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.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's almost August already.

The summer has seemed to fly by this year. It's almost August already! I need to take some photos of Timmy's garden and upload them on Facebook. Some things are doing well, others are not. Unfortunately, with my bad back, I haven't been able to help him as much as I'd like, and his garden needs a major weeding.

We've managed to pick about a half-dozen tomatoes, and there are more growing on the various plants we have. The Romano plant is covered with small tomatoes, but none of them have ripened to the point where they can be picked. We bought bush green beans, but one of them turned out to be a pole bean plant. Luckily we've managed to get it to go up a piece of chain we had nailed to the fence. The beans are growing, but they're still only an inch or two long. It'll be mid-August at the earliest before we'll be able to pick any. One of the things that I had hoped is actually happening - because Timmy is growing green beans, he's more willing to eat them now. I hope to do that with two or three other food items we have growing.

There have been a couple of radishes that have gotten large enough to pick and eat, but Timmy still won't try them. I haven't pushed very hard - radishes are an acquired taste. Besides, that leaves more for me! 8^)

We have one zucchini growing on one plant. The other four plants have tiny zucchinis, but the blooms haven't opened on them yet. The pumpkin plants are sending out runners, and the male flowers are beginning to bloom. The cucumbers, cantaloupe, and watermelon are also beginning to send out runners, but there aren't any blooms yet. We're going to have to have an exceptionally long growing season this summer to get anything, but even that is a lesson to be learned.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Repeat after me: CUT GOVERNMENT.

I'm getting sick and tired of "politics as usual" in Washington, DC. We need a budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins in 39 days. The President's budget proposal was so horrible it was voted down 97-0 in the Senate. Yet the Democrats have refused to even bring an idea to the table. There's a reason for that: they believe as long as we don't have a budget, they can push "continuing resolutions" that do nothing but either maintain the current high level of spending, or push it higher. In a just world Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would now be swinging from a rope tied to a lamp post in Washington, DC, along with about 70 of their fellow Democrats. Unfortunately, we don't live in a just world, but our current insane one.

Since the House of Representatives, the US Senate, and President Obama can't seem to find a plan hidden in plain sight, I think it's up to us, the American people to "suggest" one for them. Here are some ideas to start with.

  1. Cut Spending. The United States does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. The Government currently "borrows" $.43 out of every dollar it spends. Most of us have to live within our means - we can't afford to spend more than we take in, or we go to jail. We need to curb how much our government is spending. The "Cut, Cap, and Balance" law doesn't do enough. We have to do more, and we have to do it immediately. Here are my recommendations. Each of these should be submitted to the entire House and Senate for a roll-call vote as a separate bill, with no amendments or changes.

    • Cut the amount of every payroll or retirement check the Government issues by 2.5%, from the President to the lowest-paid private or civilian worker. Make the cut temporary, until the US government is operating in the black again, then reinstate the pay incrementally over a two-year period. Pay interest on the reduced pay at 3% per year.

    • Phase out, over a six-month period, all government subsidies to industry, including agriculture. Retain the crop insurance support, so farmers won't be driven into bankruptcy during bad weather. Include phasing out support to National Public Radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Science Foundation, and any other subsidized group that is not essential for the safety or security of the nation. Include subsidies to the Post Office and AMTRAK. Slash redundant staffing and operating expenses accordingly.

    • Cut duplicate offices and their personnel. The Government Accounting Office and several other government agencies have identified dozens of duplicate, wasteful, and in some cases, outright useless offices. Close them down, and slash the redundant staffing and operating expenses accordingly.

    • Set a scientifically upper limit to regulatory actions on air, water, and soil - setting limits to no more than 1/2 of the amount considered harmful to plants, animals and humans in a natural environment. The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to get one stream in Colorado "cleaned up", when 99% of the pollutants found in the river are of natural origin, and cause no harm to people or the biosphere. This kind of "over zealousness" is taking things to extremes, cost more than they're worth, and are fraudulent and wasteful. The entire "carbon dioxide is a pollutant" meme is a fraud, and any actions taken to "reduce" such emissions are fraudulent. Stop them, and the expense of "monitoring" sites for compliance. I am sure there are other regulatory agencies with equal problem areas that need to be addressed. Slash the redundant staffing and operating expenses accordingly.

    • Establish limited, written authority for each and every regulatory agency within the government that CANNOT be exceeded except by approval of 2/3 of the House and Senate, and only for a limited time not to exceed two years, with a maximum of one renewal. Slash the redundant staffing and operating expenses accordingly.

  2. Reduce the size and scope of government. Government is too big, costs too much, does too much, and interferes too much in the daily lives of its citizens. That needs to end immediately.

    • We need a law, and possibly a Constitutional amendment to FORBID the government from writing any law that cannot be applied to every person, company, place, or organization equally.

    • The government MUST end immediately all union activity on the part of government workers. Such activity is both unnecessary and unconstitutional.

    • Establish immediately a non-partisan board to examine EVERY law, rule, regulation, or edict from the federal government, determine its purpose, usefulness, effectiveness, and cost, and make one of the following recommendations: end it, establish a sunset date for the law to be discontinued, establish that it is necessary based upon one of the government's ENUMERATED responsibilities, or that it needs to be altered, amended, or corrected, and why.

    • Reduce significantly the size of the Executive Offices. Administrative bloat has been carried to extremes, especially in the current Executive. We have too many unelected administrators, too many levels of (mis)management, and too high a cost for too little results. Eliminate or combine offices to reduce excessive staff and their associated cost, improve efficiency, and reduce expenses.

    • Eliminate, or at least reduce, unfunded mandates on cities and states. The Federal Government has no business telling cities and states how to operate, what to do, or how to do it. Cut the funding to the agencies given "oversight responsibility" for these unfunded mandates.

    • Start paying down, and eventually pay off, the national debt. Establish by law that the only two reasons the United States Government may borrow money is to wage war or to combat a natural or manmade disaster that affects a minimum of 1/4 of the nation or its population.

  3. End government support to those who will not support themselves. We make welfare too easy to get, too easy to manipulate, and too convenient for those that engage in fraud, waste, and downright theft. This needs to end immediately. At the same time, there does need to be a safety net. That net should be operated by civic, social, and religious groups, with some support from government at the State level.

    • The federal government should provide limited support in the form of block grants to the states to cover welfare, including Medicaid, however, each function and every operation should be reviewed and audited frequently to determine (1) if it is actually providing a useful service that helps people help themselves, (2) is an efficient use of government funds in support of the health and well-being of the recipients of such services, (3) the activity is not redundant to the point of fraud or waste, and (4) there is no better way to provide the support. Such support should be limited to the level necessary for the individual to reach a point where they no longer need such services.

    • People with permanent, non-self-inflicted disabilities should be provided for as is currently done through Social Security, plus whatever assistance can be provided at limited cost by the state and local governments and civic, religious, and social organizations. Contributions from non-federal groups should not be used to deny or reduce federal support payments.

  4. Change the tax laws to eliminate deductions, special favors, and other non-equal tax laws. Here's a flat minimum tax plan that will work:
    Earned income between:
    $1 – $25,000 – pay 1%
    $25,001 – $50,000 – pay 2.5%
    $50,001 – $100,000 – pay 5%
    $100,001 – $250,000 – pay 7.5%
    $250,001 – $500,000 – pay 10%
    over $500,000 – pay 12.5%

    If you earned $800,000, you pay 1% on the first $25,000, 2.5% on the next $25,000, 5% the next $50,000, 7.5% on the next $150,000, 10% on the next $250,000, and 12.5% on the $300,000 above $500,000. This way, everyone pays the same tax rates, regardless of how much (or how little) they earn. No deductions! The only excluded income would be disability income and a percentage of retirement income (say, the first $45,000, indexed to inflation). The tax form would be about the size of a postcard, and anyone with a calculator could figure their taxes in about three minutes. Here are some other suggested tax laws:

    • Consider interest, dividends, capital gains, and all other forms of income simply as earned income. Allow one-time transactions such as a home sale, inheritance, or other unearned income to be spread out over ten years.

    • Phase out the corporate income tax on businesses over ten years. This will provide sufficient time to determine whether personal taxes need to raise.

    • Evaluate every other form of government income (land sales, land leases, oil/gas/mineral leases) to determine if the current level is sufficient or too high. Establish a flat import duty of 2.5% of all imported goods to be used to establish, maintain, and/or enlarge ports and harbors, and to build and maintain the infrastructure to support them. This money cannot be used for anything else except to reduce the national debt, and then only to a maximum of 25% of the gross funds, only with a 2/3 approval of the House and Senate, and only for a maximum of three years out of every ten.

    • A federal excise tax on "luxury items" of up to 10% may be authorized, with the income going into the general fund. The excise tax should be graduated in increments of 2.5%, for luxury items valued at up to $10,000 (0%), $10,001-%50,000 (2.5%), $50,000 - $250,000 (5%), $250,000-$1,000,000 (7.5%), and anything over $1,000,000 at 10%.

    • Any other tax legislation must be approved by 2/3 of the membership of the House and Senate, must establish specifically what the tax will be used for (NOT the "general welfare"), why Congress has the authority and the need to establish the tax, and a "sunset date" when the tax will expire.

That's a start. I'm sure there are other ideas out there that can also help get us out of our current debt problem.

If you agree with what I propose, please copy this into an email and send it to your Representative or Senator. Add any additional ideas you may have, or comments on what I suggest as you see fit. Our government is a spendaholic. It's time to cut them off and dry them out, before we're all in the poor house. We need to start today.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Creating jobs, killing debt

Nobody in Washington, DC, is really serious about cutting the national debt. If they were, they'd be introducing simple things that could do it every day. Instead, they're trying to do everything in one bill. Personally, I think that's stupid, unproductive, and impossible to do. We need to see single bills, each doing something to cut the debt. Here are some ideas:

Cut regulation. Over-regulation costs the US economy over $1.5 TRILLION every year - about the same amount as the deficit. Trying to reform it all at once would be a Herculean task at best. It would be much easier to pass one piece of legislation that would eliminate one bit of regulation, or a few related items. Do it again, and again, and again. Pretty soon, most of the unnecessary regulations will be gone.

Cut spending. Again, not all at once, but one tiny bit at a time. Trim $20 million here, $15 million there, $45 million over there. Do the cutting of a single amount in a single bill.

Cut taxes, and simplify the tax laws. Re-define "earned income", and tax only earned income. Quit taxing social security and unemployment. Don't tax capital gains separately from earned income. Reduce the income tax laws down to where they'll fit on a single sheet of paper. It can be done, but a lot of fat cats will scream. If the US goes bankrupt, most of those fat cats will end up being hanged. The sentiment is out there, and a bankrupt nation will see a fit of anger not seen since the Revolution.

Eliminate Obamacare. It's not only unconstitutional, it's unsupportable and unaffordable. It's also one of the biggest things holding up hiring today.

Reduce duplication of effort among national offices. I'm sure there's enough to do some serious whittling away at the size and scope of the bureaucracy. Start with President Obama's 'czars'.

Stop subsidizing EVERYTHING. We can no longer afford it, most of it ends up as waste, and it does little or no good. The savings from eliminating the bureaucracy supporting such subsidies would be significant in itself.

End all public service "unions". They're nothing but an attempt to govern from behind a false front. There is no legitimate reason for a public service union but to scam the public.

Change public service retirement rules. Too many people are allowed to retire too early, and to get retirement pay they've not really earned. Also, don't allow any public service retiree, other than the military, some law enforcement personnel, and those in physically demanding jobs to collect retirement pay before age 65.

Accept that there is no such thing as a cut 'too small to matter'. Every dollar spent is one that was forcefully taken from a taxpayer. No government has a right to any citizen's money, and any money they do take needs to be spent wisely and frugally, for something that legitimately supports the overall health and well-being of the ENTIRE nation, not a specific person, or a particular class of people.

Quit trying to do 'social engineering'. A government created to secure the rights of its citizens has no business doing it, no one's given the government the permission to do it, the government is usually wrong in what they try to do, and they're so ham-fisted doing it that they cause more problems than they solve.

Get government out of the way. One of the biggest reasons today's unemployment is so high is that planners in private enterprise have no idea what tomorrow's going to bring in the way of new regulations, new taxes, new requirements, and new limitations. No one's going to hire in that kind of environment. As President Reagan proved in the 1980s, when government gets out of the way, private enterprise will expand, hire, and grow. When it does, tax revenues will also grow. Anything else is stupid.

These are generalities. I'm sure that 90% of all US citizens between the ages of 15 and 105 could provide specifics for each and every one of these topics. Let them! Ask them for ideas, sift through them, take the ones that will work, and implement them. Stop trying to run the government as if it, or any member of it, is omnipotent. It isn't. Get the American people involved, and accept their ideas. You'd be surprised at the results.

Paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson, the largest government the citizens should ever allow is the minimum government that can satisfy their legitimate needs. Anything else is fraud, waste, and abuse. End it now.