The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Congress’

THE MINIMUM WAGE AND BERNIE SANDERS

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville

Key to Bernie Sanders’ program of giveaways is his profound (and I suspect sincere) belief that raising the Federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would be a boon to those on the economic low end of the work force.  Clearly, basic common sense suggests that a person who continues in the same position in which she was formerly making $8.25 per hour and has gotten a raise to $15 an hour would be far better off.  Of course, the counter argument is that there will be far fewer workers earning the new wage as businesses find ways to automate jobs which formerly were done by people and reduce the number of personnel in their work force.  If you don’t believe that, check out Wendy’s latest innovations in order-taking via kiosk rather than human attached to an ear piece.

Bernie and the left in their typically magnanimous way, scoff at the argument that raising the cost of labor is going to increase the price of the product which that labor has helped produce.  At the most they are willing to concede that any such price increases “will be minimal”.  Of course, they would far prefer that the owner of the business simply absorb the increased cost, taking the additional cost out of his or her profits – perhaps forgetting that most small business owners have spouses and kids to support.  Someone who owns a flower shop or a nail salon can hardly be described as “raving capitalists.”  And, further to the point of the inconsistency which the left generally spews, Bernie either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that women are the owners of small businesses at twice the rate of men.  So is he conducting his own private war on women?

Thirty or so years ago when America had a segment of industry known as manufacturing, many people held positions which were known as cost accountants.  It was their job to determine how much it cost the company to produce a specific product so the manufacturer could price the product appropriately.  Among the components the cost accountant analyzed were the cost of the raw materials needed to produce the product, the amount of space that this production required within the plant to determine how much of the facility’s overhead should be attributed to the cost of the product and, of course, the cost of the labor provided by the company’s employee or employees who oversaw the actual product production.  Raising or lowering the cost of any of these items resulted in a product which would be produced more or less expensively.

Looking at a cost analysis of any product or service, if you are businesslike and realistic, naturally will lead to the understanding that as wages are a component of the cost of production, changing wages will have a direct impact on the overall cost of that product or service.  In the deep recesses of their minds, Bernie and his fellow socialists must realize that or they would be proposing a minimum wage of $30 or $60 or $100 per hour.  Should those higher numbers ever pass a brain-dead Congress, I assure you there will be an explosion in the robotics industry.  That might be a good thing.

But what is a guaranteed minimum wage, really?  Allow me to offer you my definition:

“The minimum wage is an arbitrary number set by government in an effort to make the enacting lawmakers look good to their constituents with the expectation that in return, they will get them to re-elect the lawmakers who are earning far more than the minimum wage.  It essentially is a subsidy, paid for by the consumer to reward people who have only marginal skills and, in a free market economy would be earning far less than the mandated minimum.”

In other words, it is yet another government subsidy and, since government produces nothing itself, this subsidy is paid for by consumers and taxpayers.

We may all agree that a person who is trying to raise a family by supporting them with a minimum wage job has a difficult task if that is his or her sole source of income.  But is that, in fact, the case?  Probably not, thanks to other subsidies which the government (the taxpayer) provides.  There are food assistance, housing, child care, medical and telephone programs which assist people who either do not have jobs or earn a minimal amount through their own work efforts.  And there is the Earned Income Tax Credit available to an individual either single or married who does receive some but not too much in the way of wages.  Let’s look at the EITC as it is a good example of “government-think.”

Perhaps you’ve heard the old joke, “We all want our friends to do well.  We just don’t want them to do too well.”  That canard stems from a time when there was an American dream of moving to the suburbs and having two cars parked in the garage.  That appears to be the philosophy behind the thinking of the law which brought the EITC to life.

For calendar year 2015, anyone earning at least $1 but less than $53,267 qualifies for the EITC.  The maximum payment available to an individual is $6,242 and for a person with three children is payable when the worker earns $13,850 for the year and continues at that level until the worker makes $23,650 for the year after which it begins to reduce by ten dollars for each additional fifty dollars of earned income.

There is a certain logic and societal benefit for the government to offer an incentive to people to work, a function formerly reserved to parents who offered the ultimate incentive by threatening to throw the kids out of the house so they could stand on their own two feet.  And the logic of gradually reducing the EITC so that there is an incentive to the worker to keep advancing and earning more in wages conforms exactly with the arguments that Milton Friedman made in the past.

Assuming a worker is currently earning $8.25 per hour, to reach the first threshold she would have to work 42 weeks, assuming a 40 hour work week.  If that employee realizes that she is now fully qualified to receive the maximum EITC and decides to take the rest of the year off, her hourly earnings for the 1680 hours she worked would be at a rate of $11.95 per hour when factoring in the money she will receive in a subsidy from the taxpayers.  Strangely, or perhaps not so much so, this is never mentioned when conversations about the minimum wage arise.

Do we need a Federal minimum wage – at whatever the arbitrary rate established by Congress?  Not if we follow the government’s own logic and practice.  You see, the government adjusts the amount an employee makes, depending on where they carry out their activities.  The government recognizes that an employee doing the same job in San Francisco will need to earn more than another employee who is stationed in Biloxi – and customarily integrates these pay adjustments in the salaries of their employees based on where they have been assigned.  What possible logic can there be to impose a static minimum wage on private employers irrespective of their location?

There is one further point that needs to be mentioned.  A person interviewing for a job might well reject an offer for the position either because of the nature of the work or because of the compensation being offered.  No employer holds a gun to the head of the prospective employee, threatening her with physical harm if she doesn’t accept the position.  The basis of contract law is that two willing parties enter into an agreement which specifies the duties and responsibilities each has toward the other.

Did the people who are out picketing for a higher minimum wage not agree to the terms of their employment, including remuneration, before they started working there?  If so, and to use the words of the late Clara Peller of Wendy’s commercial fame, “Where’s the beef?”

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TIME OUT

DATELINE:  WASHINGTON, D.C. – 11/14/13

President Obama, in an effort to preempt the House vote scheduled for the following day, gives a one hour news conference.  In it he offers those five million plus individuals who have so far lost their health insurance coverage due to the implementation of Obamacare an “apology”, kinda, sorta.  His new plan is to allow insurance companies to ignore the requirements of the ACA and to continue to offer the plans which they were forced to cancel for a one year period.  The news reports focus on whether that logistically can be accomplished and even if it can whether the president has the Constitutional authority to implement this plan.

DATELINE:  WASHINGTON, D.C. – 11/15/13

The House passes the bill submitted by Rep. Fred Upton (R – MI), which not only offers those who have lost their health insurance the right to keep it but authorizes anyone else who wants to purchase a similar contract to be able to do so.  This is a not very opaquely veiled attempt to sabotage the health insurance exchanges and ultimately Obamacare itself.  The bill passes the House with 39 Democrat representatives, one fifth of that caucus, voting for it.  The passage of the bill is viewed as a bipartisan effort to “fix” the law and Obama threatens to veto it should it ever pass the Senate which is unlikely with Senator Harry Reid controlling the agenda in that body.

DATELINE:  AMERICA – TODAY

There is no question that the proposals which have been offered by both sides have come about as the result of political maneuvering rather than from concern to develop sound policy.  And it is only sound policy that will save us from ourselves.  Consider, for a moment, why this current skirmish has happened.

It is true that as the ACA was originally written, all insurance contracts which were issued prior to its being signed into law were “grandfathered,” and those who had purchased them would be allowed to continue to be insured by them if the policy owner chose to do so.  But then, as happens with all bills, the agency designed to oversee the law, HHS began its job of writing regulations to interpret what this two thousand page law actually said – and it accomplished its job with an additional ten thousand pages of regulations.  The way those regulations were written (whether unintentionally or on purpose is immaterial) essentially negated the grandfathering provision of Obamacare.

As more people began receiving notices of cancellation from their insurers who had read the regulations and realized that they were not allowed to continue to offer these policies, the Administration took the position that, despite Obama’s repeated promises that this would not happen, they would spin this by saying that, 1) This only affected a “small percentage of Americans,” and as the numbers grew and people got angrier, 2) That these were “sub-standard” policies and that those who lost their coverage would be “better off” with one of the new Obamacare-compliant plans that were being offered – if only they could actually get on the website and buy them.

In any two thousand page law it is almost inevitable that there is something that at least accidentally has been written which is good policy and there is that in Obamacare.  Specifically, not allowing insurers to drop a client who develops a medical condition and requiring that insurance companies cover people who have pre-existing conditions is good policy.  A compassionate society has the responsibility to take care of those who cannot fend for themselves.

But if we expect our insurance company to have the wherewithal to write the check when we take the kids to the doctor or write the much larger check when a woman with breast cancer undergoes therapy, then those insurers have to earn a profit on their overall portfolio of business.  Unlike the Federal government which can merely print more money,  insurance companies can only write checks when they have the money in their accounts to do so.  Clearly those in government who view the ability to tax as an inherent prerogative and even their duty, have no concept of this or they would have written Obamacare dramatically differently.

There is perhaps no more telling statistic than that only eight percent of those in the Obama administration have ever held a job in private industry.  That compares with more than sixty-five percent in the George W. Bush administration and nearly eighty percent who served during the Reagan administration.  It is only natural that to people who have never known anything other than a government paycheck, that they have the mindset that government can do it best.  After all, government has served their and their families’ financial needs well through their lifetimes.

Think about that concept and the argument that the policies which were cancelled were “sub-standard.”  The Federal government has now come to the rescue of these obviously “stupid” consumers who didn’t realize that they had bought a pig in a poke.

The insurance industry is one of the most highly regulated businesses in America.  Every state has an insurance commission which passes on all the policies which may be sold in their state.  They can require that an insurance company revise its contracts before they may be sold to consumers if the commission does not feel that a policy meets the standards which they have set.  So, these “sub-standard” policies were approved for sale by whom?  By government – or more exactly, by fifty state governments.  It seems disingenuous to believe that government should be entrusted to fix a problem that government has apparently created.  And the same may be said both of the recent “mea culpa” by Obama and the passage of the recent House bill as well.

In his latest excellent book, “The Liberty Amendments,” author Mark Levin argues that one of the Constitutional amendments which we should enact if we are to try to save the Republic is to require term limits for our legislators.  This is hardly a new idea.

“My reason for fixing them in office for a term of years, rather than for life, was that they might have an idea that they were at a certain period to return into the mass of the people and become the governed instead of the governors which might still keep alive that regard to the public good that otherwise they might perhaps be induced by their independence to forget.”  – Thomas Jefferson

But I would also add an additional amendment which Levin does not discuss.  That is “Time Limits,” in which Congress should accomplish its work.  In the early Congresses this occurred rather naturally as most who served had their own businesses which provided their livelihood and their service in Washington was a part-time job.  If we remember the old adage, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground,” we should be aware that people who view their jobs as “legislators” will fill the amount of time given to them to do just that – often with disastrous consequences.

If we limited the amount of time that those in Congress met and paid them a daily small stipend for their service, it just might force our legislators to work efficiently and in a bipartisan manner to address the issues which are their proper purview.  And it would allow them the time at home to find out what exactly was on the minds of their constituents.  We would need fewer polls because the people would have direct access to their representatives to speak their mind.  And that would be a good thing.

DATELINE:  AMERICA – THE FUTURE

We’ve gone a long way down the road of abandonment from the principle in which, “That government is best which governs least,” was an essential foundation for our Republic.  Whether we continue our present route or reverse our course is up to us.  But we as we determine our own fate, it would be well if we remember the words that our first president offered his countrymen.

“The people must remain ever vigilant against tyrants masquerading as public servants.” – George Washington

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

The title of this post is pure plagiarism – coming as it did from one of the catch phrases of the ‘60’s.  At that time it was one of the rallying cries of the ultra far Left.  But how things have changed.  Now the power resides in the ultra far Left and their phrase calling for empowerment lies on a forgotten dusty shelf in a government warehouse.  It’s time to dust it off and have it become the mantra for those who believe in limited, effective, Constitutional government.

Last week’s recall election of two anti-gun Colorado State Senators, Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron may be a small first step in the right direction.  In media underplayed (this should come as no surprise to any thinking person) reporting, both senators lost their bid to keep their seats.  The media coverage that was reported emphasized the “vast amounts of money” that the NRA spent to achieve the successful recall effort.  Notably absent was that those who supported the senators spent three times as much as the NRA – including a $250,000 contribution from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

For years the left has descried the absurdity of “trickle down economics”.  Of course, in a different format, that is precisely the economic and cultural policy that they themselves employ.  The only difference is that rather than allowing the private citizen to do the “trickling” they have substituted Big Brother government.

Well, there is one other difference.  Instead of allowing the individual to arrive at moral, rational decisions on how to govern his or her life, the government “for our own good and based on its incredible storehouse of wisdom” will tell us how to think and how to behave, how to speak to each other and, most importantly, how to redress our grievances should someone have the audacity not to follow the government’s rules.  In another time we would have called this tyranny – and it’s time to dust that phrase off as well.

If those who have a belief in the value of the individual are ever to hope to re-establish that way of life in these United States, we need to set aside our prim and proper ways and get down in the trenches.  Change for the better will never come to this country based on rulings and new laws promulgated in Washington – at least not as it is presently constituted.  The reason is that those in power have the significant advantage of incumbency which is almost impossible to overcome – unless they receive real challenges in primary elections.  The only way to get the SOB’s out is to replace their names on the ballots in the first place.  Colorado has shown us that can be done.

Some of the pundits in commenting on the recall election (including Senator Giron) cited the low voter turnout as the reason for their defeat.  Well, the nature of elections is that the side getting the most votes is the winner – irrespective of the size of the turnout.  That is something that conservatives need to keep in mind.  We may be smaller or larger in number than our political opponents – but they are by far more catalyzed to do something that is fundamental to politics – getting out the vote.

Perhaps it is ironic that we conservatives frequently point correctly to one of the failings of government – lack of accountability.  I thoroughly endorse the idea that it’s easy to spend money when it isn’t yours.  Of course, the government considers all of our wealth and assets as really being theirs.  They simply allow us the privilege of holding on to some of what we have earned for a period of time before they impound it.

Consider how they tax every American’s wealth.  First we earn it and they tax it – Income Tax; Second we spend it – Sales Tax; Third we save it – more Income Tax or AMT; Fourth we die – they tax it again through Estate and Inheritance Taxes.  My father when he was audited for the third year in a row by the IRS – all of which resulted in no changes being made to his returns – made the comment to the auditor, “Perhaps we could simplify the process.  Why don’t I just turn over all my income to you and you can give me back what you think I’m entitled to live on for myself and my family.”  That was in the 1950’s – and we’ve pretty much devolved to that condition.

But returning to accountability, it’s interesting that once ensconced in power the government, since it has no personal skin in the game – other than yours or mine – is so wasteful.  Yet they only are able to be in that position because they have well orchestrated the effort to get them elected.  Having lived most of my adult life in Chicago I have seen that first hand.

If you are a Democrat precinct captain you no doubt hold a city job.  Although not written into that job description is one that is tacit to your maintaining your livelihood – getting out the vote on Election Day.  It’s a little like having your four year college career determined by one test given on one day.  And if you don’t think that motivates the Democrat precinct captains you are sadly mistaken.

Of course, this does lead to vote fraud and abuse.  That is almost inevitable when one party holds nearly absolute power and control.  I am sure there are examples of the same which could be found in Republican strongholds as well.  But it points to the underlying premise of this post.  People, at a grassroots level who are highly motivated can make a difference and can make history.

It’s time that conservatives grasped that concept and worked to return the power to the people.

AMERICAN MORALITY

Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing in an effort to convince those members who either oppose or are undecided  about whether the Congress should vote to support military action in Syria.

There was a great deal of speechifying about our (the United States’) moral obligation to punish an obvious atrocity.  I am nominating Secretary of State John Kerry for an Oscar – both for his performance today as well as for his moving speech on Friday.  Category – Best Performance in a work of fiction.

The Secretary expressed a concern that some members might vote against a resolution authorizing “limited military activity” because of their antipathy toward the Commander in Chief.  I’m no fan of the President’s – but I do not believe he needs to be embarrassed by the Congress.  He is perfectly capable of accomplishing that on his own.  Therefore, I hope that the members make their determination based on the facts and not on the politics.  For better or worse, for the next 1200 days or so we have the present administration in place and we have to live with that.

Looking back about fifty years, I remember another President, John F. Kennedy, who sent some advisors to a place called Viet Nam.  There was a bit of turmoil going on over there.  The French, incidentally our only potential ally in a Syrian adventure, had been dealing with those nasty Communist insurgents in that country for a decade.  This was a “limited” action on the part of our nation and stemmed from the “Domino Theory” that suggested that communism would gain strength and grow as it took over country after country.

Secretary of State Kerry and Sen. McCain, both of whom are advocating for the Congress’ endorsement of a military strike against Syria, served in that war.  So did a great number of young American men and of those who were primarily drafted, 58,209 came home in body bags and another 153,303 returned home wounded.  These are the results of a  “limited” war strategy.

The opening remarks were made by the committee’s Chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez (D – NJ).   One of his statements in his brief remarks was the following:

”This is not a declaration of war.  This is a declaration of our values to the world.”

The profoundly important question that each of us should ask is, “What values does America have?”  Are we to look to our politicians and the Washington bureaucracy to define those?  Are we to look to the examples they set for us as our guiding light?  Are we to have confidence in the values that a Sen. Menendez exhibits in his personal conduct?

Perhaps you may remember that the senator was involved in a scandal in the Dominican Republic, for hiring prostitutes as young as 16 while he stayed in that beautiful paradise setting.  And as recently as June of this year he was apparently involved in an affair with a married woman in Puerto Rico.  Now if you’re an old-fashioned person like me, you might find this sort of behavior reprehensible.  There are fewer of us with that view left in today’s America.  And to expect a thorough investigation by the Congress of one of its members is unlikely – since this sort of behavior is hardly restricted to Sen. Menendez as we have seen.

Perhaps you are of the opinion that a person’s sex life is his or her own business.  Consenting adults are free to do as they will – and the guidance for their actions must come either from within or from some higher power.  But the case of the Dominican incident did not involve adults but children – the same kind of children whom al-Qaeda presses into prostitution.

For some reason, we categorize al-Qaeda as degenerate, medieval bullies for those activities.  Yet we give a pass to a United States senator for utilizing those same children for his personal pleasure.  In fact, we make him the Chairman of a committee which expresses American ideals to the world – both to our foes and to our allies.  And what is more incomprehensible is that our military aid in Syria has, at least in part, gone to support the anti-Assad al-Qaeda rebel faction.

During the course of his testimony, Secretary of State Kerry, when pressed as to whether the proposed “limited strike” might escalate, finally admitted that if there “were a response by the Syrians or others, it might be necessary to send military forces in to Syria.”  He categorized that as a “remote possibility.”  While I’m no military strategist, I would put the likelihood of a “reaction” being pretty close to one hundred percent.

When the United States began sending more and more grunts to Viet Nam to win what the French had already learned was an unwinnable war, American frustration led to our using new and innovative weapons – specifically, napalm.  This was a petroleum based gel, first used during WW II but later perfected and used extensively by our military personnel in Vietnam.

Napalm clings to the skin and causes horrific epidermal burns.  Here is what a Vietnamese napalm survivor had to say about this weapon:

“Napalm is the most terrible pain you can imagine,” said Kim Phúc, known from a famous Vietnam War photograph. “Water boils at 212°F. degrees. Napalm generates temperatures of 1,500-2,200°F.”

In the photo below, Kim is the nude eight year old girl , center left, running down the road after being burned by napalm.

kimphuc

There is no morality in war.  In fact, war is the ultimate expression of a failure of morality.  Whether it’s napalm or sarin gas, nuclear weapons, machetes or assault rifles, the intent of war is to kill.  It doesn’t matter to the dead if she is a Syrian or Vietnamese child or a child in one of America’s inner cities.  Murder is an offense against all of humanity. And until each of us learns to live that truth, there will be murders and we will continue to excuse them by using the legalized term “war” to justify them.

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice.  It demands greater heroism than war.  It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”

– Thomas Merton

THE REPORT OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE MEETING ON S.H.I.T.

“The Chair recognizes Senator Fogbottom.”

“Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee and Honored Guests.”

“Today I am pleased to report on the exceptional progress that we have made in implementing the ‘Sub-dermal High Intensity Transformer and Behavior Modification Device’ program, commonly referred to as “S. H. I. T.”

“In the five years since we began implanting these devices in Americans, not only have we been able to employ 287,450 loyal progressives in the “Department of S. H. I. T.,” but we have monitored over 969,866,437,012,554,000,000,000,000,000 thoughts that the recipients of these devices have ideated.”

“Furthermore, we have zapped over 189,364,881 Americans who, at one time or another after installation of the device had a racist thought, a sexist thought, a homophobic thought, an anti-Islamic thought or an anti-government thought, to cite only a few of the 399 unacceptable areas of thought that your government monitors.  This program deserves to be viewed as an incredible success.”

“There is no question that the number of offensive slurs that have been uttered since the S. H. I. T. program was started have been reduced dramatically.  With the absence of news media coverage of these offensive infractions, that has given this country a greatly expanded amount of time in which they may devote themselves to viewing the 587 new Reality TV shows that have been created.”

“Furthermore, with the program’s built-in self destruct program, after the twenty-fifth offensive thought, as you know, the owner receives a lethal dose of voltage that destroys his or her brain and terminates him.  This has proven to be an exceptional boon in two regards.  We have finally figured out a way to reduce the number of unemployed people and the funeral industry is seeing the greatest boom in its history.  I need not even mention to you how this also has had a beneficial impact on ‘Global Warming.’”

“As with any program, there are always a few minor glitches.  But I assure you that the good that the program generates far outweigh these.  Nevertheless, I am here today not only to offer my report but to offer a bill which will alleviate one of the most major negative consequences of the S. H. I. T. program.”

“You see, with the extreme reduction in the number of complaints of ‘hateful statements’ and the consequent reduction in the number of law suits being filed, it appears that our attorney population is having a tough time making ends meet.  And so I am proposing today that we establish a new Department – the “Department of Comprehensive Retraining for Attorney Professionals” which will be more familiarly known as ‘C. R. A.P.’”

“As you know, many attorneys when not occupied chasing ambulances, join their colleague judges on the golf course.  So this provides a very natural and easy transition for them into the world of golf course maintenance.  They already know the terrain – so now all they have to do is be trained in how to work productively – for some of them for the first time in their lives.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, by introducing C. R. A. P. into the S. H. I. T. program, we will have done the greatest service since what’s his name led that Revolution thing a few hundred years ago.  We will truly have made America safe for our visionary form of democracy.  I S. H. I. T. you not – that’s no C. R. A. P.”

“Thank you for your kind attention.  I look forward to your comments and questions.”

JE M’APPELLE, GRACIE

Barring implementation of the Mayan Doomsday prophesy, December 21st will be Gracie’s sixth birthday.  Just in case, I am hosting an “End of the World” party tonight for some friends from the dog park at a local Italian eatery.  There should be plenty of leftovers which is good because Gracie and I both like pasta.

I chose the venue for a specific reason.  I am trying to broaden Gracie’s horizons and cultural experience by feeding her more foreign foods these days.  If Mom was right and, “You are what you eat,” it seems reasonable to me to believe that if you eat foreign  it is only a short while until you can “speak” foreign.  And that’s a good thing if you happen to go to Montreal, Canada.

Life for our neighbors to the north must indeed be halcyon these days.  Hockey is in season (when isn’t it?) and their budget is probably more balanced than ours.  No waves of unanticipated immigration seem to be invading their country and people there still work for a living.  And if they have a serious illness, for the time being they just come to the U. S. for treatment.

So what else is there for legislators in Canada to do?  Well, in that beautiful walled city of Montreal, the City Council has unearthed a serious issue which they have addressed.  It is the subject of non-bilingual dogs who, with their companion people, frequent that city’s dog parks.

The sages on the Montreal City Council have passed an ordinance which requires that dogs understand commands in both French and English if they are to continue to use dog park facilities.  No doubt this will create a new business opportunity for those who write the series of books which will now include a new title, “Bi-Lingual Dog Commands For Dummies.”  I am going to see if I can pre-order a copy of this just in case Gracie and I decide to take a drive to Montreal this spring.

Now that the members of the Montreal City Council have cleared their plates of their pressing business, perhaps they can lend us a hand here in the U. S. A.  If they would oblige, perhaps they would take the short trip to Washington and assist the parties involved in their negotiations over our “fiscal cliff” divide. 

It seems that those involved are speaking two different languages.

Happy Birthday, Gracie!

002

THE ASHEN VIZIER AND THE 535 MENTAL MIDGETS

We know that if we give a junkie a dose of heroin she’s going to use it and come back asking for more.

We know that if we send government our tax dollars they’re going to spend them and come back asking for more.

We call the junkie a law breaker.  We call the politician a law maker.  That’s about the only difference between them.

If we apprehend the junkie, we the taxpayers pay for her support either in a rehab facility or a prison.  We the taxpayers who elect the politicians pay their support through our tax dollars to ensure they have ready access to what little they leave us in our pockets.

My friends used to laugh at my view of owning a car.  I summed it up one day on returning from a repair shop where I had some mechanical work done.  As I put it, “Owning a car is like having a vacuum cleaner permanently attached to and sucking at the contents of  your wallet.”

That’s a lot like the way government operates.

Many years ago my father was audited by the IRS.  For three years in a row.  The focus of their pogrom was on determining whether the business deductions he took were legitimate.  The result of these audits were three “No Change” determinations by that esteemed agency.  In other words, dad had documentation for every penny that he claimed and those deductions met the definitions of the Internal Revenue Code.

Nevertheless, it’s always stressful when you are accused of something and are assumed to be guilty until you prove your innocence – which is the approach that the IRS takes with us taxpayers.  So dad dreaded these encounters passionately.  I think that was mostly because he was an honest man and the implication that he was otherwise challenged his sense of decency.

At dinner one night, I believe it was at the conclusion of the second audit, my father told us that he had said to the auditor, “Wouldn’t it just be easier if you took everything I made and then just refunded what you think my family and I are entitled to live on?”  Little did he know that would be the direction this country would turn a half century later.

As we are now little more than three weeks from the much touted precipice of the “fiscal cliff,” who is in charge of making rational decisions to repair the folly we have already wrought?  It should not surprise you that it is the very people who have brought us here in the first place.

Our players consist of the Ashen Vizier and the 535 Mental Midgets – a cartoon cast that would be the envy of both Walt Disney and Cecil B. DeMille.  (My apologies to the twenty or so responsible people in Congress who have a pulse, a brain, common sense, and the moral courage both to understand and to tell the truth).

So here’s where we are.  Stuck over defining who’s “rich” and who should pay more of their “fair share.”  As though that matters any more than renaming a school in honor of Horace Mann will provide the students inside with a better quality education.

The facts are (and amazingly both sides agree on this) that if we follow the Ashen Vizier’s plan and start taxing the “rich” more, we will raise less than three percent of the money we need to balance our budget.  In other words, this “plan” leaves ninety-seven percent of our problem unresolved.

Since it’s hard for any of us to contemplate something that has burgeoned into the size of our deficits with all those zeroes, let’s look at this from a standpoint which we all can understand because we all have to deal with it.  A family and its budget.

You and your spouse have been wasteful and indulgent of the kids.  You’ve let your finances get out of control – but you’ve finally decided it’s time to deal with reality and get yourself back on the right path.  (Those annoying phone calls from creditors might have given your decision some impetus).

So you go down to Ashen Vizier & Associates credit counseling service.  You’ve seen their ads on television (a lot) and they promise that they have the solution to your financial woes.

The nice receptionist asks you to fill out a profile of your monthly income and expenses and then you are brought in for an audience with the Vizier himself.  He is a very self-assured and impressive sounding chap.

After he reviews your situation, he astutely points out that you are spending one thousand dollars a month more than you are taking home.  You and your spouse, in awe at this wisdom, nod your heads in agreement.  Okay.  The Vizier has identified your problem.  That’s a great start.  But, you ask him, “What do we do about it?”

As he stands up from behind his desk and completes the putt he was working on when you came into his office, he says, “No problema.”  He turns to the reference library which is on the wall behind him, filled with hundreds of the largest books you have ever seen.  He immediately pulls one down from the shelf and turns expertly to the middle of this tome where he finds the solution to your difficulty.

On page 462, Paragraph 7 he shows you a program which the Federal Government has developed just for people who are like you.  All you need to do is complete the paperwork and every month thereafter you will begin receiving a special allotment of thirty dollars.  It’s the program called “A Little Something Extra For The People Who Are A Little Short Each Month Entitlement.”

it is with some trepidation that you point out that will still leave you nine hundred seventy dollars a month deeper in debt.  But the Vizier grins broadly at you and says, “Don’t worry – that will take care of itself.”

Armed with this wisdom (and the promise of an extra thirty dollars a month) you and your spouse leave the office in an upbeat mood.  You decide to go to a movie, buy some popcorn and a few sodas and spend the thirty dollars you will soon be getting plus a little more.  Like your old hero, Alfred E. Neuman and your newly found one, the Vizier you are comforted with their life-guiding principle, “What, me worry?”

Somewhere I have quite a few copies of “Mad Magazine” stored away.  I think I know where they are.  Talking about all this financial stuff always makes me a little dizzy.

If I can find them, maybe I’ll curl up with a couple and drift off to sleep.  As I think about it, they are nearly forty years old and may be worth something.  Which is more than I can say for the Ashen Vizier and the 535 Mental Midgets.

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