Monday, January 30, 2012

Earmark benefits

My last Blog, Earmark Reform 101, got some interesting responses.  One objection was that some good came from earmarks.  An example was a school program benefiting kids, which was funded by money from an earmark. 
Let’s take a little closer look at how this works.  I am not opposed to the program benefiting the kids, but where does the money for the earmark come from?  In spite of what some people think, it does NOT grow on trees.   There are only three options.  One is increasing government dept and letting the next generation worry about it.  The second is printing new money, which makes our money worth less.  The third is taxes.  Someone has to pay taxes to fund the earmark.  Let’s look at taxes.
This is how it works.  I will represent the Federal government.  You represent the taxpayer in your community.  You pay me $20.  I then add an earmark to a bill for a program to benefit the kids. 
Working kids into the scenario is always good.  I don’t care if you are promoting a whorehouse or a drug cartel, try to confuse the issues and hide the facts by making it “Good for the kids.”
We now have an earmark to give money to the state to fund this program for the kids.  I, the Federal Government, will give your state $10 for this program. 
I, the Federal Government, have to keep the other $10.  I have expenses.  This $10 goes to fund the Federal bureaucracy. 
There are restrictions, requirements, reporting, and matching funds required, of course, for the $10 given back to the state.  After all this is big government.  Big government knows much better what is good for your kids than you do, or at least that is their position. 
The bottom line is that you got $5 back for the kids program that you paid $20.  Sounds like a heck of a deal for me, the Federal Government, but not so good for you.  Why not just give your $10 to your school district?  This way the program for the kids would get $10 instead of $5, and you paid $10 instead of $20. 
Still think earmarks are good?  If you think some DC bureaucrat is more qualified to decide what is good for your kids than you are, maybe you do.
How do we change the system?  I hope we can eliminate earmarks, but it will be hard.  Money is often power, and politicians love the power and money they get with earmarks.  This is the major way they reward their political contributors. 
Let’s be realistic.  Corporations, unions and special interest groups expect a return on their campaign contributions.  In most cases, they don’t make political contributions because of their civic pride.  I hope to address how large a return they expect later.  It is scary. 
The bottom line is that even the good things that come from earmarks can be done better and cheaper without the involvement of the Federal Government.  There will be a lot less political corruption too.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Earmark Reform 101

We must convince our U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives to represent the people, and not just the special interest groups and those making the biggest campaign contributions.  
Several things need to change.  It is absolutely essential that earmarks be totally eliminated.   Campaign spending reform is also needed to put candidates on a level playing field, unlike today when the candidate with the largest campaign war chest is guaranteed victory.  Term limits may also need to be set to eliminate the career politician that will do anything to stay in office. 
Earmarks were called “pork barrel spending” when I was young.  If I remember my high school civics class correctly, pork barrel spending was described as one way politicians rewarded their constituents and supporters.  I like the term “pork barrel spending” or “pork”, but saying “earmarks” does sound less dishonest.   
Earmarks are the primary way politicians payoff and reward the special interests, corporations and individuals that funded and/or endorsed their campaign.  We must recognize that the people and organizations expect, and get a substantial return on their investment in a politician’s campaign.  Earmarks are also used to “buy” the votes of congressional colleagues to pass bad legislation.  Earmarks must be made illegal, and violations vigorously prosecuted. 

I have heard people say earmarks make up so small a part of the total budget that they are irrelevant.  Senator Obama requested $740 million in earmarks.  He averaged over one million dollars per day in earmarks while active as a Senator.  If every Senator did the same, it would add up to one hundred million dollars a day in earmarks.  I don’t call that irrelevant.  That is just the Senate.  Now add the 435 Representatives in the House.  Senator Obama was rewarded for his pork barrel spending by being elected President. 
The most common argument I hear politicians give to defend earmarks is that it is the only way states get federal money to fund state projects.  If this argument has any validity, we should elect the most corrupt politicians we can find in the hope that they will reward the state they represent as well as lining their own pockets and filling their campaign war chests.  I have a big problem with this philosophy.
Politicians must be held accountable.  The public is not aware of most earmarks that are attached to bills.  Most politicians don’t even bother to hide or explain these unethical activities.  When they are confronted about the earmarks, they just laugh it off or say everyone does it, or should be doing the same thing for their state. 

I would recommend the following:

·        Earmarks must be made illegal.  Every bill for federal funding must be voted on individually on its own merits.  If a bill for a state project does not justify Federal funding it should be funded by the state. 

·        Federal budgets need to include funding for the states.  The federal funding to states will be divided between the Senate and the House of Representatives by some formula.  Dividing federal funding for the states equally between the Senate and the House of Representatives will make adjustments for states with differing state populations and land mass.

·        The funding for the states given to the Senate will be allocated equally to each Senator to spend in their state or district.  One hundred Senators will get 1% each.  The funding for the states given to the House will also be allocated equally to each Representative to be spent in their state or district. 

·        Presidential signing statements and line item vetoes must be illegal.  The president’s job is to enforce laws and not make them.

The Senator or Representative will now be responsible for and accountable for how they spend state funding money.  Politicians using earmarks to pay off campaign contributors with no accountability will be eliminated. 
What is the downside of this plan?  I see only one, if you can call it a downside.  Government money used for corrupt purposes with no accountability will no longer be available to the politician.  Any politician that opposes this change is basically saying, “You can’t take away my slush fund money that I use for corrupt purposes with no accountability.” 

I was at a Town Hall meeting with US Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin this week.  He has introduced legislation to eliminate earmarks.  I have not read the bill, but it has to be a step in the right direction.  I hope you give him your support.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Negative campaign commercials

We are in a Presidential election year.  The negative ads are coming, or have come in some states.  Here in Wisconsin, there is also an effort to recall our governor.  The negative ads are abundant. 
I have made the statement that I would vote for the candidate that did not run negative ads if the candidates were close in other ways.  That never seems to happen.  We also seldom see ad campaigns that are not negative.
I loved the campaign ads for US Senator Charles Grassley when I lived in Iowa.  Most of the ads were positive for Grassley and that was about it.  Most did not mention whom he was running against.   The ads often did not even mention that he was a Republican.  How refreshing. 
I probably would not even mind negative ads if they were truthful and based on facts.  Often the ads are just plain lies.  FactCheck gave four Pinocchios to a thirty second ad run by one of Romney’s “Super Pacs” against Gingrich.   
A Pinocchio is what FactCheck calls something that is not true.  I guess that is the politically correct way to say something is a lie.  I am not too politically correct.  A lie is a lie.   
I would think it would be hard to make four points in a thirty second ad.  Getting in four lies takes real talent. 
I am not trying to pick on Romney.  Most politicians are about as bad including Gingrich.  All the politicians start out saying they are not going to run a negative campaign. As soon as their numbers are bad in the polls, they resort to the negative and in most cases untrue ads. 
Politicians often say it is not their fault and they have no control over these negative ads, because the ads are run by “Super Pacs” which the politician has no control.  The “Super Pacs” are just a way of getting around the campaign reform laws.  Legally, the candidate cannot be in control of the “Super Pac”.  Look at who is in charge of the “Super Pac”.  It is usually someone formally closely involved with the candidate.  If you believe the candidate has no control over the “Super Pac”, I have a bridge to sell you.
If negative ads and ads based on lies are so offensive, why do candidates run them?  The answer is simple.  They work.
Some people are strong backers of one candidate or
Political party and don’t care.  These people often do not want to be bothered with the facts.   “I have my mind made up.”  “Don’t confuse me with facts.”  This attitude is not that uncommon.
Other people just believe the ads, because they don’t have the time, energy or commitment to get the facts and the truth. 
How do we change this attitude?  How do we stop the negative and untruthful ads?  We need to encourage every voter to get the facts.  If we can show politicians that negative ads don’t work at the polls, maybe we can stop the negative ads and get to the real issues. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Because of some of my political writings and political public speaking, I received encouragement from several people to have a blog.  I resisted for some time, but have decided to do it for a variety of reasons, so here goes. 

I was raised on a farm.  My Dad said he was just a tenant farmer and said he did not have any money to start me farming, or start me in business, or send me to school.  He said I was smart enough to learn a job if I knew how to work, and he could teach me how to work.  Farm work was hard then and as a kid, I did not think it was too good an idea.  My Dad also taught me common sense.
I have been involved in small business my entire life.  I am currently writing a book called How To Find The Right Business.
My Dad always said he voted for the man and not the party.    Like many people, my parent’s political standing influenced me. 
I was never very involved in politics.  I consider myself an independent, and not a Democrat or Republican.  As an independent, I was part of the silent majority.  I decided a few years ago that it was time to be more vocal.  I started putting down my thoughts and sent out my first e-mail.

The common sense my Dad taught me, my life in small business, and my more recent interest in politics gave me the title for my Blog, “Common Sense, Business & Politics”.  I hope it can be of interest to others.
I am an Army veteran from the Viet Nam era.  I have always been interested in history.  In more recent years I have become a news junkie.  I have learned more about our political history in the last six years than I learned in the first sixty years. 
I am more afraid for my country now than I have ever been in my life.  I think we have to make some hard decisions now, or our grandchildren will not have the same freedoms and opportunities I had. 
My seven greatest fears are:

1.     Party Politics and corrupt politicians, as many politicians will do anything to stay in office.  Staying in office is more important than working for the good of the country. 
2.     Growing government, growing government spending, and growing government debt are out of control. 
3.     Deficit trade balances increase as we stop manufacturing.
4.     Immigration problems increase as not one President in over 40 years has enforced our immigration laws
5.     Health care costs are out of control as politicians try to solve a problem created by insurance with insurance.
6.     Religious freedoms of Christians are being taken away, and we have a problem dealing with radical Islamic terrorists.
7.     We have a work ethic problem, and government education and welfare policies have created a welfare society that is now in it’s third generation in some urban areas. 

More later.