Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Monday, May 08, 2006

What Congress Has to Do.

The next few months are critical for both political parties. Either they do some major work, or the entire lot - both parties - may face grim times from constituents. Here are eight things that need to be done if those currently in office are to keep their jobs:

  1. Pass legislative limits to spending, and kill the stupidity known as "earmarks". Create legislative control of other unessential pork-barrel spending. Either give the President a line-item veto, or establish rules that there can only one subject per budget bill.

  2. Pass Immigration reform that includes strong border control and a very limited guest-worker/amnesty program based on past performance, not blanket acceptance. I discussed how to weigh immigrants and accept/reject their petitions for continued residency/citizenship here.

  3. Acknowledge that the United States is at war, and put the nation on more of a war footing. Loosen up some of the environmental rules impacting recruiting, training, and daily operations. Expand the size of the Armed Forces by ten active (7 Army, 3 Marine), three reserve, and three National Guard Brigade Combat Teams over five years, and provide necessary equipment and training. Especially increase the intelligence-collecting capabilities of all branches of the Armed Forces

  4. Pass a meaningful energy bill - one that allows more drilling, more exploration, expanded refinery capacity, and a single-blend formula for gasoline in all 50 states. Limit funding for alternative energy sources to research and development, and put the pressure on for results. Quit playing games with trying to force the country to use ethanol or other non-petroleum products - let the market decide if these are worthwhile to pursue.

  5. Expedite review of existing federal regulations in all areas, and reduce, consolidate, or eliminate those that are ineffective, counterproductive, or just plain silly (they exist).

  6. Reduce the size and expense of government by consolidating, downsizing, or eliminating non-functioning, marginal, or redundant operations.

  7. Establish a minimum voter identification requirement of a photo identification document with the voter's current address. This will do more to reduce voter fraud than any other single action, and can be done at modest expense. Citizens may have stopped screaming about voter fraud, but it hasn't left their memory. They expect Congress to correct the problem.

  8. Rescind McCain-Feingold. It's a worthless restriction on free speech, and has done nothing but change the way the money is funneled and made the average citizen's life miserable.

The choice is up to the politicians. The one thing they cannot do is nothing. The people are upset over the games being played by both parties in Washington, the constant excessive spending, and the failure to truly address the needs of our nation. If they don't get their act together and do what's necessary, the American people may decide the entire lot needs to find new employment.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an extremely interesting set of ideas that appear to contradict some of your earlier postings. It is amusing that you call for a sizeable reduction in the federal budget, yet advocate a number of possible solutions to problems that would require an extensive outlay of tax dollars to accomplish and enlarge several governmental entities. Most notable is the expansion of the military, National Guard, and Reserves by a sizeable amount (18 brigades). Building expensive walls and placing guard towers and giving the people guarding the border all the necessary equipment and weapons they require. A national photo ID system for undocumented aliens. You indicate that to pay for this, all we have to do is get Congress to end the earmarks, or give the president line item veto power, or limit budget items to one subject. To this I say good luck, it isn't likely that the politicans will embrace these concepts. Neither party will support giving the President line item veto power, especially when their party does not hold the Presidency. The Republicans refused to give that power to Clinton and I would be equally confident that the Dems would give it to Bush. Trying to reduce expenditures by reducing unnessary or redundant federal programs, is a nice idea, but who gets to determine what constitutes a redundant program.
Obviously, given your plea for a larger military, you do not see it as one of the redundant federal functions. I would submit that it would be one of the first places I would look to for cost savings. Reducing our forces in those war torn countries of France, England, Germany and Italy might be a good start. Closing the number of useless bases throughout the country. Quit transferring military personnel from one base to another for no apparent reason. I had a friend that was in the Air Force that got transferred from Colorado Springs to Cheyenne Wyoming. For this he had to uproot his family and cause the taxpayers undue expense. And we must not forget all of the expensive weapon systems, alot over the years that did not work properly and were ultimately killed off, but not until after a great waste of taxpayer dollars.
I will never forget the shipping of a large ship anchor to Ft. Carson. Gee, when was it that we last had a large warship in Prospect Lake. However, no one in that great military complex you wish to expand could figure that one out. Then once it was shipped, the taxpayers had to pay to ship it back.
And what about the military academies. Do we really need three of them? Certainly the Army, Navy and Air Force have different functions, but many who go to the academies do not make the military a long-term career. They get degrees in fniance and other areas and then serve their minimum term and get out. What a waste of taxpayer's money. I certainly hope that when you sustanined your injury at the Academy that you reimbursed the taxpayers for the cost of your education to that point.
Gosh, isn't this fun, and I have barely started on what I think needs to be cut in this country to balance the budget.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Old Patriot said...

Good response. Have you considered starting your own blog? As for the rest, let's start with this:

The preamble of the Constitution of the United States says:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States."

Section 8, Article 1, specifically gives the Congress 17 unique duties, including raising and equipping armies, navies, and the militia of the people. There's nothing in the Constitution for half of what is done today, and a lot of it isn't showing any benefit for the "general welfare" or "domestic tranquility".

One very egregious example is FDR's interference with the nation's railroads. He declared (by executive order, btw) that all railroads had to be unionized, and then took over railroad retirement. That one executive order killed passenger travel in the United States, although it took 30 years to do it. It costs the government of the United States about $40bn a year. The telephone tax, passed in 1898 to help defray the cost of the Spanish-American war is still in existence (it's being phased out this year, finally). It costs the government about half the revenue acquired to pay for this stupid tax, and it costs the telecoms about $17bn a year to collect. It adds between $.60 to $7.40 a month to the average telephone bill. That seems to have a direct, adverse effect to "domestic tranquility" and the "general welfare". There are thousands of ways the government plays these little "gotcha" games on the American public. They need to be rooted out and ended.

I would be happy to see the professional military continue to stay the same size it currently is, if the Congress would authorize the full development of the national militia (originally considered to include every male between the age of 16 and 45), and use them to secure our borders. Unfortunately, the thought of a well-trained, armed body of non-military personnel scares the sh$$ out of our "politial leadership", and it'll never happen.

Yes, I did repay the Academy for some of the expenses occurred during my shortened stay - $350 for uniforms, and another $200 for other expenses. Remember, this was in 1964, and that was a lot of money for a poor teenager making minimum wage (I got two pay raises in the six months I worked for the company I worked for, so "minimum wage" - $2.50 an hour - didn't last long. I got my first raise after three months, to $2.75 an hour. The second raise was to $2.90/hour).

I would agree with re-deploying many of the overseas troops back to the US, or to other places within the European, Asian, or Middle East areas of operation. We still need at least two bases in England (they do work that cannot be done anywhere else anywhere as effectively), two in Germany (at Graffenwoehr, where they can also train, and Ramstein AB, for military transport requirements), and one in Italy (Naples naval base). Those decisions aren't made at my lowly pay grade (E-7). BTW, we haven't had any bases in France since 1962. There are several in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Italy that we could scale back or close. As for intra-theater transfers, a lot of those have been cut back. Some of the others are used to provide better experience for officers and enlisted who are considered for advancement. I'm sure that's what happened to your friend (the other reason for such transfers is to put people in positions where their lack of ability will do no harm). Personally, I moved 17 times in 26 years, at least six times outside the US. Most of those times my family joined me. It made sense for the government, and it sure helped my morale!

The one thing that allows us to have as small an army as we have today is the technological advances that allow a single private today to do as much as a squad did during WWII. We also don't lose as many people on the battlefield because of huge advances in medical care and the ability to get a soldier to an aid station in one-tenth the time it took in 1943 or 1944.

Actually, we have FIVE military academies: West Point, Annapolis, the USAF Academy, the Merchant Marine Academy (all graduates are reserve Navy officers), and the Coast Guard Academy. Each trains officers for a different job, quite often unique. It would be difficult for any of those academies to reconfigure their course work to meet the needs of both their own and other armed forces. My only gripe with the academies is that they don't oversee a greater opportunity for both enlisted and officers to earn degrees at all levels. We have the facilities, we have the educated people, we just don't have the will. I personally believe the Air Force should reinstate a Warrant Officer program, but that's not going anywhere, either.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points all. I must admit that I have enjoyed exchanging comments with you. Your arguments are well thought out and you defend yourself very well. For this I respect your point view. I never thought of starting my own blog. While I do alot of surfing the net, I am home bound and suffer from Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) and this would make it difficult to establish and maintain a blog. Nice chatting with you.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:43 AM  

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