Not So Fast, Governor Christie

Did you see where New Jersey Governor Chris Christie lit into Speaker John Boehner and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for delaying a vote on giving billions of dollars in Federal aid to States devastated by Superstorm Sandy?

Christie is one of the better ranters on the national scene. But even many of his admirers were taken back by the harshness of his attack.

“There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims,” Christie proclaimed, “the House majority and their Speaker, John Boehner.”

Christie told reporters he called the Speaker’s office four times the night he heard the vote would be delayed but never got a return call. Just to rub salt in the wound, the White House announced the next day that Barack Obama had personally called the Republican Governor to discuss relief efforts. The Governor concluded his diatribe by declaring, “(S)hame on you, shame on Congress. … put aside the politics and help our people now.”

But of course, asking Congress to “put aside the politics” on anything is to ask for the impossible. In fact, politics has everything to do with why this disaster-relief bill is a pork-filled disaster. Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was correct when he said, “They had the opportunity to have a $27 [billion] to $30 billion dollar legit relief package, packed it with pork, then dared us not to vote on it.”

Among the absurd bequests in the aid package are $150 million to support Alaskan fisheries, a couple of million bucks for roof repairs at the Smithsonian and dozens of other pieces of pork, including $17 billion to support “community development” activists.

The Wall Street Journal warned in an editorial: “Far from being must-pass legislation, this is a disgrace to the memory of the victims and could taint legitimate efforts to deal with future disasters.”

Under the circumstances, I think Boehner showed commendable courage by delaying a vote until the new Congress could consider the legislation. When they do, let’s hope they’ll vote to take a scalpel — or even better, a meat clever — to all of the pork that usually got stuffed into the bill. (I’ll leave for another day the argument about where in the Constitution you will find any authority for Congress to take our tax dollars for such charitable activities, no matter how noble they appear.)

I would like to see Congress discuss the folly of paying people to build homes and condos that everyone knows could be wiped out by a hurricane. Since insurance companies refuse to write policies for such properties, our benevolent Federal government decided to force all taxpayers everywhere to subsidize flood insurance for the happy owners.

When a storm comes along, as one inevitably does, the happy homeowner gets a free ride on rebuilding. In some areas, the same home has been hit, damaged and repaired several times — all at taxpayer expense. How about letting these ninnies take the risks themselves, rather than getting us to pay for it?

While on the subject of Congressional malfeasance, let me mention something that I neglected to include in last week’s column, Congress Sticks It To Us Again, on the rushed-through, unread legislation that kept this country from plunging over the fiscal cliff. Did you hear what our legislators decided to call this Frankenstein’s monster?

Even though the measure raises taxes on all working Americans, the bill is called the American Tax Relief Act of 2012. My friend Mark Skousen says the measure should have been called the “Congress Relieves Your Pocketbook Act of 2012.” But of course, that name could be used for just about any legislation that Congress passes.

While some Republicans are still trying to defend that abominable measure as “the best we could do in a bad situation,” Charles Krauthammer is one observer who isn’t buying it. He said the bill represents “a complete surrender on everything. … it’s a complete rout by the Democrats.”

The FOX News commentator said the President not only won increases in tax rates on the wealthy, he’s likely to gain another tax increase when Congress agrees to reduce deductions in the future. “So he gets a double rise in rates,” Krauthammer observed.

The Coming Clash Over The Debt Ceiling

With the fight over the fiscal cliff behind us, the next “line in the sand” for conservatives in Congress will be the battle over raising the ceiling on our national debt. The last time around, Republicans caved in and voted to raise the ceiling only after President Barack Obama agreed to spending cuts. There was supposed to be $1 in spending cuts for every $1 the debt ceiling was raised. If this wasn’t done, then $1.2 trillion in cuts would be mandated over the next decade — the so-called “sequestration” you’ve heard so much about.

Of course, the Federal budget wasn’t reduced. The Democrats didn’t even play their usual game of smoke and mirrors by agreeing to reductions in spending increases, which they would then call “spending cuts.” Nope, the spending spree continued, as Obama racked up another trillion-dollar deficit.

What’s next? We’re going to hear a lot of nasty threats and implausible promises over the next few weeks, including all of the disastrous things that will befall this country if we don’t give Obama all of the funds he wants.

But of all the absurd proposals that will be offered, this week produced the most hilarious of all: the suggestion that the United States mint a shiny new platinum coin, give it a nominal face value of $1 trillion and then deposit it with the Federal Reserve.

The theory is that the Fed could use the new funds to buy back U.S. Treasuries it holds, thus reducing the outstanding amount of government debt. Lowering the debt would mean there would be no need to raise the ceiling.

Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) says he is “absolutely serious” about putting such a proposal before Congress. Paul Krugman, the Pulitzer-prize winning economist and influential New York Times columnist, says it’s worth considering. There’s even a petition on the White House website asking the U.S. Mint to make such a coin.

I’ve learned over the years never to underestimate the ability of Congress to consider, and sometimes pass, some truly ludicrous legislation. It makes you wonder how we’ve managed to survive the government we have, doesn’t it? But at least we don’t get all the government we pay for; that would really destroy us.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Get It Through Your Thick Skull

We’re getting tired as well, Mr. President. Speaker of the House John Boehner told Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore that during negotiations over the fiscal cliff, he kept trying to tell the President that the Nation doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. Moore quotes Boehner as saying he repeated this message so often that the President finally responded, “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.” Well, we’re getting tired of having to say it, Mr. President.

The high costs of wind subsidies. In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, former Senator Phil Gramm gave an interesting comparison of the cost of various energy subsidies. Wind power tops the list, at a cost of $54.28 per one million watt hours generated. The same amount of electricity from nuclear power costs $3.10, from hydropower 84 cents, from coal just 64 cents and from natural gas 63 cents. Yet it looks like we will spend another $12 billion in wind subsidies this year. Why?

A costly break in a Presidential vacation. According to Newsmax, most of the Obama family’s vacations in Hawaii cost about $4 million, much of it for Air Force One. But when the President interrupted his Christmas vacation this year to fly back to Washington at the end of the fiscal cliff negotiations, the extra round trip added $3.4 million to this year’s tab.

Al Gore’s dubious deal. Current TV, the cable network founded by Al Gore and some friends, never caught on with the American public, averaging fewer than 40,000 viewers a night. But that didn’t deter the pro-Islamist network Al-Jazeera from ponying up $500 million to buy it. The sale will be worth about $70 million to Gore, who tried but failed to get the deal closed by Dec. 31 in order to avoid the higher tax rates that kicked in on Jan. 1. Gore reportedly will remain on the board of the new entity, to be called Al-Jazeera America.

–Chip Wood

More Lies

The Benghazi, Libya, deceit continues. Remember when the U.S. Department of State said that four top officials resigned after the release of a scathing report on the terrorist attack that killed our ambassador and four other Americans? It turns out that wasn’t quite true. One person simply got a new job, while three others were placed on temporary leave. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blasted the deception, saying, “The discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs.”

Should we kick the rascal out? Piers Morgan, a normally well-mannered Englishman who hosts a CNN television program, has gotten in hot water for his outrageous attacks on gun control opponents who were guests on his show. He called Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, “an unbelievably stupid man” with “dangerous” views. On another show, he denounced a guest as a liar and refused to let him explain his views. As a result, thousands of people have signed a petition calling for Morgan to be deported from this country.

Good riddance to this regulator. I was delighted to see that Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has handed in her resignation. In the past four years, no one in Washington has issued more punitive regulations or done more to stifle American industry than this lady. Hopefully, her successor will stop issuing dictatorial edicts and defying Congressional authority. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Gold’s amazing track record continues. For the 12th year in a row, gold finished the year worth more than it was at the beginning of 2012 — a record no other investment class can match. The Midas metal finished up 6 percent on the year. But silver did even better, rising  9 percent for the year. Platinum climbed 8 percent. But it’s not that precious metals are getting more precious; it’s that the value of the dollar continues to decline — something that will probably be true this year as well.

–Chip Wood

Congress Sticks It To Us Again

Happy New Year, everyone! Weren’t you inspired to see how our elected representatives worked late into the night, even on New Year’s Eve, to keep this country from plunging over the fiscal cliff?

And what a great deal they got for us! Taxes are guaranteed to go up for the vast majority of Americans. Spending cuts will be postponed. Government is going to get bigger. So will the deficit. Barack Obama can gloat that he forced Republicans to accept higher taxes. In fact, an anonymous “official close to the talks” told FOX News’ Ed Henry that getting the GOP to break their tax pledge is “one of the most consequential policy achievements of the last couple of decades.”

My, doesn’t that make you feel better?

Conservatives in the House made a last-ditch effort to include some mandatory spending cuts in the legislation. But that effort failed when Democratic leaders in the Senate said they would refuse to consider any changes in the legislation they had approved the night before. When the final tally was taken, the measure passed the House 257-167, with about a third of the Republicans voting in favor of it.

The margin of approval was even bigger in the Senate, where it passed by a vote of 89-8. Among the tiny minority that voted nay were such Tea Party favorites as Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

And even though everyone is sick of all the politicking and posturing, we’re going to go through all of it again over the next couple of months. That’s when we run smack into the debt ceiling, have to deal with mandatory budget cuts and are supposed to come up with some sort of budget for the next fiscal year.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner added fuel to the fire when he said last week that the United States would reach its debt limit on Dec. 31 and, thus, presumably run out of money. But then he piously proclaimed that he could use some “extraordinary measures” to find the funds to keep government going for another couple of months. So the rhetoric to raise the debt ceiling from $16.394 trillion, where it is now, will get a lot hotter between now and March 1.

There is no rest for the wicked — or for the big spenders in Washington.

In a classic example of premature congratulations, the stock market celebrated the new accord. The Washington Post reported: “The Dow soared 308 points, or 2.4%, on Wednesday, the biggest point to start a year in history, after posting the biggest ever year-end point gain of 166 points on Monday.”

But don’t expect the euphoria to last for long, as the realities of what this new agreement does and doesn’t do begin to strike home.

Just how bad is this Frankenstein’s monster? The bill is packed with pork for many of the Administration’s pet projects, including subsidies for plug-in electric vehicles, special deductions for film and television productions, a $12.1 billion tax credit for wind energy and even first-time home buyers in the District of Columbia. Numerous subsidies, tax credits and other goodies are buried in the legislation. You can be sure that the more we learn about what’s in the bill, the less we will like it.

Although Barack Obama campaigned on promises to raise taxes for anyone making more than $200,000 a year and couples earning $250,000, the final legislation raised the base a bit higher. The new limit is families and small-business owners earning $450,000 a year. They will see their personal income tax rate go from 35 percent to 41 percent.

But that’s a fraction of the hit that income from investments will take. Thrifty seniors who lived within their means all of their lives will see the taxes on their investments go up dramatically, while the incentive for anyone to invest in productive businesses will go down. That’s because taxes on dividends and capital gains will go from 15 percent to 23.8 percent. (The final number includes an Obamacare investment income surtax of 3.8 percent.)

In addition to those higher tax rates, couples earning $300,000 or more a year will see their deductions and exemptions phased out. The more they earn, they less they will be able to deduct.

One of the few pieces of good news in the measure is that the estate tax won’t be quite as bad as was feared. If we had gone over the fiscal cliff, the death tax would have been 55 percent on all estates worth $1 million or more. The new number is 40 percent for estates valued at $5 million.

But there is another tax increase that will hit every wage earner in America. That is the payroll tax collected for Social Security, which will rise from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. This is because a temporary reduction in payroll taxes that Congress approved two years ago, ostensibly to help stimulate the economy, expired on Jan. 1.

So every person earning $50,000 a year or more will pay an additional $1,000 in payroll taxes. So much for the myth that only “millionaires and billionaires” will have to ante up to help pay for Obama’s additional spending.

Taken all together, the Congressional Budget Office says this compromise legislation will add $4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. And even that estimate assumes that the budget cuts required by sequestration actually do take effect this year. I wouldn’t bet on it. Although the sequestration cuts were supposed to begin on Jan. 1, the fiscal cliff compromise kicked that can down the road for another two months.

The bottom line is that this legislation raises income taxes, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, death taxes and payroll taxes. It is a huge victory for Obama and his big-spending buddies in Congress and a big setback for everyone who believes that Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

In effect, we’ve given some chronic alcoholics the keys to the liquor cabinets. And now we hope they will somehow sober up? Don’t count on it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Should We Arm Our Teachers?

There are several things that are not going to happen in this country in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy that struck Newtown, Conn., two weeks ago.

First of all, despite the recommendations of National Rifle Association top honcho Wayne LaPierre, we are not going to post armed guards in all of our nation’s schools. There are something like 135,000 schools in this country. The cost to put armed guards in all of them for every hour they are open would be staggering. I can’t imagine there are very many local communities that would be willing to pay the price.

Nor is there any chance that Congress will vote to strip our various entitlement programs to cover the costs, or to slash the military budget to do so. Yes, I know, only a heartless cretin would try to put a price tag on the value of saving the lives of those 20 6- and 7-year-olds, not to mention the six adults who were also murdered by the same deranged gunman. But let’s face facts here, folks. Would we really be willing to pay the costs of sending armed guards into our schools every day (and night) they are open, to prevent one or two incidents a year? I don’t think so.

Another idea some people have proposed is to arm some of our teachers. While I agree with the sentiment that the best way to stop a bad man with a gun is by a good man (or woman) with one, can you really see very many school boards that would approve such an effort?

As the father of five children, I’ve known a lot of teachers over the years. And frankly, there aren’t too many of them I would like to see armed and ready at any of the schools my children attended.

Yes, I’ve seen the emails circulating on the Internet claiming that school teachers in Israel routinely go to school armed and ready to deter terrorists. But the story is false. Israel has no such policy. Although I confess, it would make a lot more sense to do so in a country where military service is compulsory for every young person, male and female. Presumably they all have had some weapons training, which is not the case in the United States.

But let me play the devil’s advocate here for a moment and point out that it isn’t necessary for every teacher to be armed and ready to fend off an attack. All it takes is one. And there is a lot of evidence that responsible gun owners who have taken the steps necessary to comply with concealed-carry laws in their community can save lives.

Mass shootings at public schools in this country were extremely rare prior to 1995. That was the year that Congress approved the national Gun-Free School Zone Act. The assumption was that banning anyone from carrying a weapon into any of our public schools would make them safer.

No, it didn’t. All it did was make them sitting ducks for deranged lunatics. For starters, how about we rescind that law and encourage people who want to be ready to deal with such situations, rare as they may be, to get the training, permits and equipment necessary to carry a concealed weapon in public?

I’m told that something like 8.5 million Americans can legally carry concealed weapons today. Wouldn’t you feel safer if that number were several times higher? And wouldn’t you feel safer if our schools were no longer publicly advertised no-gun zones?

John R. Lott Jr., author of More Guns, Less Crime, asked an interesting question in USA Today this week: “Would you feel safer with a sign on your house saying ‘this house is a gun-free zone’? But if you wouldn’t put these signs on your home, why put them elsewhere?” Why indeed.

While we’re on the subject of getting weapons in the hands of the good guys (and gals), let’s discuss for a moment if it’s possible to do a better job of spotting the potential bad guys and stopping them before they act.

I don’t know of any mental health screening that would have identified Adam Lanza as a potential mass murderer; or one that would have warned the folks in Webster, N. Y., that William Spengler was about to go berserk and murder two firemen (and wanted to kill a lot more). And I shudder to think of the violation of our civil liberties that it would take to put any such program in place.

I suspect that one thing all of these murderous lunatics have in common is a sick desire for publicity for their crimes. Sadly, that’s one thing we can’t deny them. A free press means giving the public the news it wants, even if that means a morbid fascination with such terrible tragedies as the one that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But it’s interesting to contemplate whether their actions would be any different if they knew the media wouldn’t fill the airwaves with stories about them.

And finally, let me say a few words about the notion that taking guns away from law-abiding Americans will do anything to keep them out of the hands of criminals and psychotics. After the tragic deaths in Newtown, the gun-control lobby has gone into a frenzy. The vitriolic attacks against the NRA and other gun advocates have gotten a bit scary.

But I don’t believe that taking guns away from law-abiding Americans will do anything to make us safer. And no matter what the anti-gun lobby would like to believe, it ain’t going to happen. I expect the courts to continue to affirm our 2nd Amendment rights, which pretty clearly states, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

Oh, I’m sure we’ll see proposals to increase controls on assault weapons and large magazines. Now that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are on the case, more restrictive legislation is bound to be proposed. Something may even get approved in Congress.

But to believe it will make us any safer is just wishful thinking. I for one would like to see more law-abiding Americans prepared to defend themselves and their community. And after the recent tragedies, maybe we will.

Let me close by thanking you all for your readership and comments. I appreciate the bouquets and yes, even the occasional brickbats.

It’s certainly been an interesting year. And 2013 looks like it will be, too. Although I’m reminded that the ancient Chinese expression, “May you live in interesting times,” wasn’t meant as a blessing, but as a curse.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

-Chip Wood

Benghazi Mistakes

Report confirms Benghazi mistakes. Well, it took more than three months, but the State Department finally released the results of an internal investigation into what actually happened during the Sept. 11 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It concluded that our ambassador and three other Americans died as a result of “systemic failures” and “leadership and management deficiencies” at senior levels within the State Department. The report also rejected the now-discarded explanation, put forward by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and President Barack Obama, that the attack was the result of protests against an anti-Islamic film.

Another unConstitutional assault on our freedoms. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act cosponsored by Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) was designed to guarantee Americans charged under the legislation the right to due process and a jury trial. It passed the Senate last month by a 67 to 29 vote. However, the safeguards were removed before the final vote, Paul reports, adding, “The idea of throwing American citizens in jail without being charged or given a jury trial goes against every principle this country was founded on.” Although Paul and a handful of others voted against the final version, the measure passed the Senate on an 81-14 vote.

So much for Obama’s mandate. Here’s an interesting stat from the 2012 Presidential election. It would have taken just a switch of 381,000 votes, or 0.003 percent of the total 126 million votes cast, to make Mitt Romney president instead of Barack Obama. Yes, that was the total margin of victory Obama enjoyed in four key States: Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Iowa. Had Romney won them instead of Obama, he’d be heading to the White House in January.

Making money finding “the disabled.” Remember Johnnie Cochran, the lawyer who successfully defended O.J. Simpson? Now there are 30 law offices around the country bearing his name that are helping people get on disability. “Denied disability? Call The Firm,” reads one of their billboards. Is it any wonder that in the past four years, the number of people on disability has risen more than seven times faster than the number of people finding jobs? “You get what you pay for,” Milton Friedman used to say. If you pay people to be disabled, it should come as no surprise that you’ll get a lot more of them.

-Chip Wood

Gold Rush

Gold sales hit new highs. The U.S. Mint reports that sales of American Eagles, the popular gold coins it produces, exploded in November, hitting their highest level in more than two years. The Royal Canadian Mint says that sales of the gold Maple Leaf were also up dramatically last month. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this follows on the heels of Barack Obama’s re-election. Do you?

Who will be the new secretary of state? It looks like there won’t be any nasty confirmation hearings for Susan Rice, our embattled ambassador to the United Nations. She has asked President Barack Obama to remove her name from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. That means that Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, now becomes the leading candidate for the post. If Kerry does get the nomination, I wonder if anyone from the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth will be asked to testify at his hearings. Remember how they torpedoed Kerry’s campaign for the Presidency in 2004?

Thank you, Jim DeMint. One of the staunchest conservatives in the Senate, Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), announced that he is resigning his post at the end of the year to become the president of the Heritage Foundation, the influential Washington-based think tank. DeMint and the Senate Conservatives Fund which he founded were early supporters of such anti-establishment candidates as Rand Paul in Kentucky, Ted Cruz in Texas, Mike Lee in Utah, Marco Rubio in Florida and Jeff Flake in Arizona. Thanks for a great job, Jim! Let’s hope that Erick Erickson, editor of RedState.com, was correct in saying the change means that “Jim DeMint’s power in the conservative movement just grew exponentially.”

DeMint’s noteworthy successor. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has named Representative Tim Scott to replace DeMint. Scott, an outspoken conservative and Tea Party favorite, will be the first black Senator from the South since Reconstruction. In fact, he will be the only black Senator in the new Congress. He will serve until 2014, when there will be a special election for the seat.

–Chip Wood

‘Right-To-Work’ Wins In Michigan

Union bosses in Michigan thought they had pulled off a real coup when they managed to get a measure on the November ballot that would have enshrined their power in the State constitution. Imagine their shock when voters overwhelmingly rejected the amendment.

That was just the beginning of the bad news for the maestros of compulsory unionism. Emboldened by the measure’s defeat, Republicans in the State Legislature promptly introduced legislation that would make Michigan the 24th “right-to-work” State in the Nation.

Union activists called on their supporters to march on the State capital to protest the proposal. Thousands of supporters showed up in Lansing in response. All of them were pretty noisy; a few were actually amusing, including the ones who put up four giant inflatable rats on the Capitol lawn bearing the names of Governor Rick Snyder and three Republican legislators.

But all was definitely not fun and games. A hospitality tent put up by Americans for Prosperity, one of the groups supporting the measure, was attacked by union partisans and torn down. At least one conservative supporter was physically attacked. A street vendor was called an “Uncle Tom” and worse and had his cart trashed for daring to sell hot dogs to the measure’s supporters.

But all the protests and threats — including one Democratic legislator who said that if the measure passed “there will be blood” — couldn’t prevent a vote from being taken. The legislation passed easily and a few hours later was signed into law by Snyder. The Governor previously had declined to support right-to-work legislation but said he changed his mind when he saw how a similar measure encouraged new jobs in other States.

The week before the vote in Michigan, President Barack Obama flew to the State and tried to rally support for the union. “What we shouldn’t be doing,” the President proclaimed, “is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions.”

Of course, Obama knows that right-to-work legislation does no such thing. It doesn’t prevent anyone from joining a union, if someone wishes to do so. It doesn’t preclude unions from negotiating pay and working conditions with management, either.

What such legislation does do, however, is give an individual the choice to join or not join, to pay or not pay. And that freedom to choose is what the union bosses can’t stand. They know that if workers aren’t forced to join a union and pay dues, huge numbers won’t. That not only means they have less power in the workplace, it also means they have less money to give to politicians, whom they count on to pass legislation that protects their power.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that more and more manufacturing plants have moved to right-to-work States. Autoworkers had to have noticed when BMW built a plant in South Carolina, Mercedes-Benz did the same thing in Alabama and Volkswagen, and Nissan Motor Co. began assembling automobiles in Tennessee. Meanwhile, two of the Big Three automobile companies in Detroit declared bankruptcy and had to be rescued by Uncle Sam.

The results in the workplace support Snyder’s comments. In the past 30 years, total employment in right-to-work States grew by 71 percent, while employment in non-right-to-work States expanded less than half as much, a mere 32 percent. The differences are even more dramatic for the past decade. Since 2001, right-to-work States added 2.4 percent more workers, while employment in other States actually declined by 3.4 percent. During the same period, wages rose in right-to-work States by 12.5 percent, compared to 3.1 percent in union States.

No wonder that a whole bunch of people have been voting with their feet. Between 2000 and 2010, 5 million people moved from compulsory union States to right-to-work States. I don’t know if they all found jobs, but I’ll bet most of them did. So it appears that right-to-work is not only good for business, it’s good for workers, too.

The defeat in Michigan has to be a tremendous letdown for the United Auto Workers. The union was formed in the State and at one time had more than 1 million members. Today, its national membership is down to about 380,000. Now that workers in Michigan there can opt out of the union and know that they will still keep their job, UAW numbers — and revenue — are bound to decline even further.

Still, until recently, the right-to-work movement was pretty moribund. Prior to this year, Oklahoma was the last State to pass such legislation. And that was more than a decade ago — way back in 2001.

But that’s when union leaders made a huge mistake. Confident of their support in Washington, they tried to get Congress to pass “card-check” legislation. The measure would have done away with a secret ballot for elections on whether to unionize. Thanks to conservative gains, especially in the House of Representatives, the measure never got approved.

So then they tried another approach. They filed suit against Boeing Corp. for having the unmitigated gall to build an aircraft assembly plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work State.

Lafe Solomon, a pro-union lawyer whom Barack Obama appointed general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board, issued a complaint against Boeing for what he called an “unfair labor” practice. Public reaction to this union/Washington gambit was extremely unfavorable. Prior to 2008, Gallup polls showed 60 percent approval of unions in America. That number had been pretty consistent going back 30 years.

But in 2009, the approval number had fallen to 48 percent. Today, it’s only 52 percent. So it should come as no surprise that more and more States want to jump on the right-to-work bandwagon. The National Right to Work Committee reports that in the past two years, right-to-work legislation has been submitted in 19 States. The measures have passed in two of them, Indiana and Michigan.

In Washington, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he will introduce the National Right to Work Act in the new Congress soon after it convenes. I’m sure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will make certain it never comes to a vote on the Senate floor — at least not next year.

But it’s impossible not to see which way the wind is blowing. And once enough Americans support freedom of choice in the workplace and see how it benefits them, maybe they’ll want the same thing for their healthcare — and even the education of their children.

So don’t despair, conservatives. If right-to-work can pass in Michigan, pro-freedom legislation is possible almost anywhere. Sooner or later, even in Washington, D.C.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Better Be Glad Obama Won

I’m beginning to think it doesn’t much matter whether this country plunges over the so-called fiscal cliff in two weeks. Regardless of whether Congress and the President reach some sort of accommodation over how much the “rich” will be taxed, a financial train wreck looks almost unavoidable.

Consider a few of the warning indicators that are flashing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported that 847,000 new jobs were created in the United States in the past six months. While that’s not enough to make a meaningful dent in the unemployment numbers, it’s at least a step in the right direction, right?

Not when you read the fine print in the BLS report. When you do, you’ll discover that 73.3 percent of those new jobs are in government. That’s right; of all the new jobs created in the United States since June 1, the Labor Department says only one in four were in private enterprise. All of the rest are new government employees. No wonder government spending is going through the roof.

Speaking of government spending, in the first two months of Fiscal 2013 (which began Oct. 1), the Federal government spent $638 billion. But it collected only $346 billion in revenue. This means that it borrowed 46 cents for every dollar it disbursed.

Some of that money went to all the people who have been added to the food stamp rolls — more than 1 million in August and September alone. I haven’t seen the numbers for November yet, but I doubt if they’ll be much better. The Labor Department reports that some 350,000 people left the workforce last month — nearly three times the number who actually got jobs.

The short-term picture doesn’t look very good, does it? Well, I’m sorry to tell you that the longer-term picture is even more alarming.

The latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office are that Federal deficit spending will surpass 100 percent of the gross domestic product of this country by 2025. And that it will double from there after another 12 years, reaching almost 200 percent of GDP by 2037.

But don’t worry about these astronomical levels of government spending. We’ll never reach them. Long before that can happen, the economy is going to crash. As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said: “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.”

The Federal behemoth will run out of “other people’s money” long before it is gobbling up 200 percent of our GDP.

So what happens when the feathers hit the fan? What happens when unemployment soars and tax revenues fall? What happens when it becomes obvious to everyone and his brother that our massive entitlement programs can’t be sustained?

The Federal government won’t be able to borrow its way out of the mess it’s created. And it won’t be able to print its way out, either.

Oh, sure, for a while it will try to do both. That’s why I’m so certain that the dollar will continue to decline in value, while tangible assets (with gold and silver leading the list) will continue to climb.

But sooner or later, things are going to get really messy. And when they do, I hope there will be a massive repudiation of the tax-and-tax, spend-and-spend policies that brought us there.

Sadly, that’s not what happened during our last economic catastrophe. The Great Depression got blamed on capitalism. As a result, the country took a massive turn to the left under Franklin Roosevelt and his comrades.

But even the talking heads on MSNBC will have a hard time blaming the coming crisis on the right. When that day comes, conservatives should be very glad that Barrack Hussein Obama won re-election in November.

That’s why it’s so vital that we conservatives hold our ground, that we continue to defend and promote the principles we know are true and that we do everything in our power to explain the economic facts of life to our families, friends and neighbors.

At a time when the future looked even bleaker than it does today, George Washington said: “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.”

That’s the best advice I can offer today to help sustain you in the difficult days that lay ahead.

Oh, and one more thing. Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Underwear Flashing

An economic indicator goes positive. When he was chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan said that one of the unusual indicators he followed was sales of men’s underwear. The theory posits that sales decline when men are pessimistic about their incomes and the economy. Let’s hope the opposite is also true, because Hanes and other underwear manufacturers are reporting higher sales than they’ve enjoyed in years. The men’s underwear indicator is flashing positive.

Google avoids a bunch of taxes. Google has avoided a ton of taxes by funneling most of its overseas profits into a company in Bermuda, rather than bringing the money back to the United States. According to Bloomberg, Google saved about $2 billion in taxes by shifting $9.8 billion in profits. Since the U.S. tax on corporate profits is 35 percent, Google’s savings were probably a lot higher. Is it any surprise that people — and companies — will avoid paying higher taxes when they can legally avoid them? Washington, please take note.

A bountiful bonus. A record number of companies are paying out record amounts in dividends this month to avoid the higher taxes everyone expects next year. But I haven’t heard of anyone who will equal the payout that Sheldon Adelson will receive from his company, Las Vegas Sands Corp. The special dividend the casino operator approved last month will be worth about $1.2 billion to him, the press reports. That is more than 22 times the amount of political donations Adelson made this year. Clearly, he can afford them.

Why not just send them the money? A report from the Republican staff of the Senate Budget Committee says the United States spent $1 trillion on welfare payments last year. Of that total, $746 billion came from Federal taxpayers, while $254 billion came from the States. If the money were divided equally among the 16.8 million households below the official poverty line of $23,000, each one would receive $59,523. But then a lot of bureaucrats would be out of a job.

–Chip Wood