On a Philosophical Washington

With the recent budget discussion in our rear-view mirror and with seemingly more difficult budget discussions in the days ahead, political pundits on both sides are making their case about who won the last round, who has the upper hand for future discussion, and so on.

Hmmm. President Obama appoints a budget commission that releases a report that he neither endorsed or condemned. Then, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) releases a budget that is probably from a conservative think-tank that promotes the GOP. Of course, we also have the Gang of Six believing they can develop a compromising budget in a partisan atmosphere.

President Obama wants Congress to raise the debt ceiling, something that he voted against as a senator. As the GOP continues to portray itself as budget hawks, they continue to fail to accept the responsibility for the 2000-2006 deficit growth. Yet the Democrats attempt to be rational cutters while failing to own up to their spending habits.

I say – blah, blah, blah. As Washington attempts to give the public the impression they are working toward finding a solution, let us remember that their primary concern is their re-election bids and their party’s bankroll.  The majority of Americans want our national government to seek meaningful solution, yet Washington continues to be all about the party  – thus delivering the message that playing politics is paramount to delivering solution.

What if they made an effort to think, discuss, listen, and work toward meaningful solutions? What if Washington took a philosopher’s approach to problem solving? Then again, just as in this gathering of famous philosophers, the outcome still produced winners, losers, and disputes.

On a Thought about Entitlements

As we hear all the political rhetoric about the budget, entitlements are one item that Capitol Hill seemingly continues to ignore (or scared to touch). Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer recently wrote this about a possible solution.

Everyone knows that the U.S. budget is being devoured by entitlements. Everyone also knows that of the Big Three – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – Social Security is the most solvable.

Back-of-an-envelope solvable: Raise the retirement age, tweak the indexing formula (from wage inflation to price inflation) and means-test so that Warren Buffett’s check gets redirected to a senior in need

Redirecting checks seems to be a form of redistribution of wealth. Hmmm … that’s an interesting concept coming from a conservative Republican.

Now Rep Paul Ryan [R-WI] is also getting into the act by suggesting Medicare should be distributed through a system that includes receiving a government voucher. Hmmm … given Ryan and Krauthammer’s words, I guess perspective defines socialism.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 84

On the Jobs Council
President Obama recently appointed General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt (also a Republican) to lead the new jobs council. I wonder how many jobs GE outsources out the country. Then again, maybe Mr. Immelt offers a perspective on how to increase US jobs.

On the Upcoming Budget Talks
February will be an interesting month as negotiations with the Federal budget begin. Yes – the talk between the partisan ideologues, the wackos, and the pragmatic will deliver interesting light to we who anxiously listen.

Will this strange marriage occur? That is, the political left that doesn’t want the US military fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq uniting with the political right that is against fighting a war we can’t afford. Since time will tell, we’ll wait.

On Revisiting the Gulf War
The Gulf War to free Kuwait was 20 years ago. NBC’s Brian Williams had this interesting 40-minute interview with our main leaders at the time.

On the Bearcat Basketball
For much of the 1990s and into the new millennium, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats (love them or hate them) were a force to be reckoned with in college basketball. In 2005, then (now gone) UC President Nancy Zimpher decided the program needed a fresh start, thus dismantled the program. I recently added a home game – one with a small, subdued crowd. I gazed into the upper deck and renamed the empty seats in Zimpher’s honor. Meanwhile, this weekend UC fans will welcome back former coach Bob Huggins with open arms.


  • Actor James Franco, one of the hosts for the upcoming Oscars show, is a PhD student at Yale.
  • A University of Utah study shows that people have already given up on 40% of New Years’ resolutions.
  • Farting in public can be dangerous – even deadly.
  • Most vegans don’t eat marshmallows.
  • Insomniacs should get out of bed of better sleep (huh?)
  • Being ballroom dancers, we’ll see Burn the Floor this weekend.
  • Which is riskier: smoking or taking Chantix?

On a Worldly Example of a Hero
CNN honored Narayanan Krishnan a few months ago as one of its Top 10 Heroes. Cheers to him for demonstrating amazing goodness to fellow humans, and thanks to Mckenzie for identifying this powerful video.

Have a safe weekend.

On the Recent SOTU

Nothing against President Obama, but I tried resisting the State of the Union (SOTU), but as if the Borg were assimilating me, resistance was futile. Upon reflection, below are some random notes.

For the record, I didn’t watch either of the opposing responses because, no matter the party, they don’t deserve my time. Besides, most reality shows (which I don’t watch) have more credibility than Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN). Nonetheless, here are some random thoughts about the event.

At both the beginning and the end, watching my representative work the center aisle demonstrated her self-centered nature. She is often critical of President Obama, yet accosted him as he entered and left – plus even asking him for three autographs.

No SOTU is loaded with details, so the detail-mongers predictably criticized the speech. Plus I challenge them to identify a SOTU that contains details.

The speech wasn’t about policy; nor was it a pep rally. The tone was about a vision of the future, but predictably, less about the actual plan on how to get there. Nonetheless, President Obama squarely put the monkey on the back of Congress.

He’s going to veto any bill with earmarks? A noble cause, but I wonder if this is do-able? By the way, budget a replacement bridge through the DOT instead of through an earmark.

With little red meat for the rabid, President Obama continues his recent triangulation mode, thus is relying on a partisan Congress to prove a point that their ideologies are more important than finding solutions.

How Congress passed the health care bill without including tort reform still amazes me. Oops, I momentarily forgot the legal lobby.

Education reform is an item that could gather bipartisan support. The major questions are twofold:  Can those who are products of an industrial age education system they praise able to create an environment for educational innovation? Are schools about to change their entrenched behavior?

Congratulations to Mr. President for continuing the time-honored tradition started by President Nixon in talking about the country’s need for energy independence.

I caught this one: President Obama said, “We are living with a legacy of deficit-spending that began almost a decade ago.” Sorry Mr. President, the deficit started its upward movement during the Ford Administration (1974-76), and has increased annually many more times than not.

What does a leaner, more efficient federal government have in common congressional ethics? Both are oxymorons.

Overall, I heard more about spending than about cutting. Interestingly, government spending should increase to stimulate growth during down times (anti-GOP), but government needs to be cut spending during times of growth (anti-Dem).

Here’s something I don’t believe either party heard – You aren’t going to get everything you want. Oh my, those February budget talks will be interesting.

On the Deficit Commission’s Revenues

Not long ago, a friend questioned my post when I suggested addressing the deficit through tax increasing and spending reduction. I thank President Obama’s deficit commission for supporting my point.

The leaders of the bipartisan deficit commission recently released their ideas that will serve as the groundwork for their work ahead. Erskine Bowles (D) and Alan Simpson (R) realize the fastest way out of the deficit situation is the no-brainer, two-prong approach of increasing revenues and decreasing spending. However, we must think of politicians as marketers.

Take tax cuts, which in themselves decreases government’s revenues – thus a direct contradiction to the commission’s aim. To sell it to the people, the politicians must promote cutting taxes while disguising tax increases. Although President Reagan’s tax cuts greatly reduced the tax burden on the rich – the tax at that time was ridiculously high – the middle class also received a lower tax rate at the expense of fewer deductions – and in the end, paid more taxes (amount). A brilliant bit of salesmanship.

It’s simple – lower tax rates coupled with a deduction reduction means we (taxpayers) can actually pay more taxes (amount) while believing we are paying less (a lower rate).

As the current commission examines tax cuts, they have also made it known that deductions would decrease and other taxes, such as a 15% increase gasoline tax, would take effect. To my friend and others I ask this question, “Which way do you want tax increase: overt or covert?”