Thursday, March 05, 2009

America's Challenge

Here is my hypothesis on the economy. Using the market as a measure of our economy, I submit that one of the biggest problems is a crisis of confidence. Those with the ability to invest capital drive this economy one direction or another. At this time those people are afraid, and rightfully so. Their president has done nothing but show pessimism since he has been in office. He used (some would say ginned up) the crisis to promote enormous wasteful spending. People with money to invest saw the danger in that, especially in an already tenuous situation. The reports of massive pork barrel spending only added to the suspicions of many. People are confused about how the President plans to cut the deficit in half while at the same time increasing spending at the most rapid rate in history. They were already concerned about taxes and this only adds to their concern. Then, of course, there is the inevitable inertia factor.

What we need right now is the President to show true leadership. I suspect that he won’t do this. I wish we had a president who would address the nation something like the following:

While I acknowledge the difficulties we are having as a nation, I want to assure you that the United States will survive, and eventually we will thrive again. Recovery does not begin in Washington D.C. I am calling on all Americans to join me in the following steps to recovery. First, as a nation we need to humble ourselves before God and ask His blessings on this nation, thanking Him for what He has done and for what He will do. Second, I am asking every able-bodied and sound-minded individual to take responsibility for your own destiny and the destiny of your family. Work harder than ever before. Invest more. Be productive. Do not succumb to the pressures to quit or to fail. Have faith in your country and what it stands for.

Here in Washington, I will not propose or sign any bill containing any unnecessary spending. I will also be cutting spending across the board in any federal agency that is not essential to providing for the common defense or able to demonstrate effectiveness in meeting their stated goals. I will also propose tax cuts on any federal tax that hinders economic growth. I am calling corporate America to cut back. I am calling for an end to runaway greed. I will take the lead on this.

Effective immediately, I will be proposing massive cuts for all Federal elected officials, beginning with me. The elimination of perks normally associated with the Congress will be proposed. Again it will start with the Office of the President. Effective immediately I am issuing an executive order to return spending on my staff and operating expenses to the level it was under President Kennedy, adjusted for inflation.

Some of these measures may sound draconian, but I firmly believe that in order to remain the greatest nation in the world, Americans pull together and make sacrifices. Remember our history. Americans faced tremendous odds in preserving our freedom and prosperity on many occasions. Our mothers and fathers fought, bled, died, and sacrificed. I refuse to let them down. America, we refuse to let them down. Let’s get to work. God bless America.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My response to the Inaugural speech of Barack Obama.

I know that inauguration speeches are supposed to be vague. Obama's speech was schizophrenic. At times he sounded like a liberal campaigner on the attack against Bush. At others, he sounded like a Reagan conservative. Either way there were no major revelations and no words that warranted being chiseled in granite. Obama, as usual, had a great delivery. Here are a few thoughts.

The words (oath of office) have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents. So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans. That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”

Our generation does not have the right to claim we are in time of “gathering clouds and raging storms”. We have defeated a dictator in the most powerful Middle Eastern country and have successfully replaced him with a representative democracy that has been embraced by the people. Terrorists who hate America are still out there, but they have been mightily weakened after relentless pursuit by President Bush and our military/intelligence complex. Our economy is in a downturn, but it is not as bad as advertised. Statistically it does not even compare to the poor economy of the late 1970’s. Also not acknowledged are the many modern conveniences that we know consider a right and an entitlement. Personal computers, cell phones, instant messaging and global communications are at the fingertips of the poorest of welfare clients. Economically we are not in a "stormy" environment. On the contrary, we are spoiled.

Obama blames a weakened economy on the greed and irresponsibility of some and our collective failure to make hard choices. This is very vague. Does anyone know who or what he is talking about and what evidence he can offer? The speech only leads one to assume.

The cost of health care is an issue. How much does health care cost the average citizen? Is it worth it? Is our health valuable enough to cause us to spend less on our toys rather than ask the government (i.e., taxpayers) to buy health care for us? What is his plan to change this? Who will pay for it? Will his idea work? We will not learn the answers to those questions from this speech. How does the energy we use threaten our planet? I know the global warming theory and I disagree with it. The Earth has been cooler during the last two years than it has any year since the 1970's. How much money does He plan to sink into this issue? Who knows? Any is too much in my book.

Saying our schools fail too many is a loaded statement. Is he admitting that government run schools are ineffective? How many administrations will we have to live through before we can say that our schools are successful? How much money do we have to pay the education establishment to accomplish this goal? The National Center for Educational Statistics stated that we spent nearly $9300 per pupil in the 2004-2005 school year. This represents a 50 per cent increase in 20 years. Despite this, our schools “still fail too many.” Has anyone considered that the problem may not be with schools? Or, if it is with the schools, has anyone ever thought that maybe we need to change the way schools operate without spending more money? The problem, again, is that one can only assume what he means.

This is political rhetoric meant to lower expectations. If the economy succeeds, Obama becomes a hero. If it remains stagnant or turns downward, it will be blamed on President Bush. That sounds like a no-lose scenario for Mr. Obama. Don’t get me started on how Obama and his liberal colleagues have drifted away from our founding documents. Volumes could be written about that subject.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

This statement irritates me to no end. He is implying that by electing him we have elected the embodiment of hope and purpose. How arrogant! And those who ran against him are the embodiment of fear, conflict, discord, pettiness, false promises, and worn out dogmas. It is distasteful when politicians make these pompous claims during a campaign, but it is a little more understandable in the campaign environment. But can dirty politics and mudslinging be laid to rest at least one day during an inauguration speach? Please.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.”

It is almost as if a different speechwriter took over the speech at this point. This part was reminiscent of the great words of Lincoln, Kennedy, or Reagan. It is a wonderful description of what has, and does, make America a great country. But again, how will President Obama promote these ideals? That remains to be seen.

The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.”

I am sorry. Our economy does not call for any significant action, at least no more bailouts. President Bush already made that mistake, and it hasn’t helped. More of the same will not help. I thought this was all about change. We do not need to revisit the New Deal, if that is what he is talking about. Excessive spending is part of the problem, not the solution. Our cars run well enough without the sun, wind, and the soil. I am not eager to drive an Obamamobile, powered by a big sail with an ‘O’ on the side. The best changes do not grow out of inauguration speeches. They grow out of necessity and the inventiveness of the American people as they operate in a free market. How much more of our money do they need? Supposedly 600 private jets touched down at Washington’s airport for the inauguration. If we had a crisis, why are his supporters setting new records for consumption of fossil fuels? How does he plan on transforming schools, colleges, and universities? More money? From whom?

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”

Arrogance has returned to the speech. Evidently if you disagree with President Obama, you are automatically labeled a “cynic”. It is not a stale argument to claim that government is too large and too ineffective. The last I checked this was supposedly a government of, by, and for the people. I am glad that he said that programs that do not work should be ended. Maybe I am cynical, but with a Democrat in the White House and a Democrat majority in Congress, I will be very surprised by any cuts in government programs which fail. He already said that public schools have failed too many of our children. Is he going to privatize schools? Who defines failure? How will they be cut? No answers or clues were mentioned in this speech. Will anyone in the media hold him to this promise? I seriously doubt it and I doubt any federal government workers are seriously worried about their program ending.

And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.”

Wow! What a change in policy. Ready to lead? I was under the impression that Obama was against our leadership role in the world. He criticized the lead we took in promoting representative democracy in the Middle East. Based on his campaign rhetoric, I expected one very clear agenda item out of this speech. I expected to hear Obama say, “Effective immediately, I am ordering the immediate withdrawal of all United States troops from Iraq.” This is the expectation he gave us during his campaign against Hillary Clinton, even before the violence was mostly defeated by the troop surge. What is his excuse now for keeping troops in Iraq? He has none.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.”

Principles, justness, example, humility, and restraint. Great words. How does abortion on demand, changing the definition of marriage, and moral filth of the popular culture fit into this template? Obama is firmly on record as supporting the first two and his greatest supporters promote the last one. We are supposed to sit here and believe he is sincere. Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary goes four years without paying his taxes. Now, even with this knowledge, Obama is standing by him to head the IRS. Where is the principle, justness, example, humility and restrain in that decision?

I could go on an on. Time does not allow me to rehash all of the numerous platitudes that Obama gave that do not jive with his record, his current stance on the issues, and his stated plans.

I did not buy his speech and, no, I am not buying a commemorative Obama plate either.