REVAMP!

Hello,

It’s been a long time since I last posted anything on here. I have been very busy and some good things have been finally coming through for my wife and I as we look to get back on our feet after what has been a devastating recession.

I am thinking of a new direction to take this blog. To date, I have left up some of my more significant entries. It is always interesting to revisit those and see what has transpired over the last year or so.

Much to talk about, including the 201 elections and something I have been giving serious thought on. More to come on that at some point in the early New Year.

In the meantime, sign up for a subscription and keep an eye on IMHO! I hope to have something up in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks again for your support!

Happy Holidays!

Ed

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May I Present the 28th Amendment …

Amendment XXVIII

Proposed June 9, 2010

Section 1.

No person shall be elected to the United States House of Representatives more than six times and no person shall be elected to the United States Senate more than twice effective on the commencement of the 114th Congress beginning January 3, 2015. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of Representative or Senator when this Article was proposed by Congress and prior to the start of the 114th Congress. After said date, all newly elected Representatives and Senators shall comply with the term limits set forth. All previously elected Representatives and Senators shall be exempt from this Article’s enforcement until they have been retired, failed in reelection, been removed through appropriate legal means as outlined in Article I, Section 3 of this Constitution, or have become deceased during service. No person who has held the office of Representative or the office of Senator, or acted as Representative or Senator, for more than one quarter of the applicable term, shall be elected to the office of Representative more than five times and to the office of Senator more than once.

Section 2.

This Amendment refers to all other laws set forth in Article I of this Constitution.

Section 3.

This Article must be presented to the general public in the form of a national proposition during the election year of 2012. Upon a majority approval, this Article will seek ratification from the United States Congress.

Section 4:

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to this Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within two years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

May I present my Constitutional Amendment for Term Limits. A very simple concept: Anyone newly elected after January 3, 2015 in the House will serve no more than six terms of two years and anyone newly elected at that same time to the Senate will serve no more than two terms of six years, both either consecutively or nonconsecutively. In order to ensure passage by Congress, it must be presented to the voters and see a greater than 50% majority as a national ballot initiative/proposition. This will force Congress to address the measure that has then gotten overwhelming public support. As a kick back to those that may have an intent to dismiss it due to their own selfish preservation, the Amendment exempts already elected officials prior to January 3, 2015 from seeing term limits. Their ultimate removal is in the voters hands, their own retirement, trial of impeachment, or in death. It also refers back to all powers given to both bodies as set forth by the framers in Article I.

Ed

Selfishness, ego, greed, and the lust for power …

In this post I wanted to touch on something that I have dwelled on over the last three years or so. And that is the issue of career legislatures and judges. First off, I want to make my position clear that I do support term limits for everyone in federal elected and appointed offices. I realize that would require amendments to the Constitution. However, term limits is not where I want to go with this and is an issue I will tackle at a later date. For now, I want to focus on what drives some politicians to put their own personal well-being in the political arena over those whom elected them (and in one case, nominated by an elected official).

First up, the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

Back in May of 2008, Kennedy was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. In November of that same year, the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th President and the convening of the 111th Congress, Democrats where clearly in control of policy making and execution in Washington. Even more so after the seating of Roland Burris and the declaration of Al Franken as the winner of the Minnesota Senate race. Democrats held a super majority without the threat of a filibuster from Republicans. In fact, the House of Representatives composed of 255 Democrats versus 178 Republicans, and in the Senate, Democrats held 60 seats versus only 40 for the Republicans.

Here is where it all went wrong, thanks to Ted Kennedy and poor Democratic leadership.

With Obama taking office with nearly a 70% approval rating and Democrats ready to provide unobstructed “hope and change” (due to the absence of checks and balances), Democratic leaders and the president should have been immediately pressing Kennedy to resign from the Senate and let an interim appointed Senator and special election take place to fill the seat. Before the Tea Party kick off and massive spending in Washington, I would predict that Massachusetts would have easily replaced Kennedy with another Democrat. Instead, Kennedy acted as an absentee Senator with a selfish desire to make healthcare his legacy. Little did Democrats know that the issue would drag on for months and slowly chisel away at Obama’s popularity and that of Congressional Democrats. As a result, Massachusetts elected Scott Brown and the “Kennedy Seat” transferred to a Republican for the first time in 47 years. Now the tables have turned and that one election in the Bay State has enabled the minority Republicans to stifle any and all legislation with the invocation of a filibuster. Reality Check: Democrats 59, Republicans 41.

Lesson to be learned …

The political arena can change at any moment so act and act quickly when making changes to your lineup. Parties must recognize opportunities to better position themselves and advance their agenda even if it means calling for the retirement of long standing members. In this case, the selfishness and ego of Ted Kennedy cost his party the chance to pass healthcare as they envisioned. A retired Ted Kennedy would more than likely have been “consulted” on legislation from leaders and overall been credited with the bill passage. But, a narrow minded desire to participate in the process with a vote has undermined its realization. For an analogy, consider a sports team. It is almost certainly better calling up a reserve when a star gets injured. An injured player can tend to disrupt the flow in a team and make mistakes that can adversely affect the desired outcome. A star knows when to step aside and let someone else fill their shoes. A star that shows loyalty to the team will always get the credit due and a ring at the end of a championship victory even if he can’t play.

Next up, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Justice Ginsburg was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate in August of 1993. In 1999, she was diagnosed and treated for colon cancer. Then in early 2009, she was diagnosed and treated for pancreatic cancer. Not much information has been reported about her current medical condition but back in September, she was hospitalized for lightheadedness following treatment for iron deficiency. It has not been speculated whether that condition was a result of her cancer treatment or complications from it. To note, the Constitution does not impose term limits on Supreme Court Justices. It is a life long presidential appointment. With that known, the position can be subject to personal abuse from one’s own ego.

Here is the problem, much like Ted Kennedy.

Upon Justice Ginsburg’s recent diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, she should have notified President Obama of her resignation from the court. Again, like Kennedy, the administration could have found a suitable candidate and gone through an easy confirmation process. You don’t believe me? Then I would direct you to the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor which took place this past August. Justice Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate with a 68-31 vote count, meaning nine Republicans broke rank and produced a relatively bipartisan result for a liberal leaning judge whom was the center of controversy consisting of questionable racial comments. Ted Kennedy did not vote due to his illness leaving Massachusetts not properly represented although his vote would have been in favor. Now, with Scott Brown elected Senator and Republicans able to filibuster, a retirement of Justice Ginsburg (or any other liberal Justice, for that matter) will surely set up a painstaking process to get any Obama nomination confirmed going forward. Unless the Democrats can produce a centrist/moderate candidate and directly point towards public approval in support of the candidate, more so than was the case for Sotomayor, Republicans will not pass confirmation. God forbid Justice Ginsburg relapses again and ultimately dies while still on the bench, Supreme Court business would be at a standstill or move forward with increased conservative leaning rulings (the court is usually in favor 5-4 on big issues towards the conservative side). This would further disrupt the social agendas moving forward that will more than likely see court reviews such as gay marriage, a revisit of Roe v. Wade, and immigration policy. Let me be clear, I am looking at this from a Democrat’s perspective and it isn’t looking too good.

Lesson to be learned …

Reread the same lesson above regarding Senator Kennedy. Those officials in such positions should be expected to do what is in the best interest of the American people and step aside if personal issues and health complications are potentially affecting the business of the United States. After all, in the armed forces, another field directly serving the country and it’s citizens, you would more than likely face a medical discharge or early retirement as an officer due to such circumstances. Why would we not expect the same from lawmakers and judges?

Finally, Election 2008 analyzed and in perspective.

Consider this question: Could you interview for an obviously better job during the day while not only your current employer is aware of it, but still pays and continues to employ you? I would be willing to bet that 99.9% of you would say “no” citing violations to one’s own moral and ethical standards. So, why do we allow this behavior of elected officials campaigning for higher office?

Through roughly May of 2008, about six months from Election Day 2008, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain’s Senate voting records where abysmal. In the second session of the 110th Congress, Clinton missed 27% of senate votes, while Obama was absent for 37% and McCain was MIA 56% of the time! What does that mean? Well, how about states represented by only one Senator when the Constitution clearly calls for two. How about getting paid to perform a job which you where elected to do and you never stated presidential ambitions on the campaign trail. How about leaving important legislation for large staffs in DC to muddle over and alerting you to votes in which you can’t miss, but letting the less important ones skate by.

Lesson to be learned …

 Voters should demand stricter legislation to curb clear abuse from politicians while they fulfill their own egos, strive towards personal greed, and the lust for power. Unless the campaign is for your own reelection to your current position, you should be expected to vacate your current post if you desire to run for another office. No longer should elected officials have the luxury of falling back on their current jobs in the failure of obtaining another one. It is an injustice to the citizens that voted for you expecting you to represent them on their behalf. This can not be better highlighted than back in Election 2000. Senator Lieberman accepted Al Gore’s choice as running mate. During that time, Lieberman was up for reelection in Connecticut. He focused less on his Senate reelection efforts in Connecticut letting it basically solely ride on popularity and spent a great majority of his time on the national scene. Even though Lieberman was on the campaign trail for three months, he still blatantly neglected his duties to Connecticut and had the audacity to presume a “given” reelection to the Senate. In more recent times, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska was vetted by the McCain campaign and called to action by the Arizona Senator to run as his VP candidate. The difference here was Governor Palin was on the road for two months and not running for reelection in Alaska at the same time nor approached the McCain campaign about the opportunity on her own behalf. Not disagreeing as much with this particular case, the Governor did the right thing and announced her resignation a few months back to pursue other interest within the Republican Party and her own personal endeavors. I will, however, disagree with the fact that she should have postponed those activities and carried out her term citing loyalty to the voters that graciously put her into office. It is obvious the Governor felt she could disembark due to the fact that Alaska would be left to a Republican Lt. Governor. In any event, it was a much more noble approach than most politicians have shown over the last few generations and looks like they will be showing us going forward. At least on the Republican side, the next election may contain a majority of candidates no longer holding public office such as Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin.

Ed

The Biggest Blunder of Obama and the Democrats in Year One …

Ever since you where a little kid you have probably heard the expression “put yourself in their shoes”. That is exactly what I have been doing over the last 12 months of the Obama administration. By putting myself in their shoes, what would I have done to serve the American people, enhance my party’s appeal to both Conservatives and Independents, and ensure the irrelevance of the Republican Party? WHAT?! Did I just say that? I sure did! Walking in their shoes, I am looking at it from the “other side” and what I think should have been the priorities and objectives of the Democratic Party. With that said, let’s talk.

 Coming off an election win over Senator McCain, Obama entered the White House in the later part of January, 2009 facing a rapidly deteriorating economy, an arterial flow of job looses, and two overseas wars; one in the early stages of success and the other in limbo. With him came a public approval rating of nearly 68% which included the less skeptical of critics outside of the liberal thinking. With his popularity and a campaign message of “Hope” and “Change”, the new president appeared to be in a position to rapidly move forward centrist agenda in an effort to strengthen America and lead her forward into the second decade of the young century. Then came …

  • TARP II: The sequel of GWB’s approved emergency action plan to shore up the economy and halt the bleeding of huge commercial banks. Republicans hammered the plan “supposedly” since its inception by former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, but I don’t remember much criticism until Obama initiated a second wave of spending. To be fair, it seems like the Obama administration has taken the fall for the “bailout” mentality and Bush abandoning “conservative principles” but I see only two possibilities that could have occurred:
  1. You do what the government did to avoid a depression and shore up the banking system slowing an out of control freight train but realizing the track towards recovery will be long, painful and tiresome.
  2. You allow the systemic collapse of the financial sector to unfold as it almost certainly would have without government intervention (see Bear Sterns) in a matter of a couple of days on Wall Street but knowing in a depression, each day can only get better as the worst has passed.

Many people would not agree with the second option as the projected losses to US households would have been far worse than what we already suffered. And, what is to say would be out of immediate danger once the system collapsed? It is basically the theory “you have to make a mess in order to clean one”. I am usually in support of that philosophy but perhaps it was not the better option here. With a new wave of retirees coming, positions in the job market would be available to new workers and opportunities for advancement would become available to seasoned employees in every sector that comprises the US economy. The last thing you want is to keep older citizens at retirement ages in the workforce longer than necessary with a huge influx of new workers. It produces a situation where jobs become even scarcer and wages decline. So, as we all know, we went with option “A” and here we are today. I will concede, the economy has moved away from the brink as the Democrats would like to point out, but it was a program engineered by a Republican president and his appointee that deserve the credit. As unpopular as it was, you give credit where credit is due.

Here’s where it went wrong, IMHO …

What do you do about the Republicans who are trying to poke holes in the situation with cries of “socialism”? Well, in Obama’s shoes, I would have explained to the country the necessity of the TARP program, credited the previous administration with it’s devisement, and then told America to brace for impact as we move towards selling off divisions of corporations within AIG, Chase, and Bank of America to name a few. Driving home the message that if a company poses a systemic risk to the economy and is “too big to fail, then it is too big”. With so much government involvement in the public sector backed by hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, the only sane action I see would be to disarm the risk by consolidating divisions and selling off the successful branches and eliminating the toxic ones. This would have lowered their overall risk factor to the whole economy but at the same time recoup taxpayer money and provide another opportunity to investors to support a leaner, stronger, more efficient company. Finally, it would be a sign to the country and the world that the government has an exit plan and has no intent on running banks. Only then can regulations on the financial sector take place, not to limit the size of a corporation, but to lay the ground work targeted at massive corporations posing a substantial risk to the whole while others are playing legitimately.

  • The Auto Industry: Towards the end of President Bush’s last couple of months in office, he stated he would defer a decision on taxpayer funds to rescue the American automotive industry to his successor. Some view this as a “cop out” but I believe it to be the right move considering how involved a process it would be and to start talks with an outgoing administration would potentially undermine additional options for the next. Obama came into office and after a few weeks, was able to work a deal with Chrysler and General Motors that would provide money to the broken companies with the main objective to keep over one million American workers employed. Certain criteria would have to be met in order for the companies to receive additional financing including a viable business plan from each corporation that paves the way towards reorganization and profitability.

Here’s where it went wrong, IMHO …

As I pointed out, successful divisions of the corporations should have been sold off. We saw this taking place to a degree with GM. Saturn was up for sale along with Hummer and SAAB while underperforming brands such as Pontiac where scrapped. But, Chrysler was brokered in a sales agreement as a whole rather then in pieces. With the popularity of the JEEP and Dodge Truck divisions, certainly buyers for each could have been found. I would like to think most business professionals would agree that the smaller brand specific companies would have a better chance at survival free of other underperforming divisions making a mess of the corporation’s books. I can only imagine the results we would have seen with a separate JEEP corporation such as an expansion of diesel technology or even the entrance into cars where as Dodge Trucks could have received the funding needed to pick its self back up and return towards the top of the list bringing profits with it. To just think we can sell Chrysler to another buyer after that thinking failed with Daimler was naïve. Now, today we are hearing reports about Chrysler still in trouble and may renege on its obligation to pay back federal loans. As for GM, despite sales being down with the exception of the “Cash for Clunkers” months, management wants to reopen plants to meet increased demands although the company is still posting in the red. I would like to see Cadillac and Chevrolet be released as its own corporations. They are both proven brands that investors would sure flock towards and separate them from tainted GM. Once again, the government could have left with another successful intervention. Instead, we are auto shareholders and will most certainly take losses.

  • The Stimulus Plan: What was supposed to “save and create 3.5 million jobs” has been a dud at the cost of $787 billion. With previous stimulus packages under the Bush administration in the form of two tax rebates, it was clear we would need something more than just a one time payout in order to grease the gears of the economy and get the machine as a whole moving again. However, the politicians had a field day.

Here’s where it went wrong. IMHO …

In August of 2007, the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis, MN collapsed killing 13 people. Shortly after, reports started coming in from various federal agencies putting the price tag to repair America’s bridges at as much as $140 billion. That figure does not include road repavement and expansion projects across the country or projects consisting of the construction of new bridges and interchanges across the nation. So, for arguments sake, let’s consider it a $200 billion price tag. If you recall, a big push for a stimulus plan was funding for “shovel ready” infrastructure projects across the nation. However, the Democrats financed only a mere $27 billion out of the total package to fund their biggest talking point; bridges and roads ($81 billion in total infrastructure related programs was approved but in the case of bridges and roads, the amount I report of $27 billion pertains to this discussion). Republicans managed to come out with $288 billion in tax cuts and another $83 billion went toward assistance to the aid of low income workers, unemployed and retirees (including job training). Now, as a center-right conservative and a person whom I like to think have common sense, the argument for infrastructure spending is relevant. Afterall, one of Rome’s downfalls was its failure to maintain infrastructure as the Empire expanded. I also agree with the Republican sponsored tax cuts and assistance to the unemployed as jobs where bleeding at over 600,000 per month. But that is the extent of it and where the bill lost support with Americans carrying an approval as low as 34% at the time of its passage. If you add the three major categories together, you get a total of $452 billion. So, what makes up the rest of the $787 billion price tag? Well, mostly slop or “pork” as it is called. Granted some of the provisions in the final package where noble but it just was not the right time. I would have preferred to have seen more permanent or at least long term tax cuts as well as a complete funding of necessary infrastructure spending and of course, aid to the unemployed. That probably would have brought us to a final price tag to $600 billion. Still a huge cost but they are programs that have been proven to benefit us with bigger returns in the long run. I believe Republicans should have seen the value of the infrastructure spending and worked closer with Democrats (and vice-versa) to fund the projects that are vital to America’s commerce. Spending money in construction at this scale creates orders for materials and durable goods such as heavy equipment. In turn, the ripple effect through one of the largest sectors of our economy, construction, could have jump started a quicker economic recovery. Need proof? Just see what WWII did for the American manufacturing sector after the great Depression. Tax cuts should be self explanatory but for all you  doubters, the more income a person can keep, the more he/she can spend and invest, unless you trust the government who has an outstanding (sarcasm alert) record on efficient spending. Unemployment assistance is just a given. If people default on loans and household expense, you see an increase in bankruptcies and debt defaultment. That creates a domino effect and impacts the economy in a negative way. Afterall, floating the unemployed taxpayer until he/she can find work is a necessity to help launch and maintain a recovery. Eventually, you will collect the payouts in tax revenue again. But when the system leaves that worker hanging on for months without an unemployment check, progress slows. See my blog post “Another Broken Government Program Overlooked” for more information

  • Fiscal Responsibility: Over the last 12 months, it has been anything but that! After the stimulus bill came the $410 omnibus bill, the potential $850 plus billion healthcare bill, and a potential $300 billion jobs bill that diverts unused TARP funds to job creation. In total, the administration is on a path to $2.4 trillion in expenditures.

Here’s where it went wrong, IMHO …

Acknowledging the validity of TARP and the need of a stimulus package above, for the remainder of FY2009 and all of FY2010, the Obama administration should have initiated a complete freeze on new government spending with the exception of the military. The freeze would continue in FY2011 unless the economy has posted six consecutive quarters of growth, inflation is in control with only gradual rate increases and jobs are posting gains of at least 200,000 per month over those six quarters. In the meantime, the federal budget would be subject to a line item audit with reports published by each federal agency recommending cuts in their spending. The objective is to work toward a balanced budget with a simple rule of “spend no more then 85% than you take in with the remainder going towards national debt repayment.” I am a firm believer that fiscal responsibility is the key to our national security and the last thing you want is to be in debt to other countries that don’t share our common principles and values and support of liberty. Being in debt to China and importing a vast majority of our oil from Venezuela is not a good formula for economic success and our ability to control our own future. With a balanced budget and debt fulfillment, investors both here and abroad can enter back into our markets propelling the economy on a path to sustainable economic growth.

  • For those of you that know me I have said many times that the debate on healthcare is valid and urgent. However, in these times of economic uncertainty, now is not the right time for America but rather the right time for an administration that started off with stellar approval ratings and a same-party controlled Congress. Hence the rush to pass flawed, partisan legislation by cutting backroom deals and engaging in Mob-like tactics resulting in successfully dividing Americans further apart than ever. With that said, perhaps the biggest argument Republicans have on the Democrats is taxes. Liberals are generally students of the Keynesian model favoring spending as a way to prosperity especially in a time of recession. Conservatives, on the other hand, favor tax reductions and debt management as a way to stimulate investment and economic expansion. In these unprecedented times, I believe the argument for tax reform should have been the major agenda for the new administration. Many forms of tax legislation have been proposed over the years in an attempt to even the playing field amongst Americans and attempt to ensure all pay their “fair share”. A true dialog and passage of strong legislation amongst both parties could have sparked an economic revival never before seen since WWII. Finally, loopholes and such abuses can be closed and more money remain in the pockets of the citizens that better know how to spend it. But I often view this subject as the last line of control the power players in government have on us. With the middle class representing the majority of Americans, a broken tax system, IMHO, is basically a form of bondage. As long as we have to work long hours and run households that require two incomes (compared with up until the middle of the 20th century when most households could function on one income), the middle class does not simply have the time or flexibility to demand the chains be removed from our “leaders”. The Obama administration has chosen to play party favorites and sell out the American middle class in an attempt to get healthcare for only 9% of Americans when the US tax system affects us all. Tax reformation could have dismantled the biggest Republican talking point in the last 100 years clearing the way for Democratic control for a generation.
  • The Wars: Finally, the last part to the formula would have been a swift and harsh spin up to the war in Iraq and a campaign to project the good that has come in Iraq as the country rebuilds and moves forward and our need to be in Afghanistan from a humanitarian standpoint. First, there would come acknowledgement that Iraq, after all, was not a lost cause and is better off now than it was under Saddam Hussein. However, Obama and his party continue to deny the surge increase worked in Iraq despite authorizing one of their own in Afghanistan. War is an ugly site and no country wants to be in it any longer than needed. But I have often said the cost to live the way we do and enjoy the freedoms we have comes at an ever increasing price in terms of money and blood in this world. America must be prepared to defend herself at any cost to ensure we can continue with what was given to us now and with each and every generation. I support Obama’s troop surge (even though it is the Bush/Cheney playbook and they aren’t getting any credit for it) but do not support the move towards placing captured insurgents into the civil court system. Wars are wars and therefore must act as such. Ensuring proper treatment of inmates in US custody is one thing, but capturing brutal killers on the battlefield should be met with harsh consequences and the explicit intention of ending the battle with victory as the ultimate goal. Being tied down in two countries for years has rendered us useless in responding to trouble in Iran and North Korea. Many would argue we should not be a world police force, but I would point out to my case of freedom’s cost above in an effort to sober your mind. It should be a priority of this administration to swiftly dismantle the enemy and maintain order through a joint venture with the world. Aggressive cancers require aggressive treatments. Same goes for war. You have to be prepared to go in all or nothing. Hopefully a simple troop increase in Afghanistan will be the solution but I have my doubts thus far. 

So, in summary, the biggest blunder of the Obama administration in the first year was their failure in rendering the Republican Party useless. It could have been accomplished by a common sense approach to financial regulation, providing legislation for a stimulus package that would have actually created jobs, economic growth, and tangible benefits for all, fiscal responsibility and debt management, removing the middle class from tax “bondage”, and the distribution of information supporting positive results in Iraq and Afghanistan and a quick and effective conclusion in terms of a crushed enemy. Of course, the secret to the game is to work with the other party. As we now can see, playing the one party system, is not working nor has it for decades. History has shown us that Americans prefer the party in power in Congress that is opposite to the party in power in the Executive branch. It is the basics of checks and balances but I would argue had the Democrats focused more on working with Republicans a little harder rather than “we reached out our hand once and they didn’t take it” attitude, they would find themselves in a better position going into 2010 and Republicans could not have regained popularity on the simple action of “inaction”. But for now, we as Americans are the one’s suffering … thanks to those that reelect 95% of incumbents back into office during major elections. Just some food for thought.

Ed

Another Broken Government Program Overlooked …

In November of 2009, after a few months of delay in the Senate, legislation was finally passed and signed into law by President Obama to extend unemployment benefits once again to millions of Americans who have exhausted or would be exhausting their benefits by the end of the year. With this legislation, the total unemployment compensation stretched to 73 weeks of benefits here in Connecticut with an additional 6 weeks on standby providing certain criteria are met. Now, without going into the history of the unemployment system which most people are familiar with, I will simply say, as many would agree, that the unemployment system needs an overhaul as is often the problem with older and overlooked government programs. I wanted to take some time here and point out the issues a lot of people are having with the system, like my wife and I who have been struggling with it for some time as the economy continues its stagnation.

 1)     Connecticut is a state that does not offer direct deposit for unemployment checks. It requires a claimant to file on a weekly basis via online or telephone and answer 7 questions in which the DOL uses to asses if you continue to qualify for benefits. The issues with this are as follows:

A)   The two systems for filing are completely overwhelmed each week for three days as people rush to file in hopes of getting checks as early in the week as possible. The computer servers and phone system simply can not handle the volume. This resorts in hours wasted by a claimant just to answer the same questions as the week before as their status of being unemployed has not changed or they would not be filing at all.

B)    By mailing checks on a weekly basis to all of the claimants, the state wastes vast resources, money, and manpower in terms of supplies, postage, and processing hours in order to cut checks to those who qualify.

C)    The check mailing process opens the door to fraud since easily identified envelopes containing the checks make their way through the postal system coming in contact with hundreds of people before the check reaches you.

Solutions … IMHO:

A)   Forget the weekly filing. Only require the claimant to contact unemployment if their work status has changed or if they are working part time or in self employment as that would be considered a possible weekly variance in their wages. As for the rest of us that have no other income source, which is the great majority, just cut the check! This would free up hundreds of hours on the state’s end which equates to a savings. It also reduces the stress on the claimant having to deal with the hassle that weekly filing has become in this high unemployment time.

B)    Get a company to handle the direct deposit. The state was working on doing this and had committed to getting direct deposit into place by the end of the summer of 2009. That deadline has come and gone with no further discussion. State officials also said that by going to direct deposit it would save $1 million in expenses per year.

C)    By going direct deposit it virtually automates the entire process leaving DOL workers to handle new claims, hearings, P/T and self employed cases, reemployment programs, and cut ridiculous wait times on phones to answer personalized questions that currently are not answered in the FAQ section online.

2)     The system needs to be tailored to an individual’s career. For instance, Connecticut’s November 2009 unemployment rate was 8.2% where as December’s national average at the federal level was 10% (Important to note, CT reports it’s previous month’s rate with the Federal current month). However, in the construction sector, unemployment on the national and state level both hover around 20% with underemployment closer to 30%. The service sector saw some gains with the rehiring of workers for the holiday season.

Solution … IMHO:

I believe with a tailored system that took people’s established job sectors into account, the length of unemployment benefits available should coincide with those specific unemployment numbers. However, even with the service sector hiring and someone who use to work retail still having trouble finding a job should not get kicked to the curb because the construction worker is in worse shape and requires a longer extension. I think, at least, this should be looked into in more detail if a reform of unemployment is going to take place. Perhaps evidence presented by a claimant showing skills in another sector and an active search for alternative work can yield longer benefits? Meaning, if the painter can ring a register and a cashier can count people for the census, then it should be noted to avoid people riding waves without looking for work. Food for thought as the debate emerges.

3)     Congress moves way too slow to deal with the unemployment problem often after benefits have been exhausted to enact extensions if economic indicators point towards people continuing to need help in order to maintain a very bare boned lifestyle. With the average extension around $30-$50 billion for the nation with each occurrence, the sense of urgency is not there when benefits run out and people are made to deal without income for months at a time, in my case, 4 months over the summer. Watching hundreds of billions and even trillions of dollars being released in social programs tailored to a few percent of the population and wasteful spending run amuck in DC, why is it taking so long for a program that is paid into by taxes on payroll and then taxed again by the government to the claimant take so long to legislate? Does Congress not realize that the unemployment system functioning in a seamless fashion will also prop up the economy? Economists would agree that the worst thing to do in a recession is to stop spending. Recessions get worse! For example, my wife and I back in October had to give up our apartment of 3 years due to the 4 month gap in unemployment and the continual decay of the job market. Doing so has forced us to live with family and in turn has created an apartment vacancy, a cablevision cancellation, an electric service account closed, a renter insurance policy terminated, etc, etc. All are services that pay other people’s salaries and equals money taken out of the economy! Seems to me, when you have a system that is funded through taxes from the past, present, and future, you should have the flexibility to make adjustments as needed. Simply kicking working class tax paying citizens to the curb for several months at a time while welfare checks and Medicaid continue to be funded without question or interruption is downright wrong and un American! We aren’t looking for a bailout and most in this situation want very much to return to work ASAP. We are simply asking not to have to scarify everything we own after demonstrating being responsible citizens and help us to float our heads above a tidal wave we did not create. Do we really have to go as far as defaulting on credit cards, declaring bankruptcy, selling personal effects, breaking into what is left of retirement plans just to pay bills for another month? Where is the American Spirit in any of that?

4)     Taxes, Taxes, Taxes! There really are two things you can be certain of in life and they are paying taxes and death! Seems to me that when a program like unemployment is funded through a tax rate from the employer, and then taxed again from the individual, it is a form of double taxation. Not so much for the actual claimant, but you are paying taxes on money created by a tax. But I ask this: If you are collecting unemployment and expecting to one day return to work and going to generate more income to be taxed on, does the government really need to have its hand in your pocket while you are on your knees squeaking by with unemployment? Sure, it was a nice gesture for Obama to forgive the first $2,500 of unemployment compensation and not tax it as stated in the Stimulus Act, but, as I said before, with billions and trillions of dollars being spent that we don’t have anyway, what is another $100 billion or so in lost tax revenue? Just add it to the deficit for the year (That is a joke!). The good thing about it is the workers will generate tax income once again. Compare this to the 40% or so of American’s that don’t pay income tax at all and collect rebate checks each year. Virtually none of them will ever move to the work sector and generate taxable revenue. So, why must the hard working citizens unjustly suffer in their time of need? Where is the even playing field for the blue collars?

5)     Ridiculous stipulations on extensions is the last thing I want to address. Currently, as I mentioned, CT and the nation have received a 14 week extension signed by the President with the prospect of an additional 6 weeks providing CT, for example meet the following requirement:

The state must average an unemployment rate of at least 8.5% over a three month (12 week ) period in order to receive an additional 6 weeks of benefits.

Let’s look at that for a minute. 8.5% over three months. Well, since CT lags behind with their rates by a month, we need to review the unemployment rate for September, October, and November in order to calculate the current average. Those numbers are 8.4%, 8.8%, and 8.2% respectively. If you average them out you get 8.46%. WOW! 8.5%! Another 6 weeks!!! W R O N G! Neither the state nor the federal government round up! It is plainly written in the law … 8.5% … no less. Well, better luck next month. Not likely! It is predicted that when CT releases it’s numbers in the middle of January for December, the rate will decrease due to a hiring of workers in retail and ski resorts to name a couple of sectors based on the season. So, with that said, what is needed to reach an 8.5% average? Well, keeping 8.8% from October and 8.2% from November, CT would need to reach 8.5% in order to average 8.5% over three months. But, as I just pointed out, that is unlikely. So, if not next month, going into the dead of winter in February, how about then? GOOD LUCK! Now you are loosing the high rate of 8.8% in October in the formula, which means you are calculating with November at 8.2% and whatever December and January turn out to be. Let’s say for arguments sake, December turned out to be 8.0%. January would have to be reported at a whopping 9.3% in order to average the 8.5% over three months stipulation. So, as you can see, extensions are coming to an end and quickly at that.

Conclusion … If there is one!

For me, I am exhausted around the first of March and my wife at the end of March. Now, it is possible that the government could legislate an additional extension overriding the 6 week extension. But I don’t have my hopes up. Monthly unemployment data is skewed and the media loves to beef it up since their guy won the election. It is a simple fact. In their eyes, we are on a path toward recovery while I see stagnation through Q1 and Q2. The real hard thing to bite off is the fact that tax season hits in April. And as I mentioned, unemployment is taxable. So, what happens when a couple take in nearly $35,000 in unemployment insurance? Probably a $6,000 tax bill which wipes out the remainder of their savings and forces them into looking at liquidating personal assets. Well, at least 9% of Americans will get some healthcare. Healthcare for free or subsidized while my wife and I pay $480 a month without jobs and a broken system that continues to stress the American worker. I think a reform is long overdue! Maybe we can be two of the one million census workers the government will be hiring this year … which, no doubt, will create a better picture for the Democrats in their bids for 2010 reelections.

Here is something about all this to ponder over; Even if the economy started adding 250K jobs per month starting now, it would still take seven years to bring the rate back down to 5% and absorb all of its losses. But, hey, toast one in the New Year to “change”!

Ed

My Choice for “Person of the Year” …

The December 28, 2009 issue of Time magazine, which is on newsstands now, features its Person of the Year segment. This year’s pick is Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Now, I get that there is a huge argument in favor of the Federal Reserve as well as one against it, led mostly by Congressman Ron Paul. But I will admit I don’t know much about the actual workings of the Fed other than what is outlined in an economics textbook. It is on my list of things to research … have no fear! I will say other than reducing interest rates to as near zero as the Fed can get and injecting hundreds of billions of dollars in cash that never really existed to shore up the financial system in the months following the collapse of Bear Sterns, should Bernanke be given all the credit? I think not. As a matter of fact, I believe someone else deserves the honor but let’s first look at the #2 through #4 people on the list.

General Stanley McChrystal is runner-up. Choosen due to his successful campaign for a surge of troops in Afghanistan. I don’t have any issues here except I am a little skeptical of America’s commanders as of lately. Please don’t misunderstand; I believe they are some of the finest examples of committed and loyal patriotic Americans we have. But it appears politics is increasingly getting mixed in with military affairs and I think we hurt our ability to effectively conduct wars with bureaucrats breathing down their necks. So, to a degree, some military leaders must become politicians themselves. Think back to the General’s damage control he had to do after the President announced a draw down date in Afghanistan.

The third person … or people … are the Chinese Worker. That’s right! The good ol’ Chinese Worker. Time cites the annual growth rate of the Chinese economy at 8% and the emergence of a middle class as its main reasons. Well, I would say they make cheap stuff … cheap! However, America still dominates in durable goods and, for the moment, leads in advanced jobs in the technology sector. Let me know when the Chinese are building locomotives, airplanes, writing software, and designing next generation medical equipment and I will say otherwise. Wait a sec … that is probably around the corner!

Finally, last on the lineup, my personal favorite. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (or President Pelosi IMHO). The Time caption reads “No longer underestimated, the highest ranking woman in U.S. history wields the power of her office more effectively than any other House Speaker in modern times. It’s not wise to get on her bad side.” Interesting. Although I agree her rise to House Speaker would reinforce that part of the statement but using her power effectively? She is a bully and a party player plain and simple. It can be seen nearly every time she is on TV answering media questions. Afterall, she has no problem telling you “We write the bills. We won the election.” Does simply having the numbers make you effective? I would say not with her version of the health care bill narrowly passing in her house by only a margin of 4 votes (one of which was a Republican vote) when her party holds a super majority.

Well, that wraps up the Time picks. Now here is mine!

Ed’s Person of the Year Award goes to …

The Main Street American Worker (employed or unemployed)!

Why? Well, why not? After watching their retirements fall, home values plummet, credit lines trimmed, coworkers disappear in the cubicles or assembly lines next door, having to tell a loved one they lost their livelihood, and stress levels through the roof, they have weathered the storm better than any American can be expected to. They assembled peaceful protests based on principles and values in demonstration of out of control federal spending even if that spending could have reduced their own personal pain. They fought for a voice for their children and grandchildren. They patiently accepted terrible job news and economic data month after month with a new sense of living day to day rather than living week to week. They took and continue to take a boat load of spin, lies, and deceit from their elected officials and they do it all without use of force or violence in an attempt to finally be seen by the said officials as the real people in charge. For that, the Main Street American Worker is my choice!

Ed

James Madison Once Said …

[Congress] … can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people together. It creates between them that communion of interests and sympathy of sentiments, of which few governments have furnished examples; but without which every government degenerates into tyranny … If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate anything but liberty.


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