mabrw The Mind of Joe

Monday, April 12, 2010

Doris Has a Point, and Obama doesn't get it

When President Obama gets something right, I’ll be the first to admit it.

The problem is he’s got such a lousy track record for ever getting anything right.

Most politicians have a hard time answering a question directly, especially if the question doesn’t exactly fit in with the talking points that they have chosen to cover at the time.

But Obama set a new standard for exhibiting the symptoms of diarrhea-of-the-mouth with his answer to Doris’ question last week.

You can read the entire exchange here, and you can see the first part of it here.

At a recent event in Charlotte, North Carolina, a lady who identified herself as Doris asked a very simple question: Is it wise to add more taxes with the health care reforms that have recently been passed, since we are over-taxed as it is?

A simple question. It deserved a simple answer. If I had been asked that question, I would have no problem coming up with a concise response: No, it is not, and that is the primary reason I was against health care reform as it was passed by Congress.

The President never sees things as simple as that. Maintaining his campaign mode in spite of his recent victory, he rambled incoherently for 17 minutes and 2500 words.

He talked about cobra. He referred to people with insurance as being “lucky”. He said that lifetime limits are “fine print”. He made a “final point” at the four-minute mark and kept talking for 13 more.

He talked about federal health care systems already being out of control and suggested that they be replaced by — wait for it — another federal health care system.

He talked about the deficit — which Doris never asked about — and then cited programs that will by their very existence, blow the deficit out of the water.

He talked about the “quality” of medical tests and suggested that doctors send emails to each other, even thought the health care bill doesn’t address those issues and Doris never asked about them.

Somebody must have told him that an analogy of fixing the roof on a house resonates well, because he told some sort of awkward story that claimed if I fix the leaky roof in my house, the people who are shivering outside in the cold are somehow going to benefit.

He complained about President Bush’s war in Iraq — supported by virtually every Democrat in Congress. He complained about the Medicare prescription plan — passed by Democrats in Congress. He complained about Medicare Advantage — passed by Democrats in Congress.

He threw one of his biggest supporters — Warren Buffet — under the bus, calling him out by name and bragging that he was going to raise Mr. Buffet’s taxes on dividends and capital gains, not to raise more revenue, but because it was an issue of “fairness”.

Finally, he interrupted himself as he was explaining the Congressional Budget Office’s accounting gymnastics to make sure he was answering the question — which he never did.

If the President had been philosophically honest, he could have given Doris a very succinct answer: “Frankly, Doris, I don’t believe you are taxed enough already”. It could have been that simple.

If he had answered the question honestly, he would have to reveal the fundamental difference that he has with the Tea Party movement, which received its name by blending the name of the famous 1773 Boston tax revolution with the acronym “Taxed Enough Already”.

Unwittingly, perhaps, Doris expressed her sympathy with the primary purpose of the revolutionary movement.

I’m not sure what a “fair” amount would be for a federal government to involuntarily extract from its citizens to promote the common welfare. Five percent? Ten percent? Ninty percent (as suggested by some members in Congress)?

I just know that we passed that threshold a long time ago. Enough is enough.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Britain’s Health Care Began With Propaganda

As America debates the merits and follies of nationalized health care, many people hold up “the rest of the world” as an example of a system that should be emulated.

After all, the argument goes, America is the only industrialized country on the planet that does not provide “free” (or at least, heavily subsidized) health care for its citizens.

It’s true. We’re the last hold-out. For a very good reason. Our health care system mirrors the principles that our founding fathers laid, which in turn created the greatest civilization on earth. There’s no reason to mess up a good thing.

The rest of the world believes that government exists for the benefit of the people. Taken to an extreme, they believe that the role of government is to “take care” of the people. That’s what Annie Leonard declares in “The Story Of Stuff”. She pooh-poohs the government’s true role of national defense, the foundations of capitalism, and the free market. Then she declares that the government should intervene to make sure that we, the consumers, don’t consume too much.

This notion that the government should have an active role in defining our quality of life has deep roots in European culture. We’re reminded of this by watching a charming piece of British propaganda: “Charlie’s March Of Time”. Created by the British government to introduce socialized health care to the Brits, the film traces British government back hundreds of years. In feudal times, the king took care of the people. In more modern times, the House of Commons took care of the common people.

The theme is consistent. People are not able to deal with the standard trials of life — unemployment, hunger, illness, retirement — without the government’s interference.

In a classic case of socialistic incrementalism, the film chronicles one act of Parliament after another, each removing one more area of personal responsibility from the citizenry while claiming to cure all social ills. The culmination of all this effort was 1946’s Health Service Act. The film reminds us that the utopian state costs only a few pounds and tuppence each week.

That’s fine for “the rest of the world”. But there is a very good reason why it won’t work in America. That’s because our country was founded on the principle of freedom FROM government. Americans believe the responsibility for care of the population rests in the population itself, not in the government. The constitution is concerned with what the government CANNOT do, rather than what it MUST do.

America is a collection of individuals. We were founded by a group of men who believed that the rights of the individual superseded the responsibility of the government to care for their needs. Most of our wars have been fought for the purpose of freeing citizens from a repressive government.

That’s what makes America unique from the rest of the world. We realize that rugged individualism and free-market capitalism always succeeds in the long run. And we have seen that socialism always eventually collapse under its own weight.

Let the rest of the world keep their nationalized health care. If it suits them well, so be it. But America has produced the greatest society in the history of the world by believing in the individual’s responsibility to take care of himself. There’s no reason to abandon a system that works.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

This Is Why I Need to Go to Washington

Oh, I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have been a Senator in that room.

Actually, I wish I could have been the Junior Senator from the Great State of Missouri in that hearing room, scheduled to ask the next question after the Junior Senator from California completed her round of questions.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was questioning Brigadier General Michael Walsh about something — it doesn’t matter what — during a hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Senator Boxer received her seventeen seconds of fame on the Internet with a terse and extremely irreverent tirade against the General.

If you missed the video, here it is.

The exchange went like this:


Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA): Well, why has it been delayed?

Brigadier General Michael Walsh: Uh, Ma’am, at the uh, LACPR is a …

Senator Boxer: I don’t… You know, do me a favor. Could you say “Senator” instead of “Ma’am”?

General Walsh: Yes…

Senator Boxer: It’s just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title. So I’d appreciate it. Yes, thank you.

General Walsh: Yes, Senator.


(If you listen closely, you can actually hear a little giggle from somebody in the background right after Senator Boxer’s declaration of working “so hard to get that title”.)

In my wildest of dreams, I am the Senator from Missouri. Immediately after Senator Boxer, it is my turn – according to the rules of the Senate Committee – to ask my questions of the General.

The exchange would go something like this.


Senator Joe DeShon (R-MO): (To Senator Boxer) Thank you, Senator, for yielding your time. (Turning to the General) General Walsh, before I start my questioning, I want to inform you that you are welcome to call me “Sir”, or “Senator”, or “Mr. DeShon” – maybe even “Joe” – as you see fit. You have certainly earned that right in return for your service to our country, for which I am eternally grateful.

General Walsh: Thank you, sir.


And, with that formal exchange, the questioning would continue.

Senator Boxer has forgotten that being a Brigadier General is a service to the country. General Walsh certainly has a right to show his pride by wearing his uniform and displaying his stars in public.

A Senator, on the other hand, is a job for which someone is hired by the voters of their respective state. They are to serve on behalf of those citizens by making laws as mandated by the Constitution of the United States.

The Senator further needs to realize that the first thing that members of the military are taught is to show respect for authority. That respect is usually demonstrated in public by referring to everybody as “Sir” or “Ma’am”. At worst, the general was demonstrating that he is a creature of habit. At best, he is showing respect to the Senator by calling her “Ma’am”, much more respect for her than she showed for him.

If somebody feels that they had to “work hard” for the title of Senator, that person should be shamed into retirement. That is especially true if that person is so insecure in her title that she feels the need to proclaim such a fact on the public record by humiliating a member of the Armed Forces of the greatest country on Earth.

I’m sure after my little display of arrogance in the hearing room that I would be chastised in the hallways of the Senate — perhaps in public — by Senator Boxer or her representatives for the disrespect that I displayed to my colleague. That’s okay; I have tough skin. I can take it.

I am also sure that I would be privately taken to the woodshed by the Republican leadership of the Senate for failing to respect the esteemed opposition and the majority party. I would probably be relieved of any leadership in the Senate. That’s okay; they didn’t hire me for the job.

I am also sure that my mailbox would be full of congratulatory words of encouragement from my constituents at home and that my chances for re-election by those voters would go up by several percentage points for standing my ground on principle.

It would be worth it.

Yep, I definitely need to get serious about this run for Congress…

Monday, March 30, 2009

On Losing My Job and Starting a New Career

Today I begin my new career as an “independent consultant”.

That’s just a fancy term meaning that the employer with whom I had spent the last twenty years of my life has informed me that my services are no longer needed.

They still need the services of people who had been there half as long as me. As well as people who make half as much money as I made. They even still need the services of people that made twice the money I made. They just don’t need my services any more.

I know. They told me.

I’m in good company. I join the ranks of the unemployed along with 6,000 other people in the largest restructuring and downsizing in the company’s history. I wasn’t singled out — I was just caught up in the cleansing.

I’m not bitter. I’m going to use the opportunity to control my destiny outside the confines of corporate America for the first time in my life.

I have always considered myself as something of an “intrepreneur”. An “intrepreneur” is somebody who has a lot of good ideas, but who implements them within the confines of a corporate setting. That’s how I always saw myself. I was the guy who would get things done inside the company — even if I was just a little bit outside the normal operating process.

That’s how I did things until they didn’t need my services any more.

Recently, I did some research comparing “intrepreneur” and “entrepreneur”. I discovered that the difference is who accepts the risk. Along with that is who reaps the reward.

When I was an “intrepreneur”, I accepted virtually no risk. If I failed a task, I still had my job; I still had my salary. The corporation risked my salary and my resources and was willing to absorb the loss if I was unproductive.

On the other hand, if I was successful with a project, the corporation reaped potentially huge rewards. I usually received an acknowledgement from boss at the next staff meeting. No risk; and not much reward.

Now my role will change from “intrepreneur” to “entrepreneur”. It’s not the course that I chose for myself — I fully intended to retire from my former employer. But it’s a course that I’ll gladly accept with open arms.

The risks will be totally mine from now on. And they will be great risks. I risk losing everything I’ve worked the last 30 years for. I risk losing my life savings, my house, my car — indeed, all my accumulated wealth, such as it is.

But I don’t risk losing the things that are most important to me. I won’t lose my life, my family, my friends. I won’t lose my faith — not in myself nor in my God. No, the things that are the most important to me are at the least risk. And only the things that are least important to me are at the greatest risk.

On the other hand, the potential rewards are great. I can finally be in control of my own time. I can work when and if I want to (subject only to the pressing need to put food on the table). I can set my own rules, establish my own procedures, and choose the guidelines that I want to follow.

Most important, I can treat my customers the way that I want to treat them. I can establish a new standard for customer service. I can set my own prices. I can control my own expenses.

And every post-tax dollar that I earn will be mine to keep — to dispose of or to enjoy or to share in whatever fashion I choose.

It’s a liberating thought. And, frankly, a bit scary. For the first time in my life, I will be in total control of all my risks and rewards.

I can hardly wait to get started.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

America’s Best Poet

We get a new President only every four years or so. Even when the President isn’t the Messiah Obama, a presidential inauguration is the closest thing we have in America to a royal coronation.

Usually at such a solemn event, it is incumbent upon us to enlist the very best. Of course, we would have the best military band to provide the pomp. And the best soldiers to provide the best honor guard.

We would also have the very best Queen of Soul to sing “My Country ’Tis of Thee”. The best evangelical preacher to give the invocation. The best classical musicians to perform a specially-commission piece, written by the best classical composer of our day.

And, in this case, the best ... poet. Perhaps she can call upon the poetry gods ... to inspire her to give a recitation ... of the best ... poetry ... that this great nation ... has to offer.

In case you missed it, Dr. Elizabeth Alexander was the best, uh, poet, that Barack Obama could find.

In deference to copyright laws, I won’t publish her work here. You can read it here.

I think I can call upon the “fair use” clause to give you this sample, the first few lines of “Praise Song for the Day”:

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

It goes downhill rapidly from there.

I don’t doubt Dr. Alexander’s credentials. After all, she has three college degrees (just like me). A work of hers was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize (okay, she has one up on me in that category).

She is a former journalist for the Washington Post and currently is a professor of English literature, African-American literature, and gender studies at Yale University. Impressive credentials.

Her brother, Mark, was an adviser to the Obama presidential campaign and a member of his transition team.

Well, that explains a lot.

In an interview with the New York Times, she downplayed the role that her inner-circle connections with the Obamanistas played in her selection for this honor. “[E]very choice he’s made is ... based on what he perceives as excellence,” she says.

Here’s another example of what Dr. Alexander believes that Obama “perceives as excellence” as she tries to paint a verbal picture of a slice of life in America:

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.


Writing the things that need to be written. Saying the things that need to be said. Driving to the places that need to be driven to. Doing the things that need to be done.

Not a plethora of substance here.

In 1961, John Kennedy called upon Robert Frost to speak at his inauguration. Frost responded by writing “Dedication”. But in the glare of the white snow on a sunny day, the 86-year-old poet could not read his own commissioned work. Instead, he recited “The Gift Outright” from memory.

Frost later presented his handwritten version of “Dedication” to the President, who had it framed and hung on the Oval Office wall. That copy is now in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston.

The poem Frost wrote for the occasion was a stirring tribute to the history of a great nation, including the following verse:

Now came on a new order of the ages
That in the Latin of our founding sages
(Is it not written on the dollar bill
We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
God nodded his approval of as good.
So much those heroes knew and understood.

Frost’s go-to poem when he couldn’t read his manuscript was no less majestic, a reminder of our colonial roots and our Manifest Destiny:

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, Still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

Forty-eight years later, Barack Obama asked a friend of his to write her best poetry as a gift to the nation. Dr. Alexander came up with this:

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

The President has four years to search for our country’s second best poet. Let’s hope he doesn’t get a chance to reveal his choice to the nation.

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