Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why I love Sarah

I am not sure Sarah Palin is my first choice in 2012. There are a bunch of factors that will weigh into that decision for me, many of which we won't have data on for a couple of years. That isn't the issue for this post. She is clearly more qualified for the office than either the current occupant, his gaffe-a-day sidekick or his "leader" of either house .... but so is Mickey Mouse... or for that matter ME! All three of us have actual accomplishments.

The point of this post is to give the dumb-ole-country-boy take on Sarah Palin. How she will or won't stack up against potential, and to date unknown other options, is not the point.

I love Sarah Palin because she reminds me of the women I grew up around that made me a better, albeit imperfect, man. If I were to put a name on her it would be Mrs. Stumler. She was the first woman I knew in our community who took direct charge of part of the family business..... and she made a roaring success of it. At the end of the day Sarah is any of the women in the little farming community I grew up in... but somehow every time I see her face I superimpose Mrs. Stumler's face on her..... and it warms my heart.

I went through 6 years of gradeschool with her son. He was and is a great American and a good man, as were and are his siblings good men and women. She lost her husband, a great man by any measure, way too early in life many years ago. They all continued on the path that great family was destined for with hardly a beat missed. I cannot imagine how they did that..... I would have been devastated. I am still not sure how I will survive the loss of either of my parents. I pray for the strength they showed.

That is what I see in Todd and Sarah Palin and their family. They had real hardship in front of them last year and it did not change them one bit. The then Governor and "first Dude" of Alaska were the same people at the end of national campaign that they were when I first learned of her challenge to the EPA declaration of the endangerment finding of Polar Bears. I hadn't seen a picture, just read her legal challenge, and I immediately loved her as a fellow conservative interested in limited government based in reality. I didn't know about her impressive and storied history of busting balls in the Alaska state government to try to do the right thing... or the fact that most of the balls she busted had an "R" behind their name on the ballot.... all of which increased my appreciation of her.

Don't get me wrong, Sarah is HOT HOT HOT!!!! and on the flip side Mrs. Mailgeek makes it clear that the "first Dude" is HOT HOT HOT!!! That isn't why we love them. They are what they are and to me they are every successful (as in still raising their family) couple in the little farming community I grew up in who raised good kids and never reset their compass to the prevailing social whims. They are my aunts and uncles who are what they are, especially those uncles who helped my aunts to step ahead of society's expectations.

Mrs. Stumler is HOT HOT HOT!!!! and Mr. Stumler was one of the men I looked up to as a boy for a role model. I could replace her name with a dozen others except for the fact that he died way too early and I got to see the family continue down the same path they were on. It is only under times of tragedy that you get to see who is who but I have great confidence that most of the great women I grew up around would be successful beyond my comprehension.

Women who know what they are about and raise great kids are all HOT HOT HOT!!! I don't care what they look like, they are HOT HOT HOT!!! I was lucky enough to have many such role models and Sarah embodies them on a national stage. And Todd, aka "first Dude", embodies their husbands as best I can tell. In truth, as far as I can tell, Todd embodies my Uncle E.J. who was the closest this ole' country boy could have to a second beloved father.... and his wife, my aunt, is one of the many other strong women I could replace for Mrs. Stumler in the story.

I don't know if Sarah still has political ambitions.... I don't think anyone outside their immediate family does. She has been, and IMNSHO continues to be, good for the conservative movement and I pray she stays active for the movement's sake. It is clear to me that she saved Sen. McCain from a truly embarrassing defeat in 2008.... despite his campaign managers' complete ineptitude..... and there is no other rational way to describe their folly.

May G-d bless and keep Sarah and Todd and their family and allow them to help steer the movement and the country..... Amen!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Price Gouging and Windfall Profits

Every couple of years the crazy lefties pick a new villain and tell the American public that we are being price gouged by said villain. How are they sure that we are being price gouged? We are being price gouged because that industry has just reported "Windfall Profits". Every time I have gone and looked at the real numbers I have discovered that the very same industry charging essentially the very same prices has recently had losses or very small profits for many quarters running. This rarely mentioned fact leads me to believe that the industry isn't price gouging me. A more likely explanation is that the profits in that industry are cyclical, sometimes for reasons obvious to me and sometimes for reasons not so obvious to me.

Who is really price gouging me? To answer that question, consider the following things that we all spend money on.
  • housing
  • transportation
  • energy
  • food
  • entertainment
  • clothing
  • vacations
  • furniture
Add up everything that you spend money on that private industry delivers to you. What percentage of your income does the "stuff" you get through voluntary transactions with for profit organizations competing in an open market cost? For me, and I assume for many of you, it's less than half. Notice I didn't ask what percentage of your paycheck but what percentage of your INCOME, you know that number bigger than your paycheck that theoretically exists out in the ether before government takes a big chuck of it leaving you with that smaller number printed on your paycheck.

If you add up all the taxes that you pay (and you should include the money your employer hands over in taxes on your behalf that isn't counted as "income") and you make six figures you probably pay around half of your total income in some form of tax.
  • Social Security tax
  • Medicare tax
  • Federal Income tax
  • State Income tax
  • Workers Compensation tax
  • Capital Gains tax
  • Property tax (if you rent you pay this indirectly)
  • Sales tax
  • Energy tax on your electric bill
  • Gas tax at the pump
  • Telephony taxes
  • Federal Aviation taxes on every airline ticket
  • Road use fees for license plates
The list goes on and on. You can no longer even die in this country and not be taxed in the transaction. After I pay all my taxes I have less than half my income left so I know everything I spend money on from the free market costs me less than half of what I earn. It's 3rd grade arithmetic. While that point sinks in I also want you to consider that I didn't include all the embedded corporate taxes that we pay when we purchase something at the store. Always remember that corporations don't PAY taxes, they COLLECT them from their customers. Estimates of the amount of what you spend on goods and services that are really embedded taxes are in the 20-30% range.

So whose price gouging me? Government is. I give them more than half of every dollar I earn for which I get the following things:
  • the US military
  • associated intelligence agencies and federal police forces
  • the US Coast Guard
  • the US border patrol & customs
  • fire fighters
  • police
  • paramedics
  • roads to drive on
  • air traffic control
  • government schools
Sticking out like a sore thumb on that short list are the border patrol and government schools neither of which manages to remotely accomplish their stated objectives, but I digress.

Ah, the savvy lefty politician says, but you are paying largely for the Social Security and Medicare you will get when you are older and retired. HORSE PUCKY! I will never see a Social Security check. I say this with more certainty at 41 than I did at 21. The math simply does not work. By the time I am eligible the program will HAVE to be means tested. At this point I'm not sure I'll even get Medicare. It's almost as flat broke as Social Security thanks to the politicians in Washington robbing both systems blind for forty years.

If I had all the money that the federal government has stolen from me in the form of Social Security and Medicare taxes in the last 20 years I could retire quite comfortably now without needing government assistance ever. Instead I'll be paying ever higher chunks of my earnings in those taxes for many years to come with little hope that I'll see ANY return on that "investment".

So the next time you hear some left wing politician telling you that the oil industry or the health insurance industry or some other industry is price gouging please remember that it is that very politician who is the real price gouger. It is very hard to stay in private business while price gouging. The federal government has been doing it for over a century and I see no end in sight.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How Princess Cruise lines lost all my future business

Several months ago I booked a balcony cabin on a Princess Cruise Line Alaska cruise for this coming July for myself and my wife. Everyone I know who has done an Alaska cruise has raved about them so we were really looking forward to it. As background it is worth noting that we have been on 9 cruises in the last 12 years so everyone we know who has cruised Alaska is a LOT of people. I am no longer even looking forward to the cruise thanks to what has to be the worst "customer service" department in the cruise line industry.

A few days ago my wife found out that there is a possibility that her father will be going in for surgery around the same time as our cruise, possibly that very week. The odds are pretty good that the medicines they are giving him will make surgery unnecessary, but discretion being the better part of valor I decided to try and make sure that we don't wind up missing our cruise because of it. I'll give everyone the short version and then the details for those of you who care or wish to know how NOT to run a business.

If my father-in-law does have surgery scheduled for the week of our cruise we will get a 100% refund. I am perhaps the most over insured person in America and bought trip insurance for this cruise just like I did on the other 9 we have done. In order to CHANGE the date of our cruise it would cost me roughly $1400. Please bear in mind that the cruise industry is really hurting. Princess has empty balcony cabins on several cruises between now and my scheduled date that I would happily exchange for and give them more time to fill some of those empty cabins. I am not asking for a different cruise or an upgrade or anything that might have a real cost to them. In reality I might be helping them out by taking an earlier cruise. I want to exchange one empty cabin for a different one. I was told by a "customer service" manager today that she was very sorry but this was their policy and they make absolutely no exceptions.

I'll just start with that ridiculous statement. If you make no exceptions in customer service you are an idiot. It is simply not possible to write a policy which covers what is best for both customer and business in every situation. Secondly, it's a lie. We all know it's a lie. If my name was John Stossel or Barbara Walters or Rush Limbaugh they would have happily asked me which date I would like and would I like a free upgrade to go with it since they have some empty suites. You know this, I know this, they know this, and they are doubly idiotic if they don't know that we know this.

The details: I started by calling Princess and explaining the situation. The nice lady who answered the phone informed me that there would be a "sizable" fee because Princess does not move or exchange cruises. They consider this a cancellation of the cruise I had already booked and a new booking of the new cruise. In my opinion that is just plain stupid. I am not trying to cancel anything. I just want to avoid the possibility that I won't get to go on the cruise and they will be out about $3000 by not letting me do the same cruise on the same boat on a different day.

It is worth noting that I have done this in the past with another cruise line for a lot less important reason with very little trouble. I called and told their sales person I had a scheduling conflict come up and it would be terribly nice if I could switch my cruise date to any other sailing. It took 5-10 minutes and cost me some nominal $100-$150 fee which I happily paid. Bear in mind that time wasn't even in the middle of a recession where the cruise boats are half empty. I got one choice where they had an opening on the type of cabin I had booked. What did that get Celebrity cruises? A very happy customer who has used their services many times since. Yes, I do give credit where credit is due. All 9 of our cruises have been on Celebrity or Royal Caribbean which are owned by the same parent company and the service and customer service have always been impeccable.

Moving on, I asked the nice lady at Princess what "sizable" meant and she told me that because I had booked the cruise through a travel agency I would have to discuss that with the travel agent as she was not allowed to quote me any numbers. I asked "How many zeros does sizable have?" She laughed but offered no information. I thanked her and hung up.

I then called my travel agency and told them what was going on. The word sizable came up again: things are not looking good for the home team at this point. I explained which weeks we wanted to avoid and that we wanted the same cruise and cabin type and was informed that she would need to call Princess and get back to me. I gave the number where I was sitting and she assured me she would call me back in a few minutes.

Now I'm getting steamed. Princess can't tell me anything except to call my travel agent who has to call Princess to tell me anything. What kind of a three ring circus are these people running? On top of the fact that I am beginning to believe booking a Princess cruise was a mistake I am now wasting significant amounts of time.

I waited as long as I could but 50 minutes later I had to run to the store because we had guests coming for dinner and I needed a couple of things. I was gone 10-15 minutes and sure enough... missed the call. I called the travel agency back and, you guessed it, the lady whose call I missed has gone home for the day and there are notes "but I can't make anything out of them." Great! The new very young sounding lady informs me she will have to call Princess, what dates do I want or not want, etc. On the upside she puts me on hold while she calls. A few minutes later I have a choice of alternate dates and the $1400 price tag. I ask about the insurance I had purchased. She gives me their number as she cannot discuss that. Of course.

At this point I would like to add that a few weeks ago I got the paperwork for the cruise. Every other cruise I have done included the insurance contract with terms and conditions in the packet. With Princess's paperwork I don't even see where it mentions I bought the insurance. It might be there in their little codes but it isn't obvious to me. Anyway, I go open an 18 year old scotch and try to suppress the rage that is building in my gut and decide to sleep on it before I get unduly unpleasant on the phone.

Early this afternoon I called the insurance people, who are by the way Princess employees. I get a pleasant and eager young man who wants to help. I try to explain that I need to see the details of the policy. He offers to mail me a packet...... Um, no, today if at all possible, could you fax it to me? No, he cannot but he can email it to me. "Great" I say as I try to decide which of the myriad of email addresses I have that I would like to have spammed for the rest of eternity by Princess Cruise Lines. "But" he says, there's always a "but" with these people isn't there? "But since it's so late in the day (it's 2:30 MDT) the email probably wouldn't go out until tomorrow." I am stunned. Are you kidding me? The whole freakin' point of email is that it is nearly instant communication. I can feel my blood pressure rising. "OK, any other possibilities?". The answer I get makes me want to cry "Sure, it's on our web site as a pdf if you know how to do that." Um... yeah, I kinda do, he tells me where and I thank the young man, hang up and go download and read the pdf. I'm screwed! It sorta covers this but not really. Count to 10, slowly.

I decide on my strategy and I call Princess back. A pleasant sounding lady answered the phone and asked what I needed and I told her I would need to speak to a supervisor. She politely informed me that I could but she would need my details and reason for speaking to a supervisor first. Fair enough, I give her my booking number, name... and tell her the story, AGAIN. Really, shouldn't this all be in my customer file by now? Computers are wonderful devices capable of keeping track of vast amounts of information about vast numbers of people and keeping it all squared away. If you don't type the stuff in my file they are useless and I wind up having to repeat myself over and over. This makes me angry which is definitionally BAD customer service.

The nice lady tells me she is going to put me on hold and have a chat with her supervisor. I'm thinking "Great, I'll sit here on hold waiting to tell the same story the fifth time in two days because I didn't hear any key clicks while I was telling it to you." A few minutes later nice lady is back and informs me that her supervisor has instructed her to transfer me to a manager in "customer service." Great, fine, whatever, just get me to someone with a brain and the authority to do the unbelievably obvious. My terrier, Tigger, would have figured this one out by now.

You guessed it, "customer service" lady doesn't have a clue what my problem is and frankly doesn't sound too pleasant. I consider hanging up and calling back a little later in the hopes of getting a different one but decide against it. I tell my story for the fifth time. She tells me Princess considers this a cancellation and it's their policy to ALWAYS charge the fee. I try and politely explain that I am in fact not canceling anything but EXCHANGING it. I will be happy to pay a small exchange fee for their paperwork and other hassles but I am not about to pay them another $1400 to exchange a cabin on one half empty cruise for a cabin on an identical half empty cruise on another date of their liking. It just will not happen. She tells me this is their policy and they make NO exceptions. I don't even call her on the obvious lie, I simply present her with 3 facts.

First, I am 41 years old. If we wind up going on this cruise it will be our 10th in 12 years. I asked if she understood what this meant and she said she did. I continued that if I do not get an exchange option that makes me happy it will be my first and LAST cruise on Princess Cruise Lines.

Second, 20 years ago I had a very similar conversation with the regional service manager for Ford Motor company. Over that 20 year period I have purchased 5 new vehicles but have never stepped onto a Ford dealership.

Third, I know a lot of people who cruise and many many more who would like to some day. I will tell all of them and anyone else who will listen about this stupid and unnecessary lack of customer service.

At this point the woman told me that she was sorry that I felt this way, and she would make a note in my file (now I get a note in my file), but they make no exceptions to their policy which is in all of their brochures. I quietly wonder at this point if she knows I never looked at a brochure? I don't have one and never did. I didn't ask, but do these people not realize that I look for vacations on this wonderful thing called the INTERNET and I have a travel agency if that doesn't get me what I want? Brochures are for people who are all giddy because they are booking their first big vacation. People who travel regularly don't look at them and don't want to. She is clearly one of those people that wastes perfectly good oxygen I might need some day. I conclude by telling her that I hope she enjoys reading about her company online and hang up. I wasn't trying to be rude to her, it clearly isn't her policy, she is a cog in a bad wheel. I HAD to hang up before she responded for fear that she would ask me what "online" meant.

I hope my father-in-law does not need surgery and we go to see Alaska. I have heard good things about Princess cruises themselves. I also look forward to telling this story to every passenger on the boat who will listen. Many people cruise once or twice in a lifetime but the industry makes its money on people like my wife and I who cruise over and over and over. I suspect given the current economic times that a very large percentage of the passengers going to one of the most expensive cruise locations in the world will fit that category.

God willing we will book many many more cruises over the span of the rest of our lives. I will never again consider booking one with Princess Cruise Lines even if the cruise itself is fabulous.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My thoughts on Obama at Notre Dame

I want to start by saying that the flap, as I see it, isn't about President Obama at all. He was invited as a sitting President to give a commencement speech at a major university. He accepted. He was offered an honorary degree. He accepted. He gave a speech. Period. Did he use that opportunity for political advantage? Sure, he's a politician. Every President or other politician who gives a major speech to young people who are about to embark on the world and become long term voters use these situations, in part, for political gain. Some do it better than others, but all of them do it. Dogs bark. It's a non-story.

So what is the big issue? Why was I so disturbed by this? Why were so many Catholics up in arms and holding prayer vigils? Because the University of Notre Dame is supposed to be a Roman Catholic school that is headed by two Roman Catholic priests and they are required not to make that invitation, and more importantly, to give any honoraria to any figure in leadership who routinely works against their core principles. I have not been a Roman Catholic for a very long time but I was raised one. While I am not a scholar on it I do know the catechism and the core doctrine of the sect. If I am not a Catholic you might ask why I care? I am an orthodox Christian and I am disturbed any time a major sect gives in to populism at the expense of core principle or doctrine. I am especially disturbed when that act is committed as publicly as it was in this case. Our goal of bringing others to God is not made any easier when things this obviously out of line with His teachings is displayed by any Christian leader.

Let me offer a simple explanation/definition to all you non-Catholics. You either are a Catholic or you aren't. There is no such thing as a pro-abortion (or pro-choice for you squishy PC types) Roman Catholic. It is a fraud. If you support or work to further the availability or practice of abortion you have ex-communicated yourself from the body of the church. It is black letter Roman Catholic doctrine. It isn't optional or up for interpretation or discussion. You are required not to take communion until you have resolved your sin and committed not to do it in the future. That was what all the flap about John Kerry publicly getting communion was about in 2004. By doctrine he is not supposed to request communion and if he does priests are advised (if they know who he is and what he stands for) to refuse.

But I thought ex-communication was something that was done TO you? No, it isn't. By your actions you ex-communicate yourself. In daily life most people use ex-communication where they really mean public ex-communication. Public ex-communication is the act of the church hierarchy making a public statement that you are in that state and informing priests not to give you communion and various other rites of the church. Father Jenkins, and others, are in a state of ex-communication today because of what they did. It isn't disputable. They are. The church body is harmed by his action but even more importantly the church body is harmed because it's hierarchy has not made that simple statement. Father Jenkins is in ex-communication. It isn't hard for me because it doesn't cost me anything. Nobody cares if I say it, probably including Father Jenkins. The hierarchy haven't done it and they aren't going to and the body of that very large group of Christians is harmed more every day that does not happen.

Why won't they? In my opinion, and I have held this opinion for decades, the Roman Catholic hierarchy will always choose the almighty dollar over the furtherance of the Almighty. They are by no means alone in that, btw, it is far too common in Christian churches across the board. That said, it is unfortunately just that simple in my mind, and that is sad.

Don't like who your married to anymore? The hot young secretary in the office seems a good choice for wifey number two? Want to marry her in the Roman Catholic Church? No problem, write us a nice big check and we don't really care what happened, your first marriage is annulled and for a few more bucks we'll do your second marriage. If you are not a Roman Catholic and you don't believe that, ask one that you know. It happens every day.

If you think I am being overly simplistic or harsh I give you the case of Cardinal Bernard Law. This man was one of the key offenders in the "hide the pedophile priest" game played for decades in the US. He was indicted by a duly appointed grand jury because it was very clear that he knowingly put thousands of young children in unacceptable danger. Many of them are scarred for life. Do you remember what happened to him?

The Roman Catholic Church defrocked him and turned him over to the authorities, right? WRONG! They hauled him to Vatican City. They did not do so in order to punish him there mind you, which I might have been OK with if they were sufficiently harsh (like public beheading or boiling in oil). No, they hauled him to Vatican City to PROMOTE him. He now oversees one of the five Basilicas in and around Rome. That is one of the most cherished positions in the Roman Catholic Church. It is, for that reason, the only one I have not visited. They refuse to try him, defrock him or allow him to be extradited to the US for trial and the almost certain punishment that would follow said trial. Why? In a word, MONEY. The pedophile scandal cost the church a lot of it both in payouts to victims and in income in the donation basket. The spectacle of a sitting Cardinal on trial for harming children would have cost them a lot more for a lot longer. The Pope and his advisers were and are well aware that Americans have very short memories. Hauling the creep back to Rome was a story for a few days and then the average Catholic went back to church (and donating) and forgot about it.

By its own doctrine the church is required to publicly ex-communicate Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, etc. etc. Do you know how much money the Kennedys have given to that hierarchy over the years? It's a mind numbing figure I'm sure. It is rumored that the check for Joe Kennedy to get his annulment against the vehement protestations of his wife alone was seven figures. And that was back when even the government considered a million dollars real money. But what's a million bucks to a Kennedy compared to being allowed to continue the charade that you are a nice New England Catholic family worthy of the votes and support of the peasants over which you rule?

Maybe I misread the gospels but I got the distinct impression God doesn't really care as much about money as he does about children. I also get the distinct impression that he cares a lot more about upholding His Law and ideals a LOT more than he cares about money. Any time an institution that claims that its purpose is to uphold Christian doctrine and principle ignores those principles because it's uncomfortable or hard or unpopular or costly - the body of Christ is diminished.

I assert to you that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is ignoring it's own doctrine in this case because around half of all self identified Roman Catholics in the US consider themselves pro-choice. If the bishops did what their doctrine requires a lot of those people would leave the church. That would undoubtedly add up to a lot of money. If they cared about your immortal soul more than money Cardinal Law would be Bernard Law (former Cardinal, current inmate) and Father Jenkins would be former priest and ex-communicated Catholic Jenkins. Clearly, they don't. That is what this is about my friends. It isn't about the President or his policies, it is about the lack of leadership from the leaders of the largest Christian sect in our nation.

I admit this might be overly cynical but I don't see it changing until rank and file believing Roman Catholics stand up and say "not one nickel until it's fixed". It appears to me to be the only message those in charge of your church understand. At the end of the day I suspect your donations dwarf those of the mythical "pro-choice Catholics". At the end of the day that is not my call. I am no longer one of you and have not given a nickel to your church in a very very long time. Good luck to you either way, may God bless.

Friday, March 13, 2009

why bigger government fails

I want to start this post by saying I am making an economic argument and not a moral one. Whether people who work for the government in some capacity are good people, do good or important work is not the point of this exercise. I am simply looking at the economics and cost.

How many people are paying for how many people? I find it an interesting question and it was not easy to find some of the numbers I found and I had to guess at others because I simply could not find them. So there are approximations made where I could not find the data, but I think we can all agree that this is in the ballpark.

Let's start with who is getting paid by the governments of our country (all levels). This includes the military, fire, police, public teachers, etc. etc. but NOT Postal Workers(we can argue about whether Postal Workers are a drain on the economy later).

19.7 Million people are employed directly by the governments of our nation. I could not find a useful study of the number of people indirectly employed by a government (for instance a company that makes fire trucks or fighter jets). Since the federal government spends 25%-ish percent of GDP I am going to assume that there are at least 20 people in private employment for every 100 government workers who draw their entire salary from taxpayers. That gets us a total 23.64 Million people getting a paycheck from the taxpayers of America.

Next we have to look at people who are drawing a check from the government but it isn't a paycheck. Social Security is paying 2.6 Million retirees and disabled Americans not to work. There are an additional 12.5 Million people getting an unemployment check but only 2.9 Million who are long term unemployed so some of those unemployed will be a net payer of taxes for the year so I'll use the number 6 Million (rather arbitrarily, another chunk of data I could find).

Another piece of data I could not find was the number of people receiving a government pension. For the sake of argument I am going to assume that for every 4 people working in government directly there is 1 getting a pension. That is another roughly 5 million people. I did find the statistic that 3 of every 4 government retirees is eligible for Social Security so the overlap means that we add only another 1.25M government payees to our total.

So far the taxpayer is supporting 23.64M workers, 2.6M social security recipients, 6M unemployment checks, and 1.25M other retirees for a total of 33.49M payees.

Now for the other side of the equation. I am going to count married filing joint taxpayers as 1.5 taxpayers on the assumption that some are 2 income and some are 1 income. That may be somewhat low but probably not by much for actual taxpayers as opposed to tax filers.

There were 135M filings, 21.5% of which were joint and 32% of them did not pay any federal income tax. Of the non-payers 29.8% were joint returns. That leaves us with 91.8M paying filings, of which 16.1M are joint filers, so I will add another 8M to payees for a total of 99.8M payees of federal income tax.

Of the non payers (43.4M) I am going to assume that half of them actually get money back, so that is another 21.7 million people who are a net income tax loss for a new total of 55.19M payees of government.

Now, we have to do one more thing to get the picture clear. Some of those 99.8M people paying federal income taxes are actually government workers of some type (fire fighters pay taxes as does the guy who makes the trucks). They cannot, however, from an economic perspective, be considered payers into the system as they receive more money from the government, however well deserved, then they pay into it. If we assume (another data point I simply could not find) that government employees and civilian employees are non-payers at the same rate (32%) we have to take away 68% of the 23.64M government workers as tax payers for a net loss of 16M.

So what we have is 39.19M people who pay federal income taxes supporting payments (some very small) to 55.19M people. Horrified yet?

To be fair, since we are not counting Social Security taxes in our "net payee" equation I will remove as payees the people receiving Social Security payments (2.6M) and give you that number also. There are approximately 39 Million people who are a net tax plus to the government and 52M people (23M of which are full time paychecks) who are a next tax cost.

If you just consider the full time pay checks we have 39M people paying 23M people.

And the dems want to grow the number of people working for the government?

If you are not scared yet, you aren't very bright.

This is NOT sustainable. The only reason it has been sustainable up to now is that there were many social security tax payers to relatively fewer recipients and the federal government has been spending the surplus like it was income tax receipts. As the baby boomers start retiring at a more and more rapid rate the scale is going to tip.

It simply won't matter who is in Congress or the White House if we don't do 2 things.
1. Shrink the size of government (and I don't mean slow the growth, I mean SHRINK)
2. Grow the economy like mad.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Colorado Ballot Amendments for 2008

Below is my analysis of the Ballot Initiatives we here in Colorado will vote on in a few days. For your convenience I have also linked the initial source material. To that end, here is the Blue Book in pdf form.

I will go through the Initiatives in the same order the Blue Book does. The Blue Book has summaries, pros and cons, and the actual text of the amendments so it is all most people need to decide how to vote on each of these issues. It has been my experience that the summaries are usually flawed and the pros and cons unnecessarily limited. There are a couple of such cases in this year's Blue Book but thankfully the state also supplies the actual text for your reading pleasure. Most people are not as sick as I am and do not bother to attempt to parse the often lengthy and legalese ridden texts. That being said, be aware that this text is what you are actually voting on. If the summary misleads you there is no legal remedy for voting against what you believe your interests are.

Amendment 46: Discrimination and Preferential Treatment by Governments

For all practical purposes this amendment gets rid of Affirmative Action and set-asides by the state government or any public institution therein. It begins with stating that discrimination against or preferential treatment to anyone based on race/sex/color/ethnicity/origin. It then goes through a list of exceptions like hiring women to search female prisoners and anything that is required to receive federal funding or comply with existing or future court orders. As far as I can tell they have included all the reasonable exceptions including not changing any existing contracts so that the end of discrimination is going forward only. The "con" argument in the Blue Book is that Affirmative Action is inherently good. They also do not point out any reasonable exception which has been left out.

If you believe that Affirmative Action by government is necessary and good, you should vote No.

Ergo: Mailgeek votes YES!

Amendment 47: Prohibition on Mandatory Labor Union Membership and Dues

This is a Right to Work Amendment and it does have some teeth. Since Right to Work is a somewhat contentious issue (although I never understood why), let me say up front that I am totally biased in favor of Right to Work. Most Right to Work clauses are the same in the basic proposition. They prohibit forcing a person to join a union as a condition of employment or continuation of employment. The differences between them are how far reaching they are and do they have any teeth. For those of you who understand how Right to Work statutes differ let me give you the highlights of this one.

Does it extend to private companies and state and local governments? YES, so both public and private employees may choose not to join a union or to break away from their current union without fear of losing their job.

Does it prohibit unions from extracting "negotiation fees" from non-union members? YES, so if you choose not to be a member of the entrenched union at your place of business the union cannot take one dime from you without your express consent.

Does it prohibit an employee from voluntarily joining or helping to form a union and using that union to collective bargain on his behalf? NO, if you want to be in a union and a majority of your coworkers do also this does not change in any way your right to do so.

Can people who attempt to force you to join or fund the union be punished? YES, by the highest level of punishment currently on the books for a misdemeanor, including jail time and fines.

Does it change things for you tomorrow if you are a current union member? NO, I think (I am not a lawyer and don't play one on TV). The way I read it, which may be incorrect, the revocation of "union shop" status, forcing all employees to be a union member as stated in an existing contract would still be in effect until the contract expires or is renegotiated. It prohibits that restriction on any new or updated contract only. As much as I am pro-right-to-work I believe this is the way to put it in place. It will not disrupt current contracts in any way for the employer or the union. It simply makes a restriction with regards to union shop contracts going forward so that issue is off the table for the next round of contracts or the forming of any new union groups.

If you make your living off of forced union payroll deductions, you should vote NO.
Ergo: Mailgeek votes YES!

Amendment 48: Definition of a Person

This is a simple amendment that defines "person" as used in the Colorado Constitution as beginning at the point of conception.

I have to editorialize here...... why do the people who try to put limits on abortion almost always overreach? It is absolutely true that the current abortion guarantees from the currently in force badly decided court cases on abortion hung their hat to some extent on the lack of a definition of "person" in the federal and most state constitutions. The reason a fetus does not have a right to life is that it is not a person, until the courts decide they were just joking about that and come up with some other convolution of the English language to make abortion on demand legal. The big problem with this, IMO, was not even mentioned in the cons (a perfect example of why you should read my blog).

The cons section says you should vote against this because:
1. It outlaws abortion (that isn't what the text says but it is the complaint)
2. It probably outlaws embryonic stem cell research - it does, but big yawn, ESCR is a bust and totally unnecessary in today's medical world.
3. It may change criminal law - in other words, kill a pregnant woman and you will be up on 2 counts of murder......... ok, that's a pro in my book.

What did they miss?
1. There is nothing in this which gives guidelines for some very real medical issues. Termination of pregnancy is sometimes medically required, usually in the first trimester, and this change does nothing whatsoever to balance this legally. While I have confidence that the courts and legislature would eventually work out a reasonable balance where doctors and women would not have fear of lawyers for doing medically necessary abortions... this change would most certainly wind up putting some well meaning and reasonable doctors and women into very expensive contact with lawyers until that happens. Do you want your wife/mother/daughter/neighbor to wind up in an expensive legal battle because she had the misfortune of being in a car accident while pregnant? Do you want your wife/mother/daughter/neighbor's doctor to worry about that potential lawsuit when recommending treatment while her life is on the line?
2. What about fertility clinics? Under this change as proposed many couples will have to go out of Colorado to become pregnant. The reality of in-vitro fertilization is that there are a percentage of fertilized eggs that are never implanted and most of them are eventually destroyed. Under this change those fertilized eggs are "persons" entitled to life and legal protection. This one isn't as big a deal for me as it is for many people, and would not stop me from voting for it, but for some of you it should.

If you believe that a probably ill-fated legal battle to outlaw abortion is worth the possible downside of this amendment you should vote YES.

I, unfortunately cannot, ergo, Mailgeek votes NO.

Amendment 49: Allowable Government Paycheck Deductions

The long and short of this amendment is that it gets rid of the ability for the government unions from automatically deducting their fees from the government employee's paycheck.

There are two potential impacts of this depending on the outcome of Amendment 47. If this passes and 47 does not, it will have the following impact: the government employee who wishes to fully fund his union dues will have the inconvenience of having to make separate arrangements to do so. At the same time, the government employee who MUST be a member of the union but does not wish to fund the union's political activities will be able to hand the union a check and avoid all the hassle that is currently in place to be in the union without funding their political activities.

If this passes and 47 does also....... This means that the union must come hat in hand to every government employee and ask for contributions. If you are anti-union, this is a major win. If you are pro-union, this is still a win. If you can just take my money, even if I don't agree with what you do, are you, the union leader, as likely to do what I want you to do? Not only NO, HELL NO! The big problem, IMO, with unions today is that union leadership is all in for THEMSELVES. Even very pro-union government employees will benefit from this arrangement as the union leadership will be forced to be more responsive to their needs and wants.

As with Amendment 47, if you make your living on forced extraction of union dues, you should probably vote NO.

Ergo, Mailgeek votes YES!

Amendment 50: Limited Gaming in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek

This amendment does 4 things:
  1. Allow the 3 towns with legalized gambling to extend the hours of operation if they want.
  2. Puts much of the increase in revenue for passage to community colleges and most of the rest to the communities themselves.
  3. Require statewide voter approval for any increase in gaming taxes.
  4. Exempt the new revenue from passage from state and local revenue and spending limits.

The potential downside is that we could have a couple of mini-Vegas areas in CO which could make it easier for people with gambling problem to get themselves in trouble.

The upsides: We could have a couple of mini-Vegas areas here in CO! As much as I love to play cards and enjoy poker, casinos are just 1 step short of lottery tickets which are well labeled "taxes on the stupid". This will increase revenues to the state and those communities and create good paying jobs for them while only taxing those willing to be taxed.

As much as I am sympathetic to the potential downside and hurt for those who are, or have family members who are, gambling addicts, I cannot see the wisdom in preventing the upside of this idea,

Ergo: Mailgeek votes YES!

Amendment 51: State Sales Tax Increase for Services for People with Developmental Disabilities

Again, I will point out my bias... anything that begins with "tax increase" I start with an assumption of NO! and need to be convinced with overwhelming evidence that it is necessary.

In this case the proposed increase is 0.2% over 2 years so the tax increase is minimal. The proposed cause is also one which I am sympathetic to. That said, what little, and there was a thin trail to follow, I could dig up would indicate that the problem with services for the Developmentally Disabled in the state are largely due to the government having massive inefficiencies and not a lack of funding.

I am torn on this, it almost meets my standards, but Mailgeek must vote NO! Your mileage may vary.

Amendment 52:Use of Severence Tax Revenue for Highways

The long and short of this is to divert some of the revenue that the legislators are pushing to water projects into highway projects.

I admit, I don't have a clue about the details of this, in as much as WHY the legislature is funding one of these more or less than the other. I am sure there is political funding buried in these decisions but the fundamentals of the decision may be sound and the influences we the taxpayers don't like may be marginal. I did some digging and did not come to a definitive conclusion.

The nightmare that was the Highway 25 expansion in south Denver (T-Rex) and the joy that was the E-470 extension should have taught us what we really need to know about highway dollars...... they should be farmed out on real contracts that have monetary consequences for the people who build and or maintain the highways. Whether you are for or against toll roads it has been conclusively proven that when the state puts out real bids for private businesses to do the work we the taxpayers as well as we the driving public win. This amendment has no such provision. I have no desire to put more money in the hands of "employees" who hold up shovels on the road side.

Ergo, Mailgeek votes NO!

Amendment 53: Criminal Accountability of Business Executives

I have no idea who came up with this idea but they should crawl back under their little rock (not that I have a strong opinion on it). While I have no issue with holding executives who are aware of criminal behavior being committed on behalf of their company this amendment is riddled with problems. I will give you the top 3 IMNSHO.

1. They could put executives in jail for misdemeanor offenses for minor violations of EPA, HUD, ABCD or other government entity regulations. While the amendment does include language that the executive in question must be aware of both the offense and the fact that the deed is a violation, it has no exemption for executives who, for instance:
  • put in place reasonable policies to avoid the offense
  • became aware of the violation after the fact
  • made a reasonable attempt to take corrective action for the offense
  • fired, or otherwise punished, the people responsible for the offense
2. Any executive can avoid criminal prosecution by simply putting in a report to the Attorney General any provable knowledge he may have had of the offense prior to being charged. So the seriously or potentially corrupt business executive will just file box cars of reports to the government on a regular basis which the government will be unable to process in a meaningful time frame in order to avoid prosecution. This is both a "get out of jail free" card AND a "spend tax payer money to sort through meaningless paperwork" card.

3. Not only is this a potential issue for CO based companies, there is no exemption for companies that do business in CO but whose executives are based elsewhere, potentially even companies not based in the US. While we want all companies doing business in CO to follow our law, this is both potentially unenforceable and a really good reason for out of state and international companies from putting an office in our state. It could potentially force the state to attempt to charge executives in another state or country for the actions of a single employee who lives or works in our state. I do not want my employer or yours to allow me to live anywhere "except Colorado".

Mailgeek must vote NO!

Amendment 54
: Campaign Contributions from Certain Government Contractors

Wow! This may be the hardest issue to decipher on the ballot this year.

The basic intention is to get rid of pay to play. I think we can all agree this is a very good goal. Goverment corruption is best exemplified in "machine politics" where people get government money in the form of jobs or contracts because they assist politicians in charge to continue getting elected through campaign contributions and other, more indirect, methods.

There is a ton of good stuff in this amendment including:
  • prohibiting those who receive no-bid contracts from making political contributions to candidates for the duration of the contract + 2 years
  • prohibiting people who push for a ballot measure from getting contracts based on it for 2 years
  • punishing bookeepers who knowingly watch their clients violate the act

and some questionable stuff including:
  • prohibiting the family members of any director of a company who gets a no bid contract from making political contributions without calling into question the language "causing to be made, or inducing by any means, a contribution, directly or indirectly, on behalf of the contract holder or on behalf of his or her immediate family member" which seems a bit broad to me. It isn't clear where the burden of proof here is to me if my uncle gets a no bid contract.
  • it does not limit contributions to 501s, only to candidates, parties, and in some cases ballot initiatives.... leading, I suspect, to a simple redirection of kickback money
  • it does not limit the most obvious of all payoffs...... I make a big contribution to candidate X this year, and next year he steers a big contract to me. It does keep me from contributing again for a while, but if a politician is really dealing from the bottom of the deck, is this sufficient?

I love the ideas embodied in this amendment and would ignore the negatives I see in it if the amendment better limited its scope with regards to family members liability. If my brother/mother/father/sister-in-law/adult child/niece/uncle/etc getting a no bid contract did not seem to call into question my ability to make political contributions I would probably vote Yes. But, to me, it seems to.

Ergo, Mailgeek must vote NO! Take this one back to the drawing board and clean it up a little.

Amendment 55: Allowable Reasons for Employee Discharge or Suspension

This amendment would undo the at-will nature of employment in the state. There are up sides and down sides of at-will employment. Personally, I prefer it and believe it increases job creation at the expense of lazy people getting fired. In principle forcing employers to show reason for firing an employee sounds good but the real world result is to make employees spend enormous amounts of money to document and redocument getting rid of employees who don't do their job.

On the good side, this amendment:
  • exempts private employers with fewer than 20 employees
  • exempts non-profit employers with fewer than 1000 employees
  • allows imposition of legal fees for the losing party - thus making employees hesitant to file frivolous claims, although the lawyer isn't liable for said damages

On the bad side, this amendment:
  • has an automatic right of suit on termination..... meaning there is no hearing process to allow employers to avoid the extreme cost of a trial at a lower cost for frivolous claims
  • has very troubling language around laying off employees for economic reasons "DISCHARGE OR SUSPENSION DUE TO SPECIFIC ECONOMIC CIRCUMSTANCES THAT DIRECTLY AND ADVERSELY AFFECT THE EMPLOYER AND ARE DOCUMENTED BY THE EMPLOYER, PURSUANT TO SUBSECTION (3) OF THIS SECTION" which leaves open the question of can I fire a carpenter while hiring a sales person or the reverse? Welcome to lifetime employment? Maybe/maybe not.
  • does not impose the legal fees of losing cases in any way on the filing lawyer who may have knowingly filed a frivolous case on behalf of the proverbial bloodless stone for a few bucks up front
Ergo, Mailgeek must vote NO!

Amendment 56: Employer Responsibility for Health Insurance

This would require all employers with 20 or more employees to not only provide a group plan for insurance but to subsidize it at 80%. It does not exempt non-profit organizations. It does, however, exempt "THE STATE OR ANY POLITICAL SUBDIVISION THEREOF" which is quite troubling. It does not, as is usually done, define an employee as a "full time equivelant/FTE" but any employee or "A RECEIVER OR OTHER PERSON ACTING ON BEHALF OF THE EMPLOYER" (please read contractor).

So the result is that if I have a small business that employees 10 full time people, 8 half time students at 10 hours/week each and 3 contractors to do my landscaping, janitorial services, and book keeping, as I read this, I have to subsidize coverage at 80% for all of them and at 70% for their families.

This is a lousy idea......
Ergo, Mailgeek must vote NO!

Amendment 57: Additional Remedies for Injured Employees

This amendment would require employees to pay costs, including but not limited to, medical costs, funeral expenses and pain and suffering for any injured employees if, and only if, the employer did not "PROVIDE A SAFE AND HEALTHY WORKPLACE".

It does not replace or revoke the current worker's compensation plan that employers already pay into, and pay more if there are repeated injuries at their place of business.

Further, there is no proof of evidence defined for "safe & healthy" leaving it up to a judge to decide if your environment working the high steel or on a comercial farm qualifies.

I would be happy to let a jury decide the questions if we could do away with the worker's compensation program which I believe is a mockery not only in the state of Colorado but in most states that have one. This amendment does not do that.

Ergo: Mailgeek must vote NO!

Amendment 58: Severance Taxes on the Oil and Natural Gas Industry

This act does a few things:
  • increases the percentage of GROSS, not NET income on the production of gas and oil products in the state to 5% for the largest producers and smaller percentages for smaller producers
  • removes the tax credit associated with property taxes on the land where the production occurs
  • puts the new revenue outside of the standard spending percentages in place and defines where the revenue goes (including the state funding of "renewable" energy research as opposed to forcing the companies to invest those funds privately which would be much preferred)

I have a number of fundamental problems with this amendment.
  • it applies, starting next year, to existing contracts, redefining the contract without negotiation with energy producers with existing leases/contracts. This is anti-American in any industry IMNSHO.
  • it makes the assumption that we are all morons and believe companies pay taxes.... they don't, they collect taxes from consumers... and taxing energy is a highly regressive tax as the poorest citizens pay the largest portion of their income on energy.
  • it will make energy companies hesitant to come do business in our state for fear that the people will simply tax them out of their existence in the future regardless of the rules put in place at the time of said investment.
  • the tax is on GROSS income and then we remove on of the larger fixed cost deductions, the tax on the property in question. We do not allow most businesses to deduct their property taxes from their income taxes, but we tax their NET profit, not their GROSS income. It is unfair to have the companies agree to do business based on such a taxation system and then remove one of the only benefits to that alternate system.

I might vote for this if it applied to new leases or new contracts but it applies to existing contracts also.

Ergo, Mailgeek votes NO!

Amendment 59: Education Funding and TABOR Rebates

Essentially what this amendment does is to eliminate TABOR rebates in years where the tax revenue exceeds the legal spending limits on the state government. It replaces those rebates with a savings fund for years when the tax revenue is short of spending limits. In theory this is a great idea. Again, the devil is in the details:
  • the legislature can spend the interest on the fund in years without a shortfall rather than allowing that interest to further enhance the fund
  • there is no restriction on legislature raising fees in good times and putting the money into the fund, the only practical limitation on fee increases in good times being the rebate of those fees back to the taxpayers
  • it removes the guaranteed increase in spending on education set at inflation per pupil, thus all but gutting TABOR
  • it would seem to me to remove the percentage limit of spending on education allowing the non-education spending to grow in good years thus preventing the fund from being funded. I am not sure about this piece as the language is a bit confusing
The idea is good, back to the drawing board folks, and please stop trusting the politicians to do the right thing which is the whole point of TABOR.

Ergo, Mailgeek must vote NO!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My thoughts on the bailout and coverage of it

I am a huge Hugh Hewitt fan. I rarely get to listen to him live because of work but I have his podcast auto-loading into my iPod and I never miss a single hour of his show. Most of the time I agree with him but every once in a while he is totally wrong. As I listened to his show of 9/29 in the evening I sent him the following email in the middle of the night 9/29, I might add prior to a 485 point gain in the Dow 9/30. I believe it sums up my thoughts on the bailout nicely.

Subject: why the bailout is like Harriet Meyers
To: Hugh Hewitt


As a long time listener and one who usually agrees with you I must not only disagree with you today but point out some things you have not mentioned that are quite relevant

Some simple facts:

1. Paulson has been wrong about almost everything to come out of his mouth as Treasury Secretary. He was another terrible appointment by Bush. If he supports it you should be instinctively against it. A stopped clock is right twice a day but the odds of being right at any given moment are poor.

2. There is no - zero - zip - nada reform of the actual base cause of this problem in this bill (enhanced enforcement of the CRA put in place under Clinton). If you do not fix that problem you are simply enabling the finance industry to do 2 things, use Freddy & Fannie to fund Democrats' campaigns and make lots of money for themselves until the next bailout. Anyone who was paying attention when this happened, including myself, predicted something awful like this as a result. I was a computer geek with a business minor 6 years out of college when it happened and I predicted disaster from it then.

3. There is no magic in the $700B number that you and everyone else in a panic is talking about. Nobody, not me, not you, not Paulson, and certainly nobody in Congress has the first clue about the size of the problem or the amount of money required to give the needed liquidity in the market. The hairball that constitutes mortgage backed securities today is such a mess that I don't believe there is a soul alive today who can assess with any accuracy how many of those assets are massively or substantially overvalued. We know the amount of money needed to fix it is "a lot", but is that $100B done smartly (like the government has ever done anything financially smart) or $2T done stupidly (given that the government is in charge the more likely outcome). Nobody knows. That inherent knowledge in the financial institutions is the reason for the uncertainty that is causing the crunch. If THEY knew how under or overvalued the securities were there would be losses written off and the system would march forward. Instead, nobody will buy them at any reasonable price because they have no idea what they are really worth. The improvements the House Republicans drove to get the money put in play in increments requiring approval by congress was a very very good improvement for this reason and I give them great credit for that.

4. The "market" didn't speak today so much as people like you put a lot of people in a panic and they sold off when it made no sense to do so. You, my friend, are in this case, a part of the problem. We do need action but we need well considered action that is smart. The only thing worse than no bill is a bad one. If we don't get CRA reform it is definitionally a bad bill because in the current political climate this is the only chance we get to fix it. Although I will admit today's bill wasn't horrible and would likely have been a short and mid term win, it was a bad bill in the long run.

5. Yes, I lost a little money today, but very little percentage wise. As a person with more than 2/3 of his net worth in the stock market I certainly care about the health of the market. I would like to retire soon and the stock market is my vehicle to do so. That said, any person of 70+ like those you kept referring to today who has a majority of their assets in the market and doesn't have stop losses on it is crazy and should fire their broker. We have stop losses on all of our stocks and we are in our 40s. Exactly 1 stock, Apple, has sold on us through this whole downturn caused by the media, including you, and the politicians telling us that doom is around the corner. Doom is not around the corner. An ever tightening credit problem is upon us and that is a very serious issue but it is not a cliff we are going to fall over tomorrow if people like you would simply take a breath. This is not the viper whose bite kills in seconds, this is the constrictor who slowly crushes. Kill the constrictor at any point in the tightening and you live. Beat on it without killing it and it simply tightens its grip more quickly. The Paulson plan would have been a disaster and while the plan voted down today was a vast improvement to the original we are not dead yet and have a little time to pick the right instrument to kill the snake. Why aren't the people in the finance industry telling you that? Their personal jobs are on the block. Yours isn't and mine isn't so we should be able to step back and be a little more rational than those who rode this problem to their own personal wealth and now see that in jeopardy. I am sure your colleagues who are trial lawyers will balk at the idea of credible reform in their industry too.

6. If you don't believe we have any time then we are dead already. The Treasury has already admitted that it will take at least 2 months to get any substantive action once a bill is signed. This is not oil speculation, this is the credit market. There are quite tight rules around institutional lending that don't include waivers because the investment bank thinks the government is going to inject money 60 days hence. And that 60 is more likely 90 if you talk to people in the investment industry who are not paid to talk to the press, so if we were dead with no bill today we are most certainly dead already and just have not been informed.

There is no doubt that today's bill was a vastly better bill than the original Paulson fiasco. It had some genuine oversight, measured outlay, some reasonable protection for the tax payer in asset guarantees and no additional pork. I expected the bill to pass today and would not have been highly angered if it had. That said, any bill that does not fix the CRA cause is a band-aid. If you want to help, please use your great platform to explain to the politicians you have as guests and those who listen to your show that we appreciate the stripping of the earmarks and other protections put in, however, the single biggest thing any bill taking a crack at fixing the liquidity problem MUST have is a clause to revoke the horror that is the CRA. Putting the normal banking rule restrictions on Freddy & Fannie that the Republicans have proposed twice only to be filibustered by the Democrats would be nice too, but the revocation of the CRA is a must. As one of those taxpayers Nancy Pelosi and Barak Obama intend to soak some more if they have their way I am willing to go along with losing some of my real net worth in the form of the inflation any such bailout will impose once. I am at the same time young enough that I am aware that if the ultimate source of this catastrophe is not stopped I will be asked again my lifetime to bail out the congress' utter stupidity again. Fool me once.....

As a total aside, please continue taking only first time women callers for a while longer. I must totally agree that we are getting a perspective we rarely get that is valuable. It was a brilliant move on your part and one that I personally don't think has finished paying off for your listeners yet. You might even consider keeping a couple of hours a week that way forever.

your loyal listener,