Thursday, February 26, 2009

Truth Deficit

It seems every problem the country faces is one that President Obama inherited from his predecessor. The Economy, the War on Terror, the Budget Deficit: all George Bush's fault. Truth be told, that George Bush sure had it easy; the only thing he inherited from his predecessor was a large bottle of stain remover.

With every action he takes, President Obama shows that George Bush, much like Homer Simpson's alcohol, is the cause of and solution to all of life's problems. Bush leave you with a problem in Afghanistan? One of George Bush's troop surges ought to fix that. Bush dump a reeling economy into your lap? Try using another Bush-inspired stimulus package. Bush not keeping the country safe enough? Then you better keep the Bush-appointed Secretary of Defense.

About the only difference between this administration and the last one is that it no longer takes two gallons of Botox to get Nancy Pelosi to put on her malevolent smile. Now it just comes natural.

For all the Democratic talk of wrongful inheritance, there is still one anti-Bush boogey man that should have no legs: the idea that the Democrats discovered the deficit when they came into office and had nothing to do with its creation. This is simply not true.

During President Obama's speech to the nation this week, he mentioned inheriting a deficit four times. And each time Nancy Pelosi's minions would spring from their seats faster than Paula Abdul at a N'Sync Concert. But no matter how many times you say it was inherited, it does not make it true.

While this may be hard to believe, when George Bush was in office he did not spend a dime. The executive office has no approval over fiscal appropriations. While they can propose a budget, ultimately it is the congress that decides where and how the money is spent. This means every charge George Bush put onto Uncle Sam's credit card for the passed two years, came with a Democratic signature. Yet Barack Obama and his ilk have the audacity to act surprised when they walked into the Oval Office and opened up their first credit card statement.

To be sure, George Bush and the Republicans are far from blameless in the regard. But since Barack Obama has taken over, the national debt has more than doubled. Even TARP, the bank bailout from last fall, was voted on and approved by then- Senator Barack Obama.

Since then, President Obama has only added to the deficit with a stimulus package of his own. Yet knowing his reckless augmentation of the federal budget deficit, he still has the audacity to host "fiscal responsibility summits" and lecture the nation on personal responsibility. It is like watching Paris Hilton lead and abstinence-only clinic.

In the end, the only inheritance President Obama should be worried about is the one he leaves our children.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

28 Days Later

While this may come as a surprise to many of you, I am not a flesh-eating zombie. As a heartless conservative, my desire to consume the hopes and dreams of widows and orphans remains unchanged, but I have yet to develop the taste for human flesh. In fact, I think we can all agree that in Obama's America, nobody will have the means for mindless consumption.

Clearly a zombie-free America shows that the first 28 days of the Obama administration were not nearly as bad as they could have been. It is important to start any dose of constructive criticism by pointing out what the person does well. President Obama, when it comes to not turning us into the living dead, you take the cake.

As for the rest of your accomplishments in these past 28 days, well, not so much.

You think picking a Cabinet is hard, you should try picking out the curtains

The first and easiest job a President will ever have is picking out his cabinet. The list of requirements for being in the cabinet include: 1) Being a human being 2) Paying your taxes. So how could President Obama possibly screw this up so badly?

First there was Timothy Geithner, President Obama's pick for Treasury secretary. He avoided paying Social Security and Medicare taxes for several years despite being warned by his employer to do so. Of course, this minor tax problem we are willing to overlook. I mean, the guy is only going to be the head of the IRS, why would he need to know how to properly pay his taxes?

Then a couple of lesser cabinet picks, Nancy Killefer and Hilda Solis had to withdraw their respective nominations due to less than honest remittance to good old Uncle Sam.

And finally, back from the political grave, was none other than former Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, President Obama's pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Surely a man who championed higher taxes on the rich for years while in the Senate would give his fair share? Alas, it appears a man who earned $5.2 million dollars in the five years since he left office could not afford the basic services of H&R Block. Who says the rich aren't hurting? Don't worry Tom, President Obama's got your back. Way back.

If you add on to the fact that both Bill Richardson and Judd Greg have turned down Obama's offer to be Commerce Secretary, you find for the first time in history a Presidential Cabinet with an unemployment problem.

Setting higher ethical standards, expect when he doesn't

When President Obama boldly stated that no lobbyist would "work in my Whitehouse" he meant it. Literally. In fact, every one of the dozens of former lobbyists now working for the President have their office space well outside of 1600 Pennsylvania. When it comes to his own ethics rules, Obama means what he says and says what he means. He just doesn't mean what you think he's saying when you think he's saying what he means. See what I mean? Among the dozen or so lobbyists-turned-Obama advisors who will never work in his White house (wink-wink) are:

William Lynn, Deputy Defense secretary who just last year was a lobbyist for a defense contractor. Certainly no conflict of interest there.

Ron Klain, Joe Biden's Chief of Staff, who lobbied for drug maker ImClone. Assuming ImClone manufactures a drug called Hypocritix®, he may be the perfect man for the Obama administration. They are clearly already taking this drug in strong doses.

A good captain always goes down with the (Bipartisan)ship

There is a U.S. President who once wrote "Genuine bipartisanship assumes an honest process of give-and-take, and that the quality of the compromise is measured by how well it serves some agreed-upon goal, whether better schools or lower deficits. This in turn assumes that the majority will be constrained by an exacting press corps and ultimately an informed electorate to negotiate in good faith.

"If these conditions do not hold if nobody outside Washington is really paying attention to the substance of the bill, if the true costs . . . are buried in phony accounting and understated by a trillion dollars or so the majority party can begin every negotiation by asking for 100% of what it wants, go on to concede 10%, and then accuse any member of the minority party who fails to support this 'compromise' of being 'obstructionist.'"

Which sage American President described so clearly the bipartisan politics of Washington gone a wry? Bill Clinton? FDR? Dare I say, JFK?

Nope. It was President Barack Obama.

Consider this quote in light of the "bipartisan" economic stimulus package just passed by congress and signed into law by President Obama. To help I have made a list of the differences Obama describes between a bipartisan and a partisan bill. See if you can tell which side of the list best applies.

Bipartisan

-Honest give-and-take

-Serves agreed upon goal

-Better schools and lower deficits

-Exacting press corps

-Informed electorate

Partisan

-Nobody paying attention to substance

-Phony accounting

-Understated by a trillion dollars

-Minority opponents called "obstructionist"

It is sad to see President Obama sign a supposed "bipartisan" bill when he, above everybody else, knows it is not. He clearly knows what bipartisan legislation looks like in theory, just not in practice. Oh for the days of President Bush when the only words that would haunt him were his dumb ones. It looks like President Obama will always be haunted by his smart ones.

Maybe we can keep Guantanamo Bay open if we turn it into a Planned Parenthood?

What President Obama has achieved in 28 days says even more about his failures. In just 28 days he managed to begin closing Guantanomo Bay and he reversed the executive order restricting federally-funded abortions over seas. I think we can all be proud to see a President who rushes to provide terrorists with greater opportunities for freedom than unborn –third world babies.

Regardless of how you feel about these issues, how can the President justify wasting any time on such low-priority, low-importance issues when, by his own words, we are facing a dire economic crisis. Its like watering your plants while the house burns down.

Zombie or not, this administration has left me just the same way the previous administration did: with an unquenchable thirst for brains.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Morning After: A Declaration of Dependence

With the passing of the Economic Stimulus Bill, we see the dawning of a new day. A day where every bank that makes a bad decision can count on Uncle Sam to come to the rescue. A day where every Californian making minimum wage can count on Uncle Sam to pay for the mortgage on their $600,000 lunchbox of a home. A day where single moms with 14 kids can count on Uncle Sam to pay for every aspect of her children's lives, including their conception.

Our founding fathers had it totally wrong. We don't want to declare independence. The only thing any of us want to declare is bankruptcy so Uncle Sam can cancel all our debts. Since our constitution is a living breathing document, it is only fair that the Declaration of Independence also be subject to the will of the people. Keeping this in mind, I have gone ahead and made a few edits.

We hold these truths relatively valid ideas to be self-evident, that all men people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator Evolutionary Process with certain unalienable undocumented rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness free mortgage payments for life, Universal Healthcare and the ability to marry our cousins. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed junk bonds sold to the Chinese.

Don't tell me the new Declaration of Dependence does not represent the zeitgeist of America. Just a month ago I saw a homeless man standing on the street corner with a handwritten card board sign that said "Denied Social Security. Denied Housing Benefits. Next: Freedom of Speech." I have no doubt the forefathers are nodding in consent. Social Security, housing benefits, freedom of speech. In today's America, they are one and the same. We have become so addicted to public assistance that we can no longer distinguish between rights and social programs.

In our desperate attempt to create rights, we have completely neglected to fulfill our own individual responsibilities. We fight for universal healthcare while ignoring our own personal health. We champion gay marriage while doing nothing to preserve those marriages that already exist. We fight for the right to abort a child, while ignoring the personal choices that lead to the unwanted pregnancy.

In reality, we are not looking to create rights as much as we are trying to erase consequences. And that is ultimately what this stimulus bill hopes to do. Erase the consequences of the past 10 years. Erase the greed that saw Wall Street buy into unproven mortgage securities. Erase the foolhardiness that saw millions of homeowners buy homes they could not afford. Erase the recklessness of state and local governments who spent like sailors on leave even when it was obvious the ship was about to sail.

This stimulus bill is the economic equivalent of the Morning-After Pill. It provides short term relief while doing nothing to change the drunken behavior that got us here in the first place.

It is morning in America and we have all woken up with a bleary-eyed hangover. Good thing we can count on Uncle Sam to write us a prescription for what ever ails us. After all, today is our dependence day.


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Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Sandman Cometh

On our very first night of matrimonial bliss, my wife and I learned the hard way that Hollywood is full of crap. It is physically impossible for two sane, warm blooded creatures to fall asleep in each others arms. It's hot, uncomfortable, puts your arms to sleep and it causes you to cough up hairballs. After ten minutes of trying to sleep with a numb left arm and my wife's hair tickling my nostrils, we decided to institute strict Mattress Territorial Demarcation (MTD). The left side of the bed is mine, the right side is hers and in between both sides we have a strict neutral zone that can only be violated when my wife is pregnant or wishes to become so.

This has been one of the best decisions of our marriage. As luck would have it, my wife is a roller. Had I not torn myself from her loving arms that first night, I could have easily ended up with her toes in my nose and an elbow where the sun don't shine. I am not the only one who has benefitted from strict MTD. One night, a few years into our marriage, I had a dream that I was being chased by a dog in a corn field. I woke up to find that all those kicks intended to hit the dog had actually befallen my poor wife. Had that strict neutral zone not been in place, I could have punted my wife from the bed and landed myself on the couch.

Perhaps nothing poses a greater threat to MTD and the nocturnal bliss it ensures than foreign invaders i.e. Children. In a desperate attempt to lull the little tyrants to sleep, many parents make the fatal error of allowing their child to sleep in their own bed.

There are many obvious reasons why this should never occur. First: children are pointy. Catching an elbow in the ribs from a child feels like falling onto a charging rhinoceros. Children also roll around at night like two barrels inside Niagara Falls making it impossible for anyone within a five foot radius to sleep comfortably.

Luckily, my wife and I have developed a system for getting children to sleep in their own beds that is the stuff of legend. Lets just say, if I were a comic book character, they would call me Mr. Sandman. Like a magician, I had always hoped to carry my Sandman Secret to the grave, but because it is Valentines day and my thoughts have turned towards love, I will kindly share with you the patent-pending Average Joel childhood bed-byetime method. Getting your kids to sleep effectively is broken into three phases 1) Ease the Transition 2) Develop a consistent bed time routine 3) Deal appropriately with children who get out of bed.

Ease the transition. The first mistake most parents make with their newborns is trying to get them to sleep in a crib right when they come home from the hospital. Remember, less than 48 hours a go, or less, this child was snuggled in the fetal position in a warm, tight, squishy space. Yet, we expect them to sleep flat on their backs in a cruel, cold crib.

For the first few nights, we will put the child to bed in a basinet next to the bed. They aren't going to sleep much those first few nights no matter what you do, so this is the only time in the child sleepy-time development process that you can do what is best for you. After a few nights, transition the baby into the car seat. This is going to be their home for the next couple of months.

At first my wife and I felt guilty for putting out children to sleep in the car seat. There is just something so un-parently about leaving your child in a plastic contraption that you set on the floor. However, for the child, this is the next best thing to the womb. It is warm, it puts them in a comfortable position and it reduces the risk of SIDS (no seriously, it does.)

Once the child is sleeping moderately well in the car seat next to your bed, start moving them into their own room. Maybe at first they only stay for half the night, but start getting them used to sleeping away from Mom and Dad.

Once the child is sleeping well in his own car seat, in his own room, start transitioning him to the crib. Do this first by placing the car seat inside the crib until he gets used to sleeping there. Once this happens (around month two) start putting him to sleep flat on his back for nap time only. Once the child is comfortable sleeping flat on his back for naptime, you can start putting him to sleep flat on his back at night, this should happen around month four.

Once your child is sleeping flat on his back in his own crib, you have it made in the shade. It is important to keep one thing in mind throughout this whole process: Crying has never killed a child. Each child hits the point where he is going to cry about his new surroundings. However, you need to have the will to allow the child to cry, sometimes for a long time, until they learn to accept their surroundings and sooth themselves to sleep.

Make a consistent bedtime routine. This can take on many variations, but the point is to be consistent. Do it at the same time, read the same books, sing the same songs. This creates a Pavlov's dog like reaction in your child such that the minute the clocks strikes 7:00 and he hears the song "I am a Child of God" he instantly starts to feel sleepy. Also, make sure your kids go potty and get a glass of water before hitting the sack. If they don't, they will use these necessities just as you are about to say good night to push back, if even for a few minutes, the inevitable bed time.

Deal Appropriately with children when the get out of bed. Once your children are out of the crib and into a toddler bed, they will start to explore their new found freedom and push your parenting buttons. When a child gets up at night, it is important to remember that what they want most is validation. They want recognition. So when they get out of bed, yelling at them, believe it or not, only reinforces the behavior. You need to ignore them as best you can. The first time they get out of bed, pick them up, put them back in and tell them you love them and that they need to go to sleep. The second time they get up, don't so much as look them in the eye. Keep your mouth shut and put them right back into bed. Repeat as many times as necessary until the child gives up and lets slumber take hold.

Once you have mastered these three steps, you and your spouse can get back to what is really important: sleeping.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Economic Stimu-less

Fact: I like steak. Real steak. You know, flame-kissed chunks of beef that still moo when you stab it with a fork. Imagine my disappointment, then, the first time I ordered a Salisbury Steak. Rather than a plate over flowing with sizzling bovine deliciousness, I got a hamburger patty covered in gravy. Look here, Mister Salisbury, I know steak and you sir, are no steak!

I believe President Obama and the Democrat-controlled congress use the word stimulus much in the same way Salisbury uses the word steak-i.e loosely. Despite all the special interest pork they cram in and pet project gravy they ladle on top, with the proposed stimulus bill you still won't get what you are looking for: juicy, delicious economic recovery.

In reality, this stimulus package is more like a hot dog than a Salisbury steak. The more we learn what is inside it, the more it makes us want to puke. Here are just some of the greasy details:

$100 million dollars for child development centers. Unless we are developing these children into cyborg butlers that we can sell two third-world oil barons, I don't see how these centers are going to stimulate the economy.

$15.6 billion for Pell grants to college students. How does incentivizing more kids to stay out of the workforce and in school provide a short term economic stimulus? Long term? Maybe. But short term the only people this portion of the stimulus benefits is Snack Ramen.

$66 million for school districts to provide services for homeless children. Unless they plan on serving these kids by putting them into sweatshops making knock-off Gucci bags, how could this possibly benefit the economy?

$250 Million to develop a data system that measures student achievement. Don't we already have the SAT and ACT for that?

$600 million for early intervention programs for children with disabilities. Good idea? Yes. Economically stimulating? No.

$2.4 Billion for Carbon Capture Sequestration technology. Thats right, $2.4 billion to invent some fandangled air purifier to remove carbon from the air and decrease our supposed environmental footprint. Oh, if only there were some type of organism that took carbon dioxide and, through the process of photosynthesis, turned it into clean, environmentally friendly oxygen. You know, something like a tree. Here is a thought, rather then investing this money into an unnecessary contraption that at best duplicates a process my front lawn is capable of, why don't we use it to plant more trees? At $100 dollars a tree, we could plant 24 million of them. This reminds me of the millions of dollars we spent during the race to space to invent a pen that could write in zero gravity while the Russians just used a pencil.

$200 million for leaking underground storage tank enforcement and clean up. Apparently these underground tanks must be leaking money. I can't think of any other reason why this would belong in a supposed stimulus bill.

$2.7 billion for comparative effectiveness research. I hope the first study this money funds is how comparatively effective comparative effectiveness research actually is. My guess: not much.

$1.1 billion for the expansion of Head Start. When it comes to who to blame for the economic crisis, I agree with the Federal Government. It is not Wall Street's fault, it is the fault of four year olds who have the audacity not to attend preschool. Glad to see we are using this stimulus package to do something about it.

$335 million for STD prevention programs. Looks like Hollywood is getting a portion of this stimulus package after all.

$30 billion for national highways. This is one of the only parts of the stimulus package I can agree with but not because I think it will help. Japan spent 10 years and $5 trillion dollars trying to pave their way out a recession and it failed miserably. But, since we are already on the highway to financial ruin, we might as well make it as smooth a ride as possible.

What these line-items of the project show is that, after being in the Whitehouse for only a few weeks, President Obama has already lost sight of what is important. In trying to help families bring home the bacon he has ended up just dishing out more pork.

The point of any economic stimulus package is to create more jobs. When people have jobs they can pay their mortgages, buy new homes, pay off their credit cards and buy large-screen TV's from Walmart- all fundamentals of our new economy. In fact, if we could create 5 million jobs, we could cut unemployment in half, bringing us to unemployment levels not seen since the mid 90's during the dot-com boom.

With a stimulus package of $825 billion dollars, each of those 5 million jobs would cost $165,000. That is enough to pay for the salary and benefits of the average American worker for three years. The answer, is not to try and trickle this money up from social programs or down from infrastructure projects, the answer is to put this money directly into the hands of employers. The government can simply pay for the salaries of any new hire employed by any organization (public or private) up to $45,000 a year for the next three years.

Is there any organization that would not take advantage of this? Manufacturing would be able to add workers and cut costs. Construction companies would be able to hire more employees and build faster and cheaper. Schools could add teachers and non-profit companies could add much needed man power. Now some controls would need to be put in place to prevent abuse, such as not allowing the number of employees funded through this program to exceed 5% of the total number of jobs within an organization, but these controls could be easily implemented and enforced with existing resources.

Of course this idea could never work in Washington D.C.. It is weighed down with far too much common sense. Its all steak and no sizzle.