Monday, December 31, 2012

GOP Blows It!

The GOP’s handling on the fiscal cliff crisis has been abysmal. The Party has shown they are divided. The GOP only needs to hold 90% of their constituents in the House to pass a plan and put Democrats on the defensive. Yet, the GOP cannot muster enough votes to do this. Boehner’s “Plan B” was a good compromise. Under this plan tax rates would only be raised on people earning more than 1 million dollars per year. Hence, 99.8% of all Americans would see their tax rates stay the same. However, if we go over the fiscal cliff, tax rates will return to Clinton era levels for everyone.

I understand many GOP congressional members unwillingness to raise taxes on anyone. That is my principle belief as well, especially during a recovery. But Democrats ran on a platform of raising taxes on the wealthy this past election cycle. What was the result? The Democrats won the Presidency, won seats in the both the House and Senate and although the Democrats lost one governorship, overall they gained seats in State Legislators. It was a fairly convincing win for the Democrats in 2012. This means if the Republicans pass any measure in the House, it must contain tax rate increases on wealthy Americans. Anything other than this will be viewed as a failure by a majority of Americans. Boehner understands this, but thick headed Republicans do not.

I figured Americans would blame Republicans if we go over the fiscal cliff. Now, I am convinced an even larger majority would concur based on the “Plan B” fiasco. What’s worse there are now rumblings that Republicans are going to try to force Boehner out of his leadership role. I am not a big Boehner fan, but he put to a vote the rosiest tax plan deal he could. His plan also included spending cuts, but that was not enough to get 90% of the Republicans on board. Besides, Republicans understand Plan B would not have passed the Senate and even if it did, the President would have vetoed it. The point is that Plan B would have forced Senate Democrats and the President to vote down a measure that would avoid the fiscal cliff. This may have been enough to shift public perception on this issue and given the Republicans the leverage they needed to win entitlement reform and significant spending cuts.

Are Democrats at fault if we fail to get a deal? Yes, they are. It takes two to tango. The Boehner plan is similar to a plan proposed by Pelosi a year earlier – yet no Democrats were willing to vote for the Boehner deal. After all, it is advantageous to Democrats to go over the cliff since they get everything their ideology preaches - massive spending cuts to the military and massive tax increases for all Americans. And since Republicans could not agree on a single measure to pass the House, they will be viewed as the culprits, obstructionists, and the ones responsible for pushing Americans over the fiscal cliff. And from where I stand, the Republicans look pretty guilty.

Never let a good crisis go to waste, and the Democrats do not plan to do so on the fiscal cliff issue. This is a win-win for them. They get everything they want – more tax revenues to spread the wealth and massive military while Republicans assume the blame in the public opinion.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Guilt Behind Newtown

Every time I read about or see a violent crime such as what happened in Newtown it brings to mind horrible images of my past. I have never witnessed a violent crime scene and hope I never will, but still there are always things from our past that come to mind when something horrible happens. Events like Newtown bring back horrific images of my childhood and dealing with an abusive stepfather. But there is one event as an adult that always comes to mind after one of these tragic events.

One hot summer late afternoon day in 2000 I was heading out for a jog. It was 104 degrees and muggy in Dallas on that day. I have done this jog hundreds of times prior to and after that day. Usually, the traffic is horrendous on the major roads, but I rarely see anyone outside. I see no one walking dogs or playing in the parks and there is certainly no one as dumb as me to run in such horrid conditions. On this particular day, however, I would see more people outside than any other hot summer day combined. As I neared a busy intersection I knew something was wrong. I saw dozens of people running down the street. There were obese people running faster me. The event that was unfolding did not discriminate as I saw people of all ages and ethnicities sprinting as fast as they could. As I turned the corner at the intersection I joined them in their stampede. I asked “What are running from?” Nobody answered, but pointed in the direction we were running. Yes, ahead I could see smoke and began to hear the sirens from emergency vehicles.

It was apparent that all these people were running to see a fire. As we got closer, we could no longer move. I was trapped amongst hundreds of people. An apartment building was on fire. It must have been over 115 degrees with all the heat being generated from the combination of people, the blazing fire, and hot summer sun. I retreated my way back through the sweating onlookers and gawkers. Emergency workers and police were trying to get the crowd under control which was preventing them from doing their job. As I backtracked my way home a few people along the way asked me “What is going on?” and “Did anyone die?”

I could not believe what I had just witnessed: Hundreds of people carrying kids and meals going to not only watch a fire, but prevent emergency workers from doing their jobs. It was sad. I purposely did not read the newspaper or watch the news the next few days. I could not bear to see that I was part of a crowd that was complicit in the injury or death of other people. To this day, I do not know if there were any casualties from the fire. However, every time I read or hear about a crime the events and images of this day haunt me.

Americans do rally around people affected by tragedies and are generous to donate money and necessities. However, it seems Americans are obsessed with tragedies and have no problem watching the suffering of others. I do not understand this. This shows people lack compassion and empathy towards other going through trying and difficult times. And the way the media behaves towards those affected by these tragedies only reinforces this fact – because this is what sells papers and gets viewers to watch their programs.

Events like Newtown reminds me how demented as a society we have become. Sometimes I think we are all nearly as guilty as Adam Lanza since we are entertained by the events of Newtown. And this entertainment value, I believe, is a motivating factor behind some of these warped psychopathic killers. Killers are narcissists who enjoy the fame and attention they receive for committing acts of violence. And if we find these tragedies to be entertaining then we are complicit in these crimes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mental Illness and Violence (Part II)

Parents / Family – Mental disease is like any disorder such as substance abuse. In most instances, there is a denial that there is a problem. If parents do not intervene and admit the child has a problem nothing is going to be done even if the school does its job. The same can be said for young adults, if they fail to admit they have a problem then nothing will be done until they hit rock bottom. And we have seen the consequences of what can happen when a person hits rock bottom – they commit selfish acts of violence. Many studies indicate there is high correlation between mental disorders and environmental conditions. Hence, children are not necessarily born with a mental disorder, but they develop the illness based on their experiences. Kids whose parents are non-existent and therefore raised by daycare or other people are more likely to develop mental disorders. Kids who have bad diets are more likely to develop mental disorders because they lack essential nutrients and vitamins to function properly (and no I am not advocating government intervention over family diets). Kids who spend more time watching TV and playing video games than doing other healthy activities such as reading, studying, or physical activity are more likely to develop mental diseases. I do not know if there is correlation between watching violence on TV and playing violent video games with a person becoming violent. But there is correlation to kids living in unhealthy family environments and violence. It is hard to remove children from unhealthy environments. And those that are removed from their homes are usually placed into another unhealthy situation as a foster child.

Doctors – Many doctors like to treat symptoms with medication and fail to identify and enforce lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to overcome mental illnesses.

Personal Responsibility – People must be accountable for themselves and their disorder. A bipolar person is like a reformed alcoholic, if they quit taking their medication because they think they are healed, their lives will start to spiral out of control. An alcoholic does the same thing, they can be alcohol free for 10 years and all the sudden they think they can drink one beer. One beer leads to 2 beers the following week until they are back to being full time alcoholics. Only 10% of substance abuse sufferers stay reformed. Meaning only one in 10 people who quit drinking or doing drugs never do it again for the rest of their lives. Some stay clean for 20 years before having a relapse. I think the same is true for people with mental illnesses, at some point they feel they are cured and will stop taking their medicine.

Narcissism – This is the biggest issue today and is getting worse. It is obvious that mass murderers have no compassion or feelings for others. They only care about themselves. Today, our culture is fostering narcissism. Social media, the everyone receives an award mentality, helicopter parenting, and so forth are all things fostering narcissism. Kids playing video games who are isolated from social interaction will become narcissists and this is one major symptom for people who conduct mass killings.

Channeling Anger - My personal experience is that I was both physically and mentally abused. This coupled with a learning disability did not bode well for me. As a youngster and young adult I regularly got in fights and got in trouble. I abused alcohol and regularly had thoughts of “getting revenge” and “vindication”. Fortunately, I had feelings towards others and was able to realize my thoughts were not reasonable and channeled my rage to prove people wrong. For instance, I worked hard and received an electrical engineering degree to prove to my mother I was not the “dumb idiot” she thought. Everyone needs to find a way to channel their anger. When I was diagnosed with Benign Fasciculation Syndrome, it brought back many bad childhood memories as I contemplated what could have triggered this disorder. This angered me, but fortunately I channeled this anger to try to find answers about the disorder. My point is that there must be a resourceful way for people to channel their anger, without this people with mental disorders may act irrationally.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mental Illness and Violence (Part I)

In the wake of another senseless shooting, I will offer my two cents on the subject of mental illness and violence. We can implement new gun control laws, but in my opinion, this is not going to stop senseless violence unless mental illness is addressed. I am not a medical professional so I am basing this writing on my personal experiences and my wife’s knowledge as an educator for 27 years. What is my personal experience – I was never diagnosed with any mental disorder, but there is no question I had ADHD with violent tendencies as a youth and young adult. My wife has firsthand knowledge of the school system and trying to get troubled kids identified and most importantly getting them the help they need. Here are the issues we identified with trying to treat mental illnesses:

Youths – According to WebMD, over 20% of youths have a mental illness and what is even more troubling is that many have more than one type of mental illness. This complicates the process of getting kids diagnosed properly. If we look at the demographics of these psychopathic mass murderers like Adam Lanza, they are generally young male adults. Hence, it is imperative that youths with mental disorders be identified ASAP, especially boys.

Cost – It is a costly process for parents to get a child the help they need outside the school system. Doctors, specialists, and psychologists are all expensive even with health insurance. Medications can also be expensive. And ObamaCare will do nothing to reduce these costs; in fact, it will make it more expensive for middle class families to deal with mental disorders. To complicate matters, many insurance companies do not cover many mental disorders. One reason for this is that there are thousands of different disorders with new ones being uncovered daily. There’s a disorder for any ailment and many are merely excuses for the lack of responsibility and accountability. Hence, it is hard for insurance companies to determine those illnesses that are real and those that are excuses. For insurance companies to cover all these made up disorders it would raise the cost of insurance premiums for everyone by a substantial amount.

Education – It is not easy to get kids with mental disorders identified and placed in the system. First, the priority of the school is to identify kids with learning disabilities and not mental disabilities (although they often overlap). After all, schools are graded on the educational performance of their students and not in their performance to identify kids with mental disease. Secondly, school resources are limited, and with educational cuts to Title I and special education teachers, these resources are becoming even scarcer. Thirdly, the bureaucracy in the educational system is paramount. Teachers must have stacks of documentation over the course of the year to identify kids with mental disorders. Meanwhile, bad teachers will avoid this arduous, bureaucratic, and time consuming process. Administrators and guidance counselors must then conduct their research of those kids identified by teachers with mental disorders. Usually a school year passes without anything being done. And the process starts all over again the following year, especially if the paper work is lost in the system or if the student moves to another district.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Politicizing the Newtown Massacre

I could not imagine the medias reaction if George Bush politicized both the Newtown massacre and the death and destruction from Hurricane Sandy to pursue American voters to side with him on the Fiscal cliff talks. But when Obama politicizes events it is okay, even when it is obvious to everyone that the Fiscal Cliff, Sandy, and Newtown are mutually exclusive events.

How’s this for irony, during the same discussion where Obama politicized these three events a scathing report was issued by the Accountability Review Board about the Benghazi attack that left Ambassador Stevens dead along with 3 other Americans. The report said that the State Department was negligent citing a plethora of errors, mistakes, and oversights. The report, however, issued no corrective action nor did it point out any disciplinary actions which should take place. Four members of the State Department were disciplined and 3 consequently resigned. And keep in mind, this report was issued even though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton never found the time to testify before the committee (It has been 100 days since this event took place). Do we remember how Obama and Democrats criticized Romney and Republicans for “politicizing” the Benghazi attack for personal gain? Well, as it turns out those critical of the administration over the Benghazi attack were right – Obama’s State Department dropped the ball and the administration did provide the American public with misinformation. Think about it, Scooter Libby went to jail for the outing of a CIA agent (Valarie Plame), but nobody will be prosecuted over the negligence that led to the death of 4 Americans. Of course, Obama made no mention of this as part of his plea to the American people about the fiscal cliff talks.

It also comes as no surprise that Obama and liberals are also politicizing the Newtown massacre to push for gun control. Ironically, another gun from the administrations botched Fast and Furious program, which provided guns to Mexican warlords, was found at another crime scene in Mexico. Still the administration hides behind executive privilege even though this operation is responsible for the death of thousands of Mexicans and Border Agent Brian Terry. What’s worse, many of the guns in the Fast and Furious operation are the assault weapons, such as AK47’s, Obama and Democrats want to ban in the U.S... Yet, the media continues to give Obama a pass on this failed program.

Why is that Obama receives a pass every time he politicizes an event, but the media crucifies Republicans. Why is it that the big Bush scandal where a CIA agent’s identity was revealed got more media and judicial consequences than the murder of thousands of Mexicans, an ATF agent, and 4 Americans in Libya including an Ambassador? A few people have resigned for their negligence in the Benghazi attack and the Fast and Furious program, but why is nobody going to jail? Where is the justice, we are talking about people being murdered because of the negligence and incompetence of this administration? And why is acceptable for the media and liberals to politicize a natural disaster such as turning Hurricane Katrina into a race issue? And why was the administration’s response to Hurricane Sandy viewed as acceptable even though many affected by the storm are still living without basic necessities today?

Where is the liberal outrage over the slow response to Hurricane Sandy? Where is the liberal outrage over the administration allowing thousands of assault weapons into the hands of criminals? Where is the liberal outrage over the failure to protect American Embassies? If liberals were outraged by Katrina, Newtown, and Valerie Plame, then they should be even more disgusted by Sandy, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi. I just do not understand it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Beckel Baby Postulate

On The Five, liberal host Bob Beckel postulates that a poor minority crack baby has less of a chance to succeed than a white baby born into wealth. I do not disagree with Beckel (although I disagree with his introduction of race into the equation), but let’s examine the reasons why (liberal policies) the probability of Beckel’s hypothesis is correct.

Family Values – Some of the leading causes of substance abuse include a disturbed childhood, broken families, and irresponsible parents. In other words, strong family values preached by conservatives such as the avoidance of single parent families, faith, and responsibility are some of the best ways to fight drug addiction.

Success – If the rich white baby grows up to be successful because the family invested in the baby’s success than what is wrong with that. After all, the U.S. needs successful and responsible individuals to pay the taxes necessary to fund the entitlement programs liberals support. It is senseless to punish the rich child’s family with wealth distribution policies to the extent he or she cannot be successful – this is counterproductive. This is the same reason why Robin Hood education policies failed. These policies not only failed to turn around struggling schools, the performance at good schools suffered from a decrease in funds. Robin Hood policies turned out to be a lose-lose scenario for all involved. The same can happen if success is punished too harshly.

Taxes – Increased taxes on the wealthy will lead to fewer dollars being spent on poverty stricken Americans since it will lead to fewer dollars going into charitable contributions. And charitable contributions have a bigger impact on poverty than wasteful government programs. According to an article by James Edwards “The Cost of Public Income Redistribution and Public Charity” about 30% of federal welfare makes it to a poverty recipient compared to 70% of charitable contributions.

Immigration Policy – Liberals are outraged with conservative immigration policy because they want to build a big border wall to stop illegal immigration. However, the main purpose of the wall is not to stop illegal immigration as much as it is to protect American citizens from illegal drugs and dangerous drug lords from getting into the United States. And keep in mind; illegal immigrants do take jobs that could go to that poor crack baby. Besides, why do more immigrants come to the United States than any other country? For economic reasons – they have a better chance to succeed here than anywhere else in the world. The American dream is no longer what it used to be, but a poor child has a better chance to beat the odds and become wealthy in the United States than anywhere else around the globe.

The Wal-Mart Scapegoat Misconception – Liberals like to blame Wal-Mart and their low wages for America’s poverty and economic problems. But Wal-Mart jobs are in demand because it pays better than welfare. Also, increasing Wal-Mart employee salaries and benefits would increase the cost of the products they sell – which would be a tax on the poor who count on Wal-Mart’s low prices. Also, I have no empathy for liberals or Wal-Mart employees unhappy with their 36% increase for healthcare insurance. This is a direct impact of ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act), which places the onus of healthcare reform solely on health insurance companies (Big Pharma, trial lawyers, hospitals, and other medical providers all got a pass and made no concessions to control rising healthcare costs). Everyone’s health insurance rates are going up, not just Wal-Mart employees. This is essentially a tax on all responsible people who purchase healthcare insurance.

Substance Abuse and Mental Disorders – According to the National Poverty Center (NPC), people with mental disorders are 50% more likely to be on welfare and people on welfare are 80% more likely to suffer from drug and or alcohol abuse. For this reason, anti-poverty welfare programs were revised under Clinton to require work for welfare compensation. The NPC found that welfare recipients who did not comply with the Welfare work requirements were twice as likely to suffer from substance abuse. In other words, working people have less of a chance to be addicted to drugs or alcohol, but Obama removed the work requirement from welfare compensation this past year. In fact, many working Americans are required to be drug tested for employment. On the other hand, there is no drug testing requirement to receive welfare.

Anti-Poverty Programs are not working - In 1964; Lyndon Johnson started his war on poverty. Fifteen trillion dollars later the poverty level today is at 16% and rising. The homeless rate is also increasing. According to a 2011 Cato report, the federal government will spend more than $668 billion to fight poverty in 2012. State and local governments will spend an additional $284 billion, amounting to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three. Federal money for fighting poverty is divided amongst 126 separate anti-poverty programs. The programs include 33 housing programs, 21 food or food-purchasing assistance programs, 8 different health care programs and 27 cash or general assistance programs. Seven different cabinet agencies and six independent agencies administer at least one anti-poverty program, the report stated. The largest federal welfare program is Medicaid, with spending topping $228 billion in 2011, excluding funding for nursing home or long-term care for the elderly. With this kind of money going into anti-poverty programs there is no reason 1 in 6 people should be living in poverty. And remember these numbers do not include charitable contributions.

Abortion – The liberal approach to solve the Beckel Baby Postulate is to make abortion more accessible and affordable. If the child is dead then he or she has a 0% chance of succeeding.

If liberals want to make sure a crack baby succeeds, than they should reconsider their stance on taxes, anti-poverty welfare programs, family values, abortion, immigration, ObamaCare, and other policies.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Smart Guns

With one massacre happening after another – I will post my Smart Guns post again. In the Connecticut case, if smart guns were used it is possible this massacre could have been prevented since the guns were registered by the mother of the criminal. Yes, he may have gotten the guns another way, but smart guns would make it harder and he could possibly get caught in the process of trying to obtain guns. I know many people who read my blog are adamantly against the smart gun proposal; I understand and respect your opinions. But smart guns is a better solution than the potential gun control that the Left will push following these events.

In the wake of the shooting of Congresswomen Giffords, there is no question something needs to be done to control guns. And there are ways to control guns, while at the same time protecting the second amendment rights of Americans to own guns. The key is to make it more difficult for criminals to use weapons that they do not specifically own. The answer to this riddle is to create smart guns using technology.

Unfortunately, the Right and Left cannot agree on how to control guns. And what’s worse, instead of seeking solutions to the problem that resulted in the shooting of Giffords, the Left is playing the blame game and the Right is trying to defend their position on guns. The Left is trying to link the shooter, Jared Loughner, as a Rightwing nut case that followed the beliefs of Palin, Hannity, Beck, and Limbaugh. Although it seems that Loughner was politically all over the map having cited the Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite readings, the Left insists the blame rests solely with the Right (Loughner was also a 9-11 truther and an anti-war advocate). The Left cites a Palin made political map of the U.S. where Giffords’ district is represented by a gun target (The DNC posted a similar map in 2006). Although this merely meant that Giffords district was being targeted by the GOP for takeover in the last election, Democrats insist the target was used to rile up extremists to take out Giffords. This type of behavior of playing the blame game is not only wrong; it is doing nothing to solve our national problems. Instead, it is leading to more needless polarity and division. When this happens; nothing productive ever gets accomplished. Finding political blame in the Giffords shooting is just as irresponsible as the Right blaming Gore or environmentalists for the shooting at the Discovery Channel headquarters by James Lee. What if the right blamed Olbermann’s anti-war rhetoric as what influenced Major Nidal Hasan to open fire at Fort Hood? This too would be irresponsible. We have become a nation of blamers and excuse makers. In other words, we have become a nation of problem creators instead of problem solvers. And the nonsense of excuses, blaming, no accountability, no personal responsibility, and no commonsense has got to stop. People are accountable for their actions regardless of their external influences. For instance, being an abused child is not an excuse to commit crimes later in life. People who commit crimes are solely responsible and placing further blame does nothing to undo what has transpired. It merely pours more gas onto an already burning fire, which solves nothing.

I agree that every person has the right to bear arms and has the right to hunt in legal areas. This is a Constitutional right. I also realize that over 99% of all gun owners are responsible with their firearms. In other words, they are in no way a threat to other Americans. Still, even the safest gun owners cannot stop someone else from stealing their firearms and using them in a crime. Thus, it makes sense to find a way to keep gun owners happy while trying to eliminate useless crimes committed with firearms. A smart gun is the answer. A smart gun would have a mini computer installed within the firearm. Within the computer there needs to be a global positioning system (GPS). The computer and GPS can perform the following operations to make guns safer:

  • The first and most important function of the computer system is make sure that only the designated owner(s) can fire the weapon. Only an owner(s) palm print on the handle will release the safety and allow them to fire the weapon. The action of releasing the safety will turn on the battery charged computer.
  • The GPS will enable authorities to track any guns at any time. Many criminals hide or discard firearms after a crime and the GPS feature will enable law enforcement to track down weapons, including stolen guns. A gun’s GPS will remain active after any shooting.
  • Gun registration numbers can be encrypted and held within the computer. Gun owners will need to scan the registration number into a secure gun registration (global) internet site on a quarterly basis. This site shall be accessed by any law enforcement agencies throughout the country. In effect, this procedure creates a digital computerized paper trail on each gun’s history, which is available for authorities to review.
  • Gun owners must keep the computer power level on their weapons above a certain level. Once the power goes below this threshold the firearm can no longer be used until the power level is restored.
  • If a gun has been tampered with (opened) the gun is permanently shut down. In other words, the gun can no longer be fired – ever again.
  • The gun computer will store the palm prints of any unregistered user that attempts to use the gun. Each gun can store a maximum of three legal users.
  • When a gun is fired, the data pertaining to the shooting is stored within the computer. The computer stores the precise location the firearm was discharged as well as other useful forensic data including the height at which the gun fired, the direction at which the gun was fired, the angle at which the gun was fired, and it can even store the serial number of the bullet fired. This information can be used by both law enforcement to solve a criminal shooting and by the gun owner to track the gun’s history. Each quarter when a gun owner registers their weapon, this firearm history is also recorded.
  • The power on All guns that have been fired remains on and are tracked until the owner registers the weapon. Those that are not registered within 48 hours of being discharged are considered to be part of a crime and authorities should track down that specific firearm.
  • The computer can also contain other useful information that may help a gun owner become a better marksman. One feature could include a virtual simulation and analysis of each shot taken by the shooter. The weapon can also make adjustments due to external factors such as wind speed and direction. These types of features will aid in the sale of computerized guns.

The problem with the above solution is that there are already millions of guns in circulation that cannot be tracked. Thus, there has to be some plan to try to remove old guns from circulation and get new computerized models to replace them. This is not going to be an easy task. Some ideas may include:

  • Making crimes committed using non-computerized guns subject to much harsher penalties.
  • Set a date by which no non-computerized guns can be legally sold.
  • Make it easy for gun owners to turn in old firearms which can be replaced with new computerized models.
  • Law enforcement and government officials should target gun types that are most often used in crimes for obsolescence.
  • Make it illegal to import any non-computerized guns.
  • Convert all gun types to computerized models including rifles and militarized models. Variations of computerized gun weaponry can be expanded to include other weapons such as knives (the computer can track finger and palm prints of people who used the knife).
  • Set protective and restrictive laws for any person owning gun collections.
  • Set up a method to discard and recycle non-computerized guns.

Obviously, gun control is not an easy problem to solve, nor is any potential solution going to be easy to implement. However, the longer we wait, the harder the problem is to solve. And it is important to note, the above solution is not aimed at law abiding gun owners, but potential criminals.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Democrats Invasion of Privacy

After the 2012 election a lot has been made of the Get Out To Vote (GOTV) effort by Democrats and Republicans. Without question, the Democrats are winning this battle. So what is the difference between the two efforts? I do not completely understand the Democratic effort, but in my estimation, their effort is not legal because they do not abide by privacy laws. And this is what I believe gives them a huge advantage.

The Republicans big 40 million dollar technological effort was project ORCA. The concept was for poll watchers to electronically mark off people who voted on Election Day using their IPhone. This information would be directly reported back to Romney headquarters. One part of project ORCA was an algorithm that could determine the probability a voter was a Romney supporter or Obama supporter. This could be fairly easily accomplished since gender, ethnicity, age, party affiliation and other demographics are known about registered voters. From this, the Romney camp was essentially gathering the largest exit poll data in history. Project ORCA would tell the Romney camp where its volunteers should focus on the GOTV effort. People manning the phones would only focus on people who have yet to vote and who were predetermined (high probability) to vote for Romney.

Although ORCA sounded great on paper, it was flawed for many reasons. First, they did not beta test the product on a very large scale for fear it would fall into enemy hands. Secondly, this type of effort on Election Day would only make a difference in very close elections. Even if project ORCA worked as expected it would have never made up a difference of several million votes. Because project ORCA was not beta tested it crashed on Election Day and people had trouble getting into the system (the system would shut down if it felt it was being hacked). I worked as a member on project ORCA on Election Day and was able to register about 70% of the data from my precinct, but I had to call headquarters several times to get my password reset to get in the system. My biggest complaint was the software was a bit cumbersome and it was difficult to get data recorded in a fast manner. I was lucky to have two other people working our precinct or I would have never gotten any data recorded into the system.

The Obama camp high tech effort uses social media sources such as twitter and Facebook to obtain data and determine the probability a voter will break for the Democrats. The Obama camp can identify and reach out to millions of Democratic voters that “like” Obama or Democratic pages on Facebook or twitter. At best, this effort may be able to identify about 20 to 25% of their supporters. So how can Democrats and Obama obtain information on voters who are not part of their network? My guess is they are breaching the privacy of social media users to ascertain demographic information. For instance, today, I was searching the web for Velcro strap fasteners. When I got on Facebook later in the day there were ads on my page for Velcro strap fasteners. If Obama and Democrats have access to this type of information on every voter that are not even in their network, then that is a GOTV effort that is hard to beat. I may be wrong, but I am willing to bet Democratic GOTV efforts are invading the privacy of all social network users to obtain important information.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Positives of Obama’s First Term

Have there been any positives from Obama’s first term? Yes, but there have not been too many. The most important contribution from Obama was a political shift in state power from predominately liberal to conservative. After the 2008 election the Democrats controlled 30 governorships and 28 state legislators. The Republicans controlled only 20 governorships and only 14 state legislators. In 2008, eight state legislators were split. After the 2012 election (and remember this was a good election for Democrats who picked up seats both nationally and at the state level), Republicans controlled 30 governorships and 28 state legislators. Democrats controlled only 20 governorships (including independents that side with the Democratic ideology) and only 19 state legislators. Three state legislators were split after the 2012 election. In fact, Republicans currently fully control the governorship and state legislators in 25 states (including big Obama states Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Oho). The Democrats only fully control 14 states. This is a massive switch in power at the state level. Even at the national level the Republicans gained 5 Senate seats and 57 House seats over the past 4 years. Remember, Democrats had super majorities in both houses of congress after the 2008 elections. This political landscape reversal was a referendum on Obama style politics. And, in my opinion, it is better to control local and state legislators than national legislators. Even though the federal government is infringing on state rights, local and state legislators still have more pull on the local level.

This shift in state and national power has been huge. At the national level the House can block any Obama and liberal legislation they introduce. Even though the Democrats control the Senate, they no longer have the 60 vote super majority to avoid filibuster tactics from Republicans, which is also handy to block the Obama liberal agenda. At the state level, we see states fighting back against Obama policies passed during his first two years when Democrats had super majorities. States have passed voter ID laws, immigration laws, filed suit against ObamaCare, and right to work laws. In fact, state and federal lawsuits against each other have been the norm under Obama and new Republican leadership in the states. Some of the cases made it to the Supreme Court including the Arizona immigration law and ObamaCare. In both the Arizona and ObamaCare cases, it was a split decision. In the Arizona case, the court unanimously upheld the provision requiring state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if they have reason to suspect that the individual might be in the country illegally. In the ObamaCare ruling the Supreme Court said ObamaCare was constitutional, but gave states the right to choose if they want to setup health insurance exchanges and expand Medicaid payrolls.

The biggest gain for states has been the return back to balanced budgets in most cashed strapped states after the recession. And in doing so, the governors of the states of New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, and now Michigan have not only been taking on the powerful unions, but they have been winning. By doing so, the states can begin to reign in billions of dollars in unfunded pension and benefit liabilities created by union and liberal leaders over the past several decades. And in many cases, the states will no longer use tenure to protect underperforming teachers or other union workers. Workers in these states will now have the freedom to choose whether they want to be affiliated with a union and pay dues or not. This is a win for workers who previously did not have a choice in the matter. Many state voter ID laws are also being challenged by the DOJ. It will be interesting to see how this turns out. Obviously the laws enacted prior to the 2012 election did nothing to suppress the minority vote one bit (minorities turned out in record numbers). The court unanimously sustained the best-known part of the law, which requires state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if there is reason to suspect that the individual might be an illegal immigrant. The court unanimously sustained the best-known part of the law, which requires state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if there is reason to suspect that the individual might be an illegal immigrant. The court unanimously sustained the best-known part of the law, which requires state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if there is reason to suspect that the individual might be an illegal immigrant.

Yes, Obama and the liberals have won the presidency, but there has been a huge political shift at both the state and national levels towards Republicans. Republicans have never enjoyed the level of state success they have achieved over the past four years. And it is equally rare when the Republicans control the House of Representatives. Hopefully this trend continues in 2014 and beyond.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Implementing ObamaCare

There have been numerous articles and media stories about the implementation of ObamaCare since Obama’s reelection. Many articles are mystified by the fact that many states are refusing to implement the law. One article points out that if a state does not implement the law, then the federal government will set up health insurance exchanges in these states anyway, essentially increasing their Medicaid payrolls. However, since each state has different Medicaid laws and requirements, the federal government simply cannot implement a federal program that fits all states. For instance, a state may require obese people on Medicaid be put on a diet and lose weight to continue to receive coverage. Since the federal government wrongfully assumed (arrogance) states would set up the exchanges at their expense, the federal government could easily exceed its 1 billion dollar budget to set up these ObamaCare health insurance exchanges. This has led to the speculation that the government may set up fees to sign up for ObamaCare exchanges to cover these extra costs (another tax).

The only way for people to enroll in these healthcare exchanges is online. I find it odd that the only way poor people can sign up for healthcare is if they have internet access. I am sorry, but people whose healthcare is being subsidized by the federal government should not be paying for internet service – this is a luxury. In any event, the exchange sites will be very complicated – they need to verify the identity of the user; they need to ensure the programs meet federal standards; they need to check the tax status of the user to see if they qualify for credits; they need to sort insurance programs to find those that fit the needs of the user; and so forth. This is a big and expensive task.

Another article points out if all states implemented ObamaCare health insurance exchanges, 21 million people will be added to state Medicaid payrolls and cost the states about 76 billion over 10 years (the federal government will pick up most of the cost of covering these people). The article then stipulates if all states decided not to implement ObamaCare, then it would cost the states 68 billion over 10 years because 5.7 million people will be added to state Medicaid payrolls since ObamaCare legislation will encourage more qualified people to sign up (or face a fine). Hence, the article points out that states will “only save” 8 billion over 10 years. Well, 8 billion is enough money to eliminate the budget shortfall in 15 states! This is not a trivial amount of money for states already in debt. Also, as the article points out, many liberal states such as New York, Vermont, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, and Iowa got great deals and these states will actually save money by implementing ObamaCare. Whereas, the other 42 states in the union will see their Medicaid costs go up by 10%! These 42 states could save over 10 billion dollars over 10 years by not implementing ObamaCare. This point simply highlights another flaw with the legislation since it treats each state differently. It is obvious that the objective of ObamaCare was to punish conservative states and have them pay a bigger tab to implement the law.

It is wise for cash strapped states not to implement ObamaCare (they can always opt to join later). They can monitor the fiscal ramifications for states implementing the law. They can see how much it will actually cost both the state and federal government. They can see if Medicaid expansion projections are accurate (chances are they are underestimated). I predict what states, who opt out of ObamaCare, will learn very quickly is that they will save much more money than these articles point out. If Massachusetts’ RomneyCare was the blueprint for ObamaCare, we can see Massachusetts vastly underestimated the costs of insuring its residents. In fact, all entitlement programs end up costing the government billions more than original CBO projections.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Democrats Want to Go Over the Fiscal Cliff

There are many reasons why Obama and Democrats want to go over the fiscal cliff and the evidence is pointing that way. First, Obama’s tax and budget proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff was outlandish and he knew Republicans would not go for it especially the part about giving Obama sole control over the debt ceiling. This is equivalent to giving the biggest deficit spending President in history who has yet to pass a budget a blank check. The president is so insistent on raising the tax rate on the wealthy and opposed to increasing tax revenue by eliminating tax loopholes even though he made that suggestion in 2011 (and this is what Republicans prefer). Obama’s proposed tax hike on the wealthy is also much more than he campaigned for. Finally, instead of proposing some spending cuts to appease the right, he proposed more stimulus spending. Secondly, Harry Reid refused to vote on Obama’s fiscal cliff proposal in the Senate when Mitch McConnell gave him the opportunity. Reid called it a Republican “stunt”. Thirdly, if the President sincerely did not want to go over the fiscal cliff he would be in Washington negotiating instead of campaigning to garner public support if things do not go as planned. Here are the reasons why it is advantageous for Democrats to go over the fiscal cliff:

  • Most polls show that the public would blame Republicans for going over the fiscal cliff by nearly a two to one margin. Not sure why because the consequences of going over the fiscal cliff implement anti-conservative measures such as massive tax increases on ALL Americans and military budget cuts. The consequences of going over the fiscal cliff amounts to massive austerity measures including 500 billion in new taxes and 200 billion in spending cuts – 700 billion total about 4% of GDP.
  • The economy has already begun to slip into a recession and the only way for Obama to avoid being responsible is to go over the fiscal cliff. In other words, going over the fiscal cliff would mask the recession we are already heading into.
  • Going over the fiscal cliff will mask the effect 50 billion dollars in ObamaCare tax hikes will have on Americans.
  • Going over the fiscal cliff is more favorable to liberal ideology and philosophies. It raises taxes on all Americans, but most significantly on the wealthy and businesses. It cuts spending to the military and leaves most other discretionary spending and entitlement spending in place. It will cut spending for unemployment benefits and spending to doctors who accept Medicare patients (the Doctor Fix). Remember, ObamaCare also omitted the Doctor Fix from its legislation forcing doctors to drop Medicare patients so this too seems to be a favorable liberal policy.
  • By going over the fiscal cliff Democrats can protect congressional members in conservative districts from taking a position on taxes and spending. It will also protect incoming hypocrites like the wealthy Elizabeth Warren who has yet to pay her campaign debts.

I am for it, let’s go over the cliff. After all, Americans will have to suffer before we can pull ourselves out of our massive debt and entitlement conscience society. If the recession is long and deep, then going over the fiscal cliff will end up being a negative for Democrats too in the long run.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Obamas Fiscal Cliff Misinformation and 7th Grade Math

As I have pointed out, the President should be negotiating and brokering a tax deal and should not be out campaigning and politicizing the fiscal cliff negotiations. This is simply bad leadership. But it’s important to point out the misinformation that Obama is telling the public about the fiscal cliff negotiations.

First, Obama says that the Republicans are holding “middle class tax cuts hostage”. This is very misleading since Obama’s plan is to keep middle class tax rates the same. However, if no deal is brokered tax rates will go up to Clinton era levels. Basically, Obama wants to keep the same tax rate for the middle class that Bush implemented (Bush tax cuts). In fact, under Obama, middle class tax rates will go up next year even if a fiscal cliff deal is brokered. These taxes will be the first of many ObamaCare taxes that will go into effect. There will be a tax hike placed on medical devices hitting senior citizens the hardest. Americans who use Flexible Spending Accounts for medical needs will see these accounts capped at $2,500, effecting families with special needs children the most. There is going to be a 3.8% tax increase on investment income on families earning more than $250,000 annually. Americans who have high medical costs will see the tax deduction cap for these expenditures increased. And finally, the Medicare payroll tax rate is currently 2.9% for families earning more than $250,000 annually, this rate will be increased to 3.8%. Hence, the tax rate on middle class Americans as well as wealthy Americans is already going to being increased in 2013. And remember, these taxes affect income, not wealth. A person who makes $250,000 dollars next year could be in debt from student loans or from a business loan.

Secondly, Obama has talked about responsibly reducing the deficit with a “combination of cuts and revenue increases”. But the Obama fiscal cliff proposal includes no spending cuts; in fact, he proposes more spending including a 50 billion dollar stimulus. And what’s worse, Obama wants to eliminate congressional control over spending limits, placing the power to increase deficit spending under the sole control of the President. If a President was serious about reducing the debt then why would he want control over increasing the deficit levels? The reason is simple, this shows Obama is not serious about reducing the deficit and his record reinforces this fact. Obama has not passed a budget and he has increased the debt by more than any President in history and this attempted power grab illustrates Obama’s intentions to continue to increase our federal debt.

Thirdly, Obama says he wants to collect 1.6 trillion dollars of revenue over 10 years by increasing tax rates on the wealthiest Americans from 35% to 39.6%. This equates to 160 billion dollars annually in new tax revenue. In 2009 (this is the most recent IRS data I could find), the federal government only received 866 billion dollars in tax revenue. Today, 160 billion dollars in increased revenues equates to over a 16% tax increase! One way to do this is by increasing the effective tax rate on the top 5% of all earners by 5% (this is more than what Obama claims he wants to tax individuals). This would yield about 126 billion dollars in new revenue based on 2009 figures. If I adjust the 126 billion dollar figure based on the GDP growth over the past few years, this yields about 138 billion dollars based on 2013 projections. If GDP grows 3% annually, then this tax rate would easily average about 160 billion over 10 years. This amounts to an 18,000 dollar annual tax increase for over 7 million tax filers who average 360,000 dollars annually (many of these filers make less than 130,000 dollars annually). Even with favorable GDP growth, I do not see how Obama’s math works to increase taxes on only the top 2% of all earners by a max of 4.6% and average 160 billion dollars in new tax revenue annually. He would need a higher effective tax rate and or increase taxes on more individuals.

Obama’s math just does not add up. Either he is purposely misinforming the people or he is showing off his admittedly bad math skills.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Does Obama Have a Mandate

Does Obama have a mandate? The answer is yes and no. Democrats believe they have the upper hand in the fiscal cliff negotiations. To some extent they are correct. Obama did campaign on raising taxes on top income earners and he won with over 50% of the vote. So in this regard, Obama has a mandate and unfortunately, Republicans must concede on this issue. I do not like it, but the people have spoken. Republicans can try to get Democrats to agree to increase federal revenue by tax reform and eliminating itemized deductions for the wealthy instead of a tax increase, but one way or the other Republicans have to let Democrats increase taxes on the wealthy. And the equivalent amount of the tax increase should be equivalent to raising the top tax bracket from 35% to 39.6%. This is what Obama and Democrats campaigned for.

However, the initial plan proposed by the administration not only includes a 1.6 trillion dollar tax increase (over 10 years), but it includes 50 billion in new stimulus spending including mortgage refinance plans, and an end to congressional control over spending limits. In other words, this would give the President sole power to increase the debt ceiling. It would be outright scandalous for Republicans to yield the biggest deficit spender in American history essentially a blank check. Obama said he would work with Republicans to save 400 billion from entitlement spending next year – but there was no guarantee. Nor was there any guarantee Obama would pass any federal spending cuts of any kind in the next year. This is not a compromise; and what’s worse Obama did not campaign on any of these points. He did not campaign on passing a new stimulus nor did he say he wanted sole power over debt ceiling decisions. This is a power grab and he has no mandate on these points.

At the same time House Republicans campaigned on a platform of no tax increases, entitlement reform, and government spending cuts. House Republicans won over 50% of the vote and therefore, they too have a mandate (however, the presidential mandate is much more powerful). Hence, a true compromise would include tax increases on the wealthy and some sort of spending cuts or entitlement reform. This would be fair, but Obama and Democrats feel if the U.S. goes over the fiscal cliff and tax rates increase on all Americans – this would be blamed solely on the Republicans. For this reason, our President has spent more time campaigning in an attempt to gain the public’s favor instead of trying to work out a compromise to resolve the problem. This shows Obama’s flawed leadership skills, but obviously half the country is either too oblivious to realize this or just do not care.

The worst thing Republicans can do is to walk away from the table. This would definitely give credence to Democratic claims they are obstructionists. They should remain at the table, but at the same time they should not cave to Obama’s proposal without true compromise. This may be a good time for Republicans to embrace the Simpson-Bowles plan which has both spending cuts (discretionary and military) and tax increases on the wealthy (cuts tax loopholes). Obama created the Simpson-Bowles commission, which garnered some bipartisan support as a way to reduce federal debt. After all, how can Republicans be seen as obstructionists if they agree to the plan that Obama commissioned? I am sure the media will find a way to spin it. If Democrats refuse to compromise on spending cuts, then Republicans should let the country go over the fiscal cliff. We are already heading in that direction anyway and if this is what it will finally take for people to understand the consequences of liberal tax and spending policies, then so be it.