Please Don’t Vote

“Get Out the Vote”!  It’s a good thing, right?  Everybody should vote!  It’s your responsibility as an American. It’s patriotic.  It’s for the good of the country.

Ask anyone you meet – should every American be allowed to vote?  The automatic, enthusiastic, unequivocal response is always: “Yes!”

Just for the exercise, let’s set aside our rigid posture (and the Constitution) and ask, “What is best for our country, and our childrens’ futures?”

Should a person who has never paid taxes get to vote?  Where else in the circus of life can a person decide how another person’s money is spent?  Half of US citizens pay no federal income taxes, but they still get to elect those who spend the money taken from the other half.  Isn’t that a golden opportunity for corruption? I’ll break this down:  “Vote for me, and I’ll give you somebody else’s money.


Should a person who has no understanding of candidates, issues, government, history, or economics be allowed to vote?  Let’s be honest, a large percentage of our citizens are economically and politically illiterate.  They don’t read or watch any news. They don’t know who the vice president is.  They can’t find China on a globe.  And they are absolutely not able to make an intelligent decision about how our government should be run for the benefit of all.

We don’t let children vote.  Why?  Because we assume they have no clue what they are voting about.  Unfortunately, when it comes to important events, many of our adult voters are child-like in their understanding of the world.  An astute and well-educated fifth-grader is more qualified to vote than many adults.

Should a person who can’t prove eligibility get to vote?  A state legislator from a college town here in Montana was recently testifying against stricter identification rules for state voters.  “This is so unfair!” she wailed.  “If we lengthen the registration period, how are our out-of-state and international students going to be able to vote?”

In a world where personal identification is a requirement of daily life, asking a voter for ID is just common sense, and everyone knows it.  Those who oppose it clearly intend vote fraud.

It may seem that I want to take away the average guy’s right to vote.  I don’t.  But I do think that every voter should have skin in the game – when each voter pays at least some taxes, he will be more interested in how the money is spent.  I think our education system should be dramatically improved so that by adulthood, each citizen knows our country’s history, understands economics, and is equipped to vote intelligently.  And I think we should protect the sanctity of our electoral process by making sure that only eligible voters cast ballots.

Call me a rebel.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

ImageI’d like to help you son,
But you’re too young to vote!

Summertime Blues – the Beach Boys

Montana’s Share of the Stimulus (my eyes glaze over)

Here are some tidbits from, the federal government website that provides information about the $765 billion in stimulus money spent under the Recovery Act since February of 2009.

Montana received just over $1.5 billion under the Recovery Act.  $1.1 billion of that was awarded in the form of grants.

The largest single recipient was the Montana DOT at $208 million.  Second was the Fort Peck, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes at $67 million, followed by Montana Opticom, LLC, a provider of fiber optic internet facilities, at $64 million.  Native American tribes altogether scored about $180 million, not including payments to reservation cities, hospitals and schools.  K-12 education received about $150 million, while about $133 million went directly to cities and counties.  Post-secondary education got about $110 million.

Randomly digging into details reveals some interesting expenditures.  Energy Solutions of Moab, Utah billed $105 million for “remediation services” and subbed out a fair portion of that to smaller companies, also mostly from Utah.  Like $45 grand to “David’s Elite Thrones” for what appears to be porta-potties, and several million to companies like “Cj5 Enterprises” and “Fraley & Co., Inc.” – firms so mysterious that they are not mentioned anywhere on the web.

The McLaughlin Center in Great Falls got $760,000 for a high-tech microscope system.  Eleven Boys and Girls Clubs got an average of $40k each.  Domestic and Sexual Violence Services of Carbon County received about $500k for their counseling and housing program.  Their report says this created two full-time jobs.

When I see huge dollars like this bouncing around like pinballs, the cynic in me says that the corruption, waste and paybacks to cronies must be astronomical.  The top two officers from Energy Solutions split $4.5 million in annual salaries.  Still, looking at some project details – like the rehab of barracks at Malmstrom AFB,  I see local companies doing real work and paying real employees.  That $25 million dollar job was won, and mostly subbed out to locals, by Sunstar, LLC of California.  Their top two guys take salaries of $75k each.

Kudos to Recovery.Gov for making this extensive spending detail transparent and available online – the State of Montana should take heed.

The Recovery Act was intended to produce jobs, and it did that – but the CBO reported that the cost per job is about $228k, and most are temporary.  Did the Recovery Act do any good?  Probably.  Did the taxpayers get full bang for their bucks?  Doubtful.  Are we and our children further in debt?  For sure.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

There ain’t no use to tarry so let’s start out tonight
We’ll spread joy, oh boy, oh boy, and we’ll spread it right
We’ll have more fun, baby, all way down the line
If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time

If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time – Willie Nelson

Tester / Baucus: Losers Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

A while back I blogged that we “Old Bean Counters” could fix the deficit in pretty short order.  I know, I know – things are VERY messed up and it may take more than a couple of weeks to straighten it out.

But still, it ain’t rocket science.  It’s just Dollars In, Dollars Out.  In business, in government, and in family life, you can’t spend more money than you take in – at least not for very long.  So you need to make sure that what you do spend is not wasted, and you need to help the guys who bring the dollars in.  From all indications, our current Congress has it backwards – they can’t get their spending under control, and they go out of their way to stifle success in the private sector.

Here’s another simple platitude we Old Bean Counters used to throw out regularly:  Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.

In business, planning is everything.  Successful companies analyze their markets, create an operating plan that shows how profit will be made, and then execute the plan.  Those who take it “one day at a time” and try to react to events as they occur nearly always fail.   It’s survival of the fittest, and the fittest are careful planners.

Our US Senate, including Montana’s own Max Baucus and Jon Tester, are not exactly “the fittest”.  They, their leader Harry Reid, and the rest of the Senate, have not passed a budget since April 29, 2009.  In fact Reid said, “There’s no need to have a Democratic budget, in my opinion.

This year President Obama submitted his budget proposal in February, as is his responsibility.   It failed to receive a single vote in either the House or the Senate, but hey – he did his job.

Soon after that, the House passed their own budget proposal.  It went to the Senate, where it languishes today just like every bill the House sends over.  The House continues to work on budget and spending bills, knowing there is no hope of success, but doing the work anyway.

Meanwhile, the Senate has been busy doing . . . well, nothing.  Senate Democrats have the ball, and if they can’t play their game, they are going home and taking the ball with them.  Senate Republicans – in keeping with recent tradition – threaten to filibuster any bill the other guys put up.  So the Dems just don’t bother.

So we spend, and spend, and spend – without a budget.  We make no attempt to improve the business climate (and government revenues) by reforming tax and regulation policies.  We just take it one day at a time, and let policy decisions be made according to political doctrine, without regard to economic viability.

We have failed to plan for over three years now.

The result is clear.  We have failed.  We are losers.  And Mssrs. Baucus and Tester share the blame.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Enjoy one of the best Beatle songs ever –

What have I done to deserve such a fate
I realize I have left it too late
And so it’s true, pride comes before a fall
I’m telling you so that you won’t lose all

I’m A Loser – the Beatles

Montana Coal Development Needs “Loser Pay”

Montana has more coal than any other state, according to the MT Dept. of Commerce – the kind of clean-burning, high BTU coal that is much sought-after by energy-hungry, fast-growing Asian nations.

This is great news for a state that has languished for years near the bottom of the list in GDP (49th), per capita income (43rd), and economic growth (bottom quartile).  Montana needs jobs and additional tax base.  Our nation needs cheap energy, not to mention a positive pop to our balance of trade.  New technology has mostly eliminated environmental concerns about coal use.  What could be wrong with mining and shipping this efficient natural resource to an eager world-wide market?

Well don’t worry, the usual suspects who are opposed to any kind of economic progress will think of something.

This morning’s headline screams “Environmentalists Threaten to Sue PSE Over Montana Coal Mine“, featuring our old friends at the Sierra Club.  “Coal Foes Warn of Northwest Rail Traffic Spike” wails another, courtesy of the anti-everything Western Organization of Resource Councils.  

The littany of complaints runs from “coal dust on my windows” to “coal trains make noise” to “residents from the ‘poor’ side of Billings will not be able to get to medical facilities on the other side of the tracks.”

It seems that any time there is an opportunity for economic progress, the radical left immediately starts throwing up roadblocks.  The formula seems to be “if it looks like it will improve standards of living, stop it.”  This is especially vexing in Montana, where we are practically an economic third-world state in spite of a tremendous wealth of natural resources.

One way to deal with the anti-progress groups (who ironically call themselves “progressives”) is to make them pay for their incessant legal attacks.  Our court system allows attorneys for these obstructionist groups to file frivolous suits which hold up projects for years – sometimes longer than investors or developers can wait.  A “loser pays” legal structure would prevent the stalling and obfuscation that takes food from the mouths of Montanans and damages our nation’s economic outlook.

“Loser Pays” is a common legal structure in other countries, but in the US only Alaska has a well-developed and tested application of the concept.  Other states are interested, though, and are beginning to implement the loser pay process in stages.

With all the nonsense Montanans have been through, and all that is at stake here, our state legislature should be taking a long, hard look at “Loser Pays”.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Down around the corner,
Half a mile from here
See them long trains run,
And you watch them disappear

Long Train Running – Doobie Brothers

Old Bean Counters, Revolt!

I spent most of my career as a “Bean Counter” –  that’s what the other managers of a company call their CFO or controller.   We Bean Counters take a lot of ribbing about how dull our lives must be, buried in numbers and surrounded by computers.  But successful managers know that good businesses are run by the numbers, and with careful planning, analysis, and execution, the company will create consistent and predictable profit for owners or stockholders, rewarding jobs for employees, and many benefits for the community at large.

These days we Old Bean Counters are frustrated.  We believe success in a free market democracy should be a slam dunk –  predictable, manageable, with steady growth and improvement in the standard of living for everyone.

In our “Adam Smith” world, the free market economic formula works flawlessly.  Businesses prove it every day, and our nation became the envy of the free world relying on the economic principles of supply and demand, lowest cost production, improved technology and efficiency, personal responsibility, and charity of free will.

So what happened?  Our predictable, successful “controller’s” world has been turned upside down.  We are buried in debt, jobs are scarce, and the only solution offered is more taxation and government spending..

The free market is no longer free, as our government at every level tears away layers of personal freedoms, and chokes businesses with red tape and unnecessary costs at every turn.  Personal responsibility has become “old school”, as our government rewards bad behavior and punishes good behavior in every conceivable way.   And charity, once a rewarding personal choice, has become a grating mandatory redistribution of wealth.

Even some of the young Bean Counters have gone astray, having sold their ethics on Wall Street along with some bundled mortgages.

I am convinced that if all the Old Bean Counters from across the nation stormed the city, state, and federal government offices and took over, we could straighten out our country’s financial mess in no time.  We would run the government like a business!  Government employees, you will work a full 8-hour day, 50 weeks a year.   We will find every asset owned by the government and sell the ones we don’t need or use.  Every agency will justify its budget every year.  Disability is only for the disabled.   College is for serious students.   Corruption will be punished.   No more grants!  No more watching porn on government computers every day!  No more six-figure guaranteed pensions at age 50!  No more $800 hammers!

And most importantly, we would convince Americans once again that it is in their best interest to be a part of the production and success, rather than throwing rocks at those who are pulling the wagons.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know,
We’d all love to see the plan!

Revolution – the Beatles

Montana has too much money, let’s party!

Today there is a big headline in our small-town newspaper: “$200,000 Available in Special Event Grants”.  It was “submitted” by the Montana Department of Commerce.  I guess that would be an advertisement, right?  Our government is so desperate to give money away, they have to advertise in small town newspapers.

Anyway, they want us to have parties.  “Any Montana event is eligible to apply and the funds must be used to advertise and promote the event to target markets outside a 100-mile radius of the event site.”

I think I’ll have a beer kegger and invite the motorcycle dudes from Butte.  Those guys know how to party!

“Since its inception in 2002, the Special Event grant program has been able to provide $757,500 in grant money to 89 events across the state”, the article continues.   Gee, that is so generous of the program to give us all that money!  Oh wait, where did that money come from?

This “grant” thing has become an epidemic.  Taxpayers in Fargo pay for a party in Milwaukee, and Little Rock pays for a party in Phoenix, and Kansas City pays for a party in Missoula, and everybody thinks their parties are free.  Now multiply this by thousands and thousands of grants awarded in every city of the United States every day.   Grants for trails.  Grants for home improvements.  Grants for trees.  Grants for seminars on how to write grants.

There are people in Montana state offices (paid by your tax dollars) who think having community parties is a good thing.  Maybe it is, but then why shouldn’t the community pony up the money to advertise its own party?

Unfortunately, our dumbed-down citizenry thinks that grants really are free money.  They repeatedly hear mayors and city councils say, “No local money is being spent on this project – we received a grant.”  In my small hometown we have a lady who makes a nice living doing nothing but writing grant requests.  Local officials love them because it gives voters the impression that they are “doing something” without spending our hard-earned money.  How can anybody turn down free money?

It’s embarrassing how easy it has become to fleece the average American.

Well, I guess if the keepers-of-Montana-cash decide it should be spent on parties, so be it.  But I don’t want to hear any whining about how we “can’t afford teachers or firemen.”

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Money !  It’s a gas!
Grab that cash with both hands
and make a stash!

Money – Pink Floyd

Hooray! Shovel-Ready Green Jobs!

James O’Keefe has done it again.

He has the union bosses on camera, saying “let’s get the money and then figure out what to do”.  Apply for a grant that includes the words “green” and “jobs”, call it “shovel ready”, and it’s automatic.  Dig a hole, fill it in.  Get the money.  Happens all the time, like for instance the “Green Jobs Green New York” program.  “It’s a lot of BS”, according to the union.

Watch the video – there’s nothing I can add to this:


God bless ya, O’Keefe, keep them coming!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Digging a ditch where madness gives a bit
Digging a ditch where silence lives
Digging a ditch for when I’m through
Digging this ditch I’m digging for you


Am I A “Birther?”

Yes, President Obama came forward with a long-form birth certificate from Hawaii. And ever since, it has been taboo to even consider that something might be wrong, even among the most right-leaning journalists.  You could be accused of being . . . the “B” word.

Here’s my problem. I don’t care where President Obama was born. He may have been born in Kenya, or Hawaii, or maybe he is an alien from a distant nebula – it really doesn’t matter to me. His policies worry me to death, but where he was born? Who cares?

Here is what does matter to me: why did the president of the United States need to have his birth certificate forged?

Oh, it’s definitely forged. I have used Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator pretty much since they were first created. I know how pdf files work. I looked at the layers and layers of phony stuff cobbled together into an amateur pdf file and planted on the White House website. Anybody who has an even modest understanding of Adobe software can know in minutes that this is a forged document. There is no doubt about it.  The original scan might be part of the document, but a lot of the stuff that is there now is not original.  How arrogant of his staff to think that such an amateur attempt would not be detected by thousands of tech-savvy Adobe users.  And how easy it is for people who don’t understand the technology to just dismiss the smoking gun evidence because they don’t “get it”.

Today Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Arizona announced that the birth certificate is “definitely forged”.   Aside from the obvious Adobe chicanery, Arpaio’s chief investigator, Mike Zullo, said that they learned from a retired state employee about birth certificate numeric codes which identify the status of certain fields of information.  Codes on the document indicate that some fields, such as the father’s race and occupation, were not filled out, but in the adulterated version – surprise!  There they are!

There are so many rumors about his social security number, his draft card, his college transcripts, his scholarships, the loss of his license to practice law. These concerns may or may not be legit – President Obama doesn’t seem inclined to put them to rest, and maybe that in itself is cause for concern.

Maybe the many mysteries that surround Barack Obama matter, and maybe not.  But when a guy has to forge his own birth certificate, it makes me fear that something is dreadfully wrong.

Does that make me a “birther?”

Transparency In Montana – It’s About Time!

In recent years many states have developed transparency websites so citizens can get accurate financial information about their state budgets.  Indiana’s “Transparency Portal” is a great example.

Transparency in Montana?  Not so much.  The US Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) recently ranked Montana 49th out of 50 states in providing online access to spending data.  The Big Sky State scored a whopping 7 points out of a possible 100.

Carl Graham – Montana Policy Institute

Enter Carl Graham, of the Montana Policy Institute.  Graham believes that good decisions can only be made with good and complete information.  First he got data from the Montana Dept. of Public Instruction and developed a website to disseminate school district budget data, which allows users to compare expenditures from districts all over the state.  But he didn’t stop there.

Next Graham set out to obtain salary data on all Montana state employees.  It took two years, a battle with a recalcitrant Democrat administration, and a lawsuit against the state, but MPI prevailed.  The result is their Montana Transparency in Government website.  The online database is so popular than on the day of its announcement, it was slammed with so many inquiries a server upgrade was required.

Perhaps the state of Montana will be shamed into opening its books online before Graham and the MPI are forced to take the next step toward complete transparency for the taxpayers and citizens of the Big Sky State.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Oh, I want the truth to be said!
Truth – Spandeau Ballet

Good Times in Canada, Eh?

We just returned from a fantastic football weekend in Canada.

Yes, they do play football in Canada, and for football junkies like my son and I, it’s a great excuse for a summer road trip.  The Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the BC Lions 23 – 20, and the big play was a missed field goal attempt that was run back 129 yards for a touchdown!  Now that’s something you don’t see in the NFL!

Aside from getting our summer football fix, the thing we enjoy most on our northern excursions is our Canuck friends.  They always make us feel welcome, show us a good time, and are as curious about our everyday lives as we are about theirs.

I was delighted to learn that the economy is great in Saskatchewan.  The mean family income is now $73,000, second among the provinces to Alberta.   New shops and restaurants are popping up all over, and business is brisk.  New football stadiums are planned around the country, including Regina. The streets are filled with shiny new cars and trucks, and pockets jingle with loonies and toonies (one- and two-dollar coins).

On the other hand, my Canadian friends worry about public services.  The health care system is a mess.  The average wait time to even see a specialist is now ten weeks, and the six-month wait time after that for routine surgical procedures forces many patients to spend their hard-earned Canadian money at hospitals south of the border.  They view their health care as “free” but when pressed, they admit that they don’t always get the best value for their tax dollars.  It is a sneak preview of ObamaCare.

For all Saskatchewan’s apparent wealth, we couldn’t help but notice the shabby condition of their highways and other infrastructure.  They definitely have some “shovel-ready” jobs.  It seems that Canada has the same problem we have in the US – things left up to the free enterprise system seem to work out just fine, but anything filtered through the mud-bog of government slows to a crawl.

One of my Canadian friends was fascinated to learn that I own guns, and usually keep one close by for personal and family protection, thanks to our second amendment and my Montana concealed carry permit.  “We can’t even buy a bullet, eh?” he lamented.  “Only the bad guys have guns here.”

I didn’t run into any bad guys.  Just a bunch of good guys who love their country, Riders Football, and Canadian beer.  (PS –  no US flags anywhere – no Star Spangled Banner at the game either!  See my blog about that)

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Green is the Colour.
Football is the Game.
We’re all together
and Winning is our aim!

Green Is The Colour – Saskatchewan Roughriders