‘Even Obama Is Doing Worse Under President Obama’

Thanks for the laugh, Jay. Jay Leno cracked me up last week with this observation in his opening monologue: “President Obama released his tax returns. It turns out he made $900,000 less in 2011 than he did in 2010. You know what that means? Even Obama is doing worse under President Obama.”

Fudging the unemployment numbers. Barack Obama’s supporters have been bragging that the unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent in March. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that only 120,000 new jobs were created last month – 58 percent fewer than experts had predicted. The reason the unemployment rate dropped is that 164,000 discouraged Americans quit looking for work at all. Heck, if every unemployed person would stop looking for work, the unemployment rate would drop to 0.

Lost luggage drops dramatically. Here’s good news for frequent flyers: Your luggage is a lot more likely nowadays to arrive at your final destination when you do. SITA, a Swiss airline consulting firm, says the rate of mishandled bags has fallen from 18.88 per 1,000 passengers in 2007 to just 8.99 last year: a 52.4 percent decline. And most bags that go astray are found and delivered within 48 hours. It’s no surprise that the more connections you have, the more likely that you and your luggage will get separated.

Talk about bias in the media. Media Matters for America, the leftwing organization funded by George Soros, says it was formed to oppose the “biased” national media. And just what biases will it counter? The group’s application for tax-exempt status read: “It is common for news and commentary by the press to present viewpoints that tend to overly promote corporate interests, the rights of the wealthy, and a conservative, Christian-influenced ideology.” Right. Is there anyone anywhere who actually believes the national media are biased in favor of free enterprise and “conservative, Christian-influenced” values?

–Chip Wood

So Now It’s Doggiegate?

Last week in this space, I predicted that this year’s Presidential contest would be the dirtiest in our history. Guess I should have added that some of the attacks against Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, would also be among the silliest we’ve seen.

The latest example — and I’m sure there will be many more to come — is the “Seamus scandal.” In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s based on a vacation trip the Romney family took to Canada more than 20 years ago.

Not wanting to put Seamus, the family dog, in a kennel while they were gone, but not having room for him in the family car, Romney built a special box for the Irish setter and tied it to the roof of the car.

When I first heard the story, all I could think of was the image of Aunt Edna (played by Imogene Coca) strapped in a rooftop rocker in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” But in the movie, Aunt Edna was already dead. In real life, Seamus made the trip back and forth in complete safety.

Nevertheless, some of President Barack Obama’s fierce defenders have latched onto the story, convinced it proves that Romney is a heartless, uncaring elitist. New York Times columnist Gail Collins has written about the incident more than 50 times! Obama strategist David Axelrod has taken to tweeting pictures of dogs. There is even a website devoted to “Crategate.” The Facebook page Dogs Against Romney has more than 50,000 friends.

I don’t know how much damage the story has actually done to Romney’s reputation. But out of all of the fuss and bother has come an even weirder tale. It seems that when Obama was a child growing up in Indonesia, he and his family actually dined on dog.

I kid you not. Bloggers are having a field day with the allegations. There are rumors that Obama eats “pup tarts” and loves “chicken poodle soup.”

Can the campaign get any weirder than this?

Yes, it can. And if the Supreme Court declares that any part of Obamacare is unConstitutional, it probably will.

The Court is expected to issue its ruling sometime this summer. Most analysts predict that, at a minimum, the insurance mandate — the very heart of Obamacare — will be struck down. Many analysts expect all 2,700 pages of the law to be rejected.

Obama has already gone on the offensive against the Court. In a speech last month, he declared:

Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.

Of course, there would be nothing unprecedented at all by the Court issuing such a ruling. Obama’s comments revealed such a patently distorted view of history that even many of his supporters were appalled. The funniest reaction may have come from Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), who wrote:

His comments belie a grasp of constitutional concepts so lacking that perhaps the University of Chicago Law School should offer a refund to any students “taught” constitutional law by then-Professor Obama!

Ann Coulter pondered whether Obama actually passed any of the courses he took on the U.S. Constitution, writing: “I guess now we know why Obama won’t release his college and law school transcripts!”

Conservative columnist Thomas Sowell was even more blunt. He wrote:

There is no way that Barack Obama has never heard of it or really believes it to be “unprecedented” after two centuries of countless precedents.

In short, he is simply lying.

… On this and on many other issues, you would have to know what the facts are to know that he is lying. He is obviously counting on the fact that, in this era of dumbed-down education, many people have no clue as to what the facts are.

He is also counting on something else — namely, that the pro-Obama media will not expose his lies.

Can I hear an amen?

One Federal appeals court judge has put the Justice Department squarely on the hot seat over the President’s remarks. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments recently in another case challenging certain aspects of Obamacare. As Dana Kaersvang, the government’s attorney, began arguing in favor of Obamacare, Judge Jerry Smith interrupted.

“I want to be sure that you are telling us that the Attorney General and the Department of Justice do recognize the authority of the federal courts through unelected judges to strike acts of Congress or portions thereof in appropriate cases,” Smith said. He ordered Kaersvang to write him a letter stating the position of the U.S. attorney general and the Justice Department on the concept of judicial review.

“The letter needs to be at least three pages, single spaced, no less and it needs to be specific. It needs to make specific reference to the president’s statements,” the judge said.

We can’t know for certain how the Supreme Court will rule. But there is no question that most Americans want to see the Federal mandate repealed. The latest opinion poll I’ve seen puts the number at 72 percent of Americans who want this part of Obamacare overturned. A smaller majority want the entire measure repealed. And that was even before we saw the latest estimates of what this incredible boondoggle will cost.

Last month, the Congressional Budget Office released new estimates of what the Affordable Care Act will cost us taxpayers over the next 10 years. It turns out it’s not nearly as affordable as Obama and his supporters promised.

In March 2010, the CBO estimated the Obamacare would cost $940 billion over the next decade. Their new number is a staggering $1.76 trillion. Since taxes will cover less than half that amount, Obamacare will add a chunk to our national debt.

It’s now been two years since Obamacare was rushed through Congress. At the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”

Well, now we know what’s in it. And the more we learn, the less we like it.

Let’s hope that in November, most voters pay attention to issues that really matter — such as their freedom and prosperity — and ignore such frivolous sideshows as doggiegate.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Nothing Doing

Our do-nothing Senate. One of Barack Obama’s most popular campaign themes this year will be to denounce a “do-nothing” Congress. But in fact, the Republican-controlled House has passed plenty of important legislation, including tax cuts, jobs bills and a budget. It’s the Democratic-controlled Senate that’s been sitting on its hands. A report from the Secretary of the Senate said last year’s group is among the least productive in 20 years, with fewer bills passed, fewer roll-call votes taken and fewer amendments introduced. I guess we should be glad we’re not getting all of the government we’re paying for.

Now that’s a funny line. James Taranto, who writes the “Best of the Web” column for The Wall Street Journal, cracked me up when he wrote that someone on Obama’s staff should remind the president that “the symbol of America is not the bald ego.” That’s a good one, James.

Tax refunds used for bankruptcy filings. A National Bureau of Economic Research study shows that more than 200,000 taxpayers expecting a refund from the Internal Revenue Service will use the money to file for bankruptcy. Filing costs and legal fees average $1,477, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Last year, the average tax refund was $2,913, according to NBER. It’s good to know some folks will have a little money left over.

–Chip Wood

Barack Obama Shows How Low He Can Go

With his three wins earlier this month in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., Mitt Romney all but clinched the Republican nomination for President. The political pundits promptly announced that the 2012 campaign for the White House could finally get under way.

Baloney. Barack Obama has been campaigning for re-election for more than a year now (or, more accurately, about five minutes after he took office in January 2009). Judging by what we’ve seen so far, it’s going to be one of the nastiest campaigns this country has ever seen.

Four years ago, when he was campaigning on a promise of “hope and change,” here’s what then-Senator Obama said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention:

If you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

Sound like anyone we know?

Karl Rove wrote an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal in which he mentioned recent remarks Obama made to executives of The Associated Press (an audience that was guaranteed to be almost as friendly for him as union members). The President warned that the Republicans want to “convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts — especially for the wealthy.” Of course, no Republican anywhere has proposed any such thing — and the President knows it.

But you’ve got to love how the guy manages to position his redistributionist schemes as “investments.” How can you complain if he takes money from those who earn and give it to those who don’t (with substantial deductions along the way to pay for the bureaucracy that administers it) if he calls such actions “investments”?

Our President is an absolute master at impugning the motives of anyone who disagrees with him. Thus, he can tell the editors at AP that his opponents want to “let businesses pollute more and treat workers and consumers with impunity.” He knew that no one in his audience would challenge such ridiculous assertions.

Or how about this example? Unlike the Democratic-controlled Senate, which hasn’t passed a budget in the past three years, the House of Representatives approved one earlier this year. It calls for increased Federal spending from $3.6 trillion in fiscal year 2011 to $4.9 trillion in fiscal year 2022.

But in his speech before the AP, Obama denounced the plan for its heartless “cuts” because he wants to increase Federal spending nearly twice that much. His plan calls for spending $5.8 trillion in 2022. So in other words, in Obamaland, if one of your kids asks you to double his allowance, and you increase it only 50 percent, somehow you’re guilty of cutting it.

Of course, if Mitt Romney or any other Republican tried to use such shoddy logic, the media would be quick to point out the absurdity of the claim.

Speaking of dishonest statements, how about Obama’s promise that if Congress would only pass the “Buffett Rule,” it would “stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade”? Obama isn’t even close. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, this much-ballyhooed tax on anyone making $1 million or more a year will raise $47 billion over the next 10 years. Obama’s budget proposals for the same period will add $9.6 trillion to our national debt in the same period.

In other words, the Buffett Rule will pay for just about 17 days of the President’s next decade of deficits. But, hey, the public likes promises to “soak the rich.” And no President since Lyndon Baines Johnson has played the “us vs. them” card as often or as effectively as Obama.

As you know, the Buffett Rule is named after Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor from Omaha, Neb., who earned scads of publicity when he observed that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

Well, guess what? It turns out that Obama does, too. The President and his wife reported an adjusted gross income of $789,674 in 2011 and paid 20.5 percent of it in Federal taxes. The White House confirmed that Obama’s secretary, Anita Decker Breckenridge, paid a “slightly higher” percentage on her salary of $95,000.

According to White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage, that “is exactly why we need to reform our tax code and ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share.”

By the way, in 2009 and 2010, royalties from his bestselling books put Obama in the $1-million-a-year income bracket. But in 2011, the President wouldn’t have been subject to the Buffett Rule had it been in effect. I guess he’ll have to wait until he’s out of office and making millions of dollars on the lecture circuit before he falls victim to the proposal — assuming it ever gets passed, that is.

Meanwhile, the President and his cronies are raising hundreds of millions of dollars for this year’s re-election campaign. Bill Maher, the potty-mouthed comedian on HBO, contributed $1 million to a pro-Obama super-PAC earlier this year.

I shudder to think how ubiquitous the nasty ads from the Obama campaign will be with a billion bucks to spend, but I doubt they will stoop to the depths of some of their more vitriolic supporters, such as Maher. At least, I hope they won’t.

If you think the 2011 TV ad was featuring a wheelchair-bound old lady being thrown off a cliff was nasty, just wait. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGnE83A1Z4U&w=560&h=315]

Until next time, keep some powder dry — and the political commercials on mute.

–Chip Wood  

Another One Bites The Dust

Green Company Goes Into The Red. When the Department of Energy agreed to lend Solar Trust of America $2.1 billion, Secretary Steven Chu said the solar project would create “1,000 direct jobs [and] 7,500 indirect jobs.” It turns out the actual number of new jobs will be closer to zero. Last week, Solar Trust declared bankruptcy.

Our Defense Secretary’s Costly Commute. Since becoming the Secretary of Defense in July, Leon Panetta has flown to his home in Northern California 27 times. Although the trips cost $32,000 per roundtrip flight (the military planes required to transport the defense secretary have some of the world’s most sophisticated communications equipment on board), Panetta has to reimburse the government only $630 per trip.

Don’t check your baggage at this airport. CBS News says more than 200 baggage thefts take place every day at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. According to the report, thieves not only grab the most expensive luggage being checked, but they also look at the addresses on the luggage ID so they can target travelers from the most expensive neighborhoods.

Is This The World’s Most Unusual Job? Hermanus, South Africa may be the most idyllic spot on Earth to watch the antics of the Southern right whale during mating season. The village employs the world’s only Whale Crier™, whose sole job is to patrol the scenic cliffs surrounding the bay and blow a loud horn whenever a cavorting couple is spotted offshore.

–Chip Wood

 

Don’t Celebrate That Tax Refund

Arghhh! It just happened again. No, I’m not referring to the billions of dollars hard-working taxpayers will have to send to Uncle Sam by April 17. (We get an extra two days to file a return this year, thanks to the 15th falling on a Sunday and the 16th being a holiday in Washington.)

What gets my goat is when someone — especially a near and dear family member — celebrates receiving a tax refund. People act as though it’s manna from heaven. They rejoice in their totally unexpected bounty from a beneficent government.

I try to explain that the Internal Revenue Service really isn’t doing them a favor and that, in fact, the opposite is true. I tell them that by overpaying their taxes during the past year, they have in effect been giving a profligate and wasteful government an interest-free loan. When I say that, they look at me as through I’ve suddenly sprouted two heads.

They are utterly perplexed by my suggestions: They should not celebrate their tax refund, and they should do everything they can to keep as much of their money for as long as they can while working to put Big Government on a starvation diet.

The most common reaction I get to this diatribe is, “Huh?” Then they quickly change the subject.

So there will be no lengthy lecture from me this week about how a progressive income tax was an essential part of the Communist Manifesto, no rant about the conspiratorial origins of the Federal Reserve and no diatribe on the diabolical cunning of a withholding tax that renders the shark-like bite of Uncle Sam less painful than a mosquito’s nibble. No, I’ll just repeat my opening sentiment: Arghhh!

And I will share this poem by an unknown author to remind us why we can be glad that, by this time next week, Tax Day will be behind us again.

Tax his land, tax his bed,
Tax the table at which he’s fed.
Tax his tractor, tax his mule,
Teach him taxes are the rule.

Tax his cow, tax his goat,
Tax his pants, tax his coat.
Tax his ties, tax his shirt,
Tax his work, tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco, tax his drink.
Tax him if he tries to think.
Tax his cigars, tax his beers,
If he cries, then tax his tears.

Tax his car, tax his gas,
Find other ways to tax his a**.
Tax all he has, then let him know
That you won’t be done till he has no dough.

When he screams and hollers,
Tax him some more.
Tax him ’till he’s good and sore.
Then tax his coffin, tax his grave.
Tax the sod in which he’s laid.

Put these words upon his tomb,
“Taxes drove me to my doom.”
When he’s gone, do not relax.
It’s time to apply the inheritance tax.

Tax Freedom Day

By a strange coincidence, Tax Freedom Day arrives this year on the same day that Uncle Sam demands our tax return be sent to the IRS.

The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group founded 75 years ago, says the average American will work 107 days this year to pay the tab for all of his Federal, State and local taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, Americans will spend more in taxes in 2012 than the total amount spent on food, clothing and shelter.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, here’s a breakdown of the Federal tab: The average American will work 32 days this year to pay income taxes, 23 days to pay social insurance taxes, nine days to pay corporate taxes, two days to pay sales and excise taxes, and three days to pay all other Federal taxes.

He’ll also work eight days to pay State and local income taxes, 12 days for property taxes, 12 for State sales and excise taxes, and four days for other State and local taxes.

Add it all up, and it means we all work from Jan. 1 until April 17 to pay our taxes. But it could be a lot worse. According to the Tax Foundation, if the Federal government raised enough taxes to close the budget deficit, Tax Freedom Day would not arrive until May 14. That means that an additional 27 days of government spending is paid for by borrowing — and passing the bill on to our children and grandchildren.

So I’m very happy to report that a lot of Americans are taking the opportunity this tax season to tell their elected officials that they’re TEA’d off. That is, that they’re “Taxed Enough Already.”

Good for them! May their numbers multiply. And may more politicians in Washington and in State capitols start to listen to them.

Despite the demagogic cry that the “rich” need to pay “their fair share,” the truth is that the top 5 percent of U.S. taxpayers already pay about 60 percent of U.S. income taxes while the bottom 40 percent pay no income taxes at all. When President Barack Obama talks about “lowering” taxes, what he really means is he’s going to take more money from those who earn it and give it to those who don’t. This is not a “tax reduction.” It is a blatant example of a Marxist redistribution of wealth.

At the same time he’s promising more giveaways to the poor, Obama wants to raise the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent and slap anyone earning a million bucks or more with the “Buffett Rule.” Plus, he intends to reduce the deduction the so-called rich can take on their charitable contributions, mortgage interest and other taxes they pay.

What can you do about it? If you’re sick and tired of Big Government getting bigger and more bloated, I hope you’ll attend one of the Tea Party protests near you. It will be an opportunity to meet with a bunch of other folks who feel exactly as you do.

By the way, if you do go, pay close attention to which of your elected officials also attend and which ones wouldn’t come within a mile of the place. That will give you a very good idea of who deserves your support and who doesn’t in November.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Do The Media Want A Race War?

I have had it with all of the irresponsible, sensationalistic comments about the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

It’s no surprise that Al Sharpton and his fellow rabble-rouser, Jesse Jackson, are doing everything they can to stir passions to the boiling point. That’s been their modus operandi for more than 20 years. Does anybody remember Tawana Brawley, the fake rape victim Sharpton used as his first stepping-stone to national fame (or should I say infamy)?

But I can’t remember a time when the media were so eager to give nationwide publicity to every vicious lie and racist accusation. Forget about trying to get calmer heads to prevail or any of that nonsense about not rushing to judgment. The media want someone’s head on a platter (or at least George Zimmerman’s body in jail). And they want it now.

If they have to doctor the facts a bit to get it, so what? They’re willing to use some incredibly dishonest means to see that “justice” is done.

NBC was guilty of one of the most egregious examples, when it ran a clip on the “Today” show of George Zimmerman’s call to 911. According to the excerpt NBC broadcast, Zimmerman said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

Obviously, NBC wanted its audience to believe that Zimmerman is a Neanderthal racist who wouldn’t hesitate to gun down an innocent 17-year-old just because he was black.

As it turns out, Zimmerman did utter those words. But the clever editors at NBC left out some incredibly important dialogue that occurred between the two sentences. Here’s what was actually said:

Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

911 Dispatcher: “OK. And this guy, is he black, white or Hispanic?”

Zimmerman: “He looks black.”

Clearly, Zimmerman was simply answering the dispatcher’s question. He did not equate Martin’s race with “being up to no good.”  But that’s not how NBC portrayed it.  I guess Sharpton has a buddy in their editing room.

As you probably know, Zimmerman claims that after calling 911, he did not continue to follow Martin, as many of his critics contend. Instead, he says he returned to his SUV when Martin approached him. Words were exchanged, then Martin punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and started beating him. An eyewitness says he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, who was yelling: “Help, help!”

That was when Zimmerman shot his assailant. So far, the police have not released any evidence that contradicts his claim. Just to make sure the facts come out, however, Florida Governor Rick Scott has asked State Attorney Angela Corey to take over the investigation. Corey has a reputation in Florida as a tough, no-nonsense prosecutor. So there is no reason to believe she will be part of any cover-up.

That, of course, is not enough for Sharpton and his cronies. They are threatening to “escalate” the demonstrations if Zimmerman is not immediately arrested. The New Black Panthers Party has gone even farther, offering up a bounty for Zimmerman.

And where is our President in all of this? He says that “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin.” You do have two daughters, Mr. President. Does either one of them look like Aliyah Shell?

In case you’ve never heard of Aliyah, she was a 6-year-old black girl in Chicago who was shot to death last month while sitting with her mother on the front porch of her home. She was one of 10 blacks murdered in Chicago over St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Police say all 10 were murdered by other blacks.

In fact, according to FBI statistics, 93 percent of all blacks murdered in this country are killed by other blacks. But Jesse Jackson insists that “blacks are under attack.” And Spike Lee obviously had whites in mind when he wrote, “You can’t keep killing black children.”

Meanwhile, the media continue to do everything they can to treat Martin like a saint (Don’t you just love the innocent-looking baby pictures of him they show over and over again?) while trying to cast doubt on anything Zimmerman says in his own defense.

Attacked and beaten by the youth? ABC News says that “no abrasions or blood can be seen” in the surveillance video that was shot when Zimmerman arrived at the Sanford police station.

The police report made at the time says that Zimmerman’s nose was bleeding and his back was covered in grass stains when he arrived at the police station. His lawyer said his client went to the doctor the next day and was treated for a broken nose.

But of course facts don’t matter to agitators who are looking for a cause célèbre.

Even some liberals have acknowledged what’s been happening. Writing in The New York Times, Bill Keller referred to Al Sharpton’s rabble-rousing as “the kind of demagoguery that could prejudice a prosecution or mobilize a mob.” Then he added, “Is it not creepy, by the way, that Spike Lee was tweeting the suspected home address of George Zimmerman? As if to say, ‘Go get him!’”

Of course, as you probably heard, the leftist film producer (and host of a million-dollar fund-raiser for Barack Obama) got the house number wrong. Instead of terrorizing Zimmerman, he gave the street address of an elderly couple who fled their home in fear. Lee later apologized for sending out the wrong address — but not for trying to create problems for Zimmerman.

Last week Bobby Rush, a black Congressman from Chicago who says he is proud to have been a member of the Black Panthers, demonstrated his support for Martin by appearing on the House floor in a hoodie and sunglasses. He was escorted off the floor a few moments later for violating House rules on decorum.

Of course, Rush had achieved exactly what he wanted: more one-sided publicity in the national media. To my knowledge, he has said absolutely nothing about the murder of so many blacks, including Aliyah, in the district he actually represents. After all, those are merely statistics, while Martin’s death is an opportunity.

Who was it who said that the Democrats should never let a crisis go to waste? Clearly, Sharpton, Jackson and their cohorts will use this tragedy all they can. Too bad the national media are so willing to help them.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Not One Vote For Obama’s Budget Plan

Congress finally agrees on something. Since no Democrat was willing to submit President Barack Obama’s latest budget to the House, Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) decided to do it for them. He sponsored an alternative budget proposal based on Obama’s budget plan. What happened? Not a single legislator voted for it! That’s right, no one on either side of the aisle would say “aye.” The measure got a bipartisan rejection: 0-414.

Did they teach him this at Harvard? Earlier this week, President Barack Obama declared, “Ultimately I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” Of course, Obamacare wasn’t passed by a “strong majority.” The actual vote was 60-39 in the Senate and 219-212 in the House. And as a guy who taught Constitutional law, Obama should certainly be aware that the Supreme Court has frequently overturned legislation that passed with much greater support. If he’s trying to influence members of the Court, I don’t think this kind of outrageous exaggeration is the way to do it.

Another reason to repeal Obamacare. The Internal Revenue Service says it will need 4,000 more agents and a budget increase of $300 million to enforce all the provisions in Obamacare. Is this what the Democrats meant when they said the bill would create thousands of new jobs?

Can Keith Olbermann get along with anybody? I was amused to see that one of my least favorite TV talking heads has been booted from another job. It seems that Current TV co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt got tired of Olbermann’s endless griping and gave him the boot. Among Olbermann’s many complaints was that his limo drivers talked too much. A network insider told the New York Post that during his 14 months at Current, Olbermann “went through” eight limousine services. Picky, picky, picky.

–Chip Wood 

 

These Billionaires Wasted Millions Of Dollars

Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Texas billionaire Harold Simmons should find a better way to spend their money.

So far this campaign season, the two men and their families have contributed more than $35 million to various Republican political-action groups — the so-called “Super PACs.” Most of that money has been spent running negative ads about some Republican candidate for President on another candidate’s behalf.

Is this any way to save our country?

Of the two, Adelson has gotten by far the worse results for his money. Reportedly, he and his wife Miriam have contributed $16 million to Winning Our Future, the super-PAC formed to support Newt Gingrich’s run for the White House. His daughter, Shelley Adelson, contributed $500,000. The Adelson family was definitely the elephant in the house, contributing 87 percent of the $18.8 million the Super PAC has raised.

But with Gingrich falling further and further behind, contributions have pretty much dried up. While Gingrich insists he’s in the race to the bitter end, I don’t think anyone except his wife expects him to stage another miraculous comeback.  It doesn’t appear that he’ll win enough delegates to throw his considerable weight around at the Republican convention. Yes, he’ll get a major speaking slot. But don’t look for him on the ballot — or to have much say on who is.

Unlike his fellow billionaire, Harold Simmons hasn’t put nearly as much money behind a single candidate. The pro-Rick Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund received $1.2 million from Simmons. He gave $1.1 million to the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future and to the pro-Rick Perry Restoring Prosperity Fund (formerly Americans For Rick Perry). Thus far, Simmons has given $800,000 to the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future, although I expect that to change after Romney gets the nomination.

The biggest beneficiary of Simmons’ generosity has been American Crossroads, the Super PAC founded by Karl Rove and other former top Republicans. Thus far in this election cycle, it has received some $14.5 million from Simmons and his wife.

You have to admire Simmons’ objective here. “Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “Obama is the most dangerous American alive… because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country.”

Eight years ago, Simmons was a key contributor to the Swift Boat veterans’ attack ads against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. In the 2008 Presidential campaign, he helped finance ads stressing the ties between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, co-founder of the radical Weather Underground. Today, he regrets not spending more on them. “If we had run more ads,” he says, “we could have killed Obama.”

If Simmons has his way, that’s not going to happen this year. So you can expect that he’ll be writing a lot of checks between now and November.

And I’m happy to report that not all of them will go into the Presidential race. He promises to spend a ton of money on Congressional races. “Getting control of Congress is almost as important as beating the president,” he said. Simmons hopes to help Republicans gain control of the Senate and keep their majority in the House. If that happens, he says, “we can block” Democratic efforts to over-regulate business.

I actually disagree with Simmons on that point. I think getting more good Constitutionalists elected to Congress is more important than putting another establishment Republican in the White House. Sure, we would enjoy a wonderful psychological victory if Barack Obama were sent packing this November. But our enjoyment wouldn’t last very long if we got another George Bush I or II to succeed him. Thus far, I haven’t seen much evidence that Romney will fight very hard for the principles I hold dear — or, for that matter, that he even understands what they are. Have you?

I am going to be very selective this year in deciding who gets any of my money. I hope we’ll have a chance to elect a few more Rand Pauls and Pat Toomeys to the Senate. And a whole bunch of tough-minded, non-compromising conservatives in the House.

Remember, if Congress won’t approve it, the Administration can’t spend it. So even if we don’t defeat Obama this November or have enough votes to override his vetoes in 2013, we can sure throw a bunch of sand in the Democrats’ gears simply by taking away their money.

You don’t have to be a billionaire for your efforts to make a big difference in what happens this November. I hope you’ll pick some good guys and gals to support this fall. Put your money and your mouth behind them. Use the comments section below to let me know whom you like and why. Who knows? You may persuade several of our readers to support them as well.

I’ve already sent a few bucks to FreedomWorks, Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservative Fund; a couple of Tea Party groups; and my all-time favorite behind-the-scenes group, The Leadership Institute. What are you doing to make a difference?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Trash Talking

That’s some sure valuable trash. Here’s a stat that will blow you away. At least it did me. In the United States, we dispose of several million cellphones a year. One million cellphones contain more than 35,000 pounds of copper, 770 pounds of gold, 75 pounds of silver and 33 pounds of palladium. By the way, a computer’s circuit board contains four times as much gold and twice as much copper as a cellphone.

Someone should thank the guy. Eric Fehrnstrom, Mitt Romney’s top adviser, sure caught a lot of flak for his Etch A Sketch comment. Personally, I didn’t see much reason for the Twitter-fueled media frenzy over the remark. But one group of people should thank him for it: investors who own shares in the Ohio Art Co. The stock price more than doubled, thanks to all the publicity the comment got.

This is an “affordable” light bulb? Last year, the Federal government awarded a $10 million prize for the production of a new, energy-efficient light bulb. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the prize would spur industry to make LED lights that are “affordable for American families.” The winning light bulbs cost a not-so-reasonable $50 each.

And speaking of Washington wasting money. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment in Washington, D.C., has increased by 8 percent since 2009, despite a ton of new Federal grants, loans, contracts, tax benefits and entitlements. In fact, despite receiving $900 million in stimulus money in the past three years, Washington, D.C., can’t account for a single new job that has been produced as a result. Your tax dollars at work, folks.

–Chip Wood

The Joke’s On Us

This gives new meaning to April Fools’ Day. On the first of next month, Japan cuts its tax rate on corporate profits from 39.5 percent to 36.8 percent. So what, you ask? When that happens, it means that the United States will have the world’s highest corporate tax rate. Our combined Federal and State levies of 39.2 percent will be higher than taxes charged in Russia, China, Sweden and Denmark. Oh, and Japan plans to cut those taxes by another 2.3 percent in three years. Hey, aren’t we supposed to be the pro-capitalist country?

How many times did you use it? The 244-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica is abandoning its print edition. Those gold-lettered reference books that were sold by thousands of door-to-door salesmen will be no more. The company pointed out that its Web edition contains more information than its 32-volume print edition. And, besides, it is continuously updated.

A millionaire food stamp recipient. When Amanda Clayton, an unemployed 24-year-old in Lincoln Park, Mich., won $1 million in the State lottery, she promptly went out and bought a house and new car. She also continued to collect $200 a month in food stamps. When a local reporter asked her if she thought that was right, she replied, “I feel that it’s okay because, I mean, I have no income and I have bills to pay.”

Food stamps buy drugs and guns. Phyllis Fong, the inspector general of the Department of Agriculture, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that some welfare recipients are selling their food stamps for cash and buying drugs with the money. “By giving a recipient $50 in cash for $100 in benefits, an unscrupulous retailer can make a significant profit; recipients, of course, are then able to spend the cash however they like,” she said. “In some cases, recipients have exchanged benefits for drugs, weapons, and other contraband.” Your taxes at work, folks.

Chip Wood

How To Buy Gasoline For 20 Cents A Gallon

Has the price of gas hit $4 a gallon yet where you live? As I mentioned in last week’s column, several analysts predict that price will seem cheap before the year is out. Are you ready to pay $5 a gallon?

Some neighbors and I were reminiscing recently about how cheap things were back in “the good old days.” I mentioned that the very first credit card I got was for one of the gas-station chains. Back then, gasoline cost less than 25 cents a gallon.

Then I said something that stopped them cold. “Do you know that you can still buy gasoline for about 20 cents a gallon?” They were all positive there was a trick to my question… and there is.

My claim is absolutely, totally, 100 percent true — if you pay with dimes that were minted before 1965.

Back then, dimes, quarters, half dollars and silver dollars were 90 percent pure silver. Today, those coins are commonly referred to as “junk silver.” But believe me, there is nothing junky about them.

These genuine silver coins are typically sold in bags with a face value of $1,000.  If they were all dimes, that would be 10,000 of them. Each bag contains about 712 ounces of silver. A pre-1965 silver dime has about 1/14 of an ounce of silver in it. With silver now around $32 an ounce, one of those “junk silver” dimes is worth about $2.29. Selling two of them would buy you a gallon of gas anywhere in the country.

Remember when a loaf of bread cost 10 cents? Well, one of those silver dimes will still get you one of the fancy fresh-baked loaves in the bakery section of your local grocery store. One of the mass-produced marvels with more air than nutrients will cost half that amount.

My point is simply this: The value of the goods we buy every day hasn’t changed. A loaf of bread is still a loaf of bread — ditto a quart of milk, a gallon of gas or a suit of clothes.

The reason things cost 10 or 20 or 50 times more than they used to isn’t that they are that much more valuable today. It’s that our measuring stick, the U.S. dollar, is worth so much less. Back in our grandparents’ day, the dollar was not only backed by gold, but for most of this country’s existence the U.S. government promised that it could be exchanged for gold at any bank in the Federal system.

The Treasury also produced something called “silver certificates” that operated the same way, except that they could be exchanged for silver. And our government promised to keep enough gold and silver in its reserves to honor all of those commitments.

But that was then. Today, the U.S. dollar is an “I.O.U. nothing,” as a friend of mine likes to put it. Oh, it says it is backed by the “full faith and credit of the United States.” But let me ask you: When you look at the disaster that Washington has made of the budget process and our economy, how much full faith and credit do you have in the people running the show today?

And how much “full faith and credit” do you have in the pieces of fiat currency called the U.S. dollar that they are producing by the trillions? I hope the answer to both of my rhetorical questions is “very little” and “not much.”

Our Founding Fathers knew that gold and silver were real money. That’s why they put into our Constitution that only gold and silver could be used to create our coinage.

Sadly, we’ve allowed the powers that be to create “money” out of thin air, with absolutely nothing to back it. That is why the value of our currency has plummeted more than 95 percent in past 100 years.

But more and more Americans are learning not to put their “full faith and credit” in our politicians or the currency that they manipulate. Want to protect the purchasing power of your savings? Then I’d suggest putting them into things of real value. And for the past 5,000 years, nothing has preserved value better than the Midas metal and its less-expensive sister, silver.

Exchanging dollars for gold and silver could be the best investment you make this year. It certainly has been for the past decade.

Until next time, keep some powder — and some gold and silver — on hand.

–Chip Wood

Dismantle Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac

Cutting back at Fannie and Freddie. In a well-publicized effort to slam the barn door a few years too late, the Administration of President Barack Obama proudly announced that it is capping the pay of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bosses at half-a-million bucks a year. That’s an improvement over the past few years, when Fannie and Freddie chief execs pocketed several million dollars a year. But it’s a far cry from what Congress should do: Dismantle both unConstitutional boondoggles.

Phooey on Daylight Savings Time. I’ve ranted before on the absurdity of our annual “spring forward, fall back” exercise. Among other things, I think it’s a terrible idea to send our kiddies off to school in the dark. But a report from the Sleep Program at Loyola University Health System indicates it can actually be dangerous. There is a sharp spike in traffic accidents and workplace injuries on the first Monday of daylight savings — probably because many people are even more sleep-deprived than usual.

Sort of a sad finale. I was sorry to learn that that the cruise ship that inspired a million romantic fantasies — and several hundred TV parts for Hollywood B-list actors — has been sold for scrap. The “Love Boat” was actually the Pacific Princess, which joined Princess Cruises in 1974. After languishing at a dock in Italy for more than year, the 19,903-ton vessel (tiny by today’s standards) was sold to a Turkish demolition company. I trust that Captain Stubing (Gavin MacLeod) and Gopher (Fred Grandy) will shed a tear at its passing.

Bad karma for the Karma. The Consumer Reports test of the hugely subsidized, fancy new hybrid automobile the Fisker Karma was put on hold temporarily. It seems the $107,850 car broke down during speedometer calibration runs. The magazine said, “We buy about 80 cars a year and this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process.” Fisker mechanics looked into the problem, replaced the battery pack and returned it to Consumer Reports. Testing is once again under way.

–Chip Wood

The North Dakota Oil Boom

The average prices of a gallon of gas and a barrel of oil are near 150-year highs. Most pundits expect them to go higher. Are you ready for $5-per-gallon gasoline?

In a recent speech, President Barack Obama said: “We’re not going to be able to just drill our way out of the problem of high gas prices.” Actually, to a large extent, we can. For proof, let’s compare what’s been happening in California to the extraordinary accomplishments in North Dakota.

According to the Fraser Institute’s 2011 Global Petroleum Survey, California is the worst State in the Nation for its hostility to drilling. In fact, measured against the rest of the world, California ranks 91st.

Thanks to years of placating environmental extremists, California’s anti-drilling regulations make it almost impossible to drill for new oil anywhere in the State, onshore or off. As a result, its production of oil has fallen by nearly one-third in the past 20 years. As oil production has declined, so has tax revenue. Even with several gigantic tax increases during that period, oil revenues in the State are down.

That’s too bad, because California needs every penny of income it can get. It has one of the highest State sales taxes and personal income taxes in the country. Still, it’s not enough. The budget deficit for the coming fiscal year will top $9 billion — the fifth year in a row of billion-dollar deficits. Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed solution? Raise taxes even higher.

So you won’t be surprised to learn that wealthy Californians are fleeing the State as fast as they can. According to census data, almost one-third of its wealthiest residents — those earning $500,000 a year or more — fled the State between 2007 and 2009. On our Left Coast, they won’t drill for oil. And pretty soon, they won’t be able to drill many millionaires, either.

Let’s contrast the near-bankruptcy of the People’s Republic of California with what’s been happening in one of the most independent and entrepreneurial States in the union: North Dakota.

In 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that there were 150 million “technically recoverable barrels of oil” in an area of North Dakota known as the Bakken Shale. In 2008, the number had climbed to 4 billion barrels. Two years later, it had doubled to 8 billion barrels.

Today, thanks to vast improvements in recovery technology as well as the discovery of vast new oceans of underground oil, estimates of “recoverable” oil in the Bakken Shale have tripled to 24 billion barrels. That is more oil than is being produced anywhere else in the United States, including Alaska’s famed Prudhoe Bay. But it’s a small fraction of what is possible.

Experts say that current technology can extract only about 6 percent of the oil they know is underground in North Dakota. Total estimated oil reserves are thus around 500 billion barrels. And new discoveries are happening all of the time.

Let me include an interesting footnote on the subject of “reserves.” In 1980, the oil reserves in the United States were estimated at 30 billion barrels. Yet in the intervening 32 years, this country actually produced 77 billion barrels of oil. In other words, we produced more than 2.5 times more oil than the leading experts said there was 32 years earlier.

Today, the numbers are even more staggering. The amount of “technically recoverable” oil in the United States is estimated at 1.4 trillion barrels. (Please note that is “trillion,” with a “T.”) Unfortunately for us, most of that oil is located in areas Obama says we can’t search for it: in portions of Alaska and in waters off our shores.

Combined with known resources in Canada and Mexico, total recoverable oil in North America exceeds 1.7 trillion barrels. How much is that?  Let me put it in perspective: It is more than all the oil the world has used since the first oil well was drilled in Titusville, Penn., 150 years ago.

So far, all I’ve discussed is oil. When natural gas and coal are added to the total, the numbers are clear: We have enough energy reserves in the United States to fuel all of our needs for 100 years, even if we never made another discovery.

Back to North Dakota for a moment. The effect of the bonanza there has been extraordinary. Stephen Moore, my favorite Wall Street Journal writer, says that what is happening in Williston, N.D., “is what the Gold Rush might have looked like had it happened in the time of McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and Home Depot.”

The State has the lowest unemployment rate in the Nation, at just 3.3 percent. California’s, by contrast, is 11.1 percent. That doesn’t even count the unemployed people who have simply stopped looking for work. The true unemployment number is probably closer to 20 percent.

According to the Census Bureau, North Dakota led the Nation in job and income growth in 2011. While California is losing millionaires every day, North Dakota is creating them faster than anyplace else in the country. But even entry-level positions are benefiting. For example, a job flipping burgers at McDonald’s pays $18 an hour plus a “signing bonus” for new employees.

And while the State of California can’t begin to pay all of its bills — it even issued IOUs last year in place of tax refunds — the biggest argument in North Dakota’s State Capitol is how to spend all of the money that’s pouring in. Legislators in Bismarck have approved hundreds of “shovel ready” infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges, railroads and pipelines. But even while spending more on worthwhile projects, legislators also agreed to cut the State income tax.

What’s happening in North Dakota is a classic example of the one thing that would solve our energy problems everywhere — and most other problems in the economy, too. Unfortunately, it’s the one thing Obama and his team won’t even consider.

The solution is simple: Let the market work.

In his State of the Union address in January, Obama declared that “This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.”

Like so much that comes out of our President’s mouth, the sentence was as misleading as his skilled staff of speechwriters could make it. What he meant was that his Administration would continue pouring billions of dollars into every wasteful alternative energy pipe dream they could think up, while continuing to slap higher taxes and more regulatory handcuffs on the businesses that can actually solve our energy needs and make money (and pay taxes) doing it.

Rather than foster energy independence, Obama wants to make us all dependent. Dependent on government, that is.

Want to reduce unemployment? Increase tax revenues? Get the economy humming again? Truly foster energy independence?

The answer to all of them is the same: Get government off our backs. Let the market work. The results will be amazing. Maybe next year we’ll have a government that’s willing to give it a try.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–ChipWood

Pro Football’s Bounty System

Remember in the classic movie “Casablanca” how Captain Louis Renault pretended to be amazed when he was informed that gambling took place at Rick’s Café Américain? With a wink and a smirk, Captain Renault said he was “shocked, shocked” at the revelation.

That’s how I felt when I first heard the news that professional football players were paid a bonus if they hurt an opposing player so badly that he had to be taken out of the game.

An NFL investigation revealed that as many as 27 New Orleans Saints players and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams were part of a “bounty” system that awarded cash bonuses: $1,000 if a player had to be carried off the field and $1,500 if one was knocked unconscious. Payouts increased dramatically during the playoffs.

The New York Times reported that defensive captain Jonathan Vilma (No. 51) offered a $10,000 cash award for knocking Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the National Football Conference championship in January 2010. Despite taking several hard hits during the contest, Favre finished the game. So, presumably, no one collected that particular payoff.

The NFL said the total amount of money in the pool might have reached $50,000 or more during the 2009 playoffs. If you’ll recall, that was when the Saints marched all the way to a Super Bowl victory.

Is anyone surprised by all of this? Really?

Professional football is the closest thing we have in this country to the gladiator battles of ancient Rome. Of course, we’re a lot more civilized than fans were 2,000 years ago. Our combatants aren’t allowed to battle to the death. But you can’t persuade me that the players and their fans are emotionally much different from the screaming throngs back then.

Rome’s rulers knew all about how to use “bread and circuses” to keep the masses happy. Is what we have in America today really all that much different? I don’t think so.

According to the NFL, neither coach Sean Payton nor general manager Mickey Loomis did anything to stop the bounties when they were made aware of them. In fact, The Times reported that Loomis did nothing even when ordered to by team owner Tom Benson.

It appears that the bounty system was administered by Williams, who subsequently was hired by the St. Louis Rams. When the accusations were made public, Williams said he had made a “terrible mistake.”

Peyton and Loomis issued a joint statement that read:

We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch. We take full responsibility.

This has brought undue hardship on Mr. Benson, who had nothing to do with this activity. He has been nothing but supportive and for that we both apologize to him.

These are serious violations and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game. Both of us have made it clear within our organization that this will never happen again, and make that same promise to the NFL and most importantly to all of our fans.

Peyton and Loomis didn’t exactly fall on their swords, did they? If that’s the most contrite apology these coaches and their highly paid PR flacks can devise, somebody should encourage them to look for a new line of work.

In 2008, Williams spent one season with the professional football team in the town I now call home. He was the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

OK, maybe I should have said “semi-professional” football team.

Anyway, the controversy over the bounty program at the football program in New Orleans generated a ton of discussion in Jacksonville. Guess what? Nobody here ever did any of that bad stuff — not even Williams, when he was the defensive coordinator here.

So far, only two players who played for Williams have agreed to speak on the record. But both of them — former linebacker Clint Ingram and former defensive end Reggie Hayward — say that while Williams encouraged a “very aggressive” defensive style of play, nobody was ever promised a reward for injuring an opposing player.

As it happens, I have a big problem with all that talk of rewards. Am I really supposed to believe that a professional football player who is making close to a million bucks a year (many of them get a lot more than that) would really be motivated to cream an opponent for a measly thousand bucks or so?

Let’s see. I’m making more than 50 grand for playing an hour of football. And for 1/50th of that amount, I’m going to jeopardize my career and my reputation? I don’t think so.

The Wall Street Journal agrees with me. The newspaper conducted an extensive “review of every regular- and postseason Saints game since 2009.” Guess what? The newspaper concluded: “Seldom did a Saints-inflicted injury force an opponent to leave the field.”

Right. The bounty program — if it even existed — was an almost total flop. “In 48 regular-season and six postseason games,” the newspaper reported, “such incidents occurred only 18 times.”

In other words, when more than two dozen big, burly professional football players were offered a bounty to put an opposing player out of commission and had a few dozen opportunities to do so per game, they were able to disable someone only once in every three games.

By the way, according to the WSJ review, the Saints player with the most lethal hits was safety Roman Harper. He had four game-ending tackles in 54 games, fewer than one of 10. For this he was allegedly paid $1,000 per hit — or $1,500 if the poor victim had to be carried off the field.

So all in all, havoc-wreaking Harper could have earned an extra $6,000 over those three years. But Harper’s salary at the time was $7 million a year. Do you really think that six grand would have meant anything to a guy making more than one thousand times that much money?

Despite all the anger and indignation in the media, I think this whole “bribe ’em to hurt someone” story is a bunch of baloney. There simply wasn’t enough money involved.

Do I believe that some of our professional gladiators would be willing, even eager, to “play dirty,” if that’s what it took to win? You bet. And it’s nothing new. My first football hero, Otto Graham, said that eye-gouging, foot-kicking and finger-twisting happened all the time when he was playing. And that was 50 years ago.

Has the game gotten cleaner and more sportsmanlike since then? There are millions of dollars at stake every day. I don’t think so.

But why blame the players for giving the public what it wants? It isn’t the gladiators fault; the fans are to blame. If we’re willing to howl for blood, the guys with on the field will give it to us.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

Courting The Enemy

Democrats for Santorum. Mitt Romney’s supporters are still smarting over appeals by Rick Santorum’s team to get Democrats to vote for their guy in the Republican primary in Michigan. Their efforts, which included robocalls to Democratic voters, were only partially successful. USA Today reported that 9 percent of Michigan voters identified themselves as Democrats. “More than half of those voters, or 53%, said they voted for Santorum,” the newspaper reported. But it wasn’t enough to give Santorum the win.

Guess we didn’t mail enough Christmas cards. The U.S. Postal Service ended 2011 with its worst three months in history. Fourth quarter losses came to $3.3 billion, the Postal Service revealed. It is losing so much money that some analysts predict it will have to declare bankruptcy by the end of the year. Maybe it’s time to consider a proposal I first advanced 30 years ago: Let’s give the Postal Service to FedEx and UPS Inc. and insist they pay taxes on all the grounds, buildings and vehicles they acquire.

Your stimulus money at work. The Omaha Public Schools used more than $130,000 in Federal stimulus dollars to purchase “diversity manuals” for every teacher, administrator and staff member. Reported the Omaha World-Herald: “The book says that teachers should acknowledge historical systemic oppression in schools, including racism, sexism, homophobia and ‘ableism.’” In case the last one is new to you, it means discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities.

Wish Hillary would listen to Bill. Speaking at an energy conference recently, former President Bill Clinton said that this country should “embrace” the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. The State Department, where his wife Hillary serves as Secretary, has refused to grant permits for the pipeline to be built across our border with Canada. Maybe Bill should have a chat with his wife.

–Chip Wood 

When Spoiled-Rotten Children Grow Up

Riot police had to be called to an Orlando mall on Feb. 23. Why? Because an unruly crowd of would-be shoppers couldn’t wait to get their hands on the new Foamposite One Galaxy by Nike.

In case you’ve never heard of it (I hadn’t either), this is a special-edition basketball shoe that Nike introduced just days before the NBA All-Star Game. The House of Hoops by Foot Locker at Florida Mall had ordered a bunch of the shoes and announced that they would be sold (at $220 a pair) on a first-come, first-served basis at midnight.

Hundreds of people showed up long before the sale was to begin. Police were called to maintain some semblance of order. But well before the sale began, several hundred people rushed the door.

Law enforcement officers in riot gear pushed back the crowd. The store decided not to open that night at all. By Friday morning, Foot Locker announced that it was canceling the All-Star weekend shoe release at six other malls because of “safety concerns.”

So a near-riot broke out because some spoiled brats couldn’t wait to get their hands on a $220 pair of tennis shoes. Isn’t that ridiculous?

Frankly, we shouldn’t be surprised. This is just one more consequence of the entitlement philosophy our children have been taught. It’s been going for several generations.

Let me begin the litany of who’s to blame with these kids’ teachers. What sort of messages have they been sending their young wards? How much of our history have they been teaching them? What kind of character have they been building?

Nationally, teachers’ unions collect hundreds of millions of dollars every year from mandatory dues. They spend a ton of it lobbying for laws they want passed. Or, as they’ve proven in dozens of States, battling legislation they oppose. They are an almost perfect example of the “I want mine, and I want it now” philosophy — no matter the cost to the overburdened taxpayers who must foot the bills.

The teachers’ unions defend a status quo that produces 1 million high-school dropouts a year and a graduation rate of less than 50 percent for black and Hispanic students. What sort of education do the kids who do graduate have? How much of this country’s history have they learned? You don’t want to ask. Heck, half of them can’t write a literate sentence or give the correct change for a $20 bill.

But let’s not let the parents off the hook. How many of them are delighted to let the schools take all responsibility for training and teaching their young? How many try to give their kids everything they want, from the latest cell phone and video game to $150 jeans and $200 tennis shoes?

In fact, how many of those same parents bought more house than they could afford, then decided that somebody else had to pay for their mistake? Five of our largest banks have been pressured into creating a $26 billion kitty to help bail them out. Of course, this won’t begin to paper over the problems. So you can expect a lot more hands to be out, demanding that someone come to their rescue.

And let’s not forget about one of the most feared and powerful voting blocs in this country: our senior citizens. Any politician with the temerity to try to change some of the entitlement programs that are bankrupting this country is sure to face some of the most vicious and dishonest advertising campaigns this country has ever seen. Remember the Democrats’ response to Paul Ryan’s efforts to reform Medicare? Their “throw grandma off the cliff” TV ad was a classic of the type.

The demagogues on the left learned long ago that if they can portray an opponent as wanting to “eliminate Social Security” or “slash Medicare,” they are almost certain of victory. So what if they are creating obligations this country can’t afford to keep? They want political power now — no matter the obligations that will be passed down to our children and grandchildren.

The “Age of Entitlement” isn’t limited to a bunch of spoiled teenagers threatening to riot if they can’t get the brand-new basketball shoes they want. You’ll find plenty of members in every age group in this country.

How much of a stake do these people have in preserving and protecting the system, when they pay almost nothing into it? Nearly half of the adults in America don’t pay a penny in income taxes. What do they care how much your taxes have to go up to provide them with the goodies they are certain they deserve?

To quote an old phrase, anyone who promises to rob Peter to pay Paul can always count on the vote of Paul. And my friends, there are an awful lot of Pauls and Paulines in this country now.

And there are a lot of people willing to promise them almost anything in exchange for their votes.

We’ll find out in November who will win the next round in this ongoing struggle.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Greedy Obama

Even worse than I said. My Straight Talk column last week on Obama’s budget baloney actually understated his new tax and tax, spend and spend proposals. I said he wanted to raise the tax on dividends for “the rich” to 39.6 percent — more than double where it is now. But I forgot to include the investment tax surcharge included in Obamacare and the phase-out of deductions and exemptions. Add it all together and, if Obama gets his way, the dividend tax rate in 2013 will be 44.8 percent — nearly three times what it is today.

Make these bureaucrats pay up. Figures released by the Internal Revenue Service indicate that one of the biggest bunches of tax shirkers can be found on the government payroll. The Associated Press reported that more than 279,000 Federal workers and retirees owed $3.4 billion in back income taxes as of Sept. 30, 2010. White House employees owed Uncle Sam almost $1 million. Staffers on Capitol Hill owed more than $10.5 million. I suggest a new policy: Pay up or lose your job.

Poverty is disappearing. The number of people living in absolute poverty has been cut in half since the 1950s. Moreover, 95 percent of Americans living below the poverty line not only have electricity and running water, but a color TV, a refrigerator, and Internet access — things a millionaire couldn’t have purchased a century ago.

–Chip Wood 

Let The Buyer Beware

Another warning about the dollar’s decline. Warren Buffett writes: “Even in the U.S., where the wish for a stable currency is strong, the dollar has fallen a staggering 86% in value since 1965, when I took over management of Berkshire [Hathaway]. It takes no less than $7 today to buy what $1 did at that time.” This “invisible inflation tax” is devastating the value of bonds. In fact, he warns, “Right now bonds should come with a warning label.” I agree. Caveat emptor.

Right-to-work wins big in Indiana. Congratulations to voters and workers in the Hoosier State. Last month, Indiana became the 23rd state to enact right-to-work legislation, freeing employees from any requirements to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. The unions are furious, of course. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court, asking a judge to block Indiana’s new right-to-work law from being enforced. Time will tell if the courts give them a victory that the Legislature wouldn’t.

This Fed president likes gold. Richard Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has warned in the past that Ben Bernanke’s low-interest rate policies will fuel inflation. Now, it turns out that his investments confirm his concerns about the dollar’s decline. Fortune reports that Fisher has more than $1 million invested in a fund that tracks the price of gold. He is also heavily invested in real estate and other commodities, including $250,000 worth of uranium.

Pat Buchanan gets the ax. The powers-that-be at MSNBC finally decided to part ways with conservative commentator Pat Buchanan. The only surprise is that Buchanan lasted so long, but his 10-year run on the very liberal network is now over. Apparently, his latest book, Suicide of a Superpower, was the final straw. It contained a chapter titled “The End of White America.” MSNBC president Phil Griffin said he didn’t believe the book “should be part of the national dialogue, much less part of the dialogue on MSNBC.”

–Chip Wood

Obama’s Budget-Busting Baloney

That wasn’t a budget Barack Obama delivered to Congress. It was a campaign document.

It was full of promises of “fairness,” which to our President and his cronies means taking more money from those who earn it and giving it to those whom they think deserve it. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Karl Marx said it first.

Obama’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, calls for total Federal expenditures of $3.8 trillion. That’s a 0.2 percent increase in spending, but somehow the number crunchers claim it includes a ton of reductions.

Of course all those “savings” are just a mirage. You have to understand that in Washington, if you agree to slow the rate of growth of some bureaucracy, you can claim all sorts of credit for reducing the budget.

Funny, but somehow we taxpayers always end up paying more.

For the past four years, the Obama Administration has run a deficit of more than $1 trillion. That’s more than $4 trillion added to the deficit in just one term — something that has never happened before in our history.

But there’s good news for next year — that is, if you accept all of the rosy assumptions the Obama budget contains. If revenues don’t go any higher than projected and tax receipts rise as much as predicted, the deficit for Fiscal 2013 will be a mere $901 billion. Isn’t that wonderful?

Of course, the Obama budget calls for higher taxes on “the rich.” That’s any individual making more than $200,000 a year (or any family making more than $250,000). Obama says it’s not “fair” that multimillionaires like Mitt Romney pay only 15 percent in taxes. He conveniently ignores that businesses pay 35 percent of their profits in taxes.

But Obama and his supporters echo the old canard, “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s already made up.” They want to raise the tax of dividend income for “the rich” to 39.6 percent.

Whenever our greedy, grasping government has tried to raise taxes this much, tax revenues have gone down. You don’t need a Ph.D. in economics to predict that it will happen again.

Two other proposals in the Obama budget are probably worth a mention. One is the demand that Congress not extend the Bush tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. The November elections will decide what happens here. If Republicans gain control of the Senate and the White House, they are almost sure to be renewed. If not, color them gone. This would be a win-win for the Democrats, who would get a tax increase without actually having to vote for one.

The other proposal in the Obama budget getting a lot of publicity is the much ballyhooed “Buffett Rule.” This would require that anyone earning more than $1 million a year, regardless of the source of the money or the amount of deductions he is entitled to, pay a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent.

If the Buffett Rule had been in effect last year, Romney’s tax burden would have doubled. So would Warren Buffett’s, I assume. But in Buffett’s case, so what? Consider how much money he’s already made from government intervention in the marketplace, another $7 million in taxes would seem like a very cheap price to pay.

Remember Buffett’s investment in Goldman Sachs? His holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, has already pocketed about $1 billion from that one deal. And it was all made possible thanks to a government-financed bailout. Not exactly free enterprise at work.

Interestingly enough, it looks as though Buffett’s next acquisition may also be found dining at the government trough. Here are three companies he expressed an interest in last year:

  • Energy producer Exelon Corp., which has numerous ties to the Obama Administration.
  • General Dynamics Corp., which is the world’s fifth-largest defense company, thanks almost entirely to its deals with Uncle Sam.
  • Archer Daniel Midland Co., the giant agriculture concern, which profits enormously from government subsidies for ethanol, corn syrup and many of its exports.

Take away the sweetheart deals all of these companies have with Uncle Sam, and their stock prices would collapse overnight. They would disappear from Buffett’s buy list in the blink of an eye.

Those are some of the things that are wrong with the budget Obama submitted. Can I say anything good about it?

Yes. There isn’t a hope in Hades that it will be approved.

Last year, when the Senate finally agreed to vote on Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2012, not a single Senator voted in favor of it. The $1.3 trillion measure was rejected 0-97. This year’s campaign document — I mean budget — won’t fare much better.

If the Senate won’t pass Obama’s budget, what are the chances they will come up with one of their own? After all, they’re required by law to do so, aren’t they?

Well, the Senate hasn’t passed a budget resolution for the past three years. Why should this year be any different? After all, if the Senate actually puts something down in writing, the Senators will have to defend it in the fall elections. Who can blame them for wanting to avoid that?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last year, “It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage.” We’ll soon find out if he feels any differently this year.

It seems like the plan continues to be “spend and spend, tax and tax, elect and elect.” That’s been the strategy of the big spenders in Washington since it was first enunciated by Harry Hopkins, back in the early days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s reign. I’m sure Obama sees no reason to change it now.

If we can’t change the plan, then we’ve got to change the planners.  What are you doing to make that happen?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama Shafts Responsible Homeowners

Hey, look, it’s manna from heaven! If you lost your home to foreclosure, Barack Obama is going to see that you get a check for some 2,000 bucks. Free!

And not only that. If you still own your home but it’s worth a lot less than you owe on it, he’s got even better news for you. The President, in league with the Nation’s attorneys general, has gotten the banks to agree to reduce what you owe.

Isn’t that wonderful?!? Why, it’s almost like getting free money. What a wonderful deal our leaders have arranged.

Of course, it’s only wonderful for people who bought more house than they could afford, got over their heads in debt and are looking for someone to rescue them from their mistakes. And it’s also a pretty good deal for the five huge financial institutions that are participating, as I’ll explain in a moment. They’ll get bailed out of their mistakes, too.

That’s who benefits. Now, let me tell you who loses. For the most thrifty and responsible among us, the deal stinks.

My friend Gary Bauer of Campaign for Working Families used an analogy that makes what happened crystal clear. Consider the case of two families who both bought a home on the same street several years ago. Both homes cost $200,000.  Couple No. 1 saved for years and denied themselves many extras so they would have $40,000 for a down payment. And over the years, they faithfully made every mortgage payment on time, even though the value of their home fell below what they paid for it.

Couple No. 2 had no savings and couldn’t put anything down. But they were able to get a no-money-down mortgage with an adjustable interest rate. As the economy tanked and their interest rate rose, they found it impossible to make their mortgage payments. They listened to the liberal rhetoric telling them it wasn’t their fault and stopped making mortgage payments altogether.

Now comes the “fairness” President, announcing that the couple that sacrificed and made all their payments on time will get nothing. While the couple that wasn’t as prudent or responsible will have the size of their mortgage and their interest rate on it reduced. If they have been evicted already, they will get a check for $2,000.

So the thrifty and responsible homeowner gets nothing. But in fact he gets worse than nothing. Because when the dust settles, his home will have fallen in value just as much as the other guy’s.

No wonder financial analyst Dick Bove told CNBC viewers that this is “the mortgage deal from hell.” He said that the biggest lesson to learn from all of this is that “only fools meet their financial commitments.” He further said, “If you’re going to do something which is going to reduce the value of existing homes where people are making their payments, every American should stop making his payments on his mortgages, send a letter to the Attorney General in his state and say ‘I qualify to have my principal reduced because I’m not going to make any more payments on my house.’”

Boy, won’t that make America a better place?

But if this is such a bad deal, why were five big banks so eager to join it? You will not be surprised to learn that this is as much a bank bailout deal as it is a help-the-homeowner deal.

David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s budget director, put it succinctly. “This is ultimately at the end of the day a bailout for JP Morgan and Wells Fargo” and other big underwriters of second mortgages and home-equity loans.

When a foreclosure takes place, these obligations become worthless. With refinancing, they won’t. It’s that simple.

Where is the money for this $25 billion bailout coming from? Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo will each put up $5 billion. The President’s plan, Stockman says rightly, is “the worst kind of crony socialism.”

Pacific Investment Management Company, better known as Pimco, owns a ton of mortgage debt. Scott Simon, the head of mortgage investments there, says of the $250 billion in their Total Return Fund, about half is in mortgage debt.

“A lot of the principal reductions would have happened on their loans anyway,” Simon says. “And they’re using other people’s money to pay for a ton of this.  Pension funds, 401(k)s and mutual funds are going to pick up a lot of the load.”

Simon didn’t mince any words about the morality, or lack of it, with the deal. “You tell your kid, ‘you did something bad, so I’m going to fine you $10. But if you can steal $22 from your mom, you can pay me with that.’” That’s the sort of deal our “fairness” President has foisted on us.

While I’m on the subject of rotten deals, let me say a few words about Obama’s budget for the coming year. It’s a lulu. Forget about the reduction in Federal spending that the overwhelming majority of Americans wants to see. Obama’s budget calls for a 0.2 percent increase in Federal spending, for a total of $3.8 trillion. Our gross domestic product is $13.3 trillion.

Obama wants to spend almost one-fourth of all the money made by all of the production in this country. Every time a dollar changes hands for anything, Washington wants to take a quarter of it. (And if ObamaCare ever gets fully implemented, that ratio is sure to go higher. Pray that never happens. Or better yet, work like blazes to make sure we get a House and Senate this November that will make sure it doesn’t.)

Federal revenues, according to the estimates of Obama’s budget boys, won’t begin to pay for all the money they want to spend. The estimated deficit for the year will hit be $1.33 trillion. That would make four years in a row of annual deficits over $1 trillion.

I don’t plan to write much more about Obama’s budget proposals, because there’s little or no chance Congress will approve them.

While the President’s budget is dead on arrival, that’s not the case with his class-warfare, politics-of-envy, tax-the-rich rhetoric. You can expect a flood of the latter in the coming months. I’m very afraid it might be enough to get that “crony socialist” re-elected this fall.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood