Archive for July 2011
Many have complained about the Transportation Act and I understand debt is debt at the end of the day; regardless of the culprit. (keep in mind the state needs infrastructure to keep the wheels of commerce moving, to attract businesses, keep people safe, etc… and simple math would tell you when the last time the state made an investment in its transportation system – here is a hint – think Governor Baliles)
However; yesterday Governor Bob McDonnell announced that the Commonwealth posted a $311 million surplus for the fiscal Year 2011. Final numbers are still out and “will be adjusted upward in the month after the addition of the final tabulations of savings recognized through greater operational efficiencies and incentives to control spending throughout state government.” Final numbers related to the surplus will be announced in August. Budget and revenue surpluses just don’t happen, they occur due to solid management and structured decisions. Even more so given the current economic climate.
Strategy isn’t a “fuzzy” buzz word to the McDonnell Administration. These days it is a word often abused and made into plastic by various MBA Programs. McDonnell and company understand that strategy by definition is ” the overall process of consciously achieving a desired future for an organization, unit, that would not otherwise occur in the natural flow of events absent intervention on our part to make it so .” Forty years of unfunded spending by the Federal Government has landed this country in a less than desirable fiscal state which will throw the United States off the world stage and transform outr nation into a third world consumer plantation.
Governor McDonnell stated, ” For too long, elected officials from both parties have over promised and over spent and the result is the fiscal crisis we see unfolding in Washington, D.C. Here in Richmond, we are committed to implementing a culture of fiscal responsibility and fiscal restraint in our state government. Working together, Republicans and Democrats have made some very tough choices. We have reduced spending and not raised taxes and focused government on its core competencies. As a result, we have seen back-to-back years of revenue surpluses. The Commonwealth, like our families, and businesses is living with its means.”
The McDonnell Administration has “set the table” in a tough economic period by fostering an environment in which government is not an obstacle to private enterprise; while the Federal Government continues to throw road block after road block in the path of economic development, meanwhile doling out unfunded liabilities/mandates which increase pressure on an already fiscally broke Federal Government. Programs in which threaten the AAA bond rating the Commonwealth enjoys from Moody’s, an organization in which complimented the current administration on how they are handling business and operations in Virginia last year during the Governor’s visit to the facilities.
The Administration acknowledges that Virginia is not out of the woods yet; even more so to the fore mentioned unprecedented federal mandates and state liabilities that are in excess of $10 billion. It is evident that Governor McDonnell understands the key concept of strategy and how it ” begins with an expression of human aspiration, collective or individual and is inherently emotional and subjective – it is what “we” want or hope to do.” There has been compromise in Richmond, but keep in mind in, in compromise neither side gets everything they want. It isn’t often either that Dick Saslaw and Bob Howell work together for the good of the citizens of Virginia to get a balanced budget passed in over two decades. Governor McDonnell is getting things done to get the economy moving again in Virginia, with a simple formula for growth, drastic cuts in spending, providing a balanced budget and not rasing taxes. Job creation, economic development are solutions rather than continuing to feed the immoral beast of Federal spending. Even if you should disagree with Governor McDonnell, it is difficult to deny that Virginia is on the road to economic recovery despite the Federal Governments failed policies. In typical Commonwealth fashion, Virginia is setting the pace, just ask CNBC.
The “role of government” has been at the forefront of my thoughts lately because of the many points of view on the subject. One of the more important issues can be summarized in this question:
Should Government have the primary charitable giving role in the United States in order to ensure that the less fortunate in our society have their needs met?
This is an admirable objective. Who would not want to help those in need with food, clothing and housing? However, the issue is not what is needed, but how to provide it.
I have read a ton of opinion letters on the topic over the years and many believe that, as citizens of the Unites States, we ought to be willing to pay higher taxes in order to meet the higher costs of meeting the “needs” of others. This opinion comes up short on several points:
- The definition of “needs” is subjective and, as history shows, is progressive.
- It requires someone to make the decision about who deserves help and separates that decision from the person taxed to provide the funds for such purposes. This is supposed to make the decision “fair.”
- It concentrates power in those who make the decisions because, through the taxing power, the sums of money become astronomical.
- And lastly, it is stealing. I realize this last statement is harsh, however, please consider the following information.
Under our Constitution, there is a principle of governance that the grantee (the person receiving) of a right, such as a property right, has no more authority than the grantor (the person giving) of such right. The United States was created under the governance principle that the people grant their government specific authority and with the express purpose of protecting the rights of its citizens. Using that principle then; would an individual be allowed to take property from one person and give it to another? Like I said; it is stealing, and would get the taker put in jail.
If an individual does not have the authority to do this, then “We the people” cannot convey that authority to their government. Again, I know this may sound radical; however, there is no Constitutional authority of our government to take (tax) from one person and then give money, food, clothing, health care, retirement or anything else to another. Don’t take my word for it. Read the Constitution itself. It is not there.
What has happened in the last 100 years is that the judiciary has sanctioned this wealth transfer legislated by, let’s be kind, leaders with good intentions. But the intentions are irrelevant. While there are many who would argue that Supreme Court decisions, in and of itself, makes something Constitutional, this is also incorrect. This assigns far more power to the judiciary branch that was ever intended by the Constitution’s authors and has wreaked havoc on this country.
This departure from the one of the most important principles, upon which the country was founded and about which the Founding Fathers wrote extensively, was a massive error. All one has to do is look at the result. After 100 years, this country is going broke trying to meet the “needs” of those who claim them.
Many of those opinion pieces I have read invoke the name of The Savior, Jesus Christ, as justification for using more tax dollars for charitable purposes. They say that “isn’t that person selfish because they don’t want to help people; surely Jesus would be ashamed of them.” I reject that assertion completely. Not once did Jesus Christ petition the Roman or Jewish leadership and say…”increase the amount of money you take from the people in taxes to make sure the poor are provided for.” What an appalling thought. He would agree with our Founding Fathers and consider that an abomination. Government programs are not, by definition, Charity.
Finally, I wish to quote from an article by Roger Scruton who wrote for The American Spectator in April, 2010, titled “Gratitude and Grace.” This article addressed a key truth about charitable giving and the dysfunction of having government trying to fill that role. Mr. Scruton wrote, in part:
The proper response to a gift, even a gift of charity, is gratitude. People who feel gratitude also wish to express it. The easiest way is to give in one’s turn. By giving you pass on and amplify the goodwill that you received. Thus it is that, in America, where the tradition of giving is very much alive, and the state has not yet extinguished the desire or the need for it, people give to their old school, to their university, to the hospital that cured them, to the local rescue service that saved them, and to the veterans who fought for them. They give without seeking or expecting recognition, but simply because gratitude is expressed through giving.
However, the state is taking over many of the functions that were previously performed by charities — not least education, health care, and the relief of poverty. And the state deals on impersonal and equal terms with its citizens. It has no favorites, and it is governed by the rules — anything else is received by the citizens as an injustice. Hence charity is replaced by justice as the ruling principle upon which social benefits are distributed. But while charity deals in gifts, justice deals in rights. And when you receive what is yours by right you don’t feel grateful. Hence people who receive their education and health care from the state are less inclined to give to schools and hospitals in their turn — something that is borne out vividly by the figures concerning charitable giving. The spirit of gratitude retreats from the social experience, and in countries like France and Germany, where civil society is penetrated at every level by the state, people give little or nothing to charity, and regard gifts with suspicion, as attempts to privatize what should be a matter of public and impartial concern.
When gifts are replaced by rights, so is gratitude replaced by claims. And claims breed resentment. Since you are queuing on equal terms with the competition, you will begin to think of the special conditions that entitle you to a greater, a speedier, or a more effective share. You will be always one step from the official complaint, the court action, the press interview, and the snarling reproach against Them, the ones who owed you this right and also withheld it. That is the way European society is going, and American society may one day follow it. Agape, the contagious gentleness between people, survives only where there is a habit of giving. Take away gift, and agape gives way to the attitude that Nietzsche called ressentiment, the vigilant envy of others, and the desire to take from them what I but not they have a right to.
I am grateful that there are those, like Roger Scruton, who are so able to describe the consequences of the what I will call “the great departure” from one of the most important principles on which this great nation was founded. That is…charity is reserved for an individual who willingly gives of their property to another to relieve the conditions and mishaps that befall us and it was never intended to be a government function. Just look to the result, the truth of the principle is right there.
The recent discussion of government revenues and tax loopholes has brought to my frontal lobe the idea of “special interest groups”. We throw them around a bunch – more than $250,000 annual income, to whom our president refers as “millionaires and billionaires” (and many of us may refer to as “neighbors”), the autistic children, Social Security recipients, and college scholarship recipients, among others.
It made me think back to a very unique special interest group, those who benefitted from “Cash for Clunkers” – a $3 billion federal program in 2009 which gave car owners up to $4,500 for a trade-in to take their gas guzzler off the road and buy a new, more-fuel-efficient vehicle.
Let’s examine the special interest group that program served, which (coincidentally, I’m sure) cost the exact same amount – $3 billion – that would be recouped in 10 years if Obama actually closed the “corporate jet tax break” loop hole.
Cash for clunkers. First, you gotta have a used car worth less than $4,500 (otherwise, you’d be losing money to take advantage of the program). Cool. My wife owns a 1991 Mazda Miata, street value $1,350. I’m interested.
Second, the used car has to be rated at less than 18 miles per gallon. OK, so the effort is to get gas guzzlers off the road, I understand. Snookered. We’re out of the race with our 28-mpg Miata, but I’m sure millions of others are still in the hunt.
Third, you need to be ready for a new – I repeat, new – car. This must disqualify a huge sector of the contestants. Trade in an old car for 48 or 60 months of new car payments, all to take advantage of a few thousand dollars in a tax break? Not likely. This isn’t really the stuff of “trading up” to outfit your recent high school graduate with their freshman-year college car.
Fourth, you have to come to terms with the fact that the dealership will, quite literally, destroy your used automobile. If you don’t know some family who could use a $2,000 used vehicle, then you run in significantly different economic circles than I do. About 700,000 functional vehicles were taken off the road as a result of this program. I can’t imagine the number of folks (probably close to 700,000) who could have benefitted from the resale of these destroyed cars. Not to mention the struggling service stations who would have made money servicing the used cars.
When you consider the criteria, I’m actually surprised that the program drew 700,000 applicants. 0.23% of the American population. It’s hard to identify a “special interest group” smaller than that. Oh, but wait. There were two other special interest groups which were served in this deal.
Auto unions and auto makers. $12 billion worth of “stimulated” new car sales in roughly 35 days. Hmmmm.
When you think about or hear about special interest groups, just realize that our politicians are currently sizing you up for one, to make sure they can count on your vote.
Watching the political shenanigans in DC these days is like watching a food fight among a group of 8-year-olds at the Thanksgiving kid’s table. Tell them to stop throwing cranberry sauce and everybody around the table points elsewhere saying “It was him”.
You may be surprised that I’m not intending this as an indictment of the “mainstream media” – though I’m certainly no fan of the typical press coverage we’re afforded. To his credit, on “Meet the Press” this morning David Gregory told Tim Geithner quite bluntly “…you’re not really saying anything there…” when they were discussing Medicare’s and Social Security’s roles in balancing the budget and reducing the deficit. Geithner still gave no solid answers and instead stuck to talking points of “shared sacrifices” and “special interest tax breaks”.
That’s my point – any discussion remotely newsworthy or constructive is sidestepped in favor of sound bites and safe talking points, which leaves the individual citizen grasping for a true choice and a discernible path forward.
As we are facing a coming economic catastrophe, our elected representatives are busying themselves nibbling around the edges in an effort to show us they’re doing something resembling what they promised during the campaign. The most recent debt limit deal, just a few short months ago, included (depending on who you ask and who’s numbers are accurate) between $20 billion and $60 billion in spending cuts. Folks, the debt limit has increased from $9.8 trillion in 2007 to $14.3 trillion today. This President’s budget added approximately $1.4 trillion to the deficit in a single year. Raise your hand if you think 42 cents is a consequential amount compared to $100. That’s the same relative size of $60 billion versus $14.3 trillion.
And my complaint certainly isn’t confined to the budget debate. In the midst of the GM bailout, we were threatened with “Who would honor the warranties?” To extend unemployment benefits, Nancy Pelosi promised us that those unemployment checks were going to be used to buy big-screen TV’s to keep the economy afloat. The idea of repealing the Health Care Reform Bill, which swept more than a few conservative freshman candidates into federal offices, has dropped from the docket. The fallout from the President’s speech last week had us wondering if he was talking specifically about the miniscule amount of taxes ($3 billion in 10 years?) which could be collected by closing the loophole for corporate jets, or was he just trying to demagogue that entire income class? And now, talking about the budget and the deficit, one side says cuts to entitlements are off the table and the other side says cuts to military spending are off the table. Can anybody explain why?
It is our duty, as citizens of this great country, to demand answers from our elected representatives. We need to take our places at the adult’s table and start asking.
There has been considerable discussion as of late about the failure of our government and the economy. The question begin considered is “Is the United States Constitution the correct government model and is Capitalism the correct economic model?” There are those who assert that these models are another failed attempt to provide civilization with a construct within which to reach its full potential.
Let me suggest that it is not the model that is lacking. Rather, what we are experiencing is a moral failure. The founders gave us an effective procedural model that depends on the morality of the governed. Benjamin Franklin said “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” How can citizens demand virtue from those we choose to govern the model if we lack the moral grounding to discern what is virtuous?
The current government model has devolved to chaos because those we elected are choosing to act in their own interest rather than in the best interest of the country. That is why, for example, no one has been willing to address Social Security. Any suggestion of privatizing or separating the retirement portion from the disability portion is used as political ammunition to describe the proponent as wanting to “kill old people.” If the ones proposing the solution don’t care about a long-term political career then they will act with the correct intentions. If, on the other hand, they are acting in their own self-interest, they will not take the political risk associated with the proposal.
What, then, is the solution? If the structure is so corrupt as to be ineffective, then the solution will have to come from outside the structure. What has emerged in the last several years is that solution. While the current awakening to the real crisis has organized around the tea party movement, I am suggesting that the tea party activity is just one vehicle or expression of the real revolution. What is underneath the tea party activity, and much more powerful, is the recognition that the principles, both moral and structural, on which the country is based, have been substantially abandoned over the last almost 100 years. While we have had periods that slowed the deteriorating effects of that abandonment, we continue to lurch toward a government and economic model that is destroying freedom. In my opinion, unless we return to the Founding Principles we cannot reverse the current path to tyranny.
The Founding Fathers recognized their own human weaknesses. They had been instructed by the great thinkers of the few successful civilizations in human history. They studied the various governing models of the past and distilled them into something completely revolutionary. While the Revolutionary War was fought to gain independence, the real revolution happened after the independence was won. It was hammered out in the subsequent nine years and brought forth on September 17, 1787, as an inspired document, The Unites States Constitution. And still, there were subsequent years of authenticating the thinking behind the document in the Founders writings, such as is found in the Federalist Papers.
So here we are…at the crossroad for this United States of America. Make no mistake about where we have arrived. For the last 100 years, we have taken the road that can only lead to a government and economic model that will result in the very tyranny from which the Founders attempted to protect us.
There is, however, hope! I am encouraged by the 6th verse in 2 Kings, Chapter 6, which states “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” It’s true. There are more who live their lives according to sound moral principles than not. We, Americans, are a generous, spiritual, and hard-working people. We are independent and self-reliant. We love our families and friends and want our children to have the freedoms we enjoy. And we will not tolerate losing them!
I am asking you to get engaged. Find an organization that fits your philosophy. Reorganize your priorities and your time. You don’t need to be retired or wealthy. It takes only a few hours a week and you can join others in changing the course of history. Please join this restoration of our Founding Principles established for us 224 years ago.