THE SAPIENT SPARROW: conservatism for commoners

"What has always made the State a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven."–Holderlin

MENENDEZ & PASCRELL: CLUELESS IN NEW JERSEY

With the mid-term elections less than 90 days away, I find myself fantasizing about what New Jersey might be like if she were represented in Washington by individuals who actually could read and do math.  By extension, what might the entire Country look like?  Alas, despite the election of Chris Christie to the position of Governor of the Garden State, I am resigned to the voters returning Representative Bill Pascrell,  8th District, to Washington this November. The 2012 re-election of Senator Bob Menendez is more doubtful, even if he dodges the recall action now in process.  However, having lived in New Jersey for the past 25 years, I have learned to never underestimate the hypnotic power of politicians who have  “Ds” after their names over the New Jersey electorate.

There was a time when I attempted to correspond with both Rep. Pascrell and Senator Menendez.  (To my credit, I had never tried to write or call Senator Lautenberg.)  I stopped these futile efforts over a year ago out of a desire to keep my sanity intact.  As a result they stopped sending me e-mails and newsletters and making “robo-calls” to my home.  A kind of peaceful co-existence reigned among us.  Last week that peace was broken.  My fault, I have to confess.  The potential of a “lame duck” Congressional session this fall was just too tempting.  I took aim and fired off letters in conjunction with a petition from Freedom Works on the issue.

Here is the letter that Freedom Works sent, with my comment appended at the end:

July 30, 2010

Dear Representative Pascrell,
Dear Senator Lautenberg,
Dear Senator Menendez,

Dear Member of Congress,

I continue to hear rumors about a potential “Lame Duck” session that could be held right after the November elections and before the new Congress is sworn-in.

I fear that despite a very different political make-up in Congress, elements of the far Left will view this as their last chance to enact threats to our liberty including:

1. The Cap and Trade Energy Tax Hike!
2. Another “Stimulus” Bailout Scheme!
3. More Tax Hikes at a Time when we can Scarcely Afford them!

This would go directly against the will of the people – having had their say in the November Elections – and I urge you to oppose it as the worst kind of political, dirty-trick.

Should a lame duck session surface, I will be watching your vote very closely on cap and trade, additional taxpayer-funded bailouts, any attempts to increase taxes, and any other policy proposals that erode more of our freedoms and expand the reach of government.

H/T to Rep. Tom Price for his Resolution addressing this issue. I strongly support his efforts.

Sincerely,

Okay, here is a little test.  What is the main idea of the above letter?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Below is the answer of Senator Menedez:

Dear Mrs. Hurley:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about legislation addressing climate change.  Your opinion is very important to me, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to you on this critical issue.

I understand your concerns about the potential economic impact of this legislation.  Like you, I believe it is vital that we carefully consider and prepare for how a program to reduce global warming pollution will affect the daily lives of those at every income level. Before supporting any energy legislation, I will be looking for significant investments in consumer rebates and energy efficiency to protect consumers and businesses from energy price increases.

However, when thinking about our energy and global warming policies, I think it is critical that we stop and recognize the fundamental choice we are facing.  We can either act now and gradually lower our emissions, or we can delay action and make the inevitable switch to cleaner fuels suddenly and in an economically disruptive manner.

Embarking on a new energy path now would mean rebuilding our manufacturing base by creating jobs in clean energy technology right here at home, reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign energy, and cutting global warming pollution.  As your Senator, I believe moving forward on energy independence and clean energy is the only sensible path for New Jersey and for America.  I have complete confidence that if we in Congress can take on our toughest energy and climate challenges, then our entrepreneurs, engineers, and workers  can make America the leader in clean energy technology that will power the 21st century economy.

On this issue, as with any issue, there are many different views.  Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.  I invite you to visit my website (http://menendez.senate.gov) to learn more about how I am standing up for New Jersey families in the United States Senate.

Sincerely,

His response begs the question, “Is a real person actually reading his correspondence, or does his office use computer software that uses predictive logic to generate (mis)responses?”  It is good to know, I guess, that Senator Menendez is consistently “mis-responsive”.  The letter I had sent previous to the one last week concerned Obamacare legislation.  Senator Menendez replied by telling me that he did not support funding for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.  Remember, that a majority of New Jersey voters elected this guy—crazy-making, isn’t it?

Shortly after the exchange with Senator Menendez, I received a call from Representative Pascrell inviting me to join a “Telephone Townhall” meeting with him.  With some difficulty, I was able to resist his invitation.  However, the next day, I received from Representative Bill, a copy of his newsletter—the first one he has sent me in two years.  I tried not to read it; I really did.  But this latest newsletter looked so appealing.  Glossy paper, full color, so unlike the black and blue newsletter that he had previously sent.  So, I read it.

Representative Bill began with a warm, personal letter (my comments in italics):

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

For the past 13 years, I have had the honor of serving the residents of the 8th Congressional District.  As your representative in Congress, it is my priority to make sure you stay informed about the actions of your government in Washington.  (Notice his priority to inform us of Government actions instead of requesting that his constituents inform him about what actions to take.)

In this Congress, we are working hard to turn around the economy, and the results are starting to show.  After 22 straight months of job loss, we have now seen our economy create private-sector jobs for 6 months in a row.  (Omitted in this statement are any statistics that describe the impact these private-sector jobs have had on unemployment, almost nil, and how many more jobs that the private-sector would need to create in order to appreciably reduce unemployment.)
Not only has the Recovery Act helped stem the tide of the recession, but it has included the largest tax cut for any two-year period in the nation’s history allowing over 3.2 million N. J. families to receive tax cuts. (Emphasis is in original text.  More about the alleged tax cuts can be found below.)

We can see the impact of the Recovery Act right here in the 8th District, with the bridge improvements on I-280, the resurfacing of Interstate 80, (Okay, aside from the wasteful expenditure for the “Recovery Act” PR signs, I can support these.) and a Head Start program in Montclair.  (Ummm, Rep. Bill just lost me again.)
With the help of the Recovery Act grants, we are taking America in a new direction—creating good American jobs, providing the lowest taxes in 60 years for the middle class, and helping small business competitively expand.  (Wow, who knew?!?) Times are still hard for families in the 8th District, and I will continue working to get our economy back on track.  (Oh, no, Rep. Bill, please don’t, you’ve done enough already, really you have.)

As Americans we are all affected by these issues and now is the time to voice our thoughts towards finding common solutions.  (Really?  We can “voice our thoughts”.  Is this to be done before or after you inform us “about the actions of our government in Washington”?)

Warm Regards,

Inside his glossy newsletter, Representative Pascrell informs us that he is “delivering tax cuts to working class families and over $311 million to the 8th District from the Recovery Act to create jobs and build the foundation for our future.”  He then specifically accounts for only ~$107.6 million of the money that the 8th District received from the Recovery Act.  (Approximately 34.6%).  It has been spent on such things as education, energy efficiency and green jobs, water quality, sewage efficiency, road and bridge projects.  Approximately 7% of the $311 million went to educational-related items.  (Read: NJEA)  By contrast, Law Enforcement received .08%, yes you read that correctly, 8/100ths of one percent of Recovery Act funds.  Over 21% of the Recovery Act funds went to environmental and green energy-related projects.  About 6% of the $311 million was spent on road and bridge projects.  So where did the other 65.4% of the money go?

Reading on, it becomes clear that a large, undisclosed, portion of the $311 million was spent on “health care”, i.e., support for Medicaid, medical technology and senior nutritional programs.  Whatever remained of the $311 was spent on that “largest tax cut for any two-year period in the nation’s history” that allowed “over 3.2 million N. J. families to receive tax cuts.”  Following is the list of “tax cuts” bestowed on “over 3.2 million N. J. families”:
 Expansion of the child tax credit
 Expansion of the college credit
 The Homebuyer credit
 The Small Business tax credit of renewable energy production
 The Small Business tax credit that allows an immediate tax credit to be claimed for capital equipment purchases
Reduction in withholding
 One-time $250 payment to seniors, veterans and the disabled in the 8th Congressional District.

There is one, teensy-weensy problem with the above list, aside from the reduction in withholding, (which has negligible or even negative consequences), none of these items are “tax cuts”.  They are “tax credits”.  The Heritage Foundation explains the difference between these two.  In short, “tax cuts” allow taxpayers to keep more of the money they earn over a period of time.  “Tax credits” are temporary, perhaps even one-time, benefits given to specific individuals that meet particular requirements.  I suppose that Rep. Bill can be forgiven for not knowing the difference; nearly all the Democrats confuse these two terms and seem to use them interchangeably.

Near the end of his newsletter, Representative Pascrell invites the reader to check out the funding amounts at the “Recovery.gov” site.  Being a glutton for punishment, I did.  Clicking on the state of New Jersey on the map gave me the following information:
 Total awarded (to the State of New Jersey)     $5,122,510,000
 Total received (through 6/20/10)                         $2,442,720,000
 Recipient Reported Jobs (between
April 1-June 30, 2010                                                                22,885

At this point I intend to re-instate my “no contact” rule with Senator Menendez and Representative Pascrell.  I much prefer writing to those who are not clueless.  And, if it looks as if I’m weakening, will someone please force me to re-read this post and then remind me of von Hayek’s words:
“We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.”

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Filed under: NJ Federal Representatives, , , , , ,

What’s the Problem? Debt or Jobs? – Exchequer – National Review Online

via What’s the Problem? Debt or Jobs? – Exchequer – National Review Online.

Filed under: big government, ,

THE DNC & THEIR “CONTRACT ON AMERICA”

photo by Christian Science Monitor, 2010

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine unveiled an anti (?)-Republican advertisement campaign that seeks to tie Republicans to the Tea Party.  The advertisement, ostensibly, seeks to turn the American people away from Republicans (and toward Democrats?), because of their close ties with Tea Party ideas.   The ad lists the ten planks of the Tea Party “Contract From America” and then states that these are virtually identical to what Republicans want to do.  Hmmm—has it been lost on them that a majority of Americans are sympathetic to the Tea Party, if not outright members?  As I looked over what the DNC is calling “Contract On America”, I could only pray that the Republican Party is actually embracing these goals.  I think they are winning ones.

One caveat as you read the DNC “Contract” below—the annotation that follows each item is wildly inaccurate and madly spun from a Lefist point of view.  For example, the outcomes that the DNC states from repealing Obamacare, privatizing Social Security or phasing out Medicare are overstated at best.  Visit Representative Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” site for the true plan that the conservative Congressional Republicans are developing.

Oh, and by the way, in case you are concerned about #10, consider this:

Repealing the 17th Amendment would mean that another amendment would need to be passed in order to “undo” it.  The Constitution spells out four paths for an amendment:
* Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
* Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
* Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
* Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times)
When an amendment is proposed in Congress, 2/3 majority in each house of Congress must pass it before the amendment is sent on to the States.  Then ¾ of the States (or their legislatures) need to approve it,  no matter where the amendment originated.  Not an easy process.  Huge majorities would need to agree in order for this to happen.  Like it or not, I think we are stuck with popular election of Senators.

Read the DNC advertisement below.  What do you think?  I think that the DNC advertisement has a lot for Republicans to like.  With enemies like the DNC, who needs friends?

THE CONTRACT ON AMERICA
1. Repeal the Affordable Care Act (Health Insurance Reform)

Put insurance companies back in charge, repeal tax credits for small businesses, allow insurance companies to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions and to drop coverage when a person gets too sick and make prescription drugs for seniors less affordable.

2. Privatize Social Security or phase it out altogether

Turn the guaranteed retirement benefits of America’s seniors over to Wall Street CEOs by putting Social Security at risk in the stock market or, as some Republicans have called for, phase out Social Security altogether and end a program millions of American seniors rely on for their survival.

3. End Medicare as it presently exists

Phase out and end Medicare as it presently exists for future generations of seniors — ending Medicare’s guaranteed healthcare benefits for more than 40 million American seniors — and replace it with a voucher system which will result in higher premiums and fewer services for seniors.

4. Extend the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy and big oil

At a cost of nearly $700 billion, extend the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and big oil, which are set to expire and which have and will continue to explode the federal budget deficit.

5. Repeal Wall Street Reform

Roll back the toughest consumer protections ever enacted, allow banks to continue to grow too big to fail, and ensure that predatory lenders continue to utilize their most abusive practices.

6. Protect those responsible for the oil spill and future environmental catastrophes

Cap liabilities for those responsible for environmental disasters like the Gulf oil spill and let companies like BP decide which victims deserve compensation for the disaster and what the timeline for relief should be.

7. Abolish the Department of Education

Put the big banks back in charge of student loans and put an end to federal assistance for public schools.

8. Abolish the Department of Energy

End America’s investments in a clean-energy future and disband the organization responsible for oversight of nuclear materials.

9. Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency

Gut the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act — which together protect our kids from air pollution and keep drinking water safe — and disband the watchdog that holds polluters accountable.

10. Repeal the 17th Amendment

Take away your right to pick your U.S. Senator.

Filed under: big government, , , , , , , ,

THE RAHN CURVE

The “Laffer Curve” is a well-known economic model of tax rates and tax revenues.  Now, on Big Government Dan Mitchell from the Cato Institute’s Center for Freedom and Prosperity explains and analyzes The “Rahn Curve” which is a newer economic measure of spending on Government related to economic prosperity.  Read the analysis of Dan Mitchel.  Then watch the video.  Conclusion?  Another reason to make a radical course correction in our economic policies.

Filed under: big government,

STOP! WAIT! COME BACK!

“The truth is, it took nearly a decade of failed economic policies to create this mess, and it will take years to fully repair the damage. But I am confident that we are finally headed in the right direction. We are moving forward. ; And what we can’t afford right now is to go back to the same ideas that created this mess in the first place.”—President Barak Obama, July 23, 2010 in weekly address

In a four page article in National Review Online, William Voegeli systematically argues that Liberalism is dangerous.

If politics is defined as “the way power is organized”, American power was conceived to be essentially organized by individual citizens in a free market who then delegated a portion of that power to duly elected representatives.  Voegeli makes the point that power thus organized is responsive to the electorate, because their positions depend on the support of the electorate.

As the result of Liberalism, we now have a system in which Congressional power is largely (mis)placed in a myriad of Government Agencies: SSA, EPA, US Department of Ed., etc., etc. who can regulate extra-legally.  These unelected bureaucrats are not responsive to citizens, because citizens have no power to fire them.  Thus, the individual is diminished and devalued by huge, faceless Government machinery.

America originated with the idea of an individual with natural, God-given, inalienable rights. This idea preceded laws, regulations and policies.  The rights of an individual citizen of the United States were not changeable, could not be abolished, nor could they be bestowed.  Humans possessed these rights by virtue of being created in the image of God.

Today housing, jobs, health care, transportation, food, childcare are identified as “rights”.  They are not. Furthermore, when we treat them as such, we are treading into an extra-Constitutional boggy swamp.  “Rights” that are invented and then distributed “fairly” after taking money from other citizens to pay for them are simply favors give to specific groups at the expense of individual citizens.

These Leftist ideas should alert us that our Country is traveling into an uninhabitable landscape.  Indeed Voegeli concludes his article with a plea to “turn around and go back”—wise words to cling to during this “Summer of Recovery” when we continue to hear that we cannot “go back”.

Voegeli’s summary is below.  Take the time to read his entire article.  It is well worth it.

“C. S. Lewis wrote that since progress means getting closer to your goal, when you’ve taken a wrong turn and are getting farther and farther from your destination, the truly “progressive” response is to turn around and go back to the right road. Most conservatives believe that America took a wrong turn in 1932, one that has led us farther away from the goal of preserving and strengthening republican self-government. Self-styled progressives talked us into that navigational error, and in the subsequent 78 years their liberal disciples have continued on the wrong road, superintending a rolling regime change that has steadily hollowed out our constitutional republic and replaced it with an administrative state, one increasingly indifferent to ordinary citizens’ concerns and insulated from their opposition.

The conservatives now reviving constitutionalism are rightly insistent on the need to retrace our steps, and to undo the mistakes that have supplanted limited with unlimited government. The point is not to go back to 1932 and stay there, compiling a list of things government cannot do and problems it cannot address. The point, rather, is to resume progress on the road not taken: toward a government that is both limited and vigorous, scrupulous about upholding the principles of republicanism but energetic and prudent about working within the framework created by those principles to respond to economic and social changes with policies that advance the people’s prosperity and security.”

— William Voegeli is a contributing editor of The Claremont Review of Books and a visiting scholar at Claremont McKenna College’s Salvatori Center.

Filed under: big government, , , , , ,

GOT SCISSORS? Let’s start cutting

This link will take you to Rep. Eric Cantor’s site “You Cut” where you can vote for which government spending program needs to be cut, in your opinion.  After the week long voting, Rep. Cantor will take the “winner” to the floor of the House for an up or down vote to cut that spending measure.  Each week a new list of big government spending programs will be listed here to vote on.  It would be surprising if the Democrat-controlled House would actually vote to cut any of these programs, however, this site can help your voice to be heard in Washington.  Additionally, it is a good educative tool as it publicizes the waste and idiotic spending that is ruining our economy, not only for us, but also for future generations.

Take a moment to visit the site and cast your vote!

P.S.  The site is very busy, so if your vote does not initially register, please try again later.

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BEWARE THE IDES OF APRIL: PERSONAL INCOME DROPPING LIKE A STONE

Certainly, all of us remember that during the 2008 Presidential Campaign, Mr. Obama said the following in a September 2008 speech on the economy in Green Bay, Wisconsin:

“American families, since George Bush has been in office, have seen average family incomes go down $2,000.”

Since then, he has made similar remarks, especially when his economic policies are called into question.  We in the “real world” have felt that this statistic could not possibly be true.  For example, after the election of Barak Obama, my husband’s salary was cut by 5%.  A year into the Obama Administration, he is unemployed.  Our story mirrors many others.  Now, however, there is more than anecdotal information that refutes Mr. Obama’s claim.  Read what the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis has concluded.  It really is more than a feeling that we were being lied to.

Unfortunately, this year, 2010, may be as good as it gets for a while in terms of holding onto whatever personal income we are able to earn.  Economist Art Laffer opined on “Fox and Friends” this morning that the economic up-tick in terms of the stock market, corporate profits and a stronger dollar may simply be a phenomenon of an economy that knows that higher taxes and more regulations are coming in 2011.  Therefore, wealth is being generated and accumulated now in anticipation of what 2011 may hold.  It makes me shudder to think, as we and others barely hold on now, what all this will mean if Mr. Laffer is correct, (he usually is), and the economy once again nose-dives next year into a “double-dip” recession.

“Pay me now, or pay me later”, the saying goes.  Everyone has figured out that paying now is going to be less expensive than later.  But unless something dramatically changes one thing is definite—we will all eventually pay dearly.

REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!

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AS MASSACHUSETTS GOES, SO GOES THE NATION

Recently, disturbing reports are emerging from Massachusetts.  Hopefully, these will make their way into the larger American consciousness.  Gov. Patrick (D) is attempting to not only control the prices of a private industry, but also to force private companies to sell their products within the state or face penalties.  Price controls are nothing new.  Coercing a business to sell products is.  Since Massachusetts can be used as a “mini-model” of what we can expect from “Obamacare”, if it is implemented, it would be wise to be aware of the progression of these events and closely watch how the Court rules in this case.

Carmen Balber of “Consumer Watchdog”, a “nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization”, provides some insight into how the Federal Government would seek to use regulations in the ACA to compel private insurance companies to act against their own best interests.  Whether or not these providers comply, they will eventually be put out of business.

“Massachusetts has quickly come to realize that when the government requires everyone to purchase a health insurance policy or face tax fines it must also exercise real oversight of what health insurers can charge. Now that Congress has followed in Massachusetts’ footsteps we need ‘prior approval’ regulation of all health insurance rates to make sure the prices insurers charge Americans for coverage are fair. Regulators’ close look at the numbers behind proposed rate hikes revealed that, in the case of Massachusetts small businesses, increases could not be justified,” said Carmen Balber, Washington  Director for Consumer Watchdog.

The insurers, themselves, would take issue with the assertion that “increases could not be justified”.  However, in the future, “justification” seems to be the standard that the Government will use to decide whether a private company can continue to operate, let alone thrive.  In fact, “Consumer Watchdog”

“ called for an expansion of the modest health insurance rate justification requirements in the federal health reform law to encourage prior approval rate regulation in the states, and provide a federal backstop where states do not act.”

In other words, if a State will not do what Massachusetts is now attempting to do to its private health insurers, then the Federal Government will.  Here is my question:  will any kind or amount of  “justification” ever be sufficient to convince the Government that rate increases are necessary?  And, a related question: what lengths would a company pursue to ensure that Government would be convinced?  Obviously, using straight facts made no difference in this case.  Nor does the Government need to justify its decision to deny an insurance company its request for price increases.  Read the commentary posted by reaganaut1, (emphasis added):

Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2010 11:42AM by reaganaut1

This is sort of similar to the bill that Mitt Romney, the Republican governor and now Presidential candidate, passed in Massachusetts,” President Obama said in a recent interview defending his national health-care plan—and few disagree, Mitt Romney excepted. So the Massachusetts preview of ObamaCare is all the more instructive after this week’s imposition of de facto price controls on its remaining private insurers.

On Thursday, Democratic Governor Deval Patrick’s insurance regulators announced that they had rejected 235 of 274 insurer requests for premium increases for individuals and small businesses over the coming year. This power has been on the books since 1977 but never used, and Mr. Patrick announced in February that he was dusting it off as an opening bid for rate-setting for hospitals, doctors and all other providers as well. The state’s health costs have risen to the nation’s highest since Beacon Hill passed the ObamaCare prototype that was supposed to reduce health costs.

The premium increases were “excessive and unreasonable,” Mr. Patrick said in a statement, though his insurance division issued no actuarial analysis to justify its decision. “Now, the big insurance companies will criticize this action,” he said. “But the fact is that for three years now, both they and health-care providers have sat around the table talking the issue of excessive cost to death and coming up with no solutions.” In other words, price controls are supposedly the only option.

Yet campaigns against the insurance industry are always the first political resort, as Mr. Obama’s assault on Anthem Blue Cross of California showed. In Massachusetts, however, the major insurers—Blue Cross Blue Shield, Harvard Pilgrim, Tufts Health Plan—are all nonprofits. The state itself calculates that they spend at least 88 cents of every premium dollar on the underlying costs of medical care, often more.

If the Government can do such things, then none of our private industries are safe from ultimate Government regulation and controls.  REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!

Filed under: big government, , , , ,

"His eye is on the sparrow, and He surely watches me." --Mrs. Doolittle, 1905

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