Baby, The Rain Must Fall, The Wind Must Blow. And Congress Must Spend.

A conservative friend posted a clever and shrewd tweet today.  Democrats (and some Republicans) on the Senate Finance Committee are holding up confirmation of US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, demanding a bailout of union miners’ pension funds in exchange for their votes.  What’s new?  This kind of arm-twisting politics is standard operating procedure in Congress.  But my friend’s exasperated reaction to the benevolent-sounding Miners Protection Act points out a fact that never seems to occur to anybody inside the Beltway:  “Taxpayers are not ATMs!  It’s not your money to give away!”

taxpayers-not-atmsI realized a while back that most legislators (and presidents for that matter) don’t worry about taxpayer disapproval when they pass a spending bill.  Here’s why:

  • Most voters don’t pay federal income tax, or pay very little.  They don’t feel personally impacted by government spending, because they think the money is extracted from somebody else – the “rich guys”.  Members of Congress (especially Democrats who rely on low-income or no-income voters to keep them in office) are heroes to their constituents when they spend more money.  In fact, incumbent legislators are almost always re-elected because they can brag about “bringing home the bacon” to their home districts.
  • Americans don’t worry about spending more money because there doesn’t seem to be any down-side.  Unlike families or businesses, the government never runs out of money, regardless of tax revenue or spending levels.  Our leaders have learned that they can print and/or borrow money without limit, because nobody has the courage to shut down the government and send employees home.  Yes, we have a $20 trillion debt.  Yes, interest on savings has been non-existent for many years.  Yes, wages have been stagnant for decades as the government crowds out private enterprise, gobbling an ever-growing bite of the GDP pie.  Yes, if continued it will all come crumbling down on the heads of our children and grandchildren. But the average Joe still doesn’t relate government spending to his own financial well-being.  In fact, most people think more government spending helps them.
  • And when you get right down to it, our congressmen are only doing what they were born to do.  The job description of a legislator can be boiled down to four words.  What do you do for a living?  Spend other people’s money.  The rain falls.  The wind blows.  Congressmen spend.  It is existential.  In the eyes of a government official, the solution to every problem is to spend more money.  If he isn’t spending money, he is a “do nothing” congressman.

Fortunately, the election showed that there are still (barely) enough Americans with a grasp on reality to step on the brakes before our nation careens off the financial cliff, taking the civilized world along for the plunge.  Our voices were finally heard.  But the narrow victory last November was just the beginning.  Too many of our leaders either still don’t get it, or will soon forget that they got it.  We may have stopped at the edge of the cliff.  But the cliff is still there.

We can’t eliminate all government spending, and in some strategic areas we will have to invest more than we have in recent years.  But it’s childish and dangerous to think that all of our current expenditures are still necessary and untouchable, and our only option is to spend more.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Some men climb a mountain,
Some men swim the sea,
Some men fly above the sky:
They are what they must be.
But, baby the rain must fall,
Baby, the wind must blow,
Wherever my heart leads me
Baby, I must go. Baby I must go.

Glenn Yarbrough – Baby The Rain Must Fall

The music scene in the early 60s went through a sometimes awkward transition from “folk” music to “rock”.  The Band was Bob Dylan’s backup group when he first put down his acoustic guitar and went electric.  After getting booed off the stage every night for weeks, Robbie Robertson, Levi Helm and the rest of The Band quit and went their own way, but Dylan soldiered on, clearly ahead of his time.  Here’s another example of the folk/rock insurgency: check out the blonde dancer bravely bouncing through folkster Glenn Yarbrough’s smoothie!

 

 

We Can Rebuild the Military AND the Budget

carrier-landing

President Trump’s campaign promise to “Make America Great Again” included his plan to restore our military preparedness to at least pre-Obama levels.  His message resonated with voters, and still meets little resistance from political leaders or from citizens.

Most Americans sense that our armed forces are no longer up to the task of defending our homeland while dealing with international conflicts, and this week’s briefings to Congress by our top military brass didn’t leave us feeling any less hinky.

General Daniel Allen reported that only three of the Army’s fifty combat brigade teams could deploy if needed.  Admiral William Moran said less than half of the Navy’s fighters are in service and our fleet is the smallest it has been in 100 years.  Our Air Force planes average 27 years in age, well past their life expectancy, and we are short 750 pilots and over 1600 maintenance technicians.

Of course every government program wants more money, more money, more money.  Always.  But it appears the military has been cut to the bone, and our leaders made it clear to President Trump that they need funds, now – if we want to continue to have any foreign policy leverage.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is pushing for a huge military budget increase, but he may have to fight that through a conservative Congress and a tough new OMB director, Mick Mulvaney.  Mulvaney agrees with President Trump that national defense is our highest priority.  But he is also a budget hawk, tasked with keeping Congress’ promise to the voters to stop the insanity of our $20 trillion debt.

McCain attacked Mulvaney over his alleged “failure to support the military” by blindly supporting every request for “more money” as a congressman, but Mulvaney’s counterpunch embarrassed the crusty McCain, who could not differentiate between the “top line military budget” and the “overseas contingency operation”, a much-abused and unaccountable military slush fund.

McCain wants $100 billion.  The generals are asking for a $40 billion increase.  Trump is thinking more like $30 billion – with the requirement that it not be wasted.

Is President Trump right about the need to refresh our military?  Yes.

Is it time to send John McCain to the glue factory?  Yes.  Thanks for your service, John.  Have fun at Sun City.

Am I glad to have a tight-fisted skinflint like Mulvaney at OMB keeping an eye on our money?  Hell yeah!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideHell yeah!
Turn it up!
Right on!
Hell yeah!

Hell Yeah! – Montgomery Gentry

 

 

Think Our News Media is Bad? You Should See the UK!

sky-news-trumpI just spent a week in the UK and was anxious to observe the political mood of the Brits.  I expected their focus to be on Brexit, their new prime minister Theresa May, the impact of immigration in the UK, the pound vs. the euro – you know, British stuff.

After a long red-eye flight, and suffering a butt-dragging case of jet lag that first evening, my son and I had an early dinner and retired to our hotel room.  We soon learned that British television is abysmal – mostly old American reruns and effete comedy that’s just not funny.  But that’s okay, we are both news junkies, so I switched to BBC News.

To my surprise, every minute of programming on the Beeb was a non-stop assault on Donald Trump.  There was no balance, no “other side”, no pretense of fairness or even any attempt at honesty.  And no non-Trump news at all.

So I switched to the other news network, SkyNews.  It was worse!  Nothing but unbridled, hair-on-fire, heads-exploding, cobra venom spit in the eyes of Donald Trump and all the Americans who chose him to be their president.  MSNBC is Mister Rogers compared to British television news. And nothing changed for the entire week of our visit.  Both networks ran anti-Trump propaganda full-time, 24/7.   Only passing mention was given to the fact that Parliament was engaged in a pretty significant discussion about whether they would honor the people’s vote for Brexit.  The newspapers (which are free and stacked up on street corners every evening) were also fixated on all things American, with only a smattering of local news.

We were given a warm welcome in the pubs and at the football (soccer) games.  Like us, British guys love beer, football, and politics and are ready to discuss all of the above, especially with a couple of Yanks.  They were very curious about the Trump phenomenon, and were surprisingly up-to-speed on American politics.  But then, why wouldn’t they be?  That’s all they get on their news networks.

I was surprised to find that most of the Brits we met were on the conservative side, despite their hard-left news media.  They understand our “drain the swamp” revolution and see parallels with their own Brexit experience.  But some can’t get past our new president’s persona.

“I agree with everything that Trump is doing,” said one new friend over a couple of pints.  “But I can’t support him because he hates women.”  When I pressed him about what that meant, he said he just can’t tolerate a president who goes around grabbing women by the pussy.   Groan.

Another conservative limey said he agrees with American conservatives right down the line, with one big exception.  “Why do you all think you need guns?  Your crime rate is terrible.”  I had to explain that’s why we need guns.

Like American lefties, British liberals love to protest.  They even feel compelled to protest about an election that took place 3,500 miles across the pond.  There are subtle differences, though.  Left-wing British protesters don’t break windows and start fires, and left-wing American protesters don’t give a rat’s patootie about who is elected on the other side of the planet.

I left my British friends with this advice:  don’t believe what you see and hear on the television!  I guess the same advice would serve us Americans well, too.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

We don’t believe what’s on TV
Because it’s what we want to see
And what we want we know we can’t believe
We have all learned to kill our dreams

We Don’t Believe What’s On TV – Twenty One Pilots

 

This fun young duo is filling venues all over on their US tour and were nominated for three Grammy awards.  Check ’em out!

Mulvaney Set to Drain the Swamp

mulvaney-alligatorFor a long time I have suspected that because liberals see everything through the prism of skin color, they assume conservatives do too, and are therefore racists.

Only recently have I realized that the same is true of political corruption.  Liberals think that conservatives who run for office or accept administrative posts must be doing it to enrich themselves unethically because that’s what they, the liberals, do – or would do, given the chance.

For instance, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) excoriated HHS nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) during his hearing for a $300 profit he made on a stock purchase in a company that benefited from a ruling his committee made.  Her condescending rebuke was designed to paint Price as a monster who made shady self-serving deals using his government influence.  How rich.  Warren, a “one-percenter” with assets estimated at $10 million, falsely claimed Native American heritage to land a professorship, and received $350,000 for teaching one  college course.

Democrats point out, with faux concern and anger, that President-elect Trump’s cabinet picks are mostly wealthy individuals.  Like Trump himself, his nominees have accomplished a level of business (not government) success that not only builds wealth, it also indicates competence.

The Democrats can grandstand and delay, race-bait and class-envy ad nauseam, trying to hold up the confirmation process.  But it won’t work.  The swamp will be drained.

Only the shallowest of observers can’t see that these all-stars are not in it for personal profit.  Quite the contrary; they are sacrificing their earning power and precious time as an act of patriotism, service and charity.  And isn’t it just possible that the wealthy Democrats, most of whom have never earned a dollar in the private sector, are panicking at the prospect that their own gravy train may soon fall off the tracks?

The Trump team tapped budget hawk Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) to head up the Office of Management and Budget.  Mulvaney was a co-founder of the uber-conservative Freedom Caucus and has a stellar resume in budget, finance, and business – both inside and outside the Beltway.  Mulvaney isn’t rich – during legislative sessions he slept in the closet of his office.  But he is focused and determined.  And he is building his own all-star team, starting with Heritage Action brainiacs Russ Vought and Jessica Anderson.  The Beltway is abuzz today with talk of a plan to reduce the national debt by $10.5 trillion in ten years, based on the Heritage Foundation’s Blueprint for Reform published last year.

This is what common-sense Americans have been praying for since Rick Santelli’s rant on CNBC gave birth to the Tea Party in 2009 – a glimmer of hope that our children will not have to deal with the economic destruction caused by our monolithic $20 trillion federal debt.  In his rant, by the way, Santelli gave kudos to Wilbur Ross, another Trump appointee.

President-elect Trump calls it “draining the swamp”, which encompasses both rooting out corruption and slashing out-of-control spending.  It makes me picture OMB Chief Mulvaney in the role of Amos Moses, that badass Cajun in the Louisiana bayou, knockin’ alligators in the head with a stump!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideNow Amos Moses was a Cajun
He lived by himself in the swamp
He hunted alligator for a living
He’d just knock them in the head with a stump!

Jerry Reed – Amos Moses

 

I love this 1982 video of Jerry Reed and Glen Campbell rockin’ it up with this funky, swampy, bluesy version of Reed’s “Amos Moses.”  You won’t find more guitar pickin’ power in one camera shot.  Reed is most widely known as Burt Reynold’s sidekick in the “Smokey and the Bandit” movies, but he was an outstanding musician and songwriter, and was revered by guitar players world-wide.  Among his innovations was the “claw” style of picking, which he allegedly taught to Chet Atkins.  Campbell had a stellar career until it was derailed by alcoholism and, later, Alzheimer’s disease.  He started as a studio guitarist, was an early member of the Beach Boys, and eventually had his own television show plus many gold records.

 

Trump’s First Thirty Minutes in Office

trump-phone

 

[operator]:  Good morning, Mr. President.  I hope you will enjoy your first day in the Oval Office.

[Trump]: Thanks, Rosie.  But just remember, one screw-up and You’re Fired!  You’ll be back cleaning bathrooms at ‘The View’ with those other ugly broads in a New York minute!

[operator]:  Of course, sir.  I have made your first call – President Putin is on the line.

[Trump]:  Hello, Vlad.  Hey, I just wanted to let you know, no hard feelings about hacking the DNC.  I don’t blame you, it’s a hell of a lot of fun tweaking that bunch of whiney snowflakes, isn’t it?  I would have done it myself, but I can barely do Twitter.  Anyway, what do you say we get together next week and make a plan to take out those ISIS bastards once and for all?  Should be fun!  Later, comrade.

[operator]:  Mr. President, President Kim Jong-un of North Korea is ready to speak with you.

[Trump]:  Is that you, King Kong?  I have a message for you on my first day in office, you fat little f***, so listen up.  If you test one more nuclear device, if you launch one more missile – if you so much as pee one drip outside your hole in the floor, my boys will turn your God-forsaken armpit of a country into a flamed-out marshmallow on a stick.  You got that, Ping Pong?  Fagettaboutit!

[operator]: President Trump, the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto has been holding for you.

[Trump]:  Hello?  Hello?  Now, Enrique, please stop crying.  It’s . . . there, there, Enrique, it’s . . . now please . . . Look, I know it was Vicente Fox that said he wouldn’t pay for my f***ing wall, not you.  Enrique?  You need to get yourself together amigo, call me back when you can talk.  Okay, Adios.

[operator]: Mr. President, I have reached Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada.

[Trump]:  Well hello, there, neighbor!  I called to invite you to join me later this week, eh?  We need to work on our plan to make North America the energy powerhouse of the world.  I am so ready to get everybody back to work and our economy flying, eh?  Our low energy cost will attract the best manufacturers from all over the world.  What a one-two punch, eh?  Heck, if Mexico cleans up their act, maybe Enrique will want to join the party, too.  He’s got a lot of good workers down there, eh?  All right, my friend, let’s start Monday.  Oh, and by the way – let’s talk about that “Liberal Party” of yours, eh?  Okay, bye.

[operator]:  Mr. President, our conference call with the leaders of Germany, France, Great Britain and Japan is ready for you.

[Trump]:  Fellows, thanks for joining me on this call.  Oh, and you too, Frau Merkel, sorry.  I just wanted to let you know that I bought the UN building in New York City this morning.  Yes, and I am evicting all of those whiney little despots so I can turn it into a first-class resort hotel.  Right.  Last I heard they are going to meet up in Kinshasa.  I don’t know, it’s somewhere over there in Africa.  But hey, I thought we could start our own little club, you know?  We could watch each other’s backs and get some of these messes cleaned up, instead of paying for all those other little piss ants to cause trouble all the time.  Then if some of these other countries want to stand up for democracy, and human rights, and free trade and forget about getting rich by global warming hoaxes and identity politics, maybe they can join the club later on.  Right.  I’ll see you guys at Mar Largo next month.

[Trump]: Rosie, hold my calls for a while, I have to straighten out the tax code, fix our immigration problem, and get a new health care system running.  But I should be done in time for my 4:00 pm tee time!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideListen kid, you paid for the call.
You ain’t bad but I’ve heard it all before.
Don’t call us, we’ll call you!
Don’t call us, we’ll call you !

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You – Sugarloaf

 

Jerry Corbetta, founder and leader of the Denver band Sugarloaf, passed away a few months ago.  Sugarloaf had some monster hits in the seventies and they are as crisp today as they were then.  I feel a tiny connection to this band – I played in a band with a guy who played in a band with a guy who played for Sugarloaf.  Probably every musician in the world has played with every other musician in the world, twice removed!  Anyway, enjoy this classic – sorry, no live video of this song.

The ObamaCare Zone

obamacare-zoneWhat made the United States an economic powerhouse with the highest standard of living in the world?  Without a doubt, it is our belief in free market economics.  Why then would we even consider nationalizing one of the largest segments of our economy?  After six years of ObamaCare we have been to the edge of the abyss, looked in, and recoiled at what we saw.  Government takeover of private industries is always a disaster.

We are at a watershed moment in history, with an opportunity to hit the reset button and get it right.  It’s time to set aside the political posturing and get to work on repairing our health care financial system – not as an entitlement, but as a BUSINESS.  Because that’s what it is.

Problem:  When an industry like health care is removed from the free market and taken over by the government (nationalized), it always results in higher costs, reduced access and choices, and poorer products (outcomes).

Solution:  Repeal ObamaCare immediately, remove as much government interference as possible and restore free market for health care and insurance.  Implement reasonable regulations to protect consumers and maintain fair competition.

Problem: Health care costs and health insurance premiums continue to increase much faster than normal inflation.

Solution:  Require consumers to have “skin in the game” by paying directly for minor medical care – health insurance should be geared toward major medical coverage. Make medical expenses and premiums tax deductible for individuals, just like they are for corporations.  Require all medical providers to show costs to consumer before treatment.  Require insurers to offer large pool pricing and ERISA protection for individual plans at rates comparable to corporate group plans.  Establish reasonable restrictions on malpractice payouts.  These reforms will put purchase decisions in the hands of consumers where normal free market forces will result in price competition and improved product.

Problem:  Even though health care is not an entitlement, most Americans want to help fellow citizens who are legitimately unable to purchase their own care and/or insurance.

Solution: There are many ways to provide a safety net for the truly needy, such as subsidies and/or tax relief for private health insurance, taxpayer funded or subsidized health clinics, etc.  Regulations should prevent health insurance companies from cancelling coverage due to claims experience.  On the other hand, insurance companies can not be expected to cover consumers with pre-existing conditions, so state assigned-risk pools are necessary.  In all cases rigid vetting is absolutely necessary.  Our system can not support unlimited care for non-citizens and false claims of disability and indigence.

Problem: Many Americans fear that if the government is not between them and their health care, and they are left to their own devices to purchase health care, the powerful health care industry will abuse them for profit.

Solution:  The strongest motive to provide a good product is profit.  Consumers make good purchasing decisions every day.  The cost of products goes down as the quality improves, because consumers will always, always, ALWAYS select the best value when they are spending their own money.

Repeal ObamaCare now.  Release the health care and insurance industry to seek honest profits in the free market by competing for customers.  Implement common sense regulations that are fair for providers and consumers alike.  Stop pretending that health care is free and everybody is entitled to it.  Let the magic of the American free market work again.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

 The Twilight Zone – the Ventures

 

 

 

 

Lindsey Graham: Everybody F***ing Hates Me

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Poor Lindsey Graham.

He’s the senior senator from the great state of South Carolina; a Republican who has held his office since 2003.  And yet very few people in his own home state can stand the sight of him.

Democrats hate him because he is a Republican.  Republicans hate him because he is a Democrat with an R behind his name.  He votes against his fellow Republicans 69% of the time.

One might ask, “How the hell does somebody like Lindsey Graham get elected in South Carolina?”  Well, it’s complicated.

You see, the last primary election in South Carolina featured six contenders for his Senate seat who filed as Republicans.  Five of them actually were conservative Republicans.  The sixth was Lindsey Graham.  Now, the Democrats knew they had no chance of winning the Senate seat in a conservative stronghold like South Carolina.  Fortunately for them, South Carolina has “open primaries”, where anybody from any party can vote in whatever primary they wish.  And the Democrats wished to elect Graham, knowing he will vote their way in the Senate most of the time.  They got him through the primary, and the general election went predictably easy for the guy in the “R” column.

At a time when Americans are dancing in the streets over the Trump-induced death of the liberal left, Lindsey doesn’t even pretend to be conservative.  He’s for big bailouts.  He busts his butt to preserve the corrupt corporate-crony Import/Export Bank program.  He leads the fight for amnesty.  After President Obama encouraged illegal immigrants to get out and vote, Lindsey excoriated President-elect Trump for even suggesting that vote fraud is possible.

Graham routinely supported even the most liberal nominees.  He scoffed at the Tea Party.  To everyone’s astonishment, he ran for President, but never advanced from the kids’ table in the debates, dropping out before spending any of his campaign funds.

There was a time when the Senator had one thing in common with Republicans – his support for a strong military and a generally hawkish outlook on foreign affairs.  But even that is no longer completely in step with recent conservative sentiments.  Strong military, yes.  Protracted and expensive engagement in foreign entanglements without an end game or any obvious American interests served, not so much.

Washington, DC can be a lonely place sometimes.  And Lindsey Graham may be the most hated man in town.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

In a trap, trip I can’t grip
Never thought I’d be the one who’d slip
Then I started to realize
I was living one big lie,
She f***ing hates me

She Hates Me – Puddle of Mudd