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Tuesday, November 03, 2009
No Chickens Left Behind

From The Hill, a report on the latest pronouncement from Rep. Jim Oberstar:
... slipping into Creole, Oberstar said, "A white guy gave us these chickens
but we don't have food for them. If we had the feed, we'd eat it ourselves."

Not something you hear every day from the distinguished Chairman of the Transportation Committee. What could have caused this dramatic outburst?

Quiz time, which of the following were the preceding sentences to that statement, in the article in The Hill?

A) Today Rep. Jim Oberstar announced his new $12.5 billion spending program called the Emergency Chicken Feed Act of 2009, aka Cash for Cluckers. Oberstar emphasized the chicken community had been woefully underserved by the draconian budgets during the Bush administration. Particularly hard hit were chickens from other countries. Rep. Oberstar tearfully cited the testimony of a witness from rural Haiti as inspiring his fight for this bill, then ...

B) Rep. Jim Oberstar debuted what he called his "new ventriloquist act" in front of a shocked Transportation Committee hearing on increased funding for rural bike paths. Billing themselves as Jim and Lil' Pierre, Oberstar started by asking his diminutive wooden sidekick, "Why did the chicken cross the road? Then ...

C) Asked what could be done to help Haiti, Oberstar said, "My solution is to distribute U.S.-produced charcoal" that would come from sustainable forests in the U.S. and elsewhere and sold at low prices. He noted that the U.S. once distributed 130 million trees to Haiti, "which grew and flourished, but in the chaos, people went back to cutting them down." He said there were similar problems with an aid program for raising chickens. "Haitians love poultry," he said. Then ...

D) For the first time in the history of the US House of Representatives, a voodoo priest was given the honor of the opening prayer. After slaying a goat in the well of the House chamber, he chanted an incantation, and blindly threw a whammy over his shoulder, toward the entrance door. At that moment Rep. Jim Oberstar happened to be arriving in the chamber and seemed struck by something, staggering as he passed through the door. He remained silent, almost trancelike for a few moments, then ...

The correct answer is of course, all of the above.

However, that's only speculation based on my personal Jim Oberstar observations. I figure each of those must have happened at some time in his 34 years in Congress.

Officially, we only have confirmation that he said C. He broke into a Creole impersonation in order to convince us to designate untold millions of US tax dollars for feeding for Haitian chickens. Sorry for all that wild, irresponsible hyperbole with the other suggestions.

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Friday, October 30, 2009
Minnesota Democrats Explained

The spending behavior of Minnesota politicians such as Al Franken and Betty McCollum have been discussed here in the past. Things such as tens of millions of dollars for libraries in Africa and hundreds of millions of dollars to hire scores of new vocational guidance counselors forthe public schools in the US. All this while the economy is in steep decline and in the face of multiple trillions in budget deficits already incurred for existing spending programs.

When proposing these schemes, no mention is made of our ability to pay, other than comments such as:

There are people who say that the richest most powerful country on Earth cannot afford to provide health care for all of its citizens.

and ...

So what are we - the richest nation and other donor nations - doing to significantly reducing child and maternal mortality while investing in building sustainable health systems? Unfortunately, not enough in my opinion.

In short, they believe they can save the world and that the well of US tax dollars available to pay for their plans is inexhaustible. A toxic combination.

Depressingly, this belief system turns out to be all too common among our public servants. In today's Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan addresses this phenomenon and speculates on its source:

When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax -- health care, cap and trade, etc. -- think: Why aren't they worried about the impact of what they're doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?

I think I know part of the answer. It is that they've never seen things go dark. They came of age during the great abundance, circa 1980-2008 (or 1950-2008, take your pick), and they don't have the habit of worry. They talk about their "concerns" -- they're big on that word. But they're not really concerned. They think America is the goose that lays the golden egg. Why not? She laid it in their laps. She laid it in grandpa's lap.

They don't feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases --"strongest nation in the world," "indispensable nation," "unipolar power," "highest standard of living" -- and are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.

We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists -- they're unimaginative. They don't have faith, they've just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened. They don't even notice.

Peggy probably should avoid the implication that this generation of politicos has never faced economic adversity. You can't win the victimology arms race with liberals. And just about every American can point to examples of hard times, at least in their extended families. (Except, of course, for people like Mark Dayton, Jay Rockefeller, Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, etc.). For example, multi-millionaire, pampered, private school educated Al Franken has made a political career out of his wife's upbringing and reliance on government subsidies, or what New York Magazine called her "Dickensian childhood." For other, slightly less hyperbolic, mentions of her situation by the candidate while using it as a reason for people to vote for him, check here, here, here, here, or here.

But, Noonan's overall theory of entitled, arrogant, economically illiterate dimwits running wild with the checkbook seems about right. And even among those who have a connection to economic hardship, the only lesson learned appears to be that there is plenty of money available to spend on whatever you want, as long as you can find a way to take it from others.

So they continue to merrily spend trillions of dollars beyond the trillions they already take in from your taxes every year. Or, in Noonan's words, they believe America is so strong, it can take endless abuse. That explains why this generation of politicians does what it does. Still unclear to me is why we continue let them.


Monday, October 26, 2009
I Thought We Were Broke?

Just over a week ago the federal government officially announced an annual deficit for 2009 of $1.4 TRILLION dollars.

To be clear, that doesn't mean they are merely spending the preposterous, hyper gluttonous sum of $1.4 trillion in one year. If that were the case, we'd be in Fat City in terms of the ledger, since the government has arranged to take in $2.1 trillion in 2009. Nearly all of that from taxation of we the people. Unfortunately, that's not nearly enough for our elected representatives. They blew right past that inconceivable sum by an extra 68%, for a one year spending total of $3.52 trillion.

And it doesn't end there. The 2009 deficit of $1.4 trillion is but a morsel of the government's current plan to spend a total of $9 to $10 trillion more than it takes in over the next decade. (And that doesn't even include additional costs possible for health care reform or cap and trade).

An article in The Nation recently talked about the "oh, sh*t" moment liberals have when reading persuasive global warming propaganda:

They say that everyone who finally gets it about climate change has an "Oh, sh*t" moment--an instant when the full scientific implications become clear and they suddenly realize what a horrifically dangerous situation humanity has created for itself.

My question is, when do politicians have the "oh, sh*t" moment when it comes to the deficit? (Incidentally, a problem they happen to have complete control over. Unlike, say, regulating the temperature of the planet.) How many multiple trillions more than we produce do they have to spend before they suddenly realize what a horrifically dangerous situation they have created for the country?

I don't know at what point that is. But a sign to look out for is that they stop proposing brand new multi-million dollar spending initiatives and think about maybe cutting expenses and trying to run a surplus to pay the debt down.

Rep. Betty McCollum of St. Paul - not quite there yet. From her latest celebratory press release:
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) has introduced H.R. 3701, the More Books for Africa Act of 2009. The bill establishes the More Books for Africa Program to facilitate the donation, processing, shipping, and distribution of text and library books to African schools, libraries, community centers, and other centers of learning in partnership with United States-based entities.

"Ensuring access to and availability of textbooks and library books in countries on the continent of Africa is a critical component of our nation's public diplomacy. The More Books for Africa Program will be a powerful cross cultural initiative to help create a more educated global community," Congresswoman McCollum said.

Conveniently not mentioned in her press release was the price tag. For that we have the Thomas Search Engine. From the text of HR 3701, The More Books for Africa Act:

Authorization of Appropriations - There is authorized to be appropriated to the Administrator of USAID $3,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for purposes of establishing and implementing the Program.

A cool $15 million of brand new spending. And who knows how much more once it becomes embedded as an entitlement and the lobbyists start working the problem in future Congresses.

As previously noted, Betty McCollum views herself less as St. Paul's representative in the Federal government than as the At Large Congresswoman for the Saving the World. This is just another example. I suppose it would be nice to supply an entire continent thousands of miles away with library and text books. (Although it would be even nicer to make sure our country was set in this regard first. Heck, just a few years ago right in St. Paul "our schools were burning!" due to a lack of books.) But in an atmosphere of already spending trillions of dollars more per year than we have, it is highly irresponsible.

These politicians see no need to set any priorities in spending, everything is critical, everything can be funded, nothing needs to be sacrificed, and they think there is no limit to the amount of your money they have available to fund it. That's how you get a $1.4 trillion one year deficit.

Tweaking the campaign slogan I proposed a couple of months ago:

We're out of money. She's out of control. This country cannot afford Betty McCollum any longer.

Feel free to customize that for just about any incumbent in the county.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I Thought We Were Broke?

Recent forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office include a record $1.8 TRILLION federal budget deficit for this year alone, an additional $9.3 TRILLION accumulating in deficits through 2019, and a long-term (75 year) shortfall in funding for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid at an additional $43 TRILLION.

(A staggeringly effective way to envision the scale of just one trillion is provided here.)

If you chose to believe them, the only conclusion is that we're totally screwed. Or, as budget deficit expert Barack Obama puts it, our current deficit spending is "unsustainable."

We are tapped out. To resolve this situation, our only options are massive cuts in spending and/or raising taxes to economic growth crippling levels. You can choose your poison there. What is obvious to anyone paying attention is that we cannot continue business as usual and take on every new discretionary spending obligation that tickles a legislator's fancy. That's what got us into this problem and has driven us to the edge of fiscal catastrophe.

You know who must not believe the Congressional Budget Office figures? Our newest member of Congress, Sen. Al Franken. Certainly the CBO figures have been made available to him. Yet among the first things he does when he gets into office is this little initiative:

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has co-sponsored legislation to train, place, and retain school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists in school districts that need them.

Minnesota ranks 49th in the country in counselor to student ratios, with one counselor for every 800 students. Considering the critical shortage of these professionals throughout the state, Minnesota in particular stands to benefit from this initiative.

Filling the strategic vocational counselor gap, that's why I voted for him.

"Minnesota students deserve personal attention from school counselors," said Sen. Franken. "On everything from choosing the right college to dealing with social issues affecting their performance, our kids need a professional to talk to within their school. This legislation will help to give them that opportunity. We should never be behind the rest of the country when it comes to providing for the well-being of our students. Minnesota students deserve better."

Now if he could guarantee that never again will a high school student be allowed to pursue stand-up comedy as the path to becoming a US Senator, I could get behind this.

Whether or not public schools actually need more counselors is debatable. Whether or not the alleged problems cited will be cured by Franken's legislation is questionable. Whether or not the Federal government needs to step in and start paying for the employees that school districts or states should be taking care of is highly doubtful.

What is not in question is the propriety of this discretionary pending in the context of the federal deficits outlined above. It is irresponsible to propose new spending obligations for items that in no way can be considered a priority above what we already owe trillions more than we can pay for.

And how many more of your future dollars is Franken looking to throw on top of the mountain of debt his Senate colleagues have already accumulated? From the appropriations section of the bill, the so called Increased Student Achievement through Increased Student Support Act (S.538):

There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $30,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2010 to 2020.

$300 million of brand new spending. For school counselors. Any current school counselors worth their salt better be advising their students to consider a career in the lucrative field of school counseling.

Yes, I'm sure that amount is considered a mere drop in the bucket for members of the US Senate. But back here on planet Earth, it is a massive infusion of money. Money we simply don't have. All for a feel good, pork barrel, pet project, luxury item.

Franken sees our tax dollars as a shiny new toy to play with and he's going to use it in the same manner his fellow legislators have for decades, all the way to tens of trillions (and counting) in debt for the American taxpayer.

As we've seen over and over again, with the likes of Betty McCollum and others, even with the dire information provided from the CBO, these politicians see no need to set any priorities in spending, everything can be funded, nothing needs to be sacrificed, they think they can create utopia, and they think there is no limit to the amount of your money they have available to fund it.

Until these types are voted out of Washington once and for all, there will no hope or change on the horizon.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009
We Can't Afford Betty McCollum

From the Heritage Foundation, staggering facts about the size of the federal government's budget deficit. Excerpts:
  • This year, Washington will spend $30,958 per household, tax $17,576 per household, and borrow $13,392 per household. The federal government will increase spending 22 percent this year to a peacetime-record 26 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
  • The 2009 budget deficit will be larger than all budget deficits from 2002 through 2007 combined. More than 43 cents of every dollar Washington spends in 2009 will have been borrowed.
  • President Obama's budget includes $1.4 trillion in tax increases, all of which would go toward new spending rather than deficit reduction.
  • The White House projects $10.6 trillion in new deficits between 2009 and 2019--nearly $80,000 per household in new borrowing.
  • The public national debt--$5.8 trillion as of 2008--is projected to double by 2012 and nearly triple by 2019. Thus, America would accumulate more government debt under President Obama than under every President in American history from George Washington to George W. Bush combined.
  • The coming tsunami of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid costs are projected to push the federal public debt to 320 percent of GDP by 2050 and over 750 percent by 2083.
Rather demoralizing proof that we as a nation are tapped out. We've already spent the nation's wealth far beyond our ability to pay it back during this generation, and increasing that rate of spending at every opportunity.

Assumptions that we will EVER be able to pay it back rest upon the belief that far more responsible government leaders will be in charge decades hence and they will curtail their spending appetites enough to bail out the bankrupt US Treasury. In addition, the voters in the future will be gracious enough to slash their standards of living far beneath what we have now, in order to funnel the vast majority of their incomes to the government in order to pay down our debt while receiving fewer services.

In other words, we're counting on the entire American voting public being replaced by fiscally conservative alien body snatchers in the next 30 - 50 years. Yes, that's a long shot, but moderately more likely than Obama's public health care option being budget neutral. As such, let me be the first to say, Zoltan Xtropcazard of Remulus 12 in 2058.

Until that glorious day, we're stuck with the politicians we elected and who created the fiscal apocalypse cited above. People like Rep. Betty McCollum. She's been in Congress for 8 years, never met a spending increase she didn't like, and certainly should be aware of the kinds of financial information from OMB posted above. And how does she react?

From her speech last week at a Democrat party rally for Obama care:

There are opponents of health care reform. There are people who say that the richest most powerful country on Earth cannot afford to provide health care for all of its citizens. There are opponents who want to protect profits before they protect the right of people to access health care in this country.

Richest country on Earth? Tens of trillions of dollars in debt with no means to pay it off and we're still considered rich? Maybe she means rich in sense of the 7th definition of the word in Merriam-Webster: laughable.

No, I believe McCollum means rich as in we have all the money we need to add yet another trillion dollar spending commitment. This extends a habit I noted back in March when reviewing her legislative spending priorities like:

Can our faith, our values, and our tax dollars be combined into an American "tzedakah" to increase our commitment to feeding the hunger, healing the sick, educating all girls and boys, empowering the ignored and alienated, and inspiring hope in every corner of our planet? I say yes.

She combines the beliefs that she is called on to save the world and that the well of US tax dollars available to pay for her plans is inexhaustible.

Another example, from a speech she gave just one month ago, when the full extent of our fiscal catastrophe was already well known. In the context of already budgeting $7.8 billion in 2010 for her global health initiative, she has this to say about our financial contribution to health care in other countries:

So what are we - the richest nation and other donor nations - doing to significantly reducing child and maternal mortality while investing in building sustainable health systems? Unfortunately, not enough in my opinion.

The government is broke, the politicians have got the citizens at each others' throats over taking on crushing new debt for even more domestic spending, and McCollum is lobbying for untold billions more to save the world, all because we're the "richest nation."

Maybe Betty McCollum is a relic from a different time, when we were the richest nation and had money to throw at any brainstorm any Congress person wanted to pursue. But those days are over, McCollum and her fellow relics sure took care of that.

We cannot afford Betty McCollum in Congress any longer.

That is my proposal for Congressional campaign ads in 2010. It would work against any big spending incumbent (of either party). Present the facts about the deficit, as provided by OMB or CBO. Then get some excerpts/sound clips of the incumbent sketching out their Utopian dreams with your dollars. Something like this:

"It is my belief that the United States has the ability, the resources, and the moral obligation to work in partnership with other wealthy nations, and make the investments to reduce global poverty."

Or this:

The President also recognizes that as the world's superpower we also need to be a "super partner" and I will work to support his agenda of expanded engagement and his efforts to increase the foreign assistance budget.

Let us start with investments in successful birth outcomes for moms and newborns and keep going by focusing on nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and delayed childbearing.

As girls transition to adulthood there must be an economic foundation for them to use their education, earn income, and stay healthy and productive -- an adult continuum.

To unleash the full potential and power women have to contribute greater efforts are needed to promote violence free homes, to expand access to reproductive healthcare, and to increase participation in political decision making.

Whether or not the tape is slowed down to distort it into monster-like intonation is optional.

Then end the spot with something like "Out of money, out of control. This country cannot afford [Congressperson X] any longer." Followed by 5 seconds of black screen and silence.

Then, when the challenger wins on election day, pray they are one of those fiscally responsible pod people I mentioned earlier.

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We are the wind beneath the right wing.

Listen to the Northern Alliance Radio Network on Saturdays from 11am 'til 3pm on AM 1280-The Patriot:

* The First Team 11am-1pm
* The Headliners 1pm-3pm

Podcast Archives

This week on The First Team:

Brian and John continue to voice their heated rhetoric and troublesome vitriol.

Read Alli reviews



3/20--Rick Perriello
3/13--Nancy Pelosi
3/6--Harry Reid
2/20--Keith Olbermann
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2/6--Barack Obama
1/30--Carol Shea Porter
1/16--Martha Coakley
1/9--Mike Malloy
12/19--Al Gore
12/12--Harry Reid
11/21--Al Gore
11/14--Nancy Synderman
11/7--Roland Burris
10/31--Levi Johnston
10/24--Alan Grayson
10/17--Rick Sanchez
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6/13--David Letterman
6/6--Harry Reid
5/30--Drew Barrymore
5/23--Jesse Ventura
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5/9--Alren Specter
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