Storms and sinkholes disrupt Republican plans

The drought across our middle west is not only hurting farmers and ranchers, it is drying up the mighty Mississippi River. Tugboats and barges are dragging bottom. Mark Twain might not recognize it. Huck Finn wouldn’t need a boat, just wade across it.

Dredges are working around the clock to remove the silt and clay so barges can keep “rollin’ on the river.” Much of that muck clogging the bottom of the river used to be good topsoil on farms upstream. If more farmers stopped plowing up land that should not be tilled, there would be less work for the dredges.

Last week I mentioned a comment by Howard Dean about the economy. It turns out that when Howard Dean said President Obama’s campaign team needs to focus on the Economy as the #1 issue, he was actually referring to the Bill Clinton Economy. Let’s see: unemployment under 5% , no federal deficit for three or four years, low oil prices, a booming stock market… It kinda makes you wonder why the new President in January 2009 didn’t adopt the same policies that led to that rosy economic picture. I don’t remember exactly what those policies were, but they worked great until the bubble burst and radical Islamists attacked us.

Maybe Romney should dig up the economic policies of Calvin Coolidge in the “Roaring Twenties” and run on that record.

The Republicans are starting their Convention in Tampa on Monday or Tuesday depending on the weather. Vice-President Biden canceled plans to speak there, so that is one less storm for the Republicans to deal with. The one in Missouri is tough enough, but it is less like a storm and more of a sinkhole. Hurricane Isaac may move farther west and dump some rain in the Mississippi River watershed where they need it.

Since politics doesn’t change much over the years, the following comments will likely apply this week. The campaign may be longer, but the Conventions are shorter.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers: (reporting from Republican Conventions)

“I am being paid to write something funny about this Republican Convention. That’s funny. All a fellow has to do to write something funny on a Republican Convention is just to write what happened.” (1920)
“They commenced to pray. The prayer was very long, but of course the parson may have known his audience and their needs better than me.”  (1924)
“The loudspeaker system didn’t work and half of ‘em couldn’t hear the keynote speech. They got mad and got to leaving – but not as quick as those that was sitting near the front and could hear it.” 1932
“Listening to a 
(convention) speech is like listening to a Chautauqua lecture when you could have gone to the Ziegfeld Follies.” (1932)
“The keynote speaker has the toughest job of any of them. If he points to the accomplishments, he is sunk, and if he views with alarm he is sunk. So we are liable to get two solid hours on the weather.” 1928

Radical idea for the Electoral College

COLUMBUS: I just returned from three days in Pennsylvania at their big Ag Progress Days. While three-fourths of the country is drought-stricken, the 40,000 Pennsylvania farmers that gathered on a 1000-acre university research farm were all smiles. Timely rains have given them the best crops I’ve seen all summer. They may not have many acres, but their soybeans and corn would make any farmer from Indiana to Iowa drool.

Both political parties are laying the groundwork for an all-out assault during their conventions. Republicans will be down in Florida and they get the first crack at firing their missiles. Whether their bazookas will knock out any Democrats convening in North Carolina the following week, I got my doubts.

Howard Dean made a suggestion and I agree with him: The Economy is THE campaign topic; forget the other stuff. You know, the unemployed and underemployed roaming the country don’t care what Joe Biden says, or exactly what month and year Paul Ryan’s plan would balance the budget. Show us how to get businesses hiring so the unemployment rate is down to 5 percent, and you won’t hear folks hollering about food stamps or welfare or the price of gasoline.

Leave Joe Biden’s gaffs to us humorists to handle. For example, did you know that when it’s his turn to accept the V-P nomination in Charlotte, he will deliver his speech in Virginia? (He’ll only think he’s in North Carolina.)  He will start out, “I’m pleased to accept this nomination for the election on November sixth, nineteen-twelve.”

I close with a plea on behalf of all the citizens of Ohio and the other 3 or 4 swing states: eliminate the Electoral College. We are inundated with so many political ads the TV stations have little time left for the news, programs and ball games. Why should we suffer while folks in forty-some states get to relax with only infrequent reminders of what car to drive or toothpaste to brush with. Eliminate the Electoral College and a Republican vote in California will count the same as a Democrat vote in Texas or Oklahoma. Of course they count the same now, which is zero. Give a voter in New York as much clout as one in Florida. Every television-watching plumber in Ohio will agree: Spread the advertising wealth around all 50 states. Give voters in Wyoming and Maine and Mississippi the same opportunity we have to learn about the minor defects of our esteemed candidates for President. Toss out the Electoral College.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:
“We ought to split this country up. Let the Republicans have the East. And the Democrats the West… If the country split that would naturally do away with the national debt. Both sides would start in owing nothing. And the Republicans would perhaps continue the same way. But the Democrats, it wouldn’t take them long to dig up a deficit… I can’t picture, personally, a more ideal existence all around.  The only trouble would be neither one would be happy because they wouldn’t have nobody to lay anything on to. So I doubt if the plan will ever get very far, because this is not a time for common sense.”
 Radio, June 9, 1935

Will says VP candidates can agree on one thing

COLUMBUS: Last week I offered ideas for President Obama and Mitt Romney that they could adopt to implement their economic plans for the country. Now I ain’t bragging, but I think Mr. Romney saw my column, liked what he read, and asked himself, ‘Who could I get for V-P who can convince Americans we must cut the budget, without losing their votes?’ He identified several prospects who know how to cut spending. But he decided there was only one who knew  economics and accounting well enough to clearly explain the cuts to wary voters: Paul Ryan.

Now, Congressman Ryan is from Wisconsin, home of brats, beer and LaFollette. But he got his education at Miami University. Not the one in Florida, the one in Ohio. It is located at a town called Oxford. Yes, in Ohio, not England. The school traces its roots all the way back to President George Washington. It is named for the Miami Indians. The government forced the Indians to move to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), but not the college. It got to stay. In 1825 they started teaching “political economy,” which explains how Paul Ryan got picked. Miami is known as the “Cradle of Coaches”, and that sounds way more prestigious than cradle of vice-presidents. Miami has produced a slew of vice-presidents, but never one for the whole country. (Although they did have a grad, Benjamin Harrison, who was President without having to serve an apprenticeship as V-P.)

Of course, for the Democrats you already know Joe Biden who was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  He went to the University of Delaware, which is in Delaware. The Delawares are also a proud Indian tribe that got shipped to Oklahoma. So one thing that Biden and Ryan can agree on, and maybe the only thing, is that Indians had a hand in their college education.

The campaign gives a clear cut choice. There’s no confusion where they stand.  It’s another Hoover vs. FDR in ‘32. One says, “We’re broke!”, and the other says, “Shhhh, not so loud.” One says, “Give us 4 more years to right the ship.” The other says, “Time’s up.”  What voters want to hear about are jobs, unemployment, Medicare, Medicaid, deficits, and defense budgets. Especially jobs.

Mr. Obama’s mother said little Barack was born in Hawaii, and she ought to know. Mitt Romney has made millions and paid more taxes than 99.9 percent of us ever will, including Harry Reid. Now that that’s settled, can we get Congress and the President to work on some serious business before the election? Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that all important financial decisions are to be made by Lame Ducks.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:
On the radio in 1930, Will offered up some of his qualifications in case a Presidential candidate wanted him to serve as his V-P: “I could go to all the dinners when the President couldn’t come; the (Toastmaster) would say, “We are very sorry the President couldn’t come. He got a better offer. But we have with us the Vice-President,” and he tries to think of the name. I am a fair eater. I don’t eat correctly, but I eat a lot. Then I could make a speech, not a good speech but good for a politician. Any audience that would gather to hear a politician speak wouldn’t know a good speech if they heard one.”   Radio, April 27, 1930

Will offers ideas to Obama and Romney

Did I miss the news? Did Iran drop bombs on some oil tankers? The price of gas shot up fifty cents a gallon, and I’ve heard no other reason for it. The price of ethanol from corn is up because of the drought, but that would only account for a nickel or two.  So if it’s not Iran, I would like an explanation from Exxon or BP or my old friends at Phillips 66.

There was a time when I joked that we should be glad we don’t get all the government we’re paying for. Well, in fact, we’re only paying for 60 percent of the government we’re getting; the rest is borrowed. For the part of the budget coming from income taxes, 20 percent are paying over 90 percent of it. That seems like a pretty good deal for the other 80 percent.

But President Obama insists the top folks need to pay more. Does he want them to cover 95 percent, or maybe 98 percent? I think he would go over better with this group if he set a dollar figure like a charity telethon. He would say, “Your goal this year is $2.5 Trillion.” Then, once this wealthy group reached the goal they would know they get to keep whatever they have left.  Of course, next year he would probably raise it to $3 Trillion.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney promised to add 12 million jobs in 4 years. That’s 250,000 a month, double what we’ve seen recently.  Maybe we should elect him just to see if he comes any closer to his promise than Obama did when he said he would cut the deficit in half.

Mr. Romney wants to cut income tax rates and balance the budget by eliminating deductions and cutting expenses. What deductions does he propose to wipe out? The main ones for the big taxpayers are mortgages, state taxes and charitable contributions, so I suggest those. It will get a howl from those folks, but if you can’t afford the house you’re living in without a mortgage deduction you should have bought a cheaper house. If you can’t survive without deducting state taxes, then convince your state to lower its taxes. I hope you don’t decide to cut back on contributions to charities, but if you do, they’ll learn how to get by with less.

Republicans want to reduce the so-called entitlements. The easy way is to raise the age to receive Social Security and Medicare. Clamp down on fraud in food stamps. Anyone with cable, a couple of flat screen TVs, cars and cell phones can afford to pay for food. We have the safest work environments in the world, yet twice as many workers claim they are disabled. People in long lines to enter the unemployment office amble past businesses with “Help Wanted” signs. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the truly needy. They deserve our help to get back on their feet.

Suppose we convince Congress and the President to cut federal spending, how will we know when it has been cut enough?  Here is a good indicator: if the value of houses around Washington DC drops by a third, like it did in Florida, California and Las Vegas, then we’ll know we’re on the right track. I don’t wish any hardship on those folks, but if the government had been operating on a balanced budget, most would never have been hired in the first place. Even some lobbyists might move back to their native states and go to work, if there’s any job they can earn a living at.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:
“We’ll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that went to the poor house in an automobile.”
 Radio, Oct. 18, 1931