Could They Possibly Be THIS Stupid?

Yes, apparently they can.

I read a very interesting article about how some in Congress were complaining about their salaries.

sorry….the laughter…the tears…sorry…

Just when you think they couldn’t possibly do anything more stupid. You really think, Congress, that after using the debt ceiling and the threat of shutting down the country over partisan bull you deserve better pay? You think that putting off any possible real reforms or legislation so that they won’t diminish your electability is doing your job? Do you think that people like you in any other industry would be retained, let alone be allowed to complain about their take-home?

They complain that they are living paycheck to paycheck. Welcome to the f*cking club! This country is suffering. People are losing their jobs, their homes, their communities, and you don’t think you make that much?

The Representative that really stuck in my craw was Steve Southerland, from the great State of Florida. He says that the $174,000 he brings home really isn’t much considering:

  • He can no longer run his family’s business
  • He is separated for long periods from his family
  • And, as he says, they get shot at.

Well then, Congressman, I would think that our men and women in uniform should be making at least as much as you are per year, since when you described what you have to put up with for your job, their situations came leaping to mind. And, no disrespect, but when was the last time you were actually shot at? Seriously. While it is true people in power are often targets for crime (Representative Giffords for example), it is not a daily occurance. Dudes in Afganistan get shot at, Sir. They get shot at and blown up everyday, while not tending to their family businesses and spending sometimes years at a time away from their families.

So, if they think they derserve more, that’s fine. But I will expect the military on active duty to get at least the same. An E-9 with 26 years experience makes significantly less than you, Rep. Southerland. How long have you been in Congress? Oh, yes, you are a freshman. That means one year. I don’t know many people that made that much their first year in a new job.

Working on behalf of the people of this country was never supposed to be a way you made a living. You were supposed to volunteer to serve your country out of a sense of duty, of pride, of obligation, not because the health plan is so good. Perhaps y’all could ask for raises after you stop just doing what it takes to get re-elected and actually grow some balls and take on the structural reforms that are the only thing that will save this economy and this country. But no one gets elected making the hard choices, and what’s the point of serving your country if you can’t get re-elected?

I am not of one party or the other. The fact that this witless idiot is a Republican doesn’t matter to me in the least. Democrats are quoted in the article as well grousing about how they couldn’t afford to lose their government paycheck.

I just cannot believe that our elected officials are this STUPID! It never says that they are tabling a Congressional pay-raise, but shame on them for even complaining about their salaries. Shame on them.

You Will Die Before You Pay This Off…

With the new credit card laws coming into effect, I couldn’t wait to get our first new statement.

Right there, on the front, was this lovely little table showing me how long it would take me to pay off my balance, assuming I don’t make any more purchases, should I choose only to pay the minimum monthly balance.

You know how long?

28 years

In 28 years I will be on Medicare.

Children and Politics

President Obama is making a speech to the nation’s schoolchildren, welcoming them back to school and emphasizing the importance of a good education.

People are mad, and I am not one of them.  But I can see why they might be pissed.

If it is just a “I wouldn’t be where I am today without a good education” speech, God love him.  Every student needs to see that endless hours sitting in a classroom actually LEAD to something.

However, no matter how much you like the guy, he is a politician.  If it devolves into him talking about policy, I don’t think it should be shown.

Not because kids don’t know that government plays a role in education.  Not because kids will go home and pester their parents into supporting his agenda.   Not because I think it would be better shown at home, not at school, where parents can discuss the speech with their kids.

No, it is much simpler than any of that.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recently ran an ad campaign that mentioned the President’s daughters:

The White House took issue with this and asked that the posters be removed.

“We’ve been very clear I think from even before the administration started that their two girls would have a very private life, and we want to protect that private life and their privacy,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said this morning when asked about the PCRM posters.  “And we hope that others will be respectful, as many in the media have been, about not using the girls as a publicity stunt.”

–ABC News — blog

I happen to agree with the White House on this one.  I don’t think children should be used as a way to gain publicity, or to push an agenda.

So, I ask President Obama, are you using my kids as a publicity stunt?

If the politics are turned off, and you are really just giving an education pep talk, I think it is a great idea.

If you are going to talk policy, shame on you.

If your girls are not to be used for political purposes, than neither should my boys.

Are you f&#^%ing kidding me???????

Wait…hold on…I think I am going to be sick!

Yep.  I got sick!  

How on Earth can anyone say that legalizing same sex marriage in any way effects the way that they live their lives?  

Certainly there are many things that the government allows that religions frown on… sex before marriage, living together, birth control, and on and on and on.  The Government is not here to protect your religious views.  It is here to protect our rights.

You are worried that your children will learn about same sex marriages in school?  That’s your own damn fault.  Pushing abstinence before marriage programs put marriage in the classrooms.  If secular education bothers you so much get your kids the f#$% out of public school and pony up to have them educated through the religious system.

Same sex advocates are trying to take your rights away?  What?  Your right to be a bigot and an asshole?  Unfortunely, your right to that is enshrined in the Constitution.  No one can take it away.  

And HOW exactly is your church group being punished by the government?  Please explain that one to me!  

Maybe that Doctor should look into working around here at one of the Catholic hospital systems.  The same system that makes it virtually impossible for women to receive IUDs.  Since the Catholic Church frowns on IUDs even the Doctors who work on the campus are not allowed to do them.  I am sure she wouldn’t have to choose between her religion and her job then.  

Coming together in love?  LOVE?  How dare you talk about love!  When people, in the name of religion, come together to advocate systemic discrimination against a group who just want secular rights, there is no love in that.  Love is inclusive.  Love is forgiving.  Love is unconditional.  Call your movement what it is:  judgemental and intolerant.  

You don’t believe in same sex marriages?  Then don’t.  This country was founded without a religion at the helm for this exact reason.  I doubt that these groups would be so excited about the blurring between church and state if the Islamist extremists demanded headscarves. If we are going to make public policy decisions based on religion, shouldn’t we look to all religions?  NOM should also be pushing for vegetarianism on behalf of Buddist who are outraged.  And what about keeping the Sabbath on Saturday for everyone.   After all, Jewish people live in America, shouldn’t we base our entire secular system on their moral beliefs?  But then you can’t forget Islam.  Perhaps we should all be forced to fast for Ramadan.  

There is no excuse to let ANYONE impose their religion on anyone else.  You have every right to believe anything you want.  You DO NOT have the right to make me believe it too. 

And if you want to know what the people who came to this country believed about marriage:

The English Puritans in the 17th century passed an Act of Parliament asserting “marriage to be no sacrament” and soon thereafter made marriage purely secular.

These are the same Puritans that came over on the Mayflower…the people who founded our country.

You don’t agree?  You would quote the Bible and tell me how God frowns on same sex anything?  That’s lovely.  The problem is that I DON’T BELIEVE IN THAT GOD.  You can list your religion’s reasons for days.  It doesn’t matter.  Your God’s statements against same sex relationships mean nothing to me, and can mean nothing to my government.  Just in case you wouldn’t mind me quoting a pretty important document to you:

 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

Your religion hijacking the civil pronouncement of marriage prohibits the free exercise thereof.  My religion allows it.  My religion embraces it.  

So keep your religion out of my laws.  

Keep it off of my friends.

And I look forward to turning off your advertisement.

A Conversation on Race

It has been said that in this country we are cowards when it comes to talking about race.  So I thought I would share a conversation I had about that subject that had a great impact on me.

Some background…

I know some people that grew up in an environment that is extremely racist.  I am always shocked at the things that they say.  So once, I asked one of them some questions about his views.  I am transcribing it as accurately as possible.   I have changed his name.

Bob:  I don’t want black people moving in to my neighborhood. 

Sarah:  Why?

Bob:  They don’t keep up their houses, they bring crime and drugs.  They ruin the neighborhood.

Sarah:  Well, what if it was a white family that put a car up on blocks, had their dogs running around, and set up a meth lab?

Bob:  I wouldn’t want them either, but they don’t usually do that.

Sarah:  Alright.  What if Michael Jordan moved in on your street?  Would you have a problem with him?

Bob:  No, no.  He’s not black.

Sarah:  Well, yeah he is.

Bob:  No.  He wouldn’t be a problem.

So, the conversation continued.  I keep digging to find what he really objected to versus what he was saying.  The more I prodded the more it became clear that he didn’t have any issues with African Americans that had succeeded.  If they were rich, they weren’t really black.  So Bill Gates isn’t really white?  And I came to the conclusion that racism for many people is a more acceptable way of masking their classism. 

America is supposed to be a land without a class structure.  If you think we never have conversations about race, bring up classism at your next book club meeting.  Sure, it exists in other places, but certainly not here!  This is the land of opportunity!  There is nothing here to hold you back except your own lack of ambition.  And while most people believe that, it is a load of hooey.

African Americans as well as poor whites suffer from a lack of the one thing that will pull them up the class ladder:  education.  There is nothing else that can compare with the impact of that one little thing.  Children that cannot read cannot excel.  And the way Amercia provides education puts the lower classes at a huge disadvantage.  Poorer neighborhoods have crappier schools and less money to improve them.  We keep the cycle in place.

When any group of Americans feels disenfranchised, they turn to their own methods to better their lives.  Can you blame them?  

Our history is riddled with ethnic groups that were not welcome, and pushed to the margins of society.  Irish were reviled.  They flooded New York with poverty and crime during the potato famine.  “No dogs or Irish”  was the infamous sign.  Chinese laborers were brought to the West to build the railroad.  We were so afraid of their different ways that it was illegal for them to own property.   And why did these groups assimilate and African Americans did not?  Simple.  Once they started to make money, they were accepted.  The key to that is that they were ALLOWED to make money.  And slowly, grudgingly, they were accepted.  They didn’t suffer from a systemic effort to keep them from achieving that success. 

From this country’s inception to the 1960’s this country told a group of its own citizens that they had to be separate.  Not because they were empirically inferior, but because we were afraid of them.  Geez we were a bunch of assholes.

As another example of our unwilllingness to really talk about what race means in this country, let’s look at scholarships.  I know a woman who is part Asian.  She needed help with her college tuition, so she went to the Financial Aid office at the school to talk about minority scholarships.  She was Asian, she is definitely a minority in this country.  But the Aid office told her that Asians didn’t qualify as a minority under the scholarship guidelines.  Excuse me?  Nope.  She could not qualify.  So why aren’t Asians, who are a minority, eligible for minority scholarships?  Because they are perceived as wealthy.  These programs are designed not to help minorities, as is the stated mission, but to help poor minorities.  So again, despite what we say is about race, is really about class.

I am not trying to say that true, hard core racism has been swept clean from the USA.  It most certainly has not.  But if you probe racists with questions that do not attack them, that simply try to get to the root of what they don’t like, you will find that for most of them it boils down to class.  It is just easier to express that as prejudice against African Americans.  

Because Americans hate poverty.  They hate the fact that it happens here, in the land of the free.  So if someone is poor, they must choose to be that way.  It is the only possible explanation.  If you can’t make it in this country you are lazy, or working the system, or addicted to drugs.  Poverty is bad, so poor people, for all our lip service, must be bad as well.  And for worse, white America sees African Americans as the face of poverty.

So, please, let’s have conversations on race.  Let them ring from the high rises, let them flow like the rivers.  But maybe first we need to look at what racism really means in this country.  Only when we know the causes will we be able to start working on a solution.

What’s in it for Me?

If I hear one more person say that about the stimulus package I am going to scream.

Main Street was mad the government bailed out Wall Street. Then the Auto Industry came to the table begging for their piece of the pie. So then other businesses wanted to know what they were going to get. And now Obama puts money out there to help struggling homeowners. The chorus turns into, ” I spent my money well, bought a house within my means, saved my money…why should my tax dollars bail out someone who bought more than they could afford?”.  So the irresponsible get bailed out and I get nothing? That’s not fair!

Oh, the whining. Make it stop, make it stop!!

I am one of the people who got lucky and bought at the very beginning of the property bubble. We spent way less than the bank was willing to lend us. We live well within our means, and even have some savings. So, what do I think about my hard earned tax dollars going to help irresponsible borrowers? I say “help them, oh please help them!”

And why do I say that, when I won’t benefit from the tax break, or the housing help, or the Wall Street bailout? Because I realize that what helps my country helps me. What helps my neighbor helps me. And maybe I won’t be eligible to saddle up to the trough and take some of the bounty, but that’s a good thing.  If there weren’t people like me there would be no one to help those in trouble.  And I would really like to help those in trouble.

Sometimes doing the right thing means doing the hardest thing.   

We so often forget that living in a society means benefits and sacrifices.  I send many of my tax dollars to things that do not benefit me directly, but do so indirectly by helping society as a whole.  The more stable my society, the smoother my life will run. I understand this and accept this, because it is better than fending for myself.

So everyone just needs to quit their bitching.  If you want to make sure the money is spent well, lean on your representatives and don’t let them play fast and loose with the money.  Is the stimulus going to go to the right people?  Hopefully.  Of course people will work the system.  But for that reason we shouldn’t help those that are truly in need?  You just have to inhale and believe that everyone is (for the most part) doing the best they know how in a time that has no real parallel.  

And think of the people that will not have to move from their homes or pull their children from their schools.  Focus on those people, the people who deserve the help the most.  And remember that one day you may need a neighbor to make a sacrifice.  Would you want to hear them say “What’s in it for me?”

The State of Illinois

Who would have believed that Illinois could be in the mess it is in?  A Governor who tried to sell a senate seat.  An appointed Senator that appears to have tried to buy said seat.

I can tell you who isn’t surprised:  the people of Illinois.

We might be surprised at the brazenness of the scandal, but not that it goes on in Illinois politics.  

We are the home of “vote early and vote often.”  Mob ties and voter fraud delivered Illinois to JFK in the 60’s.  You can’t fill a pothole in this State without giving somebody a bribe or a kickback.  It is the way the State works.

For those of you not acquainted with Illinois politics, you might be interested to know that Blago is our second CONSECUTIVE Governor to be brought up on Federal charges of corruption.  We’ll have to wait and see if we can go 2 for 2 on the convicted portion of our program.  Oh, and Blago, even I know that when you are doing something illegal YOU USE CODE WORDS!  If you are going to be a crook, be a smart one.  You make all Midwesterners look bad.

As for Burris, oh Roland.  What kind of man takes a tainted Senate appointment?  Apparently the same type of man who would try to raise campaign funds for an indicted Governor while “expressing his interest” in the vacant seat.  He will hold on to power with the white-knuckled grasp of a dying man on a life jacket.  Shame on you.

One of the best examples of corrupt politics here is the case of Cook County Board President.  For 12 years it was held by John Stroger.  Before the last primary election he suffered a massive stroke.  Everyone involved pretended that it was mild, and he would serve as pres again if elected.  After he won the primary, they suddenly realised that he wouldn’t recover.  What a shocker.  Now, most places you would think the runner up from the primary would get the electoral nod.  But this is Illinois, where patronage is everything.  Those lapping at the Stroger milk couldn’t risk losing their succor.  So they put his son on the ballot.  Someone with no meaningful experience in charge of one of the largest counties in the country!  “Nonsense!” you say.  People here said “Hey, that Stroger name is on the hospital.  He must be cool.” and he gets elected.  He has, needless to say, been a disappointment.

The news stories about State workers being paid to hang out at the pool are so common that they don’t even make the lead story anymore.

Even in a smaller suburb like mine there are numerous stories.  Our village president is allowed to cut checks for $25,000 without Board approval.  So he decided that to pay the overage on a contract with one of his wives friends (she was contracted to get paid around $75,000 but billed for over $200,000) he would  just write a series of $25,000 checks, instead of one for $125,000.  He says that he did nothing wrong.  I say “HOW THE HELL DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT!”

Most people think that Barak Obama’s meteoric rise to the top was a happy combination of luck and timing.  I think he knew that he had to get the f*#% outta Illinois before this State ruined his chances of doing anything meaningful.  People say that he didn’t accomplish much as a Senator in the State legislature.  I think he was just putting his shoulder down and plowing through the muck.   

So why Illinois?  

Some say that it is the legacy of the mob controlling the city.  

I say that it is that Illinois has the LAZIEST voters in the country.  We let two of the most disfunctional party systems in the country throw two creepy, lousy candidates at us and we pick the one we think is the least likely to be an ass.  What a way to run a State.  We are so used to our voices not being heard that we are convinced we don’t have them anymore.

No more excuses.  If we want an honest government we will have to look past the attack ads, listen to more than just the sound bites and take an active role in the electoral process here.  If we can’t count on the politicians, then they can no longer count on us.  Only fear of honest people will make them honest in turn.

Heck, this is the home of Honest Abe, the city of Broad Shoulders, and a town that will support a baseball team that hasn’t won a World Series in over 100 years.  We can do anything.

Tax Cuts and the Cost of Tea in China

Reading the Economist today, which I am known to do, I came across an article about protectionism in the EU.  Scintillating reading, as I am sure you would agree.  They mused about how governments (including the US) are trying to make sure their stimulus packages get spent domestically.  This is why most people want to see infrastructure projects galore in the packages.  “Good idea”, you might say.  After all, if they just give out tax cuts, US stimulus money will end up in China.  Right?


Well, at least, not all of it.  Think of all the people who take a slice of a plasma TV before it gets sold.  Let’s start at the point of purchase and work backwards.

First, there is the salesman at Best Buy, who gets a commission for making the sale.  That sale in turn contributes towards his salary.  It also keeps Best Buy in business.  That is good because they employ custodians, technicians, salesmen and managers all over the country.  Best Buy also uses that money to service mortgages and leases on its property, pay for utilities and to hire people to maintain the buildings.  

Best Buy acquires the TV from a wholesaler.  The wholesaler runs warehouses, that employ forklift operators, truck drivers and receptionists.  That TV needs to get from Shanghai to the US, which helps to keep our ports hopping, bringing income to plenty of blue collar workers.

Lastly, you have the factory in China.  They get a small piece of the pie, remember, they are made their because the labor is cheap and the costs are kept crazy low.

So, yes, a portion of the money from a basic consumer purchase will trickle out of the country.  But a portion of it stays here too. It makes an impact all the way down the line.  And the people here employed to provide the TV then have money to put into the market, or into a mortgage, or into a Mom and Pop grocery store, or to tipping the waitress at the local diner.

Now this is obviously crazy simplified.  There are thousands of people: bankers, customs agents, cardboard manufactures, print houses, web designers…the list is almost endless, who make their living off of the sale of any consumer good.   It might be one TV, but when you add it all up it is an economic masterpiece.  And this goes on in any industry.  Since we don’t make anything here but coal and Caterpillar tractors, it will be almost impossible to keep the money here, unless we use it to build a bridge.   And while there are infrastructure projects that need to be done, they alone will not pull us out of a recession.  And if you think otherwise, just talk to the Japanese about how it has worked out for them.

I am scared of protectionism in the best of times.  In the worst of times it can be the worst of ideas.  In the 1930’s Smoot and Hawley raised tariffs to keep what little money was left here during the Depression in the country.  Ask anyone now if, in hindsight, that was a good idea.  

If anything, we should be trying to help our trade partners as much as possible.  We made this mess.  We need to help to clean it up.  Let some of the money leave the country.  After all, what helps one of our partner economies helps us as well.  

If that means cutting taxes so that people will go out and buy a TV, then so be it.

And do you know how they are going to pay for this stimulus?  They will issue bonds.  Do you know who this single largest purchaser of US bonds is?  China.

My Habit Requires Govt Assistance…

They announced today that a Congressman is trying to add a rider to new Welfare reform that would require applicants and existing recipients to pass drug testing to receive benefits.

My first reaction was “oh the ACLU is going to have a FEILD DAY with this gem”.

My second reaction was “why not?”.

Almost everyone I know, from high-level financiers to HVAC installers, has had to subject themselves to the ignominy of peeing in a cup.  It is expected now that in order to get or keep a job, you have to be able to pass a drug screening (which explains the cornucopia of cleansing kits behind the counter a GNC).  So why shouldn’t someone who will be receiving help at the hands of those people have to put up with the same?  

Many requirements exist already to walk up to the dole line.  What’s the big deal?

One of the deals is that it has already been deemed unconstitutional by the Federal District courts.  Michigan and others have implemented drug testing already.    The courts said, “Um, no.  You can’t do that.”  So any law requiring the tests would waste resources in legal challenges.

The other problem is cost.  Drug testing is not free.  The programs will have to run the testing themselves (and we all know how stellar the govt is a providing, well, anything).  How many people won’t receive benefits due to a blown test? Seriously. Do you think a hard-core drug addict would be organized enough to apply for Welfare?  

And with the additional cost of drug testing, they will have to cut something.  I would guess it would be benefits.  So now, you are penalizing the people who take the drug tests and pass as well as the addicts.

I have to say, there is some common sense in what the Congressmen are trying to accomplish.  No one, not even the most flaming Liberal, would want govt assistance to end up in the hands of the corner dealer.  

But this is not the solution.