Archive for October, 2013

A New Budget “Deal”

All animals are equal…

My apologies to Mr. Orwell. The shutdown-averting budget bill that passed the Senate last night (10/17/13) is one more example of how deeply flawed our system has become. In addition to raising the debt ceiling, thereby allowing deficit spending to continue unabated, even as our national debt approaches the 17 Trillion dollar mark, there are earmarks aplenty. Technically not earmarks, since they are frowned upon, but not quite bribes. At least not that we know about.

For instance, among others, are these gems:

One provision would let the government spend $2.9 billion — an increase from the current cap of $775 million — to upgrade the Olmstead lock on the Ohio River. The two states it straddles are represented by two of the Senate’s most powerful members: the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, and No. 2 Democratic leader, Richard Durbin of Illinois. Harry Reid was quick to point out, “This is not an earmark.”

The measure would also lift the usual $100 million limit on Federal Highway Administration emergency highway aid to $450 million for Colorado. State officials have said last month’s flooding destroyed 200 miles of roads and 50 bridges. Both Senators from Colorado are Democrats.

The legislation, which keeps federal agencies functioning through Jan. 15, provides an extra $294 million during that period for the Veterans Affairs Department’s efforts to reduce backlogged claims.

There is also an additional $100 million to prevent furloughs of air traffic controllers and safety inspectors.

There is extra money for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to continue work on two weather satellites.

There is additional money to allow the Defense Department to continue assisting African forces pursue Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group accused of atrocities.

The bill provides extra money for contracts with private companies whose ships move American troops and their equipment overseas.

Granted, it is a far cry from the days when these sorts of bills would have hundreds of “earmarks,” but still, have they not even a vestige of shame? The debt increases hourly, and these alleged public servants keep spending more and more and more. Our dollar declines in value thanks to our runaway debt, our ever-increasing debt ceiling and the attendant battles over it, and our government’s continuing policy of quantitative easing.

Of course, the bill does impose terrible suffering on our representatives and senators. They are forced to forego a cost-of-living on their 174,000-dollar a year salaries. But that shouldn’t hurt too much. Harry Reid, for example, has a net worth of 5 million dollars. His counterpart on the minority side, Mitch McConnell, is worth about 10 million or so. Nancy Pelosi, 35 million, give or take a buck. John Boehner, only about 2 million or so. So I can, perhaps, be forgiven for not crying over their COLA problems.

One might be tempted to suggest that people who are worth those sorts of numbers have very little sympathy for the plight of the hoi polloi. One might also wonder how it is that ostensibly “public” servants turn that service into an increasingly lucrative source of personal wealth.

…some animals are more equal than others.

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Forcing Congress to Legislate

I think that a solution to the problems we are currently facing is relatively simple. For example, the ACA, what some call Obamacare, is about 2400 pages long. The enabling regulations are about 25,000 pages, give or take a few, and will probably top out around 50,000 pages or so. This isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a surprise. Taking a look at the collection of Federal regulations, also known as the CFR, one can easily see how legislation becomes an extraordinarily large collection of regulations.

This happens thanks to something called “delegation of powers.” This is the procedure by which Congress decides to do something about a problem, whether real or perceived. It then holds hearings, makes findings, and passes legislation. But the legislation is, not surprisingly, woefully non-specific and inadequate.

To solve the problem it has created, Congress then passes the buck. They delegate their power and responsibility to legislate to the unelected bureaucrats that are in charge of and populate the ever-growing departments of the federal leviathan. The narkoms publish proposed regulations, about which we are permitted to comment, and then they are implemented. While not having the same penalties for disobedience as criminal law, they can have penalties that will completely destroy a life. One need only see some of the IRS’ activities to realize that.

The problem is that once the law is passed and signed, the implementation and enforcement is then handed off to people over whom we have the second-least control, after the SCOTUS. Once the heads of the various departments have the power of regulation, they don’t give it up. They pass more and more regulations, leading to bureaucracies and rulebooks that become so complex that even those in charge can’t comprehend them. Nota bene, the IRS admits that half of the information given out by their customer service people is wrong. They further say that if you make an error based on their advice, that your good-faith reliance is not a defense.

So, to fix this, what I propose is simple, and will prevent a number of problems arising from regulatory overreach. Eliminate Congressional delegation. Make Congress write a law, to include necessary regulations, and not pass off the finer points to a different branch of government. If Congress can pass a 2,400-page bill, they should be able to pass a 52,400-page bill. At a minimum, they wouldn’t be able to take so much vacation time. They might actually have to spend more time legislating instead of campaigning.        It is a cinch that there would be fewer laws passed. Remember what Will Rogers said, “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer. “

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The Senate Wants to Help

Recognizing that obesity is a growing epidemic in America, and also recognizing the number of people who live in “food deserts” and suffer from nutritional deficits, the U.S. Senate took action. Senator Harry Reid, along with co-sponsors Barbara Boxer and Chuck Schumer, today introduced a bill that is aimed at helping people eat nutritional, healthy meals, and control their weight.

“People today are eating far too poorly,” said Reid. “It is imperative that we do something, for the sake of our children and their children. No longer can America tolerate the eating habits that have brought our country to the brink of destruction. Heart disease, diabetes, metabolic disorders are far more threatening than terrorists. Therefore, I have introduced a bill that will address these issues, so that Americans can continue to lead the world into the 21st Century.”

The bill, entitled “The Constantly Observing Nutritional Trends and Reducing Obesity Legally Act,” has two main parts.

The first is a requirement that every person or family at or above the poverty line buy at least one box of Total brand breakfast cereal weekly. If a family or person cannot document, through itemized receipts, the required number of purchases, they will face a “penalty” equal to three times the average retail cost of a year’s supply of Total times the number of people in their family unit. Should a family be able to document the purchases, no penalty will attach.

Part one of the act also amends certain parts of the ACA, also known as Obamacare. The amendment requires that each person, whether or not covered by any insurance, submit to testing by a licensed health care practitioner to determine their level of nutritional sufficiency. A failure to obtain and maintain nutritional sufficiency, as determined by the Secretary of HHS, will incur a penalty to be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

The second part of the act requires health care insurers to document a patients weight and height, and reduce those measurements to a “Body Mass Index.”  Such index, in the event it indicates obesity even marginally, will be used to determine a penalty, again, determined by the Secretary of the Treasury. The Secretary of HHS is empowered by this act to offer such subsidies for weight-loss programs as he or she determines is in the best interests of the nation.

President Obama has signaled his complete support for this bill, saying that, “Anyone who opposes this act is obviously a shill for the Twinkie and Coca Cola lobbyists, and wishes to see Americans die of heart attacks.”

Chris Matthews opined “anyone who opposes Obama on this bill is obviously a racist and loves fat people.” Piers Morgan chimed in, too: “ I don’t understand American’s fascination with guns.” Rachel Maddow echoed the President’s remarks, adding, “opposition to this bill comes from the Coke brothers, and we need to kill them.”

Congressional staffers have been reportedly wondering “what the hell?” When questioned, Speaker Boehner’s legislative aide suggested that the Speaker would probably vote against the bill, and refuse to fund it.

Categories: Uncategorized
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