On Vacation I Got Acute Government-Itis

Hatteras lighthouseWe took a short vacation trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina last week.  Cool place.  But it seems I just can’t go anywhere these days without getting a bad case of government-itis.

For my friends up north, the Outer Banks is a long, narrow strip of sand (peninsulas and islands) on the east coast of North Carolina, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and river inlets to the west.  It is windy, mostly barren, and full of character, featuring eclectic art shops, t-shirts, beach houses, and fabulous seafood restaurants, wrapped up in a laid-back sea-life groove.  Not pretty, but cool.

Anyway, driving south from the civilized part of the OBX, we soon realized we were no longer on privately-owned sand.  The signs (‘Don’t Do This!’ ‘Do That!’ ‘Prohibited!’ ‘No!’ ‘Stop!’ ‘Don’t Even Think About It!’) were a dead giveaway.  We had landed on federal U.S. Park Service turf.

My wife is a lighthouse nut, so we followed the Park Service “Do This” and “Don’t Do That” signs to the Bodie Island Lighthouse parking area and set out across the grass to enjoy the view.  There we ran into a friendly-looking man in a crisp brown Park Service uniform, greeting visitors to the lighthouse.  I’ll call him Mr. Friendly.

We wanted to climb the stairs to see the view and the internals of the lighthouse.  But, unfortunately, it was closed to the public for another week or so.  Mr. Friendly did not know why the government had closed the lighthouse.  But we thought since we were there we should at least learn something about this interesting and still-operating historical landmark.

“How tall is it?”  I asked.  Mr. Friendly frowned.  “Gee, I don’t know.  I heard somebody say something about 160, would that be feet?  Does that make sense?”  he said.

“Well, ” I pressed, “when was it built?”  Again, Mr. Friendly apologized.  “I’m sorry, I just don’t know very much about this place.  I guess I should get a pamphlet or something.  You see, I’ve only been here since Thanksgiving.”

Hmm, Thanksgiving was almost five months ago.  My wife and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised with the same unspoken question: What the hell has Mr. Friendly been doing for the last five months?

We asked him where he was stationed before his post on the Outer Banks.  “Oh, I was in Wyoming!” he beamed.  Being from Montana, we are pretty familiar with Yellowstone Park, and asked him where he lived.  He said he had five houses while he was assigned to Yellowstone, the last one in Gardner, Montana.  Again, we glanced a knowing look at each other.  Several BLM and Park Service employees had told us over the years about the policy that allows management employees to transfer anywhere they wished, at any time, with all expenses paid.  Usually the feds even purchase the employee’s home (with taxpayer money) to make sure there is no hardship of any kind related to the transfer.

We left the Bodie Island lighthouse suffering early government-itis symptoms and headed for the next lighthouse (there’s really not much else to see) at Cape Hatteras.

Again we wove our truck through the Do and Don’t signs.  Again we were not allowed to go up in the lighthouse.  And again we were greeted by a friendly man in a crisp brown uniform.  But this guy knew his stuff!  He was loaded with all kinds of interesting and amusing facts and anecdotes about his lighthouse, and shipwrecks, and German U-Boats.  He attracted a big crowd of fascinated tourists and was happy as a clam to stand in the hot sun and talk with visitors all day.  In fact, he told us he hardly ever takes a day off.  In the world of tourist guides, this guy is Mr. Rockstar!

Then we noticed Mr. Rockstar’s name badge, which revealed that he is a volunteer.

We went into the small museum adjacent to the lighthouse, and passed two surly-looking women seated at empty desks in their crisp brown uniforms with government-employee badges.  I backtracked around several “Don’t” signs and greeted one on the way out.  “Hey, your guide out front is doing a great job,” I reported.  “Hmmph,” Mrs. Crabby snorted.  “He’s new, he doesn’t know anything.”  She turned to the other surly government employee and they quietly hissed to each other, making furtive glances out the door at Mr. Rockstar, who was blissfully entertaining a large and smiling group of tourists.

My acute government-itis flared up.  “Did you know,” I asked my wife, “that the average federal employee compensation is over $120,000 a year?”

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand

I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can

Doctor My Eyes – Jackson Browne

Hurry! Free Lunch! Right Over Here! It’s Free!

free lunchFree!  It’s all free!  Vote for me, and I’ll give you a free college education, free health care, open borders with free everything for every poor person who walks in!  Step right up, it’s free, free, free!

Last night’s Democrat presidential primary was my first good look at the Bernie Sanders Show, and it did not disappoint.  I knew that Sanders is a socialist – a magna cum laude graduate of Robin Hood University.  Still, I just couldn’t picture in my mind a grown man trying to convince people that there IS such a thing as a free lunch.  With a straight face.

The throng of helpless college girls (plus Debbie Wasserman Schultz) screaming lustily for this tired old draft-dodger was bizarrely reminiscent of a Beatles gig at Shea Stadium.  These poor kids apparently had no parents, or at least no adults, to guide them through adolescence.

When I was their age, my hard-working, truck-driving dad drilled his one-line lessons into me enough times that they stuck.  “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” he would say.  “If it looks too good to be true, it’s not true.”  “Nothing that’s free is worth having.”  “If somebody gives you something for free, they want something from you.”

And my everyday experiences have repeatedly proved him right.  My dad made me work all summer to pay for the motorbike I wanted.   I treasured that little Honda and never allowed so much as a speck of dust to tarnish a chrome spoke.  When I outgrew the bike, my Dad bought it from me and gave it to my little brother, who destroyed it within a few weeks.  It was free, so it just didn’t have much value to him.

Have you ever accepted a free weekend at a time-share?  Or a free dinner from a financial planner?  Or a free campaign contribution from General Electric?  All come with “strings attached”.

For decades our public schools and liberal universities have taught us to never question an academic authority. Or a Democrat. Free stuff?  Why not, you deserve it.  If you are poor, you are a hero, and even more deserving!  Don’t ask where all the free stuff will come from! Don’t look behind the curtain at the wizard making all the promises, or question his motives!

I expected it, but the Sanders Show still saddened me deeply.  The $20 trillion national debt (over $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities) was never mentioned.  Nobody wondered whether the rich would remain in the USA when faced with having their wealth stolen. Sanders didn’t even flinch when Hillary pointed out that producing goods and services actually does matter.  Sanders apparently really believes that government handouts grow on trees, and the Freebie Forest will never run out of fruit.

That any adult American can swallow Sanders’ unfiltered Jonestown KoolAid is a terrifying indictment of our failure as parents, educators, and elected officials.

Please grab your kid.  And his teacher.  And make them repeat after you, “There is no such thing as a free lunch . . .  There is no such thing as a free lunch . . . There is no such thing as a free lunch . . .”

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Yeah there was ham and there was turkey,
There was caviar
And long tall glasses, with wine up to “hyar”!
Then somebody grabbed me, threw me outta my chair
Said before you can eat,
You gotta dance like Fred Astaire!

Long Tall Glasses – Leo Sayer

Leo Sayer is still having fun after all these years.  And he says there is no such thing as a free lunch!

We Must Demand Real Federal Budgets

zero based budgetingZero-Based Budgeting is a simple concept, practiced by every family and every company in the USA.  We all determine how much money we will receive for a given period, and then decide how we are going to spend it.  We give priority to necessities, and then, if funds are available, we may indulge in luxuries or less-important items.

In fact the practice is so simple, so obvious, so common-sense that we don’t even give it a thought.  We just do it.  Most Americans would be surprised to learn that our federal government, with the largest budget on planet Earth, does not.   The government simply takes whatever amount each department or agency spent last year, and adds to it.  It is a recipe for economic disaster, and our $18 trillion debt is exactly that.

Last month Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) introduced HR1591, the “Zero-Based Budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight Act of 2015”.  ZERO for short.  It’s his third attempt to bring reason to our federal budget process.

The ZERO Act would require each department to justify all of its spending every year.  Congressman Ross points out that in recent years taxpayers paid $615,000 to digitize Grateful Dead tickets, $442,000 to study male prostitutes in Vietnam, and $2.5 million for a Super Bowl ad.  Neither you, nor I, nor any of our elected representatives authorized that spending.  But it happened because there is no oversight, and under the current “continuing resolution” system, there can’t be.

If ZERO is enacted, departments would have to describe every activity for which funding is requested, provide the legal basis for the activity, and offer three alternative funding levels, two of which would be below the current year’s level.  They would have to provide details on the benefits derived from each activity and any added benefit for increased funding.  Plus, they must show measures of cost efficiency and effectiveness.

Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) told me he and the budget committee “will take up zero-based budgeting as part of budget reform later this summer.”  So far only one congressman, David Jolly (R-FL) has co-sponsored HR1591.

At least three presidential candidates are advocates of Zero-Based Budgeting.  Two of them, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush, are governors who understand budgeting.  The third is Carly Fiorina, a dollar-savvy former CEO to whom ZBB is second nature.  Fiorina told Breitbart News about something I personally experienced as a small business owner:

“I started my career in Washington, D.C. and sold to the federal government. As anyone who has done business with the federal government knows, in the last six weeks of every year, every government agency spends every dime,” she continued. They do that because they want to make sure the appropriations process is focused on the rate of increase for the following year – not what they actually need or whether they actually need to spend it.”

We taxpayers are dropping the ball.  First of all, we don’t understand our own tax returns.  And second, we don’t do a good job of holding our elected officials and the bureaucrats they are supposed to oversee accountable for spending our money.

It is admittedly hard work to budget every year, and to actually plan and prioritize spending.  Families do it.  Businesses do it.  Is it too much to ask of our government officials and employees?  Let’s encourage our congressmen to get behind real budget reform.

This article can be seen in its entirety at Watchdog Arena.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

What’s that honey?
Pick you up at eight?  And don’t be late?
But baby, I ain’t got NOOOOOOOO money, honey!
Oh, all right honey, you know what I like!

Chantilly Lace – the Big Bopper

 

Here’s a fun video about a guy with a budget problem:

 

If I Had a Million Dollars, I’d Live Like a Retired Govt. Worker

Richie_Rich_comic_No_1As a kid I thought it must really be something to be a millionaire.  We read “Richie Rich” comic books and imagined how cool it would be to live in a mansion, with servants and cooks and an indoor swimming pool.

Of course, it was the impossible dream.  Only a rare few Americans could ever be that rich, and they were born to wealthy families.  Still, back then, life was good for most Americans.  Dads went to work, paid the bills, bought modest homes and Chevies, and took the family on a summer road trip to Mount Rushmore.  Moms stayed home, raised the 2.1 kids, attended PTA meetings, and always had a hot, healthy meal ready when Dad came home from work.

What happened?

A million bucks sure isn’t what it used to be.  With CDs paying maybe 1% interest at best, those who worked hard and saved a million dollars can now look forward to a retirement income of – wow – $10,000 a year.  Add that to social security income, of course, but still.   No indoor swimming pool.  No servants.

And it’s not like there are other investment opportunities for retirees.   The only guys making money in the stock market are the hedge fund operators and the machine traders buying and selling at the speed of light.  Municipal bonds pay a couple percent and are tax free – oh that’s right, most city and county governments are bankrupt.

There is one group of really wealthy American retirees.   Retired unionized government workers get guaranteed pensions.  Most receive over $60,000 per year.  There are many government employees who toiled for 25 or 30 hard years, sometimes even working over 35 hours per week behind a hard, cold desk with only 7 weeks of vacation and 15 holidays off each year.  Poor souls, at retirement they must make do with $100k per year plus full medical benefits.

Do the math.  In order to pay a retired teacher $60k per year, we American taxpayers are putting up $6 million at 1% interest.  The retired county engineer who receives a $100k pension requires a taxpayer investment of $10 million to fund his checks.

In an economy where many moms and dads both work long hours and are barely able to feed their families, let alone save anything for retirement, it’s hard to feel sorry for government employees who will retire with multi-million dollar nest eggs.

When I see a headline like this:

Obama Sequester Speech: Republicans Are Putting Economy At Risk To Help The Wealthy

I shake my head in amazement at the level of deceit our President and his followers continue to get away with.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side
If I had a million dollars
We wouldn’t have to walk to the store
If I had a million dollars
We’d take a limousine cause it costs more
If I had a million dollars
We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft dinner

If I Had A Million Dollars – Barenaked Ladies

Govt. Spending Priority List – It’s Upside Down!

upside-downYou might think our free-spending government does not have a priority list.  From all appearances, once they have spent on an item or a program, they will continue to spend on that item or program forever – adding new items and programs to the list, but never removing any.

If we taxpayers wrote a priority list, at the top would be the things that are most important to us, and at the bottom we would put the porky programs that don’t accomplish anything, are obsolete, are wasteful or are flat-out fraudulent.  If we needed to cut the budget, we would go to the bottom of the list and start whacking away.  The stuff at the top would be protected.

The government priority list is the same as ours, except upside-down.  Whenever taxpayers balk at spending more money, or increasing the debt limit, the government threatens to cut the things that are most important to us:

Cut spending?  Why, we’ll have to get rid of all the teachers and firemen!  No social security, either!  And we’ll have to stop national defense completely!  Why, if we cut taxes, we can’t afford to provide any help to the disabled

Of course, we will have to keep funding the Essential Air Service program and subsidizing $3,652 for every airline ticket to Billings – that’s essential!   And how could we cut the subsidies to our campaign contributors in the Green Energy business?  They are broke!  They need our help!  And of course our unionized government employees are entitled to earn double the rate that taxpayers earn, for half the hours of work, and get fat guaranteed pensions at a young age.  How could we cut back there?

no_mosquito_controlWhen I lived in Topeka, KS, we had a mosquito problem every summer.  And the county government milked that baby for all it was worth.  Whenever the county wanted more money for whatever frivolous reason, they would threaten first to stop spraying for mosquitoes.  Worked like a charm.

Oh yes, the government has the same spending priority list we do.   It’s just upside down.



Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Upside down, boy, you turn me
Inside out, and round and round
Upside down, boy, you turn me
Inside out, and round and round

Upside Down – Diana Ross

Didn’t know she could dance!  Watch Diana bust a move with Michael Jackson!

How’s This For A Plan? STOP!

I’m tired of hearing Democrats insisting that the Republicans and conservatives “have no plan”.

The liberal solution to every issue, question, and challenge is a new government “program” that will spend more money and will live forever, even after it fails or is obsolete.  Education is failing?  We must not be spending enough.  Our GDP is not growing?  More government spending.  Our favorite socially-engineered industry (green energy) can’t compete in the real world?  Give them more public money.

So when a Republican does not propose a new “program” featuring more government spending (and debt), that is the equivalent of “doing nothing” or “having no plan”.

Hogwash. Here’s a plan for you.

We must immediately STOP the ridiculous, wasteful government programs already in place that accomplish nothing.  The liberals’ insistence that government spending spurs the economy is deceitful – every dollar government gives to one person or company was taken from another person or company, and a big slice is missing by the time it gets to the receiver due to waste, corruption, and inefficiency.  Government spending, while sometimes necessary, is a proven drag on the economy.  Raising taxes makes it worse, and printing and/or borrowing money to spur the economy just delays the pain.

The quid pro quo, pay-to-play, corrupt paybacks to unions, corporate donors, cronies, and special interest groups must be STOPPED now.

Let’s immediately STOP the attacks and roadblocks on our energy industry by the Obama administration via the EPA and other agencies and aligned special-interest groups.   We have the resources and the technology to become the energy supplier to the world, and could do so quickly.  What do they not like about more jobs, a positive balance of trade, and elimination of the dependence on hostile foreign suppliers?

We can and must immediately STOP the flow of illegal aliens across our borders, most of whom end up collecting welfare.  This isn’t even a choice, as our laws and Constitution require it.

We must STOP throwing good money after bad, doing things the same way out of habit.  We have to STOP politicizing and polarizing every issue and shouting at each other across the ideological divide without even listening for kernels of wisdom that might be on the other side.

And because the stakes are so high, and our fiscal crisis is so urgent, we must focus on economics and STOP wasting time on all the distractions and bogus issues – the class warfare, the make-believe “war on women”, the race-baiting.  Unless we straighten out our fiscal mess, nothing else really matters.

One of the corny, childish jokes from the old Hee Haw television program (yes, you ARE old enough to remember) featured Archie Campbell as the country doctor.  A different patient every week would complain,  “Doc, it hurts when I do this.”  The wise doctor would always give him a whack and yell, “Then DON’T DO THAT!”  Not exactly rocket science, is it?

There are a lot more specifics to the plan of Republicans and conservatives.  But the best parts of their plan include the word STOP!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

It’s time we stop,
Hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s goin’ down

For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield

Our Federal Govt. – Dumb and Dumber

And now, here’s the latest headlines from Right Side News:

  • The IRS estimates they will pay out $21 billion in fraudulant refunds within the next five years.  I bet it’s triple that.  They received 2,137 returns from one address in Michigan in one year.  They sent him $3.3 million dollars in refunds.   It never occurred to the IRS top management to add one line of code to their program that checks for multiple returns or refunds at one address.  By the way, your kids and grandkids will have to pay the $21 billion (or more) back to the Chinese, who loaned it to us so we could give it to the crooks.  Nice work, guys.
  • Our Missile Defense Agency has been putting our top-security computers at risk by downloading porn from Russian web sites.   Well, it’s been kind of slow around the Missile Defense Agency office.  They don’t have anything important to do.
  • In spite of the mind-boggling increase in our national debt, the feds just keep buying more cars, increasing their fleet to 449,000 vehicles.   The taxpayers now provide only one car for every seven federal employees.  But we make it up to them by providing smart phones for all of them.  That way they can watch porn and play Angry Birds without having to use the office computers.
  • The Post Office is now in default, owing billions of dollars on union employee benefits that it can not pay for.   Oh well, it’s okay.  Hey Bernanke, could you start that printing press back up?

And that’s the news for this afternoon.  Actually there’s more, but I think I need a drink . . .

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

We think we know what we’re doin’
That don’t mean a thing
It’s all in the past now
Money changes everything

Money Changes Everything – Cyndi Lauper