Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gender Bender

I came across a story in the March 1st issue of Forbes magazine, written by Christina Hoff Sommers, about the National Science Foundation spending $135 million over the past several years on a "gender bias program" called Advance, that aims to improve the numbers and fortunes of women in the sciences.  Turns out that like the hoax of global warming, as perpetuated by environmental activists armed with shoddy and incomplete research, Advance may be doing more harm than good.  Not only does the program misrepresent the research done in this area of study, it may be doing irreparable harm  in the fields of engineering, physics and computer technologies.

The Advance program was funded after another $3.9 million NSF grant was provided to psychologist Virginia Valian, who started the Gender Equity Project.  The Gender Equity Project, housed within Hunter College, part of the City University of New York or CUNY, was designed to transform our nations' laboratories.  Ms. Valian and her colleagues believed that women were at a disadvantage because they did not always share with men, "the single-minded dedication and intense desire for achievement" that epitomized most practices in the laboratory.  She noted that "If we continue to emphasize and reward always being on the job, we will never find out whether leading a balanced life leads to equally good or better scientific work."  How's that for a rationalization.  Who's more at fault here, her for even thinking up such bunk, or the morons who wrote her the check?

Further research in this area, shows that bias against women in the sciences is extremely weak.  Studies point to data that indicate men and women simply have different tastes when it comes to areas of study.  For instance, women may be underrepresented in the fields of engineering, but thrive in the areas of sociology and biology.  As the author of the story points out, "Is this because engineering departments discriminate against women while biology departments do not, or is it because more women choose not to spend their lives with inanimate objects?'  There's a joke about husbands there somewhere, but I digress.  Another study, paid for by the NSF itself, found that "at many critical transition points in their academic careers (e.g., hiring for tenure-track and tenured positions and promotions), women appear to have fared as well or better than men."

For my money, this kind of ridiculousness in academia should not be rewarded and certainly not paid for by the American taxpayer.  That's what university endowments and private foundations are for.   Furthermore, this kind of wasteful spending is a glaring sign that Washington has more of our money than is necessary to operate essential government programs and way too much time on their hands.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Porky Pigs

Do you ever get the impression that Congress finds things to do just so they can quickly get to other things that might be more important to them?  Like spending money on projects and initiatives that will engender loyalty, or even immortalize themselves in their home districts.  Well duh, you say.  No, I'm not that naive.  In other words, working to pass legislation that may improve our lives, or rather what Congress perceives may improve our lives, is really just a trojan horse to pass what they really want.  Which is more pork for their own constituents and their own aggrandizement.  Take this latest attempt at a jobs bill.  Two weeks ago a much larger jobs bill, $85 billion to be exact, was pulled by Sen. Harry Reid for apparently being too big.  He felt that it contained too much pork and would create too few jobs, and that the Republicans would use that against him and his fellow Democrats in the fall.  Funny thing though, the Republicans were all for it.  Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), among others, are now livid that the pork they supported in the larger bill has been removed.  Hence, they no longer favor trying to generate jobs for out of work Americans.

That's an overstatement to be sure.  I'm not sure any jobs bill, or any bill for that matter, that is written and supported by this Congress and this president, is of any real value to Americans at all.  It just strikes me that a bunch of Republicans find themselves opposed to a tax holiday on payroll taxes for new hires over the loss of some pork for their own districts.  Maybe not forever, but just long enough to show Harry Reid how mad they are for not informing them of his new plan, which apparently turns "too big to fail" on its ear.  What the Democrats may have stumbled upon, at least Mr. Reid thinks so, could be termed "too small to ignore."  That is to say, that Mr. Reid is gambling that Americans aren't necessarily opposed to major change, they just don't like really big and expensive bills to try and accomplish said change.  So rather than try and pass behemoths like the $862 billion stimulus and the $1 trillion Obamacare, the new strategy will be to break these monsters down into smaller, more manageable portions.  Take the new $15 billion jobs bill.  Smaller numbers will attract less attention and therefore better digested at the state and local level.  Easier on the eyes and even more opportunity to spread the pork around.  The end result may still be hundreds of billions spent with little result, but you get the idea.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Physics Lesson

There was a game we played as children called crack-the-whip.  Kids would line up, shoulder to shoulder, hold hands and run around the playground making sweeping turns.  Invariably, the inertia caused by the connection with rotation from the center outward, or centrifugal force, caused the kids on the end to be cast off.  Sometimes harmlessly, sometimes not.  Today, that game is being played out on a larger scale in party politics and with equally benign or disastrous results.  It all depends on your perspective.

On the Republican or conservative side of the aisle, the whip as it were, is embodied in the form of the Tea Party.  The Tea Party hopes to strengthen the conservative cause by helping to cast off the more moderate voices of the Republican party in favor of those with more intestinal fortitude for what lay ahead.  The Tea Party recognizes that to do otherwise will inevitably lead to more spending and more intrusiveness and government expansion.  So far its hapless victims, and otherwise decent folk, may include Florida's governor Charlie Crist, Arizona's senator John McCain, Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Utah's senator Bob Bennett.  Many other politicians, both Republicans and Democrats alike, at every level of government, may be flung into the monkey bars as well.

President Clinton's declaration in 1996, that "the era of big government is over", albeit premature, will inevitably prevail.  Otherwise our future will be that of Greece's, Spain and Portugal.  These three countries are just the tip of the European welfare states' iceberg of debt.  Unless and until those in power recognize that the uncontrolled continuance of transfer payments, or the redistribution of wealth from those who produce to those who do not, will ultimately lead to financial collapse, then the attempted purge will undoubtedly roll on.  The all boats mentality, buoyed by an artificial tide, created by the gravitational pull of the welfare states' moon, will soon recede.  But it is important to remember, that unlike the sun, the moon does not generate its own light.  Real light and warmth comes from the sun.  Real strength and energy therefore is generated by oneself, not provided by others.  Temporary assistance may sometimes be required to regain our footing after a fall, but personal responsibility is the engine that propels us into the future.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Night and Day

The contrast couldn't be more stark.  One leads with absolute and necessary determination to cut spending, lower taxes, and reverse the kinds of policies that have put our municipalities, states, and our country in peril.  The other pays only lip service to waste and ineffectiveness, demanding others make the hard choices for him, while continuing to extend and expand a government that even he knows cannot be sustained nor payed for.  One hasn't reached his zenith.  The other peaked too soon.  One is the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.  The other is the Democrat President of the United States, Barack Obama.

If you have not had the chance to hear or read what Governor Christie is doing in New Jersey, you should.  It's breathtaking.  I don't mean that in the way that Barack Obama sends shivers up the leg of Chris Matthews.  I mean that in the sense that no one, not even other Republican lawmakers, have shown the kind of courage and conviction that Governor Christie demonstrated in a speech to a joint session of the New Jersey legislature last week in Trenton (Read Speech,Watch Speech).  When Democrats chide Republicans for being obstructionists, saying we don't have a plan of our own, here it is.  If every Republican lawmaker adopted Christie's candor in taking on special interests and pork, Democrats calling us obstructionists would be flirtatious.  This stuff is seismic.  These are the kinds of bold strokes and measures that can rebuild a party, or launch a career.

In an attempt to fill a $2 billion deficit, Governor Christie is crafting a budget that will cut funds from 375 state programs.  He's cutting their school aid budget by $475 million.  Over 500 school districts will be affected, 100 will get no state funds at all.  Yet despite these cuts, not one dime will be lost in the classroom.  He said that New Jersey cannot afford the $100 million they contribute to state pensions, calling such expenditures unfair to a majority of state residents.  As an example, he cited a 49 year old state employee who retired after contributing   $124,000 toward his own pension, but the state will pay him $3.8 million over the rest of his life.  Or the teacher who paid only $62,000 for her pension, and nothing for full medical, dental, and vision coverage for her family, but who will receive $1.4 million back on her pension and $215,000 in healthcare.  Instead, Governor Christie suggested public entities like the New Jersey Transit Authority, for which the state will cut its subsidy, "revisit its rich union contracts, end the patronage hiring that has typified its past, and consider service reductions or fare increases."

Governor Christie closed his speech with "Make no mistake: our priorities are to reduce and reform New Jersey's habit of excessive government spending, to reduce taxes, to encourage job creation, to shrink our bloated government, and to fund our responsibilities on a pay-as-you-go basis and not leave them for future generations.  In short, to make New Jersey a home for growth instead of a fiscal basket case."  Now isn't that the kind of straight talk grownups want to hear?  Isn't that the kind of real action that is required to speed our recovery at every level of government?  Of course it is.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gutless Obstructionists

The system is failed.  There's too much money, too many lobbyists.  The senate filibuster must go.  It's too hard to get or maintain sixty votes.  It's the process.  The Republicans are obstructionists.  The Senate Democrats are gutless.  There's no leadership from the White House.  These are the excuses provided over the last two days on MSNBC, to explain why Obama and the Democrats continue to plummet in the polls, from two different left wing progressives; Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, and Howard Dean, former governor of New Hampshire, former presidential candidate, former head of the Democrat Party, and current resident of planet P*j3R^xoI+ia (phonetically pronounced as bat-shit-crazy).  Excuse upon excuse, followed by further excuses, are offered daily to those willing to drink the numbing kool-aid proffered by followers of failed policies.  It's never their ideas or individual practitioners, like Obama, Reid, or Pelosi that may be at fault.  No way, uh uhh.  It's always an outside force, some form of gremlin, that ruins all things progressive.

Once again, perhaps a little louder this time....IT'S THE SPENDING, STUPID!  And for good measure....STOP THE LIES!  Even Sen. Evan Bayh missed that point in trying to blame a jobs bill that failed earlier in the month as one of his reasons for leaving his senate seat prematurely.  The supposedly bipartisan bill was loaded with pork, spent too much and created too little jobs.  It damn well have better been pulled!  Sen. Bayh also pointed to a bill, co-sponsored by a handful of Republicans who eventually voted against it, that would have created a deficit reduction commission to help the president cut spending.  Why does the president need a commission to cut spending?  He doesn't.  What he and the Democrats desperately need and want however, is for Republicans to share ownership of his growing deficits.  Full disclosure: Congressional Republicans should take responsibility for TARP funds and other deficit spending run up under George Bush.  If they don't, they'll never hear the end of "Deficits?  Where were you when George Bush was in charge?"  My guess is they probably will by held responsible, in effect, by losing a number of primary races this year.

What the American people want is an end to mindless spending.  We are promised by every presidential candidate every four years, that if elected, they will find waste and eliminate it.  They promise to cull through every government program and if any one is found to be unsuccessful, useless or duplicative, it will be done away with.  NEWS FLASH:  WHEN WASTE, INEFFICIENCY, AND DUPLICATION ARE FOUND, THAT HOLE IN THE BUDGET MUST NOT BE REPLACED BY MORE WASTE, INEFFICIENCY, AND DUPLICATION.  This simple message should quickly become the lexicon of every elected official in every committee room of every federal, state, county and city hall throughout this country, and very soon.         

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hasty Departure

As a native of Indiana, and a former official with the Bayh administration between 1989-1995, I am not at all shocked that Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) has decided he's had his fill of Washington politics and won't stand for reelection.  I admire his candor and his integrity in rejecting the politics of hyper-partisanship that has consumed Washington of late.  He stated in his remarks that he is "an executive at heart" and values his independence.  That "my decision should not be interpreted for more than it is."  But when Mr. Bayh says his bombshell resignation isn't about Barack Obama, you can bet your bottom dollar that it is.

Senator Bayh says he wishes to continue his service to Indiana by either creating jobs in the private sector, leading an institution of higher learning, or running a philanthropic enterprise.  One of these might suffice his need for income in the coming months, but make no mistake about it, he will be back in elective politics.  Whether it's a return to his former job as governor, or as I suspect, a run against President Obama in 2012.  Even though he seemed to flatly reject that notion this morning on MSNBC, believe me, he would like nothing better than to recapture the Democrat party from the ruinous policies of the far left and the Obama administration.

Evan Bayh has always been a conservative Democrat.  This has been his appeal to voters in an historically red state since he began his political career in 1986 when he ran for Indiana's Secretary of State.  As a two term governor, he successfully managed the state with a combination of tax cuts, fiscal discipline and good old common sense.  So much so, that he was succeeded by two more Democrat governors for another eight years.  Despite his kind words in departure for President Barack Obama, the progressives who have highjacked his party, including Mr. Obama, are an anathema to him.  I suppose, and he himself has said as much, that he simply cannot stomach the continued charade of trying to support them with his vote in the U. S. Senate.

Ever since Evan Bayh, along with his parents Birch and Marvella, visited the retired President Harry Truman at his home in Independence, Missouri, where the former president offered to show an impatient young man the way to the restroom, Evan has had his eye on the White House.  Later, meetings with President John Kennedy, while his father was a Senator from Indiana like he himself is today, further interested him in presidential politics.  So mark my words.  Evan Bayh believes in destiny and he believe his destiny will lead him to 1600 Pennsylvania and to a particular office that is oval.  Perhaps not in 2012 but someday.  And if he ever does find himself a candidate for the presidency of the United States, I'll likely vote for him.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Tasty Freeze

"Roll back Pelosi!"was the war cry this afternoon from Rush Limbaugh who, among others, is advocating freezing federal spending at 2007 levels.  Rush rightly pointed out that the federal budget has exploded ever since the Democrats took over the House after the 2006 elections, and with the help of Barack Obama's $3.8 trillion budget, will further push their deficit spending to a remarkable $1.6 trillion.  According to  Senator George LeMieux (R-FL), if government spending were reduced to 2007 levels, we'd have a balanced budget with a $163 billion surplus.  Think that might be too draconian?  Then how about freezing spending at 2008 levels, which would balance the federal budget in 2014 with a $133 billion surplus.  In both cases, according to a story in the Weekly Standard, these budgets could be accomplished while maintaining the Bush tax cuts.

George LeMieux, for those who may not remember, was appointed by Florida Governor Charlie Crist to fill out the remaining term of Mel Martinez who resigned.  Mr. LeMieux's spending plan has gained little attention in Washington, due in part to the fact that he is not seeking reelection.  In Washington parlance, those who do not seek reelection are less than lame ducks, they are pesona non grata.  That, and the fact that the Democrat majority have little interest in curbing their monstrous spending spree anytime soon.  Suffice it to say that we could use more people like Senator LeMieux in public office.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Distracted, Again

Just fourteen days ago, on January 27th, President Obama said in his State of the Union speech that "jobs must be our number one focus in 2010."  So, after just two weeks since he made that statement, what are we talking about?  Healthcare.  Forget Scott Brown and Massachusetts.  Forget a record 6.1 million Americans who have been out of work for more than 27 weeks straight.  Forget another 661.000 who just last month dropped out of the labor market and stopped looking for work altogether.  The president wants to talk healthcare reform again, from now until February 25th when he has scheduled a half-day bipartisan summit to discuss same.  And, from the sounds emanating from the mouths of those who have been invited, we begin where we ended.  With a bill that a majority of Democrats in the House and the Senate and the White House couldn't slip past the American people.

So it's no surprise then that Republican leaders in Congress are balking at the idea of spending another minute on something that a majority of  Americans have weighed in on and found wanting.  The 2,700 page Obamacare bill is a stinker and needs to be scratched.  I agree with the president when he says that bipartisanship is not the abandonment of ones' own principles for the total adoption of anothers', but too much time and attention has already been wasted on something that will never happen.  Unless of course the progressives in the Democrat party get their way and break the glass of the emergency reconciliation box and shove this crap down our throats.  Either way, there will be further hell to pay at the ballot box in November.

If I were advising the Republicans in Congress, and I am not, I would let the president know that I would be more than willing to come to the White House on February 25th to discuss job creation and getting America back to work.  I would remind them to remind him that just 14 days ago this was his intent as well.  I would tell them to tell him that once we get our economy back on track, through cutting spending and cutting taxes, that we could then resume negotiations over a full range of ideas that together might move America ahead.  But if all he wants to do on that particular Monday is talk healthcare, then thanks but no thanks.   Republicans will take our chances with the American voter without participating in another White House sideshow.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Trivial Pursuits

I'm curious about many things, both meaningful and meaningless.  For instance I learned many years ago that you can tell the origins of a necktie simply by observing the direction in which the stripes are arranged.  So it always struck me that Barack Obama seems to prefer foreign neckwear over domestic brands.  Whenever you see President Obama wearing a striped tie, chances are the stripes run from his left down to the right.  This is often a sign that it is an English or European brand.  American brand ties that are striped, for the most part, run opposite, or from the wearers right, down to the left.  This isn't significant, unless you purport to be someone who supports American union workers like those organized under the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union or UNITE HERE.  I'll bet you a gazillian dollars that you won't find a union label on the back of one of Obama's ties.    

This innocent observation on my part, led this morning to some other strange and meaningless things.  For instance I wasn't aware that the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, or the ILGWU, the people behind the "Look for the union label" ads that were so popular in the '70's had morphed into UNITE HERE.  Or that most ties, striped, club, signet, paisley, American, English or European, are mostly made in China.  I also came across a website called  Neck of State, is a website devoted to the neckwear of POTUS.  Really.  

Neck of State claims it is a "research blog that studies how what the President of the United States of America wears on his or her neck may affect their decisions while in office."  Their "current mission is to track, catalog, and correlate the neckties and other neckwear of President Barack Obama.  President Obama was a powerful force for change long before he took office, and it's imperative that we understand, clearly, how his choice of neckwear affects world events."  Indeed.  We also learn that Obama prefers the four-in-hand knot, which "is easier to tie than the full- or half- windsor, and thus the most appropriate tie for a President focused on drastic change in Washington now, rather than fussing with his neckwear in the morning."  How true.  I can't imagine the kinds of calamitous world events or domestic policy gaffes that were perhaps averted simply by Obama shaving three seconds off his morning routine.  Not surprisingly, we learn that the White House will not disclose where Obama buys his ties.  Only his haberdasher knows for sure.      

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I Want Your MTV

"Money for nothin' and the chicks for free."  So sang Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits back in the 1980's.   Today, the Michigan League for Human Services explains how to get money for practically nothing in their just released 2010 edition of Money Back in Michigan.  Money Back in Michigan details how to file for and receive income tax deductions and refunds from nine different federal and state tax credits.  The reader is also encouraged to utilize "free" (read government subsidized) tax preparation services rather than "expensive" (read private sector) tax preparers.  In other words, under the right circumstances, a person can get money for something they didn't do, and arranged for by someone they don't have to pay.  Under Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, people with low or moderate incomes are incongruously rewarded for work that was either underpaid, not paid at all, or performed by someone else altogether.

The Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC was established in 1975 to offset the costs of social security income taxes and to provide an incentive to work.  If you have more credits than what you owe to the IRS, you get cash back.  Oddly enough, even though the EITC refund supplements your income, it does not count as income against eligibility for other government programs like Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps, low income housing, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  Michigan, like many other states, has their own EITC which provides state refunds on top of federal dollars.

The federal Child Tax Credit will be available to families earning as little as $3000 this year, as opposed to $8500 under George Bush.  The American Opportunity Tax Credit makes post secondary education easier on the wallet.  If you spent at least $2500 on college tuition, you can get $1000 back from the feds.  The superfluously named Making Work Pay Credit provides $400 for individuals and $800 for couples filing jointly.  Other credits are the federal Child and Dependent Care Credit, the state Child Deduction, the state Home Heating Tax Credit, and the state Homestead Property Tax Credit.  Keep in mind that these are the kinds of tax credits and incentives that President Obama offers as his bona fides when talking with Republican lawmakers.

Lest I make too much fun of President Obama for his tax giveaways, we have our own progressive-in-chief Governor Granholm.  Under her watch, Michigan has enacted tax credits that give money back to renters for heat, which may have even been included in their rent and payed for by their landlord.  Renters may also receive refunds for taxes paid on property they don't even own.  It doesn't get any better than that.  No wonder then that over the last eight years, under Jennifer Granholm, Michigan has slid to the bottom of most lists you can find.

While the EITC can put much needed money back into a community, it's really only money that was once there, taxed, and then redistributed.    

Friday, February 5, 2010


Washington's budgets are killing our country.  Yes we know that record deficit spending is doing considerable long term damage to the fiscal solvency of our country, but it's more insidious at the state level, where each year's rise in federal spending forces states to either spend money they don't have, raise taxes, or lose out on much needed federal funds to augment their own services.  Specifically, "maintenance of effort" clauses in practically every funding steam that comes from Washington to the states, is forcing each and every state to increase their own budgets disproportionally and to their own detriment.

Take Michigan for example.  Governor Failure, I mean Jennifer Granholm, in her (thankfully) last state of the state speech this week, lamented the fact that the Michigan will spend $800 million less on road projects for the next few years compared to the $1.4 billion we'll spend this year because we cannot generate enough funds from our current gas tax to meet the requirements for a federal match.  Michigan is a donor state, meaning that we send more money to Washington then we get in return.  In fact, according to something called, we rank 5th as a donor and 47th as a recipient of net federal tax benefits.  We get back 92 cents in federal transportation dollars for every dollar we send in to federal fuel tax.  Without an increase in our gas tax, we will go from 92 cents to 50 cents in a few short years.  A bill has been introduced in the MI House to raise our gas tax from 19 to 23 cents, and diesel from 15 to 21 cents per gallon.  In just three years, both would be 27 cents per gallon.  These tax increases would raise just enough funds to meet our federal match over the next five years, going from $240 million next year to twice that amount beginning in 2013.  Folks this is just to meet our transportation match.  There are other such requirements for Medicaid/Medicare, education, public safety, job training, you name it.  

Of course Washington, especially under Barack Obama, will continue to put our states through this perilous tail chase unless we end this practice now.  Short of that in the near term, we should at least demand a drop in the percentage of the match requirement from say 20% to 10%.  Trying to raise taxes anytime should be a difficult thing to do.  In a recession it's downright criminal.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Catching Up

The news doesn't stop when you go away for a few days so here are a couple of things that happened while I was gone that I can't get out of my head:

From a story in USA Today, about the recovery efforts underway in Haiti, the world has provided over $8 billion in aid to Haiti since 1969.  So what does the world have to show for all this money and effort in raising the living standard in one of the poorest countries on earth?  Haiti's unemployment rate, before this latest disaster, is 25% higher than it was in 1969.  This is what culminates when you mix massive amounts of money with a plethora of unfocused and uncoordinated agencies and organizations run at the behest and oversight of corrupt officials.  

Speaking of colossal failure and mismanagement on a grand scale, on Morning Joe earlier this week, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an associate professor of Politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, and a regular guest on the show, said that African-American politicians, like Barack Obama, often find themselves elected to high office in places that have been "hollowed out" by greedy corporations and poor urban planning.  She used this president and the City of Detroit as examples.   This statement went unchallenged by everyone on the panel.  Just for the record Ms. Harris-Lacewell, Detroit had the highest per capita income in 1950.  It was a great American city until President   Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and the riots of 1967 drove whites to the suburbs.  Since then, Detroit has been a model of progressive government; a living wage, militant school and public employee unions, and a tax system that aggressively redistributes income from businesses and the wealthy to the poor and government bureaucracies.  Often dubbed the most liberal city in America, Detroit was hardly "hollowed out" before Coleman Young became mayor in 1974.

From last week's State of the Union speech by President Obama, he reeled off a bunch of policy initiatives like additional tax cuts, pro-business  plans and home grown energy development for oil. coal, and nuclear power that sounded eerily familiar to conservatives.  Although we've heard such rhetoric before, is this an embrace of the policies of the past?  Are the very policies he demagogued on the road to the White House his salvation?  We shall see.