Category Archives: Politics

“People Don’t Realize That Taxes and Healthcare Are Connected”

I saw this commercial a couple of times in the past two days. I searched for it on YouTube, but  I could only find the radio version of it. Regardless of its medium, it irritates the heck out of me because it reinforces all the negative things about Obamacare that first drove people to their town halls in 2009 . It’s big, complicated and confusing and that’s admitted by the tax professional used in H & R’s commercial. The bill was so long that neither the Congressmen who voted for it nor the Justices who ruled on it bothered to read it. The agency charged with overseeing its implementation, Health and Human Services Department, really has no idea how to go about it as it issues one contradictory rule after another. These people are now in charge of 15% of the economy. Brilliant.

The ad continues with the tax professional stating that by the time you’re done with her, you’ll know “your eligibility, your potential monthly costs for health insurance and your potential tax penalty if you opt out…” The latter point instantly reminds me of the individual mandate, that odious linchpin keeping this entire law together. And finally, the very first line of the ad, People don’t realize that taxes and healthcare are connected,” stings the most because we have Chief Justice John Roberts to thank for that. The Obama administration and its surrogates protested mightily and repeatedly that the individual mandate wasn’t a tax and maintained that line even after the Court made its ruling. And yet, Congress’ authority to tax was the peg the majority hung its hat on for the law to pass constitutional muster.

This entire ad begs the question, “What kind of law is this where the average person who is expected to abide by it requires a third-party to help him interpret it?” A bad law. Ushered through by a corrupt process. Not that H & R Block minds. They love it because it means more customers for them. Which further reveals another aggravating point: So many entities made out like bandits on this law and the people who didn’t are the ones this bill was seemingly supposed to help. Be it the large insurance companies benefiting from the individual mandate provision or the politically connected businesses granted waivers from their Congressmen, the entire law is covered in a thick layer of crony capitalism. Don’t say we weren’t warned though.

All this grief from a simple one minute commercial. I actually think this ad does more harm for Obamacare than some realize which is why I encourage its widespread viewing. Perhaps others will have the same reaction that I did: “Man, I’m really getting hosed on this law, aren’t I?” The fact is, Obamacare was ruled constitutional and it is now law. The odds of getting it repealed are as good as the Houston Astros making it back to the World Series. But it’s not entirely hopeless. Obamacare opponents should hope that this Administration, normally so eager to embrace Lincoln comparisons, inadvertently adheres to his warning: “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.” By design, all the goodies in the bill were handed out first.  Now we’re rapidly approaching payment date and mandate time. Strictly speaking, that’s going to burn.

Enjoy.

Energy: Made In The USA

Photo credit: Exponent.com

In last night’s debate, both candidates spent a considerable amount of time discussing their respective energy policies. Although I am by no means a grizzled roughneck, I have been employed for two years in the oil and gas industry, specifically the upstream sector of the business. Therefore, it’s always of great interest to me what politicians and their appointees to regulatory bodies have to say regarding energy.

To say that the current administration has been antagonistic toward the fossil fuel industry is to be guilty of gross understatement. It’s been downright adversarial. From the President’s comment as candidate in 2008, when he stated his desire to “bankrupt” coal-powered plants, to the words of the now resigned EPA regional administrator, Al Armendariz, who likened his “philosophy of enforcement,” against EPA rule breakers to that of Romans handling Turkish villages (See: Crucifixion), the traditional energy sector has found few friends at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Not only do we find such hostility toward the industry in their words, but also in their actions. Earlier this year, the President denied TransCanada’s permit request for its Keystone XL Pipeline route from Alberta to Nebraska. The State Department shockingly claimed that at the time they made their decision, they determined the pipeline “did not to serve the national interest.” That was written before pump prices hit nearly $5 in places like California. Seems a tad short sighted now. The Administration likes to champion construction of the pipeline’s southern route from Cushing, OK, to Port Arthur, TX, but that route didn’t require Presidential approval. He never shares that fact with his audience. After the BP debacle in the Gulf of Mexico, the Administration slammed the industry with a drilling moratorium which lasted 6 months and resulted in the exodus of companies and their rigs from the region. The Interior Department estimated “well closures temporarily cost 8,000-12,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in economic activity.” Yes, that dollar amount is a billion. There’s also the constant and seemingly inexhaustible stream of “loans” to failed “green energy” companies like Solyndra Corp. while simultaneously there are calls for the elimination of “subsidies” to the oil and gas industry. And last night, as President Obama defended his energy record in front of the town hall audience and millions more at home, we find that his Interior Department in August quietly closed off from drilling nearly 11.5 million acres in Alaska. Alaska used to be the second highest oil-producing state in the nation. Now, North Dakota occupies that spot. Draw your own conclusion as to why that’s the case.

The shame of it all is that this antagonism need not exist. The energy sector has been the one bright spot in an otherwise anemic economy. The Shale Boom, brought about by new advances in technology such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, has created millions of jobs throughout the country. Texas has seen robust job growth within its borders with “288,222 new jobs already attributable to unconventional gas production as of 2010,” with numbers set to “grow to 385,318 in 2015 and 682,740 by 2035.” North Dakota, blessed to sit atop the hugely productive Bakken field, has kept its unemployment rate low with the help of nearly “35,000 of its state’s workforce [being] directly employed in the oil industry.” Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois are also reaping the benefits of the shale boom. But it’s not only those directly involved with the industry who are benefiting. Hotels, restaurants and county courthouses are all taking advantage of the influx of workers into their towns. From courthouses in Karnes City, Texas to Carmi, Illinois, county clerks use the revenue from copies and filing of oil and gas leases to uploading the dusty and battered pages of their record books into online databases. I may not like paying $0.50 per copy, but the clerks sure do love it. This new found revenue is also loved by States as it cushions a bit their battered budgets. Through severance taxes and permit fees, states are able to benefit from exploration within their borders. Colorado, Ohio and New Mexico are in the envious position of deciding which programs they’d like to spend their oil revenue on. A position, no doubt, cash starved sister states would love to be in.

There’s more to this story, and I certainly am going to hit the keyboard to continue telling it, but underlying it all is the simple frustration that despite our country’s potential to be an energy powerhouse, we have folks in positions of authority who insist on keeping a choke collar on the neck of the American bull dog. Just when it seems we’re getting ahead, the Administration and its increasingly politically motivated regulatory agencies yank us back. Instead of demonizing this sector of the economy, they should be encouraging it. Millions of folks owe their livelihood to this industry. I know. I’m one of them. I think it’s amazing the advances which have been made. This should be praised. You don’t see this type of activity going on in Europe or China. Not to the extent that it’s happening here. In fact, foreign companies are sending their folks to American shores to learn our techniques and train their workers. After what seems like years where our number one status has slipped in many categories, we have an area where we are decidedly top dog. Why pull back on that now? I have a theory for that question, but that’s a post for another day.

For those in the industry, I say, keep chugging along and hold your heads high. From the geologists to the oil field workers, you all are finding, extracting and refining the fuel this big nation runs on and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Remember, the guy or gal who berates you for what you do for a living most likely uses what you pulled out of the Earth. And if they deny it, well, it must be a special blend of rainbows and unicorn urine they’re putting in their vehicles that us mere mortals are unable to use.

Sarah Palin and the Rough Riders

CREDIT: Dinwiddie, William, photographer. Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the top of the hill which they captured, Battle of San Juan, 1898. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction number LC-USZ62-7626 DLC

You know the story of the “Rough Riders?” It was the name given to an all volunteer Calvary Regiment organized by Theodore Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War in 1898. It was a motley group, made up of cowboys, Native Americans, college boys,  and wealthy men, but despite their divergent backgrounds, “they could ride and shoot and were in shape, and thus could be ready for war with little training.”  The regiment assembled in Texas and then set out for Cuba. Colonel Roosevelt, on horseback, led

“the Rough Riders and elements of the Ninth and Tenth Regiments of regulars, African-American “buffalo soldiers,” and other units up Kettle Hill. After that hill was captured, TR, now on foot, led a second charge up the San Juan Heights. This was what TR called his “crowded hour,” his great moment.”

I have always loved the picture of Colonel Roosevelt and the Rough Riders posing on top of a hill in San Juan Heights. They weren’t professional military men, though no doubt there were some veterans sprinkled among the group. Although all the men are wearing their uniforms of dark shirts, high boots and hats, their volunteer status shines through by the way their hats are cocked to the side, and shirts carelessly buttoned. There’s something about the way the men are posing that bleeds defiance. You can tell by the way they stand that they don’t so much as walk, but as Mark Twain wrote, “move with a dignified swagger.” This is definitely not a graduation picture from West Point.

I thought of this picture as I was talking to a friend this morning about an exciting political moment for us exactly 4 years ago. I had faded in and out of the Republican primary race because I was fairly agnostic toward the candidates, and the fireworks going off on the Democrat side between Team Hillary and Team Obama were far more entertaining to watch. So, when the presumptive GOP Presidential nominee announced his selection of his running mate, I wasn’t watching. I was taking my time getting ready for class. Then my mother called. She told me that John McCain had picked a woman as his VP choice. I stabbed at it half-heartedly, “Kay Bailey Hutchison?” “No, her name is Sarah and she’s from Alaska. Turn it on.”  For the next twenty minutes, I stood and listened to a voice speak confident, passionate and defiant words that I had never really heard before, and I liked them.

I missed my class that afternoon.

In the intervening years between that afternoon and today, I’ve had the chance to do more than just like the words of Gov. Sarah Palin. I’ve had the privilege of  joining others who also liked her words and working alongside them, turn those words into tangible results. We found each other in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Wisconsin, California and many other states. We worked booths at county fairs, passed out flyers and signed up volunteers at rallies and phone banked weekends leading up to election day. Few had experience in politics before and fewer still had worked on campaigns. We’re parents, college students, men, women, straight, gay, black, white, professionals and stay at home moms. We’re a motley group. We’re volunteers. We’re Rough Riders.

We take time out of our busy lives and use up precious weekends to help candidates who share our principles and commitment to reform such a shamefully broken government. In Wisconsin, the grassroots there withstood tremendous pressure to abandon their principles and cede to the loud voices of graft and fiscal insanity. In Texas, the grassroots dug deep and held their line to beat back overwhelming odds to send a conservative candidate on his way to represent us in Washington. Many times, we faced fierce blow back from a party we’ve had to ride along with. It’s tough and at many times disheartening. But we push forward anyway because that’s what Rough Riders do. None more so than Gov. Sarah Palin.

She showed up in Wisconsin at a time when the air was ringing with leftist chants and threats. Stood at Jan Brewer’s side when others couldn’t be found. Defended the Tea Party when everyone else abandoned them. She sided with Ted Cruz when it seemed fruitless to do so. I’ve had the awesome honor of seeing up close her work in the trenches with the grassroots. Saw her speak with nearly every resident of Pella, Iowa. Watched her walk the grounds of the Iowa State Fair and shake any hand offered to her and graciously pose with folks as they nervously and excitedly fumbled with their cameras. Heard stories of her responding to letters written by folks who shared their stories of struggle and faith with her. And she does this all within the full gaze of the angry faces of those on the left and right who belittle these efforts and denigrate her character. If you’re looking for inspiration to keep charging up these daunting hills we face, you won’t have to look hard. She’s the first one up the hill.

There are a lot of hills in front of us and it’s going to take many battles to get to our “crowded hour,” but the elections of 2010 were a good start. The elections of 2012 are an important continuation. As the events at the RNC showed yesterday, this fight isn’t going to be pretty or fair. That’s the terrain, so let’s not fight it, but adapt to it. We’ll do it with cocked hats, rumpled shirts and defiant smiles. Let us not walk, but “move with a dignified swagger,” and know that unlike the fuzzy motives of the war fought by the original Rough Riders, our motive is honorable and purposeful. Reform our financial and political house so that future generations don’t have to fight these battles we face now. I’m heartened that such a figure like Gov. Sarah Palin is out there on the field with us, spurring us on. It’s good company to be in.

See you all out in the trenches, Rough Riders.

Credit: @Husker4Palin (nebraska@organize4palin.com)

The Long Shadow Over Vice Presidential Politics is a Big, Bald Rat

Cats.

The thing about them is that unlike dogs, you hardly ever need to give them a bath. They’re pretty good about cleaning themselves, but sometimes a good tongue bath is no match for a bad odor picked up while tromping through the outdoors. Ever try and bathe a cat? There’s something about soap and water that turns the most docile kitty into a buzz saw with fur. It’s a pain to do, but when that little critter has a foul smell clinging to it like a cockle burr on a sock, you just have to don the oven mitts, get a good grip, and plunge that howling, hissing ball of stink right into the water.

And boy, do we have a cat that has rolled in something that stinks to high heaven. The source of the smell appeared on US News’ blog, “The Ballot 2012. ” Author Rebekah Metzler wondered, per Ann Romney’s comments to CBS, whether the eventual GOP nominee would choose a woman to be his running mate. Metzler interviewed Jennifer Lawless, director of American University’s Women and Politics Institute, who squelched the idea claiming:

That’s because the long shadow of Sarah Palin still hangs over vice presidential politics.”

That’s pretty rancid, ma’am. I recall the events of late 2008 quite differently. You see, I did not vote for Sen. John McCain in November. As a candidate, he gave me no reason to. When I walked into the voting booth on election day, I scrolled to the page for Presidential candidates, found his name, covered it with my left thumb and with Sarah Palin’s name in full view, selected her with my right thumb. I never wore a McCain button, never let a McCain sticker grace the bumper of my car, and never listened to one of his speeches until August 29, 2008. Team McCain spent a lot of time and money trying to get people like me to pay attention to them, and the one thing that finally accomplished that goal was introducing to the nation a 5′ 4″ Governor from the state of Alaska. That got my attention. What earned my vote was her political background, her principles and her forceful defense of both. Gov. Sarah Palin was able to demonstrate in a little over 2 months what Team McCain’s expensive strategists were unable to do in 18 months: Give heart and purpose to a campaign.

Unfortunately, that campaign was saddled with the raw stupidity of McCain’s Campaign Manager, Steve Schmidt and his little blonde toady, Nicolle Wallace. What was initial befuddlement quickly advanced to full blown screaming episodes of obscenities at these heretofore unknown strategists who kept this vibrant, knowledgeable and best asset of the campaign locked away while the media and  Team Obama surrogates gladly filled the void Team McCain so foolishly left unprotected. Quite a bit of buck shot flew around in that election, but the one shot that proved fatal to Team McCain was one delivered by their own hand: Suspending its campaign during the 2008 financial crisis. Courtesy of Steve Schmidt. When that financial bomb dropped, Team McCain froze, and allowed an otherwise unqualified junior Senator from Illinois to appear to be the one in control. And in the waning days of this presidential campaign, did we find a campaign manager scrambling for one last play as anyone compelled by duty and honor would do? No, we found a rat desperately seeking dry sanctuary after being the one who chewed through his ship’s rigging.

That is the long shadow which still hangs over the 2008 vice presidential story. It is not cast by a petite Alaskan, but by a big, bald rat. No caption required below.

There’s more scrubbing to be had. Ms. Lawless continues:

Whoever Romney picks, if she’s a woman, would have to first demonstrate how much better than Sarah Palin she actually is.”

That’s a pretty high standard. My political sisters, Stacy Drake and Whitney Pitchercompiled an extensive amount on Gov. Palin that reveals “a record of relentless reform and fiscal leadership that goes beyond “drill, baby, drill” and is more complex than selling an expensive state jet.” It’s a substantive record while in office and since the 2010 mid term elections, it’s become a potent record outside of office. A sample list of her wins in 2010 include:

  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin
  • New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez
  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry
  • New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte
  • Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey
  • Kentucky Senator Rand Paul
  • Florida Representative Allen West
  • Washington Representaive Cathy McMorris
  • North Carolina Representative Renee Ellmers
Gov. Palin shows no signs of slowing down for the 2012 Congressional campaigns. Earlier this year, she plunged head first into three different Senate primaries, giving rise to “The Palin Effect,” which Tony Lee described in delicious detail. If we’re talking about shadows, that’s a tough one to be shaded by.
This type of dirt that’s been spread around among the rat nests of D.C. is particularly foul.
It requires constant scrubbing which will bring out some fierce resistance, but that’s what the oven mitts and a vice like grip are for.
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