Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

No on Prop 32 – Misguided Attempt to Limit Special Interests

November 2, 2012

Prop 32 is titled “Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.”

The official summary reads:

Prohibits unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. Applies same use prohibition to payroll deductions, if any, by corporations or government contractors. Prohibits union and corporate contributions to candidates and their committees. Prohibits government contractor contributions to elected officers or their committees.

Prop 32 is the most visible of all the initiatives on the ballot this November. Both sides have put on radio and TV ads, and according to Ballotpedia, the Yes side has raised $59 million and the No side has raised $68 million.

The proposed law is very straightforward. The full text of the law is very concise. It requires employers or unions to get employee permission before deducting money for political purposes. It also bans corporations and unions from contributing to campaigns.

The No on 32 ads are the second most misleading in this election, only behind those opposing Prop 37. They claim that special interests like big banks, Wall Street and Super PACs have written in special exemptions for themselves. Read the full text. These do not exist at all.

Super PACs are an easy target because voters associate them with super-rich political donors. However, they are federal and not state entities. They also cannot be associated with a campaign in any way; they must be independent. They can run ads but cannot have any communication with candidates. So the alleged “loophole” portrayed is because state law has no jurisdiction over Super PACs.

I fully support the laws proposed in Prop 32, but I feel it is really misguided. Even if it passes, big union and corporate money will just pour into Super PACs instead. Politicians in Sacramento will still support those interests. If we want to limit corporate and union interests in Sacramento, we should only elect those into office who have integrity and values and won’t be sold to the highest bidder.

To implement real change, we need to change the people in Sacramento, not the laws governing a broken system. We also need to hold those in Sacramento accountable and make them do their jobs instead of relying on ballot measures for any meaningful legislation.

So while I support the premise behind Prop 32, I personally will be voting NO on it. Prop 32 is an attempt to fix a broken system, but the real fix is to elect politicians with integrity and values who will not sell out to corporate or union interests.

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Prop 31 – Unnecessary Budget Rules

November 2, 2012

Prop 31 is titled: State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

The official summary reads:

Establishes two-year state budget. Sets rules for offsetting new expenditures, and Governor budget cuts in fiscal emergencies. Local governments can alter application of laws governing state-funded programs. Fiscal Impact: Decreased state sales tax revenues of $200 million annually, with corresponding increases of funding to local governments. Other, potentially more significant changes in state and local budgets, depending on future decisions by public officials.

Prop 31 addresses many issues, and I don’t think it addresses them very effectively.

First, it seeks to establish a two-year budget cycle instead of an annual budget. I’m not sure how this is supposed to help taxpayers. If Sacramento can’t balance a budget without accounting gimmicks every year, why is changing it to every other year going to help?

Second, it creates rules that for every government program that exceed $25 million, the legislature has to either raise taxes or cut programs in the amount of the new program. While this sounds like a good idea, it could easily backfire. What happens if the state is running a surplus and wants to add a program to help schools? I know, the state of California running a surplus is pretty farfetched, but if it did, the legislature would still have to adopt cuts to offset the new program that could be paid for out of savings.

Third, it gives the Governor power to cut the budget by his or herself during emergencies. Personally, I am very leery of giving this kind of power to any individual. It basically makes the Governor the King of California because we will always be in a state of financial emergency.

Finally, it allows for about $200 million of annual sales tax revenue to be sent directly back to local communities. I really like this part of the Proposition, but not enough to vote for it. $200 million is only 0.14% of our state budget so it will have a negligible impact to the state. But this is a law that the state legislature should just pass. Why does it have to be on a proposition at all? This is further proof that our politicians in Sacramento do absolutely nothing and wait for ballot measures instead of doing their jobs.

This leads me to a perfect segue to my closing argument. Many proponents of Prop 31 say that we can’t trust our lawmakers to balance a budget or manage taxpayer dollars so we need this to pass.

If we can’t trust our politicians, it is our job to vote them out! If we want politicians in Sacramento to balance the budget, we need to elect representatives who will do just that! It makes no sense that we need to pass ballot measures to do something as fundamental as balancing a checkbook.

I recommend voting NO on Prop 31. It adds unnecessary layers to the state budget and will not change anything in Sacramento. There is a need to vote those in Sacramento who are absolutely failing out of office. There is no need for Prop 31.

NO on Prop 30 – An Expensive Bandaid to a Bigger Problem

November 2, 2012

I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve decided to write a series as a Voter Guide for this year’s election. Mainly this is a way for me to formulate my thoughts on matters. Ballotpedia is a great resource.

The first ballot measure in the 2012 Election in California is Proposition 30. It is a proposed amendment to the California Constitution.

Prop 30 is titled “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment” and the summary reads:

Increases personal income tax on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years. Increases sales and use tax by ¼ cent for four years. Allocates temporary tax revenues 89 percent to K-12 schools and 11 percent to community colleges. Bars use of funds for administrative costs, but provides local school governing boards discretion to decide, in open meetings and subject to annual audit, how funds are to be spent. Guarantees funding for public safety services realigned from state to local governments

Governor Jerry Brown says these new taxes will raise an additional $9 billion while other estimates are around $6 billion annually.

Many people in California are against Prop 30 only because it raises taxes. It could leave to wealthy individuals establishing residences in other states to avoid paying higher income taxes and by raising sales taxes, it actually disproportionately hurts lower income families and individuals. But I think that there are bigger issues that need to be addressed.

According to the current budget, California’s state revenue for this year is estimated at $132 billion. California’s state expenditures are estimated at $142 billion. Governor Brown’s revised budget with all the cuts still comes it at $138 billion.

The reason for this proposition is because our state is so dysfunctional that we can’t cut 4.3% of our state budget. You would think that you could find 4.3% somewhere. If you or your family is spending more than it takes in, you have to make sacrifices. You would probably be able to reduce spending by 4.3% fairly easily.

However, rather than trying to make meaningful cuts that could get our state going again, Governor Brown is proposing a couple of new taxes to increase revenues just enough to kick the can down the road a little bit further.

Prop 30 will not solve any of the current problems with California’s finances. It will only allow our politicians in Sacramento to put off any real changes for a few years before they have to come back and ask to raise the sales tax by another 0.25%.

The proponents of Prop 30 say this is saving our schools and it’s worth paying a little more to secure their futures. Having schoolchildren play the victim is a pretty easy card to play. Steven Spielberg even donated $30,000 to the pro-Prop 30 side. If Spielberg cared so much, why didn’t he donate that money directly to schools? Why donate it to a political cause?

I’m all for funding our schools, but I don’t think sending more tax dollars to Sacramento is the way to go. The current thinking in California, and the United States in general, is that we need government to take care of us. If the state or federal government won’t do it, no one will.

I am a much bigger proponent of local money supporting schools. Raise the funds at school district, city or county level. However, this money that we could raise locally will no longer be available because it has already been taxed away to Sacramento. For every dollar Sacramento takes from us in taxes, that is one less dollar we could have spent more efficiently at the local level.

To support schools in poor areas, we could have school districts set up partnerships with other school districts to help those in areas where funding is harder to come by. This would work much better than having bureaucrats in Sacramento arbitrarily dole it out.

Since Prop 30 is merely a band-aid to temporarily stop the bleeding in our state budget, I would strongly recommend voting NO on Prop 30. Rather than giving more money and power to Sacramento, we need to push for real and meaningful cuts to our state budget and open our minds to solve our school funding problems at the local level, where our dollars will be spent much more effectively.

Republican Debate – My Answers

June 15, 2011

Two nights ago was the New Hampshire Republican debate on CNN. While I am a big supporter of Ron Paul, I don’t think his message was simple enough for the mainstream voters to consume. He jumped over his simple talking points about the Federal Reserve, Austrian Economics, Sound Money and Blowback among others and went right into rants that were valid, but made him sound more like a fringe candidate than a serious one.

I’m not saying that the two “winners,” Mitt Romney or Michelle Bachmann said anything of substance, but their message was well packaged. If Congressman Paul could just stick to clear, concise points while still spreading his message of liberty and Constitutionalism, he would come out as a clear frontrunner.

I only watched the first part of the debate last night, but if I had to give a response to some of the questions that were asked, here are a few:

1. What is your plan to create manufacturing  jobs in the US?

Currently in the United States, we have a service based economy. We do not have a manufacturing/production based one like we had in the past. Most of the manufacturing of products we import is in China or other Asian countries. The only way we are going to start manufacturing here is that we need the capital and labor to compete with China. In “capital,” I mean machines and resources. We need to invest in these machines so we can be competitive. Even if labor and materials are cheaper in China, we still have to ship all those products across the Pacific Ocean. It’s not really as efficient as we think. There is opportunity for us to start producing products again.

First, we need to cut the corporate tax to zero. There is no need to tax corporate profits and then tax them again when they get distributed to employees as pay. Second, we need to encourage investment in American capital. The easiest way to do this is to get the Federal Government out of economic planning. Stop subsidizing certain industries. Let the market decide what industries and products we should develop. We could be throwing money down the drain because an industry we are supporting might not be able to exist without the subsidies. That makes no economic sense and would never exist in a market based economy.

Bottom line is that we need to make things again, and in order to do that we need to let the market work and the capital invested here at home to do that.

2. What are your feelings on “Right to Work”?

Personally, I believe that the Federal Government should not be involved in the hiring process of a private company. However, we have installed labor laws that call for a closed shop if half of the workers decide to unionize. So, “Right to Work” is a counter to these regulations, but it really doesn’t work. It would be easier to defund the National Labor Relations Board and repeal labor laws that interfere with hiring process of a private firm, union or not.

Let the company, workers, and the market decide what they want to do. If Company A wants to run a closed shop with union employees, let them. If Company B wants to use non-union labor, there’s nothing wrong with that either. The point is that the Federal Government should just stay out of it altogether.

3. How would you build consensus within the Republican Party, not just Tea Partiers?

I feel the message of freedom and liberty are what the Founding Fathers of our nation wanted. This should resonate with every American, not just Republicans or Democrats. To me, it should be easy to build consensus to get the government out of our lives, out of the private sector and out of foreign wars and entanglements.

Then you would be free to live your life the way you want. Businesses will be able to hire people and deliver new and innovative products to the market. We would stop spending hundreds of billions of dollars overseas and would be able to pass that savings along to the taxpayers.

We need to remember the reasons for the Constitution that the Framers had in mind at the time. We broke away from a too powerful and distant foreign central government. This country was founded on the principle of limited central government and if we remember that, building a consensus should not be too difficult.

As I watch more of the debate tonight, I’ll post more answers. Your comments are always welcome. Thanks for reading.

Making Work for ATT

December 29, 2010

At work, we had a phone line through ATT that we didn’t use anymore. We also had a DSL line that we use for our phone system tied to that account. We wanted to cancel the phone line, but keep the DSL line. Sounds pretty simple, right?

Let’s just say it ended up being a lesson in the power of the International Communications Workers Union. When we canceled the phone line, they told us we would have a new account number. Nobody thought anything of it.

Then, the next morning, our phones were dead. I checked the DSL modem, to see if it was that or the phone system itself. The lights on the modem were all dead. Definitely a DSL problem. After calling ATT, we figured out that our new account number meant we had a completely new account. They couldn’t just cancel the phone line and keep the DSL line active. Perhaps this was a quirk in ATT’s system.

They told us that they would be able to turn it on for us in a few hours.   Then we got a call back from another rep saying that since we were in California, they couldn’t just turn it back on.  They had to send someone out to install the line.

We told them that we already had the modem, everything was hooked up, and we just needed the line switched. The answer was no. We had to have someone come out. So we scheduled it between 8 am and noon in a few days.

This was during a time when our office was closed for the Holidays, but I had some work to do so I came in with our IT guy. That morning at 9:30, we got an automated call from ATT saying that our line was now ready to use and we needed to register our account.   So now I came in to wait for an install that wasn’t even going to happen? They also were kind enough to tell us if we were having trouble, they could send someone out for $150.

I was mad, so I got on chat support with ATT. We got the modem activated and were up and running. I asked them why they told us someone had to come out. They said that on their records, no one was ever scheduled. I was dumbfounded.

After all this, an ATT truck pulls up in front of our office. The guy sits there for a minute, then comes in and asks “So you’re all up and running?”

We said that we set it up ourselves. We suspected that there had to be some sort of subcontractor or union agreement behind his visit, so we asked him if he was part of a union. That’s when he told us he was part of the ICW. We asked what he was going to do, and he said “say hi and leave.”

This was one of my first direct experiences with a union “make work” program. There was no need for him to come to our office at all, but the State of California requires him to do so. The union lobbied for these regulations not to ensure that our connection was up and running, but to make sure this person had a job.

Makes you realize why we’re so uncompetitive here in CA and in the US in general…

Three Early Failures of Obamacare

October 5, 2010

We have barely seen the Obamacare Healthcare Plan go into effect and so far, there have already been three big failures.  I’m sure we’ll see many more as the plan is more widely implemented.

1.  Since they can’t raise rates for pre-existing conditions, the companies will just raise the rates for everyone.

One of the main points in Obamacare is that insurers cannot deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition.  However, nothing in the legislation prevents the companies from raising rates on everyone in order to cover the people with pre-existing conditions.

2.  Insurance companies have decided to stop selling children only plans.

Rather than take on sick kids with pre-existing conditions when parents sign them up for child only plans, the insurers will just stop selling the coverage.  Talk about your backfires.

3.   McDonald’s will drop their partial policy for over 30,000 workers.

So, rather than allow McDonald’s to provide partial coverage to their part-time workers that covers doctor visits and basic medical care, Obamacare mandates that the company provides full coverage.  Instead of making this commitment, McDonald’s will just stop providing any coverage at all.  You could argue that McDonald’s is “evil” for choosing to keep their money, but you could also argue that government intervention is ruining a situation that is working.

I’m sure these cases are just the tip of the iceberg.  The healthcare companies and drug companies spent millions lobbying for the healthcare overhaul.  I’m sure there will be more problems like this that arise, and we won’t have any recourse unless we repeal all or portions of the law.

TARP Success?

October 5, 2010

Today, the Treasury Department declared that the government will only lose $29 billion from the TARP program.  This is being hailed as a huge success and that we saved the financial system and the economy, preventing a second Great Depression and barely losing any money.

I have some big problems with these statements.  First of all, most of the big banks that were infused with cash paid back that money within a year of the program starting.  How can a bank go from about to collapse to financially stable so quickly?

Think about Goldman, it received $10 billion from the government.  If they just took that money and invested it for a year in 3% government bonds, that’s $300 million!  Citi and Bank of America got $20 billion each.  That could turn to $600 million of pure profit.

Did the big financial institutions create a sense of panic, in order to get the government to step in and “save” them by taking over all their bad debts?  Did they know that this panic would lead the government create a web of regulations that stifles future competition?  Anytime banks and government come together, I have a feeling the banks are going to win.

Also, where did this money come from anyway?  We created $700 billion out of thin air, gave it to banks to earn interest on, took on their bad loans, and then they gave it back to the Treasury.   Will the government now put that money to rest?  Or will it eventually make it back into the economy.

And finally, $33 billion is still a lot of money.  We have just become desensitized to the number because we saw the $750 billion stimulus package and the $700 billion bailout.  $33 billion just seems like a drop in the bucket.

While the government claims the success of TARP, I find it hard to believe that it saved our economy and that the true cost was really that low.  We’re still mired in a stalled economy and the bad debt is still out there and has not been liquidated.  And with all the success of this bailout, business now knows that future bailouts will be sure to follow, allowing them to take more foolish risks and setting us up for even bigger failure.

Bondholders Are Not Villians

May 27, 2009

I’m tired of hearing about the evil bondholders that are preventing GM from avoiding bankruptcy.  Why not call them what they really are?  They are the creditors to GM.  They lent GM money, and now are being villified for wanting to collect as much of that money as possible.

The Obama administration’s “offer” is for the bondholders to trade their $27 billion in debt for 10% of the failing company.  If they go to bankruptcy, the bondholders might get wiped out completely, but in a real bankruptcy, the bondholders usually get paid back first.  The problem is that this is not an ordinary bankruptcy.  It is rigged to give the government and the unions all the power.  The creditors and stockholders are the ones getting screwed.

Also, the “offer” gives the US and Canadian governments a 69% stake in the company.  So the primary debt holders get 10%, but the government gets 69%?  Who in their right mind would accept this rotten deal?

We all know the problem with GM is that their labor costs are too high.  Rather than actually trying to fix the problem, the government is handing the keys to the car over to the unions.  Since they are in a partnership with Uncle Sam, we now will be bailing them out forever.  The current model is unsustainable, but rather than actually fixing the problem we are setting up for permanent transfer of wealth from our pockets to the unions.

So, instead of just saying “it’s the evil bondholders’ fault,” we need to look at the actual offer and realize the only winners are Obama and the UAW, and the losers are every tax paying citizen of the country.

Are We Really Safer?

May 27, 2009

President Obama and his team have been going back and forth with former VP Dick Cheney on whether or not we are safer as a nation now that Guantanamo Bay has closed and we say, at least, that we will no longer torture.

My answer to this whole debate:  Who cares!

Our safety as a country won’t change at all because we close one prison that holds 240 inmates.  And, our enemies have known for a long time that we torture, so this is nothing new.

The bigger debate should be if we are safer now than we were before we put all of these measures in place after 9/11.  Really, it’s been almost 8 years, and we haven’t gotten too far.  That’s the problem with fighting a war with an ideal.  How do you suppose we actually win a war on “terror?”  It’s the same thing with the new war on greed we have going after all the bailouts.  There is absolutely no way you can win a war on idealology.

I would agree with Ron Paul and others that our actions in the Middle East are actually making the situation worse and making us less safe.  Our intentions there were good, but the blowback is creating more and more people who hate us.  If we drop some bombs on civilians, which we have done numerous times, we are giving hundreds or thousands more people a reason to rise up against us.

There is an easy solution to the problem in the Middle East – Bring our troops home, close our military bases, and stop all foreign aid to Arab nations and Israel.  Let the people of the Middle East rule themselves.

If we are gone, they will have no reason to hate us.  Don’t believe the idea either that they hate “freedom and liberty” and the “American way of life.”  If they hated freedom, why wouldn’t they attack the Netherlands or New Zealand?  What they hate is our foreign policy, our bases in some of the holiest parts of the Muslim world, and our unwavering support for Israel.

Instead of actually getting into a real discussion about foreign policy, though, our media focuses on Guantanamo and that’s it.  It is like the extent of our entire foreign policy is one little prison.

It’s time to wake up and start asking bigger questions.  The sooner we do, the safer we all will be.

Does Anyone Pay Taxes?

January 30, 2009

I’m starting to think I’m the only sucker out there paying taxes.  If two of Obama’s cabinet picks, who are supposed to be our leaders, don’t pay taxes, does anyone else?  Is it strange that the working class pays their taxes, but these elite individuals end up owing thousands of dollars?

Today, it was announced that Tom Daschle, the appointed Health and Human Services head, paid over $125,000 in back taxes right before he was nominated to the position.

That is a LOT of money for someone to just claim that they “didn’t know they had to pay taxes on it.”  In fact, that’s two years worth of my salary.

It’s amazing to me that I got assessed a $68 penalty last year for my wife underpaying her estimated taxes for her 1099 work (about $3,000), but Daschle was able to get away with not paying $125,000 of taxes from 2005 to 2007.  Tim Geithner, our new head of the IRS, got away with not paying over $30,000 in taxes over 5 years.

Does it look like we need a review of the IRS policies?  Why do I get assessed penalties, and these guys get away with not paying taxes for years?  As taxpayers, we should be pissed about this!  How can our leaders cheat and steal and then expect us to be the ones who uphold the moral values of our country?

It just disgusts me that most of us work hard and play by the rules and struggle to get by, while our leaders feel like they’re above the law.  Wouldn’t you or I go to jail for owing $125,000 in taxes?  Why will Daschle just get a slap on his wrist?  The divide between the rulers and the masses is growing larger every day.  Will we ever push back?  Or will we just keep bending over and taking it?

Source:  Reuters