Cut the Budget, Or A Whole Department? You Decide!

When is the last time the Federal Government asked you what you want it to do?  Been a while, hasn’t it?

Here is yet another example of how elections really do matter.  The Trump administration, via Mick Mulvaney and his Office of Management and Budget, wants your input.

They set up a web page on the White House website and are asking for suggestions from citizens on how to make our federal government “more efficient, effective, and accountable to the American public.”

They want you to name names.  They are asking for details.  If you have seen a federal agency that is not operating at, shall we say, “peak efficiency”, here’s your chance to do something about it.  Trump and Mulvaney want to know which agencies, boards, and commissions are screwing up, wasting money, or are no longer even necessary, and visitors to the website are encouraged to share their ideas and solutions in detail.

In addition, citizens are asked to weigh in on federal government management reform and reorganization of the government.  How damn refreshing is that?

It’s hard to resist the temptation to “select all” for elimination or reform and hit enter.  So I zeroed in on all the departments and agencies related to the Indian Reservation debacle.

Rumor has it that Mulvaney and his team are also planning to “tech up” the government to modern business standards, something I have advocated for years.

Information technology (IT) advancements have been at the center of a transformation in how the private sector operates—and revolutionized the efficiency, convenience, and effectiveness with which it serves its customers. The Federal Government largely has missed out on that transformation due to poor management of technology investments, with IT projects too often costing hundreds of millions of dollars more than they should, taking years longer than necessary to deploy, and delivering technologies that are obsolete by the time they are completed. We are working to close the resulting gap between the best performing private sector organizations and the federal government.

— Office of E-Government and Information Technology

Of course asking for input and actually using it are two very different things.  But I find it flattering to even be asked, after two terms of total arrogance in the executive office.

So I hope you will take a few minutes and look over the long list of agencies.  Consider whether the National Endowment for the Arts is still deserving of taxpayer support, and check yes or no.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Do you love me,
Do you want to be my friend?
And if you do
Well then don’t be afraid to take me by the hand
If you want to
I think this is how love goes
Check yes or no

Check Yes or No – George Strait

What The Hell Is ‘Mad Dog” Up To?

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

With all eyes on the middle of the swamp, riveted on the battle over the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare, a little drama has been percolating, unwatched, over in the far corner under the cypress trees.

Not long ago, General James Mattis rode President Trump’s full-throated endorsement to the lofty post of Secretary of Defense, past eminently qualified candidates like Sen. Jeff Sessions, Rep. Mike Rogers, and veteran security advisor Stephen Hadley.  The men overlooked for the job had several things in common – all are Republicans, are loyal Trump supporters, and are broadly respected in conservative circles.

Mattis had a few things going for him, too.  People called him “Mad Dog”.  He once said, “it’s fun to shoot some people.”  He also once said he is opposed to the Iran nuclear giveaway.  Did I say his name is Mad Dog?

President Trump was so impressed with old Mad Dog he slam-dunked him right into one of his most critical cabinet posts.  Congress didn’t hesitate to give Mattis a waiver allowing the recently-retired general to bypass the required 10-year waiting period between active military service and SecDef.  Why, Leon Panetta himself personally campaigned for Mattis.  What’s not to like?

Wait a minute, Leon Panetta?  The guy who viscerally hates Donald Trump?  The far-left, Obama insider, Democrat apparatchik who was one of the biggest moving parts of the Clinton Machine?  That Leon Panetta?

It gets weirder.  Old Mad Dog’s first big recruit was Anne Patterson for undersecretary of defense for policy.  Patterson gained notoriety as a honcho on Hillary Clinton’s team for her support of the Muslim Brotherhood regime that failed so spectacularly in Egypt.

General Mattis also flirted with Democrat Michele Flournoy, founder of the far-left Center for New American Security and former Obama undersecretary of defense for policy, for a sub-cab post.  Flournoy ultimately turned him down because Mad Dog is not quite leftist enough to suit her taste.

Mattis’ latest pick is Rudy DeLeon for undersecretary of personnel and readiness.  DeLeon is a senior fellow at the Center for America Progress, whose current stated mission is to undermine the Trump presidency.  CAP was created and developed by John Podesta (there’s that name again) and is funded by George Soros.  According to Jordan Schactel in Conservative Review, DeLeon signed on to a letter that calls Trump’s national security order restricting immigration “beneath the dignity of our great nation” and advised government workers to apply “discretion,” in an attempt to essentially undermine the president’s initiative.  DeLeon is a big proponent of Obama’s nuclear giveaway program to Iran.

I can’t see any reason why a person with DeLeon’s pedigree wouldn’t fit perfectly into Trump’s administration, can you?

General Mattis’ appears determined to load up the administration with as many Trump-haters as he can find, as if there aren’t enough enemies left over from the Obama regime already.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Big man, walking in the park
Wigwam, frightened of the dark
Some kind of solitude is measured out in you
You think you know me but you haven’t got a clue
Hey Bulldog!

Hey Bulldog – the Beatles

 

Let the Miracle of the Free Market Work For Health Care

We have two problems with our health care delivery system:  access and cost.  In 2010, ObamaCare was passed to address both problems.  Predictably, it failed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made voting for ObamaCare very simple,   instructing her fellow Democrats to “pass the bill so that you can see what’s in it.”  All but 34 of them did.  Not one Republican voted for ObamaCare.

The American people never did like the Affordable Care Act, especially after the President’s fake-out that we could keep our doctors and insurance plans. Costs have increased even more rapidly, and access to plans and care has become even ‘iffy-er’ as more insurers jump ship every day.

Throughout Obama’s term outnumbered Republican legislators set up “show votes” to signal their desire to repeal ObamaCare.  But that talk was cheap when they knew the bills had no chance of getting past Obama’s veto.  “There’s nothing we can do about it,” they whimpered, even though they had complete control of the nation’s purse-strings and could have cut off the funding.

So the people did the only thing they could do to get rid of this economy-crushing, freedom-sucking, unsustainable mother-of-all-government-programs.  They elected majorities in both houses of Congress and a Republican president who promised to do away with ObamaCare, once and for all.   “NO MORE EXCUSES”, they told Congress.

But it seems voting this hot mess out is not nearly as simple as voting it in.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is trying to ram his “ObamaCare Light” plan through Congress.  But unlike Pelosi’s sheep, conservative legislators in the Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Group and a few brave senators want to see what’s in it and make it right before they pass the bill.

Ryan’s AHCA plan disguises and leaves in place many of the worst provisions of the ACA.  There are so many details that I won’t even try to elaborate here.  But I have one overriding concern about Ryan’s plan.  It does nothing to reduce the cost of health care, and may have the opposite effect.

Only one thing lowers the cost of any product, and that’s competition.  Until consumers make their own health care buying decisions in a competitive free market with transparent pricing, costs will never be reduced.

The GOP plan doubles down on the Medicaid expansion of ObamaCare, continues government subsidies in the form of refundable tax credits (some citizens will get cash back from the government because they pay little or no federal tax), and retains mandates that force individual and employer participation.  This distorts the market and makes health care just one more entitlement, edging us ever closer to a single-payer national plan.  And it further isolates the end consumer from health care purchasing decisions.

The first step must be the complete repeal of ObamaCare.  In 2015 both houses of Congress passed a bill under reconciliation that would fully repeal ObamaCare at a future date.  It was, of course, vetoed by President Obama.  Why not present the same bill to President Trump?  Then let the “invisible hand” of the free market find the appropriate price levels for health care instead of over-prescribing and over-pricing everything by running it through the same big-government machine that pays $700 for a toilet seat.  With all the complexity and control of ObamaCare completely out of the picture, Democrats and Republicans would be forced to start fresh with new legislation to protect consumers and provide a humane, and hopefully more efficient, safety net.

Even before ObamaCare the federal government was the biggest purchaser of health care.  The worst thing our legislators could do right now is pass a watered-down bill that leaves too much of the nasty old fat in the sausage, hoping to squeeze it out later.

Most of us can take care of ourselves and our families if the government will just get out of the way and let the miracle of the free market work.  That would be a big step toward making American great again.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

All I need is a miracle, all I need is you
All I need is a miracle, all I need is you
All I need is a miracle, all I need is you

Mike and the Mechanics – All I Need Is A Miracle

 

 

Who Is Tough Enough to Clean Up DOJ? Ted Cruz

ted-cruz1-800x430When Donald Trump picked Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General, I had my doubts.

The Department of Justice has been a hot mess for a long time.  Janet Reno had only been AG for a few weeks before she torched a religious compound full of women and children, killing 76.  She steadfastly defended her boss, President Bill Clinton, refusing to turn over documents to Congress during impeachment proceedings.  Eric Holder will forever be tarred with the disastrous “Fast and Furious” scheme by which he gave 2,000 weapons to Mexican drug cartels and then covered up the failed sting operation.  Holder led President Obama’s effort to incite racial disharmony by refusing to prosecute Black Panthers who blocked whites from voting precincts, and siding with supporters of African-American criminals who attacked police officers.  And Loretta Lynch may prove to have been the ballsy-est AG of all time when she actually had a private meeting with Bill Clinton while his wife and presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, was under investigation.  Lynch refused to recuse herself even though she was clearly compromised, and even this week called for “more marching, blood, and death on the streets.”

One thing is clear – being tapped as the president’s top cop is no cakewalk.  You had better be tough.  Sessions isn’t.

At the very first (and very predictable) sign of trouble, Sessions bailed out on his boss.  The Democrats and the press (sorry, that’s redundant) had been cooking up a scheme to smear President Trump with a fantasy scandal about collusion with the evil Russians for nearly a year.  Without evidence of any crime or even questionable conduct by any Trump official, they started throwing spitballs to see who would duck.  Trump’s national security advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn, was the first to fall on his sword, assuming that would save his boss some grief.  Trump’s firing of Flynn had the opposite effect.

Then Attorney General Sessions recused himself from any involvement in the Great Russian Witch Hunt, again assuming that he was doing Trump a favor.

These guys don’t get it.  You don’t throw a shark a bloody hamburger, hoping that his hunger will be satisfied and he will leave you alone.  Sharks never stop eating.

By recusing himself, Sessions not only threw the bloody hamburger, he left his boss flailing alone in the water, outside the shark cage.  In Sessions’ absence, and without an assistant AG on board, the Justice Department’s participation in the Witch Hunt will now be managed by an Obama appointee, Dana Boente.   Gee, thanks, Jeff.

Trump has reportedly had a conniption fit over the inept handling of this manufactured crisis.  Even though his staff insists to the giddy liberal press that there is “no ‘there’ there,” the departure of two cabinet officials certainly is blood in the shark-infested water.

In his defense, Trump is new at the political game.  He should be putting people in these critical positions who are more than just loyal – they must be tough.

If President Trump really wants to drain the swamp, he needs somebody running the Department of Justice who is badder than the alligators.  It’s time to set aside differences.  There’s only one guy tough enough for this job, and that’s Ted Cruz.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

For you baby I would swim the sea
Nothing I’d do for you that’s too tuff for me
I’d put out a burning building with a shovel and dirt
And not even worry about getting hurt
Ain’t that tuff enuff?

Tuff Enuff – The Fabulous Thunderbirds

 

HOFS (Hair On Fire Syndrome) Epidemic Rages Across America

photo courtesy Malia Litman

photo courtesy Malia Litman

An epidemic is sweeping our nation.  Hair On Fire Syndrome (HOFS) was first widely diagnosed among members of the Democrat community and has recently begun to infect other defenseless groups of Americans.

The Democrats suffered a series of immuno-deficiencies in recent years.  Their policies have been an abysmal failure, they have no constructive plans, and they have no potential leaders with any credibility, likability, or electability.  Since 2008 the Democrats have lost 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats, and the US presidency.  Democrat governors are outnumbered 2 to 1, and only 12 states have Democrat control of their legislatures.  This caused concern among Democrats, but because until recently Americans had Obama in their hair, the disease couldn’t advance to the point of ignition.

Most experts agree that the genesis of the HOFS epidemic was the election of President Trump.  With their Obama gone, some leftist heads exploded, but most just spontaneously ignited.   Democrats with advanced HOFS began marching down city streets with their kids (who are supposed to be in school) screaming “Raaaacist!  Everybody is RAAAACIST!”  There were reports of clusters of HOFS-stricken Democrats jumping up and down in their union T-shirts (they are supposed to be at work) insisting that the most existentially important issue to every American is where transgendered people pee.  And the Democrats’ hatred for our new president is so overpowering that every time a new tweet is issued, thousands of new HOFS cases are reported.

Hair On Fire Syndrome is contagious.  Fake news networks have reported a severe outbreak of HOFS among their reporters.  Republican congressmen cancelled town hall meetings on their recent recess, fearing exposure to the disease.  But the insidious affliction appears to be getting a foothold on Capitol Hill, as many congressmen have steadily weakened on their promises to repeal ObamaCare, reform the tax codes, and drain the swamp.  Under pressure from HOFS-averse Republican moderates, and reacting to media reports of extreme HOFS symptoms among Democrats across the nation, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has failed to present Trump the same repeal bill he gave Obama in 2015.  This has caused some HOFS-like symptoms to appear among conservative activists.

Fortunately, our president seems to be immune from HOFS, taking firm but measured steps forward, and calmly repeating that he will follow through on all of his campaign promises.  His appointed cabinet and agency heads reflect the president’s steady trajectory.

Despite the Hair On Fire Syndrome epidemic that has swept the nation, it appears that cooler heads will prevail.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideYou’ve fought hard and you saved and earned,
But all of it’s going to burn.
And your mind, your tiny mind,
You know you’ve really been so blind.
Now’s your time, burn your mind,
You’re falling far too far behind.
Oh no, oh no, oh no, you’re gonna burn!

Fire! – the Crazy World of Arthur Brown

 

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