Happy New Year!

As 2013 rings in, it seems that bad news is all around us.  But rather than harping about the exploding national debt, the consequences of another four years of Obama, health care, Islamic Caliphate, etc., let’s focus on the good news.  The Mayans were wrong and the World didn’t end on December 21, 2012.  And despite what you might see on the evening news, the crime rate is down.

According to the FBI, the violent crime rate in America has been steadily falling for decades.  The 2011 crime rate was only half of what it was twenty years ago.  The murder rate has also been halved over that same period.  Great news, right?  Yes, but you’ll never see that being reported on MSNBC or CNN, because it doesn’t fit their narrative.

In 2011, there were 12,664 murders in the U.S. using a variety of different murder weapons.  1,694 were committed with knives, 1,659 were committed with other objects like hammers or baseball bats, 728 were committed using hands and feet only, 356 were committed with shotguns, and 323 were committed using rifles.   There is currently no easy way of determining the actual type of rifle from the FBI crime date available online, but you can assume that the “assault” rifle category is somewhat smaller than 323.  So what has the hysteria that has followed the horrific crime in Sandy Hook brought? –  An assault on our constitutionally protected rights in the renewed effort to ban “assault” type weapons.

For comparison, in 2010 there were 10,228 deaths caused by drunk driving.  We should ban drunk driving, oh wait, we already did.  About 17,000 people die each year from illegal drug use.  We should ban illegal drugs, oh wait.  Over the past five years, over 3,500 people on average drown each year in America.  About half of those deaths occurred in swimming pools.  We should ban swimming pools.  About 411 people are electrocuted each year.  We should ban electricity.

You see, the left believes in the fallacy that fewer guns would result in fewer crimes, but in fact, the complete opposite is true.  More guns actually REDUCE crime.  In Switzerland, the government actually issues guns to most households.    Their homicide by gun rate is one of the lowest on the planet at 0.52 per 100,000.   In the US, many surveys have been conducted to determine the number of legal self-defense uses of guns (DGUs) by law abiding citizens.  Most of the surveys put the number between 800,000 and 2.5 million DGUs per year.  The one outlier survey, conducted by badge-wearing federal employees in face to face interviews, put the number at 108,000 DGUs per year.  These numbers are completely ignored by the left.  It’s funny that they have no problem believing in the number of “jobs saved” by the stimulus, but refuse to acknowledge the number of crimes prevented by guns.  Guns are like seatbelts.  They save lives every day, but occasionally they can kill you.  How many times have you heard about a car wreck where the driver or passenger was lucky to be thrown from the vehicle? It’s not 100%, but the good significantly outweighs the bad.

Most people are completely ignorant when it comes to firearms in the first place.  They hear terms like “semi automatic” and “assault rifles” and “high capacity magazines” and conjure up images of something that our troops are using in Afghanistan.   So here are a few pointers for those of you who were not brought up around guns.  A semi automatic weapon means that the gun will shoot ONE bullet each time the user pulls the trigger, without halving to reload or do anything in between.  Just like an old cowboy six-shooter, pull the trigger and the gun goes “bang”.   Technically, a semi automatic also ejects the spent shell casing (which is not true of revolvers) but the result is the same.  Put six bullets in the gun, pull the trigger six times = six dead bad guys.  Some shotguns are also semi automatic.  My Remington model 1100 that I’ve had since 9th grade is a semi auto.  It will hold 5 “bullets”:  one in the chamber and up to four in the “magazine.”  Put 5 shotgun shells in and pull the trigger 5 times = 5 dead ducks (hopefully).  Some shotguns are not semi auto, like pump-action or single shot models.  Pump shotguns require the user to manually eject the spent shell after each shot by “racking” the forward stock of the gun back and forth.  A good hunter can do this about as fast as someone with a semi auto.  With a pump, put 5 shells in, pull+pump 5 times = 5 dead ducks.  Single-shot or double barrel shotguns require the user to open the gun to remove the spent shell or shells and reload between shots.  This takes considerably longer between firings.  Put 1 shell in gun, 4 in pocket, pull trigger + open gun + remove shell + load new shell + close gun = 1 dead duck and 4 lucky ones that flew away.

“Assault” type weapons are just a legal term.  The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was a ten year ban on firearms having certain characteristics like folding stocks, pistol grips, or weighing more than a certain amount.  It expired in 2004.  However, many people still incorrectly equate “assault” weapons with machine guns.  Machine guns are fully automatic weapons, i.e. put 20 bullets in, pull and hold trigger once = 20 bangs.  Machine guns are already illegal in the U.S. and there is no legitimate effort underway to make them legal that I’m aware of.

Check out these sources for yourself:









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Why America is Different Today

On March 23, 2010, the conservative nation watched in horror as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare, was signed into law. Although most agreed that healthcare reforms were needed, many felt that the underhanded tactics, parliamentary tricks, and blatant disregard for public opinion, used to push the bill through Congress, were atrocious. Aside from the obvious expansion of government and the many horrors that were ultimately discovered in the new law, many Americans truly felt that Congress had overreached its constitutional authority with the individual mandate. The individual mandate was particularly controversial because, with it, the government asserts to monetarily “force” people into commerce, i.e. buying insurance. Surely, this power was precluded somewhere in the Constitution. This sentiment was shared by many, leading to lawsuits being filed by 27 states to challenge this law.

Albeit a potentially naive conviction, most conservatives, libertarians and other rational thinkers across the nation felt there was no justification within the enumerated powers bestowed upon the federal government that would allow the people to be forced into buying something. Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling dismantled that notion. Regardless of where the authority was found, the outcome was the same. The highest court in the land decrees that the federal government does indeed have the power to force people to buy things. Some would argue that this isn’t a new power, that the government has been able to do that all along. Well, the court obliviously agrees that that assertion has always existed, though contrary to common sense.

Well, it’s no longer an uncertainty, it is now precedent. The federal government, through forfeit of fortune, seizure of private property or imprisonment, can coerce free Americans into contracts with other parties. Don’t think the IRS can’t seize your property or charge you criminally for tax evasion.

I contend that America is not the same as it was before the ruling. The difference is that a majority of Americans assumed that the constitution protected them from “commerce by coercion”. Today, they face the harsh reality that it was only a false sense of security.

Allow me this analogy. Walter has three happy, healthy children whom he loves deeply. Although he shares the normal concerns and worries that come along with parenthood, he has no reason to suspect that anything is seriously wrong with him or his family. They are happy, content, and secure. Until one day, Walter learns that his children all have a terminal genetic disorder. The disease has been with them from birth but went undetected. Walter’s world has been turned upside down. His reality has been altered. He knows now that the path forward is no longer how he envisioned it would be. Do you think that Walter would find comfort in the notion that things weren’t really different at all? I mean the doctor didn’t make his kids sick with the diagnosis, they were sick all along.

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It Was Fun While It Lasted!

It’s official. The Supreme Court has interpreted the US Constitution, the very document which established our limited federal government, to mean that our federal government has no limits. After 236 years, it’s over. There’s no more reason to celebrate this July 4. Americas founding principles have all been eroded. All that was fought for, has been given away. We might as well have remained British subjects. If the government can tax you if you don’t buy health insurance, then there is nothing to stop them from taxing you if you don’t buy broccoli, or buy an American car, or for not using sunscreen.

The Stamp Act of 2012 (formerly known as ObamaCare) has proven that our freedom was just an illusion. We are the subjects of his majesty, Uncle Sam. The Supreme Court can now safely be dismantled. It no longer has a mission, since it’s intended purpose (to restrain the other branches of government to the confines of the Constitution) has become moot. Evidently, there are no limits left to protect.

For those of you who refuse to acknowledge this fact because you see the result (in this specific case, i.e. healthcare) has a good thing for America, I say don’t be foolish. Celebrate with caution. Regardless of the morality or nobility of the cause, the door has been opened. The seal is broken. The slippery slope is open for business and season passes are on sale.

The merits or benefits of the ObamaCare law are irrelevant to this decision. The end does not justify the means. The vehicle by which we have arrived at this betrayal is now available for all to use. What happens when there is a different president, or another crisis, or some other impetus for “reform” ? What if it’s something that you don’t like next time?

Join a union or pay a tax. Exercise regularly or pay a tax. Wanna grow a garden? – pay a tax.

My fellow comrades, this is the real story about today’s decision. We can obscure this with heated debate of the health care law, but the real losers today were not the ObamaCare opponents. Rather, the center pillars of the American idea, the protection of individual liberty from the tyranny of government, have been weakened to the point where they are structurally unsafe.

How is this possible in America? Evidently because 5 people said so. In today’s 5-4 decision, the individual mandate has been ruled a “tax”, and a big one at that. A tax which will disproportionately affect, you guessed it, the middle class. So much for Obama’s promise not to raise taxes on the middle class. He now presides over the largest middle class tax increase in history. Where’s the 99% now?

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The Contract

This is a story about a group of entrepreneurs that had the idea to form a company together.  Each had their own set of talents and resources and had been very successful on their own, but they believed they could be far more successful as a partnership.  Since many companies had failed in the past, the entrepreneurs were quite apprehensive about the idea, having concerns about how the new company would be run, who would be in control, etc.  All being independent and proud, each partner had their own ideas on how the company should be formed and managed.  So they spent much time comparing ideas and thinking about ways to protect the new company, and each other, should the company struggle or become extremely successful.   Their solution was to draw up with a contract that laid out the rules for how the new company would be organized, how it would be run, its mission, the profit sharing strategy, priorities, etc.  They envisioned many potential problems that may arise and planned for those in the contract to prevent rash decisions by some partners based on emotion, conflict or crisis.  After finally agreeing on the details, they each signed the contract and began their new company.

It wasn’t long before the new company became wildly successful.  It immediately attracted investors from everywhere.  People were flocking to this new company.  The company grew and grew and became one of the largest companies in the world.  The growth, though, didn’t come without growing pains.  Occasionally, they realized that they didn’t think of everything in the original contract and had to make a slight change.  To do this, they needed the consent of all of the partners.  When everyone agreed the change was necessary, they signed an amended contract and continued enjoying their great success.

The contract was not just about the partners, it provided incentives and bonuses to the employees while protecting them from unfair treatment by their supervisors.  Employees were free to set their own hours, come and go as they please, and work in any department that they wished.  Hard workers were rewarded for their efforts and became wealthy.  Everyone realized quickly that the success of the company was really due to the contract that the partners had thought out long before.

Every now and then, a group of new investors or employees came up with their own ideas about how the company should be managed.  They would try to impose their new ideas by pleading to the partners to change the contract to allow it.  When the partners would not agree, the group tried to use other means.  They thought that if they could find loop holes in the contract, they could exploit them so the partners would no longer have control over the company.  If they could find a judge to interpret certain paragraphs of the original contract a different way, then they could slowly tear away some of the constraints imposed by the contract.  You see, despite the unimaginable success of the company, some folks wanted to change the rules.

The company lasted for a long time.  Eventually, all of the original partners died but the company continued and remained strong.  The partners’ spirit and their contract still lived within the company.  However, the partners’ death made it even easier for judges to reinterpret their contract.  The contract came under constant attack.  Every crisis, conflict or fad that came about caused people to question the contract and seek out ways to change it.  They claimed that the contract was old and outdated -saying it didn’t apply to the company of that day.  Despite the company’s huge success, which many attribute to the contract, some said the document was meaningless and the company didn’t really need it to be successful.  Some would even go as far to say that if we can’t change the contract to our liking, then it would be best for the company to go bankrupt and start all over again.

My friend, America’s contract is our Constitution.  It is not just some relic of the American Revolution; it is the foundation of our success.  It is the “spirit” of America.  For those that want to change it, there is a process for that.  Article V says that all that is needed to amend our “contract” is for Congress to pass a joint resolution by 2/3 majority and then for 3/4 of the states to ratify it.  The President isn’t even involved in the process.  This is the established procedure for change.  It shouldn’t occur behind closed doors by secret directives or circumvented by the reinterpretations of activist judges.

The liberal left in this country remind me of spoiled teenagers that don’t want to live by their parents’ rules anymore.  They are misguided “know-it-alls” that roll their eyes at the Constitution and believe the end justifies the means and are willing to disregard America’s founding principles to achieve their “moral” objective.

Conservatives see the Constitution as the lifeblood of our country. We know that without it, tyranny is inevitable.  Whether it be under a impassionate King, brutal dictator or 535 elitists – freedom will ultimately be lost forever.



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Obama = Big Government

The 1930s witnessed the largest expansion of Federal government in our lifetime, until now.  The New Deal under Franklin D. Roosevelt created a multitude of new government agencies which in turn created thousands of new regulations and bureaucracy that transformed America.  This is “big government”.

Government Agencies created under “New Deal”:

  1. Administrative Procedure Act
  2. Agricultural Adjustment Act
  3. Bureau of Federal Credit Unions
  4. California State Relief Administration
  5. Camp William James
  6. Civil Works Administration
  7. Civilian Conservation Corps
  8. Commodity Credit Corporation
  9. Defense Homes Corporation
  10. Drought Relief Service
  11. Farm Security Administration
  12. Federal Art Project
  13. Federal Communications Commission
  14. Federal Crop Insurance Corporation
  15. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  16. Federal Emergency Relief Administration
  17. Federal Housing Administration
  18. Federal Music Project
  19. Federal Project Number One
  20. Federal Security Agency
  21. Federal Surplus Relief Corporation
  22. Federal Theatre Project
  23. Federal Works Agency
  24. Federal Writers’ Project
  25. Historical Records Survey
  26. Home Owners’ Loan Corporation
  27. Indian Reorganization Act
  28. Johnson–O’Malley Act
  29. Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division
  30. National Labor Board
  31. National Labor Relations Act
  32. National Youth Administration
  33. Potato Control Law
  34. Public Works Administration
  35. Public Works of Art Project
  36. Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration
  37. Reconstruction Finance Corporation
  38. Recreational Demonstration Area
  39. Resettlement Administration
  40. Rural Utilities Service
  41. Social Security Administration
  42. Subsistence Homesteads Division
  43. Tennessee Valley Authority
  44. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  45. United States Housing Authority

On the other hand, President Obama, in just his first year in office, managed to create the following new government agencies with ObamaCare.  This is just one bill.

Government agencies created under ObamaCare (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act):

  1. Grant program for consumer assistance offices (Section 1002, p. 37)
  2. Grant program for states to monitor premium increases (Section  1003, p. 42)
  3. Committee to review administrative simplification standards  (Section 1104, p. 71)
  4. Demonstration program for state wellness programs (Section 1201, p.  93)
  5. Grant program to establish state Exchanges (Section 1311(a), p. 130)
  6. State American Health Benefit Exchanges (Section 1311(b), p. 131)
  7. Exchange grants to establish consumer navigator programs (Section  1311(i), p. 150)
  8. Grant program for state cooperatives (Section 1322, p. 169)
  9. Advisory board for state cooperatives (Section 1322(b)(3), p. 173)
  10. Private purchasing council for state cooperatives (Section  1322(d), p. 177)
  11. State basic health plan programs (Section 1331, p. 201)
  12. State-based reinsurance program (Section 1341, p. 226)
  13. Program of risk corridors for individual and small group markets  (Section 1342, p. 233)
  14. Program to determine eligibility for Exchange participation  (Section 1411, p. 267)
  15. Program for advance determination of tax credit eligibility  (Section 1412, p. 288)
  16. Grant program to implement health IT enrollment standards (Section  1561, p. 370)
  17. Federal Coordinated Health Care Office for dual eligible  beneficiaries (Section 2602, p. 512)
  18. Medicaid quality measurement program (Section 2701, p. 518)
  19. Medicaid health home program for people with chronic conditions,  and grants for planning same (Section 2703, p. 524)
  20. Medicaid demonstration project to evaluate bundled payments  (Section 2704, p. 532)
  21. Medicaid demonstration project for global payment system (Section  2705, p. 536)
  22. Medicaid demonstration project for accountable care organizations  (Section 2706, p. 538)
  23. Medicaid demonstration project for emergency psychiatric care  (Section 2707, p. 540)
  24. Grant program for delivery of services to individuals with  postpartum depression (Section 2952(b), p. 591)
  25. State allotments for grants to promote personal responsibility  education programs (Section 2953, p. 596)
  26. Medicare value-based purchasing program (Section 3001(a), p. 613)
  27. Medicare value-based purchasing demonstration program for critical  access hospitals (Section 3001(b), p. 637)
  28. Medicare value-based purchasing program for skilled nursing  facilities (Section 3006(a), p. 666)
  29. Medicare value-based purchasing program for home health agencies  (Section 3006(b), p. 668)
  30. Interagency Working Group on Health Care Quality (Section 3012, p.  688)
  31. Grant program to develop health care quality measures (Section  3013, p. 693)
  32. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Section 3021, p. 712)
  33. Medicare shared savings program (Section 3022, p. 728)
  34. Medicare pilot program on payment bundling (Section 3023, p. 739)
  35. Independence at home medical practice demonstration program  (Section 3024, p. 752)
  36. Program for use of patient safety organizations to reduce hospital  readmission rates (Section 3025(b), p. 775)
  37. Community-based care transitions program (Section 3026, p. 776)
  38. Demonstration project for payment of complex diagnostic laboratory  tests (Section 3113, p. 800)
  39. Medicare hospice concurrent care demonstration project (Section  3140, p. 850)
  40. Independent Payment Advisory Board (Section 3403, p. 982)
  41. Consumer Advisory Council for Independent Payment Advisory Board  (Section 3403, p. 1027)
  42. Grant program for technical assistance to providers implementing  health quality practices (Section 3501, p. 1043)
  43. Grant program to establish interdisciplinary health teams (Section  3502, p. 1048)
  44. Grant program to implement medication therapy management (Section  3503, p. 1055)
  45. Grant program to support emergency care pilot programs (Section  3504, p. 1061)
  46. Grant program to promote universal access to trauma services  (Section 3505(b), p. 1081)
  47. Grant program to develop and promote shared decision-making aids  (Section 3506, p. 1088)
  48. Grant program to support implementation of shared decision-making  (Section 3506, p. 1091)
  49. Grant program to integrate quality improvement in clinical  education (Section 3508, p. 1095)
  50. Health and Human Services Coordinating Committee on Women’s Health  (Section 3509(a), p. 1098)
  51. Centers for Disease Control Office of Women’s Health (Section  3509(b), p. 1102)
  52. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Office of Women’s  Health (Section 3509(e), p. 1105)
  53. Health Resources and Services Administration Office of Women’s  Health (Section 3509(f), p. 1106)
  54. Food and Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health (Section  3509(g), p. 1109)
  55. National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council  (Section 4001, p. 1114)
  56. Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative  and Public Health (Section 4001(f), p. 1117)
  57. Prevention and Public Health Fund (Section 4002, p. 1121)
  58. Community Preventive Services Task Force (Section 4003(b), p. 1126)
  59. Grant program to support school-based health centers (Section  4101, p. 1135)
  60. Grant program to promote research-based dental caries disease  management (Section 4102, p. 1147)
  61. Grant program for States to prevent chronic disease in Medicaid  beneficiaries (Section 4108, p. 1174)
  62. Community transformation grants (Section 4201, p. 1182)
  63. Grant program to provide public health interventions (Section  4202, p. 1188)
  64. Demonstration program of grants to improve child immunization  rates (Section 4204(b), p. 1200)
  65. Pilot program for risk-factor assessments provided through  community health centers (Section 4206, p. 1215)
  66. Grant program to increase epidemiology and laboratory capacity  (Section 4304, p. 1233)
  67. Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (Section 4305, p.  1238)
  68. National Health Care Workforce Commission (Section 5101, p. 1256)
  69. Grant program to plan health care workforce development activities  (Section 5102(c), p. 1275)
  70. Grant program to implement health care workforce development  activities (Section 5102(d), p. 1279)
  71. Pediatric specialty loan repayment program (Section 5203, p. 1295)
  72. Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program (Section 5204, p.  1300)
  73. Allied Health Loan Forgiveness Program (Section 5205, p. 1305)
  74. Grant program to provide mid-career training for health  professionals (Section 5206, p. 1307)
  75. Grant program to fund nurse-managed health clinics (Section 5208,  p. 1310)
  76. Grant program to support primary care training programs (Section  5301, p. 1315)
  77. Grant program to fund training for direct care workers (Section  5302, p. 1322)
  78. Grant program to develop dental training programs (Section 5303,  p. 1325)
  79. Demonstration program to increase access to dental health care in  underserved communities (Section 5304, p. 1331)
  80. Grant program to promote geriatric education centers (Section  5305, p. 1334)
  81. Grant program to promote health professionals entering geriatrics  (Section 5305, p. 1339)
  82. Grant program to promote training in mental and behavioral health  (Section 5306, p. 1344)
  83. Grant program to promote nurse retention programs (Section 5309,  p. 1354)
  84. Student loan forgiveness for nursing school faculty (Section  5311(b), p. 1360)
  85. Grant program to promote positive health behaviors and outcomes  (Section 5313, p. 1364)
  86. Public Health Sciences Track for medical students (Section 5315,  p. 1372)
  87. Primary Care Extension Program to educate providers (Section 5405,  p. 1404)
  88. Grant program for demonstration projects to address health  workforce shortage needs (Section 5507, p. 1442)
  89. Grant program for demonstration projects to develop training  programs for home health aides (Section 5507, p. 1447)
  90. Grant program to establish new primary care residency programs  (Section 5508(a), p. 1458)
  91. Program of payments to teaching health centers that sponsor  medical residency training (Section 5508(c), p. 1462)
  92. Graduate nurse education demonstration program (Section 5509, p.  1472)
  93. Grant program to establish demonstration projects for community- based mental health settings (Section 5604, p. 1486)
  94. Commission on Key National Indicators (Section 5605, p. 1489)
  95. Quality assurance and performance improvement program for skilled  nursing facilities (Section 6102, p. 1554)
  96. Special focus facility program for skilled nursing facilities  (Section 6103(a)(3), p. 1561)
  97. Special focus facility program for nursing facilities (Section  6103(b)(3), p. 1568)
  98. National independent monitor pilot program for skilled nursing  facilities and nursing facilities (Section 6112, p. 1589)
  99. Demonstration projects for nursing facilities involved in the  culture change movement (Section 6114, p. 1597)

100.  Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (Section 6301, p.  1619)

101.  Standing methodology committee for Patient-Centered Outcomes  Research Institute (Section 6301, p. 1629)

102.  Board of Governors for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research  Institute (Section 6301, p. 1638)

103.  Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund (Section 6301(e),  p. 1656)

104.  Elder Justice Coordinating Council (Section 6703, p. 1773)

105.  Advisory Board on Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation (Section  6703, p. 1776)

106.  Grant program to create elder abuse forensic centers (Section  6703, p. 1783)

107.  Grant program to promote continuing education for long-term care  staffers (Section 6703, p. 1787)

108.  Grant program to improve management practices and training  (Section 6703, p. 1788)

109.  Grant program to subsidize costs of electronic health records  (Section 6703, p. 1791)

110.  Grant program to promote adult protective services (Section 6703,  p. 1796)

111.  Grant program to conduct elder abuse detection and prevention  (Section 6703, p. 1798)

112.  Grant program to support long-term care ombudsmen (Section 6703,  p. 1800)

113.  National Training Institute for long-term care surveyors (Section  6703, p. 1806)

114.  Grant program to fund State surveys of long-term care residences  (Section 6703, p. 1809)

115.  CLASS Independence Fund (Section 8002, p. 1926)

116.  CLASS Independence Fund Board of Trustees (Section 8002, p. 1927)

117.  CLASS Independence Advisory Council (Section 8002, p. 1931)

118.  Personal Care Attendants Workforce Advisory Panel (Section  8002(c), p. 1938)

119.  Multi-state health plans offered by Office of Personnel  Management (Section 10104(p), p. 2086)

120.  Advisory board for multi-state health plans (Section 10104(p), p.  2094)

121.  Pregnancy Assistance Fund (Section 10212, p. 2164)

122.  Value-based purchasing program for ambulatory surgical centers  (Section 10301, p. 2176)

123.  Demonstration project for payment adjustments to home health  services (Section 10315, p. 2200)

124.  Pilot program for care of individuals in environmental emergency  declaration areas (Section 10323, p. 223)

125.  Grant program to screen at-risk individuals for environmental  health conditions (Section 10323(b), p. 2231)

126.  Pilot programs to implement value-based purchasing (Section  10326, p. 2242)

127.  Grant program to support community-based collaborative care  networks (Section 10333, p. 2265)

128.  Centers for Disease Control Office of Minority Health (Section  10334, p. 2272)

129.  Health Resources and Services Administration Office of Minority  Health (Section 10334, p. 2272)

130.  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Office  of Minority Health (Section 10334, p. 2272)

131.  Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Office of Minority  Health (Section 10334, p. 2272)

132.  Food and Drug Administration Office of Minority Health (Section  10334, p. 2272)

133.  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of Minority  Health (Section 10334, p. 2272)

134.  Grant program to promote small business wellness programs  (Section 10408, p. 2285)

135.  Cures Acceleration Network (Section 10409, p. 2289)

136.  Cures Acceleration Network Review Board (Section 10409, p. 2291)

137.  Grant program for Cures Acceleration Network (Section 10409, p.  2297)

138.  Grant program to promote centers of excellence for depression  (Section 10410, p. 2304)

139.  Advisory committee for young women’s breast health awareness  education campaign (Section 10413, p. 2322)

140.  Grant program to provide assistance to provide information to  young women with breast cancer (Section 10413, p. 2326)

141.  Interagency Access to Health Care in Alaska Task Force (Section  10501, p. 2329)

142.  Grant program to train nurse practitioners as primary care  providers (Section 10501(e), p. 2332)

143.  Grant program for community-based diabetes prevention (Section  10501(g), p. 2337)

144.  Grant program for providers who treat a high percentage of  medically underserved populations (Section 10501(k), p. 2343)

145.  Grant program to recruit students to practice in underserved  communities (Section 10501(l), p. 2344)

146.  Community Health Center Fund (Section 10503, p. 2355)

147.  Demonstration project to provide access to health care for the  uninsured at reduced fees (Section 10504, p. 2357)

148.  Demonstration program to explore alternatives to tort litigation  (Section 10607, p. 2369)

149.  Indian Health demonstration program for chronic shortages of  health professionals (S. 1790, Section 112, p. 24)*

150.  Office of Indian Men’s Health (S. 1790, Section 136, p. 71)*

151.  Indian Country modular component facilities demonstration program  (S. 1790, Section 146, p. 108)*

152.  Indian mobile health stations demonstration program (S. 1790,  Section 147, p. 111)*

153.  Office of Direct Service Tribes (S. 1790, Section 172, p. 151)*

154.  Indian Health Service mental health technician training program  (S. 1790, Section 181, p. 173)*

155.  Indian Health Service program for treatment of child sexual abuse  victims (S. 1790, Section 181, p. 192)*

156.  Indian Health Service program for treatment of domestic violence  and sexual abuse (S. 1790, Section 181, p. 194)*

157.  Indian youth telemental health demonstration project (S. 1790,  Section 181, p. 204)*

158.  Indian youth life skills demonstration project (S. 1790, Section  181, p. 220)*

159.  Indian Health Service Director of HIV/AIDS Prevention and  Treatment (S. 1790, Section 199B, p. 258)*

Watch Beck discuss this and its impact at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd2ZV8XKHlg


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The Bus to Easy Street

This little story would make a good Stephen King novel.  Imagine you are in college and you hear about a big event coming soon.  A huge bus is headed to town and it is taking all who hop on to “Easy Street”.  You’ve heard of Easy Street, right?  It’s a place where your needs are taken care of for the rest of your life – a place where you are comfortable and financially secure.  All of your friends are going.  It sounds good, but what’s the catch?

There is one thing that you should be aware of though.  The road to “Easy Street” is long and treacherous.  It winds through steep, frigid mountains and a dry, hot desert.  But don’t worry, the bus is climate controlled and you’ll never even notice the dangers outside.  You’ll be completely safe inside the bus.

Oh, one other thing.  There are no gas stations along the way.  That’s why they ask you to bring a couple of gallons of fuel as your price of admission.  That’s it.  Just add a little fuel to the tank and you are on your way.

The next day the bus arrives.  Everyone is lined up with their little red gas cans waiting to pay their fare and get underway.  You climb on board.

On the bus, things are pretty cool.  There is plenty of room and everyone is partying and having fun.  The bus ride continues into the night, stopping occasionally to pick up more riders.  Everything looks grand, but you do notice one troubling thing.  Looking over the driver’s shoulder, you see that the gas gauge is getting lower and lower.  Even though the bus is stopping to pick up more and more riders, the added weight to the bus is causing it to burn more and more fuel.  You realize that it’s burning fuel at a faster rate than new riders are adding it to the tank.

“How much farther to Easy Street?” you wonder.  If the bus runs out of gas before it gets to Easy Street it’s going to be a disaster.  Looking out the window, you can see nothing but desert.  No water, no towns, no help.  People will surely die out here.  Panic sets in.  You frantically ask the driver to turn around or let you off at the next stop.  He says “No, once you’re on the bus, you can’t get off.”

“What?” you think.  “What have I gotten myself into?  Why didn’t I check to make sure the tank was full before I got on?  Why didn’t I calculate the distance to Easy Street myself to make sure this bus could get us all there?  Why did I blindly trust the bus driver without question? ”

The question now is what to do.  Should you tell the others?  Should you warn new riders not to get on the bus?  It is a certain disaster unless something changes.  You think of possible solutions, like convincing the driver to ask for more fuel from each rider.  Or perhaps a few people on the bus have some heavy luggage that they really don’t need that we can jettison. These ideas are met with scorn.  In fact, the driver announces that new riders can get on with LESS fuel.  WTF?

This is the part where it usually fades to black and Rod Serling starts narrating that you are about to enter the Twilight Zone…

Unfortunately, reality is far worse.  The Social Security Administration provides retirement and disability “insurance” for working Americans.  It is a mandatory program.  If you earn wages in the US, you must pay into the Social Security and Medicare funds.  These are commonly referred to as FICA taxes.   FICA stands for the Federal Insurance Contributions Act.  The Social Security program was originally sold to the American people as a federally mandated retirement savings plan.  It wasn’t really described as a “tax,” it was more like a contribution.  It was a great marketing strategy then, but it is now officially a “tax”, according to the Supreme Court.  In fact, the new healthcare mandate that is being defended by the Obama administration is considered a “tax”.  Otherwise, the federal government wouldn’t have the constitutional authority to impose it.  So much for not raising the taxes on folks earning less than $250K, but I digress.

The Social Security fund receives 100% of its revenue from FICA taxes collected from workers and their employers.  It gets 6.2% from the employee and another 6.2% from the employer on the first $100K or so that each worker makes.  This money is held in a trust fund (invested in “special” US treasury notes) until the worker reaches retirement age or becomes disabled or dies.  The “sharing” of the tax between employee and employer is just another accounting gimmick.  Any employer calculates the true cost of hiring someone, including taxes, insurance, and other benefits beforehand.  I guess it makes people feel better to think that they are only paying half.  By the way, self-employed people have to pay the whole 12.4%.  But, again, I digress.

Ok, so what the hell does this have to do with the bus?  Well, until recently the trust fund balance was looking good, growing larger every year.  It is now $2.6 trillion, but that balance is declining and will reach zero in just 24 years, according to the Annual Report from the board of trustees of the Social Security Administration (http://www.ssa.gov/oact/tr/2011/tr2011.pdf).  If you plan on dying in the next 24 years and do not have a spouse or child, or if you do not work, then you can stop reading this.

So the SS Trust fund will be broke in 2036.  Our bus will be out of gas and folks will be stranded in the desert.  To make things worse, our bus driver, the President, has (temporarily) lowered the “contribution” rate to 4.2%, under the guise that this is an across the board tax cut.  But what it really is simply putting further strain on the trust fund.

The reality is actually worse.  That $2.6 trillion dollars in the trust fund is not really sitting in a bank somewhere; we spent it on other stuff.  It’s invested “special” US securities.  Basically, it was loaned to the government to spend and will have to be paid back to the fund WITH INTEREST.  In other words, in order for us to make these social security payments from now on, we will have to borrow money from somebody else.   Starting last year, the total SS checks sent out to retirees will be more than the total payroll contributions received that year.  Since there is no cash on hand to make up the difference, we will have to borrow more, year after year.

If you are in college right now or just starting your career, do you want to hop on this bus?   Shouldn’t you at least be checking the tires and asking questions?  Be careful though, if anybody tries to sound the alarm bell, they are instantly accused of wanting to push grandma off the cliff.  Don’t you know it’s all Bush’s fault, and anyone who criticizes the current president is just some extreme rightwing, tea-bagging, racist?





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Let’s Eat The Rich

President Obama unveiled his $3.8 trillion budget for 2013 last month.  In short, he wants to spend almost $4 trillion dollars next year.  I, and most conservatives alike, feel that this is just too much spending.  We simply can’t afford it. To spend that much, we will have to borrow another $1 trillion – and that’s on top of the $1.33 trillion that we are borrowing this year to pay for 2012, and the $1.3 trillion that we borrowed last year, and the $1.29 trillion we borrowed the year before that – shall I go on?  Keep in mind that we haven’t paid back a single penny of any of that yet.  It is still “on the books” as our National Debt, which is currently $15.4 trillion and will be $17.5 trillion in 2013 if the president has his way.

By the way, who are these fools that keep loaning us this money? Most of this debt is short-term debt – meaning that we have to keeping “rolling over” large chunks of our total debt every month or so.  Basically, we borrow more money to pay off the money that we borrowed earlier plus interest.  Imagine going to the bank to ask if you can borrow some money to make your house payment this month.  Then, next month you ask if you can again borrow some more money to make your next house payment, plus enough to payback the amount that you borrowed last month, plus interest.  Sounds crazy, right?

The position of the Tea Party, most Republicans, and conservatives in general is that the government has become too expensive.  The resulting debt that this spending has created is a danger to our country.  We have to pay hundreds of billions of dollars in interest each year to our debtors.  (Last year, we spent $345,949,000,000 in interest alone!  That‘s $1,139 per man, woman, child in US.)  This interest payment robs money from other programs and, if left unchecked, will eventually consume our entire budget.

Now Obama and the liberal left do not share the belief that government is too expensive.  They claim that they are concerned about the debt and interest problem, but they see the problem differently.  They believe the debt was created by a lack of revenue instead of gross over spending.  If we had more revenue, we wouldn’t have to borrow as much money, so they say.  If everyone would just pay their “fair share,” then everything would be okay, right?  We need to raise taxes on the rich and those evil corporations (especially the oil companies), quit wasting money on wars and our money troubles will go away.  This seems like a good and “fair” plan, doesn’t it?  Isn’t that what the “99%” were advocating in the Occupy protests?

So, I have a plan.  (Actually, I borrowed it from the link below.)  Let’s make a law that no one in America can make more than $250 thousand a year.  If they make anything more than that, then it goes to the government.  Call it a “windfall” tax, if you like.  And for all of those greedy rich people out there sitting on a mountain of cash, we can just confiscate their total net worth.  Yeah, let’s “nationalize” the net worth of every billionaire and multi-millionaire on the Forbes 400 list.  And don’t stop there; let’s raise the tax rate on the big corporations to say 100%.  That’s right, let’s take 100% of the profit of every corporation on the Fortune 500 list.  That ought to be enough to get things back on track right?

If you think so, then I urge you to watch this short video.  It illustrates how our government might pay for the $3.7 trillion (about $10 billion per day) that we spent in 2011. This video offers a common sense perspective of why the problem is really an issue of spending rather than one of the need for more revenue.



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We Have to Raise the Debt Ceiling Because Bush Lowered Taxes?

I constantly hear the president blaming the Bush tax cuts (and everything else besides his own actions) for our current deficits today. Is there any truth to that? The media will have you believe that the Bush tax cuts were mostly for the wealthy and that because of them, the rich aren’t paying their fair share. That sounds plausible, doesn’t it? Let’s examine a few facts first.

The Bush tax cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003. Together they lowered the effective individual income tax rates for most taxpayers and were phased in over three years 2001, 2002 and 2003. Since 2003, the individual income taxes rates have remained the same, which consists of six tax brackets having rates of 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35%. Before 2002, there were only 5 brackets, with the lowest being 15%.

So how did these tax cuts affect individuals? Well, if you had a summer job and earned $8,000 dollars in 2000, your tax rate was 15%. In 2009, it would have only been 10%. Your rate would have been reduced by 1/3.

Suppose you earn $30,000. In 2000 you paid 28% and in 2009 you only paid 15%. That’s almost cut in half (46%). For an $80,000/yr earner, the rate dropped from 31% to 25%. The table below shows some examples of how taxpayers at different income levels have benefited from the Bush tax cuts.

You should be able see from this table that the tax cuts weren’t just for the rich, they were for almost everyone. In fact, those making under $34,000 had the largest reductions percentage-wise.

What was the purpose of the tax cuts anyway? The idea was that in 2000, the government had overtaxed Americans. In that year, the IRS collected more taxes than the government actually spent. What? How did that happen with a democrat (Clinton) in the white house? Aren’t democrats supposed to be big spenders? Well, I’d argue that the reason we had a surplus was two-fold. First, the republicans took control of the US House of Representative for the first time since 1953, which, in my opinion, curtailed spending growth. Second, and more importantly, income tax revenues were at an all time high due largely to the internet bubble of the late 1990’s. The economic impact of the Internet was tremendous. It created thousands of new companies and jobs, provided new markets for others, and gave individuals easier access to investment (online stock brokers), which flooded capital into the markets causing stocks to soar.

Much debate was given over what to do with the tax surplus for 2000. Bush and most republicans decided that since the tax money came from taxpayers in the first place, then they would give it back to them by gradually lowering the tax rates such that future tax collections would be on par with spending.

It was a sound plan, despite the controversy. But then a few unexpected things happened, which were not related to the tax cuts at all. The dot-com bubble burst. The investment fury into new technology companies lead to overvalued stock prices which ultimately collapsed. Many companies and investors went broke. The Nasdaq fell from a record high of $5,132 in March 2000 to just $1,720 a year later. Even today, the Nasdaq still hasn’t recovered at only $2,800.

As if the dot com bubble bursting wasn’t enough, something else happened. American was attacked on September 11, 2001. This also had a devastating impact on our economy. Ten days after the attack, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a 12 year low at $8,235 on September 21, 2001.

Ok, so our income tax collections were hit by three major factors in the first few years of the Bush term: the lower tax rates, the internet bubble, and the 9/11 attacks. In fact, with the economy slumping, the Bush tax cuts were accelerated. Originally, they were supposed to the phased in over a longer period but were enacted in full in 2003 due to the downturn in the economy. Why? Well, the idea behind this strategy is highly debated. As I understand it, the philosophy was that a lower tax burden would encourage businesses to invest (instead of paying higher taxes) and individuals would have more money to spend, thus creating more economic activity. In short, the result was to be more people paying tax on higher incomes, thus offsetting the reduced rates. If this were true, then our government would receive more tax, not less.

Did it work? Despite the dot com collapse and 9/11, yes it did. Huh? By 2006, our income receipts were MORE than they were in 2000, before the tax cuts. America had record setting tax years in 2006 and 2007. In fact, 2006, 2007 and 2008 all had higher income tax revenues than in 2000. But I thought Obama said the tax cuts were bad?

Source: Table 2.1, Historical Tables, FY2012 Budget

Did the Bush tax cuts favor the rich? If that was true, then wouldn’t it be fair to say that the rich are paying less now than they did before the tax cuts?

In 2000, the US population was 281,421,906. According to the IRS, only 37.4% of those people actually paid any income taxes at all. That’s right, 62.6% of all Americans didn’t pay ANY income taxes…zero. Of course, this number includes children, but still. So what about the 105 million people who did pay? Let’s call the top 1% of earners the “super-rich” as Obama likes to say. There were about 1 million people in this category, which was only about 0.37% of the total population. That group paid a whopping 1/3 of the total income taxes reported that year.

If you expand that group to the top 5%, let’s just call them “rich”. Now we’re talking about 2% of the total population. This group paid about half of the total taxes reported. That’s leaves the other 95% of taxpayers to pay the rest.

Now let’s look at the lower earners, say the bottom 50% of taxpayers. This accounted for about 81% of the total US population. This huge group only paid less than 8% of the total tax bill.

Ok, so that was in 2000. What about 2008, after the Bush tax cuts were in full effect? If these were so skewed towards rich people, shouldn’t these numbers be drastically different?

Let’s see. In 2008, the US population had grown by about 20 million to 301,621,157. The IRS reports that only 35.8% of Americans paid any income tax that year. That’s a smaller percentage than in 2000. The top 1% of those taxpayers (about 0.36% of the population) again paid about 1/3 of the total tax bill. That’s right; the “super rich” paid the same share as they did in 2000. What about the top 5%? In 2008, they paid… wait for it… 51%. Huh? Under the Bush tax cuts the richest 5% had to pay MORE? The Top 5% paid 50% in 2000 and 51% in 2008.

This can’t be right. Surely, somebody got screwed. How about the bottom 50%? Remember, the bottom 50% of taxpayers, represented 82% of the total population in 2008. The group again paid just under 8% of the bill, slightly smaller than they did in 2000. (7.9% vs. 7.6%)

Source: IRS.gov Statistical Tables for 2000 and 2008

Ok, so if the tax cuts aren’t to blame for the current deficits, what is? Well, something rather significant happened in 2008 (besides electing Obama). The nation had been experiencing a housing boom. By 2006, the average price of a home was more than double (124%) the price it was just ten years earlier. The cause of this boom is also controversial. Interest rates being too low, banks lending to risky borrowers with little or no down payment, and increased foreign investments are just some of the common causes being thrown about today. However, the eventual bust of this housing bubble has a much clearer culprit – defaults.

As the Federal Reserve Bank raised interest rates, people with adjustable mortgages could no longer afford their mortgage payments (if they could even afford them in the first place). Home foreclosures began to increase. This led to fewer buyers and more homes on the market, which caused home prices to drop. As folks witnessed their home equity dry up, many even became “under water,” which means home owners owed more on their home than it was worth. This triggered an even greater number of defaults and foreclosures, perpetuating the problem. With all of the foreclosures going on, lenders were in a panic. The falling home prices meant that their collateral for the loans no longer covered their risk. Credit markets froze. Banks stopped lending. This affected not only the housing market but everything else. Business couldn’t borrow money to expand or make capital improvements. Individual couldn’t borrow to buy new cars or make home improvements. Credit card rates skyrocketed. It was an economic Armageddon.

Get the picture? The crisis led to TARP (government loans to bail out the banks), and provided an excuse for the incoming president to open up the spending gates. After spending $787 billion in a “stimulus” package the first month in office, Obama and the democrat-led house and senate felt that our only solution was to pump loads of money into the economy with more bailouts, government rebates for buying new cars and houses, more government jobs (i.e. bigger government) and health care. All the while, blaming Bush and the republicans for letting it happen.

I’ll save my analysis of why this happened and who’s to blame for another post. But as a result, the stock market crashed. The Dow hit bottom at $6,626 in March of 2009, losing half of its value in less than 10 months. Investments soured, retirement savings vanished, and jobs were lost. The unemployment rate went from 4.5% in April 2008 to a high of 10% by January 2010 and has remained above 9% ever since. This is why our tax revenue dropped after 2008. Fewer people were working.

Source: Table 1.1, Historical Tables, FY2012 Budget

The real reason that we have huge deficits every year is because of spending. We spend too much. This is not a partisan problem; it has happened under both parties. Some may like to take credit for deficit reduction initiatives, but the guilty ones have both D’s and R’s after their names.

Source: Tables 1.1 & 2.1, Historical Tables, FY2012 Budget

The chart above shows our total individual income tax receipts (the green bars) compared to how much MORE money we borrowed (deficit) that same year (the red bars). As you can see, we have been borrowing more than we collected in income tax since 2009. That means that if ALL of the individual income tax rates were doubled (for everybody) to 20%, 30%, 50%, 56%, 66% and 70%, it STILL wouldn’t be enough to cover the deficit! And that’s assuming that those exorbitant rates wouldn’t crimple the economy any further (which they certainly would). In fact, the 2009 income rates would have to have been astronomical to cover our deficit that year (27%, 40%, 67%, 89%, 94%). Would you like to pay those rates? Would you like for your children or grandchildren to pay those rates? Because today’s deficits are simply future taxes.

The chart below shows an even more alarming view. Each bar represents the total amount of money that our federal government actually spent each year. The different colors within each bar show from where the government got the money. A portion of each budget came from several different taxes. The remaining amount (deficit) was borrowed which is shown in red.

Source: Tables 1.1 & 2.1, Historical Tables, FY2012 Budget

What are we spending all of this money on? Well, spending levels have increased in almost every category.  Have a look.

Source: Table 3.1, Historical Tables, FY2012 Budget
Where has all of this gotten us? Deep in debt. Our current debt around $14.3 trillion and is bumping against the current debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is the statutory limit authorized by Congress. This chart shows our growing national debt over the past 15 years and the red lines indicate the past times that the debt ceiling was raised. The debt is growing out of control.

Source: Table 7.1, Historical Tables, FY2012 Budget

Now the debate is whether or not we should raise the debt limit yet again. But why do we even have one at all? I mean, if everyone in Congress says that we absolutely MUST raise it this month – I ask, raise it to what? $15 trillion? 18 trillion? And when we borrow and spend our way to that limit, is the consensus going to be that we MUST raise it again to avoid a government default, world-wide financial chaos, and another depression? If the answer is always going to be that we MUST raise the debt limit whenever we reach it, then what in the World is the dang thing for? When does it stop?

Failing to raise the debt limit should not be viewed as an empty threat. That’s because world-wide collapse is not hinging on our default, but on our reckless fiscal policy. Once “tax and spend” liberals run out of our tax dollars, they become “borrow and spend” liberals. All of that borrowing is simply future taxes…taxes on our children. Where is the outrage on having trillion dollar deficits when all of the income tax paid in the U.S in a year is barely over a $1 trillion.
Raising the limit without meaningful fiscal reform only kicks the can down the road and digs the hole deeper for our children. Our generation allowed this to happen. It’s our generation that should face the consequences.
The World needs to know that we are serious about getting our fiscal house in order. We’ve gone a 10 year bender, and now we are surprised that we’re broke and have a hangover. If Obama feels the need to apologize for America, then he should apologize for that! Let’s just hope we didn’t “drunk call” anyone.

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I Totally Agree With Obama

“Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem. The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. [..] If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies.[..] Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”
– Senator Barrack Obama (D-IL), March 16, 2006.

Wow, what a difference five years makes! The excerpt above was taken from then Senator Barrack Obama’s Senate speech when the question of raising America’s debt limit was being debated a few years ago. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Where’s your fiscal conscience now, Mr. President?

The entire speech is quoted below along with a link to the Congressional Record as published online.

The 2006 Congressional Record, Page S2237 (March 16,2006) (link)

Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem.

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.

Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is “trillion” with a “T.” That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.

Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter. Here is why: This year, the Federal Government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we’ll spend on Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. That is more money to pay interest on our debt this year than we will spend on education, homeland security, transportation, and veterans benefits combined. It is more money in one year than we are likely to spend to rebuild the devastated gulf coast in a way that honors the best of America.

And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the Federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.

Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities. Instead, interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans–a debt tax that Washington doesn’t want to talk about. If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies.

But we are not doing that. Despite repeated efforts by Senators Conrad and Feingold, the Senate continues to reject a return to the commonsense Pay-go rules that used to apply. Previously, Pay-go rules applied both to increases in mandatory spending and to tax cuts. The Senate had to abide by the commonsense budgeting principle of balancing expenses and revenues. Unfortunately, the principle was abandoned, and now the demands of budget discipline apply only to spending.

As a result, tax breaks have not been paid for by reductions in Federal spending, and thus the only way to pay for them has been to increase our deficit to historically high levels and borrow more and more money. Now we have to pay for those tax breaks plus the cost of borrowing for them. Instead of reducing the deficit, as some people claimed, the fiscal policies of this administration and its allies in Congress will add more than $600 million in debt for each of the next 5 years. That is why I will once again cosponsor the Pay-go amendment and continue to hope that my colleagues will return to a smart rule that has worked in the past and can work again.

Our debt also matters internationally. My friend, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, likes to remind us that it took 42 Presidents 224 years to run up only $1 trillion of foreign-held debt. This administration did more than that in just 5 years. Now, there is nothing wrong with borrowing from foreign countries. But we must remember that the more we depend on foreign nations to lend us money, the more our economic security is tied to the whims of foreign leaders whose interests might not be aligned with ours.

Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.

- Senator Barrack Obama (D-IL)

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The Hard Core of Freedom

While doing some internet research (for a discussion on Facebook, no less), I stumbled across this article from the Daily Oklahoman published on December 9, 1951. I felt it was worth passing along. However, the citation of one quote in the article to Alexander Tytler (1747-1813) cannot be verified.

This is the Hard Core of Freedom

A card without identification came along with a letter to this desk a few days ago. It read:

“There is no end to the good a man can do if he does not care who gets the credit.”

This sentiment has a vital drive when applied to human relations, but if you will follow it to its logical conclusion in the field of government, you will find that it constitutes the inner essence of free democracy as well. A civic leader once said to the writer, about 25 years ago:

“If a man goes into civic work because he expects to get credit for it, or political profit, or anything else of material value, he should quit before it gets too late, because he is practically sure to be disappointed and disillusioned. If he doesn’t get a real thrill out of doing good in the world, sufficient to pay him, he has missed the point of all civic activity.”

Friendship and love of parents for children are the first and most primitive evidences of the Christian doctrine, “love thy neighbor,” and the corollary is the Golden Rule. This corollary clearly points the two-way nature of the original doctrine and it helps human beings to understand why helpfulness can bring reciprocal benefit to the doer of good deeds, even though the doer does not demand or even expect such benefit.

Out of the mutual nature of neighborliness comes the pure meaning of free democracy. Cooperation, in its best sense, as suggested in this column a week ago, cannot be compulsory. The moment it is made into a compulsory mechanism, it loses its true meaning and becomes a form of despotism—a totalitarian socialism, in which public welfare is produced by force and not by operation of conscience.

The difference between free democracy and socialism is that free democracy carries over into the field of government the voluntary will do good by free choice, where as socialism leaves the citizen no choice. He helps his neighbor—or else!

The best member of free democracy is one who doesn’t care who gets the credit for good deeds. He gets all the pay he needs out of his conscience—the inner satisfaction of knowing that “he has done what he could.”

It is becoming more and more obvious every day that the mere form of democracy is not what brings blessed government. It is the substance that counts. That substance consists of the sum of individual consciences, working for the mutual good of all. A form of democracy can be just as corrupt as the worst kind of despotism if the members of that formal democracy are actuated only by selfishness and the determination to get all possible money out of the government” or Neighbor Taxpayer.

Two centuries ago a somewhat obscure Scotsman named Tytler made this profound observation:

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always voles for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.”

This ought to be a warning sign, of the times, for never before in this nation has there been such temptation to use the formal mechanism of democracy as a means for gratifying the selfish designs of the individual citizen. This applies not only to the corrupt high official who sells influence or conspires with crooks to steal money from the public. It applies, likewise, to the individual voter who seeks to profit personally by laying a heavier burden on his neighbor, through subsidies and other government gifts.

The hard core of freedom is the unselfish spirit of the citizen. Democracy cannot live long without this agency of conscience. Unselfish motivation in politics is much more than a gesture of good morality. It is a practical factor without which democracy cannot exist. In the long run nothing else will work.

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