What is wrong with Harry Reid – Is he losing it?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 21, 2014 by The Center Shot

What is wrong with Harry Reid?

Is it just me or do other people wonder if there’s something (physically/mentally) wrong with Harry Reid? I understand being a staunch advocate for your party or your causes but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has seemed to take many of his stances beyond the boundary of the sane. There doesn’t seem to be sanity to many of his comments nor many of his actions. Many times it seems that the words that escape from his lips are not those of man in full control of his faculties; and the way he shuffles about and speaks as though he’s heavily medicated raises a lot of red flags for me.

I hate to raise this issue and single out any individual with questions of their mental health; but when a Congressional leader is regularly making comments outside the realm of sanity, what choice do I have? I write this with a heavy heart because my mother suffers from dementia and I have experienced other family and friends with dementia. So, if there is some form of dementia going on with Sen. Reid, I have great sympathy for him. Let me say this to make things clear: I AM NOT saying that Sen. Reid is demented – I have ZERO information on his health status. However, when so many of his comments don’t make sense (based on publicly available information) I don’t think it’s out of bounds to question whether something is going on with him.

If you aren’t aware of his comments (and think I’m crazy), here’s a brief list of just some of his outlandish claims that have been proven to be absolutely incorrect and have been disavowed by even the most left leaning Democrats:

  • While the Koch brothers admit to not being experts on the matter, these billionaire oil tycoons are certainly experts at contributing to climate change. That’s what they do very well. They are one of the main causes of this. Not a cause, one of the main causes.”
  • “Despite all that good news, there’s plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue, but they’re being told all over America,”
  • “The leukemia patient whose insurance policy was canceled [and] could die without her medication, Mr. President, that’s an ad being paid for by two billionaire brothers. It’s absolutely false. Or the woman whose insurance policy went up $700 a month–ads paid for around America by the multibillionaire Koch brothers, and the ad is false.”

  • “We heard about the evils of Obamacare, about the lives it’s ruining in Republicans’ stump speeches and in ads paid for by oil magnates, the Koch brothers. But in those tales, turned out to be just that: tales, stories made up from whole cloth, lies distorted by the Republicans to grab headlines or make political advertisements.”

  • “Mr. President, these two brothers are trying to buy America. They not only funnel money through their Americans for Prosperity, they funnel money into all kinds of organizations to do the same thing that they’re doing. They’re trying to buy America. I don’t believe america is for sale. We’ll see, Mr. President.”
  • “You guys have said his (Mitt Romney) wealth is $250 million,” Reid went on. “Not a chance in the world. It’s a lot more than that. I mean, you do pretty well if you don’t pay taxes for 10 years when you’re making millions and millions of dollars.”

This is far from a complete list but it’s a few choice comments to illustrate my point. It’s not hard to find reference to many, many more with a quick Google search. Nor is it hard to find where so many of Sen. Reid’s comments have been given extreme Pinocchio Awards, have had to be walked back after his staff got a hold of him following the comments or where fellow Democrats have run from his comments.

Aside from his strange and outlandish comments, we have the procedural move that Reid pulled in the Senate to strip the minority party of it’s traditional rights and abilities. This “nuclear option” may well change, forever, the way that the Senate operates. Sounds great if you’re the party in power; but what happens when the winds of change arrive (which they always do, at some point) and the power shifts? Well, there’s payback – that’s what happens. Conservatives will be faced with 2 options: A. They can undue the nuclear option, taking the high road, and return the Senate to the way it has been for the majority of our nation’s history. But, the precedent set, they will be fearful that the “nuclear option” will just be re-employed when the winds of change shift again. So, they’re likely to stick with the new procedure which just hurts the system and the minority party at any given time. B. They can run with the system that Reid created unilaterally and dish out the same type of treatment that they received under Reid’s leadership. NEITHER option is a good one! The system worked well for most of our history and, now, it’s been forever altered by ONE addled Majority Leader and his misguided leadership. This is a situation that should concern members of BOTH parties because it endangers our very system of government.

I understand wanting to support the actions and comments of our particular party leaders so I can sympathize with Democrats who are hesitant to call out a party leader. However, at what point do they have to come the realization that maybe their faith and tolerance is misplaced? Reid’s comments and actions have LONG past the border of sanity. If a Republican leader was acting this way, I would be making the same comments and calling for a review. We (all parties) expect modern politicians to shade the truth to advance their party’s agenda. We see this from John Boehner (R) to Nancy Pelosi (D), from Reince Priebus (RNC Leader) to Debbie Wasserman Shultz (DNC Leader) but what we don’t see from them is the consistent kind of outlandish (and frankly insane) behavior that we see from Sen. Harry Reid. He has become a category of his own. So, at what point do we (as Americans) begin to ask questions about the mental health of one of our nation’s most powerful people?

This is a fairly unique situation so I don’t have a clue how, procedurally, one would question the mental health of a standing member of Congress, much less a Senate leader. However, I do know one group that has some influence – the people of the Great State of Utah! If I lived in Utah, a state full of pragmatists, I would be supremely embarrassed to have one of ‘my own’ acting this way (and representing me) in Washington. If the Democratic Party as a whole wont take a close look at this situation, I would pray that the people of Utah will. They are our last, best hope. Maybe things will change some come November but even a Republican takeover of the Senate will not do much for the ‘Reid Situation’ because he would, undoubtably, become the new minority leader. He surely has enough ‘dirt’ and ‘chips to call in’ on his fellow party members to retain a power position. No doubt this is why/how he retains his position currently, in the face of his behavior. Ultimately, I fear that 2016 (when he’s up for reelection) is our only hope. It’s time that the people of Utah give up the “pork” they get from having such a powerful Senator, for the good of the nation.

I feel bad for Senator Reid because I fear that he’s not 100% in charge of his own faculties and, if he was just another citizen, I wouldn’t be concerned about him – I’d just be concerned for him. But he’s not. He’s one of the most powerful men in Washington. When we have a real concern about one of our leaders, we have a duty to raise attention about our fears. It’s not about politics, it’s about genuine concern for our country.

 

If you want to read some further articles about Reid’s outlandish comments, here are a few of interesting ones:

http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/harry-reid-is-the-worst-living-human-being-on-the-planet/

http://www.glennbeck.com/2014/05/01/has-harry-reid-officially-lost-it/

http://ricochet.com/harry-reid-jon-gabriel/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Look before you leap – A Conservative Caution!

Posted in Political/Social Commentary with tags , , , , , on May 21, 2014 by The Center Shot

My apologies for the late publishing of this article – I wrote it a while back and forgot to post it. Better late than never, I guess!

In light of some recent events and the upcoming election, I thought it prudent to issue a warning to conservatives everywhere: Look before you leap! We’re all upset over the course our government and our nation is on and it’s understandable, and even laudable, that we want to jump at every opportunity to illustrate our frustration and concerns. However, we need to be more careful about the cases that we throw our support behind; and the faces that we elevate to ‘poster child’ status for our causes. It’s imperative that we do our ‘due diligence’ and properly vet these personalities and cases, to make sure that there aren’t any skeletons in the closet, before we throw our full force behind them. The danger, as recent events have shown, is that those personalities will have fatal flaws that backfire on us; and, instead of bolstering our argument, actually distract from it. The Cliven Bundy case is a perfect example of this; but it’s, by no means, the only example.

We all understand (and fear) the dangers of an overreaching Federal government. The conflict between the BLM and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy seemed like a great opportunity to stand up for individual rights and state sovereignty and against governmental overreach. Unfortunately, there were SO many issues with this case, and Cliven Bundy in particular, that it turned into a debacle. Sure, we won the battle with the BLM; but, on a broader scale, we lost a much bigger battle because of all the information that came out after the standoff ended – information that was readily available and easily accessible. The end result was the discovery that both the man and the facts we thought we were supporting were both fatally flawed; and we’ve given our opposition even more ammo to cast us as hotheads that will blindly support anyone waving a flag. Looking back, it’s hard to argue (in light of that case) that they’re wrong.

As the rally cry sounded to support a small rancher who was standing up to an overreaching Federal government, we leapt to his defense without a further thought. Whether it was the good people that physically ran to his side or the nationally syndicated conservative talking heads that devoted their entire shows to his (supposed) plight, we jumped in head first. Even as events played out, and information surfaced that all was not exactly as it had seemed, many conservatives plowed doggedly ahead making excuses for those inconvenient facts. The talking point was, “that may be true but the real issue at hand is….” Unfortunately, every inconvenient fact that surfaced threw egg on the real issue until, by the time it was all over, that real issue was so obscured that it was lost from sight. In a matter of a couple of weeks we went from a ‘real American under attack by the Federal government’ to ‘a tax evading racist nutcase without a legal leg to stand on.’

My point is not to rehash the Bundy case but to point out that there are cases that exist, which illustrate the governmental overreach we all abhor, without all the baggage that this particular case had. For example, the Red River land grab being contemplated by the BLM. This case addresses all the same issues of the Bundy case but the families involved are all honest, taxpaying and normal. This case doesn’t provide our opposition with mud to sling back at us, diverting attention and reducing the validity of our struggle. This case doesn’t offer our opposition the means with which to paint us as “kooks” who are too blinded by our politics to recognize that we’re lining up behind a mini-Unabomber. Another case that we could have, and should have, thrown our vigorous defense behind is the Wayne Hage case. Their are many valid cases out there, that involve upstanding American citizens, that we can and should throw our support behind. Cases that will help us illustrate our fears, about governmental overreach, to our fellow Americans. We need to look before we leap, though, and make sure that those cases we throw our overwhelming support behind are worthy of our support!

Ultimately, any political battle is really a battle of salesmanship. The bases, on either side of the battle are of little consequence because they are already ‘sold’ on the beliefs of their own, particular, side. Where the battle is ‘won’ is in the middle; by one side winning over more of that ‘middle’ than the other side. Just being “right” isn’t enough. We have to convince that undecided ‘middle’ that we’re right. It’s impossible to do that when we get caught supporting and calling attention to cases that involve characters that are unsympathetic; or that are trying to use our beliefs as cover to get away with things they have no right to get away with. There are ample cases that we can latch our teeth into that won’t bite back. Lets “look before we leap” and properly vet those cases that seem to illustrate our cause; so that we don’t keep coming out of these events with egg on our faces.

Sure, we all wish that we could change the course of the country ‘on a dime’ but our nation is more like a cruise ship than a bass boat- it isn’t capable of making a rapid course correction. Change (in the right direction) will be incremental and slow, like the the turn to the left that’s taken 50+ years to accomplish.

Many conservatives, especially those on the far right, are (understandably) impulsive in their desire for immediate and significant change. Unfortunately, this has hurt us more than it’s helped us – dividing our cause and leaving it vulnerable to attacks from the left. A better tact for the far right and Tea Party to take is as a motivating force that nudges the establishment right to increase the pace, but also putting a governor on their own desire for an unrealistically fast pace. A division on the right only benefits the left. It’s frustrating, I know; but that’s the reality of the situation. The sooner we conservatives realize and embrace this reality, the more successful we’ll be. With an important mid term election around the corner, it’s imperative that we are a united force instead of a divided one. Everyone needs to ‘give’ a little and present a united force for change, even if that pace is a little uncomfortable to each faction.

US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) ruling to decimate 3 endangered species!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 18, 2012 by The Center Shot

January 5th, 2012, Washington, DC – Under pressure from animal rights activists, anti-hunting groups and environmentlists the US Fish & Wildlife Service announced a ruling (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-05/pdf/2012-23.pdf) that will decimate the the US populations of 3 endangered antelope species from north Africa- the scimitar-horned oryx, the dama gazelle and the addax . The ruling will remove an exemption from the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Since 2005 USFWS had exempted these 3 species from certain requirements of the Endangered Species Act (1973) and allowed US captive-bred animals of these species to be sport-hunted. As a result of the 2005 exemption, the numbers of these 3 species, particularly the scimitar-horned oryx, have exploded in the US.

Ranchers, hunters and hunting-based conservation groups, like the Exotic Wildlife Association (EWA) and Safari Club International (SCI) recognized the symbiotic relationship between conservation and hunting. As a result, ranchers began stocking and breeding these species and funded it through hunting. The interest in hunting these species spurred an ever-increasing number of landowners (particularly in Texas) to join in the effort to breed these marvelous animals, with resounding success. In fact, the vast majority of the world’s remaining members of these species are located on and have been bred by these hunting ranches.

The new ruling, which will prevent these ranches from deciding on which animals to remove from their herd, will require a difficult permitting system for each animal they want to harvest. This difficult, complicated and fickle permitting system already exists for the endangered barasingha deer and is the reason that most hunting ranches won’t stock or breed the barasingha. Consequently the barasingha hasn’t seen a significant increase in its US held population, like the Oryx has. In reaction to this new ruling, ranchers that stock scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle are scrambling to drastically reduce or, in many cases, eliminate, the numbers of these species on their properties before the ruling takes effect April 5, 2012.

The problem is, these large animals compete with native wildlife and traditional livestock. If ranchers don’t have the freedom to cull their numbers to maintain a healthy balance on their properties, they are not willing to stock an animal that has the potential to devastate their wildlife, habitat and livestock. Additionally, the new rules remove much of the financial incentive to breed and stock these antelope. Because exotic species ranchers have witnessed the difficulties of obtaining the federal permits to harvest, or “cull,” excess animals with species like the barasingha deer, they recognize that this will be the case, after April 4, with the Oryx, addax and dama gazelle. It’s with a heavy heart and no small amount of consternation or reluctance that these ranchers are already eliminating animals that they wish they could keep.

The most unfortunate thing about this new ruling is that it was made under the guise of “protecting” these majestic and endangered species and that the ACTUAL result is going to be the near extinction of these very species. Once it is done, a reversal of the ruling will serve no purpose as the animals, the only really viable herds on the planet, will already have been destroyed. Everyone involved in exotic species ranching and game conservation is at a loss to understand the wisdom behind a ruling with such devastating consequences.

Clearly, politics reign supreme and there’s no common sense at the USFWS.

Endangering endangered species – New USFWS rules changed may endanger several species!

Posted in Political/Social Commentary with tags , , , , , , on October 2, 2011 by The Center Shot

On July 6, 2011 the US Fish & Wildlife Service, under pressure from environmentalists and animal rights activists, proposed eliminating a rule exemption that may well endanger 3 species of animal that are endangered in their natural habitat.

The scimitar horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle are all antelope species that are native to the deserts of North Africa. Native populations of addax and the dama gazelle have been in severe decline and are seriously endangered, as a result of regional conflict, uncontrolled killing in famine-stricken regions of Africa and loss of natural habitat. The scimitar horned oryx is believed to be extinct in North Africa because none have been sighted since the 1980’s. The only place in the world where these species are thriving in large numbers is here in the US, on private game ranches – mostly in Texas.

Private exotic game ranches, with the assistance of groups like the Exotic Wildlife Association, have created breeding programs that have caused these three species (along with other exotic animal species) to grow and flourish on these privately owned, privately operated and privately funded properties. None of these ranches have received financial assistance from the government or from well-known groups like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or the Sierra Club! In fact, while groups like the WWF have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from well-meaning individuals to “save” endangered species, the scimitar horned oryx has likely gone extinct (in its natural habitat) and the addax and dama gazelle have continued to decline. If it had not been for the efforts of these exotic ranchers, there would not be a healthy population of these animals that can, hopefully, be used to re-introduce these beautiful animals to their native environment – once conditions in Africa improve to the point where this makes sense. In fact, the Exotic Wildlife Association has, “established a partnership with the renowned Sahara Conservation Fund and the two groups are working to reintroduce the species back into their native countries.” Unfortunately, as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS),  the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is considering removing the very exemption that has permitted these private exotic ranches to be so successful!The Addax is a desert antelope species from North Africa that is endangered in its native habitat; and survives on US exotic game ranches in significant numbers. These efforts have been privately funded by ranchers and hunters and have been FAR more successful than the efforts of large so-called animal rights groups and conservation organizations like the WWF and the Sierra Club!

In 2005 the USFWS exempted these species, that are listed as “endangered species,” from some of the regulations normally associated with endangered species – so that private ranches could  breed, sell, buy, transport and harvest these animals in the US without special permitting.  As a result, US populations of these animals have exploded and have helped to fuel a $1.3 billion exotic animal industry and created thousands of rural jobs. It has been the most prolific expansion of endangered species populations ever and it’s all been done by private individuals, as a result of deregulation. Prior to the 2005 exemption, very few ranchers were able and willing to raise these animals on their properties because of the difficulties and complexities of the old regulations, the permitting process and the restrictions that had existed. The removal of these obstacles, in 2005, provided these ranchers with a free market financial incentive and made it easy for them to justify introducing these animals to their properties and to instituting breeding programs.

When the exemption was put in place, ranchers were suddenly able to freely and easily buy these animals from the limited number of breeders that existed (at the time) and release them on to their properties, to reproduce. Once a sustainable population was established, the property owners were able to offer hunters the opportunity to hunt some of their mature animals which did two things: First, it allowed the property owners to control the population and prevent it from getting larger than the land could sustain and to prevent the population from interfering with the native species (i.e. deer) on their land.  Secondly, the money they charged to hunt these animals offset the cost of feeding these animals and provided an income stream that enhanced property owners to choose raising these animals over cattle, goats and other livestock. The opportunity to hunt these animals and the willingness of hunters to pay large sums of money fueled a population explosion that simply could not have been done by groups like the WWF or by the federal government.

If you ever doubted that hunters are truly conservationists dedicated to the continuation of all game animal species, and that hunting plays a vital role in creating and managing a healthy population of wild game, this should dispel that doubt! In fact, had it not been for hunters, the numbers of oryx, addax and dama gazelle (not to mention numerous other exotic species that are thriving on US ranches) would be far less than they are today.The Dama gazelle is a desert antelope species from North Africa that is endangered in its native habitat; and survives on US exotic game ranches in significant numbers. These efforts have been privately funded by ranchers and hunters and have been FAR more successful than the efforts of large so-called animal rights groups and conservation organizations like the WWF and the Sierra Club!

If the exemption is removed, these ranchers would have to apply for permission to buy, sell, trade, move or kill each and every oryx, addax or gama gazelle on their property. This presents a number of problems. If a landowner has to apply to the government for permission every time they need to do something with one of their animals, the process becomes so tedious, complicated and expensive that many of these landowners will simply opt to raise other, less complicated species or return the land to livestock which is, then, simpler and cheaper. Also, since the winds and the mood of the federal government are constantly shifting (especially under pressure from special interest groups like the WWF, Sierra Club and HSUS), they can’t be guaranteed that they will even be permitted to do what the animals need. Imagine what would happen if a landowner could not get permission to control the numbers of these animals on their property – after a few years of unchecked breeding, they would overpopulate and become unhealthy and they would begin overwhelming the food supply on the property which has been known to cause destruction to native species, like whitetail deer. We are already seeing this on a massive scale with the exotic Axis deer from Asia. This large deer species has become so prolific in Texas, that they are causing whitetail deer populations to decline in areas where axis numbers are exploding. The whitetail deer simply can’t compete with the axis deer for resources. The typical oryx weighs 3 times a typical whitetail deer. In addition, the complexities of the permitting system the USFWS is contemplating returning to will, even if ranchers utilize it, will increase the price of hunting these animals to a level that most hunters can not afford; which will decrease demand and, thus, eliminate the very incentive that landowners had to stock and breed this endangered species.

The very threat of having to go back to the permitting system has already caused many landowners, that have these species on their properties, to begin drastically reducing their populations.  Since the July 6, 2011 announcement by the USFWS many ranchers have been offering hunters the opportunity to hunt them at drastically reduced prices to reduce their herds; and many have said that, should the old system be re-instituted, they will simply kill every one of these animals on their property, rather than take a chance with the permitting system. This would be devastating to the population of oryx, addax and gama gazelle that currently exist. Who can blame them, though? The same system that the USFWS is threatening to re-impose on these animals currently exists for barasingha deer and is so complicated, difficult and fickle that most exotic ranch don’t stock them. As a result, the population of barasingha has not proliferated as successfully as the oryx, addax and gama gazelle which has been under an exemption. The landowners and ranchers that have been breeding these animals a working people that utilize the land to feed their families and their philanthropy has limits – if it becomes too difficult and expensive to raise these animals they will be forced to switch back to other livestock that is simpler and and more economic. Then, who will perpetuate the species?  The US government, animal rights groups and conservation groups have done NOTHING to increase the numbers of these animals. They will simply decry the loss of the species and blame mankind when they will have been the final straw that eliminated the species’.

The USFWS has tried this before (prior to the 2005 exemption) and, when the permitting system was in place, the numbers of these animals and the numbers of property owners raising them were far less than they have been since the exemption was put into place. So, why reinstitute a system that was NOT as successful as the one that has been operating for the past 6 years? The answer is, pressure from so-called animal rights and conservation groups. These groups are very open in their opposition to hunting and are dedicated to trying to eliminate hunting as a sport. What’s so funny is that they seem to be more interested in opposing hunting than supporting the very animals they are supposedly dedicated to saving! These groups are so blinded by their opposition to hunting that they are unable to to see that this move, in particular, will be devastating to the numbers of oryx, addax and gama gazelle that exist in the US. They should be supporting the status quo and the incredible growth in these animal populations that have resulted from it. Instead, they keep fund raising from good-meaning people who care about animals and using their money to fund a war on hunting instead of actually looking at the situation and supporting the methods that have produced the most success.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service knows better and yet they are bowing to political pressure rather than doing what is best for the animals at issue. This is inexcusable. Unfortunately the time for public comment has passed but pressure can still be exerted on them by congress. If you are interested in supporting the continuation of the scimitar horned oryx, the addax and the dama gazelle, you can contact your representatives in congress and ask them to pressure the USFWS to maintain the current exemption; and even to expand that exemption to include other endangered species’ like the barasingha deer. If you are a supporter of groups like the Humane Society of the US, the WWF and the Sierra Club, COMPLAIN! Ask them to stop this craziness and to urge the USFWS to maintain and expand the current exemptions!

If the current rule exemption that applies to the oryx, addax and gama gazelle are removed, the blood of these species’ and their loss for future generations will fall squarely on the heads of the USFWS and HSUS, WWF, Sierra Club and other anti-hunting groups!

Why not a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution – what is the objection?

Posted in Political/Social Commentary with tags , , , , , , on August 10, 2011 by The Center Shot

For just a minute, try and step back from your party affiliation (whatever it is) and everything you’ve heard about the idea of instituting a balanced budget amendment. I want you to consider some things completely objectively. I’ll warn you when I get to the part where you can put your party colors back on! OK? Ready? Here goes….

If you’re reading this, YOU are almost certainly living under a “balanced budget” in your own home. If you weren’t, you couldn’t afford the internet connection you’re using to read this; much less the computer you’re using. If you’re reading this, there’s a 98% chance that you live in a state that has a balanced budget requirement built into the state constitution. Vermont is the only state that doesn’t have some sort of balanced budget mechanism in place. If you and the state that you live in need to live within your means, why shouldn’t the federal government be held to the same standard? It doesn’t take a trained economist to figure out that if you spend more than you make (or take in), you are heading for trouble . The same holds true whether you’re talking about an individual or a business or a government. ‘Sure,’ you say, ‘but I have a care loan and (maybe) a home mortgage – isn’t that spending more than I take in?’ No, because you are, ultimately, calculating that you can afford to make the payments each month within your balanced budget. Hopefully, within your budget you have even accounted for money you are putting away for a rainy day- a “surplus.”

These are the type of considerations any self-sustaining entity (person, business or government) lives by. It’s a simple concept. So, why not impose the same standard on the federal government that everyone agrees spends too much. Yes, there are disagreements on what the government spends money on; but everybody has something that they believe the government spend money on foolishly and unnecessarily. For example and generally speaking, Democrats/liberals don’t like excessive defense spending and Republicans/conservatives don’t like excessive spending on social programs.Right? Well, if politicians no longer had the ability to borrow or print money to fund anything they want and, instead, had to figure out what they can afford, I think we can all agree that they would be at least a little more responsible about how they spend our money, what projects they devise and what promises they make to us, the American people.

Are we still on common ground?Can we agree, so far, that this would be a slight improvement in our government?

‘OK,’ you say, ‘but doesn’t a balanced budget amendment favor certain people or groups?’ No. How would it? Even in its purest form (I’ll get to this later, so just bear with me) it doesn’t change any of the fundamentals of our democratic system. Revenue can still be raised through taxes to actually pay for things we need or want, it would just help limitborrowing and keep the federal government living within its means- like we do. Of course there will be ebbs and flows in the makeup of the government over time. Some years Democrats will have more influence and some years Republicans will be stronger; but this is the very necessary basis of our system. Our system is set up on “checks & balances” and the dueling parties are a perfect example of that principle. We, the people, decide who controls the government and we have an opportunity every 2 years to effect a course correction if we don’t like what they’re doing. Limiting spending to what we can afford, and without unchecked borrowing doesn’t change this dynamic in the long run, it only limits the government’s ability to run up uncontrollable debt.

When we want to try something something new or different we look within our own budget for unnecessary spending in order to find the money. Right? Why shouldn’t the government do the same thing? If they weren’t able to raise the “debt ceiling” and borrow money because of a balanced budget amendment, they would actually do something about the rampant waste in other areas to look for the funds to implement something new. If they can’t find the funds within the budget or government waste, then they would have to make the case to the American people why it’s such a good idea and ask our permission to raise taxes to fund the idea.

That sounds good, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t that be better than some congressman/woman coming up with a cockamamie idea in a back room to please a special interest group or lobbyist and then simply raising the debt ceiling to borrow the money to implement it? Members of both parties have done this time and time again and chances are there’s an example where it really made you mad!

Think about this: A fiscal restraint system, like a balanced budget amendment, can do things that please both parties and solve a lot of issues:

  • Waste – Everyone agrees the government wastes a ton of money. If borrowing was severely limited it would forcethe government to pay more attention to its own wasteful spending and be more efficient in its use of OUR money!
  • War – Politicians would be a LOT more hesitant to engage in conflict if they didn’t have a “blank check” to borrow whatever they wanted! Before starting a conflict, politicians would have to look just as much at whether we can afford it as whether it’s the right course of action. Since starting a conflict would almost certainly require an increase in taxes, in the case of a balanced budget amendment, a President would have have to really make the case to the people and get them on board. A pretty big deterrent to initiating!
  • Military Spending – Since military spending is a big part of the budget, congress would have to take a hard look at the massive waste and redundancy in military budgets and be much more selective in the selection and creation of new technologies- choosing only those that make sense, are truly needed and can be brought to fruition on time and within budget.
  • Social programs – While social programs would likely take an initial hit, they will anyway because they aren’t sustainable under the current setup – something that very few people, on either side of the political aisle, disagree with. If the waste and fraud were seriously addressed, like a balanced budget amendment wouldrequire, a significant dent could be made in the current insolvency of these programs. Then, add to that the savings in other areas of government that could be redirected to social programs, and you’ve made significant progress towards funding social programs. A balanced budget amendment wouldn’t threaten social programs, it would mandate that they are run in a way that guarantees continued help for needy Americans. Addressing these issues, once and for all, would likely provide more benefits to those who need them!*
  • Taxes – For those who favor tax reform, a balanced budget amendment would make this more likely! Whether you favor raising taxes on the “rich” or reforming/simplifying the tax code or closing loopholes or any combination of these, a balanced budget amendment works for you! Once the government is forced to ‘live within it’s means’ and can’t simply borrow more money, the only source of revenue available will be taxes. Right now, Washington doesn’t have any reason to seriously deal with taxes because, rather than deal with such a tough and contentious issue, they simply choose to borrow more which only delays the discussion.
  • Debt/Deficit – Everyone agrees that the current, increasing debt is hog-tying the US economy. This is an issue that effects all Americans and one which both parties agree must be solved. A balanced budget amendment would force the government to eliminate the deficit in future years, would halt the debt from growing further and would put us on a track to begin paying of the debt. While we may have disagreements on how money (in the federal government) should be allocated and on whether taxes should be raised (and, if so, on who), one thing we can all agree on is that we would be better of if we didn’t borrow more money. Regardless of which side of the isle we are on, we can all agree that there’s enough money in this country that WE SHOULD be able to operate the government without having to borrow trillions of dollars a year. A balanced budget amendment would simply guarantee that we have the debate and do the tough work to make that a reality.
  • Special interest groups – By eliminating the government’s ability to borrow money indiscriminately, the hold that special interest groups have on politicians and their influence on policy will be greatly reduced. Politicians (on both sides of the aisle) have used their ability to borrow as much money as they wanted, as a way to fund projects and programs that are brought to them by special interest groups- groups that, in return, deliver votes in the following election. In any town other than Washington DC, this would be called bribery, extortion or fraud;but in the US Capital this is called “business as usual.” So, if we cut off the rampant borrowing that facilitates the influence of special interest groups, we can really limit their influence over our politicians. This doesn’t mean they’ll go away, it just means they won’t be as powerful as they have been.

Still keeping an open mind? C’mon, you can do it! I’m almost done. Hang in there!

Yeah, but what about emergencies? What if we have a natural disaster or are forced to go to war?  These are reasonable questions and there’s a really good solution. Included within a balanced budget amendment, there should be a provision to allow the government to borrow money and to run a deficit in the case of emergencies but that also limits that amount and imposes a strict time frame for full repayment. If we limited the borrowing to a certain percentage of our gross domestic product (GDP), defined what constitutes an “emergency” and imposed a set time frame (also tied to GDP) we could account for those emergencies. In other words, just like in our own personal lives, we would be able to borrow money when we really need it but we would be limited in how much we can borrow based on our ability to repay the loan in full; and we would given a firm time frame to repay the loan. If every person and every business is required to operate this way, why shouldn’t the US government?

OK, you made a pretty good case; but if it’s such a great idea, why are so many politicians opposed to a balanced budget amendment? They’re opposed to it because, basically, it’s like asking a politician to cut his own throat. Think about it – what politician want’s to cut off the money flow that helps him run for office? Remember how many political ads you saw during the last big election? Those ads, especially on TV can cost tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars! Most politicians depend on the help of special interest groups to finance their election campaigns. So, why would they voluntarily cut themselves off from this money tree? They won’t. Not without enormous pressure from average voters, like you and me. Polls already show that roughly 70% of the American public already support the idea of some sort of balanced budget amendment.

Now you can put your party hat back on. I’m done.

I’m not expecting this one article to convince you; but I am hoping that it will make you think. Even though the biggest objection to a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution comes from Democrats in Washington, they aren’t alone. There are plenty of Republicans who ‘brush off’ the idea of a balanced budget amendment. I challenge you to take a close look at those who object and I’ll be willing to bet that they take enormous sums of money from at least one special interest group. If they do, don’t you think it’s at least reasonable to consider that their motivations are less than pure? Isn’t it reasonable to consider that they’re putting their own self-interest and political career first, before the interests of the country and their constituents? All I’m saying is that the idea of a constitutional control that limits the government’s spending is not the “radical” or “crazy” or “impossible” idea that many politicians in Washington make it out to be! Remember that you most likely live in a state that has a balanced budget requirement of some sort; and remember that if we ask for one we’re essentially asking the politicians to give up access to a money tree.

Would it really be bad to at least have a serious national discussion about forcing the federal government to operate the way each one of us do, the way every business does, the way every union does, the way that every non-profit organization does and the way that 49 out of 50 states do- within some semblance of their means? How can we expect to continue spending more money than we have? There’s NO way for it to continue indefinitely. Every year our debt grows to swallow a greater and greater amount of our GDP and eventually, if this continues, it will equal (or even exceed) what we take in; and, eventually, we will end up living in a bankrupt country. There’s NO reason we can’t live within our means and still do what we need to do for those who need our help. If you’ve been opposed to a balanced budget amendment please take a fresh and open minded look. It’s an idea worth looking at and discussing, to see if we can’t come up with a way to implement a balanced budget constraint on the federal government and curtail the out-of-control spending that they’ve become so accustomed to. If we don’t, the consequences will be more severe than we can imagine.

Are these new fuel economy standards a good thing? Really?

Posted in Political/Social Commentary with tags , , , , , on July 30, 2011 by The Center Shot

Yesterday was a perfect example of what’s wrong in Washington and why we need a “cap” on spending and a balance budget amendment. President Obama announced a new fuel economy standard that US auto makers reluctantly agreed to- 54mpg average (between all vehicles sold in the US) by 2026. Sounds like a good thing, right?  It’s not.

First of all, consider that last year, in spite of their fuel economy and the high price of fuel, hybrid vehicles only accounted for 2% of the vehicles sold in the US last year. Ford sold TWICE as many F150 trucks as they did all of their hybrid models COMBINED! Auto makers argued, this is clear evidence that Americans are not interested in these high-priced vehicles, regardless of their fuel economy.

Secondly, car makers warned that raising the fuel economy standard as high as the president wanted could lead to job losses. Auto prices are already at record highs with some pickups costing in excess of $70,000. In order to meet the proposed new standards (which call for an average mpg rating), vehicles will have to be developed that far exceed 50mpg; and the investment required to develop the new technologies will drive vehicle prices much higher. With consumers already balking at vehicle prices, especially on hybrids, market analysts warn that increased prices will lead to a slump in auto sales which will result in a loss of jobs in the auto industry and among small businesses that supply components to the auto makers.

In spite of these sensible economic objections, auto makers were convinced by the President to sign on to these new fuel economy standards. How, you may ask? Did the car companies have some sort of awakening? No. The President ‘sweetened’ the deal by offering tax credits to auto makers and including a policy review in 2017! What does this mean? It means that the American taxpayer will, essentially, subsidize the development of fuel economy vehicles that Americans won’t be able to afford and have already shown a reluctance to buy; and which will, inevitably, cost jobs. The analogy has been made, by economists, that this is like dealing with obesity by forcing clothing companies to produce nothing but small sizes.

The Administration and it’s supporters have spent the last 2.5 years blaming government subsidies, loopholes and tax credits to corporations and favoritism to special interest groups for a significant portion of the debt and the current budget crisis. Now, at the height of the nation’s biggest fiscal crisis EVER, the President engages in yet another spending spree to advance an environmental policy that he personally likes and that his political base likes. A policy that Americans doesn’t want, can’t afford and will cost American jobs.

Political analysts say that this an effort by the administration to mitigate damage among liberal Democrats that are angry with the President over his apparent willingness to negotiate on entitlement reform.  Business as usual in Washington- at it’s worst.

Politicians, on both sides of the aisle, are suffering from the “I don’t mind cutting as long as it doesn’t effect me” disease! Unfortunately, the President seems to suffering from it even worse than many others. It would be one thing if this move had a trade-off of significant job creation or would have a positive economic effect for the average American, that would outweigh the cost. Unfortunately, the BEST Americans can hope for is more expensive vehicles that are unlikely to provide fuel cost savings that outweigh the additional cost of the vehicle and that will be subsidized with taxpayer dollars. The WORST case is the same result in addition to a massive loss of jobs when auto sales slump because vehicles are too expensive to afford!

In addition, previous fuel economy standards have led to decreases in vehicle safety, increases in automobile related deaths and questionable reductions in overall emissions. Studies by groups like the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, The Brookings Institute and the National Academy for Science have found that similar fuel economy standards (CAFE standards) led to reductions in vehicle safety and led to between 41,600 and 124,800 deaths, depending on the study. Additionally, the studies found that CAFE standards led to between 352,000 and 624,000 additional serious injuries in traffic accidents.

Whether or not government-imposed fuel efficiency standards actually reduces emissions is hotly debated. For every study that claims emissions will be reduced, there is another that shows they won’t. Studies that claim emissions will reduced ASSUME that (and rely on) people will not change their driving habits when presented with a more fuel efficient vehicle. Unfortunately, studies into this particular question show the opposite. As people acquire more efficient vehicles, they drive more; which often leads to a net increase in emissions as compared to their previous habits in their old car.

Additionally, there are many indications that the prices that auto makers will be forced to charge for these high fuel efficiency vehicle will be more that most consumers can afford. Even today, with the high price of fuel, sales of current hybrids and electric cars are extremely slow, to say the least. They are, frankly, out of reach of most Americans and many just don’t see how they can recoup the enormous cost of these vehicles through the increased mileage they offer. Don’t forget that on top of the vehicle sticker price, most buyers will pay interest charges that total thousands of dollars before the vehicle is paid off.  It takes a LOT of driving just to save $1000 off fuel economy.   and a HIGHER cost to the consumer, rather than the promised savings.

Remember, the new standard requires that the average mpg rating  of all the vehicles an auto maker SELLS (not produces) meets a particular standard. So, if a particular car maker sells work trucks (i.e. Dodge 2500 pickup, Ford F350 pickup, etc.) that only get mileage in the 20’s, they are required to sell enough vehicles that exceed the 54mpg requirement so that that the average of all sales is 54mpg.  If they don’t there are penalties. With current sales of hybrids and alternative fuel vehicle only accounting for a tiny fraction of the market, and all the issues already discussed, its reasonable to assume they will only account for a small percentage of sales when the guidelines go into effect.  Who will incur the penalties when these standards aren’t met?  The consumer.  The car makers may, initially, pay the ticket but they will pass those costs on to the consumer eventually; further raising the costs of vehicles.

With all these negatives and the fiscal crisis, it’s hard to imagine any reason, other than a political one, why the President would press this issue right now. It’s actually hard to understand why such a proposal would be put forth period, at any time, were it not for political concerns. One thing is for sure, this announcement smacks of the hypocrisy, poor timing and influence of special interest groups (particularly environmentalists) that have plagued Washington and led to much of the current debt and budget problems. The only way to begin to curtail this reckless type of favoritism and spending is to impose some sort of “check” or “cap” on spending; and the only way to permanently limit it is to implement a balanced budget  amendment to the constitution. If politicians are only given a a specific amount they can spend to get EVERYTHING done, instead of the power to borrow as much as they want, they will have to consider what they spend money on. Just like we do. IF a balanced budget amendment were in place and they want to implement a new program, they would have to find they money within the budget instead of simply borrowing it or printing it like they do now.

If you want to do some more reading on fuel economy standards and their real effects, check out this article from the Institute for Energy Research

Joe Trippi and Laura Ingraham agree on Tea Party advice?

Posted in Political/Social Commentary with tags , , , , , on July 28, 2011 by The Center Shot

I was just watching Laura Ingraham interview Joe Trippi, Democratic strategist that managed the Howard Dean (2004) presidential campaign, and I actually agreed with him! So did Laura Ingraham. Or, was he agreeing with us?

Trippi advised the Tea Party to vote for the Boehner plan tonight and then, “5 minutes later,” hold a press conference and announce that they stood up for principles as long as they could without causing a financial catastrophe; and that if people want them to be able to effect even more change, then they should elect more Tea Party members to congress. Pretty much what I advocated in my article yesterday.

Trippi also slammed the Obama administration for it’s mishandling of the debt crisis and blamed them for causing much of the problem through its out-of-control and ineffective spending policies.

When a staunch liberal like Joe Trippi is agreeing with a conservative like Laura Ingraham, people really need to sit up and take notice.  Especially the Tea Party!