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On Running Your Own Government, Or, Why Pay The Military? July 30, 2011

I have not been talking about the insanity around the debt ceiling and debt and deficit and the efforts of Republicans to drive us all off the cliff, but I am today – and I’m going to do it by allowing you to grab ahold of this problem and see for yourself just how unbelievably bad this manufactured crisis is going to be.

You will hear a lot of conversation about the consequences from others; today, however, you are going to get the chance to be both the President and the Secretary of the Treasury, and you will get to decide for yourself exactly what bills the Federal Government should and should not pay as the cash runs out if a deal is not made by the time borrowing authority runs out.

At that point you’ll be able to see what’s coming for yourself – and once you do, you won’t need me to tell you what ugly is going to look like.

“…no state has the right to secede unless it wishes to…[and] it is the President’s duty to enforce the laws, unless somebody opposes him…”

William H. Seward, deprecating President James Buchanan’s efforts to preserve the Union, as quoted in the book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

So before I go sending you off to take the reins of power, let’s fill you in on a few things that you’ll need to know.

If no one has explained it to you yet, the Great Big Fuss that is going on right now is set around two issues: there are those who feel that the best way to make this economy better is to ensure that the Federal Government is a smaller player in our economy and not running on a deficit; many of these folks feel the way to achieve this is to make immediate, drastic, cuts in Federal spending.

At the same time, the United States has run up against its “debt limit”. That means the US will be unable to borrow money to fund ongoing government operations, and as you’ll soon see, right now we borrow a lot of the money we need to run today’s Government.

So if you are one of those who seeks to immediately cut Federal spending, you could force that to happen by refusing to allow the Federal Government any more borrowing authority; the fear of what could happen after that is presumably going to force the opposition to accept any deal, no matter how draconian, just to obtain that borrowing authority.

Naturally, the bigger a hostage you’re holding, the more draconian of a deal you hope you can make, and holding the “Full Faith and Credit of the United States” hostage is about as big as it gets; that’s why the Republicans are pushing for everything right this very second, from the end of Medicare and Medicaid to the right to mine uranium right next door to the Grand Canyon.

So with all that in mind, let’s talk money.

In the month of August, the Federal Government is expected to take in $172.4 billion.

There will be a mess of bills that are coming due during the month; that amount totals $306.7 billion, and that means about 44% of the bills must go unpaid.

Where’s that money go?

The Big Five are interest on current debt, which must be paid to avoid a default, payments due to defense contractors, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; the five of those, alone, will be just about $160 billion.

And that leaves $12.4 billion to fund everything else the Federal Government has to do.

That would include the remaining cost of supporting our several wars, the entire Federal law enforcement establishment (for example, the FBI, DEA, ATF, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the TSA, the Border Patrol, the Federal Marshals’ Service and the Bureau of Prisons), the National Parks Service and the Forest Service, the Centers for Disease Control, the Weather Service…well, just about every single thing the Federal Government does, except the Big Five.

So that’s the situation – and now it’s time for you to become the boss and make the choices:

The fine folks at Bloomberg Government have created an interactive tool that allows you to point and click your way to figuring this stuff out.

You will find your spending choices, and you just click on what you want until you run out of money, which the handy bar on the left will manage for you. When the bar turns red…you’re out of money.

“…Each month, I put all my bill collectors’ names in a hat, reach in, and pull out a name. That’s who I pay. If you keep calling here, then your name is not going in the hat next month.”

–Steve Harvey, quoted in October 2003’s Vibe magazine

OK folks, so now you know where to go, and you know what to do, so let’s make something happen.

Take this tool and use it to create a conversation about just what really is at stake, and watch the look on your friends’ faces when you point out that the entire Federal Government is about to go out of business if Republicans have their way.

I’d tell you the looks on their faces would be priceless – but that’s not true.

Absent a debt ceiling deal, the price is actually going to be about $134 billion, which is the money we’re just not going to have next month, when we’re not doing things like paying for the salaries of active-duty servicemembers or food inspectors or the guards out there at the Supermax.

It should be a fun time, all the way around – unless, of course, you’re one of the 300 million or so of us who are gonna get screwed over by it all.

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On Monday Morning Philosophy, Or, Founders Tell America: “You Figure It Out” March 22, 2011

In our efforts to form a more perfect Union we look to the Constitution for guidance for how we might shape the form and function of Government; many who seek to interpret that document try to do so by following what they believe is The Original Intent Of The Founders.

Some among us have managed to turn their certainty into something that approaches a reverential calling, and you need look no further than the Supreme Court to find such notables as Cardinals Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia providing “liturgical foundation” to the adherents of the point of view that the Constitution is like The Bible: that it’s somehow immutable, set in stone, and, if we would only listen to the right experts, easily interpreted.

But what if that absolutist point of view is absolutely wrong?

What if the Original Intent Of The Founders, that summer in Philadelphia…was simply to get something passed out of the Constitutional Convention, and the only way that could happen was to leave a lot of the really tough decisions to the future?

What if The Real Original Intent…was that we work it out for ourselves as we go along?

“…you see, all the majesty of worship that once adorned these fatal halls / was just a target for the angry as they blew up the Taj Mahal…”

–From the song Gasoline, by Sheryl Crow

The reason this is coming up today is because I’ve been writing a lot about Social Security lately, and I keep getting comments from folks who see no Constitutional foundation for such a program.

To sum up what I often hear, if there is nothing in the Constitution that specifically provides for Social Security, then, if it’s to be done at all, it’s something that should be left to the States. (The 10th Amendment is used to reinforce this point.)

A lot of these folks, from what I can see, hearken for a simpler time, a time when America had no “foreign entanglements” or National Banks…a time when men of the soil worked their farms with no fear of Debt or The Taxman….a time when government worked best by using local wisdom to deal with local problems.

In other words, we’re basically having the same arguments over the shape of this Government that Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were having in 1787—and for those who don’t recall, Hamilton won, which reflects the reality that we don’t all live on farms and hunt turkeys and Indians, and that State Governments are just as capable of ignorance and foolishness and greed and blind hate as any Federal Government.

To reinforce their arguments “fundamentalists” fall back on some version of the Original Intent theory, which basically assumes the Constitution was written by men who miraculously created a perfect document, and that all the answers to today’s problems would be found by simply allowing the Original Intent to shine through.

I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be more wrong—and to prove my point you need only consider the Civil War.

Despite what you might have heard in Virginia, the Civil War really was about slavery, and the reason we had that fight in the 1860s was because there was no way the question could be settled at the Constitutional Convention.

Those Founders who supported ending that “peculiar institution” were never going to convince slaveowning Founders to give up their property, and as a result of the desire to get a Constitution drafted that could be ratified by “the various States” there were compromises made, including the 3/5ths Compromise and Article Four’s requirement to deliver fugitive slaves to their owners upon demand, which resulted in the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850.

The Intent Of The Founders, on the question of slavery, was to let time work it out.

The same kind of “let time work it out” thinking led us to Article 1, Section 8, and the “general welfare” clause.

Congress is empowered to enact legislation that provides for the “common defense and general welfare of the United States”…but there is no specific interpretation of what the phrase means (in fact, there is no glossary at all for the Constitution, which means there are plenty of other examples of, shall we say, “unclear phrasing”).

Since there is no specific reference as to how Article 1, Section 8 and the 10th Amendment are supposed to interact or what the Founders’ Intent might be, we are again forced to apply our own interpretations, over time, to figure out how to resolve the inevitable conflicts.

We had to do that because, even as there were proponents of a Federal system, there were plenty of Delegates at the Convention who wanted nothing to do with a strong central government. They wanted to keep a system in place that resembled what we had under the Articles of Confederation, where the Federal Government had no ability to compel the payment of taxes and States had the choice of whether to “accept” Federal laws…or not.

Over time, of course, we’ve come to realize that having one air traffic control system, and not 50, was a good idea, and that funding things like disaster response on a national level makes sense, even if Texas wants to go it alone or something, and we probably all agree today that if States are willing to allow 12-year-old factory workers to work 16-hour days, then Federal child labor laws are a reasonable thing to make that stop—and all of this progression of history is happening because the Original Intent was to let the future figure out where the 10th and Article 1, Section 8 would “find their center”.

The Original Intent Of The Founders, apparently, was that white men who did not own property, women, and those not pale and fair and of European descent had no reason to be involving themselves in the affairs of government, as that was the list of who was not allowed to vote at the time we began our experiment in democracy; over time we’ve seen fit to change that—and at every step along the way there have been Cardinals of Interpretation ready to tell us that with each change we were doing violence to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution as they knew the Founders would have intended it to be.

Am I entitled to create or possess any form of pornography because the First Amendment prevents Congress from abridging free speech, or is the general welfare furthered by allowing society to protect itself from the exploitative effects of pornography by limiting or banning completely the production or possession of certain materials that are considered unacceptable?

The Founders seem to have offered no obvious intent when they created this conflict, which makes sense, because the possession of child pornography didn’t really exist as an issue in 1789.

I’m guessing that today we are not anxious to have each of the 50 States adopt their own rules (after all, who knows what some crazy State might do?)—but they did put that “general welfare” clause in Article 1, Section 8, and over time, our view of Constitutional law has come to accept the compromise that the Founders could not have foreseen.

The fact that the Supreme Court resolves these kinds of conflicts at all was not laid out in the Constitution, nor was the fact that the Federal Government’s powers are superior to those of the States; it took the 1803 Marbury v Madison and 1819 McCulloch v Maryland rulings to figure out, when there are multiple claims of liberty, which were to be put ahead of the others.

Can you guess why?

That’s right, folks: it was because they had Delegates at the Constitutional Convention (and States who had to ratify the finished product) who did not want to give the Court or a Federal Government that kind of power, and the only way to get something passed was to sort of “leave things open” and let time work it out.

Here’s an example of how one of the Founders tried to tried to kill the “Original Intent” argument before it even got off the ground: James Madison, who kept the only known complete set of notes during the Constitutional Convention never released those notes during his lifetime (he’s also credited with being the principal author of the document, possibly because his were the best notes).

Why did he do that? It appears to be because that Founder’s Intent was to make the Constitution’s words stand on their own, without his notes to frame the debate—and in fact the document had been in force for almost 50 years before those notes saw the light of day.

The Cardinals of the Supreme Court, some of whom claim they can divine Original Intent for any and all situations, are hoping that you’ll forget that they really serve to resolve disputes where the intent of the Founders seems to collide with the intent of the Founders—and all of that brings us right back to Social Security.

It is true that the Constitution, as it was written in 1789, does not contain the words “you may establish Social Security”—but it is also true that there were no words that would allow anyone who is not a white male to vote, or to prohibit the ownership of slaves.

Congress, acting with the authority to provide for the general welfare, took Roosevelt’s proposal and enacted it into law. The Supreme Court, in 1937, took up the question of whether the 10th Amendment prevented Congress from enacting Social Security with a series of three rulings, and here’s part of what they had to say:

Counsel for respondent has recalled to us the virtues of self-reliance and frugality. There is a possibility, he says, that aid from a paternal government may sap those sturdy virtues and breed a race of weaklings. If Massachusetts so believes and shapes her laws in that conviction, must her breed of sons be changed, he asks, because some other philosophy of government finds favor in the halls of Congress? But the answer is not doubtful. One might ask with equal reason whether the system of protective tariffs is to be set aside at will in one state or another whenever local policy prefers the rule of laissez faire. The issue is a closed one. It was fought out long ago. When money is spent to promote the general welfare, the concept of welfare or the opposite is shaped by Congress, not the states. So the concept be not arbitrary, the locality must yield. Constitution, Art. VI, Par. 2.

So there you go: the next time someone tells you that a program like Social Security is unconstitutional because of Original Intent, be very, very, suspicious, and keep in mind that the Constitution was written, intentionally, with the idea that a lot of problems were simply going to be kicked down the road to future generations of Americans.

Constitutional Delegates, after all, were politicians, and if there is one thing that politicians love to do it’s to kick a problem down the road so that something can get done today.

The history of the last 225 or so years has been a long journey down a long road that took us past slavery and Reconstruction and suffrage and Jim Crow, and to assert, as the Cardinals of the Court do, that all those questions were answered that summer in Independence Hall is to be either amazingly blind or deliberately untruthful—and the fact that they get to dress in robes and sit behind something that looks quite a bit like an altar doesn’t change that even one little bit.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This post was written with the support of the CAF State Blogger’s Network Project.

 

Social Security: Where’s Our Tahrir Square? February 3, 2011

We have seen some amazing days in Egypt, and it’s provided a better lesson than anyone could have ever wanted for how taking action, against long odds, can really get something done.

A secret police mechanism has been pushed aside, an Army has chosen not to attack The People, and a President who was backed by the “full faith and credit” of the US Government on Friday was being told by that same US Government on Tuesday that it’s time to go.

The People, in fact, spoke so loudly that Mr. Mubarak has informed Egyptians that he’s going to “pursue corruption”, which, if taken literally, could eventually look like a puppy chasing its own tail.

The People, however, are unhappy with his answer, and they’re speaking even louder yet…even to the point of being willing to take beatings, gunfire, and, believe it or not…camel charges…to make their voices heard.

And that got me to thinking about Social Security.

You know, we are facing the potential for a great big Social Security fight for pretty much the entire term of the 112th Congress—and it seems to me that a series of great big “Cairo-style” marches might be the way to make our voices heard, so that this Congress understands that great big benefit cuts are something that we will not tolerate.

Oh, Vanity of vanities!
How wayward the decrees of Fate are;
How very weak the very wise,
How very small the very great are!

–William Makepeace Thackeray, from the Vanitas Vanitatum

It’s a simple point I make today: we want a Social Security program that’s in fiscal balance, and raising the income tax cap can do that without changing the retirement age, or means testing, or anything else…so let’s just do it, already.

(Raising the tax cap? If you make over $107,000 a year, that income is tax-exempt when it comes to Social Security. Taxing that income would fix the entire financing problem, with money left over, which means you could actually cut payroll tax rates for all workers at the same time.)

On the other side are those who seek to cut benefits for future recipients, and there is no logical reason why, when we have a simple fix in hand—but there is still such a community of folks, and they have considerable influence in all the right places.

But as we have learned this week, even when the other side has considerable influence—even in the wrong places—people can beat the odds and change the political dynamic, and they can do it in a way that can’t be turned back, even if the other side is willing to kill you where you stand…and the women and children you brought with you as well.

And if pro-democracy demonstrators in Liberation Square can do it…why can’t we, who want to make Social Security work for everyone, do the same?

Now I’m not suggesting that we gather up our camels and bottles and gasoline and head for the barricades—but I am suggesting that if we do not make the same kind of assertive showing the “Tea Party” folks did during the runup to the health care debate, then we are missing a huge opportunity, and if we fail we’ll have to wonder if not acting on this kind of strategy cost us support we badly need.

And we can even do it in an alternative way: let’s schedule friendly Town Halls with members of Congress who would like to help, and let’s hear from constituents—of all persuasions—about how they would absolutely not like to see their Social Security cut.

And who, exactly, is going to show up to demand they get their benefits cut?

My guess, it’ll be just the opposite: I would expect to see lots of folks, of all ages, who are tired of getting screwed, and who don’t want to get screwed again—and how much you wanna bet they’ll be nice and enthusiastic about expressing that point of view?

Get it on the TV, build a bit of momentum, and by summer you could be scheduling a nice “Social Security Flat Tax Now!” march on the National Mall, kinda like what Stewart and Colbert did last year.

Once you do that…as we learned during the health care debate…Democrats and Republicans alike can be “managed” more effectively, and those “paid for by Pete Peterson” deficit commission staff members end up being a less profitable investment than a credit default swap denominated in Icelandic krona and executed with the Central Bank of Greece as a counterparty and a consortium of the Central Banks of Portugal and Iceland as guarantors.

It may be snowing today, but the blossoms will be on the cherry trees in just a few weeks, and if we’re going to get this together, we better get started right away.

So…my Social Security friends and allies…anyone know some cooperative Members of Congress?

Author’s Note: We spent some time in December working to help Betsie Gallardo, who was trying to have her Florida prison sentence commuted so that she could end her life at home with a bit of dignity.

That effort was successful, and we now know that she did pass away January 31st, surrounded by friends and family, and we wish her adoptive mother, Jessica Bussert, and all those friends and family all our warmest thoughts.

It will soon be spring, and the flowers will again bloom, and when they do perhaps we’ll see in them, as we did with Betsie, a reminder of the beauty that life can bring—and just how fragile that beauty can be.

 

On Why Voting Matters, Or, Could You Outrun The Toxic Red Flood? October 7, 2010

It is about a week before early voting begins for a bunch of us around the country, and that means this may be one of the last times I have to convince you that, frustrated progressive or not, you better get your butt to a ballot box or a mail-in envelope this November, because it really does matter.

Now I could give you a bunch of “what ifs” to make my point, or I could remind you how we spent all summer watching oil gush into the Gulf, and how that came to be…but, instead, it’s “Even More Current Event Day”, and we’re going to visit Hungary for a extremely real-world reminder of what can go wrong when the environmental cops are considered just too much of a burden by the environmental robbers—and if today’s story doesn’t scare you to death, I don’t know what will.

It ain’t Texas, but we will surely visit a Red River Valley…and you surely won’t like what you’re gonna see.

“…Oui, ma foi, c’est un bougre déterminé…”

–A sailor aboard the French ship Héros describing his Admiral, Pierre André de Suffren de Saint Tropez, 1783. Quoted from the book Command at Sea, by Oliver Warner.

So here’s the long and the short of it: Monday afternoon a sludge pond failed near the town of Devecser, Hungary. That failure has so far released about 265,000,000 gallons of extremely toxic sludge from a facility that mines bauxite as part of the process of making aluminum.

That release manifested itself as a full-scale flash flood, which (courtesy of the RT network) looks something like this:

The red lake and the red mud that you see flowing like a river in the video has killed four people so far, injured hundreds, inundated four towns, and is on its way to the Danube River if it can‘t be stopped, where it will become part of the water supply for millions of Europeans.

It turns out that bauxite ore contains alumina, which eventually become aluminum, but to get that alumina you apparently need huge quantities of caustic soda, in water, to make the extraction process work. The problem is that you extract more than just alumina: the same ore can contain lead, or cadmium, or any number of other heavy metals…including radioactive materials. The waste materials are discharged as sludge into holding ponds at the mine for further treatment, and the failure of one of those ponds is how we came to today’s story.

According to the BBC, emergency workers are pouring tons of plaster into the Marcal River in an effort to stop the flow of the liquid, and Hungarian Government experts believe the top inch of topsoil will have to be removed…from the entire land area affected by the flood.

So what’s all this have to do with the upcoming American elections?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

This is not a problem somehow unique to Hungary…nor Brazil, nor Jamaica, either. We have sludge ponds of our own, many associated with coal mining, and in fact, one of those failed in Kentucky in 2000, in a massive way, and by 2004, things hadn’t improved much at all in terms of cleaning up the mess. Others are associated with the other end of that process: coal-fired power plants have coal ash containments of their own, and they also fail. A pond failure in Tennessee in 2008 probably released over a billion gallons of waste into the local rivers.

And if our Republican friends have their way, this will continue.

Even as we speak, the EPA is considering regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste for the very first time—and if Republicans gain control of Congress, wanna guess how the considerating will come out?

Look, folks, I know we’re all frustrated that we aren’t where we want to be with this Administration, but you gotta know that if you don’t show up for this election, we are going to be dealing with Republicans who are far nuttier than what we have right now—and while I know that it was a fantastic change of pace to be able to vote for someone in ’08, the plain fact is that most of the time, you’re voting against something, and this time, that something is the insanity of the Tea Party.

These Republicans are some very determined buggers, to quote that French sailor, and we have to be just as determined to stop these folks—and to do it where it counts, in places like Kentucky and West Virginia and Delaware—because if we don’t, it means another generation of people in coal towns living with water they can’t drink and cancer they can’t cure, more rivers and wetlands and aquifers destroyed all over this country…and, eventually, it means all of this contamination, one way or another, will find its way to you and your family.

Voting matters, Gentle Readers, and this is just one reason why.

 

On Saving 319,000 Jobs, Or, Legislation Keeps Teachers Teaching August 10, 2010

As I pick up the pace of work again, coming into the midterms, I have to get some stories cleared off the desk in order to make room for some others, and that’s what we’re about today.

We’ll be talking about saving more than 300,000 of this country’s most important jobs, and paying for it in a way that is not only good policy, but is a real problem for Republicans who are yelling “no new taxes!” once again while pretending they care about actually paying for actual spending and actually want to cut actual unemployment.

We have a bit of work to do today, but we want to keep it somewhat short…so let’s get going.

So across my desk have come documents that report how many jobs will be saved by the House coming back into session to vote out H.R. 1586 and send it to the President for his signature.

Long story short, after all the commemorative pens have been distributed about 319,000 more people will be working, including 161,000 more teachers who will be in class this year then there would have been there if it wasn’t for this bill…and as it happens, that many teachers is actually about 25,000 more people than the total number of workers in all of America’s coal mines combined.

It’s going to cost $10 billion for the “save the teacher’s jobs” part of the bill; another $16.1 billion will be paid to states to help them pay for their share of Medicare expenses this fiscal year, that will allow them to avoid laying off the remaining 158,000 workers, many of whom are working for someone like Child Protective Services or are State Troopers or are working for your State’s Department of Corrections…and about 80,000 of those jobs are private sector jobs, as contractors who work for the various states are also kept on the job.

To give you an idea of just how many teachers we’re talking about, Florida will have 9200 more this fall than they would have otherwise, Illinois will have 5700 more, Kentucky, 2200 more, and in California there’ll be about 16,500 more teachers in the classrooms this fall than if this bill wasn’t going to pass.

You can look up how many more teachers your State is estimated to have this fall at a handy page on the House Committee on Education and Labor’s website.

I don’t have a handy chart for the remaining workers, but if those jobs are more or less distributed the same way you could expect California, as an example, to save a total of about 33,000 jobs with just this one bill, and Florida to save about 18,000.

How badly do states need the money?

By an amazing coincidence, as I’m putting this story together I’m watching tonight’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”, and sure as life, she’s working the same story…and she’s reporting that Paul Krugman’s reporting that several states are literally unpaving their roads because they can’t afford to maintain them any more.

So here’s the best part: it’s all paid for by closing a variety of tax loopholes and recovering money that wasn’t being used from other programs, so no new deficit spending or additions to debt are required.

The tax loopholes?

They take aim at the various methods multinational companies are using to shield US income from US tax collectors; these mostly involve getting a Post Office box in the Cayman Islands, or something similar, and more or less claiming all your US business is derived from your new “regional office”, or that you believe you paid all your income taxes on your US income to some other government.

Our Republican friends are going nutty about this, claiming, as John Boehner just did on “Meet The Press”, that: “…they want to raise the taxes on the American people .”

This is particularly tough for Republicans because they’re dying to save The Bush Tax Cuts For The Really, Really Rich, all $800 billion worth of ‘em, without explaining how they would be paid for, all the while complaining about the much, much, lower cost of paying for saving these 300,000 jobs—and, in the very next sentence, saying they hate deficits…and if you check out the transcript from that “Meet the Press” interview, you’ll see that David Gregory asked Boehner about how he planned on paying for the $800 billion in tax cuts he wants, three different times, and he wouldn’t give a straight answer once.

So when people ask you: “What’s Washington doing about jobs?”, you can tell them they’re not only saving about a third of a million of the jobs that fight fires, and put criminals in jail, and teach your kids this fall—and paying for it, to boot—but those smaller classrooms are also making it more likely that your kids will have better jobs when they grow up; all of that without much help from our Republican friends, who’s biggest job right now seems to be figuring out how to borrow another $800 billion from you and China to give away to their wealthiest friends.

Which is its own special kind of job…and I’m pretty sure the word “snow” is somehow involved in the job description.

 

On Balanced Budgets, Or, Hey, Rand, Why Not Show Your Cards Now? June 11, 2010

Those who are regular visitors to this space know that I post stories across the country, and to do that I have to follow stories from a number of states.

Because I post at Kentucky’s Hillbilly Report, I’ve been paying particular attention to the Rand Paul campaign, and the news from the Bluegrass State (via “The Rush Limbaugh Show”) is that Paul’s planning to write his own balanced budget proposal for the Federal Government.

But there’s a catch.

He doesn’t plan on doing it until after the election.

Well, now, why in the world would a guy who’s running for office based on his really good ideas want to hold back the best one?

That’s not a bad question, and if we make the effort we can probably figure out the most likely answers.

“I cou’d be mighty foolish, and fancy my self mighty witty; Reason still keeps its throne, but it nods a little, that’s all.”

–George Farquhar, The Recruiting Officer

First things first: we’re having this conversation thanks to the Hillbilly Report story from RDemocrat that I mentioned above, and from the original source, a posting from Bluegrass Politics (“Covering Kentucky politics and government”). So…thanks, y’all.

Now let’s get to the business at hand:

Why wouldn’t Paul want to reveal his balanced budget proposal now?

–It’s possible that Paul does not have a proposal ready to go.

If that were true, it could be because right now he only has a “sort-of outline” as to how he would get there.

If that’s the case, that’s OK; just go ahead, Dr. Paul, and tell us what you have in mind so far, and we’ll start to work the numbers and begin to see if it makes sense.

It’s also possible that he made a promise to deliver this balanced budget proposal with little or no idea as to how he would actually make it work.

That’s not OK, Dr. Paul—and I’m guessing that Kentucky voters wouldn’t think it’s OK either.

–It’s possible Paul has a proposal ready to go, but the details of that proposal are not going to fly with Kentucky voters.

As we discussed in another recent conversation, you aren’t going to get to a balanced Federal budget without drastically cutting spending, drastically raising revenues, or both, especially if you want to do it immediately; it may be just too much of a political “lift” for Paul to explain exactly how he would actually do that—at least until after Election Day.

In this political environment, a candidate does not want to get caught being untrue to their “brand”, or afraid of their own ideas; it would be very much to Paul’s disadvantage if this turned out to be the correct explanation for what’s going on and Kentucky voters became aware of the situation.

And with all that in mind, here’s the thing:

I’m not trying to play “gotcha” journalism here, Dr. Paul, and I hope you don’t think I am—but it is a fact that you’re basing your entire campaign on the power of your new ideas, and that means I have to ask you why you’re not willing to explain exactly what you think a balanced budget would look like until after the election?

Imagine if I came into your clinic, and you told me you knew that the frames you were showing me would look great, and fit even better, and the lenses will make me see like an eagle—and after I’ve paid for them, and you’ve finished making them, then I can try them on?

You wouldn’t sell me a pair of glasses that way, Dr. Paul, would you?

Of course you wouldn’t…so why are you asking people to vote first, and try you on later?

It doesn’t make any sense, if you have good ideas ready to bring to the table—but it would make sense if you’re doing a “bob and weave” because you don’t want the voters to see that you either have ideas they won’t like, or no ideas at all.

You don’t want voters thinking that about you, so why don’t you clear things up and let people know, today, that you know what you’re talking about…before they begin to think maybe you don’t.

 

A Few Quick Words About Small Government May 22, 2010

We don’t have a lot of time for a big discussion today, but I wanted to take a second and talk about basic Federal Government economics as they apply to Rand Paul.

It is his stated vision to reduce the size of Government…and it is an undeniable reality that the vast majority of the Federal Budget is focused on only a few areas of spending.

Today, we’ll quickly run through that economic reality, and we’ll challenge Dr. Paul to tell us where he stands.

So it’s about as basic as this: the four biggest items in the budget are Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, the Department of Defense budget, and interest on the Federal debt.

Those four items are 80% of the total 2011 budget.

What does that mean?

That means you can get rid of every other thing that Government does–no more people overseeing oil drilling, no food inspections, or border security, no FBI or ATF or DEA or CIA, or OSHA or MSHA, no National Guard or air traffic control or Coast Guard or NASA…or Department of Agriculture or food stamps, either–you can get rid of all of it, and government will still be 80% of what it is today.

And that means that the only way you can really make the Federal Government smaller…is to cut one or more of those four core activities that Government is performing.

So which one will it be, Dr. Paul?

Are you against Medicare and Medicaid?
Should it be ended today?

What about Social Security?
Are you ready to tell Kentucky voters that Social Security should end, today?

Are you ready to tell Kentucky voters that you do not believe that the US should be the world leader in military technologies?

Do you think China should be the preeminent military power?

Let’s get these questions in front of Dr. Paul, and even as he tries to dodge questions about the right of Woolworth’s to keep its lunch counter white, let’s make him face these questions as well…which are neither abstract nor obscure.