Corruption – Time To Raise A Little Hell

nothing to hide corruption75% of Americans think our government is corrupt.   No kidding?

Everybody knows the game:

  1. Taxpayers give money to government.
  2. Corrupt politicians give some of that money (or favors) to organizations
  3. Organizations kick back some of the money to the corrupt politicians as campaign contributions.
  4. The politicians use the dirty money to get re-elected.
  5. Return to number 1.

The corruption game is nothing new. Call it payola, quid pro quo, scratch my back – it has gone on ever since the first government came into being, and still occurs all over the world. In Mexico and similar “banana republics” nothing gets done by government without illegal payoffs.

No, the corruption game isn’t new, but the playbook has changed. Until recently, corrupt deals were made between public officials and private businesses. That arrangement was problematic – when the public found out about massive corruption (back then we had real journalism) the citizens would raise hell until the corruption was at least somewhat beat down. They didn’t like their tax dollars going to fat cat big business operators. But corrupt politicians didn’t appreciate these temporary interruptions in the game. So instead of using corporate cronies to fatten their wallets, they learned to cycle the dirty money through government employee unions, quasi-government organizations and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) instead of private businesses.

This week’s scandal du jour is the uproar over Planned Parenthood’s use of taxpayer money for purposes that most citizens find repugnant. The dollars aren’t huge – only a half a billion or so – but what they do with the money sure has a lot of taxpayers’ underwear in a knot. Moreover, Planned Parenthood uses a good chunk of the money for campaign contributions and lobbying. They claim the government funds they get are applied only to honorable pursuits. But we all know that money is “fungible”.

Remember Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? These behemoth quasi-government organizations almost buried our economy in 2008 when the real-estate bubble of their creation popped and the government bailed out the big banks. Even President Obama, a master of quid pro quo, called the Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac business model “heads we win, tails you lose.” We really still haven’t recovered. But the Fannie and Freddy corruption machine keeps chugging along, making big contributions to campaigns, paying monster salaries to its officials, and playing fast and loose with taxpayer money with almost no oversight.

Government employee unions are now the largest group of contributors to political campaigns. What a concept: the unions contribute taxpayer money to the very politicians who promise to protect their jobs and raise their wages. Jefferson would have loved that one.

Another cool quasi-government corruption setup is the Export/Import Bank, which uses taxpayer money to make risk-free loans that benefit crony corporations like Boeing, General Electric, and Caterpillar, to foreign governments and companies, some of whom actually compete with other domestic companies. There are all kinds of opportunities for bank employees to profit personally from shady arrangements. Some honest legislators, prodded by conservative constituents, may have finally put an end to this game, although General Electric and their political partners in crime are trying hard to keep it going.

And it’s not just about dirty politicians seeking campaign funds any more; federal agencies are in on the act. They now extort funds from US companies by threatening huge fines for trumped-up regulatory violations. Agencies like the EPA, FCC, NLRB and others routinely set up schemes that trade a “consent decree” (an agreement to not destroy a business with a long, expensive legal action) for cash. The feds also use consent decrees to take control over local government operations, such as police departments and local utilities.

Some federal corruption is simple and creative. Conservatives in Congress were furious to learn that VA Administration bigshots received big bonuses by faking the real performance records of their agency while patients died waiting for care. When the congressmen found out these guys could not be fired (this belongs in Ripley’s Believe It or Not!) they passed a law that making it possible to fire VA officials. So how many were fired? You guessed it. Zero.

The exploding corruption culture in Washington, DC is not a partisan issue – both Democrats and Republicans say they oppose corruption, but only a few true Conservatives are making any effort to do something about it. Leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump admitted paying off politicians. One can only assume the practice would continue under his watch.

One thing hasn’t changed. The only way to kill corruption, or at least slow it down, is for citizens to raise hell about it.

Ask your public officials and candidates what they plan to do about corruption. Give them specific examples. Most of them don’t mention the issue and haven’t even thought about it. Let’s raise a little hell.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideIf you want to see an angel
You got to find it where it fell
If you want to get to heaven
You got to raise a little hell

If You Want To Get To Heaven –
Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Another great seventies band, still on the road, gray hair and all, bangin’ on guitars!

“Most Govt. Spending Is Mandatory – That’s BS

Federal officials and elite media pundits ridicule conservatives who demand lower government spending levels. They say only 24% of the budget is discretionary, and most of that is military spending, so there is nothing anybody can do about increased spending and debt without taking a hatchet to social security benefits.

Horse Hockey. Federal-Spending-by-the-Numbers-2014-03-2-budget-trends_509There is a heck of a lot of discretion in that “mandatory” spending.

The Heritage Foundation points out that in 1965 only 27% of federal spending was mandatory. By last year mandatory spending had grown to 63% of the total, and it’s not just a function of our aging population. Over time our government has pushed a ton of new spending into the mandatory category.

Our government has made the discretionary decision to give millions of legal and illegal immigrants and refugees social security benefits, medicaid, disability, earned income credits, and a host of other “mandatory” federal benefits and subsidies. The majority of foreign-born in our country are on one or more welfare programs. And this does not even begin to address the cost of education, health care, fraudulent tax returns, cost of police and prisons and other infrastructure that cost billions. Our government has made the discretionary decision to not enforce the borders, to not follow up on visa violations, and to not keep illegal alien criminals out of the country. There is nothing mandatory about inviting foreigners to dip into the American taxpayers’ soup.

Our government has also made the discretionary decision to not crack down on waste and fraud in the mandatory spending programs. A study by Senator Tom Coburn’s office indicated as many as 45% of disability claims were questionable. Social security and food stamp fraud is rampant.

When it comes to spending, our government doesn’t have a reputation for using good discretion. It has dropped billions of public dollars on corrupt and hopelessly inefficient green energy programs and other corporate cronies. It has stifled economic development with disingenuous environmental and social programs. By its fed policy to eliminate interest, it has destroyed the US currency and transferred much of the wealth saved by a generation of middle class families to the big banks and their benefactors.

Our government has made discretionary payroll decisions that have resulted in government workers earning far greater compensation than private sector workers do, and many of them are frightfully ineffective and inefficient. Five of the six wealthiest counties in the United States are Washington, DC suburbs. Much of the cost of these discretionary payroll decisions are embedded in mandatory spending.

Worst of all, our government has made the discretionary decision to pass on an insolvent nation to our future generations by refusing for decades to even write, much less balance, an honest zero-based budget. They didn’t have to do it, they chose to, pandering for the votes that bring them personal power and wealth.

I, for one, am tired of hearing that there is nothing anybody can do to reduce government spending because it is “mostly mandatory”.  Elections have consequences, so we had better elect people who won’t use lame excuses to defend this unsustainable spending and debt.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

You made me love you,
I didn’t want to do it!
I didn’t want to do it!
You made me want you,
And all the time you knew it!
I guess you always knew it!

You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It) – Judy Garland

 

 

 

Mulvaney: Budget Committee to Push Zero-Based Budgeting

zero

see this article in its entirety at Watchdog Arena

There is no mystery to budgeting.  Whether you manage the finances for your family, your little league baseball team, or your business, you and everybody else in the private sector makes spending decisions the same way:  you determine how much money is available, and you set priorities for how to spend (or save) it.

Why is our federal government incapable of writing and managing a budget?

Those of us who live in the real world use a process called zero-based budgeting.  You may have never heard of the term.  It is such a common-sense approach that we all do it instinctively.  We categorize our spending into “needs” and “wants”.  Needs get priority.  We provide our families the necessary things like shelter and food before we start thinking about vacations, big screen televisions, and concert tickets.  If there are remaining “discretionary” funds, we decide how to spend or save them.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way that government – especially the federal government – thinks.

The way government has operated for many years, every department is entitled to the amount they spent last year, plus an increase.  Call it “continuing resolution”, “continuing appropriation”, or whatever – I call it flat-out laziness.  One of the primary responsibilities of our congress is to make sure that the funds taken from citizens are necessarily and appropriately spent.  Oversight of government spending should be priority one.  Unfortunately, it gets little, if any, attention from our elected officials, who spend their days pondering such weighty issues as whether the one tenth of one percent of the population who are sexually confused should get to choose which public bathroom they use.

You see, it is hard work to dig into the details of how each department and agency spends its money.  It’s much easier to just give each whatever amount they got last year, plus a kicker – because the employees probably deserve a raise, right?

Wouldn’t it be a refreshing change if congress did its job and started managing our money the way the rest of us do?

Maybe there is hope.  I asked my congressman, Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), who sits on the House Budget Committee, if there is any chance that the federal government might adopt zero-based budgeting.  I was surprised at his answer.  “I fully expect the House to pass budget reform this year, and that will include zero-based budgeting,” Mulvaney said.

This could be big.  Existing programs are never cut back, only increased.  And new programs require new funding.  Is it any wonder our national debt spirals out of sight?  Imagine our government agencies having to justify every program, every expenditure, every employee, every line item, on a yearly basis.  Just like businesses do.  Just like your family does.

“There is a chance it will pass and get signed,” Mulvaney said.  “The budget process is really, really boring but really, really important.  And it hasn’t been reformed since 1974.  It will be the biggest story you won’t hear much about in DC this year.”

Some political analysts advocate the “penny plan” as a budget-balancing measure.  The penny plan would cut one cent across the board from every dollar the federal government spends for five years, and then put a cap on national spending at 18% of GDP.  Mathematically it works, but it doesn’t address the fact that some spending is totally wasted, while not enough is allocated to other important work that taxpayers would support.  Cutting back on totally worthless programs while starving worthwhile ones is not good oversight.

Many programs, like the corrupt, obsolete Export-Import Bank, continue year after year with no justification other than inertia.  To this point, Congress hasn’t been able to muster the willpower to put these programs to bed even after they have long outlived their purposes, and they continue to stumble around like aimless zombies lost in timeless hell.  If every program had to justify its budget annually, we could quickly gain the upper hand over our exploding debt.

Here’s hoping the most important number in government this year is zero.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideMaybe I’ll win
Saved by zero.
Maybe I’ll win!
Saved by zero.

Saved By Zero – the Fixx

 

No One Ever Is To Blame

U.S. Capitol, Senate Office BuildingsIt must be great to work for the federal government.

The pay is outstanding – the CBO says wages and benefits for almost all federal workers are much higher than for the same jobs in the private sector.  Federal employees  get extra paid days off, like extra holidays, personal leave time, snow days, sick days, etc.  They get full pay for not working whenever the President chooses to shut the government down rather than live within a budget.  They can take early retirement from their federal jobs after 20 years if they are 50 years old.

Heck, while private sector managers work 45 – 55 hours per week, the upper-half of the federal food chain works only about half-time.  I have offered a standing challenge for many years (and done the exercise myself many times):  pick any manager-level federal employee, at random, from the government phone directory and call his or her office after 2:00 pm on Monday through Thursday, or after 12:00 pm on any Friday.  You will never, never, never reach that person.  Never.  Try it!

But the best thing of all about working for the federal government is: nobody ever gets fired.  Once you land a federal job, you will get your full paycheck, pay raises, ever-growing benefits, and bonuses for the rest of your life, no matter how poorly you perform.  Turnover is virtually non-existent.  Even the guy who was written up for farting at employees 61 times in 17 days was not reprimanded.

Jeff Neely, the GSA executive who helped put together the million-dollar conference in Las Vegas for his 300 hard-working office jockeys, is a rare exception – he actually got fired.  But he was reinstated eleven months later with full back pay.

My Congressman, Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), at one of his outstanding recent town hall meetings, told us, “The Veteran’s Administration has 330,000 employees and only about 500 have been fired in the last ten years.”  Meanwhile executives in the VA received bonuses based on fictitious reports about their pristine performance while soldiers died waiting for health care.  Director Eric Shinseki was powerless to fire anybody, and committed political hara-kiri by resigning.

Congressman Mulvaney told another stunning story about a meeting he had with an upper-level HUD executive.  He was grilling her about some problem in her agency, and she was having none of it.  “Don’t give me a hard time,” she said.  “I don’t make that much money and it doesn’t matter whether I do a good job or not.”   She had absolutely no fear of discipline from a United States Congressman.  Is that job security, or what?

And it’s not just the mid-level federal employees who are totally unaccountable.  When pressed for evidence that she knew would implicate her in a world-class corruption scandal, IRS director Lois Lerner made up a story about seven simultaneous hard-drive failures that ate her e-mails.  The odds of that happening are one in 79 billion.  Nobody has been held accountable.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is made of Teflon, too.  She never has recanted the lame excuse that terrorists murdered our Libyan ambassador and his brave defenders because they were upset about a Hollywood video.  One of the terrorists admitted planning and executing the Benghazi attack, but knew nothing about any video, and the CIA was listening in on terrorist phone activity during the attack, which never mentioned any video.   She still deflects questions about her failure to provide adequate protection after it was requested, saying “what does it matter?”   And nobody has even asked yet why the ambassador was in Benghazi in the first place.  Not only is she not accountable for the fiasco, Clinton is the current leader in the 2016 presidential race.

President Obama carries a long list of excuses for the many failures of his administration.  Most of them blame his predecessor.  The latest failure is the border crisis that resulted from his open invitation to illegal immigrant children to enter our country and enjoy the amenities.  When he finally did go to Texas to meet with Governor Perry, who is trying to deal with the situation, he spent most of his time shifting the blame.

I seldom agree with John Boehner any more, but I jumped up and cheered when, in utter exasperation with the Obama administration, he cried, “He’s been president for five and a half years.  When is he going to take responsibility for SOMETHING!”

But hey, it’s the government.  No one ever is to blame.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Doctor says you’re cured but you still feel the pain
Aspirations in the clouds but your hopes go down the drain
No one ever is to blame.

Howard Jones – No One Is to Blame

 

 

I want to thank all the many great songwriters and performers who inspire and enrich my blog topics.  This is one of the best “fits” – music to message – yet, I think!  Here’s a great live performance by Howard Jones, very much enjoyed by his audience. 

 

How E-mail Works – THE IRS IS LYING

photo credit (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

photo credit (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Many of you already know the nuts-and-bolts of how e-mail works so you understand that Lois Lerner, the IRS, and the Obama Administration are caught in yet another bald-faced lie when they say her e-mail files are missing.  If you are in this category, you may skip this article and move on to something productive.

I did not intend to write about the IRS scandal because I thought the “big lie” is just so obvious that everybody will see right through it and justice will prevail.  But the controversy goes on.  The corruptocrats are betting they can get away with their contempt of congress, the law, and the taxpayers because there are still enough people who (a) don’t care and (b) don’t understand.  I can’t do much about (a), but I can help with (b).

Let me explain in layman’s terms why it is impossible for Lerner’s IRS e-mails to be lost forever.

Let’s say Yahoo is your mail service provider.  When you write an e-mail and press the “send” key, the e-mail file goes through the internet to Yahoo’s mail server (a large computer system specifically designated for handling e-mails).  A copy of this file is then routed through other internet computers to the recipient you specified.  The file remains on Yahoo’s mail server disk drive, and is also copied to other Yahoo drives for backup protection, permanent storage, and to free up space on the main mail server.  Yahoo keeps many copies of every e-mail you send, and they are retained forever.

Conversely, when someone sends an e-mail to your “@yahoo.com” address, Yahoo’s mail server forwards a copy of the e-mail file to your computer, and saves the file on several of its own disk drives.

You might be thinking “Yeah, but what if I delete the e-mail?”  Well, it won’t show up in your list of e-mails any more, but trust me – it’s still there on Yahoo’s drives.  There is considerable controversy right now over who owns these e-mail files, whether they can be processed and the information from them sold, and whether the government should be allowed access to them.  Do not assume that the content of your e-mails will not be seen by other eyes, or that when you delete an e-mail, it is gone forever.  The big e-mail providers will never destroy any data that has profit potential, and that includes your e-mails.

The process is the same for government computers.   Just change the “@yahoo.com” to “@irs.gov”.  The federal government’s mail servers have multiple backup copies of every e-mail received or sent by everybody who works there.  And outside mail providers have copies of the same e-mail files that they processed on the way to and from their mail clients.

One IRS spokesman said that e-mails are only stored on the federal government’s mail servers for six months and are then deleted.  This contradicts the government’s own policy, which states that the retention requirement for most e-mail records is permanent. Further, it instructs employees:

Once you determine that an e-mail message is an official record, you should ensure that it is kept in an approved file system that satisfies the requirements for recordkeeping set out in points 1 to 5 above. You may, of course, retain your personal copy in your personal e-mail, but you must ensure that the record is placed in an approved file system.

The government contracts with a private data security firm to provide and manage the file backup system.  The defense that Lois Lerner lost her e-mail to a “hard drive crash” on her personal computer ten days after her department was implicated in the scandal, is moot.  And how can we be expected to believe that e-mails from six other key IRS employees were lost at about the same time?  How many times does lightning strike the same spot?

Where is the DOJ?  Where is the FBI?  Where are the terminations, if not criminal prosecutions? This is an outright, in-your-face assault on the taxpaying citizens of the US.  We can’t allow government employees, and the elected officials who direct them, to break the law and cover their tracks without repercussions.  When will we say enough is enough?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Lerner is not the first person to have problems with the mail . . .

Return to sender, address unknown.
No such number, no such zone.
We had a quarrel, a lover’s spat
I write I’m sorry but my letter keeps coming back!

Elvis Presley – Return to Sender

 

I Need ObamaCare – My Head is Exploding!

Exploding headI think I am going to need ObamaCare.  Or some kind of care.  Every time I read the local newspaper, my head wants to explode.

Here’s what I read in the Charlotte Observer today (and what I am thinking in parentheses):

HEADLINE: MATTHEWS EXPLORES CAR-CHARGING STATIONS (Oh, my God, aren’t the Solyndra-type paybacks ever going to end?  Are we ever going to admit that electric cars are a stupid idea in a country with more oil than we could ever use?)

The town of Matthews is exploring a partnership with an Asheville-based company to bring electric-vehicle charging stations to the community. (Partnership.  That means both sides benefit, right?  Let’s follow the money, I have a feeling it will be going in one direction only).

Brightfield Transportation Solutions is offering to install charging stations for free in towns. (Didn’t your dad ever tell you there’s no such thing as a free lunch?)  “We’ve been looking at wanting to do this for the last couple of years, but it’s been cost prohibitive,” said Matthews spokeswoman Annette Privette Keller.  (Ding! Ding! Ding!  Maybe there’s a reason why it’s Cost Prohibitive!  Could it be because NOBODY WANTS IT?  Oh, and anybody who uses three names, one of which is “Privette”, has never ever ever cleaned her own bathroom.) 

Brightfield is working with Nissan, the US Dept. of Energy, Advanced Energy, and Centralina Council of Governments.  (Hmm, let’s see – the money for most of those guys comes exclusively from THE TAXPAYERS.  And I’d be interested to know if Brightfield is an Obama contribution bundler.  If this was a viable deal, wouldn’t they have investors chomping at the bit to get in on the ground floor?).

Matthews has been selected as one of the preferred sites because of its population demographics.  (Let me guess . . . gullible, low-information, high income Obama-Zombies who have no problem taxing the hard-working people and blowing their money on something that nobody wants just because it makes them feel like they are doing something nice for Mother Earth.)

“Matthews has always worked to be PROGRESSIVE . . . and this would be another opportunity for us to be part of a MOVEMENT that we think is going to be SUSTAINABLE in the future,” said Keller.  (There’s three Agenda 21 buzzwords in one sentence.  Let’s just give our credit card info to the United Nations to spend on caviar, blended whiskey and dancing girls for the benevolent dictator of Outer Bendovia.)

The town has two options.  In the first, the town accepts a $50,000 grant (Grant?  Hey, that’s free money!  It just falls out of the sky!  Nobody has to pay for a grant!) and would be responsible for constructing, operating, maintaining and upgrading the station.  (Ummm, wait a minute . . . )  The second option is for the town to enter a 10-year licensing agreement with Brightfield at no cost to the town.  (Kinda sounds like a free lunch again . . .)   The company would collect a fee, expected to be $8 for people to charge their vehicles.  (Boy, my new $40,000 electric car sure is great!  I can drive it for 90 miles, then I just have to take it downtown, plug it in, wait for three hours and pay eight bucks, and then it will run for another 90 miles.  Sounds like fun!)

During the presentation, Keller said that staff recommended the second option.  Once they’ve decided on a location, town staff will complete a GRANT APPLICATION with Brightfield.  (Isn’t it swell of Brightfield to do this wonderful thing for the 262 owners of electric vehicles in Mecklenburg County, population 1 million, maybe two of whom live in Matthews.  And for FREE!   Well, there’s that GRANT thing . . . )

I sure hope they get that ObamaCare website working soon.  My head could explode any minute.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Well, I think I’m going out of my head.
Yes, I think I’m going out of my head.
Over you.
Over you!

Going Out Of My Head – Sergio Mendez and Brazil 66

Okay, there’s no explaining taste.  I have always been a sucker for Sergio Mendez and his corny Brazilian/American samba/bossa/pop music.  Maybe it’s the mini-skirts!  If you get past the schmaltz, there’s some pretty good music in there somewhere – I think . . .

Government Employees: Join Us Conservatives!

US flagThis message is for government employees.

I know most of you are thoughtful people who care about your families and their futures.  You want our nation to be a better place for your children and grandchildren, and you want to be justifiably proud of our nation again.

As our economy has deteriorated, you have been increasingly cursed by conservatives.  You may feel isolated and threatened.  Since your paycheck comes from the taxpayers you can’t respond in public to the punches thrown your way.

It’s time for us to have a little talk – please stick with me to the end of this post.

I am a fiscal conservative.  No shame, no hesitancy, no reservations.  Our federal government, and many state and local governments, have been spending a lot more money than they have taken in for a long time, and this can not continue without devastating results.  I know you understand this basic fact of life.  At $17 trillion dollars and growing, our national debt is epic.

Still, there are grown adults who will not admit that we can not consume more than we produce.  I doubt that the “grasshopper and ant” story is still shared with elementary students, but its lesson about industry and thrift, and the importance of saving for the future is no less true today than it was when our great-grandparents learned it.

A few selfish Americans only want to take, and never give.  Aside from that, the only justification I have heard for government overspending is a misguided belief in Keynesian economics.  It has never worked in the long-term, and we are living the proof of that right now.  We are at the end of the line.

Liberals (and especially the corrupt mainstream media) continue to paint conservatives as stingy, cold-hearted, wild-eyed wing-nuts who don’t care about underdogs.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Most of us are, or were, underdogs.  Conservatives want a better world for all, and have learned from history what makes that happen.   We know that nothing in life worth having is free.

Because I am a critic of government overspending, and because most tax dollars go to salaries, I complain a lot – and loudly – about government employees.  Let me clarify that.

I don’t hate government employees.  The people, I mean.  You are American citizens who raise your families, support churches and charities, go to work and do your best.  Many of you are extraordinarily brave, intelligent, and productive.  Many of you are consummate patriots and put up with a lot of nonsense that most of us would not tolerate.

The problem is our government has outgrown our ability to control it.  There are too many government jobs, many involving work that the framers of our constitution never intended.   Some programs are obsolete, redundant, frivolous, or over-reaching.

Honestly, some government employees have little or nothing constructive to do – not because they are lazy, but because the “system” in which they operate has become dysfunctional.  Corruption in government has grown to epidemic proportions due to the high cost of getting elected, and the profit potential.  As a result, you government employees are forced to do things that you know are not right, and there are some bad actors in lead positions of your agencies and departments.  Also, some of you have been steered by corrupt union leadership that does not always operate in your best interests.

Lately I am hearing from more and more of you honest, concerned government employees who “get it”.  You understand the true state of the union and the extent of the danger, but you may feel you can’t stand up and speak out against the excesses and failures of your employer.

I’m here to wish you courage and strength, and invite you to the “Right Side”.  Please join us.  You can be a major contributor to restoring the fiscal integrity of our great nation.   Support your conservative friends and neighbors.  Teach your children.  Do what you can to cut waste and corruption.  It’s your home too, and your family’s future is much brighter in a free, strong and prosperous economy than in a corrupt, state-controlled society where the top priority is a perceived “fairness” that will ultimately require everyone to be equally miserable.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

People, when things go wrong, as they sometimes will
And the road you travel, it stays all uphill
Let’s work together
Come on, come on, let’s work together
You know together we will stand
Every boy, girl, woman and man

Let’s Work Together – Canned Heat


I Ordered My Free Obama Phone Today!

cell_phonesUpdate 8/7/13:  Some of you are wondering how I ordered my Obama Phone when Assurance Wireless does not offer the program in Montana.  I am currently in North Carolina, but I still have a home in Montana.  I ordered my Obama Phone from Charlotte – I’ll let you know when/if I receive it.  By the way, I ordered this just to prove a point, not to take advantage of you taxpayers!

 

Why are you paying for a cell phone?  Don’t you know that you can get as many cell phones as you want, for free?

Of course we all know that nothing is really free, somebody has to pay for everything, but hey — my friend Barack was re-elected in 2012 because he says it doesn’t matter how much our government spends.  Most Republicans are hiding under their desks in Washington, DC, so it is pretty clear that what we buy or how much debt we have doesn’t matter.  Our buds at the IRS can just tax other people some more, and if we run out we’ll have our friends at the Fed print as much money as we need, right?  Free is good!  Get what you can!  We’re all Democrats now!

Jillian Kay Melchior of the National Review heard that people in her city routinely obtain for free — and then sell — dozens of “Obama Phones”, courtesy of the taxpayers.  She set out to see if it is really that easy to get free Obama Phones.   Jillian learned that under Obama’s “Lifeline” program, pretty much anybody who signs up can receive one or more free Obama Phones from one or more cell phone vendors who aggressively seek out participants.  There is little, if any, verification of eligibility.  Commissioned phone salesmen give away as many as possible and the taxpayers pick up the tab.  Jillian got three free Obama Phones without even really trying.

So this morning I web-searched “Obama Phone”, and here is the number one listing:

ObamaPhone

I filled out the Assurance Wireless on-line application, providing my name and address, and indicating that I would prefer to communicate in English rather than Spanish.  I checked a couple of boxes, answering with complete honesty, and then printed and mailed my application.   Can’t wait to get my new free Obama Phone, along with 250 minutes and 250 text messages per month, forever!  What a deal!  It should be here in a week or so, I’ll give you a call when I get it.

I do feel a little bit guilty, knowing that you taxpayers will pay over $2.4 billion for phones for me and Barack’s other friends this year.  You know, I still get an e-mail from Barack or someone in his office every day asking for $5.  Here’s the one I got today:

Obama Letter

I should probably send Barack a five-spot today, as a thank-you for the cool phone.   Happy Birthday, buddy!  What a guy.  Why would I vote for anyone else?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

No more lonely nights
Will you be alone
All you got to do is
Pick up your telephone
And dial, now
634-5789 (What’s my number)

634-5789 – the Blues Brothers

Detroit Autopsy – Defined Benefits, Union Paybacks

Back in the 1980s I was CFO for a family-owned chain of lumber yards and home centers.  The company had grown to about 300 employees, and was making the transition from a small, easy-going operation to a more fast-paced, modern corporation.

Like most companies of that age and size, mine provided its employees a defined-benefit pension plan.  A defined-benefit plan is one in which employees are guaranteed a specific monthly check at retirement.

There were several problems inherent in these defined benefit plans.  The amount received by the employee after decades of service was actually pretty minimal.   The insurance companies who ran the plans quietly took a huge slice of the pie for their participation, and paid minimal interest on the funds they held.  If an employee changed jobs before he was fully “vested”, he lost most, if not all, of his pension.  And many of these plans were “overfunded”, meaning the company had paid more money into the plan than the employees would ever be able to receive – this cash should be used by the company for some purpose other than making the insurance company richer.

We made the decision to terminate our defined pension plan and convert to a new 401(k) defined contribution plan, which had just been authorized by Congress.  Employees were encouraged to save some money, tax deferred, from every check, and the company generously matched the employee’s contribution.  Employees chose how they wanted to invest their savings, and in no time we all had considerable accounts to look forward to in retirement, which we could take with us if we changed jobs.

The difference between “defined benefit”, which promises security but not prosperity, and “defined contribution”, which offers rewards based on saving and investing, is the difference between “communism” and “capitalism”.

And it is what killed Detroit.  It will kill more cities and states, and perhaps our nation, if we don’t learn this difference and take action now.

Our government union employees are about the only workers left in our country who are promised a guaranteed, and in most cases very lucrative, income at retirement.  Virtually no businesses operate this way.  Our government officials have promised their union employees a great deal more money than they can extract from the taxpayers.  The result is economic disaster.

Maelstrom_of_MoneyHow did this happen?  Simple.  Elected officials control the compensation paid to their union employees as well as the revenues extracted from taxpayers.  Union employees promise to help (with cash and labor) elect the politician.  When elected, the politician pays the union back with higher compensation, using money that is extracted from the taxpayers.  It goes around and around until the government is broke.

We must guard against government growth with every breath.  The framers of our constitution were trying to create a system that would not be subject to the corruption that has eventually destroyed every government in history.   Government must be restricted to only strictly necessary spending, according to the constitution, and let the miracle of free-market economics build our wealth and improve the standard of living for all.

The only way out is to elect officials who will eliminate government employee unions, and stop the unholy cycle of pay-backs. Government employees should be compensated fairly based on actual performance, and compete for their jobs, just as employees in the private sector do.

Before you vote for any elected official, ask him or her for a statement of position on government employee unions.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Too many people need me
I’ve got so much, so much to do
But when my traveling is over
I’ll pay you back with interest
I’ll pay you back with interest

“US Government, Sorry I’m Not Able to Take Your Call”

When any organization gets too big it becomes hard to manage.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be managed.  Many huge companies are very well run.  Most people would agree that our military sets a high bar for disciplined management.  Operationally, at least.

Why is our federal government such a disorganized, inefficient mess?  What is lacking in the federal government world that other large organizations seem to have in abundance?

We do have organizational charts for our federal government.  There is an interactive one online.  Here’s the short version (click to enlarge):

The full version with all of the departments and all 3 million federal employees would probably cover the floor of Cowboys Stadium in a 12-point font. Of course within a nano-second, it would be obsolete.

Most Americans would expect to see our President in the top box.  After all, he has been known to say “the buck stops here,” even while pointing fingers in every direction and blaming historical figures for the nation’s problems.

The official federal org chart has “the Constitution” in the top box.  It would make more sense to me with “We the People” at the top.   We can hire and fire all those below us on the chart.  We can hold the President, the Congress, and (through appointments) the Supreme Court accountable.  It is up to us, as voters, to make sure that everyone in the federal government is doing what we want them to do.

But we citizens don’t agree on much of anything.  Many of us don’t really care how our government operates.  And even if we did, the organization is so huge that we have to rely on layers and layers of managers who we don’t know and will never see.

Is there anything we can do?  Where do we “citizen managers” start?

I think the first thing we should do is check to see who is at work.  Here is my plan, and I would like you to join me.

Go to www.usa.gov and pick out five federal government employees.  It’s really easy to follow the links through the website to identify agencies and administrators at every level.  You might choose agencies in your hometown, or an office in which you are interested.  Or maybe you will just pick names and phone numbers at random.

At 2:30 on any weekday afternoon, or at 1:00 on a Friday, call the people on your list to see who is at work, and who is taking the rest of the day off.

In the unlikely event the federal employee you are calling actually answers the phone, say “Hi, I’m a taxpayer, and I’m just calling to make sure you are on the job.  Thank you!”

If not, leave a message of your choice, maybe something like:  “Hi, I’m your boss, a taxpayer; it’s 2:30 pm and you should be working.  I am going to follow up with your supervisor.”

Here are my random calls at 2:30 this Tuesday afternoon:

  • Rosanna Goodwill – Acting Director of Civil Rights, Federal Railroad Administration:  recording said she is “away from her desk, leave a message.”
  • Neil Moyer – Acting Director of Office of Policy, Federal Railroad Administration:  recording said he is “not available right now, leave a message.”
  • Don E. Watson – Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Advisory Board:  recording said he is “not available to take your call, leave a message.”  I wanted to ask him why we need his agency.

I left messages for each, expressing my disappointment that nobody in federal government is at work this afternoon.

I will allow that there are times when someone is legitimately not able to answer a call.  But I’ll bet the answer rate is under 10% after 2:00 every afternoon.  I have tried this experiment many times, and have never had my call answered.  Not once.

I don’t know if our government employees care if we catch them slacking.  If nobody ever checks on them, they might start to wonder if it matters whether they are there at all.   Anyway, we are the bosses, and we should make at least the minimum effort to supervise our employees.   Please make some calls!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Okay. So no one’s answering.
Well can’t you just let it ring a little longer, longer, longer, ohhhhh!
I’ll just sit tight, through shadows of the night.
And let it ring for evermore.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Telephone Line – Electric Light Orchestra