Thursday, January 31, 2013

Excuses, Excuses

I'm sure you've heard the news by now, the commerce department has come out with the final quarter numbers for last year as a 0.1% GDP decline. There are many excuses as Democrats try to spin the news, but the party's narrative is not very convincing. I thought I would take some time to overview the popular responses, by which I mean excuses, to the news and why the arguments are either dishonest of just out right wrong.

Excuse #1: "Government spending has been dropping, and that has hurt the economy."

If this is true at face value, it is just really sad. This would be saying that the private sector is, and probably has been, growing (maybe skrinking) at an even weaker rate during this entire recovery, and the only growth is not only spurred, but sustained by the government spending a record 24.1% average of GDP. Bush spent an average 20.5% (including FY2009), and Clinton spent 19.3%. Just imaging if that extra 4 percent was being spent in the economy by the private sector itself. At what point do we get to say the stimulus didn't work?

Excuse #2: "Republicans wanted cuts in spending, well this is what happens when they get their way"

It is true Republicans in general want less government spending, but rarely do they want the biggest and hardest hit factor of those cuts to be so focused on defense, which is by far and away the largest part of this short term dip in government spending with the sequester cancelling many defense contracts even before the fiscal cliff deal was struck. If this was the case, then we may be in store for another dip if the new sequester date approaches with no real solution. Also note that non defense federal spending in Q4 actually rose 1.4%.  So really this is a second reason, aside from the obvious, to be careful when approaching the defense budget.

Excuse #3: "This is only temporary"

Dear God, I hope so, but if I had a nickel for every time a monthly or quarterly report came out as "below expectations" the last few years I'd be a rich man. The Federal Reserve was predicting a huge slowdown and growth, dropping to 1.0%... GROWTH! This was factoring in known drops in federal spending. This is all just evidence of the Federal Government digging it's nails into who is winning and loosing in the open markets.

Excuse #4: "The other aspects of our economy are strong."

Here is where you really loose me. Sure, it may not have been a decrease in GDP without the large cuts in defense, but reduced exports and poor growth in company stockpiles. Even without some of these more 'one time' aspects, most people say growth was around 1.0 to 1.5%, not exactly bragging rights material.

Excuse #5: "We need to increase spending to correct this."

We had to borrow over a trillion dollars this last year in order to quench this governments thirst for it's stimulus programs. We are now years into this approach and the first flinch from the government in spending results in a net contraction. This approach is not only unsustainable, but it is doomed to fail unless we have such a strong growth rate that is swallows up our deficit. Sadly, this approach is exactly what this administration has been hoping for for the past three years. Take a look at his budget proposals for 2012, he has predicted a near double digit receipt growth for the following year each year since taking office, these inaccurate predictions have since removed from the white house website.

Excuse #5: "Who cares?"

Sadly, probably the same people that thought 1.8% growth in 2011 was too week, and that 2012's net 2.2% increase is not worthy of the term 'recovery'. A President who wants to be spending almost $6 Trillion a year 10 years from now  will always have people trying to justify and downplay bad news with this President. Not so unlike Presidents of the past, but surely not to this extent this casual observer has seen.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Now that I have your attention, it's time for another political rant, but the central players are those lovely mammaries that, much like Saturday morning cartoons, we learned to love as a child and still try and get a peak at from time to time when our wives aren't looking.  

As a result of a provision in the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), health insurance plans now have to cover the full cost of breast pumps for nursing mothers. The new rule took effect for many people at the start of 2013. It's led to a boom in the sale of the pumps, a heaving surge in demand, a swelling bottom line, the executives are tickled, and shareholders dividends have been nursed well from the result of the sales of these pumps, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

Advocates of requiring insurance companies to pay for breast pumps say that the measure will pay for itself in the long run. A very scientific looking study found that people who suckle on breasts tend to have fewer health problems. It is not too far fetched say the same may be true for babies, and paying for breast pumps should mean more babies are breast fed. There is, however, another aspect to consider, new moms now seem more likely to splurge on fancy new things for their breasts, including breast pumps. If you purchased the cheapest pump you could buy last year, and this year you can get the most expensive one free, why wouldn't you not only buy another one?

It is in that last statement that this issue takes flight, for it is not you who is forking over the hundreds of dollars, it is everyone. Weird things happen when you take price out of the equation for consumers. For one thing, they stop looking for the best price. But, even though breast pumps are free for new moms, somebody has to pay for them. Health insurance premiums are driven by how much we spend on health care. The more things that are covered by health insurance policies, the more premiums have to rise to cover that spending. This is being proven over and over again as premiums continue to rise at alarming rates in the wake of Obamacare, which had been promised to stifle such increases, yet here we are about 3 years later looking like a group of dumbfounded men staring at, well, you know where I'm going with that.

I have spent many hours researching breasts on the internet, and have concluded that we are going about this issue all wrong, that it is not an issue where we should be concerned about the health of the baby, but about the general well being of our baby momma's. We should hold them close, and comfort them, stroke their hair and see if they smell nice.

The worst part is people will see free and forget that nothing is free. Then about half of the population will see breasts and forget about all the other problems this bill continues to shine a pair of headlights on.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Proof we are going about this all wrong

Keeping with my outrage over the neck breaking speed at which gun control legislation is being enacted without proper discourse in the wake Sandy Hook, we now observe a state senator from New York boast on the floor about how fantastic, and how great of a time it is to be a Democrat. How great a bill it was that they where passing, and finishing up his proverbial patting of himself on the back with stating, that this bill was not going to change a danged thing.

New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., while announcing that he had every intention of voting for S.2230,  that he describes himself as a “Democratic bill,” chided his fellow Democrats with a simple exhortation;

“It will not make a difference in the committing of crimes.”

He didn't stop here, at a point, where he could play that statement off as a slip of the tongue, no sire-ree, he goes on. “I assure you, nothing’s gonna change. We have lost respect for life, we have no respect and fear of God,” Diaz spoke. “Not until we go back to those standards, nothing’s gonna control crime... It’s the mind. It’s not the weapon, it’s not the revolver, it’s not the rifle. It’s the mind,”

This is the same state that forgot to exempt policemen and other public safety officials from their law. The same state who had a mayor say police should go on strike. Have we embarrassed ourselves enough yet? Have we made a point that the discourse on this topic is going in a terrible direction? The only silver lining here is that they have until March to scramble and try and correct their own ignorance. This line goes right up there with "You have to pass the bill to learn what's in it." and "They misunderestimated me."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Poll: What much should the Debt Limit be Raised?

I love it when the press actually does its job. Last week, a reported asked white house press secretary Jay Carney what the President was looking to get out of a debt limit raise. You know, the tough grilling questions like "How much?" or "What kind of a timetable to get a spending agreement deal for a larger limit raise?". Of course this line of thinking goes completely against Obama's true objective, to stop having to answer for congress whenever he wants to do anything, anything! 

In light of this obvious dodge, I thought I would pose the question to you guys. What do you feel that the debt limit should be raised by?

$100 Billion - That will buy us a couple of weeks or so to grind out another month long deal.

$500 Billion - Enough time to form a committee and convince the few naive pundits think they are actually trying.

$1 Trillion - Enough to make people start to think we don's have to worry about this, at least for the time being.

$4.7 Trillion - Over $21 Trillion in total debt, with a little luck, enough to make this a non-issue until the next election.

Unlimited - Then Congress can finally move on to not voting for gun control and not voting on a budget.

Friday, January 18, 2013

From my Cold Dead Hands

I wonder what the founding fathers would say to us now if they where still alive.

My theory says that after they marvel at the iPad, and then catch up world history through Mel Gibson movies, they would be thrilled to see how we have flourished, and disappointed at our public discourse has reverted to that of eight year old who thinks taping a cheetah to their grandmothers back is safer then drinking a double shot of five hour energy.

In my observations over the past month, in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I have observed that this issue is much more grey then you would guess listening to most pundits in the media, both left or right. Let me explain, some people hear that taking away certain types of weapons, namely assault rifles in this argument, or they hear that clip sizes are being reduced, and they believe that the second amendment is being treated like Chris Brown's girlfriend. This is a tough pill to swallow because obviously there is a need to put some restrictions on the statement 'right to bear arms'. Does your neighbor have the right to have a nuclear weapon? Heavens no! Why? Because, there is an unnecessary danger to too many people if someone has a set of arms capable of such destruction. I'm a firm believer that the second amendment was put there as an ultimate check and balance for the people of this country against a government that holds the potential to subdue the populace at some point in this countries history.The point I'm trying to make is that reasonable restrictions on your right to bear arms, not unlike yelling "Fire!" in the middle of a crowded theater is a restriction of the first amendment. Pun intended.

If an individual sees the need to be armed with the capacity to ward off a battalion of marines, not only is that standard completely unreasonable, I probably would un-friend you on Facebook. Nothing personal.

So there is a line, but we seem to argue ourselves silly trying when determining where this line is. A dance line of all living former presidential candidates seems more obtainable then getting a consensus on where this line is drawn. Watching people trying to get folks to their side of thinking is almost as painful to witness as envisioning the aforementioned dance troop.

I was watching Lawrence O'Donnell last night (a fact of which I am not proud of) as he showed video of President Reagan giving a speech where he was urging congress to pass the Brady Bill (which enacts background checks in most gun purchasing cases) back in the nineties. He prefaced this clip, with that god awful smirk of his, claiming the Reagan would be in support of the Presidents action. completely ignoring the fact that Reagan was calling on congress to pass a law, not for the President to simply enact it. Meanwhile  The NRA points out that the president's own children are protected with weapons similar to those people want to ban. This entire country is protected by Air Craft carriers and missiles that it's citizens can't run down to Costco and purchase. Of course the same protections are not extended to the citizens of New York.

This is a complicated issue and any attempts to say otherwise, well, I ain't buying it. The real clear issue of the day? Was the President right to simply state a law, sign a piece of paper and through a party? Of course not.  I tried once to pass an executive order in my house the other day without garnering the popular support of the congress that is my wife. Suffice to say the policy I called 'topless twinkles Tuesday' is not the law of the land, and not just cause there are no more Twinkies  The laws Obama are proposing are not currently on the books, therefore he has no authority to pass them and enforce them. I also said the same thing about the government forcing you to buy a private service during the good 'ol days of the Obama Care debates, so take my legal point of view with a grain of salt. While we stockpile munitions under our bed waiting for either the zombies to try and eat us, or for the government to take our babies, the wool has once again been pulled over our eyes. We are less of a democracy today then we where yesterday and the debate is about when Reagan was suffering from Alzheimer's and how many ninja's the Presidents kids are entitled to. I stand by waiting for the lawsuit against the Presidents action and hope for the best there. By then, hopefully, the blood boiling over Sandy Hook will be reduced to a simmer and congress can go about it's constitutional authority of building consensus via pork and buyouts. When we may realize that these laws probably won't prevent another tragedy like Sandy Hook.

Final Thought: You need an ID to buy a gun, but not to vote. Discuss.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Explaining the Explanation

Today, the President had a press conference explaining the need to raise the debt limit. There has been a lot of confusion reported as a result of some of his comments, allow me to assist with a what they said v. what they meant segment.

"Now right now our economy is growing, and our businesses are creating new jobs. So we are poised for a good year -- if we make smart decisions, sound investments, and as long as Washington politics don’t get in the way of America’s progress."

It's going to be another crappy year, and I will once again blame the House and Republican leadership, and for reasons that even shock and elude me, a lot of people out there will believe it.

"Now, step by step, we've made progress towards <balancing the budget>. Over the past two years, I've signed into law about $1.4 trillion in spending cuts. Two weeks ago, I signed into law more than $600 billion in new revenue by making sure the wealthiest Americans begin to pay their fair share."

We need to focus on raising more taxes because I've already done everything I'm willing to do as far as spending reduction.

"These are bills that have already been racked up, and we need to pay them. So while I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they've already racked up."

We're not only spending money we don't have, we're spending money that we don't even have a loan for yet. Kind of like inking a deal on a house without talking to your bank yet. So get ready for those stinking republicans who are going to try and say that there is something wrong with this way of governing.

"If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear materials wouldn't get their paychecks."

Republicans will cause old people to die, our troops to be abandoned, small businesses to go under, planes to collide in mid air, and a nuclear holocaust. This $#*! just got real...

     In response to a question about using executive authority to raise the debt limit without congressional approval;

"...if the House and the Senate want to give me the authority so that they don’t have to take these tough votes, if they want to put the responsibility on me to raise the debt ceiling, I’m happily (sic) to take it. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, had a proposal like that last year, and I’m happy to accept it."

Could you imagine the kind of $#*! I could get away with if I didn't have to keep asking these pesky congressmen for permission all the time. 

This kind of reminds me of that fourteen year old who asks his or her parents for their own credit card so they can stop annoying mom and pop with requests for their allowance. This analogy falls apart when you realize this teenager would have already spent his allowance for earnings from now until they are in their mid twenties.

Normally this is the part where people begin to wonder how one man can be so naive to actually believe he should have what basically amounts to unilateral control over all spending in the United States Government, which for the remainder of his presidency would equate to something in the $15 Trillion range. I'm flabbergasted because somehow he is pulling this off within the realm of public perception. People are actually encouraging him to bypass congress with chants of the greater good and overcoming dissent through executive fiat. 

I simply want to remind people that whatever is done in this presidency carries over to the next, regardless of which party they might be a member of.

Friday, January 11, 2013

10 Best Biden Gaffes

So many to choose from, but here is my list for the 10 best Biden Gaffes.

10. "There's never been a day in the last four years I've been proud to be his VP."

Giddy, Dazzled, Confounded? Sure, but never proud.

9. “I promise you, the president has a big stick.”

Obama laments giving Biden unmitigated access to the White House gym showers.

8. "A very good political speech from a lieutenant governor of Alaska."

People think he mistook Palen as the Lt. Governor, but Sean Parnell gives a mean speech.

7. "This is a Big f—ing deal."

This is bigger then when McDonald's did buy one get one for what the temperate was yesterday.

6. “Spread your legs, you’re gonna be frisked,”

Just keeping up with the latest security measures enacted for the capitol.

5. "You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking,"

I tried it once, he's right, I had to settle for Donutland.

4. "Three letters: J-O-B-S."

When trying to convince voters that you’re qualified to be the president’s number two, you might want to make sure they know you can count to four. Biden second grade teacher would not be pleased with this one.

3. "This is the guy who's running all the ads here in Iowa."
I take a fair amount of personal offense being from Iowa. How could you get the two states confused? Iowa doesn't have any professional football teams, while Ohio has one. (Of course, the Browns don't count)

2. “Stand up, Chuck”

A failed attempt to kick start a career as a TV evangelist.

1. "Put you all back in chains"

By which of course he meant all that mad bling that the predominantly African American crowd would be able to buy with the crazy tax cuts they would have gotten under Romney.

Bonus: "President Biden"

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

8 Taxes under Obama

First: The Individual Mandate Tax (formerly known as a penalty). This provision will require a couple to pay the higher of wither a base tax of $1,360 per year, or 2.5% of adjusted their growth income starting with lower base tax and rising to this level by 2016. Individuals will see a base tax of $695 and families a base tax of $2,085 per year by 2016.

Second: Medicine Cabinet Tax that already took effect in 2011. This tax is directed to those who deduct their pharmaceutical expenses while filing, as this tax prohibits reimbursement of expenses for over-the-counter medicine, with the lone exception of insulin, from an employee’s pre-tax dollar funded Health Saving Account (HSA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA). This provision hurts middle class earners particularly hard since they earn enough to actually pay federal taxes, but not enough to make this restriction negligible.

Third: The Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Cap, which begin this year, is perhaps the most hurtful provision to the middle class. This part of the law imposes a cap of $2,500 per year (previously it was unlimited) on the amount of pre-tax dollars that could be deposited into these accounts. A particularly hurtful example of this harming a middle class family is a case of funds in these accounts being used to pay for special needs education for children. Tuition rates for this type of special education can easily exceed $14,000 per year and the use of pre-tax dollars has helped many middle income families.

Fourth: Medical Itemized Deduction Minimum, which is currently 7.5% of adjusted gross income. This is the hurdle that must be met before medical expenses over this hurdle can be taken as a deduction on federal income taxes. Obamacare raises this hurdle to 10% of adjusted gross income beginning in 2013. Consider the middle class family with $80,000 of adjusted gross income and $8,000 of medical expenses. Currently, that family can get some relief from being able to take a $2,000 deduction (7.5% X $80,000 = $6,000; $8,000 –$6,000 = $2,000). An increase to 10% would eliminate the deduction in this example and if that family was paying a 25% federal tax rate, the real cost of that lost deduction would be $500.

Fifth: Health Savings Account (HSA) Withdrawal Tax Hike. Continuing the trend of undoing all the benefits given to people trying to control their health costs over the past 10 years using a Health Savings Account, this provision increases the additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10% currently to 20% beginning in 2013. This provision actually sets these accounts apart from Investment Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and other tax advantaged accounts, all of which remain with a 10% early withdrawal tax.

Sixth: Indoor Tanning Services Tax, this tax began in 2010, and it places a 10% excise tax on people using tanning salons. While some may regard this as insignificant, the broader implication is that this act of taxation is a blatant move by the federal government to control the behavior of citizens. This provision, as does the Individual Mandate and as Justice Kennedy said during the oral arguments on the constitutionality of the law said, “….fundamentally changes the relationship between the federal government and the citizen.”

Seventh: Excise Tax on Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans or the “Cadillac” Health Insurance Plan Tax. These are plans that provide extensive coverage and that are generally fully paid for, or largely paid for, by employers. This provision imposes a 40% excise tax on the employer-paid premium on taxpayers who are covered by such plans, beginning in 2018. The reason it begins in 2018 is because most unionized workers are covered by plans that fall under this definition and a deferral was made to spare union members from this tax for at least a period of time.

Eighth: Payroll Tax Holiday Over, In late 2010, Congress passed a law stating that the Social Security portion of your payroll taxes went from 6.2% to 4.2%, a 2% reduction. As of January 1st, that 'holiday' was over, and the fiscal cliff deal did not extend it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Memphis Trip

Sure, the Cyclones lost their game pretty badly  but Memphis is a pretty awesome town and I still had a blast, here are a few photo's I thought I'd share.
The Giant Guitar Drop for New Years at Hard Rock Cafe

Iowa State traveled well and packed their half of Liberty Bowl Stadium

Go Clones!

ISU snuggie, or Hogwarts Uniform? 

A good Southern Breakfast

ISU Marching Band

Beale Street at Night

The Best Land Marker... EVER!!

Hail to the King

Sun Studios

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fiscal Sham

We are so fed up and disappointed in our congress, in Washington, with all the rhetoric and stupidity, how much do we hate them you may ask, well, just keep reading.

  • President Obama – Reelected
  • Speaker John Boehner – Reelected
  • Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi - Reelected
  • 393 members of the house sought reelection, 358, or 91%, won their election.
  • 23 Members of the Senate sought reelection, 21, also 91%, won their election.

Americans are fed up with Congress like almost never before.  Congressional approval rating sit in the teens. What the heck is going on that we as an electorate keep voting in the same idiots time and time again?
Richard Lugar in Indiana was actually primary’ed out of his place on the ballot, which ultimately resulted in a seat being gained by the Democratic party. These guys have no idea what they are doing, they have no idea how to get us back to some sense of stability and normalcy, but man, can they get elected. And we are the chumps that keep voting for them!

Of course, all this frustration is coming in the wake of one of the worst pieces of legislation ever to come out of Washington in my lifetime, the Fiscal Cliff deal. Today, the 113th congress is being sworn in. We are currently running the government on accounting tricks and gimmicks as we pass, yet again, the debt limit. The CBO says the last piece of legislation passed by the 112th congress will add about $4 trillion in new debt to our country.  Everyone’s taxes are going up despite warnings that this will be one of the worst taxes to raise in terms of the economy, which I could accept if it was on the premise of reducing the deficit  but, as I already stated, this bill ADDS to the deficit.

Why would we pass a bill that does nothing but add to the problem that it is supposed to be trying to address? Why is this being touted as a solution in the first place? If making hurried decisions in the middle of the night when everyone was trying to make it to the bars for last call was considered a good idea, I would be CEO of Earth. Nothing is fixed, but congress did do one thing that it excels at, loading this legislation with pork.

  • Tax breaks to Scooter Drivers
  • Tax breaks for shooting movies in low income neighborhoods
  • Tax breaks for people who own/operate race tracks
  • Tax Credits for Algae and Asparagus owners

That’s it, I can’t take any more. I’m out of here. Someone please bring me back to sanity!