Author Archives: jdhine

Big Government Has Become Self-Aware

In the fantastic Sci-Fi thriller series The Terminator, Skynet, the massive super computer that controls much of the functioning of the world becomes self-aware.  And as it becomes self aware – it then begins creating robots and weapons to defend itself and take over the world.  This is much akin to where we are today with an expanding federal government.  It exists for end in itself, beyond the means of even a President to truly control it.

 The recent scandals with the IRS and the Justice Department compel me to come back to the Politalk forum.  I only hope someone is listening and we have not abandoned this venue for too long.

We are experiencing the direct symptoms of government power run amuck and unchecked.  The biggest mistake that could be made is somehow laying the blame at the feet of the current administration.  This trivializes and will dismiss what has happened.  While all executive teams must take responsibility for the actions of their subordinates, the unbridled power wielded by government agencies has been building since the flawed decisions of the 1930’s to have government – not law – be the arbiter of our economic health.  When the slippery slope was crossed that our government had a role in architecting the economy with a goal of full employment and consumption for all – when the idea that equal outcomes became more important than equal opportunity took hold – the role of government changed from that of referee, to one of puppet-master.  Just about every President has perpetuated this idea since FDR, Republican or Democrat.

And beyond central economic planning – we have come to accept government interference/control in all parts of our lives.  Today we found out that Verizon has essential given access to the NSA of every American’s phone records on an as needed basis.  There are those (Libertarians) who would have us live in a world without regulation – this is not practical.  And that’s coming from one who considers himself Libertarian. But it’s also not wise or practical to passively surrender our liberty for the promise that government will fix it if it goes bad.

Instead of using the IRS scandal to bash the Obama administration (a lame duck administration no less) why don’t both sides of the aisle use this to demonstrate the need for substantial tax reform and an overhaul of the IRS to get it down to the size of an agency needed to administer basic flat and/or consumption based taxes that need no more than a single page form to file?

 This would achieve

1.     A more competitive international business climate for US based firms

2.     Increased tax revenue due to increased compliance of an easy to use filing scheme

3.     Dramatically reduce the size and cost of tax compliance for the IRS itself (downsize the org) and reduced cost of compliance for American businesses

When there are no loopholes or tax incentives, it does not take a team of 500 lawyers for Apple to submit their taxes.  That means more profit for Apple AND more taxes in the Treasury coffers.  If that’s not a win-win, I don’t know what is.  Calculate your profit/income, give us 25%, write a check.  No loopholes, no deductions, no subsidies.  Same for individual taxes.

Is there anyone who could really oppose a tax system free of loopholes where you pay a simple flat rate based on a reasonable progressive system?   Is there anyone who could oppose an IRS, which is half the size and still effectively administers tax policy in an un-bias manner?

Big Government has become self- aware…..

Signed – John Connor


Unlimited Power to Tax Upheld by SCOTUS

While I’m a little shocked and disappointed today at the decision on the Affordable Care Act, I have to support Justice Roberts reasoning. “The Federal government does not have the right to compel someone to purchase health insurance. The Federal government does have the constitutional right to tax someone who does not have health insurance”

So really – the mandate was struck down – but the unfettered right to tax was upheld.  The government has a right to target a category of citizens – those who do not have health insurance – and tax them.

So that’s our new starting point.  Obamacare is a tax bill with lots of other good healthcare stuff.

But what of the Medicaid issue?  The bill promised to add 17 million Americans to the ranks of Medicaid who previously had no health insurance.  In fact – this was pretty much the main goal.  The ruling on this provision has the potential of gutting the entire law.  SCOTUS ruled that the federal government cannot compel states to add additional people to Medicaid by threatening to pull all Medicaid funding if they do not comply.

From Justice Roberts. “Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.”

This means that state’s are under no obligation to add these 17M people to Medicaid.  Since ACA provisions provide funding for this for 5 years, why would a Governor sign up to put hundreds of thousand of people into Medicaid knowing that he/she only had 5 years of funding?  After that – the state would be totally responsible for funding this Medicaid expansion. 

I know 26 states who will be refusing to implement a key provision of ACA with no fear of penalty. 

What will happen when these 17M people realize they are not guaranteed healthcare under this act? 

I don’t think this has sunk in yet…..

Guest Blogger Jeff

Republicans and Democrats don’t get Wisconsin….and why we still need a third party who does

The spin is entirely predictable…

Republicans – Obama is on the ropes and Wisconsin rejected big bad labor unions.

Democrats – Wisconsin voted against recalls not against unions, and BTW you outspent us 7 to 1 – thank you militant right wing supreme court.

Both takes are wrong.  Best analysis I’ve seen of the election was from – yes another one of my go-to Libertarian media outlets.  See the article here.

The net.  Voters are smart and practical.  They’ve realized – its the math stupid.  We are out of money.  Voters in Wisconsin said its completely OK for public union members to pay for their own benefits – what a radical stance!!!!  They said its OK to look at adjusting the playing field which gives unions the ability to leverage taxpayer dollars to vote out politicians that that don’t give them huge contracts.  Go figure – Wisconsin voters and FDR have something in common – they both fear the corrupting power of public sector unions.

For years I’ve been saying all voters want is for someone to tell them the tough truth about our finances.  Scott Walker told the truth and in the process became the only governor to ever survive a recall election.

And in case you missed it, San Diego and San Jose voted to curb public sector benefits as well.  So California and the state famous for having open socialists preside over a major city (several Milwaukee mayors were real genuine socialists) all voted to curb the power and benefits of public sector union.  Not because they hate teachers, puppies and the poor.  But because it made perfectly logical financial sense.

There is hope….

Guest Blogger Jeff

Reflections on Election Day 2011 in NYC

Election day in NYC normally means hordes of people filing in to PS-XYZ  to take part in the machine of Democracy before they scurry off to work.  Every coffee shop near the polling place is normally packed with people grabbing a quick dose of caffeine before waiting in line or heading off to the train.  Supporters of each candidate strategically place themselves handing out leaflets within inches of the designated imaginary barrier they cannot cross.

Today – ghost town.

At 9:15 when I walked into the public school my daughter attends to cast my vote, I walked up to the table to register.  I was voter #5 for my district.  Polls had been open since 6AM.  When I took my fancy new ballot to the scanner – I noticed the counter on the scanner as it electronically recorded my vote.

#19 – only 19 people had voted so far that day.

OK – so all NYC was voting on was judges and justices for the supreme court.  These are only people who actually do stuff every day, make decisions, and interpret laws.  Its not like they were legislators.

Kind of sad for me.  Now I know things will be different next year with the President, Congress, and Senate up for grabs again, but you would think that folks would care about the elected officials who wake up every day in their home towns, go to work, and make decisions that directly impact their communities.

We’ve become so disenfranchised with government that many don’t care anymore.  We send our best to fight and die for others to get the right to vote, then don’t bother showing up for our own.

Our democracy has become a direct reflection of our lack of faith in the system. Will we ever realize that we are getting exactly the system we deserve.

Here’s to both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street – may we take back Democracy.

Guest Blogger Jeff

Defense Spending is Counterintuitive

It really struck me today when I read that President Obama’s defense budget for next year is $22B larger than this year.  Aren’t we drawing down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Doesn’t that mean lots of extra troops and dollars to be put into other stuff, and the war on terror?  Why would we need more?

How about a new foreign policy based on the concept of restraint, recognizing the idea of “blow-back”, which more and more people are starting to talk about.

  1. Stop messing with other peoples stuff
  2. Then people will hate us less
  3. Which will lead them to stop messing with our stuff
  4. Which will lead us to stop feeling the need to mess with their stuff
  5. Repeat

Ron Paul has it right. The more we spend on defense, the more enemies we have, and the less safe we are.  Now its really probably some inflexion point on a curve somewhere where you increase safety up to a certain level then see the inverse, but it feels like we passed that point on the curve somewhere around the end of the cold war.

What do you think?

Guest Blogger Jeff

Four Questions About Medicare

I am generally a supporter of the Ryan budget and Medicare plan.  While I’m skeptical of how the voucher portion will play out – will it really ensure that viable Medicare offerings for seniors are available in the market at $15,000?  But I think it’s worth trying.  And in the absence of any other serious plan to curtail cost, I have nothing legitimate to compare it to.  I’ll state unequivocally that I would support any plan, Republican, Democratic, or other, that fixes the problem.  But let’s take a step back and understand the problem.

The problem with Medicare is that the federal government has promised to cover medical care to seniors at an unlimited, and uncapped cost to taxpayers.  That means, that no matter how many seniors there are, no matter what care they need, taxpayers have promised to pay.

Medicare is wildly popular among seniors – OF COURSE IT IS – ITS FREE AND THERES NO LIMIT!

This approach however is expediting the bankruptcy of our country.  The average Medicare recipient pays in approximately $150,000 in Medicare taxes over the course of their lives.  The average Medicare recipient receives $350,000 of medical benefits over the course of their life.  So society must pick up the $200,000 short fall, which is funded from the tax dollars of all American.   It’s easy to see how this can’t work long term.

Its time to ask the really tough questions which the Ryan plan has the insight to answer in the form of tactical action, but not the courage to point out and put on the table for honest discussion.

  1. Is it truly the responsibility of the federal government to fund unlimited health care for those 65 and over?
  2. Is it not reasonable to ask seniors to pay higher premiums and deductibles for the healthcare that they receive?
  3. Is it unfair to provide seniors a basic level of healthcare, and ask them to get their own supplemental insurance for things like organ transplants, hip replacements, or heroic treatments to extend life a few more months?
  4. Is it OK to continue to borrow more money for benefits today, and stick future generations with the tax burden of figuring out how to pay for it?

These are really uncomfortable questions.  They should be at the heart of the debate, and no one is talking about them.

The federal government should be 4th in line to cover catastrophic or end of life medical care for seniors.

Who should be responsible for seniors’ healthcare? In order?

  1. The senior
  2. The seniors family
  3. The local community and charities (including hospitals)
  4. The federal government (as a last resort safety net)

We’ve had for too long the idea that avoiding using the assets of seniors and their families to pay for healthcare is the right thing to do.  There is a whole cottage industry of lawyers and accountants who strategize of how to hide the assets of those over 65 so healthcare and long-term care is picked up by their neighbors.

We have to start asking if it is morally right to pass our burdens on to someone else, and then complain when they stop accepting that burden.

How do you answer these four questions?

Guest Blogger Jeff

So What’s the Big Deal About the Debt Ceiling?

Get ready for Round 2 of a main event that’s going to play our over the next 18 months.  And the bell rings on the debt ceiling debate.

So here’s a question for everyone to ponder.  If you were loaning someone money, which type of person would you prefer?

  • A person who is taking this loan as their last loan without any further borrowing, and has a comprehensive plan in place to pay off the money you are loaning them, as well as all the other money they owe.


  • A person who is borrowing money from you, is already in debt equal to about 60% of their yearly salary, and has no plan in place for paying any of the debt off, in fact, is certain that they will have to borrow more money in the future.

In this scenario, if we were to simply vote to raise the debt ceiling, we are the second example.  If we refuse to raise the debt ceiling, and put a plan in place to pay off our debt, then we are first example.

So why does anyone think that if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we will default?  We will actually become more attractive to lenders if we decide to get our fiscal house in order.

The fact is that we have more than enough money from tax revenue to cover the interest on our national debt without raising the debt ceiling.   We will not default on any payment regardless.  We will however have to cut other expenses.

Only the Treasury deciding not to continue to pay interest on our debt from current tax revenue would cause a default, not a failure to raise the debt ceiling.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that not raising the debt ceiling is catastrophic – its fear mongering.

Not raising the debt ceiling and SUBSTANTIAL spending cuts is exactly the message of fiscal responsibility we need to send our creditors.

Who would you loan money to?

Guest Blogger Jeff