I’m Taking Names and Keeping Score

scoreboard

Would you watch a basketball game if nobody kept score?  Of course not.  If nobody keeps score, nobody wins.  If nobody wins, the contestants will lose interest and probably not put in much effort.

Besides, if nobody keeps score, how do you know which team or player is the best?

Okay, I’ll get to the point.  When we elect a congressman or a senator, we assume he or she is doing what we want them to do.  But are they?  Unless you have the time to look up their votes on every issue, you can’t possibly know.  And even if you did, you would have to know which votes are important and which are just “show votes”, intended to make a legislator look good even though they don’t really accomplish anything.

Congress has an 11% approval rating, but incumbents are re-elected 96% of the time.  If we don’t like what they are doing, why do we keep re-electing them?  The answer:  they get away with lousy performance because voters aren’t keeping the score.

Fortunately, there is a great way to measure your congressman’s performance.  It’s the Heritage Action Scorecard.  Heritage Action is the activist wing of the acclaimed Heritage Foundation, and their aim is to hold members of congress accountable.  The Scorecard is the perfect tool.  Heritage Action identifies “key” votes – issues which have a direct and important impact on quality of life in America.  The scorecard shows how each member voted on every key issue, and accumulates an aggregate score.

My South Carolina congressman, Ralph Norman, has a 95% rating in the current session, which compares to 68% for the average house Republican.  That puts him near the top of the pack.

Norman score card

Digging deeper, I can see that only one of his votes did not agree with Heritage Action’s recommendation.  The Scorecard makes it easy for me to thank my congressman when I like his vote on an issue, or to ask for justification when we aren’t on the same page.   And it sure makes the check-writing decision easier at election time.

As a Montana native I still follow the politics there.  I can’t help but notice Senator Jon Tester’s 0% rating.  I hope my Big Sky friends are noticing too.

Too many citizens think they have no control over what happens in the nation’s capital.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.   With a tool like the Heritage Action Scorecard and a telephone, every voter can hold his members of Congress accountable, and can make an informed decision at primary and general election time.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

I’m winning
I’m winning
I’m winning
And I don’t intend on losing again

Winning – Santana

Trump’s Prerogative – Cut the Red Tape

Trump cuts red tape

ObamaCare has not been repealed or replaced.  As of this writing Tax Reform is stalled.  Planned Parenthood abortions are still being funded with tax dollars and there are no bricks in The Wall.

Crooked Hillary escaped without a scratch.  We don’t have a budget and Congress will soon pass yet another bloated continuing resolution to avoid shutting down the government when it busts the debt ceiling.  Again.

Appointments for judicial, state, and agency officials languish on desks as buildings full of holdover Obama appointees and Clinton devotees spend their workdays plotting new coups against the president.

With Republicans holding both houses of Congress and the White House for almost a year now, it appears that conservative voters have little to show for their 2016 trifecta victory at the polls.  But there is a bright spot.  A very bright spot.

While Congress sits on its thumbs, President Trump has used his executive prerogative to cut red tape and waste in the federal bureaucracy.  He threw down the gauntlet last March when his perfectly-chosen budget director Mick Mulvaney announced, “The president’s beholden to nobody but the people who elected him, and yes, I understand that every lawmaker over there has pet projects. That’s the nature of the beast.”   USA Today listed the 62 agencies and programs on Trump’s chopping block at that time, and breathlessly warned that it was the tip of the iceberg.

Last week Trump and Mulvaney thoroughly enjoyed graphically comparing the mountainous volume of regulations in place today versus the small stack of the 1960’s.   The Trump administration has already cut over 1500 regulations and vows to make the “stack” even smaller than it was when the Beatles topped the charts.

“By ending excessive regulations, we are defending democracy, and draining the swamp,” the president declared. “Unchecked regulation undermines our freedoms and zaps our national spirit. It destroys our economy – so many companies are destroyed by regulation. And it destroys jobs.”

Trump is just getting started.  It’s hard work, but long overdue.  His predecessor, Barack Obama, clobbered the US economy with an additional $122 billion dollars of red tape per year, stretching his authority or even flouting the Constitution in the process.

Trump can’t force Congress to do the right thing, or keep its promises.  But as president, it is his prerogative to cut red tape and waste in the agencies under his control.  It’s good news for conservatives.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideEverybody’s talkin’ all this stuff about me
Why don’t they just let me live?
I don’t need permission, make my own decisions
That’s my prerogative!

My Prerogative – Bobby Brown

Coffee Talk on Tax Reform


Some “coffee talk” on tax reform:


Our national debt is now approaching $21 trillion ($231 trillion if you include unfunded liabilities like government pensions), and nobody seems to care.  Most of our congressmen still want to spend more and tax less.  I guess they think we can just print more money whenever we want and there is no down side.  They had better hope interest rates can be artificially held to near zero for generations to come.


Everybody knows the tax code is ridiculously complex.  But few understand what a drag on the economy this complexity causes.  Here’s something to think about:  the cost of filling out government tax forms is estimated by the IRS at $400 billion per year.  At the bottom of every business tax form is a small box that asks how many hours were spent preparing this form.  The preparer will write “2 hours” or “.5 hours” on the form, and the IRS rolls up this number, multiplies it by some arbitrary labor cost per hour, and comes up with $400 billion.  But that’s just for filling out the form!  It doesn’t include the billions of hours spent on accounting to generate the numbers to report on the form!  I know some of this accounting also serves internal purposes, but much of it does not, especially in small businesses.  And we aren’t even counting the cost of the IRS, the IT systems required for data gathering, or the Advils swallowed every April.

I’ll bet the cost of reporting taxes easily exceeds a trillion dollars.  Think about it:  our annual GDP is $20 trillion.  Ask any business owner what percentage of the labor hours in his business are spent punching computers, gathering data and doing accounting.  A conservative average might be 25%.  That would be $5 trillion of bookkeeping per year.  Imagine what our economy could do if we didn’t spend a quarter of our time bean-counting instead of making something useful.


OMB Director Mick Mulvaney knows that there is terrible waste in government, and we could cut a huge chunk out of the federal budget without causing any pain for Americans.  And while he is making the effort to cut spending as best he can, it won’t work.  “Too slow,” says Mulvaney, an honors scholar and holder of advanced degrees in international economics, commerce, and finance.  “The only way to turn the ship around is to grow the economy.”

Mulvaney believes 3% GDP growth, which has been fairly common in our history, would grind down our debt and reduce the drag on the economy, but only only if we could muster some restraint in the growth of spending.  It’s encouraging and discouraging at the same time.  It’s definitely do-able.  But our elected class has learned that they can get elected and re-elected by promising to give everybody somebody else’s money.


The purpose of taxes is to fund the government.  Collecting taxes should be simple:  Here is the budget for next year (say $1 trillion).  Add up the total wages of all adult citizens ($33 trillion).  Divide – the answer is 3%.  Ask each citizen to send a check for 3% of their wages to the swamp.

That might be a little bit too simple – for example, all business and investment profit would need to be distributed as personal income, not retained.  But our tax code has grown to over 75,000 pages, and that’s because it is used for much more than just funding the government.  It’s all about controlling our behavior.  Most tax laws were put in place to reward some of us with tax breaks, or to punish some of us with higher taxes, or to encourage (or require) all of us to act in a certain way.

If you think the government should have less control over your daily life, you should want the tax code to be severely simplified, and the corrupt IRS whittled down to reflect its core mission.


Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

It’s Hell! Tryin’ to make it
When you’re doin’ it by yourself
It’s Hell! Payin’ taxes
When there’s no money left

Money Can’t Buy Me Love – Or Votes

The recent Republican primary runoff victory by Judge Roy Moore over Luther Strange in the race for Jeff Sessions’ Alabama senate seat is just the latest in a string of expensive losses for the Swampers.  Nearly a full year after American voters turned the pollsters and pundits upside down, the DC good-ole-boys are still in full Trump Denial.

Here are some of the Swampers’ embarrassing defeats:

  • Breitbart News reports Strange lost the runoff election by 20%, spending an estimated $30 million ($137 per vote) compared to Moore’s $2 million ($7 per vote).  This is after Moore pounded Strange in the first primary despite being outspent 25 to 1.  Strange was heavily funded by Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund and the NRA.
  • Issue One claims Democrats blew $32 million in a failing effort to push Jon Ossoff past Republican Karen Handel for the Georgia congressional seat vacated by Tom Price, who has already resigned his administrative office.  Issue One says Handel spent $23 million, but other analysts claim Handle was outspent 8 to 1 – the truth is probably somewhere in-between.
  • Hillary Clinton spent about $15 per vote, three times the amount Donald Trump invested on the presidency in 2016.

The first shot over the DC Establishment bow was fired by Dave Brat in 2014, when he sacked Eric Cantor, Republican house majority leader, in the Virginia congressional primary race.  Cantor had the backing of the entire swamp, including the Chamber of Commerce, the NRA, and the National Association of Realtors.  All of the Republican money and every loose dollar on K Street was bet on Cantor – $5.5 million in all.  Brat had a measly $200,000 and a warm smile from the Tea Party.  It’s fitting that Brat’s first name is David, as Goliath (Cantor) fell in a large, thunderous heap.  Brat has since been a stellar Freedom Caucus member.

My Congressman, Ralph Norman (R-SC), spent a little bit more than his opponent, Archie Parnell, seeking the seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney a few months ago.  And most of that spending was his own money.  “I don’t want to owe favors to anybody,” he told me early in the race.  And he has stayed true to his word, already taking strong positions against the powerful, big-money lobbyists.  Norman is also on the Freedom Caucus.

Maybe the Swampers will finally “get it” and stop trying to buy political offices against the will of the people, who are tired of business as usual on Capitol Hill.

Nah, it won’t happen.  The DC Establishment Swampers will continue to do what Swampers do – spend other peoples’ money.  They can’t help themselves.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

 

I don’t care too much for money,
Money can’t buy me love!

Can’t Buy Me Love – the Beatles

 

The lads are rockin’ it with their Rickenbackers and Voxes!

 

 

Tax Reform – Time to Get Down On It

Only one group of people likes our tax laws just the way they are:  the accountants.

Our tax code is so complex that nobody understands it.  If you call the IRS ten times to get a question answered, you are likely to get ten different answers – that is, if your call even gets through!  30 million calls went unanswered at last count in 2015.

No two CPAs will ever come up with the same tax liability given the same set of books.  It’s not their fault – the tax code was 75,000 pages a year ago (probably more by now).  And that’s a good thing, if you make your living doing tax returns.  For the rest of us, not so much.

Tax compliance costs almost a half-trillion dollars a year, and that doesn’t include the routine accounting that businesses do every day to determine their profitability. 90% of Americans think the tax code is too complex.

Finally there is an opportunity to do something about it.  GOP members of congress have come up with a tax reform plan that would reduce most individual tax returns to one simple page, eliminate most loopholes and targeted deductions, repeal the complex alternative minimum tax, and do away with business depreciation.

Oh, the humanity!  Tax accountants will be leaping from their first-story windows.  H&R Block will no longer have an office on every block.  Packages of TurboTax software will be relegated to the bargain bin at Ollie’s.  Corrupt and inefficient IRS employees will have to get real jobs that actually produce something of value.

More importantly, GDP growth will suddenly jump from 2.5% to 3%.  Then 4%, and upward. Eliminating the productivity drag of all that accounting, reducing tax payments, and deducting the cost of capital purchases from taxable income will give businesses and individuals a huge shot of economic momentum.

Of course this can only happen if Congress is convinced that voters give a damn.  Most of them would just as soon spend your money for you rather than let you do it yourself, and they enjoy controlling your behavior by controlling your wallet.

It’s way past time for tax reform.  Today might be a good day to pick up the phone and call your member of Congress and tell him or her to get down on it.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Get down on it, come on and
Get down on it, if you really want it.
Get down on it, you gotta feel it
Get down on it, get down on it

Get Down On It – Kool and the Gang

 

They’re getting a little gray, but they still got it going on!  It’s Kool and the Gang.

 

 

 

A Change Would Do Us Good

 

America’s two-party political system worked remarkably well until recently.  Unlike most nations who have gone through all manner of revolutions, rule by despots, booms and busts, the USA has been (save for the Civil War) stable and improving since it was founded.

But something feels different now, not only culturally, but also politically.  50 years ago the Democrat and Republican parties were both made up of conservatives, moderates and liberals.  Cross-party coalitions were not only possible, they were routine.  Policy moved forward, generally in the best interests of the majority of citizens.

Think back – president John Kennedy was a conservative Democrat who believed in free markets, small government, exploiting natural resources, and peace through a strong military.  Nelson Rockefeller was a liberal Republican who served as Gerald Ford’s vice-president.  When America elected a president, all of our citizens coalesced behind him, regardless of party, presenting a united front to the world and joining forces to advance the well-being of all.

Those days are gone.  Today’s Republican party is still made up of a few liberals, a few conservatives, and the rest moderates.  Because of these ideological differences, and the fact that Republicans are a more independent lot, they will never vote as a bloc.  But the Democrats have adopted a tactic that requires monolithic devotion to their hard-left leadership.  They must bloc vote against anything proposed by Republicans.  Last week’s votes on the future of health care are proof.  Until the Republicans can muster a core group that outnumbers the bloc-voting Democrats, there is no chance of meaningful policy change.  And that won’t happen any time soon.

This state of affairs was inevitable as money became a greater influence over congress than the will of constituents.  As voters became less engaged and knowledgeable about government, party bosses learned that political offices can be bought, through slick and often dishonest campaign advertising, and also through policy that patronizes voters who don’t pay taxes with largess from those who do.

Money now rules politics, and the party bosses control the money.  A house campaign costs a minimum of $1 million these days, and candidates for senate offices will spend $5 million and up.  And these numbers ratchet up exponentially with every election.  Spending more than the competition does not guarantee a win (Hillary Clinton reportedly spent $1.2 billion on her losing campaign), but failure to raise a war chest usually promises defeat.

The few voters who are engaged can’t contribute this kind of money, and the low-cost old-school practice of door-to-door campaigning just doesn’t work like it once did.  The Democrats find themselves having to pay for “protestors” to advance their messaging.

With few exceptions, anyone who wants to become a congressman or senator (and stay there), must have the money that only K Street, deep pocket donors, and the party leaders can provide.  As a result, true representative government is totally dead in the Democrat party, and barely breathing in the GOP, thanks only to the life support system known as the House Freedom Caucus.

The situation has the Capitol, the press, and a good portion of the general public totally disoriented.  On top of that, our executive branch, elected on good intentions, can’t seem to stay on task.  Meanwhile, our treasured public institutions – schools, churches, military, media – flounder around in a fog.

We know from history that when there is disorientation and discomfort with the status quo it can’t and won’t continue.  Change is inevitable.  Something is going to happen, probably something nobody has anticipated.

It might be a direct change forced upon our system of government.  More likely it will be an unanticipated outside event – a war, a new technology, a financial disaster, an epidemic.  Who knows?  Maybe a space ship full of little green men will land in front of the Capitol.

My life experience has shown me that there’s no point getting too upset about the way things are, because things will change.

And right now, a change would do us good.  As long as it’s not the change that happened to Russia, China and all the other socialist failures.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I’ve been thinking ’bout catching a train,
Leave my phone machine by the radar range,
“Hello it’s me, I’m not at home,
If you’d like to reach me, leave me alone.”
A change (a change) will do you good!

Sheryl Crow – A Change Will Do You Good

Interesting – watch this great amateur video of Sheryl live from the front row.  The instruments and vocals are picked up from amps and stage monitors, not the big main cabinets the rest of the audience hears.  This is what it sounds like to the performers on stage.

 

Who Deserves Support – Sick Vietnam Vets or Sex-Change Seekers?

A bunch of my friends meet once a week at a local fast food for a short men’s bible study.  One of our regulars had missed the last several sessions because he was in a lot of pain and just not able to get around much.  We were glad to see him back last Wednesday, but it was evident that he is in trouble.  Sweat dripped from his forehead as he told us about his many medical problems, mostly caused by his handling of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war.

“We always had tall chain link fencing around our fire bases at the front lines,” he said.  “But the vegetation would grow so fast and thick on the fences that we couldn’t see the VC sneaking up to attack.  So we always had a few barrels of Agent Orange on hand to kill the weeds.”

He continued, “We didn’t have any buckets to carry the chemical in, so we used to fill up our helmets and carry the Agent Orange to the fence.  We would throw it on the weeds and then put our helmets back on.  It actually felt good running down your face, it felt cool in the hot jungle.”

I thought back about a drummer friend of mine who, not long before he died of cancer, told me about his exposure to Agent Orange.  He was in the Navy, and most of his hitch in Vietnam was spent offloading barrels of the chemical for delivery to the air bases.  He said the barrels often leaked, or were broken, and the guys who handled them were soaked in Agent Orange almost every day.

The day after our men’s meeting Congress voted on the Hartzler Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.  It was a simple amendment that would have stopped the Pentagon’s Obama-prescribed practice of providing taxpayer-funded sex change operations and treatment for active duty military members.  The bill failed by four votes.

Countless veterans have fought the VA bureaucracy for every ounce of health care they received, and all too often they lose the fight.  My friend was unable to get the medication he needs through the VA.  Faced with a $300 bill for a whole prescription, he was resigned to buying a few pills at a time to get by until a benevolent Walgreen’s pharmacist cut him a deal out of respect for his service.

All 190 Democrats voted against the Hartzler Amendment.  235 Republicans voted for it.  Sadly, 23 Republicans voted with the Democrats to continue funding fake penises and vaginas to the tune of (according to Hartzler) $130,00 per surgery, costly ongoing hormonal treatments, more surgeries for the frequent complications, and at least a year of lost service time during the process .  A total projected cost of $1.3 billion over the next ten years.

Justin Amash (Michigan)
Jack Bergman (Michigan)
Mike Coffman (Colorado)
Barbara Comstock (Virginia)
Paul Cook (California)
Ryan Costello (Pennsylvania)
Carlos Curbelo (Florida)
Jeff Denham (California)
Charlie Dent (Pennsylvania)
John Faso (New York)
Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania)
Darrell Issa (California)
John Katko (New York)
Steve Knight (California)
Leonard Lance (New Jersey)
Frank LoBiondo (New Jersey)
Tom MacArthur (New Jersey)
Tom Reed (New York)
Dave Reichert (Washington)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida)
Bill Shuster (Pennsylvania)
Elise Stefanik (New York)
Claudia Tenney (New York)

I can understand the liberals’ bloc vote.  They don’t really care about the health of soldiers, straight or gay.  The sexually confused and honestly gay LGBTQ are just one of the many minority groups liberals peeled off from the general population and brainwashed into voting straight Democrat by claiming nobody else loves them.  Democrat party leaders pretend to care about the LGBTQ to continue to get their votes, and the Democrat congressional sheep dare not face the wrath of their leaders, so they vote as they are told.

How can the 23 Republicans justify their vote?

Our Veteran’s Administration is so corrupt, mismanaged and downright pathetic that it can’t provide adequate care for veterans who drop like flies waiting for care.  Meanwhile 190 Democrat Congressmen and 23 Republicans vote to spend precious time, care, and taxpayer dollars on transgender transmissions.

And if that isn’t troubling enough, it gets worse.  I was so angry with the vote that I tweeted my displeasure, naming the 23 Republicans.

*note – Rep. Brian Mast’s vote was miscounted in the original tally, the margin was actually 4 votes

Rep. Justin Amash, the biggest surprise on the list, immediately replied.

Policy?  Secretary of Defense “Bulldog” Mattis needs time to develop a freaking POLICY?

Here’s your “POLICY”, Bulldog.  Cut the politically correct crap and rebuild our military into a fighting force that nobody in the world dares to mess with.  And take care of our veterans.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Holly came from Miami F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side,
Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.

Take A Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed