Saturday, October 25, 2008

Save America

My experience has taught me to be rather skeptical of forwarded emails that I get through the Internet. But I received an email today from a friend of mine that was especially intriguing. I was so taken by it, I decided to contact the original author, John Dini.

He was kind enough to send me an immediately and personal reply, verifying his original authorship. He also included the original verbiage of the email. (Things tend to get scrambled a bit after they have been forwarded several times.)

Here is something that I have never done before. (And I probably will never do it again, so don’t even ask.) Today’s posting is written entirely by John. It speaks for itself. Feel free to contact John yourself or to spread his message.

-------------- Forwarded Message: --------------

Dear Joe,

Before you mentally check out because of the “Save America” headline on this email, please read the next 2 paragraphs.

This is not a conservative or liberal, Republican or Democratic letter. This is for anyone who is angry about how our government is running, or who is frustrated by a feeling of helplessness, or who feels unable to do anything about our current mess.

A legislature that has a 9% approval rating, one month before an election, just passed a bill that constituents’ comments ran 100 to 1 against! Not only did they ignore voter opinion, but under extreme scrutiny they still added lots of breaks for cronies, and they did so knowing that 90% of them would be re-elected anyway. This letter is long, but at the end I will tell you how I think we can do something about it.

My name is John F. Dini. I am a small business owner in Texas, with 4 employees and well under a million dollars in gross revenue. I have lived in both red and blue states, on the east coast and the west. I don’t think what I have to say should offend anyone. That’s why I’m willing to put my name on it. My email is Unlike many of our legislators, I will take personal responsibility for my actions. You are welcome to let me know what you think, and whether you’re signing on to this.

If you don’t want to read about the bailout bill, skip down to where the bullet points end.

Last week Congress passed hb 1424, the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act.” As you’ve probably heard, it was a bit more than just the bailout bill. I’ve gone through all 451 pages. Here are some highlights:

• Sec. 103: The Treasury can also purchase mortgages on apartment buildings. To my knowledge, those who own apartment buildings aren’t usually in danger of having their house taken away.

• Sec. 110 allows the regulators (there is a whole new bureaucracy being formed) to make any change to any troubled mortgage, including giving the property away.

• Sec. 116: Keeps the bureaucracy in place until the last asset is sold, or the last loan is paid.

• Sec. 122: Raises the debt ceiling to $11,315,000,000,000. For historical reference, we broke the $1 trillion debt limit in the Reagan administration. That runaway borrowing is what George H.W. Bush called “Voodoo Economics” Last week we borrowed another trillion in a day.

• Sec. 132 suspends fasb 157. That’s what made banks show the real value of their assets on their books, even if it had fallen to zero. That is no longer necessary, (but we will form a commission to decide later on what they should be showing to their shareholders, presumably something other than the actual value of their assets.)

• Sec. 136 raises the fdic published coverage limit to $250,000 per account. What they haven’t mentioned is that this higher “coverage” expires in 15 months, and the fdic is ordered not to adjust the insurance for these new risks. That law actually just orders the fdic to change the number $100,000 to $250,000 everywhere, nothing else.

That is the first 112 pages. The next bill (actually several different laws, passed on the same vote) extends a bunch of energy tax breaks for wind, clean coal, biofuels, geothermal, and others. It also gives credits to the steel industry, for plug in vehicles (in addition to the $25 billion handout to gm and Ford last week), for the black lung trust fund, and for home appliances that recycle gray water.

The next bill tacked on is a Tax Relief bill. That one raises the amt trigger by a fraction (from $66K to $69K) and has special tax breaks for:

• Restaurant and retail depreciation
• Rum from Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands
• Businesses in American Samoa
• Mine rescue training
• Businesses on Indian Reservations (casinos)
• Railroad tracks
• Motorsports Racing Facilities (the “nascar” break)
• Employees of companies affected by Hurricane Katrina
• Investing in Washington dc
• Wool producers
• Film and television production
• Wooden arrow manufacturers
• Winners of Exxon Valdez lawsuits
• Farming Machinery purchases

Also, the failed 2007 Paul Wellstone mental health bill is included here, which requires all health insurers to cover mental health treatment just like physical illness. I’m not sure how long this bill has been trying to get passed, but Senator Wellstone died in 2002.

Under “other” that bill has another 100 pages including the following:

• Funding for schools, roads, weed control, forest ecosystems, improved cooperation among Federal agencies and the Oregon & California Railroad.
• Secure payments for states with Federal Lands, which you would think was everybody, but is defined as only la, ca, or, pa, sc, sd, tx and wa.
• A call for proposals to cooperate with Federal agencies, which upon reading is actually a requirement that blm accept a minimum of 50% 0f timber logging contracts over the next 3 years.
• Doubling of the “Mine Reclamation Fund”
• Rewording of the Katrina relief bills to include il, ia, in, ks, mi, mn, mo, ne, and wi
• Further extension of Katrina Relief to anyone “affected” by Hurricane Ike.

My sympathies to the folks in Maine and North Dakota, who appear to have been left out (unless that’s where the wooden arrow makers cluster.) Actual outlays are not $700 billion, but an estimated $852 billion, apparently not counting tax reductions.

Are you angry yet?

end of bailout bill discussion

In her 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged” Ayn Rand foresaw an America where corrupt businessmen and politicians allied to loot the country for all they could get. They got away with it because most people either believed that a bit more hard work, a bit more struggling, would see things turnaround eventually, or that everything was beyond their ability to control anyway. Many people disagree with Rand’s conclusions and philosophy, but on this she was truly clairvoyant.

Most voters believe that Congress is full of bad actors, except for their guy! Your congressman (or woman) came to your Rotary meeting, or saved a local industry, or got funding for your favorite park, and therefore is one of the “good guys.” I put forward the idea that if any one of them was truly above the corruption, he or she would have been back in your district screaming bloody murder rather than in dc casting a vote for or against this farce. Instead, every single Congressman is telling you that it was the other guys who got us into this mess. They are cultivating and depending on our fear of each other to stay in power.

what you can do to save america
I don’t “do” chain letters, even the ones my relatives send me that say “return this to show you care for me.” This is my first-ever exception. I care enough to risk your annoyance with me for sending this. It’s up to you to decide whether you care more about saving this democracy, or having a friend, customer or client think you are “too political.”

I believe that if we continue “business as usual” by returning over 90% of Congress to office, we are rewarding their arrogance; and surrendered any fantasy that our government is answerable to the people. They obviously don’t believe it. That is why Congress has exempted itself from labor law, equal opportunity, osha, Social Security and any liability. This may be our last chance to remind our elected officials that this is supposed to be a government by the people.

“My vote can’t do anything”
You can’t vote to throw out the other guy’s representative, you can only vote for or against your own. In 2006 the Democrats won their average district with a 54.8% vote, considered a landslide. The so-called Republican Revolution of 1994 was won with an average of 51.6% of the vote. So if one person in twenty changed their vote, the result would be an almost complete turnover in Congress!

Our Founding Fathers designed the checks and balances of government well. The Senate is supposed to change slowly, so that it provides a longer-term perspective. Congress changes every two years because it is supposed to reflect the current mood of the people! Returning 90% of Congress to office year after year, decade after decade, is surrendering the responsibility that Jefferson, Adams and Washington placed in us. It confirms their belief that they are untouchable.

On November 4th, vote for whomever you feel would be the better President, Senator, Governor, and for any state or local office, but vote against your incumbent congressman or congresswoman. It doesn’t matter who it is. It doesn’t matter who the other candidate is. Cross party lines. Close your eyes or hold your nose when you do it, but do it. In 30 days we can send the biggest message to Congress of the last 100 years. It’s a message that says “You aren’t above the law. You are answerable for this mess. You still serve the people of this country.”

And pass this along widely and quickly. Remember, we have less than 30 days, and it will only take one in twenty.

Thank you.
John F. Dini, cmba, bcb, cbi
President, mpn Incorporated

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Abortion Isn’t a Privacy Right

Katie Couric, anchor for cbs Evening News, did her best to play “gotcha” journalism with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during her interview shortly after the governor announced her candidacy for Vice President.

Couric knew she had Palin in a corner when she brought up the question about abortion. Her surprise follow-up question tripped the governor, especially since Palin was not answering from her heart, rather from the very strict and politically-correct coaching that she had been fed from the John McCain campaign.

The question was why did the governor believe that Roe v. Wade was a bad decision by the Supreme Court. The governor was forced to give the party-line answer, positioning it as a states’ rights issue. That gave Couric the opening she needed to assert that Roe v. Wade was a privacy rights issue, not a states rights issue. She got Palin to admit that the constitution guaranteed a right to privacy — It does not — and therefore she must be in conflict with her own assertion.

Palin tried to backpedal and get the topic back on states’ rights issues, but the damage was done. Couric countered with a challenge to name any other Supreme Court decision that Palin disagreed with. Sarah clutched, gulped, and fumbled. She never recovered.

Okay, Sarah, I’m sorry you had to learn the hard way that politics in the federal arena is very nasty business, especially if you’re a pro-life evangelical fundamentalist. I know it was no surprise to you, but it still hurts, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, I am not being interviewed by any national news anchor. I am not accountable to a national party candidate and I have nothing to lose. (Joe the Plumber and I have that in common.) So here is the answer that Sarah Palin wanted to give:

Katie Couric’s question: Why, in your view, is Roe v. Wade a bad decision?

My answer: The individual states had already decided for themselves whether to allow abortion and under what circumstances. The tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States grants all powers to the states if those powers had not been otherwise granted to the federal government. The purpose of the Supreme Court is to interpret law, not to create new laws. Since neither the Congress nor the Constitution had specifically addressed the issue of abortion, the right to regulate it rests with the individual states. Until and unless that changes, the Supreme Court should have never even accepted the case, much less ruled in that way.

Q: Do you think there's an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

A: No. I believe there is an inherent expectation of privacy in our society. And there are various laws passed by Congress and by individual states to enforce that expectation. But it is not guaranteed by the Constitution.

Q: But the right to privacy was the cornerstone of Roe v. Wade.

A: And that was wrong. If your question is about Roe v. Wade, the answer is it’s a states’ rights issue. But if you’re asking about my views on abortion, I believe abortion is wrong because it is murder. A fetus is not a cystic mass to be surgically removed by a doctor at the whim of a woman. It is a human being. The rights of the mother are limited when they would infringe upon the rights of the baby to be born. There is no inherent right to reproductive decisions once conception has occurred. And the right to privacy is just a red herring that abortion advocates have put up in their attempt to de-humanize an unborn baby.

There you have it, Governor. I know that’s what you wanted to say. Maybe in your next career, you can be a contributor on Fox News Channel and you can throw that verbiage at Alan Colmes. You don’t even have to give me credit for it; I know you would have come up with it yourself if you were given the opportunity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Health Care is not a Right

The presidential candidates were tossed a simple and fair question in their second debate by moderator Tom Brokaw.

Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?

John McCain answered that it is a responsibility, and then went on to trash Obama’s health care plan

Barack Obama said that it should be a right, and justified his answer by noting how wealthy we are as a country.

McCain was close with his answer. Obama was dead wrong. Here’s why:

A “right” is bestowed from a higher authority. It cannot be revoked, it cannot be transferred. The Declaration of Independence refers to “inalienable rights” — those which cannot be taken away. Wikipedia defines them as that “which are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs or a particular society”.

If health care is a right, then why not define other necessities of life as a “right”? How about food? I could go a week without health care, but going a week without food could be fatal. Should I have a “right” to have my food given to me by my federal government?

How about “transportation”? I need a ride to get to work. Perhaps door-to-door public transportation should be a right that is given to me by my government.

Or my job itself. Many countries guarantee employment. Shouldn’t mine? Should my employer be forced to keep me hired in all circumstances because I have a right to have a job? And if I cannot find one, should my government grant me a job as a right?

If health care is defined as a right, a slippery slope of new “rights” is sure to follow. There will be no stopping people who demand more and more rights bestowed upon them by government.

As the states of Massachusetts and Hawaii have already proven, government cannot afford to grant that right to its citizens without going bankrupt.

Don’t be fooled by Obama’s claim that his health care plan merely supplements whatever existing insurance the population already has. As soon as federal health care is made available, large numbers of people will drop their personal insurance (or their employers will do it on their behalf). The government will have to pick up the tab for just about everybody anyway.

And that’s just fine with the Obama/Hillary socialists, because universal single-payer health care is exactly what they had in mind for everybody in the first place. The plan in Obama’s presidential campaign is merely a placation for the control-minded HillaryCare advocates that have been around since FDR.

My health care is my responsibility. Your health care is your responsibility. The health care (as well as the well-being) of innocent children and those who cannot fend for themselves is society’s responsibility, which may or may not involve the federal government.

But the federal government is the last person I want in charge of my health care. You will never believe how expensive health care can be until it’s free.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Health Care as a Comodity

Atroubling trend in presidential debates that I have noticed is the tendency not to answer the question that was asked.

Candidates seem to have a template of talking points to cover and they just drop those points whenever they some key word in the question that matches the template.

Since the candidates won’t answer the questions, I’ll answer them here — the way they should have answered them in the first place.

I’ll start with the definition of health care, as asked last week in the “town hall” debate in Nashville between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Question: Do you believe health care should be treated as a commodity?

Senator Obama ignored the question, whined about how health care costs are “breaking family budgets,” and how McCain was going to tax health care benefits.

Senator McCain talked about his health care plan — which includes government giving everybody $5,000 to buy insurance — and how Obama is going to fine small businesses that don’t insure their employees.

Neither answered the question. So here’s my answer.

For the economically uninformed, a “commodity” is defined as a good or service for which there is a demand and abundant supply and for which that supply is essentially undifferentiated except for the price.

Using that definition, yes, there are many aspects of health care that are commodities. In fact, most trips to doctor’s offices are very routine. A prescription for an antibiotic; a bandage on a wound; relief from the symptoms of the flu or a sore back or a headache.

This is not to diminish the work of the medical profession — it just illustrates that a large portion of their work can easily be undifferentiated in the marketplace.

That type of treatment is rightly a commodity. In fact, health clinics to handle routine health care are already cropping up in pharmacies all across the nation, handled quickly and efficiently by medical paraprofessionals.

Do you know what happens when a product becomes a commodity? The price goes down!

I’ve seen it happen in the telecommunications industry. The telecom companies fought for years to guarantee that long distance and wireless voice communications were not commoditized. As soon as they were, competition and the invisible hand of the economy drove the price down — even while the quality of service went up!

It happened in telecom; it can happen in health care.

Let the marketplace determine the cost and availability of routine health care. I guarantee that if the government would get out of the way, everybody who needs health care would be able to afford it. The companies that provide the service would finally have the incentive to provide a quality service at a price that everybody could afford.

There are already government programs in place to act as a safety net in catastrophic and extreme circumstances — as there should be. But if the socialist policies of Obama and Hillary and the DNC were ever enacted as they would like, every antibiotic, every BandAid, and every tongue depressor would be dispensed by a Washington bureaucrat with the compassion of the DMV and the efficiency of the IRS.

That’s a scenario that should inspire Republicans and cure Democrats.

Yep, except in extreme cases, health care should be a commodity.

Maybe next time I can explain to Senator Obama the difference between a right and a responsibility.