Monthly Archives: April 2012

On Headlines and Headaches: Essay for April 29, 2012

Reading headlines can be hazardous to your health. Maybe there should be a warning label. I recently scanned a one page summary of top stories and blanched at the increasing level of polarization being fomented by the Obama Administration. President Obama might as well assume the title of Fomenter-in-Chief.

Consider these teaser headlines for which the Fomenter-in-Chief is directly responsible: Obama Attempts to Intimidate Contributors to Romney’s Campaign; Most Unpopular US government in 15 Years; Blue Collar Dems Jealous, Angry Over Lavish Vacations. And how about these that the Obama administration presides over: Plunge: Growth Falls to 2.2%; US Firms Add Jobs but Mostly Overseas; Falling Home Prices Drag New Buyers Underwater.

In such a target-rich environment it is difficult to know where to begin to tear apart the failings of this President and his administration. It has been said that at the personal level President Obama is likable. I sure don’t find him so. I would take a pass on so much as having a beer with this particular leader of the Free World. I have no respect for someone who has no respect for the Office of President.

Mr. Obama seems to care about reelection more because of his competitive spirit than in his fierce desire to lead a willing nation in a difficult battle for our future. He has been using the Office to intimidate the opposition in ways we, as Americans, deplored in the Nixon Administration. His campaign is publishing lists of Romney donors and defiling their names. As Kimberly Strassel recently pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, it is dangerous to cross swords with the power of an incumbent President who controls the mighty levers of government. Imagine exercising your First Amendment right of free speech and then being contacted by the Justice Department, the SEC, and the IRS. You could be indicted, fined or audited for political beliefs alone.

Is it any wonder why people grow weary of politics and are reluctant to run for office? It is the politics of division using a Scorched Earth Policy. No prisoners. No survivors. Take the opposition off at the knees.

If we are still, indeed, suffering the effects of the Great Recession, why is it acceptable for the President to play golf as often as he does while millions are out of work? And why does the First Family take such opulent and frequent vacations? Michele’s vacation to Spain cost about a half million dollars. Why not vacation in Detroit? They could sure use the stimulus. Or maybe indulge in a Stay-cation like so many of us are reconciled to do with the economy in the dumps. Michele could take the kids to the Smithsonian. It’s free! There will be ample opportunity and resources for the Obamas to globetrot on personal vacations once this administration is over. A little self-restraint would be appreciated by us taxpayers.

On the economy, once again growth for the past fiscal quarter has been revised downward. It now stands at 2.2%. That is anemic growth and a far cry from the 3% that was first reported. And let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that 3% is wild growth, either. It is simply the line above which we create an appetite that begins to eat into our massive unemployment numbers. Put in some perspective, the rate of growth in China is moderating to about 8%. A mature economy such as ours would tolerate 3 ½% to 4% to reabsorb the un- and under-employed.

Home ownership, long considered to be an indication of prosperity in America, is at a 10 year low. Now, only 53% of Americans feel their home is worth more than what they paid for it. That is down from 92% only 5 years ago. Only a third feels that their home will increase in value in 2012.

A home reflects the bedrock investment for a family. It is where you start a marriage and raise a family. It is where you establish yourself in a civil society. In a vibrant economy, mobility is essential for economic success. When you are underwater with your home mortgage, or cannot afford to pay the realtor fees required to sell your home, economic opportunities simply pass you by. You are no longer mobile.

The election in November will reflect many issues. We all have our lists and there will be many distractions to the main issue from which the President cannot escape: the economy needs to grow. And it needs to grow organically without the type of Federal stimulus we saw in 2009. A vibrant economy will restore confidence and revenues.

There is an expression that I am fond of: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way. On the first two points, this administration has failed. Last week, Michele Obama revealed a “secret fantasy” during an interview with CNN. She said, “…you know one fantasy I have…is to walk right out the front door and just keep walking.”

That is a fantasy of mine, as well. I ask only one thing. Please take the President with you. And please stay out of the way.

Press on.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Reposted for a friend of mine.

the american century

View original post

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On Political Crosshairs and the Massachusetts 4th: Video Essay for April 20, 2012

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay, uStream

On Political Crosshairs and the Massachusetts 4th: Essay for April 20, 2012

Politics cuts a wide swath across America yet there is a confluence of news items this past week that landed squarely in our backyard here in Massachusetts. There is a trio of happenings and utterances that would otherwise come as no surprise were it not for the local connection of the people who uttered them.

Here is the first revelation: Obamacare was a mistake. Congressman Barney Frank said so. He said, “I think we paid a terrible price for health care. I would not have pushed it as hard. As a matter of fact, after Scott Brown won, I suggested going back.” Mr. Frank counseled the President on pressing forward without a mandate and the risk of alienation of a country that was, and remains, intensely skeptical of a widespread reform. Of course, that did not stop him from voting the party line in lockstep with then Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation. Instead, Obamacare narrowly passed the House and technically passed the Senate. The newly minted 41st Republican Senator Scott Brown never cast a vote in the intense debate. His sword was never unsheathed.

Here is revelation number two. Enter former Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island. He now heads up a non-profit group that had sought Administration support. He wanted to ensure access to the White House. Funny, a Kennedy wanted to buy his way into the White House. Patrick Kennedy plunked down a maximum donation of $35,800 with apparent gladness. He said that this is the way the system works. Quoting Kennedy, “If you want to call it ‘quid pro quo,’ fine,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure I do my part.”
Do my part? To what end? Should public policy be left in the hands of well healed donors, only? Patrick Kennedy seems to think so. It is part of the process that guarantees access to decision makers and thought leaders. Money talks, nobody walks.

This brings us to the third revelation. Isn’t it interesting that 31 year old Joseph P. Kennedy III is running for the seat vacated by Barney Frank in the newly redrawn Massachusetts 4th Congressional District? He seems like a nice enough person: a couple of college degrees; a stint in the Dominican Republic as the only Peace Corps volunteer from the Kennedy family; and a few years experience as an Assistant District Attorney. He has not a lick of business experience. He is, at best, a lawyer.

But that has not stopped him from raising more money than any sitting member of the Massachusetts delegation by a factor of almost 3 to 1. He has raised $1.3 million dollars. About 20% came from PACs eager to ride that bandwagon once again. So eager was the AFL-CIO that he received their endorsement before he announced his candidacy!

So what does that money buy? What are donors expecting from young Joe Kennedy? Access.

What I want from my Congressman is empathy, understanding and action. So far, Joe Kennedy is failing in each area. He recently visited a diner that I frequent and asked the right question of the proprietor: How’s business? When he heard the truth about the state of small business in this Commonwealth, his jaw dropped.
Said the proprietor: “The federal government is in one pocket, the state government is in the other. When I put my hand into my own pockets, there is nothing left. All you guys want to do is take out more. It’s not there. I can’t give what I don’t have.” Joe the 3rd had no answers. He had not even a retort.

Like every small business owner I know, this one pays himself last and he hasn’t paid himself in a long, long time. Even if he were so inclined, he could not even conceive of making a political contribution to gain access to the House of Representatives no less the White House. This notion of quid pro quo that Joe Kennedy’s uncle praises falls upon deaf ears for this small business owner.

Small business is barely holding on in this country. Shops that depend upon discretionary income are folding their tents. Three quarters don’t need new employees as sales won’t justify the costs. Two thirds are worried about the state of the economy. Half worry about cash flows and their ability to make payroll. Half worry about the cost of healthcare and new government regulation. A quarter are worried about remaining in business for the next 12 months.

Economic growth is the surest way out of this calamity but we must also seek systemic and permanent cuts in taxes and fees that serve only to redistribute wealth. If our goal is to provide for the neediest in this country let’s do that. But do not make those who take the big chances and risk it all become poor in the pursuit of a utopian dream of equal outcomes for all.

This November, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will top the ballot in what is shaping up to be a very close election. The most hotly contested Senate race is Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown versus Elizabeth Warren. Barney Frank is hoping to bequeath his seat to a member of the Kennedy dynasty who has not yet earned his stripes in life.

This will be the most interesting place to be in the country on November 6th.

Press on.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay

On the Real Tea Party: Video Essay for April 13, 2012

3 Comments

Filed under Essay, uStream

On the Real Tea Party: Essay for April 13, 2012

Do you remember April 2009? Tax Day to be exact. That is when the Tea Party first emerged as a force to be reckoned with. T-E-A: Taxed Enough Already. Clearly the message was one about the profligate government spending paralleling an excess of government intrusion in our lives. The Obamacare debate was beginning. Cap and Trade was raging. TARP was in full swing. The Stimulus was being enacted.

Across the land sprung up spontaneous protests. T-E-A protests. Protests urging Congressmen to have Town Hall style meeting with constituents. Americans from the mainstream had determined that the government had become unresponsive to their pleas. This movement was not representative of a party. In fact, there may be more people unaffiliated with party than with. It was philosophical as to the scope of government, to the torrent of government spending and debt and to the spirit of American individualism.

That movement in April 2009 caught a head of steam that propelled it into and beyond the November 2010 elections. Political titans fell and a new legion of citizen-legislators rose to take their place. That almost all of the new Congressmen elected were Republicans is misleading. These candidates were running against the political class and the members of that political class that most needed changing happened to be Democrats.

It is now April 2012, a full three years since the first volleys were exchanged in the rebellion to retake control of our government for the people. Some grassroots organizations still exist with fiscal conservatism and wariness of big government intervention as their hallmarks. Other organizations, such as the Tea Party Express, went national with obvious electoral agendas. Still others have taken a turn towards advocating a socially conservative agenda. Somehow they all claim the title of Tea Party advocates.

And they are all correct. There is a very large umbrella under which can fit people of varying beliefs all tied together with one single thread: government is not paying attention to our demands to make it smaller and more responsive to our collective voices.

There has been a lot of chatter on the social media pages regarding who truly speaks for the heart and soul of the Tea party. The answer is simple: nobody does. Therein lays its beauty and its power. When opponents attempt to grab hold of the Tea Party it is as if they are grabbing a piece of a cloud. The Tea Party is ephemeral. It speaks for everyone by allowing the many who gather under its large umbrella a platform to voice their opinions as our history has allowed us and permitted us to so do.

Whatever confusion that diversity of opinion amongst Tea Party groups may create is largely irrelevant. To be sure, the movement will not attract those of a liberal persuasion. Those 30 to 40 percent will seek to cast their ballots elsewhere. No matter how the media portrays the movement, it will not alter their perceptions of the Tea Party one iota. The remainder constitutes the target audience for a more responsible government on many levels. What better ways to connect with people whose priorities are staggered from yours than by offering them a choice?

This Sunday afternoon on Boston Common will gather a Patriots Day Rally. Their website poll reflects the economy and government ethics as the top two vote getting issues. Their speaker line up reflects those issues, to be sure, as well as Libertarians, pastors and rabbis. The rally will likely start on those topics and include commentary by social conservatives, as well.

There is another Tea Party Rally in Worcester that same day. This one is more focused upon the Taxed-Enough-Already theme that sparked the upheaval three years ago. Their website identifies Real American Values of Capitalism, Individual Rights and Freedom for All. Their speakers that day will no doubt reflect upon those American values.

So what is a person to do? Which Tea Party rally is best? Who represents the real Tea Party? It is a silly question. Our individual sense of liberty and freedom of choice tell us that the best course of action is to select the one that best reflects our personal expectation of the pursuit of happiness.

The Tea Party succeeds because it cannot be conveniently categorized. It succeeds because it is not monolithic in nature. It is the epitome of liberty and freedom of expression. It is a modern day Town Hall meeting where every citizen has a voice and is given a forum to speak.

Let the major political parties cultivate their image. This is a party with a small “p.” Everyone is invited but nobody has to attend. Don’t worry about any bad press. It is part of the equation. We won’t win the media war. The only war we have to win is in November. Perhaps we can reschedule any internal battles about the heart and soul of the Tea Party until after our victory celebrations.

Press on.

1 Comment

Filed under Essay

On Resurrection: Essay for April 7, 2012

To all Christians around the globe, Easter is resurrection. Could there be a time or event bleaker than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Yet after only three days, Christ rose again from the dead as the Savior to the world. It remains the most optimistic event of all time.

I was pleasantly surprised to note that 86% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ walked this earth. And 77% believe that he rose from the dead to be our Savior. I take solace in these statistics reported by Scott Rasmussen because I sometimes think that people have lost faith. These figures suggest that maybe they have merely lost faith in their religion. Otherwise our pews would be full.

There is an old adage of which I have grown fond: Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.
Mixing politics with religion on the eve of the most holy of days in the Christian calendar is not my intent here. My intent is simply to take the next 24 hours to reflect on what is right and what is wrong with and in America. Make a list. Look it over. Does anything even approach the Crucifixion? It does not.

We Americans may be pessimistic about the course our country is on whether it is in our government, our neighborhood, or our sense of morality or our interdependence as a community of man. All of these problems were caused by man and should be able to be solved by man.

I heard President Obama address newspaper editors this past week. If one were to strip away the party demagoguery for a moment and look at the one-liners that described the state of affairs in our country on matters of great import, it might be very difficult to determine which party created
what problem. And it is equally difficult to determine which party today holds the sword to cut through the Gordian knot of our dilemma.

If only there was one more strong voice to call upon.

There is one method, frequently overlooked, that we might utilize to access that additional strong voice that might accelerate the solutions to the many problems we face. We access that voice through prayer. This is not prayer to an iconic donkey or elephant. It is prayer to the One who created us all, heaven and earth.

The Environmental Protection Agency may regulate the air and water but it was the Creator who first gave them to us; The Food and Drug Administration may regulate what we put into our bodies but it was the Creator who put the seed on this planet. I think you get my point. If we are so determined to divine how our live should be lived on this Earth, why don’t we simply cut right to the Divine One and ask our God through prayer?

I know who my God is and I will celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday as an extension of my worship throughout the year. I know that I do not pray as often as I should but I believe in the healing power of prayer and the clarity that it can bring.

I am a navigator by training and I know that it is always darkest before the dawn. And when dawn did break for me at sea, the stars appeared in their places, set there by our Creator, to guide me on course. Maybe it is time to take a bit of a break from the false gods of social media and cable television and Hollywood.

It is time for us to call on the A Team. And we do that through prayer. It is not the end.

I wish to all my fellow believers a Happy Easter.

Press on.

1 Comment

Filed under Essay