Deficits and dictators, but is spring far off?

Jan. 30, 2011

COLUMBUS: While we’re all worrying about China and the deficit, why Egypt breaks out on us. It seems that a poor young Egyptian heard about the protests in Tunisia, sent a few friends a message on Facebook saying, ‘Let’s protest against our dictator Mubarak,’ and the next day a million showed up. I know they’re poor, with extreme unemployment, but how bad can it be when everyone seems to have a computer, a cell phone, and a TV to watch Al Jazerra.
Mubarak has been in there for thirty years and frankly no one in Washington expected him to last this long without getting shot. If we had a President for even half that long we would have riots, too. Mubarak helped keep the Muslim terrorists from getting a foothold in Egypt so we kinda strung along with him. We don’t like dictators, but we don’t like Hamas and other Islamic radicals either, like the ones running Iran and Gaza.
I have a friend in Cairo and I hope he can let me know soon how it looks to him. Egypt is a great country with a civilization going back thousands of years. It has survived storms worse than this, but a fairly smooth shift to democracy would be good for them, and the rest of us, too.
President Obama gave his solution to the budget deficit in the State of the Union speech: keep spending the same amount for the next five years. He probably meant it as a joke, but nobody is laughing. His plan would raise our debt $7,500,000,000,000 by 2016 if revenue stays the same.
There are two industries doing well through the Great Recession. Maybe with some encouragement those two can increase revenue and add to the overall economy. What are they? One is agriculture. Don’t laugh; farmers are growing more crops and exporting more than ever to balance imports of other goods. The other is the oil and gas business. Producing more of our own fuel can decrease imports, reduce prices, and lessen the headache that might result if the Egyptian protests spread to Saudi Arabia.
Hey, it ain’t all doom and gloom. Groundhog Day offers hope for an early spring.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:
“It’s kinder as I heard a very learned American man one time say, ‘Dictatorship is the greatest form of Government there is, provided you have a good Dictator.’” 
 WA #641, Apr. 7, 1935
“A Senator 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 your money which you don’t have.” DT #2024, Jan. 29, 1933

U.S. Budget woes strain relations with China

Jan. 23, 2011

COLUMBUS: President Obama spent the past few days preparing his State of the Union address to Congress. You notice that the speech was scheduled to come after (not before) a visit from the leader of China. Our President wanted to sure that he didn’t give a glowing report to the nation about our economy only to have China show up the next day and foreclose.

We rolled out the red carpet for China’s President Hu. Even honored him with a State Dinner at the White House. But he did not appear to enjoy the trip, never smiled, usually just looked straight ahead like a good poker player with four aces.

All our big comedians were telling jokes on him, not to his face of course, but I think he got wind of it. His name is Hu (pronounced Who), and they brought up the old joke about “Who’s on first, What’s on second.” Someone asked Hu, “How’s the president of North Korea?” Hu replied, “He’s Ill.” Well, that may be funny to us, but in China poking fun at the President can land you in jail. Don’t be surprised if the next time we need to borrow a Trillion dollars, he’ll jack up the interest rate a couple of points.

Congress is getting serious about cutting the budget deficit. Republicans want to cut spending, but have not admitted which expenses they want to cut. Democrats prefer to raise taxes, but are afraid to tell which ones. Here’s a modest proposal for consideration: Return federal employment to 2008 numbers, and trim the salaries of the ones left to 2006 levels.  That may seem cruel, but if a small business found itself spending a third more than it took in, that’s what the owner would do, usually starting with his own pay. As for taxes, concentrate on raising more revenue, not higher rates. If a business or manufacturer doubles production, tax revenue would naturally go up. And they might hire some of those out-of-work federal employees.

Folks in Washington and on television continue to harp on any use of battlefield language in politics. Words like target, attack, cross hairs, gunning for, aiming at, and bullet points. In Detroit Sunday afternoon, a gunman barged into a police station and shot four officers. I’m waiting to see if the New York Times blames Sarah.

The Chicago Bears and New York Jets made it close at the end of their games, but it’ll be Green Bay against Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. After winning games in frigid weather, these two old industrial towns will battle each other in comfort in Dallas.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:
“Politics pretty quiet over the week-end. Democrats are attacking and the Republicans are defending.”
 DT #1917, Sept. 26, 1932

 “One of the few stipulated duties of the President is that every once in awhile he delivers a message to Congress to tell them the “Condition of the Country.” This message as I say is to Congress; the rest of the country knows the condition of the country, for they live in it.  But the Senators and Congressmen being in Washington all the time have no idea what is going on in America.  So the President has to tell ’em.”  WA #371, Feb. 2, 1930

“The budget is a mythical bean bag. Congress votes mythical beans into it, and then tries to reach in and pull real beans out.” DT #2047, Feb. 24, 1933

Congress returns with John Boehner at the wheel

Jan. 16, 2011

COLUMBUS: There’s some good news from Tucson. Congresswoman Giffords continues to improve, and it may not be too long until she is talking.

I know a fellow in Atlanta, Ken Futch, who accidently shot himself in the head, and he makes a good living entertaining and inspiring people across the country talking about it. So let’s pray that she fully recovers, and when she gets tired of Congress she can give humorous speeches for a living. She’s already got the perfect nickname: Gabby.

She and the six who were killed were gunned down by a drug and alcohol addicted paranoid schizophrenic who should have been locked up in a psychiatric ward years ago.
Everybody knows he committed the crime except for Sheriff Dupnik. He says the bullet that went through Giffords’ head was fired from Wasilla, Alaska.

He’s not the only one that got it wrong. Dozens of journalists on television and in newspaper columns have blamed this tragedy on everyone from the Tea Party to the Republicans, radio commentators, the NRA and political ad writers.

Congress is getting down to business this week, balancing the budget. At least that’s what they claim. John Boehner of Ohio is the new Speaker of the House, replacing Nancy Pelosi. Four years ago she announced she would balance the budget every year, and she only missed her target by $5,000,000,000,000. So keep your fingers crossed for this new bunch. Mr. Boehner is the first Speaker from Ohio in more than 75 years. “Nick Longworth is the most able and popular Speaker the House has had. In fact the greatest since Alexander Hamilton.” (1928)

I met Congressman Boehner in 2000. I was invited to speak at a retreat of the House Agriculture Committee, and he introduced me. At that time it was headed up by two Texans, Charles Stehnolm and Larry Combest. Now an Oklahoma rancher is the chairman, Frank Lucas.

Congress will take up the President’s Health Care plan. Mr. Boehner knows he has the votes to repeal it. But he also knows the Senate will turn him down, and if it did pass the Senate, the President would veto it. The whole exercise will waste a week, but for the rookie members it will be kinda like pre-season practice for when the real games begin.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

“What the government has got to do is live as cheap as the people.” DT #1990, Dec. 20, 1932
 “Anything that has to pass by that Senate is just like a Rat having to pass a Cat Convention; it’s sure to be pounced on, and the more meritorious the scheme is the less chance it has of passing.” WA #385, May 11, 1930

National Debt piles up, might slow immigration

Jan. 9, 2011

COLUMBUS: America suffered a tragedy in Tucson when Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the head, and six people with her were killed, including a federal judge. Twenty were shot all together in a few seconds by a kook who never should have had a gun in the first place. We all joke about Congress, but no one wants to see any harm done to ‘em.

Saturday night an Ohio Cattlemens group asked me to say a few words at their banquet in Barnesville. After some lean years these folks are feeling better with cattle on the hoof bringing around a dollar a pound. As long as they have enough hay to get through the winter, it looks like a good year for these cowmen and women. Their steaks and hamburgers will be mighty tasty off the grill next summer and fall.

Everybody knows we need to produce more food for a growing population so you might be surprised to learn that our farmland is disappearing. Not completely, of course, but every state has fewer acres for farming than they did 25 years ago. Texas and Florida are two of three states that lost the most.

In related news last week, we learned that, starting in 2012, Texas and Florida will be asked to house a few excess Congressmen from New York, Ohio and a couple of other states. It seems that in the last ten years a lot of folks decided to leave these northern states and move south, perhaps to escape from their Congressmen. But now these birds are following them.

This population shift and loss of farmland paint a picture that’s not so rosy. “You can just tell the difference when you look at land that has to support a Senator or a white-faced bull. (I’m) for more cattle and less Congressmen.” (1927)

Last week I wrote that in four years our debt had gone up $3 Trillion, but I was wrong. It has increased $5 Trillion, with $3 Trillion of that in the last two years. Instead of cutting back, Congress will vote to raise the debt limit to about $15,000,000,000,000. When the President signs the bill, I hope he will go on television and announce, “This total debt load now means that every man, woman and child in the U.S. owes $50,000.” Brother, that would cut off illegal immigration faster than any 15-foot fence. And a few million of the ones already here would be scrambling to get out before the bill comes due.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

“There is a change coming over the country. People have just got to get more used to debt. If we just let the fellow we owe do the worrying, the U. S. will be the happiest land on earth.” DT #2421, May 7, 1934

“There is not a better day in the world to be spent than with a lot of wise old cowmen around barbecued beef, black coffee and good (refried) beans.” DT #2430, May 17, 1934

A look back at New Year’s Predictions

Jan. 2, 2011

COLUMBUS: With everybody predicting what 2011 will bring, I decided to go back and see what I wrote here a year ago about 2010. Let’s see how I did…

“Unemployment is over 10 percent and will drop to 8 or 9 percent by Christmas.”  Well, it didn’t, but maybe it will by Christmas ‘11 or ‘12.

“The stock market is at 10,500, a third below 2007. Even if it don’t go up, you can bet on Wall Streeters collecting million dollar salaries.” In 2010 it went up1000, but still needs another 3000 point gain to eliminate the losses. Meanwhile, Wall Street salaries have recovered nicely.

“The deficit will get worse. But nobody knows how much worse because it depends on how much China will lend us. Half of our states are broke and looking to Washington for help.” That one was easy to get right. Speaker Pelosi predicted four years ago the national debt would not increase while she was Speaker, but she let $3 Trillion get added to it. That’s the most expensive mistake ever made on a New Year’s prediction.

“On global warming… Ever since that conference in Copenhagen, the weather has gotten colder. These global warming proponents got us excited about the prospects of vacationing at home instead of Florida. We should have suspected it was a trick when the President booked his vacation in Hawaii.” And again this Christmas, he flew off to Hawaii when he could have taken the train to New York City or Philadelphia and shoveled snow. My prediction is that Earth will continue the way she has for the past million years, sometimes warmer and sometimes colder. And there’s nothing 300,000,000 Americans can do to persuade her one way or the other.

“On the end of the inheritance tax… You would be surprised at the number of rich old men who have been hanging on for the last month or two (of 2009) just to avoid paying this tax. Since the death tax returns next January at around fifty percent, 2010 is liable to go down in history as a record year for the high number of our wealthy men and women passing on.” On that one the Lame Duck Congress gave a reprieve to anyone with less than $5 million. And ones with more will only pay 35 percent.

In my predictions a year ago I said nothing about the election. On Nov. 2, the Democrats took, as Obama described it, a shellacking. There was no shellacking even close to it until yesterday’s drubbing suffered by five football schools from the Big Ten. They played like the Little Sisters of the Poor. Even the mighty Badgers from Wisconsin were chased back in their hole by the Christians from Texas.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Nothing much in papers today but just what I predicted to you the other day would be on New Year’s Day — optimistic predictions by all prominent men who are doing well.” DT #759, Jan. 1, 1929

[a year later] “We are obliged to read the usual New Year’s prosperity apple-sauce by our same prominent men who are always rich enough to see a great year coming up. And to show you they don’t know any more about it than Clara Bow, last year they had their usual hokum predictions, and in October we lost (a huge amount), and yet not a one of these predicted it.” DT #1070, Dec 30, 1929

 “There is not a single person that knows any more about what 1933 has in store for us than a billy goat. Ten million people have gone without work for three years just listening to ‘big men’ solve their problems.” DT #2000, Jan. 1, 1933