State Secrets, Billionaires and Lame Ducks

Nov. 28, 2010

COLUMBUS: The Lame Duck Congress is back. If we expect the same lame results and lame excuses at least we won’t be disappointed. The problem with this Congress is when it comes to important bills they keep ducking. Our income taxes are set to go up, the death tax returns, and no money has been appropriated to run the government.

On income taxes, I heard Warren Buffett and Bill Gates on television today say that billionaires should be paying higher taxes. Well, nobody is keeping them from writing a check to the government instead of to their charities. But those two men seem to prefer to decide where their money goes instead of leaving it up to Congress.

Wikileaks is raising havoc again. This Australian fellow – I believe his name is Assange, yes, Judas Assange –  is publishing millions of secret messages stolen from the State Department. The news that these secret documents would be published made President Obama so mad he sent Assange an email.

If this had happened during World War II, do you think Roosevelt would have sent him a letter? Not a chance. General Eisenhower would have tracked him down and had him hung. And the traitors that leaked the information, too.

Assange says he is against war. If he wants to end the war, why don’t he publish secret messages from Osama bin Ladin and tell us where he’s hiding.

President Obama wants the Senate to approve a nuclear treaty. With all the threats coming from North Korea and Iran you might think this treaty discussion was with them. No, this treaty is with Russia. And the main argument with Russia is not over how many nuclear missiles each of us can have, but whether we can build a bigger defense to shoot ‘em down. Personally, I think we should sign the treaty, then go on building up our missile defense but keep it a secret. From the State Department. If they don’t know about it, neither will Wikileaks.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“A Lame Duck is a politician who has had his salary shot from under him.” WA #101, Nov. 16, 1924
“Well, the lame ducks met Monday and that’s why they are lame, is because their constituents were thinking faster than they was.” DT #1974. Dec 1, 1932
 “Everybody is knocking this lame-duck Congress, but do you know those fellows have a chance to make a real name for themselves… They know exactly how the people voted on every question that they will be asked to decide on. They know the majority didn’t want prohibition. They know everybody wants government expense cut in half. So when any question comes up all they have to do is read the election returns.” DT #1976, Dec. 4, 1932
 “Diplomats write notes because they wouldn’t have the nerve to tell the same thing to each other’s face.” Saturday Evening Post, June 9,1928

Pat-downs, deficits, and giving thanks

Nov. 21, 2010

COLUMBUS: If you’re one of those airline passengers fretting over the new security procedures, I suggest you call your doctor and request, as a precautionary measure, an “internal urological examination.” After they look around in there a while for kidney stones, even if they come up empty handed, those TSA pat-downs won’t seem so intrusive.

Ireland announced they need a bailout. I’ve always had a soft spot for Ireland. And I figure if every American who can trace their roots back to Ireland would send them a check for maybe $50, why that would help get them out of a hole. Of course it was the bankers who caused the financial meltdown (does that sound familiar?) so you may be reluctant send your dough to a country whose big bankers are just as shrewd, conniving, and underhanded as ours.

The United States is in a hole far deeper than Ireland’s. President Obama appointed a Commission to look for ways to eliminate the deficit and last week the Chairmen, Mr. Boles and Sen. Simpson, gave a preliminary report. From the reaction in Washington, you would have thought the world was ending. Republicans whined about paying more gas taxes and cuts to defense. Democrats howled about eliminating tax deductions, lowering tax rates, and the prospect that a 5-year old might have to work an extra two years before collecting Social Security. This yammering was caused by some reasonable men and women who have come up with ways to reduce our overspending by half. Imagine the ruckus if they had proposed eliminating it all together.

When you are spending $3.6 Trillion and taking in $2.1 Trillion, you gotta do more than skip a meal once in a while to balance a budget. One of their suggestions is to eliminate 20,000 federal employees (out of 200,000). I think it can work if we find the 20,000 who are responsible for spending the excess $1.5 Trillion every year, and get rid of them along with their budgets. We might lose a few Senators and Congressmen in the process (and a couple of Cabinet Secretaries), but that’s just the price you have to pay for sanity.

This is Thanksgiving week. Besides being thankful for the farmers who provide the food for a bountiful feast, I’m glad to live in a country where a nut can write stuff like this and put it in a newspaper without fear of arrest or getting shot.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“This is Thanksgiving.  It was started by the Pilgrims, who would give thanks every time they killed an Indian and took more of his land.  As years went by and they had all his land, they changed it into a day to give thanks for the bountiful harvest, when the boll-weevil and the protective tariff didn’t remove all cause for thanks.” DT #417, Nov. 23, 1927.

 “I have been in twenty countries and the only one where American tourists are welcomed wholeheartedly by everyone is in Ireland. They don’t owe us and they don’t hate us.” DT #3, Aug. 1, 1927

 “A Senator named (Millard) Tydings the other day introduced a bill where the government couldn’t appropriate more money than was coming in. That is, if you didn’t have any money you could not dole out any. Well the Senate like to mobbed him. They called the idea treason, sacrilegious, inhuman and taking the last vestige of power for a politician, that is, the right to appropriate money which you don’t have.” DT #2024, Jan. 29, 1933

Lame Duck Congress or Federal Reserve – which is worse?

Nov. 14, 2010

COLUMBUS: Congress returns this week. Not the one you just elected, the one you just kicked out. They’re back in Washington to finish off bills in the next two weeks that they couldn’t agree on for the past two years. Of course, about 75 of them are there mainly to update their resumes and try to land a job with the Administration.

Congress knew for years about the income tax increase coming due January 1. Republicans say nobody should have to pay more, while the Democrats say only the two percent who pay about a fourth of all our taxes should get stuck with a higher tax.

The whole debate centers on who gets to spend the money. The government says, “Give us your money and we’ll make sure it’s spent. In fact for every ten dollars you give us, we’ll likely spend fifteen.” On the other side, the folks making over $200,000 say, “Leave us alone and we promise to spend it, not hoard it like we’re doing now. We’ll even hire some workers if we can find ones who want to work.”

The Federal Reserve didn’t wait for Congress or the President to act on jobs or anything else. They just went out, borrowed a printing press, and ran off $600 Billion in fresh bills. Now, these bills are real, you can spend them, but they’re going to drop the value of any dollars you’ve got in the bank the same as if they were counterfeit.

The Federal Reserve is telling people who squirreled away some cash, even if it’s barely enough to retire on, that you better spend it because a dollar today will be worth only ninety cents in a few months. But old folks want to put it in something safe, like CDs, and live off the interest. Seems mighty logical. But the Federal Reserve don’t want you to save because they plan to lower the interest rate to zero. Maybe not actually zero, but if it’s half a percent, and you managed to scrimp and save $200,000, you’ll only have $1000 a year in interest to live on.

The old commodity traders saw this inflation coming. They loaded up on oil, corn, wheat, copper, cotton and gold and drove the price of these commodities way higher than a few months ago. We’re paying more for gasoline, but not because it’s worth more; it’s because the dollar is worth less. Let’s hope it don’t go from worth less to worthless.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“An awful lot of people are confused as to just what is meant by a Lame Duck Congress. It’s like where some fellows worked for you and their work wasn’t satisfactory and you let ’em out, but after you fired ’em, you let ’em stay long enough so they could burn your house down.” DT #1980, Dec. 8, 1932

 “Now maybe a little shot of printing money would be just what this country needs.  They say there’s nothing that will make a guy pull his dough out of a bank and start buying something with it as quick as to know that his dollar is going to go down in value. Well, when money’s going down you want to have it in something besides a bank.  So a little scare might have been just what was needed to kind of get things started” Radio, May 26, 1935

Election results can’t dampen Will’s birthday spirit

Nov. 7, 2010

CLAREMORE, Okla: In the last hundred years, Democrats in Oklahoma have survived tornados, dust storms, wildfires, blizzards, floods, heat waves, and ice storms. But on Tuesday the wind that come sweepin’ down the plain was calamitous, a regular human catastrophe. This cyclone originated in Washington, and picked up speed the closer it got. As it roared across the state it flattened Democrat candidates, from U.S. Senate down to county dog catcher. Congressman Dan Boren was the sole surviving Democrat, and that was only because he dove into a fox hole.

In Claremore and Oologah, regardless of the election results, spirits were high for a birthday celebration. It started on Nov. 4 with a cake with 131 candles, and ended two days later with a parade. In between, the fourth graders of Oologah put on a musical program that would make any Vaudeville actor proud. In addition to dozens of family members, special guests were two ladies who played 12-year old twin daughters of mine in the 1933 movie, Mr. Skitch. They were funny in the movie, and are still a delightful pair.

Back to politics, the Republicans in Oklahoma, and a bunch of other states, have the yoke placed squarely on their shoulders. They’ve got to balance a budget without cutting off too many voters. All except California and New York. Those two will keep dropping deeper into debt, hoping the rest of us will feel sorry for them and throw down a rope. But they only want a rope, not to pull themselves up, but only if there’s bags of money attached to it.

President Obama admitted the “political cost of the health care bill was much higher than expected.” In other words, he was surprised it cost him 60 Congressmen and 7 Senators. What the rest of us are concerned about, but not surprised, is the dollar cost of the bill. The vast majority of Americans had it figured out even before Democrats got around to reading the bill, that it would cost us more.

The news about the higher cost finally reached the AARP this week. You’ve got to feel sorry for the thousands of workers for that outfit. They campaigned and lobbied and spent millions to get it passed, and now they find out their own health insurance costs are going up ten or twelve percent. The AARP was a fine organization aimed at helping retired people but it got off track when it let in people as young as fifty who are still working. Even if he’s not working, a man that young should be ashamed to claim membership.

Timothy Geithner met with Jon Stewart to discuss the economy. You may be wondering, What could a Treasury Secretary possibly learn from a comedian about economics? Well, in 1929, when Secretary Mellon had skimped and saved a surplus of $185,000,000, I offered this observation: “They are all arguing over what to do with it, but nobody has ever suggested applying it on our national debt, which is over $30,000,000,000.”  Well, I hope Jon gave him some tips on cutting spending because Mr. Geithner has no hope of ever seeing a surplus.

I read where the Republican candidate for governor in Illinois can’t figure out how he lost. “I was ahead in all the polls right up to election day.” The answer is obvious: Chicago. See, on election day, all kinds of people vote in Chicago, but these pollsters only call people who are alive.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“It’s going to be mighty hard after it’s over to tell which one to congratulate. If this depression stays with us, the loser Tuesday is going to be the winner.” DT #1951, Nov. 4, 1932

“There was nothing personal in the vote against you (President Hoover). You just happened to be associated with a political party that the people had just lost their taste for.” DT #1955, Nov. 9, 1932