29 November 2012

Lotto Luck Avoiding the Fiscal Cliff

As American teeters at the edge of the fiscal cliff, and most of the Lamestream Media gave saturation coverage to Powerball mania, it may be instructive to use the lotto fever paradigm to explain the futility of “soaking the rich” via President Obama’s unceasing class warfare campaigning as governing strategy.

As the Heritage Foundation’s graphic illustrates, even confiscating all of the lucky Lotto winners gross (granted government already takes around 50%), this would only fund the Federal Government for 86 MINUTES.  As Representative Tom Price (R-GA 6th) pointed out that President Obama’s plan to increase rates on the wealthiest 2% of Americans would only fund the government for EIGHT DAYS.  John Stossel points out that seizing the income of Americans earning $1 million or more would only garner $616 Billion, which is only 1/3rd of this year’s deficit.

It is worth noting that Mr. Obama’s opening bid to avoid the fiscal cliff was raising taxes by $1.6 Trillion over 10 years with ambiguous ersatz spending cuts made by future legislators.

Unless the IRS dons brown shirts, they probably will not seize all of the assets of the richy rich.  And remember that the Obama Administration considers the rich to be singles making $200,000 or couples making $250,000 a year.  Those upper incomes might be living large in “flyover” country, but in the true politically blue coastal cities like NY, DC, LA or SF, that may be barely getting by as middle class if you are married with children.

Much as it may be satisfying to socialist sympathsizing class warriors who want to excoriate the unconnected high income individuals, it is worth doing a cost benefit analysis.  Great Britain scrapped their 50% tax rates on high income earners when it discovered that it was garnering 2/3rds less than expected with the confiscatory rates.   Newly elected French President Francois  Hollande thinks that he can raise the rates on top Gallic grossers to 75% for just two years to better balance the books.  Alas, French tax evaders can take a 90 minute trip on the Chunnel to avoid those outrageous tax rates.  Soon Californian will see if there is capital flight after voters passed Proposition 30, which raised both taxes on the wealthy and the state sales tax in the midst of a shaky economy.  Will the mobile upper economic crust from the Golden State flee to lower taxing states–Who is John Galt?

While conservatives were disappointed that President Obama achieved re-election, the time for being campaigner-in-chief is over–now is the time to govern.  If President Obama is a leader then he should work with his Congressional counterparts to craft a legislative vehicle to avoid the fiscal cliff.  But if the Obama White House persists in playing puerile politics on Sequestration, then it may be time for Thelma and Louise, albeit without the sensible shoes.

If the American public thinks that by soaking the wealthiest one percent, it will balance the budget, then lotto luck.  If they are able to engage in critical thinking, it would behoove them to determine what is someone’s “fair share”.  Moreover, since the Obama Administration has defined millionaires downward to just $200,000, they should discern how low the label of the wealthy will go when seizing true millionaire’s incomes only funds the government for around just 100 days.  As Ayn Rand observed in Atlas Shrugged: “If you don't know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.”

h/t: Heritage.org

28 November 2012

R.I.P. Zig Ziglar (1926-2012)

Zig Ziglar, known as the Master Motivator, died of pneumonia in a hospital in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex at the age of 86.  Ziglar was born in Alabama in 1926 but spent much of his youth in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Ziglar briefly studied at the University of South Carolina.  But Ziglar chose a career in sales rather than studying and started out selling pots and pans.  He went on to successfully sell for various companies. But as Ziglar improved his pitch and sales increased, he developed a basic philosophy which impacted his personal and professional career for more than half a century.

The Ziglar Way considers action, common sense, fairness, commitment and integrity to be the basis of living well.  Ziglar believed that if you lived by this powers of positive thinking philosophy, you would live a balanced life while achieving significance at work and home.

In the early 1970s, Ziglar began his career as a motivational speaker and corporate trainer.  Along with being a headliner on the speaking circuit, Ziglar  authored 29 books, including 10 best sellers on topics like sales, leadership, personal growth and faith.  His "One Year Daily Insights with Zig Ziglar" is an inspiring daily devotional. His self help classic “See You At The Top” (originally titled "Biscuits, Fleas and Pump Handles") still generates strong sales thirty years after originally being published.

Though he was known as the World’s Greatest Salesman and a Master Motivator, Ziglar was not all business.  The Ziglar Way reflected his fervent evangelical Christian beliefs and much of Ziglar’s work had subtle evangelization without sounding too preachy.

Ziglar continued to be a feature on the speaker circuit through 2010, despite a tumble down the stairs in 2007 which impacted his short term memory.  When Ziglar appearing in Washington, DC in October 2010, he was joined by his daughter who guided him through his presentation.  Ziglar persiverated on “winning the home court” and did not realize that he had thoroughly covered that point a couple of times before.  Still, the then 84 year old speaker was inspiring and offered earnest down home advice.

Zig Ziglar, Verizon Center Washington, DC October 2010 (photo: Gail Broeckel)

Ziglar’s Facebook page proclaims:

Though his time on earth has ended, he is speaking with Jesus now in his heavenly home... The angels in heaven are rejoicing and his family is celebrating a life well lived.

A fitting tribute for an American Icon.  But as Zig Ziglar would put it:

"This is not the end of your story...Turn the page and start a new chapter."

10 November 2012

Commemorating the Anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps Founding

The United States Marine Corps was created on November 10th, 1775 to guard vessels during the American Revolutionary War.  Since then, the Marine Corps responsibilities have expanded as in integral component of American military forces working with the Navy to rapidly deploy combined armed task forces.  While the U.S. Marine Corps is the smallest of the nation’s combat forces, it is the largest Marine Corps in the world and is often the first forces sent out.

The Marine Corps has served in every American armed conflict.  During World War II, when amphibious warfare was at the forefront of combat operations, the Marines as its ability to rapidly respond to expeditionary crises was quintessential to victory in the Pacific. That is why the unofficial Marine Corps memorial Between-the-Beltways near Arlington National Cemetery depicts marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima.

Sunset Ceremony at Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington, Virginia

More recently, the Marines were deployed in essentially landlocked nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.   Marines spearheaded the 2003 invasion of Iraq and served bravely in the battles in Fallujah.

Marines attach great tradition to celebrating their founding.  A ceremonial cake is presented where the oldest Marine cuts the culinary creation with his sword and then feeds the youngest Marine present. Often this is done in dress uniforms and high ceremony.  But this video from the 2011 ceremony at Camp Leatherneck,  Afghanistan poignantly captures that same spirit in the fields of combat.

As Congress explored the effects of the automatic cross the board 9.4% cuts due to the impending Sequestration, the Marine Corps Assistant Commandant General Joseph F. Dunlop Jr testified that Sequestration would have “a chaotic effect on the force during a time of extraordinary challenges to our nation..”  Dunlap expressed pride that the nation’s Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airman have done everything asked of them over the last ten years.  However, Dunlap is worried that the willy nilly cuts from sequestration would “loose the trust and confidence of the all-volunteer force that we have worked so hard to build.”

Marine Commandant General James Amos is concerned how the across the board budget cuts from Sequestration will hit the Marine Corps.  The plan is to reduce the size of the Corps from 202,000 to 182,000.  Since Amos suspects that further force reduction will not be permitted, the cuts will come out of procurement, which may sacrifice the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and would cripple the Marine Corps ability to respond to multiple crises at once.

Despite these impending dangers from the District of Calamity (sic), let us say “Oorah” to the U.S. M.C.  for serving our nation well.  Semper Fi!

06 November 2012

Electoral Adjustments

As the election results roll in, it appears that it is not a clear cut decision by the American people.  In the Presidential Race, several battleground states are razor thin margins, with Ohio again being the lynchpin for the decision.  Democrats seem poised to increase their numbers in the Senate, yet Republicans may increase their majority in the House of Representatives.  That is a very mixed bag.

There is the distinct possibility that the losing candidate in the Presidential race wins more of the popular vote.  When this occurred after the election in the year 2000, Democrats clamored to eliminate the Electoral College and change the system to elect our Chief Executive by national popular vote.  This is anathematic to a representative Republic, even if Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) wins more overall votes.

A second adjustment from this election is reconsidering the accuracy of polling.  To me, much of the popular polling seemed dubious as it tended to present President Obama holding a slight lead at 48% presuming a D +8 model.  This seemed to be oversampling the liberal electorate and presumed Democrat voter turnout to be at 2008 levels.  I was more impressed by models championed by Michael Barone and Scott Rassmuessen which presumed a D +3 lead which would have put Romney narrowly in the lead.  Further analysis will be necessary when the complete election numbers are in, but it is possible that the elite liberal media skewed the polling but not enough for Obama 2012.

A third adjustment stemming from the election is acknowledging the continued strength of the Lamestream Media.  Traditional media outlets like most newspapers and the nightly news have had declining circulation.  Add to that the power of talk radio, the internet and social media, it seemed like the Lamestream Media was in decline.  The Tea Party Tsunami of 2010 seemed like an example of means to bypass the elite liberal media’s filter (or blackout) of serious issues which adversely impact liberals (e.g. Benghazi).    These election results show the resilience of these mass media.

The Obama campaign spent hundreds of millions of dollars in early advertising in swing states to poison the well for Romney.  This paid media strategy seemed like a waste after Romney’s spectacular first debate performance.  Clearly the paid media ad hominem attacks seemed to have stuck and depressed support for Romney.

Another aspect that needs to be considered from the 2012 election results is on political identification.  Offhand, about 40% of the electorate self identifies as being Conservatives, 20% as liberals and the rest as independents or moderates.   Prior to the election, independents significantly swung towards Romney.  But if the GOP nominee loses in the end, this did not hold sway in the end. This posits the possibility that moderates are liberals who do not have the constitutional fortitude to accept the label.  Another reasonable interpretation may be that many moderates are actually functional libertarians, those who have liberal social inclinations but who also hold financially prudent proclivities but who leaned more heavily on social issues this cycle.

A fourth agonizing re-appraisal coming from the mixed bag election is on Republican messaging and the health of the GOP.  Despite one outburst of “Seriously Conservative” irrational exuberance, Mitt was a Massachusetts moderate.  Instead of hitting the incumbent hard on the Benghazi bungle in the foreign policy debate, or underlining the difficulties of Obamacare, Romney tried to be statesmen-like and declined to fight hard on the issues.  Initially, conservatives were reluctant to embrace Romney in the primaries but by the end of the race seemed to heartily support Romney.  If the GOP nominee loses, this might instruct Conservatives to reject cautious campaigning favored by the Establishment as the mushy middle model failed again in a Presidential race.

If the Republicans in the Cocktail Party persist in not risking anything by moderating of issues to appeal to the middle, Tea Party types might bolt the Republican Party making it a rump.  If it proves that there is a significant portion of independents who are functional libertarians, fiscal conservatives might throw their lot into a new political venture.   Tea Party elements have been moderately successful in infiltrating the Republican base and concentrate on fully taking over the GOP rather then cast their lots on a third party folly which does not have the built in advantages of the two party system.

A final re-adjustment coming from the election is dealing with the consequences of this mixed bag election.  Exit polling indicates that most voters believe that the economy is the biggest issue but the people re-elected President Obama.  Obama’s manta has been that the rich need to pay “their fair share”.  Conventional economics in a capitalistic society does not indicate that eating the rich leads to sustained economic growth.  With a national deficit of $16 trillion (or adding $5 trillion in less than four years of the First Obama Administration), expect currency devaluation and significant inflation in economic stagnation (a.k.a. Greece).  The Senate has not deigned to pass a budget in over three years and with the lower chamber still in Republican hands, this budgetary tension will not be easily resolved. But to echo MSNBC host Al Sharpton “Resolve we much”.

President Obama managed to get re-elected with a higher unemployment than when he initially took office, losing support in his overall popularity and winning a second term with fewer electoral votes. President Obama may have to adjust after re-election to blaming the incumbent rather than former President George W. Bush for his woes.  Americans will also have to adjust after the election to a Chief Executive who no longer needs to worry about pleasing people for re-election.