Posted by: vicholdsforth | August 30, 2012

Third Party Candidates

Lately some of my friends have been taking internet quizzes to help them decide for whom they will vote in November.  While I’m gratified to see that folks are taking the election seriously enough to take some time to prepare to vote, by all accounts the presidential election is going to be a close one; and I’m a bit concerned about the effect third-party candidates will have on the outcome.  I’m concerned because third-party candidates tend to draw votes away from the candidate to whom they are most ideologically similar; in other words, they split the vote, causing defeat for the candidate they and their supporters most agree with, and help the candidate to whom they are most opposed win election.  Libertarian spokespersons have already bragged about the “spoiler” effect their candidate could potentially have in the November election.

Let’s take a look at the 2008 US Senate race in Minnesota as an example.  On the ballot were Al Franken (D), incumbent Norm Coleman (R), Dean Barkley (I), Charles Aldrich (L), and Constitution candidate James Niemackl.  Niemackl entered the race because he didn’t feel the Republican candidate was conservative enough, and pulled almost 9,000 votes away from Coleman.  In the end, this race was decided by the narrowest of margins, just over 300 votes.  Although several thousand more Minnesotans cast their ballot for a conservative candidate, because the vote was split between two conservatives, the people of the State of Minnesota ended up with a liberal senator…according to the National Journal, one of the most liberal in the nation.  Moreover, Franken put Democrats over the top in securing a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.  Had only one-tenth of the voters who cast a ballot for Niemackl voted for Coleman instead, Coleman would have been a member of the 111th Congress, and it’s likely that we would not now be saddled with the notorious Affordable Care Act.

If you think Barack Obama needs to go, the only way to get him out of office is to cast a ballot for a viable alternative.  The Libertarian candidate is not viable.  Even the most successful of independent candidates, such as Ross Perot, are not viable.  Mitt Romney is the only viable alternative to Barack Obama in 2012.  Voting for anyone besides Mitt Romney is essentially helping to keep Barack Obama in office for another four years.  If you’re dissatisfied with the candidates being offered by the two major parties, I understand.  Romney is not the candidate I backed during the primaries, and I’ve voted libertarian in the past, myself.  If there is a dearth of major candidates we can get excited about, I think the best way to address that is to become more involved in primaries and local elections (where most of these folks get their start), not to throw your vote away on a non-viable candidate.  This election is too close and the stakes are too high to waste your vote on a candidate who can’t possibly win.  I implore you save your “send-a-message” ballot for when the election looks to be a landslide.

Posted by: vicholdsforth | August 7, 2012

The Failed Policies of the Past (Part 7: Foreign Policy)

Part 7:  Foreign Policy

After Barack Obama won the election in 2008, a friend of mine expressed the hope that Obama would be able to repair what he’d felt was a negative image in the international community.  Barack Obama’s conciliatory posture with foreign nations, starting with his infamous bows to the Saudi King and Japanese Emperor, have done nothing to enhance our relationships with others in the international community.  Indeed, it has emboldened our enemies and proven disconcerting to our friends.  According to the Muslim Brotherhood’s own English-language website, Muslims remain unappeased; and it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how Israelis might feel hearing a White House official refer to Jerusalem as “Al-Quds.”  Pushing the “restart button” has resulted in American concessions without commensurate movement on Russia’s part, as well as dissatisfaction among our European allies.  It has also emboldened Russia to undertake to open a naval base in the Americas.

Obama’s Mid-east policy seems to lack any cohesive strategy:  why, for example, did he become entangled with Libya and not Syria…and after criticizing his predecessor about Iran?  And if he chooses not to become involved in Syria, why champion the would-be Palestinian State?  Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya are now openly in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group whose mission, according to Steven Merley of the Center on Islam, Democracy, & the Future of the Muslim World at the Hudson Institute, is to “destroy Western civilization” and realize a “global Islamic state.”

In the shadow of this turmoil, and against the advice of his own Secretary of Defense, Obama is now using the impending sequestration on defense spending as a political football in order to secure massive spending rather than fundamental reform for entitlement programs.   In a nutshell, Obama’s foreign policy has been to embolden people who hate us, then gut our ability to protect ourselves from them.  Foreign Policy FAIL!

Posted by: vicholdsforth | August 6, 2012

You Didn’t Build That

Picture 12

You didn’t build that…

During his campaign, Barack Obama promised to introduce new levels of bipartisanship and transparency in government, including giving the American people a 5-day period in which to view and comment on non-emergency legislation, along with prohibitions on lobbyists serving in his administration.  Certainly the most glaring and egregious, but not the only, violation of the former is the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, nicknamed “Obamacare.”  This 2,000-page monstrosity was rushed through so quickly that even legislators didn’t have a chance to read it.   

And as for bi-partisanship, well, the Dems didn’t bother to get a single Republican vote.  In fact, the legislation never actually received a proper vote.  It was enacted through a budget process called reconciliation during the lame duck session, the final, last gasp of unilateral Democrat control of Congress after the mid-term “shellacking.”  No longer able to gloat “we won,”  Democrats abandoned the pretense of transparency and compromise and turned instead to rules-gaming.  Subsequently, numerous under-the-table deals and assurances that were reneged upon came to light.  That’s why Harry Reid won’t allow the Obamacare repeal legislation come to a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate.  Even Democrats are bailing on this program now that, as Nancy Pelosi said, we’ve finally been able to “find out what’s in it.”  And that promise about lobbyists?  Barack Obama has over 40 of them working in senior positions in his administration, as well as a tax evader serving as Secretary of the Treasury. 

 Obama’s cronyism has cost taxpayers billions in grants and loan guarantees given to politically-connected associates that were unable to convince banks and investors to risk their own resources on these non-viable projects.  Here is just a sampling of these debacles:  after the company itself donated thousands to Harry Reid, and their largest investor raised millions for Obama’s 2008 campaign, Bright Source Energy received a $1,600,000,000 loan guarantee.  Oh, and it turns out Robert Kennedy Jr. is invested in this company, too, which had previously been losing money hand-over-fist.  After making over $100,000 in donations to the Obama campaign, Solyndra received $535,000,000 in DOE loans, and subsequently went bankrupt.  The top executives at Tesla, which received a $465,000,000 loan guarantee, are Obama and DNC donors.  Beacon Power’s CEO & other employees made political contributions to Obama & other Democrat politicians, then went bankrupt after receiving $43,000,000 from the Department of Energy.   Ethics FAIL!

Posted by: vicholdsforth | August 2, 2012

The Failed Policies of the Past (Part 5: Race Relations)

Many Americans voted for Obama in 2008 because they felt that if we could elect a black president, America would finally be able to begin to put its racial divisions in the past.  What they probably didn’t realize is that Democrat leaders are some of the most racist people in America.  How is it not racist for liberals to smear and demean accomplished individuals like Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Herman Cain, Clarence Thomas, and Allen West with monikers like “Uncle Tom” and “house n—–”?  These are also the folks who are screaming so loudly that requiring people to present photo ID at their local polling place in order to help prevent voter fraud is somehow racist.  Umm…isn’t it racist to suggest that minorities are too stupid to secure a photo ID?  …and as an aside, one has to wonder why they’re so terrified that provisions might be put into place to help insure the integrity of an election.

Attorney General Eric Holder is probably one of the most ironic figures on this front.  How many times must we be subjected to accusations of racism because we think he should be held accountable for the Fast & Furious scandal?  And yet, it was none other than Holder himself who instructed the Department of Justice not to prosecute any cases of voter intimidation if the alleged perpetrators were black.  

And who can forget the Henry Gates gaffe…six months into office, Obama let his true colors show when he publicly castigated Cambridge police officers…immediately after admitting he didn’t have the facts!  The next day, when given the opportunity to walk back his remarks, he instead dug in.  I am growing weary of being labeled a racist because I differ with our ultra-liberal President on policy matters (although I do take a modicum of satisfaction knowing that those who hurl these insults do it because they are simply unable to defend their position logically and persuasively). Instead of bringing racial healing, Barack Obama has instead been the single most racially divisive figure in America since the Civil Rights Movement.  Racial Reconciliation FAIL

Posted by: vicholdsforth | July 30, 2012

The Failed Policies of the Past (Part 4: Welfare)

In my last installment in this series, we looked at how a wide variety of Democrat policy initiatives have hobbled job growth in the United States.  The unemployment figure we usually hear on the news has been stuck at around 8 per cent for well over a year now (as compared to an average unemployment rate of just over 5 per cent during the term of Obama’s predecessor).  The Gallup organization also publishes figures that include not only those who are completely unemployed, but also those who have only been able to secure part-time work even though they want to be working full-time.  The shocking figures for this demographic have been fluctuating between approximately 18 and 20 per cent for well over a year and a half.  Coincidentally, one in 5 Americans is now receiving food stamps.  Regardless of which of these unemployment figures one consults, the troubling reality is, after three years of Obama rule (the first two of which Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress) unemployment has remained high, and the Congressional Budget Office projects that it will continue to do so until 2014.  When people can’t or won’t work, many turn to the federal government (i.e., those of us who do work) demanding “free” money (now also known as “ObamaMoney”).  Let’s turn our attention, then, to welfare.

Earlier this month, Barack Obama illegally rescinded the bi-partisan and wildly popular welfare work requirements and time limits signed into law by his Democrat predecessor, Bill Clinton.  These modifications to the law had reduced the welfare rolls by 70 per cent by the time Obama took office…and not because people were just timing out and getting kicked off, but because the overwhelming majority of them had found decent jobs.  Poverty was reduced by over 15 percent, and child hunger was cut in half.  One must wonder how a leader who claims to care for the plight of the poor would repeal the single most effective action the government has taken to ameliorate poverty in our generation.  Not only has Obama vacated work requirements, but his extension of unemployment benefits has made it possible for able-bodied people to delay looking for work for almost two years.  And after a half-century of medical innovation and technology enabling those with disabilities to function more independently, one would expect the number of persons collecting disability payments from the federal government to have dropped significantly since the 1960s.  Instead, it has tripled.  The question is, do we gauge the effectiveness of our social safety net by how many we are “helping,” or by how many no longer need help?  Social Justice FAIL!

Posted by: vicholdsforth | July 28, 2012

The Failed Policies of the Past (Part 3: Unemployment)

Yesterday, my final example of Obama’s national security FAILS was to note his obstructionism surrounding the Keystone Pipeline, an extraordinary opportunity to transfer a significant amount of our energy supply away from nations unfriendly to us.  This move also represents a lost opportunity to improve the economic situation in the United States as well.  Gasoline prices have more than doubled since Obama took office, and Obama bypassed a chance to begin to pry the price-colluding fingers of OPEC from our throat.  And wouldn’t it have been nice for more of our energy dollars to end up in the hands of Canadians, folks much more likely to spend them back here with us…or at least not use them to murder American citizens?

Let’s also look at the employment impact the Keystone Pipeline would have had.  Even the most liberal sources estimate that the project would generate tens of thousands of construction jobs followed by hundreds of permanent positions.  Democrats and liberal media outlets have downplayed these foregone American jobs by claiming that the figures originating from more conservative sources were overstated.  But in an economy in which more people are getting on disability than are finding new jobs, shouldn’t our government be seizing every opportunity to remove obstacles to job creation, rather than rationalizing with arguments that go something like, “Well we didn’t not allow the creation of as many jobs as you said we weren’t going to.”?

The Obama campaign has been attacking Mitt Romney with accusations that he shipped jobs overseas.  Democrats would have us believe that this is happening because greedy business owners want to exploit cheap labor in countries like China and Mexico.  These claims are distorted and misleading.  The fact is, taxes and regulations are what is driving American companies to downsize.  In yet another green “triumph,” GE has been forced to close plants in Wisconsin, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky because Congress has essentially outlawed incandescent bulbs, a product we had heretofore been able to manufacture competitively right here in the US.

Obamacare, too, is impeding not only hiring, but medical innovation in the U.S., as well.  Cook Medical, an Indiana medical equipment manufacturer, has scrapped plans to open 5 new plants in economically hard-hit communities in the Midwest, each employing up to 300, because the new taxes introduced by Obamacare are projected to cost the company approximately $20 million annually…money the firm had earmarked for expansion.  A Cook spokesman says the company’s tax burden next year will increase by over 50 per cent.  Zimmer Inc., also based in Indiana, anticipates that the additional taxes will force them to lay off employees and curtail their research & development activities.

Most Americans understand that the government really doesn’t have the power to create jobs; all it can do is stay out of the way as much as possible and let entrepreneurs do what they do best:  create products and services that people are willing to part with their hard-earned dollars to have.  The Obama administration is undercutting employment opportunities through its energy policies, regulatory environment, and tax scheme, then blaming and vilifying the very job-creators they’ve hamstrung.  Jobs FAIL!

Posted by: vicholdsforth | July 27, 2012

The Failed Policies of the Past (Part 2: National Security)

So yesterday we graded Barack Obama’s paper on his defense of the Constitution.  Seems like the next logical thing to tackle is national defense.  Probably Obama’s biggest national security accomplishment has been to further subjugate the safety of its citizens to political correctness.  No, I haven’t forgotten about Osama bin Laden.  I just think that Obama has taken way too much credit for that for himself already.  Bin Laden was found largely because of intelligence gathered during, and using procedures implemented by, Obama’s predecessor; which, by the way, he criticized loudly and indignantly during his campaign.  In the course of bragging about bin Laden’s death, Obama disclosed the identity of Seal Team 6, 22 of whose members were subsequently killed in a Taliban attack.  Coincidence?  I think not.  An investigation into a disturbing series of significant and crippling security leaks coming from the Obama White House is currently underway.  The folks investigating these Obama Administration appointees are…more Obama Administration appointees.  Yep, they were appointed by Eric Holder, the same Eric Holder being held in contempt of Congress by a huge bipartisan majority in the House (255-67).

But back to political correctness, an area in which Obama excels.  In spite of liberals’ fawning devotion to the policies of other nations and rulings of international courts over and against our own Constitution, they obstinately refuse to take a cue from Israel on transportation safety by implementing profiling techniques to screen airline passengers.  No matter which side one takes on the conflict in the Middle East, there is no escaping the fact that there has not been a successful terrorist attack at Ben Gurion International Airport in 40 years.  We, on the other hand, are more concerned with offending racial minorities than we are with harassing the handicapped, traumatizing children, and embarrassing women with security procedures that are not only intrusive and demeaning, but demonstrably ineffective.  The TSA failed to detect two dozen men taking flight instruction while here illegally.  Moreover, the flight school itself was owned by an illegal alien!  The Underwear Bomber was subdued by fellow passengers because he slipped through security at the airport, even after his father approached US authorities to warn them about his son.  Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano inexplicably insisted that “The system worked.”  She still has her job, by the way.

And let’s not forget about the Fort Hood shooter, who continued to be able to serve in our armed forces because his superiors were so cowed by political correctness that they chose not to act on compelling evidence that Nidal Hasan was an Islamic radical.  In spite of the fact that he was shouting “Allahu Akbar!” as he mowed down unarmed men and women, the military, the media, and the White House refused to refer to Hasan as a terrorist; in fact, it was well over 2 years before I heard any journalist or public official refer to him as a terrorist.  The event was categorized as “workplace violence” by the White House.  And General George Casey’s statement in the aftermath of the shootings, which killed 13 and wounded 32, focused not on vanquishing our enemies, but on preserving diversity.

Finally, let’s not forget Obama’s obstructionism on the Keystone Pipeline.  Our reliance on oil supplied by unfriendly nations is a significant national security issue.  When we had the chance to pipe oil down here from our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada, Obama, apparently feeling the need to placate environmentalists, blocked the necessary federal permits.  This doesn’t even make any sense.  Underground pipelines are the safest means to move oil from well to refinery.  Because this oil is not flowing in a pipe to American refineries, it will instead be hauled by tankers to China, and then we’ll get to buy the finished product from them.  Forget about a trade agreement…China acquired the Canadian oil company Nexen lock, stock, & barrel a few days ago.  Looks like this is a problem Obama’s successor is not going to be able to fix easily.

National Security FAIL!

Life’s been pretty busy and I haven’t blogged in a while, but recent developments in the presidential campaign have left me feeling the need to say more than is really reasonable to put in a Facebook status…and there’s only so much political ranting I want to subject my friends and family to. ;D  I’d hoped to put this all in one post, but it got so long I decided it needed to be a series, so here it is:  “The Failed Policies of the Past.”  Democrat politicians and strategists LOVE this phrase…it’s so catchy, and they think it will distract people from the current state of affairs now that we’re three years into the Obama presidency.  But I think it’s only fair to review the policies of the recent past and see where they’ve gotten us.  Let’s grade the Obama Administration’s paper, shall we?  Today we’ll look at Obama’s oath to defend the Constitution, and in subsequent installments, we’ll look at the economy, national security, racial issues, ethics, immigration, and more.

When taking the Oath of Office, the President swears to defend the Constitution.  President Obama has routinely ignored and undermined the Constitution he swore to defend in a variety of ways.  Article I, Section 1 of the United States Constitution states:  “All legislative Powers…shall be vested in… Congress…”  Separation of Powers, or Checks and Balances, is a key foundational principle in our government.  The Founders recognized that people are fallible and subject to the temptation to misuse power when it becomes too concentrated in the hands of one person or group of people.  Moreover, in spite of the popular criticisms about gridlock and Congress being unable to “get anything done,” that is exactly how the Founders designed the Federal Government to function.  They did not want whomever happened to be in power at the moment to be able to easily make drastic changes to our laws; they only wanted federal law and the Constitution to be modified if such changes enjoyed broad and sustained support.  In the United States, the responsibility of the Executive Branch is to uphold the law, not to make law.  The power to make laws rests with Congress, not with the President.

Obama enjoyed having Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress for the first half of his presidency.  He kicked off his presidency with  an unseemly lecture to Republican legislators, gloating, “we won.” He cast aside all pretense of bipartisanship, starting by completely disregarding the Bowles-Simpson economic recommendations, a Commission that he himself had convened.  Voters expressed their displeasure with the Democrat agenda and they lost decidedly in the mid-term elections.  Instead of heeding the voice of the electorate and working to build bipartisan legislative consensus as he had promised during his own campaign, Obama responded instead by openly admitting his plans to usurp the legislative powers of Congress in his “We Can’t Wait” speech. He has repeatedly overstepped the authority of his office by creating laws via Executive Order and by handing policy-making power to regulatory agencies.  When Obama failed to convince Congress to pass Cap & Trade, he implemented it instead by expanding the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency.  When he could not advance his immigration agenda, he simply instructed his administration to ignore the laws he was unable to change through legitimate Constitutional means.  After S.773, which gave the President discretionary and unilateral power to seize control of the Internet, died in committee, he signed an Executive Order giving himself that authority.  Separation of Powers FAIL!

Moving on to Article II, Section 2:  “…he [the President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…public Ministers and Consuls…and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for…”  Obama made several recess appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board when Congress was, in fact, in session.  It’s interesting to note that the Senate has been under Democrat control for Obama’s entire tenure as President.  What does it say about his ability to work and play well with others when he feels compelled to undertake rules-gaming in place of securing the Constitutionally-mandated approval of a legislative body in which his own party is the majority?  Checks and Balances FAIL!

And last but not least, the First Amendment has fared pretty miserably at the hands of Barack Obama.  Let’s begin with the Establishment Clause:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” By requiring all employers to provide comprehensive family planning, including abortions and abortifacients, at no cost to their employees, Obamacare expressly prohibits the free exercise of religion for millions of Americans and forces them to subsidize behaviors they find immoral. This affects not only Catholics, but many other Christian denominations, as well as Orthodox Jews and Muslims.

The First Amendment continues:   “…or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press…”  Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has consistently acted in ways that raise red flags for those who are concerned with free speech rights.  He has retaliated against media outlets that published comments unfavorable to his agenda and denies access to journalists who refuse to allow his administration to edit stories before they go to press.  While Obamacare was being debated, the official White House website called upon Americans to turn in friends and colleagues who circulated emails that criticized the legislation.  Since he was sworn in, several bills have been introduced to allow the government to monitor and control the internet at the government’s discretion and without due process.  Bill of Rights FAIL!

Barack Obama:  spearheading the failed policies of the (recent) past.

Posted by: vicholdsforth | September 26, 2011

Is it Fair to Call Social Security a Ponzi Scheme or Entitlement?

Recently I’ve received emails and seen some facebook posts about Social Security.  They vary in their content, but all express the sentiment, “Entitlement my a$$!  I’ve been paying into that program for 30 years and that money is mine!”  And Rick Perry has been getting quite a bit of criticism for characterizing Social Security as a Ponzi scheme.

I think the reason phrases like “Ponzi scheme” and “entitlement” inflame passions  is the commonly held misconception that the money we’ve all been paying into Social Security was supposed to go into a savings account somewhere with each of our names on it, like some big government-managed 401K that politicians have raided.  Many people believe this, including my parents, but it is not accurate.

Every month, when the government garnishes your wages for Social Security taxes, it immediately turns around and writes checks for current retirees’ benefits.  The truth is, our grandparents were taxed to give a hand-out to their grandparents.   That was money that they themselves might have put aside to save for their own retirement,  but instead they started getting taxed out the wazoo.  They were also quickly lulled into the belief that they didn’t need to save for their own retirement, because they would receive Social Security benefits.  So when they retired, guess what?  They needed a hand-out.  As time went by, fewer and fewer people bothered to save anything at all for retirement…and now they are relying on a hand out from us and our kids.  Two-thirds of American retirees get their monthly income mostly or entirely from Social Security.

This is where the Ponzi scheme characterization comes from:  There is no legitimate investment generating profits; those who join early reap their huge financial windfall not from interest, dividends, and capital gains, as in a typical investment; but rather, it is merely skimmed from the contributions of those who join later.   Eventually there are not enough people to take money from, so those last to join are left holding the bag.  This is what Bernie Madoff did, and it is what our government is doing to us right now.  The difference is people could say “no” to Madoff.

An entitlement is not really charity; it is any payment the government is obligated by law to pay.  It usually feels like charity because when the government obligates itself to give something to someone, they must take the money from us working people to pay for it, and it usually goes to someone who is not working.  But when productive, working people are on the receiving end, it doesn’t feel like charity because we’ve been paying into it for our whole lives.  Still, it is accurate to say that Social Security is an entitlement because our government has obligated itself to pay; and our children will be taxed to pay our benefits, just as we have been taxed to pay our parents’ and grandparents’ benefits.

That trust fund you hear about that got looted was just for the months in which the government collected more from us than they had checks to write…not the savings account that many people think it is.  To draw an analogy from our household budgets, it would be like taking the savings we’re getting on our electric bill, now that the weather has cooled off and we’re not running the air conditioning, and putting it aside for winter when we know our gas bill is going to go up.  It’s just a fraction of the entire budget, and certainly doesn’t represent how things are done on a day-to-day basis.

So, if politicians looting the Social Security Trust Fund isn’t the main problem, what is?  In 1950, the United States had more than 16 working people supporting each retiree. And the average life expectancy was 65.   In other words, about half the population died before they ever collected a penny. Today, because of the Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, along with smaller families and the legalization of abortion, there are only 3 working people supporting each retiree; and the average life expectancy is now about 80.   By the time I’m ready to retire, there will only be 2 working people paying into the system to support me.   So now we are supporting twice as many people for 15 years longer with 1/5 the number of working people to do it.  And we haven’t even talked about Medicare.  The average retiree collects 3 times as much in Medicare benefits as he or she has paid in Medicare taxes.

So, I hope it’s becoming evident that the problems we are facing with Social Security are not because politicians raided the trust fund, but because the system is fundamentally flawed in its design.   If things continue on the same trajectory, some economists estimate that our kids will be paying about two-thirds of their income in taxes.  Glance at your next pay stub and think about whether or not you’d be able to live on only 1/3 your gross income.  I don’t want that for my kids.  I trust you don’t want that for yours, either.

The Republican candidates are not trying to rob us.  That was done 75 years ago, and the people who benefitted are dead now.  The question is, will we in turn rob our kids, or bite the bullet and fix this instead?  What the Republican candidates are proposing is transitioning Social Security to what most people already believe it to be:  a savings account with your name on it.

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