Sunday, September 29, 2013

Our Broken Political System ... And Why It Won't Change Anytime Soon

The U.S. political system has long been visibly broken. I guess the good news is that it can't get much worse.

It's also blindingly obvious, however, that the bad news is equally apparent; it won't get better anytime soon either.

So now that we're adding ObamaCare to the other unaffordable rights/entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, the national debt, both official ($17 trillion) and real (~$200 trillion counting promised but underfunded entitlements) will keep piling up each day until the unsustainable bubble finally bursts sometime down the road.

And to add to the shame of it, although we current voters are really sticking it to our offspring and future generations to follow, we don't want to hear any talk about Social Security and Medicare unaffordability (too unpleasant, I guess), so the politicians on either side of the aisle don't even mention it when addressing either the ills or 'wonderfulness' of ObamaCare.

When will it change? Only when We the People demand that the changes that need to take place begin, and we seriously rein in entitlements spending down the road and allow the private sector to take the lead in creating economic growth and new jobs for our citizens.  To paraphrase President Reagan, more and more government knows best "do-gooderism" isn't the answer; it's the problem.

The Beltway Stalemate is subtitled 'Democrats and Republicans have never had such a conflict of visions.'" Here's what it says:

"The debate about military action in Syria seems over for now, and Washington is back in campaign mode. We have a president who seems to have nothing but disdain for those who disagree with him, who forsakes no opportunity to attack congressional Republicans, and who is in full agreement with congressional Democrats that government is the key to creating jobs, prosperity and equality. We have Republicans who feel they cannot trust the president, are more dubious than ever of the government's ability to make the right decisions, and who think such decisions belong instead with individuals, families and businesses. What we don't have is much in the way of an incentive, or even a desire, to compromise.

To a certain extent, this friction reflects the overall coarsening of discourse, but much of it results from the fact that the parties differ so much in their views about how the world works, and those views seem to drift further apart every congressional term. The anti-ObamaCare backlash in the 2010 midterm elections drove many moderate Democrats from office, moving the Democratic caucus to the left. The tea-party influence and efforts by groups like the Club for Growth to fund conservative Republicans have moved the Republican caucus to the right. In an environment of attack ads and 24-hour cable-news bickering and blustering, few Democrats or Republicans want to make any concession to the other party.

At times like this, it is almost impossible for policies and legislation to be evaluated on the merits. That's obviously not an environment conducive to reasoned decision-making. It's a shame, because there are significant policy issues that could be successfully resolved if we could just strip away Washington's nonstop campaign mentality and combative nature.

The largest of these issues is the future of ObamaCare. Any clear-eyed thinking would show that ObamaCare needs to be, at the least, delayed. The law has always suffered from its usurpation of the physician-patient relationship, its infringement on First Amendment freedoms of Christian businesses and entities, and its stifling of the innovation and flexibility our health-care system needs. We now see the Obama administration unilaterally delaying parts of the law, Congress working to ensure members and their staffs are not burdened by the new rules, and concerns that ObamaCare computer systems will be unready for the enrollment that starts in a few days. We continue to find "glitches," price shocks and other surprises throughout the legislation and its related rules.

ObamaCare really is the train wreck we've feared, and a nonpartisan Congress would work together to delay it, fix it, or replace it. Unfortunately, Republicans have so far failed to articulate a market-based alternative, and Democrats fall into two camps—one that truly believes in government control of health care and one that refuses to abandon ship for fear of how it would look to admit their error in ramming through the legislation in 2010.

Tax reform is another area where our nation needs progress, but partisan differences seem to stand in the way. There is broad support in Washington for the theory of tax reform, but the parties are miles apart on the specifics. The White House and congressional Democrats think of tax reform as a way to increase taxes, especially on "the rich," while Republicans want a broader tax base and lower rates. Democrats want to increase and reallocate the tax burden, but Republicans want to remove disincentives for job creation and shrink the burden for all by growing the economy, which they think will happen by making the tax code more efficient.

Almost all the significant issues requiring action in Washington show similar fault lines between the parties. Whether addressing spending control, entitlement reform, gun control, education or energy policy, the White House and congressional Democrats want government in control of the major decisions, while Republicans want individuals, families and businesses interacting in a market to make the decisions.

A study of history, economics and sociology would show that the Republican push for individual responsibility and market-based choice, while never yielding perfect outcomes, is the better approach. Unfortunately, it's unlikely the White House or the Democrats, clinging to their view of government as decision-maker and allocator of resources, will ever agree. Nor do Republicans, who control but one house of Congress, have much power to force the issue. With the parties so far apart in their beliefs, it seems the only way to see movement in Washington is by changing the partisan mix of officeholders. It does not hurt to be reminded every once in a while that elections matter."

Summing Up

We the People get the government we deserve.

Let's hope we start believing that we deserve better than what we're getting now.

Until then, take time to watch the football games this autumn and try to tune out the non-stop B.S. emanating from the politicians and media pundits.

Politics sucks.

Thanks. Bob.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

WHY POLITICS SUCKS .... Today's American Game of All Politics, All the Time

Today's American politics sucks.

In politics, the blame game is on continuously. And in politics, genuine fact gathering, problem recognition and problem solution are invariably missing in action.

Blame the Sequester! reveals another sad and sick current example of American politics in action:

"Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray says sequestration budget cuts might have played a role in Monday's shootings at the Navy Yard.

"We're continuing this investigation," he told CNN Tuesday. "But certainly, as I look at, for example, sequestration, which is about saving money in the federal government being spent, that we somehow skimped on what would be available for projects like this, and then we put people at risk. Obviously, 12 people have paid the ultimate price for whatever—you know, whatever was done to have this man on the base."

It was perhaps inevitable that Democrats would invoke the sequester at some point. It's what they have done repeatedly since the across-the-board federal budget cuts began in March. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has cited sequester cuts in discussing wildfires out West. House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer blamed them after the Boston Marathon bombings. The liberal media is playing along, of course. A recent National Public Radio segment said that the sequester has led to an uptick in suicides on Indian reservations.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray

Opponents of the sequester would have you believe that the government operates at peak efficiency—that there's no fat to trim and so any reduction in spending threatens some critical program or service. The reality, as GOP Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has pointed out, is that there is plenty of government waste out there that's being funded by taxpayers. . . .

The political left doesn't want to check outlays or even prioritize them because they believe that government spending per se is a social and economic good. Their problem with the sequester is not that they think it's causing wildfires and mass shootings, though they are happy to exploit such events."

Summing Up

The Mayor made the case that politics sucks.

Inadvertently, sadly and ignorantly perhaps, but his remarks nevertheless provide a clear picture of today's American political reality.

In other words, what he said is just another glaring example of why AMERICAN POLITICS SUCKS.

Thanks. Bob.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Syria ... Russia Leads The Way ... But To Where?

Here's food for thought about what I believe to be Russia's "unserious" politically based proposal to remove chemical weapons from its ally Syria.

Leading From Behind (Russia)? says this about the history of the trustworthiness of Russia:

"Now that the Russians have proposed, and the Obama administration is seriously considering, a way for Syria to avoid U.S. military strikes by relinquishing its chemical stockpile, maybe it's a good time to take a look at Moscow's own history with chemical weapons.

Since 1997, Russia has been a party to the "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction." The CWC, as it's known, now includes more than 180 countries.

Yet according to a 2011 State Department report, "The United States is unable to ascertain whether Russia has met its obligations for declaration of its [chemical weapons], CW development facilities, and CW stockpiles, and whether Russia is complying with the CWC-established criteria for destruction and verification of its CW." Moreover, State says that this has been a problem for some time.

"The United States has engaged in numerous exchanges with Russia regarding a number of compliance issues in 2002, 2003, and 2006, during which the United States discussed the accuracy of Russia's CWC declaration," the report says. "In 2006 and again in 2010 the United States reiterated its proposal to hold expert-level consultations, but, as of July 2010, Russia had not yet agreed to renew such consultations."

So there you have it. Russia is a country that has repeatedly used its position on the United Nations Security Council to block resolutions condemning the use of chemical weapons. And it has failed to comply with treaties that concern its own stockpile. Yet the White House is counting on Russia to lead the way on Syria?"

Summing Up

Politics sucks.

Thanks. Bob.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What's $250 Billion Among Friends? ... Another Lesson In Why Politics Sucks

Government spending is being "sequestered" yet the sky hasn't fallen.

Ever wonder why?

Well, Senator Coburn has a list of $250 billion reasons.

The Sequester Enforcer has the story:

"President Obama has made ending the sequester caps next year a top priority in budget negotiations with Congress. But he'll have a hard time convincing Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Mr. Coburn has taken on the role of sequester defender and in a highly effective way.

When the White House attempted to cut high-priority programs like the air traffic control system, it was Mr. Coburn who instantly publicized scores of other places the Department of Transportation could find savings. When the Agriculture Department was threatening to cut food safety inspections earlier this year, it was Mr. Coburn who pointed out that the agency seemed to have plenty to spend on promoting pickles, Bloody Mary mix and wine. The Interior Department warned of cuts to forest fire prevention, and it was Mr. Coburn who asked why the agency wasn't cutting funds for sheep studies and beaver conferences.
Mr. Coburn has created a website with lists of low-priority programs that should be terminated. The savings add up to more than $250 billion in waste. "This isn't just nickel-and-dime stuff," one of his aides says. Mr. Coburn has also sent letters to agency heads urging them to make smart cuts to waste and duplication and not to cut sensitive services.

But the Oklahoma senator could soon run into opposition from his own party over Defense Department spending reductions. House Republicans have cut deeper into domestic programs (below the caps) in order to raise Pentagon spending. Mr. Coburn opposes that move because it could undermine the spending caps Democrats have agreed to. Besides, there's waste in the Defense Department, too, he argues. He calls DOD the "department of everything" because it funds everything from medical research to green energy projects. Just this week DOD announced that it would delay for a year passing a financial audit for most activities. A full audit won't be available until 2017. Mr. Coburn's response is to stick with the automatic cuts at least until the agency can pass an audit.

Which is to say that Mr. Obama and Democrats face a formidable adversary in dismantling the sequester."

Summing Up

Politics sucks.

But not all politicians play the game the way the "insiders" do.

Thanks for that, Senator Coburn.

Why aren't there more public servants interested in serving the public rather than themselves?

Thanks. Bob.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Benching Uncle Sam? ... Let's Not Do That

A great editorial appears in today's Wall Street Journal. At least I believe it's great and for that reason want to share it with you in its entirety. Please read and reflect on the larger meaning associated with Syria and our role in the world, including our nation's prosperity and peace.

The editorial is all about whether as a nation of equals we're ready to throw in the towel and bench Uncle Sam or instead decide to fight for the America We the People have been blessed to receive from those who came before us.

The Benching of Uncle Sam says this:

"David Axelrod on Saturday gave his opinion on the situation in Syria with a tweet on Twitter: "Congress is now the dog that caught the car." On Wednesday, the president of the United States retweeted Mr. Axelrod's 43-character analysis. He said in Stockholm that the credibility at stake in the decision on Syria isn't his. Instead, it is "America's," and "Congress's credibility," and the "international community's credibility." Mr. Obama looks like the dog who ran away from the car.

The purpose of Mr. Obama's fantastic statements Wednesday could not be more obvious: He is trying to drive the Republicans into a "no" vote on the Syria resolution. He is shirking presidential responsibility for the U.S.'s role in the world. He doesn't want that responsibility.

The GOP should not be a party to this abdication. It should vote for a resolution authorizing Mr. Obama to act militarily in Syria. After that bipartisan vote, it will be Barack Obama who caught the presidency.

With the presidency comes the job of commander in chief. He never wanted that job. He wanted to let the U.S.'s global status decline while he dallied at home with windmills, college rankings and health data.

Now he has to step up. An authorization vote on a discrete world crisis will force the inconstant Mr. Obama to focus and think about the world with the seriousness it requires from the president of the United States.

Republicans should support an authorization on Syria for the same reason they are opposing him on ObamaCare: to stop America's decline. Whether by design or incompetence, Barack Obama's policies are putting in motion a historic American reversal at home and abroad.

If this were September 2015, it wouldn't matter. But we are little more than eight months into Mr. Obama's second four years. A responsible and loyal opposition would recognize that it is not in the interests of the U.S., or the world, to have an irreparably damaged U.S. president this early in his second term.

Americans, including those in Congress, wake up every day to a country that was handed to them by earlier generations of Americans after World War II. The United States had become the world's pre-eminent nation. Great nations, however, are not like planets passing through the sky in fixed orbits. They can drop.

Republicans understand the dangers of domestic economic decline. That is why they are opposing this president on ObamaCare, spending and the national debt.

Growth in the Obama years has hovered around 2%, way off the century-long average of 3.3% that produced abundance and prosperity for the U.S. Signs of economic revival have begun to appear, but the Obama economic agenda is a structural impediment to the sustained, higher growth rates that produced the American Century.

A less prosperous America is acceptable to Barack Obama and his progressive supporters, who have convinced themselves that the distribution of wealth in the U.S. since its founding has been "unjust." If public policy can forcibly redistribute U.S. wealth, a lower level of economic growth is acceptable. Relative to America's achievement, this will be decline.

What is unique about the Obama presidency is that American decline as a world power won't, as with Europe, be the unhappy result of wealth redistribution. It is part of Mr. Obama's agenda. In future crises, Mr. Obama said in his 2009 Cairo speech and elsewhere, the U.S. would act only after building "international consensus," which meant the United Nations or the faded European allies. An Obama aide called this "leading from behind." That is what the U.S. did in Libya. This partnership-of-equals policy was the basis for the failed Russian reset.

In short, Barack Obama's view of the U.S. role in the world is that the time has come to bench Uncle Sam.

The end of what they call "the American imperium" is a policy goal progressive activists have sought for decades. If Republicans vote to defeat a resolution on using military power against Assad, whose victory may let Iran and Russia achieve hegemony in the Middle East, it will be a vote to take Uncle Sam out of the world power game.

That will give Barack Obama a reason to proceed with the downsizing of America at home and in the world for the rest of his term. The depressed GOP hawks on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who voted on Wednesday against authorization are merely enabling this outcome.

This will put the U.S. in a very bad place. Those who think their president can begin reversing all this in 2017 are dreaming. A sinking world power is the heaviest lift imaginable. Ask Winston Churchill.

Legitimate questions exist about a Syria resolution—about goals, means and the status of the opposition forces—and they should be addressed. But that's not the issue being raised here. The American decline put in motion under this presidency is real, not speculative. We are not at the edge of the cliff, but in September 2013 we are at a serious inflection point.

As they vote, the Republicans in Congress should make clear that they understand the historic stakes. The American people, who the last time I looked weren't interested in throwing in the towel, will appreciate hearing something that sounds like leadership."

Summing Up

Politics sucks.

Leadership isn't about popularity.

Politics is all about popularity and getting elected and then re-elected.

That's why politics sucks.

And that's why we can't tolerate much more of business as usual by our elected "public servants."

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Math Help Needed ... Please Consider Joining the New "learning Center" Effort

For those of you who know math, please consider helping solve a problem related to the "why" and "basic meaning" of learning and knowing math.

Please go to and read yesterday's post by my son Chad titled "It's not a School".

Then click on the "read more" section at the bottom of the post where the math problem for youngsters, for which a dumb oldster like me can offer no help, is revealed at the very end of the post.

Then, unless you're dumb like me, please take the time to comment in the comments section. You'll be doing a public service and feel good while doing so.

I would sincerely appreciate your involvement in our exciting new "venture", and I know Chad and the young students would as well.

We're trying to build a learning community of young people, and this is an opportunity for you to join the fray.

Distance and online learning is in!

Thanks. Bob.

Monday, September 2, 2013

American Leadership, Politics, President Obama and Congress

Syria is on everyone's mind these days. So should be America's role as world leader.

We are coming close to becoming just another feckless and directionless "domestic politics first and foremost" country when it comes to our political leaders saying what they (and therefore we) mean and meaning what they (and therefore we) say. At least that's my take.

Leading From Behind Congress is subtitled 'Obama recklessly gambles with American credibility' and captures my sentiments exactly:

"President Obama's Syrian melodrama went from bad to worse on Saturday with his surprise decision to seek Congressional approval for what he promises will be merely a limited cruise-missile bombing. Mr. Obama will now have someone else to blame if Congress blocks his mission, but in the bargain he has put at risk his credibility and America's standing in the world with more than 40 months left in office.

This will go down as one of the stranger gambles, if not abdications, in Commander in Chief history. For days his aides had been saying the President has the Constitutional power to act alone in response to Syria's use of chemical weapons, and that he planned to do so. On Friday, he rolled out Secretary of State John Kerry to issue a moral and strategic call to arms and declare that a response was urgent.

But on Friday night, according to leaks from this leakiest of Administrations, the President changed his mind. A military strike was not so urgent that it couldn't wait for Congress to finish its August recess and vote the week of its return on September 9. If the point of the bombing is primarily to "send a message," as the President says, well, then, apparently Congress must co-sign the letter and send it via snail mail.

It's hard not to see this as primarily a bid for political cover, a view reinforced when the President's political consigliere David Axelrod taunted on Twitter that "Congress is now the dog that caught the car." Mr. Obama can read the polls, which show that most of the public opposes intervention in Syria. Around the world he has so far mobilized mainly a coalition of the unwilling, with even the British Parliament refusing to follow his lead. By comparison, George W. Bush on Iraq looks like Metternich.

But what does anyone expect given Mr. Obama's foreign-policy leadership? Since he began running for President, Mr. Obama has told Americans that he wants to retreat from the Middle East, that the U.S. has little strategic interest there, that any differences with our enemies can be settled with his personal diplomacy, that our priority must be "nation-building at home," and that "the tide of war is receding." For two-and-a-half years, he has also said the U.S. has no stake in Syria.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the ongoing situation in Syria in the Rose Garden of the White House on Aug. 31.

The real political surprise, not to say miracle, is that after all of this so many Americans still support military action in response to Syria's use of chemical weapons—50% in the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC poll. Despite his best efforts, Mr. Obama hasn't turned Americans into isolationists.

A Congressional vote can be useful when it educates the public and rallies more political support. A national consensus is always desirable when the U.S. acts abroad. But the danger in this instance is that Mr. Obama is trying to sell a quarter-hearted intervention with half-hearted conviction.

From the start of the Syrian uprising, these columns have called for Mr. Obama to mobilize a coalition to support the moderate rebels. This would depose an enemy of the U.S. and deal a major blow to Iran's ambition to dominate the region.

The problem with the intervention that Mr. Obama is proposing is that it will do little or nothing to end the civil war or depose Assad. It is a one-off response intended to vindicate Mr. Obama's vow that there would be "consequences" if Assad used chemical weapons. It is a bombing gesture detached from a larger strategy. This is why we have urged a broader campaign to destroy Assad's air force and arm the moderate rebels to help them depose the regime and counter the jihadists who are gaining strength as the war continues.

The very limitations of Mr. Obama's intervention will make it harder for him to win Congress's support. He is already sure to lose the votes of the left and Rand Paul right. But his lack of a strategy risks losing the support of even those like GOP Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have long wanted America to back the Syrian rebels.

Yet now that Mr. Obama has tossed the issue to Congress, the stakes are far higher than this single use of arms in Syria or this President's credibility. Mr. Obama has put America's role as a global power on the line.

A defeat in Congress would signal to Bashar Assad and the world's other thugs that the U.S. has retired as the enforcer of any kind of world order. This would be dangerous at any time, but especially with more than three long years left in this Presidency. Unlike the British in 1956, the U.S. can't retreat from east of Suez without grave consequences. The U.S. replaced the British, but there is no one to replace America.

The world's rogues would be further emboldened and look for more weaknesses to exploit. Iran would conclude it can march to a nuclear weapon with impunity. Israel, Japan, the Gulf states and other American friends would have to recalculate their reliance on U.S. power and will.


These are the stakes that Mr. Obama has so recklessly put before Congress. His mishandling of Syria has been so extreme that we can't help but wonder if he really wants to lose this vote. Then he would have an excuse for further cutting defense and withdrawing America even more from world leadership. We will give him the benefit of the doubt, but only because incompetence and narrow political self-interest are more obvious explanations for his behavior.

All of which means that the adults in Congress—and there are some—will have to save the day. The draft language for authorizing force that Mr. Obama has sent to Congress is too narrowly drawn as a response to WMD. Congress should broaden it to give the President more ability to respond to reprisals, support the Syrian opposition and assist our allies if they are attacked.

The reason to do this and authorize the use of force is not to save this President from embarrassment. It is to rescue American credibility and strategic interests from this most feckless of Presidents."

Summing Up

Let's all think carefully about what the above editorial has to say about America's role in the world as the rhetoric heats up in Washington and around the world this week.

In my view, it's sad but true.

And that's my Labor Day take on things.

Thanks. Bob.