Archives For government

2014-08-03_11-10-40But the problem is we have structured our economy in this sort of death spirally way, where huge profitable organizations like Wal-Mart pay poverty wages to a million workers, and then taxpayers make up the difference in social services programs like food stamps and Medicaid and rent assistance, and so on and so forth.  It’s as morally repugnant as it is economically inefficient.

It’s a fact that Wal-Mart earned $27 billion in profit last year. They could afford to pay their bottom million workers $10,000 more a year, raise all of those people out of poverty, save tax payers billions of dollars, and still earn $17 billion in profit, right.

It’s simply nuts that we have allowed this to happen. And the only way you can change things is to raise the minimum wage. Certainly the people that run Wal-Mart will not do this on their own.  The idea that businesses will go out of business if they pay workers more is just not true, even though I understand the sort of visceral fear that some of them feel about this change.

SOURCE: Why capitalism has nothing to do with supply and demand | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour.

These quotes above drive home what I believe is a very basic reason our economy is still in the state that it is. We just give too much power to the most avid capitalists among us. In other words we give too much power to those few who control most of our nation’s wealth. I am a firm believer in the idea that government’s role in a democratic/capitalist society is to reign in the greed that naturally comes with capitalism.

Unions used to have some control over this wage vs established wealth issue but that is just no longer the case. As is typical of these sort of thing unions themselves became too powerful and as a result too self-focused and corrupt to continue to hold the influence they once had. Unfortunately there was nothing there to replace the void left by the extinction of unions so it is necessary for our government to step in. But even that is another tragic failure in this very disjointed country.

With the almost total breakdown of the ability to govern, especially at the national level, this dichotomy between wages and wealth has gone unabated for a couple of decades now. Our economy is almost totally based on consumer spending but if consumers are stripped of any sense of discretionary income it seems like that is a natural spiral that we will not escape from. The richest among us just don’t eat out 10,000 times a month to replace those who can no longer afford such luxury.

We depend on our government to reign in the excess of our capitalist system and that is just not happening in today’s world.

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A Slight Majority….

October 4, 2013

Slight Majority

It is somewhat encouraging to see that a slight majority of the Republicans want to get the government running again and are not obsessed with denying 30 million of our citizens affordable health care.

When are you going to get enough guts to finally take back control from those wing nuts who have kidnapped your party???????   Better sooner than later.  A good first start would be to put a Speaker of the House in their that has an ounce of guts to stand up to those who are destroying the GOP…..

Pile of Money“Lord, the money we spend on government. And, it’s not a bit better government than we got for one-third the money twenty years ago.” – Will Rogers, 27 March 1932

Lord knows we spend hundreds of time more for our government than we even did in Will’s day so his words above are even more appropriate today. I am proudly a social liberal but at the same time I am a fiscal conservative.  No, neither word insults me as is does many other around me these days. Being a fiscal conservative I want government to spend my money as frugally as I do and of course that is not what is happening today.

But being a social liberal I don’t want our representatives to save money by taking away things like food stamps from those who don’t get enough to eat and that is what the House conservatives are currently trying to do.  They say they will get around to putting food stamps back together sometime in the future.  Given their past performances “sometime in the future” could be decades away!

No, I don’t want them to take food out of people’s mouths in order to say money. It totally dumbfounds me that the conservatives, and the not so conservatives, in congress can’t see the mammoth elephant in the room when it comes to spending my dollars. It is widely recognized that those yahoos have thrown so much money at the folks at the Pentagon that they really can’t even figure how to spend it all.  Why can’t they see all this useless spending when it is so obvious to so many of us?

 

I Often Wonder…..

June 1, 2013

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USPS1

I often wonder how our government survives, let alone efficiently, doing the people’s business. In the engineering world where I spent thirty years of my life there was an old saying “Design By Committee”. All of us engineers knew that the more people you have involved in solving a problem the less likely that you would come up with a good answer. Design by committee is similar to “Too many chefs spoil the pot” in the cooking world.

The above cartoon shows us that this is also true with our current way of doing business in government circles. When you get 535 people involved in just about anything nothing productive can come from it.  I think the best thing that congress could do for the USPS is to just cut them loose to make their own decisions. Giving them mandate after mandate and then telling them you don’t like their solutions is, well, stupid.

Not all businesses, especially ones so thoroughly regulated by government can make it on their own. I am very familiar with that since I worked for the world’s largest telephone company before it was de-regulated. I can’t even describe the cultural shock that went through that company when they were set adrift so to speak. I kind of liked the idea of having more reign of what we would be designing but many if not most of the upper management were just fear-stricken.

Let’s take the US off the USPS and see what happens. Their business is a dwindling one so if they are to survive without government subsidies they will need to re-invent themselves.  If they fail then there are several other private companies that can come in and meet the shrinking demand while it continues to be there.

Congress just can’t seem to understand they are not very good at innovative thinking. There is just too many people with veto power it seems.  When they looked at our ever-expanding healthcare costs they wisely decided to let a smaller, less political, group attack the problem.  That group was  called Simpson/Bowles after the two leaders.  It took them what seemed like an eternity in the private enterprise world to come up with ideas for reigning in healthcare costs. Many of their solutions were pragmatic and would likely help ameliorate the problem. But, as usual congress took the report and then did absolutely nothing with it. The politics of today almost mandated that end result.

If you are new to this blog you might think these are the words of one of those tea party wing nuts but let me tell you  that I am by NO MEANS one of that group.  Our government has an honor bound duty to do the people’s business. A big part of that is to keep us safe via police, firemen, regulators and such.  Another it to keep our infrastructure sound and progressively moving forward. These duties take a massive effort and we elect representatives to accomplish those things. If they are not up to the task then it is “our” duty to remove them from their office and to put someone else in there who might do it better. The solution is not to shut down government because we have chosen so unwisely in the last few decades.  I hope the Centrist movement helps us with correcting that.

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JusticeAttorney General Eric Holder says he will not need to furlough any Justice Department employees in the current fiscal year.

The attorney general says he will be able to avoid furloughs because of additional money in the recently enacted legislation, combined with aggressive steps to freeze hiring and cut contracting and other costs

via Holder: No furloughs at Justice Department – CBS News.

I’m sure the purpose of this article was to show how well the Justice Department was run. They brag that they don’t need to lay off workers because they found the necessary 10% budget cuts elsewhere. Being the contrarian that I am while it is a good thing to not have to lay off anyone, to me it shows the opposite of good fiscal management. It means their budgets were bloated to start with and now some of the bloat had to be removed.

I know from having to do budgets in the corporate world that budgeting and expense planning are as much of a game as anything else. You always put more into the budget because you know that some of it will be cut.  The secret was to know where the line is.  If you bloat your budget too much  to where it is obvious that you have done that then a much heavier knife will be used and you end up a loser. If you are naive enough to only put down what you actually need then you also suffer the consequences.

Knowing all these games I was almost in favor of the sequestered  10% across the board cuts to government spending. Where the cuts do real damage like in the recent case of air traffic controllers they can be amended. Where there are cases like the above with the Justice department we should maybe be looking at additional cuts in next year’s budgets.  I’m sure government agencies are not immune from this typical corporate gaming.

But then we come to the defense department all of this stuff seems to be moot. Every year, at least for this millennium, the defense departments bloats their budgets beyond any actual need and then the congress adds even more. Defense department spending has increased dramatically during this period while everything else has suffered. I am hoping that the recent talks about serious reviews of the DOD budgets are well, serious.

The other thing we need to get serious about is healthcare costs. Since we have thrown out the most obvious solution that the rest of the world has discovered to these ever rising costs (that is single-payer system) we will have to find a unique solution.  Reigning in costs means giving some people and corporations less money for their services or finding more efficient ways to do things.  I have not really studied this area much but I seem to remember that there are billions, if not trillions , of dollars wasted each year due to medical errors and over-billing Medicare. Lets get serious about those things too. Maybe they need a sequester too. 🙂

I know that some folks will look at this post and the previous one and see a conflict. Since I am a pragmatist  I like to look at all the angles. You never know which one might be right for a given situation.

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Roulette tableTaxation is about all there is to Government. You know, people don’t want their taxes lowered near as much as the politicians try to make you believe. People want just taxes more than they want lower taxes.  —  November 2, 1924   — Will Rogers

It seems that much that drives my radical-right friends is the adamant conviction to prevent someone from getting something they haven’t worked for. This belief drives much of their feeling of social conservatism. They would rather deny ten people adequate food than to give it to someone who is gaming the system.  People gaming welfare seem to be their number one enemy to be destroyed at almost any costs.

I myself am a fiscal conservative so in a different way I too want to prevent someone from gaming the system to obtain any degree of  underserved wealth. In that regard I am not that different from the radical right.  But, the major difference is that I have compassion for those suffering for something they have almost no control over. I am willing to accept that when I help some in need there will be a minute few who will game the system. Innate greed seems to assure that possibility.

I want to come down just as hard of those who game the Medicare, Medicaid, and other welfare systems as my radical right friends.  Where we differ almost completely  is at the other end of the game. That is those who game tax laws to keep from paying their fair share of taxes. My radical-right friends seem to almost celebrate those who can get out of paying taxes by whatever means possible. Since almost half of those in our present congress are millionaires they themselves are probably taking advantages of numerous tax loopholes.

During the recent budget talks the Democrats want to go after the tax loopholes that many in the upper 1% use to keep their tax rates lower than those who clean their houses. The Republicans in congress seem to be as much against that idea as they are for going hard at those on the other end of the wealth spectrum.  They say closing loopholes is raising taxes and they will not have anything to do with that.  To me, and I believe most sensible people, see closing loopholes as a way to get the super-rich to pay  their fair share. It is not raising taxes but simply getting them to a level they should have been all along.

It will be interesting to see if any thing resembling agreement on this issue will come from the congress. I am for keeping people from gaming the system at both ends. They should be spending as much of their political capital at the top end of the wealth ladder as we do at the bottom end.

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….