Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 211

On Politics
Cheers to the Congressional Republicans who voted with the Democrats to extend the debt ceiling. Then again, that doesn’t stop me from dreaming of the day when Congress abandons the debt ceiling, which is nothing more than a political tool.

The White House recently delayed the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate on certain-sized business. Besides that this is a prime example that size matters, I don’t like the employer mandate.

As Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) attacks former President Bill Clinton to excite his base, he does so at the expense of alienating the ideological center. Meanwhile, so now he’s suing the White House. He’s very much about positioning himself.

I put Sen. Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the same category … “Keep Them Talking.”

Here’s an interesting comment from a conservative: GOP reform efforts must aim to restrain government, not immobilize it.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Report: It’s too soon to glance back at attractive person
Exhuming mom for one last hug: A privilege of the wealthy?
Renovations force Yosemite National Park to temporarily relocate in Sacramento
Live cow lowered onto floor of US House of Representatives (visual proof)
Couple never dreamed they would be able to talk so openly and honestly about kitchen cabinets

Interesting Reads
Norway’s Winter Olympics success 
The wonders of curling shoes
Is the jobless rate a questionable statistic?
Resisting the Social Media Revolution
Remember Baghdad Bob
A great collection of wine infographics by The Wine Wankers
Aurora borealis slideshow

On Potpourri
Hooray … it’s time spring training baseball!

College football player Michael Sam public announcement about his sexuality was interesting, but (to me) the most remarkable news was that he told his college teammates August – which means his teammates, coaching staff, and others kept it quiet. This is another example of how the younger generation (as a whole) is much more accepting of gays than other generations. Cheers to them for leading the way.

With the Winter Olympics in process, I want to see a snowboarder go off the tall ski jump. Guapo: Would you be willing to try?

We are scheduled for more snow on Friday … but after that, a warming trend!

Given the publicity of last week’s evolution-creationism debate, I wonder how many pastors took advantage of the opportunity to address it from the pulpit. I know mine did not.

Here are your weekend celebrations

  • (Weekend) Backyard Bird-Count Weekend
  • (Fri) Valentine’s Day, Ferris Wheel Day, Cream-Filled Chocolates Day, Read to Your Child Day, Have a Heart Day, Call in Single Day, Race Relations Day, Quirky Alone Day, Library Lovers Day, Condom Day, Women’s Heart Day, Donor’s Day, Pet Theft Awareness Day
  • (Sat) National Gumdrop Day. Whale Day, Hippo Day
  • (Sun) Do a Grouch a Favor Day, Almond Day, Innovation Day

Given Friday’s special nature, a 1977 flashback will lead you into the weekend, so enjoy Heart with Crazy on You. Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On the U.S. Situation

I imagine most Americans are tired of the news about Congress and its antics regarding shutdown and sequester. I also imagine the rest of the world is a bit annoyed as well. Therefore, it’s time to do some basic informing.

The Facts
1) According to the US Constitution, Congress (not the President/Executive Branch) is responsible for fiscal matters, including the budget. Because of the balance of powers in the Constitution, the President can sign or veto the budget bill passed by Congress.

2) According to the US Constitution, the government can operate at a debt, which it has been since the mid 1970s. This is something that many (if not most or even all) state and municipal constitutions do not allow. For the record, the biggest holder of US debt is the US Government itself – not China.

3) Debt and deficit are different, but related. The negative differential in one fiscal year between income and spending is the deficit, while the debt is the cumulative total of annual deficits.

4) Sequester was not a presidential mandate. As part of the Congress-passed, president-signed Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress agreed to form a Super Committee that would produce legislation to reduce the deficit by a fixed amount over ten years. Failure to reach an agreement would initiate pre-determined, automatic cuts known as sequestration.

5) The Super Committee failed in their task, and Congress continues to pass (and president signs) short-term legislation to delay sequestration and raising the debt ceiling – thus choosing to kick the can down the road rather than addressing the issue.

6) The debt ceiling allows government to pay for the bills for goods and services that the government has already authorized to spend. Because the government would still have income, failing to raise the debt ceiling forces the government to prioritize payments (as long as money exists to pay).

Commentary
Although polls have the darkest clouds hanging over Republicans, favorable ratings are not brightly shining on Democrats and President Obama. In the end, US lawmakers are skirting their responsibility of governing for the citizens in favor of the selfishness of their party and themselves. Members will evade, distort, deceive, intentionally misinform, and even lie to get their way. Each party targets certain budgetary items and protects others. Each party has its members firmly in line with a party-first mantra.

The Founding Fathers designed a system with differences from our European forefathers and one involving a separation of powers to prevent one-party domination. Although the majority rules in government, governing involves the majority giving something to the minority as part of the final deal – and that same minority willing to take what they can get.

Currently, this is unquestionably not happening. Partisan lawmakers believe all answers lie within their philosophy while the other party has nothing to offer. Creative problem solving that looks outside of both boxes has no chance.

I fret a future election cycle when one party controls the White House and both sides of Capitol Hill because the stage is set for a strong overreach that forces the party’s values upon all. Given the current climate, the question isn’t if, but when.

On Playing with Words

Over the past several weeks, there has not been a shortage of discussions and commentaries around the debt ceiling. If nothing else, this topic demonstrates that politics involves playing the word game, which sometimes capitalizing on what the listeners do not know. For instance, let’s consider the following phrases/terms: size of government, deficit, and debt.

What is the meaning of size of government? To me, size refers to how big government is … the size of the organizational chart. On the other hand, some use size of government to refer to the amount the government spends. However, amount refers to the number of dollars involved. If the org chart remains the same, a budget decrease means the amount spent decreases while the government’s size remains the same. Of course, some also incorrectly use size of government when they actually mean the role of government.

Does the user mean debt or deficit? The two are not interchangeable terms. The recent debate involves plans for deficit reduction, but not necessary the debt. Yep, they actually agreed upon a budget decrease that reduces the rate of debt increase. That is, the debt still increases.

Deficit and surplus refer to the difference between income and spending – specifically, during a particular 12-month fiscal year. If income is greater, that’s a surplus. If spending is greater, that is a deficit. In other words, deficit and surplus only refer to a one-year period.

Debt is a long-term word involving an ongoing accumulation of yearly deficits. Interestingly, if the surplus does not cover the interest on the debt, a surplus does not reduce the debt. Even the GOP recognizes that it will take 10-years of concentrated deficit reduction to reach a point of the debt not increasing. Yep, at that point, a large debt remains.

The moral of this post is the following. As you either listen or read the commentaries, or even better, read comments and letters to the editor or comments on blogs, take note of these terms and you will notice correct and incorrect use … and misleading use.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 107

On Thoughts and Prayers

  • To starving people throughout the world, especially Somalia
  • The people of Syria fighting for freedom

On Politics
Even though it was for one vote, a tip of the cap to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on her return to Congress. Simply wow!

About the balanced budget amendment: The Constitution is a set of basic rules for American governance – thus not a political vehicle for a policy preference. Republicans are not only using it to promote their agenda, the amendment does nothing to solve the problem at hand. Nothing!

There is no doubt that Congress will attempt to tackle some form of tax reform. The following result will not surprise me: a lower tax rate with less deductions meaning higher taxes paid. This is a way to raise revenues while telling the public they cut taxes. By the way, this is right out of the President Reagan playbook.

President Obama said, “This deal got done because of the American people.” Sorry Mr. President, don’t pass the national embarrassment off on us.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, “The deal negotiated with leaders of Congress is a victory for the American people.” Huh?

In his passionate plea before last Friday’s vote, Speaker Boehner included a bit about jobs. I remind Speaker Boehner that it is Week 30 of the Boehner-led House without a jobs bill. To quote Speaker Boehner, “Where are the jobs?”

Interesting Reads

Interesting Headlines I Saw this Week
Drink wine to avoid sunburn
Blood clot kills Xbox addict
Giant rat kills predators with poisonous hairs
Sarah Palin’s solon to get show
What lives in your navel?
Swedish man caught trying to split atoms at home
100 year old reports a lifetime of lousy health choices

Thanks to the Onion for the following:
New documentary focuses on the life of Eva Braun’s late husband
Democrats, Republicans celebrate pitfall for common ground
Social Security reform bill encourages Americans to live faster, die younger
Banks introduce 75-cent surcharge for using Word Bank
Drunker Ben Bernacke tells everyone at neighnorhood bar how screwed US economy really is

On Potpourri
Cincinnati’s streak of 17 consecutive days of 90+ degrees ended Wednesday. Considering the streaks in Oklahoma and Texas, we’re lucky.

The question about my Cincinnati Reds: Are they underachieving or were they overrated?

Congratulation to my oldest niece and oldest nephew for their first full-time job after college.

See these awesome images of Milford Sound in Fiord National Park (New Zealand)

To send you into the weekend, here’s a promo video about Milford Sound. So in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good works, and stay in touch.

On the Debt Ceiling Fallout

Graphic property of the Pew Research Center and Washington Post

Although our elected officials just did seemingly something right for the country, why do I continue to be troubled? Why am I unhappy? Why do I lack confidence in our leaders? Why do I see a train wreck for the Congressional Super Committee? Why do I not see a positive future?

Our elected officials by have avoided a financial default, the combination of their inaction and twisted information has led the national into a political default. Not only do they continue show an inability to management our home, they do well at being inept at managing our national in a changing world.

Budget discussions are going to be center stage for some time to come. I believe that the majority of Americans believe this is important and want sensible solutions. The problem with that is that political parties bring enough sacred cows into the discussion, to prevent sensible solutions and eliminate the chance of outside-the-box possibilities.

I know the Tea Party members and many partisans don’t understand this, but the majority of voters want sensible (not partisan) solutions, which (by the way) was the election mandate in 2008 and 2010. The voting majority does not measure success by winning an election, by signing a special interest pledge, or by following a party platform, but by delivering meaningful solutions to difficult issues.

Some voters found the negotiations around the stimulus and health bills as disgusting, and are now more disgusted. (The latest Pew Research Center Poll). Therefore, are Congressional Democrats, Congressional Republicans (including the Tea Party members), and President Obama in re-election doubts? I know there is a long way to go, but could an anti-incumbent wave strike in November 2012?