The Government Wants to Seize Your Vitamins

No matter how many times you beat back a Federal power grab, it is almost impossible to kill the monster. Like the most terrifying villain in the worst horror movie you’ve ever seen, it keeps coming back to life and threatening the townspeople.

Consider the efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to make it impossible for you to buy the vitamins you want. The FDA first tried to make many supplements illegal in the early 1990s. But its overzealous persecution of vitamin makers (I was one of them) caused millions of consumers to demand that Congress block the FDA.

As a result, in 1994 Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). While the law was far from perfect (what Federal legislation ever is?), it did protect the right to take the supplements of our choice. The only way the FDA could intrude was if it could prove a supplement was unsafe. I don’t know of a single case in which that happened. So for 17 years, those of us who take vitamins to protect our health were safe from government meddlers.

Unfortunately, there was a dangerous loophole in that 1994 law. While supplements that existed at the time were protected by law, the FDA was given the authority to regulate any new ingredients that were introduced after Oct. 15, 1994.

What happened? At first, nothing did. For 17 years, the FDA took no action.

That’s been a good thing, because for 17 years the dietary supplement industry continued to innovate. It discovered new ingredients and formulations and found better ways to extract and concentrate the most effective natural ingredients. As a result, millions of consumers benefited. They protected their hearts and arteries, found relief from joint pain, improved their memory, protected their prostate and much more.

Meanwhile, some deadly dangers did exist. Pathogens like E. coli in food kill at least 2,000 people every year. Acetaminophen, the painkiller in Tylenol and other drugs, is known to kill hundreds more. An FDA researcher estimated that there may have been more than 27,000 deaths linked to the use of Vioxx before the FDA finally took the drug off the market.

Now, the FDA wants to act like the past 17 years never happened. The agency has drafted a proposal to regulate what it calls “new dietary ingredients.” If this proposal is implemented, some of the most effective nutrients you take will be pulled from the market. Nutrients like resveratrol, ubiquinol CoQ10, bacopa, strontium and more.

That’s not all. Under these guidelines, the FDA can define almost anything as a new dietary ingredient. For example:

  • If a supplement includes more of an ingredient than was used 17 years ago (even something like vitamin C), it’s new.
  • If an ingredient uses a different extraction process (like baking or fermentation), it’s new.
  • If a supplement uses an ingredient at a different “life stage” (such as using ripe rather than non-ripe apples), it’s new.
  • If a supplement duplicates an ingredient in a laboratory rather than extracting it from the food (even though it’s chemically identical), it’s new.
  • And if a probiotic formula includes a strain of bacteria that wasn’t found in yogurt 17 years ago, it’s new.

What would happen to these “new” ingredients? The manufacturers would have to take them off the market until they could prove the ingredients are safe — even if those ingredients have been safely used for 17 years.

What kind of proof is the FDA demanding? According to the guidelines, many companies would have to conduct animal studies using a dosage that’s 1,000 times the typical dose.

I’m not kidding. The FDA wants vitamin makers to do studies for a full year, at 1,000 times the typical dose.

So a fish oil manufacturer would have to conduct a one-year study in which animals are force-fed the human equivalent of 240,000 milligrams of fish oil each and every day. Do you think this outrageous overdose might injure or kill its victim? Of course it could. And that would give the FDA all the excuse it needed to outlaw any product that contained it.

But wait, it gets even worse. If one fish oil manufacturer performed such a study and it passed, it doesn’t mean that other fish oil makers can use the same data. No, sir. They are still required to go out and do their own studies before they’re allowed to sell their product.

These studies are very expensive. A study like the one above typically costs $100,000 to $200,000 to perform. Multiply that by several ingredients in several products and you get an idea of the cost.

Say a company carries six products containing six ingredients each. It would cost between $3.6 million and $7.2 million in studies before that company could even offer the products for sale. For a larger company offering 50 products or more, the costs would be astronomical.

Even if the company did all of that, every penny of those new and higher costs would be passed on to you, the consumer.

Anyone on a tight budget (and that’s almost all of us these days) would find the supplements they rely on becoming prohibitively expensive — if they were even on the market anymore.

Few supplement makers will be able to afford these studies. Many of them will be forced out of business. The ones that remain would still be at the mercy of the FDA. That’s because there are no requirements for the FDA to approve anything. It can approve or reject anything it wants. In the past, it has rejected the majority of ingredients submitted to it.

That means most of the nutrients you buy today will be pulled from the market and never return. Those that do return will be a lot more expensive — or may be available only as prescription drugs.

This is a blatant abuse of power. What the FDA is doing is performing an end-run around the existing law. According to the law, the FDA has to prove a dietary supplement is unsafe for it to be taken off the market. These new guidelines turn that on its head. They are clearly not what Congress intended.

Fortunately, these FDA guidelines have not yet been finalized. All Federal agencies are required to give the public an opportunity to comment on a draft before it is made final. In this case, the FDA has given interested parties until Dec. 1 to comment on the draft. That means there’s a small window of opportunity for you to voice your disapproval.

Frankly, I wouldn’t bother commenting to the FDA. The process is deliberately cumbersome. Those unelected bureaucrats don’t care what you think, anyway.

Instead, please contact the people you do elect: your Congressman and your two U.S. Senators. They have the power to rein in the FDA, and they have done so before — when enough voters complained.

We may not be able to kill the monster, but we can drive it back into its cave. Whether we do is up to you.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Made In The U.S.

We export chopsticks to China? Yes, believe it or not, we do. Seems an entrepreneur in South Georgia realized that the poplar and sweet gum trees that grow by the thousands down there make almost perfect chopsticks. The wood is flexible and doesn’t splinter very easily. So now Georgia Chopsticks exports millions of pairs of chopsticks to China every day. Isn’t it amazing how the free market can work when government keeps out of the way?

Are you sure about that, Mr. Buffett? There is a great quote by Warren Buffett in a Wall Street Journal article on why billionaires should donate more to charity while they can. “You’re thinking more clearly at 70 years old then [sic] when you’re 95, with Anna Nicole Smith sitting on your lap,” the Sage of Omaha said. If it weren’t for his willful blindness about Obama’s tax-the-rich schemes (which I wrote about last week), you know what?  I’d probably agree with him.

Hotel fires employee for wearing a U.S. flag pin. The Casa Monica Hotel, one of the historic hotels in St. Augustine, Fla., fired an employee for wearing a lapel pin of the U.S. flag. It seems hotel policy declares that “no other buttons, badges, pins or insignias of any kind are permitted to be worn.” Here’s an idea: Instead of banning a flag pin, how about encouraging employees to wear one? Guess which policy the public would like better?

Trying to shoot the messenger. After Standard & Poor’s recognized the obvious and downgraded Federal debt, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it was launching an investigation of S&P’s rating of subprime debt. And the Justice Department said it was launching its own investigation of suspected criminal activity by the firm. Does anyone think these are not retaliation for the debt downgrade? But where has the national press been on this story?

–Chip Wood        

 

Herman Cain’s ‘High-Tech Lynching’

Six months ago, a virtually unknown candidate for the Republican nomination for President predicted that he would be the victim of “the same high-tech lynching that [Clarence Thomas] went through” — once he became more popular with voters.

Congratulations, Herman Cain. That is exactly what has happened.

I knew very little about the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza when I was asked to introduce him at a large conference in Las Vegas last July. And to be honest, neither did most of the audience. The overwhelming majority of the people who packed the ballroom that night were there to hear the speaker who would follow Cain: Kentucky’s newly elected freshman Senator, Rand Paul.

By the time he had finished his rousing, passionate address, though, Cain had made many new friends among the 2,000 or so people who heard him. In fact, many of them followed him to a private meeting upstairs, where he received several donations and pledges to help him reach more voters with his message.

Thanks to his magnetic personality, his unflagging energy and his novel policy proposals — including his 9-9-9 tax idea — Cain has climbed in the polls as rapidly as others have fallen. So it should come as no surprise that his prediction last May is also coming true. The smear campaigns have begun.

Just like with Thomas, the media dug up an unproven, decades-old allegation of sexual harassment. And virtually overnight, it was treated as the most important story of the month. CBS News led its evening broadcast with it. The New York Times put it on the front page the next morning — and announced that it was assigning seven reporters to track down the facts. (Read: Pass on every nasty accusation and unproven allegation they can find.)

Cain has denounced the accusations as being “totally false.” Many people who worked with him at the National Restaurant Association, which he led when the rumored harassment took place, have leapt to his defense. But no matter. The smear artists of the national press think they have found a nice juicy bone to gnaw on. And you’d better believe they are going to do everything in their power to chew it — and Cain’s aspirations — to pieces.

None of this should come as a surprise to Cain. After all, here is the rest of the quote that I used at the beginning of today’s column: “I’m ready for the same high-tech lynching that [Clarence Thomas] went through – for the good of this country.”

Of course, if any white conservative comes to Cain’s defense, it will just be more proof to those on the left that we are racists.

Think I’m kidding? Listen to what Karen Finney, a former spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said on MSNBC last week:

“One of the things about Herman Cain is, I think that he makes that white Republican base of the party feel okay, feel like they are not racist because they can like this guy. I think he is giving that base a free pass. And I think they like him because they think he’s a black man who knows his place.”

Knows his place? Cain thinks his “place” is in the White House! How’s that for being “uppity?”

In the twisted logic that passes for thinking by the left in this country, it simply isn’t possible to be a black and a conservative. These liberal do-gooders actually believe that every minority in America is beholden to them. They view any black who has the temerity to be a conservative as a traitor and a turncoat. If they can’t convert black conservatives or frighten them into silence, then they will try to destroy them.

The worst example of this in my lifetime was the campaign to destroy Thomas’ reputation and aspirations. I had seen nothing like it since the communists and their allies set out to ruin Senator Joe McCarthy. Unhappily for our country, they succeeded with McCarthy. Happily for us, Thomas stood up to the worst they could throw at him and emerged victorious. Thank goodness we have someone of his rock-solid character, powerful intellect and unwavering adherence to the Constitution on the Supreme Court. I wish we had half a dozen more like him… of whatever color.

Many on the loony left honestly believe that if white conservatives don’t like the policies of Barack Obama, it means we are racists. And if we’d much rather see Cain in the White House, that really proves we’re bigots.

Don’t look for any logic in this rationale. There isn’t any. The left loves to rig the debate. I can’t tell you how many variation of the “you’re a racist” argument I heard before, during and after the 2008 Presidential contest. No matter how calmly we presented our objections to some new socialist scheme from Obama and his “community organizer” buddies, you knew there would be some liberal somewhere who would denounce us as “racists.”

This well-worn slander worked for a while. But today, almost everybody is fed up with Obama’s failed policies and arrogant posturings. The few remaining exceptions are students, intellectuals, Hollywood elitists and union members — or, as someone remarked about the Occupy Wall Street protestors, the homeless, the jobless and the clueless.

And then along comes Cain, the fast-food entrepreneur with a skin that is several shades darker than the current occupant of the White House. His rise in Republican polls is driving many on the left absolutely crazy. They simply can’t believe that an intelligent, successful black in America can be a conservative. And when they find one that is, their fury knows no limits.

So their only recourse is to do what Cain himself called a “high-tech lynching.”

I hope Cain is strong enough to withstand all of the lies, smears and nasty allegations the left and their allies in the media throw at him. I suspect he is.

I also suspect that many Americans are sick and tired of such mudslinging — even when (or especially when) the perpetrators are the self-appointed guardians of the public good on network TV and the national press.

Please do your part to expose their lies. Your country will thank you for it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

Please, Mr. Buffett, Shut Up!

I don’t know which I’m more tired of hearing: Barack Obama gloating that one of the richest men in America supports his tax-the-rich efforts, or Warren Buffett whining that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does.

Let me state for the record that both men are playing fast and loose with the truth, and they both know it.

It is true that Buffett pays a relatively low rate in taxes on most of his income. That’s because it’s not his salary that matters, but what he receives in dividends from his investments. Such dividends are currently taxed at 15 percent a year. If he pays his secretary a decent wage, which I’m sure he does, her tax rate is surely much higher.

But what Warren doesn’t include in his calculations are the taxes that have already been paid on those dividends before he receives them. You see, corporations must pay Uncle Sam 35 percent of all the profits they make before they can send any of those profits to the owners of the company — that is, the shareholders.

This tax rate, by the way, is one of the highest in the Western world. It explains why our most profitable companies that do business around the world — such multinational giants as Coca-Cola Co. and McDonald’s Corp., where Uncle Warren just happens to be a major shareholder — keep most of their profits offshore. Why should they bring those dollars back to the United States, where they would immediately get cut by 35 percent?

This explains why U.S. companies have decided to leave most of their offshore profits overseas. A recent estimate indicated more than $1.5 trillion in unrepatriated profits are held in foreign bank accounts, rather than being put to work building new factories and new products back home.

How many new jobs could that money create if it were put to work back here? Well, if a $400 billion jobs program could create 2.5 million new jobs (something I seriously doubt), then all those repatriated profits would go a long way to ending unemployment in the United States.

That won’t happen under the present Democrat rule.

But let’s get back to the taxes Buffett pays. If you add his 15 percent capital gains tax to the 35 percent tax on corporate profits, it shows the Federal government gets almost 45 percent of every dollar in taxed profits that Warren’s companies earn.

The bite from government doesn’t stop there. Nebraska also charges a 6.84 percent State income tax. There is also a 5.5 percent State sales tax assessed on most of the purchases residents there make. Oh, and let’s not forget an additional 1.5 percent sales tax Omaha, Neb., collects.

Of course, more than half of that amount is removed before Warren sees it, so it’s easy to see why he could overlook it in his calculations. But believe me, he knows it is happening. There are very few business owners in America who are as good at analyzing a balance sheet as the Sage of Omaha.

Think of it: Almost two-thirds of every dollar his companies earn and would like to pay him goes to government. And he doesn’t think it’s enough? C’mon, Warren, play straight with us here.

By the way, let me make one more point about America’s second-richest man before continuing.

Buffet has reduced his already low tax bill quite a bit more by making charitable contributions. I don’t know the full total, but he’s given away at least $50 billion to the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation. Just think, if he hadn’t taken the deduction, that’s several billion dollars he would have paid in Federal taxes.

But why stop there? If he really believes the Federal government deserves the money, why didn’t he send it all to Uncle Sam? Why, the extra $50 billion would have been enough to cover the deficit for almost 1.25 days.

Hmmm, when you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like very much, does it?

It’s too bad that Warren didn’t listen to his father more. Howard Buffet was a very conservative Republican Congressman who criticized growing government power back in the 1940s and ’50s. Think what he’d say today!

Warren’s dad didn’t like the graduated income tax and blamed the 16th Amendment for many of our financial ills. His son thinks millionaires don’t pay enough in taxes and seems pleased that Barack Obama likes to call his tax-the-rich efforts “the Buffett tax.” My, how things have changed out there in Omaha!

One last point before I leave this topic for today. I’ve been amused to see how many critics have jumped on Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal to change the tax system in this country because it’s regressive.

By “regressive,” those opponents mean it slaps an unfair burden on the poor. This is a great example of how the left likes to turn the meaning of words upside down. In the old days, everyone admitted that the Federal income tax was progressive, meaning that the more you earned, the greater percentage you had to pay in taxes. To the advocates of Big Nanny government, this was eminently “fair.”

Of course, those of us who pointed out that a progressive income tax was a key plank in Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto were mocked, scorned and shouted down — when we weren’t totally ignored. But now the argument has become so turned around, the advocates of big government claim that if we tax everyone equally, we’ve suddenly become regressive.

Let me point out that none of these people oppose the most regressive tax in America: the numerous lotteries various States run. Studies have proved over and over again that the poorest third of our population spends the biggest proportion of available cash on lottery tickets.

It’s no surprise that many of them are addicted to the something-for-almost-nothing promise of this form of State-sponsored gambling. But at least they’re not allowed to buy lottery tickets with those fancy government-issued credit cards that have replaced food stamps. At least, I don’t think they are.

Probably every adult in America will agree that the present tax system isn’t fair. Getting them to agree on what should replace it is another matter entirely. It doesn’t help when the President of the country and our second-richest citizen conspire to fudge the facts.

As I said at the beginning of this piece: Please, Mr. Buffett, shut up.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Desperate For Votes

The communists endorse the Occupy Wall Street crowd. No surprise the communists like the protesters. After all, Brian Phillips, their self-proclaimed leader, said the group’s goal is nothing less than “the overthrow of the government.” The question is: Why have Barack Obama and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee cozied up to them? Are they that desperate for votes? I guess the answer is “yes.”

Subsidizing cars in Europe. After receiving Energy Department loan guarantees totaling $529 million to manufacture electric automobiles, the Fisker car company said it couldn’t find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work it needed; so it moved its assembly line to Europe. When he praised the original loan, Vice President Joseph Biden said it would be “a bright new path to thousands of new jobs.” Yeah, Joe, but you didn’t say they’d be in Finland.

Turning fairy tales into class-warfare propaganda. A new version of The Pied Piper of Hamelin has just been published for kids. In this version, the children live in rat-infested garbage heaps while “the rich and greedy” live in comfort. The mayor and his councilors are “the nastiest of all the rich folk,” having bilked the working people out of their just due. In this version, the piper leads away both rats and children. But he says he’ll return the latter if the evil rulers change their ways. It sounds ideal for parents in the Occupy Wall Street crowd, doesn’t it?

Student loans pass the trillion-dollar mark. Students and workers seeking retraining borrowed more than $100 billion in Federal loan programs last year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Total indebtedness for such loans will exceed $1 trillion by the end of the year — more than all the money that adults in America owe on their credit cards. And unlike most other debt, student loans cannot be erased by bankruptcy. It looks like a lot of youngsters will owe a lot of money for 20 years.

–Chip Wood

 

Put Up Or Shut Up

Please, Warren, shut up. Are you getting as tired as I am of hearing Warren Buffett spout off about how the rich should pay more in taxes? Rather than annually giving billions of dollars to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which lowers his taxes even more, why doesn’t he just write a check to the U.S. Treasury? The truth is, every dollar Buffett gets in dividends has already been taxed 35 percent by the government. If you add that to the supposedly meager taxes he pays personally, it comes to a lot more than his poor secretary forks out. And what really riles me is that Buffett knows this.

Not even the Democrats like Obama’s jobs bill. The Democrats are sitting on a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate. So why hasn’t Harry Reid pushed through Obama’s much-ballyhooed (and utterly phony) jobs bill? Because the Senate Majority Leader knows too many Democrats won’t support it. Of course, our Prevaricator in Chief ignores this when he blames Republicans for not passing it. He knows telling the truth won’t get him re-elected.

Are you ready for a chat-down? Word is that some agents of the Transportation Security Administration are being trained in a new and gentler method of spotting potential bad guys (and gals). Instead of a pat-down during airport screening, get ready for a “chat-down.” The theory goes that asking a bunch of questions could help identify potential security risks. No, you’re not allowed to reply with just name, rank and Social Security number.

Of course, there’s no editorializing here. Let me quote, in full, the question Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty asked Representative Michele Bachmann during a recent Presidential debate: “Congresswoman Bachmann, three years after the financial meltdown, Main Street continues to suffer. People have lost their jobs, they’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost their faith in the future. But Wall Street is thriving. The banks not only got bailed out by the government, they have made huge profits, they’ve paid themselves huge bonuses. Do you think it’s right that no Wall Street executives have gone to jail for the damage they did to the economy?” Does anyone see any bias and political posturing here? Apparently, her bosses at The Post don’t.

–Chip Wood

Don’t Argue With Idiots, Even If They’re Family

I have a very serious question I want to ask you today: What are you doing to win others to our cause, so we can enjoy enough political victories next year to begin turning this country around? I hope you’ll give me some encouraging, even inspirational, answers.

Don’t get me wrong; I know it’s going to take a lot more than one election to undo the consequences of 100 years of growing government and infringement on our liberties. There is no magic wand we can wave and no magic leader we can elect who will suddenly undo all of the disastrous advances the socialists and their allies have made in our lifetime.

No, we’re going to win back our liberties and restore solvency to our government the same way we lost them: step by step, law by law, election by election.

It’s going to be difficult. Almost half of adults in America don’t pay a penny in Federal income taxes. They are “net tax recipients,” as the more kindly like to phrase it. I prefer “hogs at the trough.”

Then you have all of the people who have jobs and pay taxes, but only because they work for the government. Among these are several million bureaucrats — all of the so-called “public service” unions, their allies in the teachers’ unions and other organized voting blocs that think they are entitled to take more of your money for their favorite recipients: themselves.

And then, of course, there are all the liberal intellectuals, college professors, misguided idealists and pundits in the press who honestly believe government has a moral imperative to feed, clothe, house and educate everyone in need — with your money.

Don’t forget about the politicians who learned long ago that robbing Peter to pay Paul will always ensure them of Paul’s vote. Sadly, for the reasons I just enumerated, there are a lot more Pauls than there used to be; and there are a lot more politicians willing to pander to them, for the power and pelf they get as a result.

What are we going to do about it?

One approach is to try to win the support of those who disagree with us. I just had a lengthy exchange of emails with an old friend who had been trying to do this with his (very liberal) daughter. No matter what he said or how reasonably he phrased it, she just got angrier and angrier with him.

He finally threw in the towel and said he was giving up arguing with her. Nothing he said made any difference. And after all, “blood is thicker than brains.”

I know exactly what he means. I suspect you do, too. I recently spent two weeks on a trip with two very liberal cousins of mine. They are both sharp as tacks, as my mother used to say. But for all their brainpower, they still think it’s perfectly all right — in fact, even noble — to take money from me — by the threat of force, if necessary — and spend it on whatever recipients they think are more deserving than I am of my money.

Forget about private charity helping the truly needy. That’s too demeaning for the poor unfortunates. It’s much better to give them a government handout to which, after all, they are “entitled.”

Both cousins are very familiar with my position on things. They have known me as a card-carrying member of the far right going on 50 years now. (Yes, it’s true; this year, I celebrate my 50th year as a member of the John Birch Society.) So they couldn’t resist the opportunity to try to get my goat from time to time.

But I’ve been goaded by experts too many times to fall for their juvenile gibes. I know how to turn their slyest dig into an amusing rejoinder or to just ignore what they’ve said, which makes them even madder. So no blood was drawn (on either side) during our two weeks together. In fact, it was oftentimes somewhat amusing.

I even got them to agree that most of what we actually like about government — roads, firefighters, parks and police — is best done locally. Local government is more responsive to our needs, I said. It’s more efficient, less costly and easier to change when we don’t like what it’s doing. If it becomes truly insufferable, we can always move.

But I lost them when I argued that the Federal government, by contrast, costs way too much, is horribly inefficient and, on a daily basis, really doesn’t do much that we would actually agree to pay for, if we had a choice. It’s a vast, bloated bureaucracy enforcing rules and regulations that in many cases we don’t like, don’t understand and don’t want or need. The country would be much better off if its budgets and its authority were slashed dramatically.

All of this makes a lot of sense to me, as I’m sure it does to most of you. But of course, statements like these that drive the Barack Obama-lovers absolutely bonkers. And rather than try to dispute any of our facts, they usually resort to the nastiest sort of name-calling. My cousins were too polite to do this — at least not to my face. But none of us changed anyone’s mind.

And that’s the point of today’s piece: If we don’t increase our numbers, we’re not going to save our freedoms. So how do we do that?

My first recommendation is: Don’t argue with idiots, even if they’re family. All that will do is frustrate both sides of the debate. Give it up. It’s a waste of time. Remember what my friend said: “Blood is thicker than brains.”

If arguing with idiots isn’t the solution, what is? I think the answer can be found in three simple words: Activate our allies.

By that, I mean find people who already share our basic principles. See if they also share our concerns about how those principles are being threatened. And if they do, ask them to join you in doing something about it.

We don’t need them to become full-time crusaders for the local Tea Party, card-carrying members of the John Birch Society, or dues-paying members of any organization, for that matter. (Although there are plenty of good ones that deserve and can use your support.)

No, we must convey to them that they need to have an energizing realization of the battle we are in and a determination to do something about it.

At the very least, that “something” should be to vote for the very best candidates they can find next November. Please note the “s” on the end of the word. We need to do a lot more than just replace the current occupant of the White House, as important as that is. We need more Constitutionalists in the House, the Senate, the various State Legislatures and more Governors’ mansions.

What are you doing to make that happen? For one thing, I hope you’ll encourage more people to read these columns.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Look Who’s Protesting

Unions support the Occupy Wall Street movement. A new group has joined what The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto called “superannuated hippies, dopey college kids, and fatuous liberals” demonstrating against Wall Street: thousands of union members. And guess what? It turns out the labor groups all have something in common: “They all include members who work for the government or, in the case of the UAW, for corporate welfare cases.” Surprise, surprise.

A tiny step forward for Saudi women. Last month, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia granted women the right to vote in the next elections, which won’t take place until 2015. In the meantime, women are still forbidden to drive in the country or to appear in public without a male chaperone.

That wasn’t true either. A new book about Barack Obama’s mother says that his often-told story of how she died while worrying whether health insurance would cover her medical bills simply isn’t true. According to A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother by Janny Scott, Ann Dunham’s cancer treatments were covered by her employer’s health insurance, “minus the deductible and any uncovered expenses.”

Someone made a big mistake. Did you know that religious leaders of all faiths were deliberately excluded from the 10th anniversary memorial service where the Twin Towers used to stand? Former New York Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington said: “This is America, and to have a memorial service where there’s no prayer, this appears to be insanity to me. I feel like America has lost its way.” Maybe not America, Rudy, but some of our so-called leaders certainly have.

–Chip Wood 

 

Government Declares War On Lemonade Stands

Let’s switch for a bit from the deadly serious to the merely very irritating.

Last week, I pondered whether the U.S. is now sanctioning murder. Please click here if you didn’t read that very important column. So much more has come out about the slaying of Anwar al-Awlaki, and there has been so much confusion and controversy, that I’ll definitely return to the topic very soon.

But today, I want to talk about one of the most ridiculous results of our Big Nanny government run amok. It is the startling fact that all across the country, children are being told that their lemonade stands are against the law. And not just lemonade stands, but sales of Girl Scout cookies and Japanese green tea have also been declared enemies of the State.

I kid you not. In community after community, these budding entrepreneurs are being told to pack it up and scoot before they’re charged with various violations. In some instances, in fact, fines have been levied.

I’m beholden to the Freedom Center of Missouri, a relatively new public policy group in the Show Me State, for documenting the following list of outrages. Please note that all of these occurred this year. Such crackdowns are becoming more and more common.

Aug. 6: Massachusetts State police shut down the stand of a 12-year-old refugee from Fukushima, Japan, who was selling green tea he brought with him when he and his family evacuated after the tsunami.

Aug. 1: Police officers in Coralville, Iowa, ordered at least three sets of children to quit selling lemonade during the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa unless they first got a vendor’s permit and a health inspection. This is the first known example of a coordinated set of shutdowns at a single time.

July 19: In McAllen, Texas, authorities shut down a girl’s lemonade stand for failing to obtain a food permit and threatened a grandmother who protested with a $50 fine.

July 17: Police in Appleton, Wis., inform children that despite legally selling lemonade and cookies in their front yard during an annual city festival for the past several years, a new city ordinance bans these sales. The reason? To protect licensed vendors from competition. How’s that for a great example of how America works?

July 15: Cops in Midway, Ga., shut down a lemonade stand some children were running in their own front yard, saying the kids had to obtain a peddler’s license and a food license and pay $50 per day for a temporary business permit.

June 16: A county inspector in Maryland closes kids’ lemonade stand and fines parents $500 for violating county law.

June 10: The Philadelphia Department of Health shuts down a lemonade stand operated by a cancer charity because it lacked a necessary permit and — get this — didn’t install a hand-washing station.

March 7: Officials in Hazelwood, Mo., said a cookie stand in a family’s driveway violated local ordinances and ordered an end to the Girl Scouts cookie sale.

Feb. 26: Georgia police demanded the closure of a Girl Scout cookie stand until the girls obtained a peddler’s permit.

Feb. 26: Savannah, Ga., officials determined that city ordinances require an end to a 40-year tradition of Girl Scouts selling cookies outside the historic home of the organization’s founder.

Is this a world gone crazy or what?

I wish I could tell you that the evil triumvirate of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama were responsible for this nuttiness. But they aren’t. In virtually every case, the culprits were local officials obeying local ordinances. So much for my long-held conviction that the closer you can bring government to the citizenry, the more fair and efficient it will be. Clearly, in the communities described above, some petty bureaucrats have an awful lot of time on their hands.

Have you heard of a similar outrage in your community? If you have, please notify the good folks at the Freedom Center of Missouri at www.mofreedom.org. They have a national map on their website where they like to track such things.

I thought of a way we can turn this absurd negative into a bit of a positive. And that is by asking you to share an inspiring story from your own youth when you demonstrated the same entrepreneurial spark as the youngsters above. What happened as a result?

I’ll start. My first money-making effort, besides a long list of chores that earned me a weekly allowance, was setting up a roadside lemonade stand along the highway that ran past our house.

What I didn’t consider, and what neither parent pointed out to me, was that the two-lane highway was in rural Ohio and that cars zipped by at 50 miles an hour. Want to guess how many slammed on the brakes and backed up a few hundred yards so they could buy our lemonade?

None. Our only customer in three days was a nice neighbor who knew we were there and came to a stop in front of our house. My younger brother, who was my partner in the enterprise, got pretty discouraged after the first hour or two. Because I was older and bigger, however, I made him keep at it for two more days.

Truth be told, I didn’t mind our lack of success. First of all, I had all the lemonade to drink I wanted. Second, I always had a book handy and could wile away the quiet hours with one of the Black Beauty stories or Tom Swift and his electric whatever. It didn’t take much to keep me happy in those days.

But during the third day, I finally threw in the towel. I had had enough of my brother’s complaining. Besides, he came up with an alternative idea that made sense to me.

“Why don’t we walk along the highway and pick up all the empty bottles we find,” he suggested. “We can take them to the store in town and collect the deposit on them. Then we can spend it on Coke, candy and comic books.”

Like any brother, Jeff knew all my weaknesses. I wasn’t that crazy about Coke or candy; in fact, I preferred a root beer float. But the chance to purchase a brand-new comic book, and not wait until my monthly haircut to read whatever remnant of a comic book I could find in our neighborhood barbershop, was irresistible.

So we went inside and each took a pillowcase from our bed. Then we started searching the roadside and gutter for castoffs.

You’ll probably be surprised to learn how successful our efforts were. As I recall, we received 2 cents for every small glass bottle we found and a nickel for the larger ones. After a couple of hours of effort, I think we’d each earned a dollar or two. That may not sound like much today, but back in the early 1950s, it was a king’s ransom — or at least enough for several comic books and candy.

The whole experience was a great lesson for us. Our parents made sure we realized there was no such thing in this world as something for nothing. If you wanted something, you had to earn it. As the Lord said in Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made” (NLT).

I wish I saw more examples of today’s youngsters working as hard for their spending money as we did a generation or two ago. Kids today take their $100 sneakers and jeans for granted as well as their $200 electronic gizmos.

Would they actually be better off if they had to trudge down the highway, picking up empty soda and beer bottles to earn a few extra dollars? You tell me.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

 

Did The U.S. Sanction Murder?

An awful lot of readers will be angry at some of the things I have to say today. So before the shouting begins, let me tell you where I’m coming from, as the kids like to say.

I was raised with a profound respect for the fact that we are a nation of laws, not men: That “no one is above the law,” that a jury of our peers will decide our guilt or innocence, that we are guaranteed the right to face our accusers, that “our home is our castle” and that we will be protected in our persons and our property.

Does that sound like the America you were taught to love and revere when you were young?

It is promises like these that made our country the inspiration of the world. They are some of the reasons we became the wealthiest nation this planet has ever seen. Even the poorest among us lived better than the majority of citizens in other countries. No wonder people dreamed of becoming Americans — so many, in fact, that we had to establish a lottery to decide who could get in.

Yes, the United States of America that you and I were born into was a very special place. We knew it and were profoundly grateful for it. We gave thanks that we were lucky enough to be born here, because we knew that no other place on earth enjoyed our freedoms, our protections and our prosperity.

So what on earth happened?

Or maybe a better question is; what have we allowed our government to do to these cherished principles?

The God of the Old Testament asked His people to give 10 percent of all they earned to Him and His work. Today, our government takes four times as much from us. In fact, if you add up all of the hidden taxes we pay, the figure is probably closer to 60 percent.

In the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers said one of the reasons for their rebellion against King George is that he had “erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.”

Those brave gentlemen wouldn’t believe how many Swarms of Officers harass us today, or how much of our Substance they consume. Have you flown anywhere lately? How many Transportation Security Administration employees did you see — many of whom were guarding hallways no one was using.

Pity you if you ever do fall afoul of some Federal bureaucrat. Our government has created so many rules and regulations and has so many agents and inspectors to enforce them, there is no way on earth you can obey them all. If they want to get you for something, they can. And worst of all, in many cases you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent.

We have gone from what was once “the land of the free and the home of the brave” to what is rapidly becoming the land of the cowed and the cowardly. Untold millions of our countrymen (some legal, some not) feed at the public trough — and get angry at us producers if we suggest cutting back their goodies by even a penny.

All of that is bad enough. But now our government has decided that it is above the law. That it can listen in on any conversation it wishes; open any mail; snoop on any citizen any time and any where; accuse us of all sorts of crimes and misdemeanors; and incarcerate us at will.

Oh, and murder anyone it says deserves it.

You think I’m exaggerating? Please consider for a moment the fate of one Anwar al-Awlaki. I won’t disagree that this demented jihadist was one of the bad guys. I’ll even grant that this renegade U.S. citizen did all he could to give “aid and comfort” (the Constitutional definition of treason) to our enemies. But so what?

As far as I know, he was never accused of a crime by any legal authority in this country or abroad. Not only did he never get a chance to face his accusers, there was never a trial or even a hearing by any court, military or civilian.

Yet the President of the United States ordered his death. And an unmanned drone, armed with a Hellfire missile, carried out the execution.

And what an interesting outcry that has produced! Ron Paul probably did his candidacy for the White House no favors when he said that it would be “sad” if “the American people accept this blindly and casually.”

The ACLU — an organization that I have never voluntarily gotten in bed with — declared:

“[T]his is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney praised the Obama Administration for the attack, then added that Obama owes George Bush an apology for his criticism of the Bush Administration’s actions against suspected terrorists.

But the nastiest assault on the libertarian position came from the editors of The Wall Street Journal, who promptly denounced what they called “the caviling” over Awlaki’s death. After a lengthy introduction explaining why such anonymous executions are “manifestly legal,” the Journal concluded:

“For ridding the world of the menace that was Awlaki — even while ignoring the advice of some of its ideological friends — the Administration deserves congratulations and thanks.”

I’m sorry, but this is not the America I grew up in. And it is not the America I want to see my children and my children’s children inherit.

I’m not saying we’ve never done anything wrong in the past. Abraham Lincoln suspended the U.S. Constitution for anyone he considered any enemy of the State, whether Northerner or Southerner. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in one of the most shameful moments of a Presidency that did our nation much harm, ordered 110,000 Japanese Americans to be rounded up at gunpoint and herded into concentration camps. During my lifetime, legal authorities in the South often conspired to break the law to deny black citizens their civil rights, and even encouraged (or at the very least did not stop) mob violence.

All of this was bad. And like most Americans who give any of it a moment’s thought, I regret it happened.

I feel the same way today about the frightening growth in the cost, the power, and the wicked aggressiveness of our national government. Nobody’s called me an enemy of the State… yet. But I’m worried that that day may not be far off.

When they come for us conservative opponents, how many on the left do you think will rush to our defense? Heck, how many of our colleagues on the right will be what I used to call “foxhole buddies”?

I don’t know about you, but I’m becoming more and more frightened by more and more of the actions of our government. As I said, this isn’t the America I knew and revered. How about you?

Until the next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

A Curmudgeon Retires

*So long, Andy. Thanks for the memories. Last Sunday marked the end of an era. Andy Rooney, everybody’s favorite caring curmudgeon, delivered his last essay on 60 Minutes. It was a dandy, too — as was the interview with him earlier in the show. Even though Andy was a tad more liberal than I am (okay, a lot more liberal), you’ve got to admire someone who was clever, amusing, entertaining and often spot on for 1,097 broadcasts covering 33 years. I salute you, Andy. And I’ll honor your final request — to leave you alone if I ever see you in a restaurant.

*The left stretches to smear Perry. I was concerned that many readers might interpret my Straight Talk column last Friday as a plug for Rick Perry. (Click here if you didn’t see it.) I’ve said repeatedly that I’ve got some concerns about the swashbuckling governor of Texas. But he’s sure making the right enemies. The latest example is the despicable smear of the man and his father because of a hateful word that had been painted on a rock at a camp they bought in the early 80s. Rick’s dad promptly had the offensive word (a derivation of the “N” word) painted over. Still, Perry is getting smeared for it now, 28 innocent years later.

*Justice Department pays $16 for a muffin. And $8 for a cup of coffee. Yes, the boys and girls who want to tell us how to live our lives and enforce our laws sure do like to spend our money. A report from the department’s Inspector General said the agency spent $4,200 for 250 muffins at a conference at the Capital Hilton in 2009. At an “Amber Alert” meeting in 2007 at the Grand Hyatt in Denver, they paid $7,430 for 1,334 cans of soda. That’s a staggering $5.57 each. Had they walked to the shop on the corner, they could have gotten them for about $1 each.

*An Obamacare “glitch” will cost us $50 billion a year. But forget sodas and coffee for the folks at the Justice Department. For the really big bucks, look to the really big government programs. A report from the Employment Policies Institute reveals that cost estimates of Obamacare neglected to include the expenses of covering employees’ spouses and children. This “oversight” by the administration will cost thee and me $500 billion over the next 10 years. Now, that hurts.

–Chip Wood

Don’t Print More Money

Leave the printing presses alone! Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has come out in favor of what no rational person would ever endorse: printing valueless money to cover indebtedness. Here are his exact words: “The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default.” Gee, I can remember when the money maestro said the best way to protect our currency was to back it with gold. I still like that solution.

Another really bad idea. The New York Times, which loves to be described as “the most influential newspaper in the world” (I prefer “all the news that’s fit to tint”) has a terrible solution for our debt crisis: Do away with any limits. Yep, an editorial in the grey eminence actually read, “Instead of raising the debt ceiling every few years, it’s time to eliminate this dangerous game once and for all. … The debt limit should ideally be dispensed with, but, at a minimum, it can no longer be held for ransom.”

Governor Christie rejects subsidies for this unreality show. I’ve liked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ever since he stood up to the teachers unions there. But earlier this week, my esteem climbed even higher, when I heard he had blocked a $420,000 tax credit for the so-called reality show “Jersey Shore.” The New York Times reported: “Christie said he was ‘duty-bound’ to see that taxpayers were ‘not footing a $420,000 bill for a project which does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens.’” Good for him.

Let’s give them our seat. Thanks to the alert reader who sent me the best solution I’ve seen about giving the Palestinian Authority a seat in the United Nations. He didn’t bother pointing out that the U.N. has no authority to create nations. He merely suggested that we give them a seat: our seat. I like it. Get the U.S. out of the U.N. — and the U.N. out of the U.S.

–Chip Wood

America’s Favorite Ponzi Scheme

Who talked Rick Perry into grabbing the third rail of American politics?

In case you don’t recognize the phrase, “the third rail” refers to any criticism of the Social Security system or any suggestions on ways to improve it by anyone running for public office anywhere in the United States.

It’s called the third rail because, just like a subway line, touching it usually proves fatal.

In the book Perry published last year, which he called Fed Up!, the Texas Governor referred to Social Security as “a Ponzi scheme.” Nobody made much of a fuss about it at the time. Outside of Texas, who cares what the Governor there says?

But now that Perry has taken the top spot in the Republican race for the White House, the poor guy is really getting pounded for it — and for a bunch of other “crazy, right-wing” sentiments he expressed there as well. Or at least so saith The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Oh, and lest we forget, also so saith Mitt Romney, who just happened to be the front-runner  in the race for the Republican nomination before that upstart Texan entered the race. Romney isn’t content to make sure Perry touches that third rail. He wants to make him ride it like some hapless tourist on the bucking bronco at Mickey Gilley’s place.

I confess, I haven’t read Fed Up!. But I have read a ton of condemnations of what’s in it. And guess what? I agree with Perry’s arguments.

What about you?

Ruth Marcus, one of the less rabid liberals who writes for The Washington Post, told her readers that the book “makes George Bush look like George McGovern.” That’s all the typical Post reader had to read to accept that the Texas Governor is an irresponsible wild man.

What did Marcus find so horrifying? His most egregious sin, she wrote, is that he would repeal the 16th amendment. That’s the one that foisted a progressive income tax on this country in 1913, something that had been ruled unConstitutional for the previous 130 years. Yes, the United States government existed and managed to pay all of its bills without an income tax for more than 130 years.

Knowing how her inside-the-Beltway readers would react (there isn’t a single government giveaway they aren’t convinced deserves more of your money), she wrote, “Raise your hand if you believe, as Perry suggests, that it is wrong to ask the wealthiest to pay a greater share of their income than the poor.”

Remember, this is what passes at the Post for intelligent, fair-minded commentary.

Next on her horror list is that Perry “lambastes the 17th Amendment.” This is the one that “instituted direct election of senators” in each state. Perry rightly says that taking this responsibility from State Legislatures was a “blow to the ability of states to exert influence on the federal government.” Can anyone quarrel with that or argue that this country is better off because of it?

After condemning Perry for his concern about Social Security and other New Deal programs, Marcus goes for the jugular. Here’s how she presents Perry’s most outrageous opinion:

As much as he dislikes the New Deal, Perry is even less happy about the Great Society, suggesting that programs such as Medicare are unconstitutional. “From housing to public television, from the environment to art, from education to medical care, from public transportation to food, and beyond, Washington took greater control of powers that were conspicuously missing from Article 1 of the Constitution,” he writes.

From where I sit, that’s one of the most moderate descriptions I’ve read this year of what Big Nanny government has been doing for most of my life. But to Marcus and her Beltway banditos, they are nothing short of heresy. She went absolutely ballistic, declaring, “Whoa! These are not mainstream Republican views.”

They aren’t? They are actually pretty moderate, compared to what I hear every day from Republican friends and neighbors. Do you think it’s possible the folks in Washington are out of touch with mainstream America?

Don’t get me wrong; all of this fake controversy still hasn’t made me Perry’s biggest fan. I’m concerned about many of his past actions and attitudes. This is the guy who was Al Gore’s campaign manager in Texas in 1988. That shows a lack of discernment that I find very worrisome.

Having said that, hearing Romney denounce the guy as a flippier flip-flopper is a hoot. Talk about a pot calling the kettle black. I, for one, am glad to see both candidates taking off the gloves and starting to duke it out. This country is desperate for some bold, manly leadership. So far, the closest we’ve come to it is Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.

Ah, well, political contests do seem to bring out the craziness in a bunch of people. One of the shockers I heard last week is that the Barack Obama campaign expects to raise — and spend — more than $1 billion.

Remember, every single penny of that gigantic sum will go into smearing Obama’s Republican opponent, whoever that may be. And it will go toward promoting socialism at home and internationalism abroad. That’s a lot of money to spend on taking us down the wrong road.

There will be no Hillary Clinton around this time, forcing him to spend most of his time, attention and money winning the nomination. I think it’s safe to say he’s got a lock on it this time. So look for a really nasty campaign once it really gets going. A lot of folks who feed at the public trough are desperately afraid that their good times might come to an end.

All of which brings me back to Perry’s description of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. In the sense that it requires taking money from new contributors today to pay off retirees whose own contributions were spent years and decades ago, of course he’s absolutely right.

But considering that Charles Ponzi’s financial ruse was entirely voluntary, it depended on the greed and gullibility of its participants to make it work and Ponzi wasn’t able to use the threat of force to extract a single dime from his participants, I suggest that Perry owes Ponzi an apology. In his wildest fantasies, Ponzi couldn’t do as much damage to American independence and self-reliance as Social Security has done.

What’s even worse, however, is how demagogues and power-seekers have used this issue to frighten and mislead a huge number of American voters. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and their minions know they can count on the vast majority of their followers to be “too damned dumb,” as one politician put it, to understand how they are betraying the trust they have been given.

Yes, we probably owe Ponzi an apology. He was never this despicable or this greedy. But, oh, how his successors have learned from his example.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood   

A Financial Failure

Do you think we’ve seen some financial turmoil this year? Let me tell you what happened 13 years ago this week, when one of the most highly touted investment vehicles ever created failed.

On Sept. 22, 1998, Long-Term Capital Management shocked the financial markets when it revealed that it was at risk of imploding and destroying billions of investors’ dollars when it did.

LTCM was founded and backed by some really smart and really wealthy people. But in 1998, disaster struck. When a series of interest-rate bets went bad, the company lost $4.6 billion in a matter of months.

“At the beginning of 1998, LTCM had equity of $4.72 billion, with borrowed capital of more than $124.5 billion and assets of about $129 billion,” wrote Adnan Siddiqi and Peter Hrubi in Islamic Investments Funds Versus Hedge Funds. “From the beginning of 1998 until September 1998, LTCM’s equity fell from $4.72 billion to $600 million… Total losses were found to be $4.6 billion.”

Faced with a potential financial catastrophe, the Federal Reserve organized a bailout of $3.625 billion from 15 investment banks. “On September 29, 1998 the control of the LTCM was passed on to Oversight Partner 1 LLC,” wrote Siddiqi and Hrubi.

There was an extraordinary amount of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth over the LTCM bailout back in 1998. It seems hard to believe all the fuss was over a “mere” $3.6 billion, doesn’t it? Especially since Uncle Sucker … I mean Uncle Sam … has spent more than $1 trillion since then, in a futile effort to revive our flagging economy.

The more it changes, the more it all stays the same — except the price tag keeps getting higher.

–Chip Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give Obama Four Pinocchios

Liberals are doing such a good job of bashing Barack Obama, we conservatives can just stand aside and watch. And isn’t it fun?

The most dramatic rejection of Obama’s policies occurred in New York’s 9th congressional district last week. Republican businessman Bob Turner defeated his Democratic opponent, State Assemblyman David Weprin, by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent. This was a special election to fill the seat vacated by Anthony Weiner, who resigned in disgrace over a sexting scandal.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to put an optimistic spin on the outcome by saying, “It’s a very difficult district for Democrats.” Come on, Debbie, try another one. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by a margin of 3 to 1. The seat had been in Democratic hands since 1923.

Turner very wisely made the election a mandate on Obama’s failed policies. When he did, a majority of voters gave the President a decisive thumbs-down. One of Turner’s most prominent supporters was former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who urged “the voters of this district, the largest Jewish district in the country, to register a protest against the positions of President Obama and the Republican leadership on a number of key issues,” including “President Obama’s open hostility to the State of Israel.”

Democratic pollster and Fox News commentator Doug Schoen said the Republican win in such an overwhelmingly Democratic district is a “stunning rebuke” for the President and his policies. Longtime Democratic campaign strategist James Carville was even more blunt, saying it is time for the President to “panic.” An unnamed Democratic strategist told The Hill: “I’m warning my clients — ‘Don’t run in 2012.’ I don’t want to see good candidates lose by 12 to 15 points because of the president.”

Meanwhile, Republicans also won a second special election for Congress in Nevada, where former State Senator Mark Amodei crushed Kate Marshall, who was in her second term as Nevada’s State Treasurer. Despite the unions pouring in tons of money and “volunteers” to help Marshall, Amodei won by a margin of 58 percent to 36 percent. In other words, it wasn’t even close.

But it isn’t just voters who are becoming vocal in their opposition to Barack Obama’s policies and promises. So are many of Obama’s former comrades on the left. I have a folder full of articles and quotes I could share with you from politicians, social activists, liberal lobbyists and a bunch of others. Even some community organizers are mad at him! A bunch of his former supporters are treating the guy like a piñata these days, banging on him as hard as they can.

It’s fun to see such dissension in the ranks. But none gave me as much pleasure as one from The Washington Post. It seems Washington’s most powerful newspaper has assigned a columnist the job of confirming the veracity, or lack thereof, of various political statements. After doing his research, Glenn Kessler then gives them the “Pinocchio” test.

One Pinocchio means there has been “some shading of the facts” and “selective telling of the truth.” There may be “some omissions and exaggerations, but not outright falsehoods.”

Two Pinocchios means Kessler found “significant omissions and/or exaggerations” or a deliberate effort to create “a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people.” (Bill Clinton was a master of this one.)

Three Pinocchios means Kessler found “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.”

What garners Four Pinocchios? Kessler sums it up in one word: “whoppers.”

According to Kessler, in his Labor Day speech in Detroit, the President told a real whopper. The columnist began with this quote by Obama: “We said working folks deserved a break, so within one month of me taking office, we signed into law the biggest middle-class tax cut in history, putting more money into your pockets.”

Did he really? I guess it depends on what the word “biggest” means to you. (Sort of like Bill Clinton’s argument over what the meaning of the word “is” is.) For most of us, “biggest” in this context would mean “the most money,” wouldn’t you say? By that standard, the Obama tax cuts in his Making Work Pay package was nowhere near the biggest in history. Heck, the Bush tax cuts — the ones Obama has ranted about so often — were more than twice as large.

And we could argue all day over what comprises the middle-class in America. Whenever Barack Obama uses the phrase, he typically includes members of the working poor and excludes anyone earning $200,000 or more. As it was for the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, apparently words can mean whatever he wants them to mean.

When questioned, the White House explained that “biggest” to them referred to the number of people who received a tax cut. According to the spinmeisters there, every working family in America (except those making more than $190,000 a year) received something in the Obama tax cuts. That makes it “the biggest” of all time.

Kessler wrote: “Obama’s claim of having passed the ‘biggest middle-class tax cut in history’ is ridiculous.” He then added that the staff at The Post argued about whether it was a three- or four-Pinocchio violation. They finally concluded that Obama himself knew he was telling a whopper, so they made it a maximum nose-grower.

By the way, Kessler likes to point out exaggerations all across the political spectrum. In fact, folks on the right garner many more Pinocchios than those on the left. Check out his website to see how many Rick Perry, John Boehner, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin have received.

Of course, the fact that Barack Obama can stretch the truth beyond all recognition will come as no surprise to regular readers of this column.  We’ve come to expect nothing less from our Obfuscator in Chief.

But the distortions, exaggerations and outright falsehoods of the past three years are nothing compared to what we’re going to see between now and next November. I can confidently predict that there is almost no limit to the lies Obama will tell about us — or the amount of your tax dollars that he will promise to give others — if only they will grant him four more years in the White House.

So guard your wallets, folks. And get ready to see Barack Obama’s nose grow a lot longer.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Invest In Guns

What people buy when they’re worried. Of course, worried people buy gold and silver, which goes a long way toward explaining why the two precious metals have outshined all other asset classes over the past 10 years. But an alert reader reminded me of something else people purchase when they’re nervous about the future: guns. Check out the growth in shares of gunmaker Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. (RGR). It looks like their business is doing even better than gold.

Now here’s a terrible return on investment. Since 1980, the U.S. Department of Education has plowed through more than $1 trillion in taxpayer funds. That’s right, more than a trillion bucks. And what have we gotten for our money? Last week, the College Board reported that SAT reading scores for graduating high school seniors reached the lowest point in nearly four decades. Please note that’s how graduating seniors did. Don’t even ask about the millions of teenagers who drop out of school before they get their diploma.

This is no way to increase jobs. Five days after Barack Obama asked Congress for $447 billion more money to promote job growth, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) released a report noting that the Federal bureaucrats had issued more than 600 new rules and regulations just in the month of August. The Senator says all the new paperwork will cost businesses (and, thus, consumers) more than $10 billion a year.

When the Chinese go to the movies. One thing they don’t do is watch such international blockbusters as the Harry Potter series. The new “Transformers” movie broke box-office records when it opened in the United States over the Fourth of July  weekend. It’s also smashing attendance records in many of the 110 other countries where it’s showing. But not in China, which has forbidden movie theaters to import such U.S. fare. Instead, they’ve been ordered to show such propaganda as “The Beginning of the Great Revival,” a glowing tribute to Chairman Mao and the birth of the Communist revolution in China. There’s no mention, of course, of the estimated 100 million victims of communism there.

–Chip Wood

The Bloodiest Battle In The US

It was 149 years ago this week that the bloodiest battle in American history took place. More than 23,000 men were killed, wounded or missing in action in one day, on Sept. 17, 1862, at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland.

The battle was technically a draw. But the leader of the Confederacy’s troops, Robert E. Lee, ordered his forces to retreat from the area, giving President Abraham Lincoln an opportunity to proclaim victory and issue the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

Many people today don’t realize that Lincoln’s Proclamation did not grant freedom to any slaves in the North. Instead, it was meant to encourage blacks in the South to rise up against their masters and create a “fifth column” in their regions. This did not happen, and the War Between the States lasted until Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865. The aftereffects are still being felt to this day.

–Chip Wood

 

Rand Has No Confidence In Geithner

Let’s have a vote of “no confidence.” Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has called on the Senate to pass a vote of “no confidence” in Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. “I see no reason and no objective evidence that any of his policies are succeeding,” Rand said. It would be interesting to get every member of the Senate on record on this question: especially with one-third of them facing re-election next year.

What do you call a group of congressmen? The English language has some very interesting ways to describe multiples of things. A group of geese is a “gaggle.” A bunch of fish is a “school.” Several sheep are a “flock,” while many cows are a “herd.” There’s also a “parliament” of owls and an “dole” of doves. But do you know what you call a group of baboons? Believe it or not, the correct word to use is a “congress.” That can’t be a coincidence, can it?

Don’t believe everything a friend says. Especially if they say it on Facebook or Twitter. USA Today reported that “nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults say they are not honest on social networking sites.” Only 31 percent said they were “totally honest.” Twenty-six percent said they “fib a little.” Even scarier, more than one in five, or 21 percent, confessed to posting a “total fabrication.” And another 22 percent said they wrote a “flat-out lie.” Hey, USA Today, what’s the difference between a total fabrication and a flat-out lie?

The high cost of bread and circuses. In today’s Straight Talk, I mention how costly Obama’s “stimulus” program has been. Figures released by the White House Council of Economic Advisers reveal that every new job it allegedly created has cost taxpayers $277,500. It turns out the “circus” part of our bread and circuses is getting mighty expensive, too. Cable channel ESPN just signed a $15.2 billion contract to win the rights to carry Monday night NFL games for another eight years. At least our amusements are paid for by private enterprise, not public tax money.

–Chip Wood

 

Obama’s Dishonest Jobs Infomercial

Did you listen to Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 8? Remember? It had to be squeezed in after the Republican debate but before the start of the professional football season.

What, you decided to skip it? You weren’t alone. While I haven’t seen any stats from the various survey companies, I suspect Obama’s speech was one of the least-viewed Presidential addresses. When it comes to Presidential promises to revive the economy, I suspect the public mood has gone from “let’s hear what he’ll do” to “I don’t believe a word of it.”

The very first sentence in the lead story in The Wall Street Journal the next day referred to Obama’s peroration as “what might be the White House’s last chance to change its political fortunes before the 2012 campaign kicks into high gear.”

What a bunch of hooey. The President’s speech didn’t presage a campaign stump speech; it was a campaign stump speech. In fact, it was little more than a 50-minute infomercial — except without the attractive models or clever graphics.

Obama’s oration was a classic example of the misleading rhetoric we’ve come to expect from him. The most glaring example is the number of times the president lectured his captive audience on the need to “pass it now.” I’m not sure how many times he used that phrase or something close to it; I lost count at a dozen.

But the point is, there was nothing for Congress to pass. In their haste to get the promiser-in-chief in front of the TV cameras, White House staff members forgot one little item: Nobody had written the doggone legislation he was going to demand Congress approve.

Oh, they came up with a name for it: the American Jobs Act. There were plenty of elements its booster-in-chief could brag about. But, as far as a proposed piece of legislation that Congress could analyze, debate, modify and then vote on, there was no such thing. That pretty much made a mockery of Barack Obama’s stern enjoinders to “pass it now.”

Something else missing from the President’s remarks were words like “stimulus” and phrases such as “tax increase.” The brainy boys and girls who are in charge of massaging their master’s message realize the vast majority of Americans don’t like these words or the people who use them. So the word has gone out: From now on, don’t say “stimulus.” Use words like “investments” instead. In place of tax increases, talk about “revenue enhancements.” Or better yet, promise that something will be paid for by future spending reductions.

This last one has been a favorite of politicians since Rome first became a republic. Our current President didn’t hesitate to pull that ancient rabbit out of the hat again on Sept. 8. Why, if you believe him, more than $1 trillion in spending has already been slashed from the Federal budget!

Of course, if you believe that, you’re an idiot. What he’s talking about — what politicians always prefer to talk about — are reductions in spending that will occur sometime in the foggy future. After all, with increases of nearly $1 trillion a year already built into the Federal budget, if you promise to reduce the increases by just 10 percent — voilà! — you can claim that you will reduce spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years. That’s how the game is played, folks.

The High Cost Of Obama’s Jobs

But enough about what was missing from Obama’s speech. Were there any specific promises in the President’s address? Sure enough. Just as soon as Congress passes Obama’s jobs bill, the spending spigot will be turned on for another $447 billion.

What will we get for the money? You will not be surprised to learn that the lion’s share of it will go to three of the Democrats’ most popular and most powerful constituencies: teachers, labor unions and the unemployed. If you’re an unemployed teacher who belongs to a union, congratulations! You just hit the Federal trifecta.

The President wants to invest a few hundred billion dollars into repairing and building schools, bridges, highways, high-speed rail, solar power and a bunch of other things. Happily, there was no talk of “shovel-ready” projects, since we learned with the last stimulus package how misleading that description was.

Oh, and speaking of misleading, did you see the White House report on how effective the previous stimulus package was? I doubt it, since it was released by Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers on a Friday afternoon, right at the start of the Fourth of July weekend. That’s what you do when you want to make sure a story receives absolutely minimal coverage.

Hey, these folks are no dummies; they knew the numbers didn’t look good. The Administration says the $666 billion it spent to create jobs “added or saved” some 2.4 million jobs in America. Since there is no way to substantiate the numbers (how do you prove you “saved” a job?), we’ll never know the actual number.

But even using its own figures, that works out to $277,500 per job. Think of it this way: If the government had simply sent a check for $100,000 to those 2.4 million people, they would have had the best payday of their lives. And we taxpayers would have saved $426 billion.

But $277,500 per job is cheap compared to Uncle Sam’s solar efforts. Just before Obama’s great jobs oration came the news that the government’s favorite solar subsidy, a solar-panel maker named Solyndra, was closing its doors. More than 1,000 employees lost their jobs when the company filed for bankruptcy. Since Solyndra was the beneficiary of some $527 million in federal loan guarantees, that works out to over half-a-million dollars per job.

On that basis, Obama’s newest jobs program is a great deal. Its supporters say that the $447 billion they want to spend will create 2 million new jobs. If my calculator is correct, that works out to $223,500 per job. By Federal standards, this is a bargain, folks.

News flash: As I added the paragraph above to this column, the White House proudly announced that it had a bill ready to submit to Congress. No one on the Hill has had a chance to read it, of course. But neither had anyone read the monstrosity that created Obamacare before it was rushed through the House and Senate.

I can confidently predict that the American Jobs Act will be a hodgepodge of half measures, none of which will make much of a difference to the massive unemployment (and underemployment) in the United States.

I’ll have more to say about all of this, including the President’s laughable promise that his various make-work projects won’t add a penny to the deficit, in future columns.

In the meantime, you and I know the best way to create more jobs: It’s for government to get the heck out of the way. Reduce regulations, lower taxes and reward people for taking risks. Let people keep more of the fruits of their labors, and you can bet on a bigger harvest. It’s that simple.

By the way, not only does that produce more jobs, but it also produces more tax revenue. Does anyone want to bet whether this White House will give it a try?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Words Of Wisdom

Happy birthday to one of my favorite curmudgeons. H.L. Mencken, a journalist and essayist who was known as “the Sage of Baltimore,” was born in Baltimore on Sept. 12, 1880.

Mencken, who died on Jan. 29, 1956, is regarded as one of the most influential writers and critics of the past 100 years, although many of his pithiest warnings have been forgotten or ignored. Here are a few of my favorites:

Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction in stolen goods.

A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.

The typical lawmaker of today is a man devoid of principle — a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology, or cannibalism.

Where’s a modern-day Mencken when we need him? P.J. O’Rourke may be the closest we’ve got, but frankly, I was disappointed in his latest book, Don’t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards. I expected a lot more vituperation than he delivered.

–Chip Wood

Go Figure

How would your family fare? (Many thanks to the reader who sent me the following item.) Suppose your family’s income is $21,000 a year, you owe $142,500, and you add $36,200 of new debt every year. You don’t reduce any of the balances; instead, you borrow the money to make the interest payments. You hold a family council to discuss what you’re going to do about the situation. After a lot of wrangling and mutual accusations, you all agree to reduce your spending by $380 a year. Add nine zeroes to this account, and you’ve just described the situation with our national debt. Does this explain why Standard & Poor’s downgraded our debt?

Avoid this airport. Actually, if you want to avoid machines that can see through your unmentionables and security personnel who think 90-year-old grandmothers might be terrorists, you should probably avoid flying altogether. But if you must fly and want to avoid delays, skip Newark Liberty International Airport. A new study reports that 40 of the 100 most-delayed flights in the country come or go from that airport.

Are airline passengers getting more polite? Yes, according to a 2010 survey of 1,562 North American Travelocity newsletter readers: 93 percent said they help fellow passengers stow heavy bags, 81 percent said they turn off their cellphones when they are told to, and 60 percent said they always wipe the lavatory sink after using it. Still, most respondents ignored the pre-flight safety lectures. Only 28 percent reported giving them their full attention.

–Chip Wood