leading toward a nuclear war and annihilation of much of the world was averted.

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Dear Senator, Please Vote "no" on the Stimulas Bill

Write you Senator. It is fast and easy. Follow this link: Dear Senator ...

Below is my letter, slightly modified from the draft on the Citizens Aganist Goverment Waste website.

The stimulas bill may be rammed through any day. Time is short. Please, if you have not written your Senator, do it.

Feb 6, 2009
Senator Lamar Alexander
Constitution Avenue and 1st Street, NE
Washington, DC 20510-4206

Dear Senator Alexander,

I am writing to express my opposition to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (S.1) and urge you to vote against thisso-called "economic stimulus" bill.

I am very concerned about the protectionist provision in this bill which I fear could trigger a trade war and turn the enconomic downturn into a full-blown long-term world-wide depression.

Adding $900 billion in government spending to the $1.2 trillion federal deficit already projected for this year will only pile additional debt onto the shoulders of my children and grandchildren.

This massive government spending spree will not stimulate economic growth. In fact, your own nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has concluded that more than half of the hundreds of billions of dollars ininfrastructure spending contained in the bill will not take place for more than two years -- long after economists predict, and we all hope, the current recession will have ended.

I urge you instead to create more incentives and opportunities forprivate-sector jobs and growth by cutting government spending and enacting across-the-board tax cuts for individuals and businesses. If passed as currently proposed, I fear this borrow-and-spend"stimulus" bill will waste record amounts of tax dollars,provide virtually no benefit to the economy, and only add to our nation's soaring liabilities. Please vote NO on S.1.

Sincerely,
Mr. Rod Williams
street address
Nashville, TN 37203-5512

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Obama on 'Buy American' collision course?

By Tom Curry, National affairs writer, msnbc.com

President Barack Obama has signaled opposition to “Buy American” provisions in economic stimulus legislation now before Congress, a decision that could put him on a collision course with congressional Democrats and labor unions. (Read about the protectionist provisions in both the House and Senate version of the stimulus bill, the threat this poses and the impact of Obama’s criticism: Obama on ‘Buy American’ ….)

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Obama Condemns “Buy American"

Just now, President Obama said the “buy American” provision did not belong in the stimulus bill. This Republican gives him an enthusiastic, “Way to go!”
He said such provisions were dangerous and could lead to a trade war. This is great news. Thank God he spoke up before the Democrats rammed though this disaster of a spending bill and turned an economic downturn into a full-blown, long-lasting depression. I just heard this on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. More details to follow

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Getting Stimulated


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‘This simpler, targeted plan gets at the root of the problem, which is housing’

Washington, DC, Tuesday, February 3, 2009, from the Office of Senator Mitch McConnell

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding a bipartisan path forward to fix the housing problem and put more money in the pocket of the taxpayer:

Evidently the President met with Congressional Democrats last night. And it’s my hope that he took the opportunity to impress upon them the urgency of passing an economic stimulus bill that works. I think it’s safe to say that the version House Democrats approved last week would not.

Most of the infrastructure projects it includes wouldn’t impact the economy for at least a year. Permanent spending would expand by more than $200 billion. And, as just about everybody knows by now, the House bill was loaded with wasteful spending.

Unfortunately, the version Senate Democrats put together isn’t a whole lot better. President Obama said 75% of the bill’s discretionary projects should be paid for within two years. Yet more than half of this spending in the Senate version wouldn’t be spent for another two years.

President Obama said 40% of the bill should be tax relief. Yet less than a third of the spending in the Senate version would go to tax relief. And, like the House bill, the spending portion in the Senate version is simply way too big. If you include the interest payments, the total cost of the Senate Democrat bill is nearly $1.3 trillion. So I can’t imagine President Obama is terribly pleased with the proposals Democrats in the House or the Senate have put forward. And I’m hoping he convinced them last night that it’s time to put together a bill that gives an immediate jolt to the economy and creates jobs now.

President Obama has acknowledged that Senate Republicans have a number of good ideas that he’d like to incorporate into the final bill. So has the Senior Senator from New York. Republicans will be pursuing those ideas this week — and how they’d help President Obama achieve his goals for the stimulus bill.

Republicans think we can send the President a simpler, more targeted stimulus bill that gets right at the root of our current economic troubles, and which doesn’t waste money that we don’t have on projects that don’t create jobs now.

Most people recognize that housing is at the root of the current economic downturn. So we should fix this problem before we do anything else. Republicans believe that one way to do that is to provide government-backed, 30-year fixed mortgages at approximately 4% to any credit-worthy borrower, reducing monthly mortgage payments and increasing demand for homes. According to this proposal, the average family would see its monthly mortgage payment drop by over $400 a month, which comes out to over $5,000 a year. Over the life of a 30-year loan, that’s a savings of over $150,000.

Next, in order to get money into the economy quickly, Republicans propose that we cut income tax rates for working Americans right away. The federal government imposes a 10% tax on married couples for income up to $16,700. By cutting that rate in half, we’d put about $500 into the pocket of every working family and give an immediate jolt to the economy. Income between $16,700 and $67,900 is taxed at 15%. Republicans would cut that rate to 10%, putting another $1,100 into the pockets of working couples. And single filers would get similar rate reductions. In other words, everyone who works and pays income tax would see an immediate increase in pay. This simpler, targeted plan gets at the root of the problem, which is housing. And it puts money in people’s pockets immediately.

President Obama asked Congress to put together a bill without wasteful spending that creates jobs now. Republicans have better ideas for doing both. We look forward to having the chance to explain those ideas this week to the American people and to be able to vote on them.

Comment

I do not think Republicans are simply being obstructionist in opposing the Democratic proposal. The Democratic super spending proposal is simply a bad bill. The Republican proposal is a more effective and immediate approach to stimulating the economy.

I think we need a stimulus bill but not the one that is proposed by Democratic leaders. Republicans cannot get everything they want of course, but if Obama wants bi-partisan support for a stimulus bill and a better bill, he needs to ask Democrats to meet Republicans half way. Unless the proposed stimulas bill is greatly revamped, Republicans should stay united and hang tough. If Democrats do not want to compromise, then let them ram though a partisan Democratic bill without Republican support.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Please Don't "Buy Ameican"

The only thing missing in turning this economic downturn into a full-blown worldwide depression is a good dose of protectionism and a massive trade war. Unfortunately it looks like it is on the way. In casual conversation, in chat groups, blogs, and in songs on country radio the “buy American” sentiment is expressed. Both grassroots liberals and conservatives are calling for requirements that money appropriated in the stimulus bill be restricted to projects that only use only American made products in their spending projects. Protectionist sentiment seems to be growing by leaps and bounds.

If the Democratic super spending bill really was a good economic stimulus bill and was devoid of all the pet projects and pork in the bill, it would still be a bad bill because of the “buy American” provisions in the bill. The last thing we need is a trade war. If we mandate “buy American” we can expect other countries to retaliate. If we stop buying Chinese goods the Chinese very well may decide to stop buying our debt.

Almost all historians agree that a major cause of the Great Depression was protectionism and the trade wars. The Depression began in 1929 with the stock market crash. The depth of the depression however did not occur until 1932. In 1930 Congress passed the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act, which raised tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods. This act was thought to be a job creation bill, the reasoning being that if we did not purchase all of those goods from foreign countries that Americans would be put to work producing those goods. As soon as the bill was passed foreign countries began boycotting American goods and passing retaliatory tariffs on imports. American farmers could no longer export their goods. We did not pull out of the depression until 1939 with the outbreak of World War II.

In addition to causing other countries to retaliate against American goods, “buy American” also creates other inefficiencies that cause job losses. Writing in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Douglas Irwin offers an example to demonstrate why this is so:

In rebuilding the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in the 1990s, the California transit authority complied with state rules mandating the use of domestic steel unless it was at least 25 percent more expensive than imported steel. A domestic bid came in at 23 percent above the foreign bid, and so the more expensive American steel had to be used. Because of the large amount of steel used in the project, California taxpayers had to pay a whopping $400 million more for the bridge. While this is a windfall for a lucky steel company, steel production is capital intensive, and the rule makes less money available for other construction projects that can employ many more workers. (If We Buy American, No One Else Will)
I know it sounds patriotic and rational to “buy American.” It is not. The world is much more interdependent now than it was in 1930. If we start a massive trade war, it is guaranteed to push us into a full-blown Depression that may last for a very long time. I hope that the wiser heads in Congress and the Obama administration resist the growing public demand for protectionism. Please don’t get caught up in the “buy American” feeding frenzy. It is economic suicide.

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Smoking and Economic Stimulas

The Democratic $819 billion super spending bill mislabeled as an economic stimulus bill contains $75 million for smoking-cessation programs. Could someone explain to me how funding smoking cessation programs belong in an economic stimulus bill? I am not opposed to people quitting smoking. Smoking is bad for your health, so stop it. I am not so sure it is a proper roll of the federal government however to fund programs that help people quit smoking. Even if that is a proper federal government roll how does that stimulate the economy? If people quit smoking wouldn’t that actually depress the economy?

Here in Nashville a year or so ago, they banned smoking in most bars. People who like dim lights, thick smoke, and loud, loud music quit going to bars and some fine honkytonks closed in Music City. That smoking ban was detrimental to the local economy.

What would be the economic impact if a lot of people quit smoking? First of all, retail would suffer. With retail hurting already, the loss of the revenue generated from people not buying cigarettes may be the additional loss that moves some stores from profitable to not profitable. If fewer people smoke we could see the closing of more 7-11’s. And if fewer people smoke, we could see layoffs in Winston-Salem North Carolina and other cities were they manufacture the cigarettes. And of course the cigarettes have to be transported, so we will see a hit in the trucking industry. The hardest hit sector will be the farmers who grow tobacco.

Health care is already suffering. In these hard times people are putting off selective surgeries and people are losing their health insurance. Are fewer sick people really good for the health care industry?

We all know how much trouble social security is in. Social security is not a retirement program of course, but is similar to welfare in that today’s workers transfer income to today’s social security recipients. If people live longer that will make social security even worse off and today’s workers will have to be taxed at a higher rate to pay the social security of all the old folks on the dole. If you tax current workers more, that will depress the economy. If fewer people are dying from smoking related diseases that means that there will be that much more strain on social security and a worse economy.

Another economic impact is that state governments benefits from receiving tax revenue from the sale of tobacco. Some states have specific programs, such as children’s health programs, tied directly to revenue from tobacco sales. If less money is flowing into government coffers, then there is less money for government to spend. Less government revenue and highway construction projects are delayed. Some specific programs tied to tobacco revenue will have to be shut down and employees will be laid off.

In a job creation economic stimulus bill shouldn’t we actually be encouraging people to smoke?

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

How Condoms Stimulate the Economy

Before it was stripped form the $845 Billion “stimulus bill,” the bill contained hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. Of course the stimulus bill is really a Christmas Tree bill and contains funds for smoking cessation and all kinds of pork and any thing some Democrat thought might be a good idea. House speaker Nancy Pelosi staunchly defended the family planning provision of the bill. I never did understand how the family planning provision would stimulate the economy and create jobs until I came across this post in a chat group that explains it.

If there's one thing that can jump start an ailing economy, it's FREE RUBBERS!

Think about it. You lost your job. They've foreclosed on your home. You have nothing left in your pockets but a couple bucks and a handful of condoms. So you go downtown and pick up a 2-dollar whore to help you forget your troubles. The hooker gives your money to her pimp, who uses it to buy some bling at the pawn shop. The pawnbroker spends his money on some more expensive hookers, who are freelancing to pay their tuition at Berkeley. Their Gender Studies professym makes a downpayment on a new hybrid car. The car dealership buys more hybrids from the manufacturer to meet the rising demand. Autoworkers get a little extra in their paychecks. Once you subtract taxes and union dues, they have just enough left to go downtown a pick up a 2-dollar whore. The Cycle begins anew.

Now I understand it. I traced this post back to a blog called Blame Bush. To see the full post follow this link: Republicans Hate Sex.

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