I'm a Pundit Too

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Congressional Plan To Lengthen The Recession

This week the House of Representatives passed the latest, pork laden “stimulus” package that will cost a little more than $800 billion. The bill, written entirely by congressional Democrats, passed with no Republicans voting for the measure. The Republican opposition to the bill stemmed from the inclusion of billions of dollars in earmarks and pork projects that have absolutely nothing to do with stimulating the economy. For example, there is about $75 million for smoking cessation programs. Aren’t we going to need more people smoking, and paying cigarette taxes, to pay for this massive spending bill?

For most of Americans, the sheer size of an $800 billion spending bill is beyond our understanding. Let’s put it into terms that we can understand a bit easier. The government could send every household with children under the age of 18 a check for $22,445 and that would be equal to what they are proposing to spend on this “stimulus” bill. If we expanded to every family in the U.S., each family would receive a check for $10,520. How much would the economy be affected if they sent the taxpayers a check, instead of sending billions to their cronies?

Republicans are not the only ones raising serious questions about this farce known as a stimulus package. The Congressional Budget Office has weighed in with their analysis, and have questioned why we need to rush to pass this bill, when more than 75% of the spending takes place in 2010 and beyond. If this bill is so desperately needed to pull us out of the economic doldrums, why is the majority of the money being spent in the future and not now? Could it be that they know that this package will have a zero effect on turning the economy around? The President claims that this proposal will create as many as 4 million jobs, but if you do the math those 4 million jobs will cost the taxpayers more than $206,000 each.

Last year about this time, Congress and the Bush administration decided to send us all “stimulus” checks that cost the taxpayers about $325 million. That plan provided a small blip on the economic radar, but it was not enough to stave off the economic downturn. Then in the early fall congressional leaders pontificated about how hard they were working to save our economy. They then passed a $700 billion bailout of the financial markets. The net effect of that bailout was that the markets continued to tank. After several smaller bailouts, Congress has decided that printing more money and throwing it at a problem will fix the economy. So with a sagging economy and uncertainty on the horizon, Congress has decided that spending nearly a trillion dollars of money we don’t have on projects that we don’t need will fix the problem. This proposal will cause all of our taxes to go up, because they simply cannot afford to throw money up in the air without a way to pay for it. To steal a famous line from the campaign, “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.” The proposal has so much pork hidden throughout it, it can only be labeled a pig.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Endless Cycle Of Political Corruption

When President Barack Obama tapped Timothy Geithner to be the Treasury Secretary, it appeared that on paper it was a fine pick. Geithner was president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and was the director of Policy Development and Review Department at the International Monetary Fund. The problems arose when it became public knowledge that he failed to pay taxes for the 2 years he worked at the International Monetary Fund. He owed roughly $35,000 of unpaid self-employment taxes. Many of the senators conducting the confirmation hearings claimed that it was an honest and innocent mistake. Geithner also revealed that he had employed a nanny that did not possess the proper work authorization papers. That was, of course, just another honest mistake. My problem with Geithner’s honest mistake is that although he “officially” knew in 2006 that he had failed to pay his taxes, it took until just after President Obama asked him to be Treasury Secretary for him to actually pay his back taxes.

Geithner is not the only well connected political figure that is able to bend the rule of law to suit his own wishes. Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon was recently indicted on 12 counts, included in the indictment were charges of theft, perjury, and fraud. She is accused of spending gift cards that were meant for needy families in Baltimore, and accepting thousands of dollars of gifts from developers. This is not the first time that Dixon has been the subject of a corruption scandal, but as with most politically powerful people, she has always been able to worm her way out of trouble. If past history is any indicator, Dixon will not lose support of the voting public and she will more than likely never see the inside of a jail cell.

Geithner and Dixon are but just 2 examples of politically powerful people that play by a different set of rules than the rest of us “common folk”. If you or I had failed to pay taxes for 2 years the IRS would have constantly hounded us until we were forced to pay the penalties and back taxes. It would not have been looked upon as an honest and innocent mistake. If anyone else but an elected official had used gift cards that were destined for the poor and needy, they would have been ostracized publicly and quickly thrown into jail. Why does someone who has fraudulently stolen billions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme, allowed to stay in his million-dollar home under house arrest? It is all in whom you know politically. When a politician is revealed to be corrupt, the voting public thinks nothing of it. In their minds it is just another politician being a politician, as long as they continue to send more money home to my district. It has gotten so bad in Washington that most political scandals are met with a circling of the wagons around all members of the political elite regardless of political party. My prediction is that Geithner will sail through the confirmation process and Dixon’s political career will be enhanced by this latest scandal. The cycle of corruption will continue until the public decides that they have had enough and actually holds the politicians accountable for their actions regardless of the political leanings.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Will The Obama Administration Meet With Hamas?

With a little more than a week left before Barack Obama officially becomes the President of the United States, the speculation of how he will handle the violence in the Middle East is growing. While he is readily willing to show his hand on virtually every other issue in the news, he has been strangely silent on his intentions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has repeatedly said that we have only one President at a time, and he is currently not the President. As shocking as this may be for many to hear, I agree with him. Although I believe he is being silent for other reasons, I do believe that if he did enlighten us on his stand on the conflict, it could weaken any foreign policy that his administration may implement.

During President Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office, his administration’s policy was to not legitimize the terrorist group Hamas by dealing with them. Unfortunately, their plan blew up in their face when they pushed for elections in Palestine and members of Hamas were elected in majority numbers to the Palestinian Parliament.

During President Clinton’s 2 terms as President, his policy was to try to bring both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the bargaining table to negotiate a peace. Clinton helped negotiate a treaty were Israel gave in to 95% of Palestine’s demands, only to have Yasser Arafat reject the deal and walk away from the negotiating table.

During the eternal campaign, President-elect Obama called for unconditional talks with Iran and North Korea. At the time, Hillary Clinton called his foreign policy intentions naïve and foolish. In a few weeks, Clinton will be called upon to carry out Obama’s “naïve” foreign policy wishes.

While do not yet know what Obama’s true intentions are, we do have a small hint of what is to come. The UK Guardian has released a story that predicts that the incoming President will deal directly with Hamas to end the conflict and finally achieve peace in the region. The story alleges that the preparations are underway to begin low-level talks with the terrorist organization. They believe that it will be done secretly to politically protect the President from legitimizing the terrorists.

I believe any talks with Hamas, or any other terrorist organization, is completely pointless. Even worse, it could be deadly if you give in to the demands of the heartless murderers. How do you come to an agreement with someone whose sole stated purpose is to kill you? How do you negotiate with someone willing to strap a bomb on their child and send them into a crowded marketplace to blow themselves up? How do you find common ground with someone who would not think twice about cutting your throat and the throats of your children? The answer is that you cannot. The United States has had a policy of never negotiating with terrorists, because as soon as you do it once, every terrorist group is lining up to hold us hostage to get something that they want. Only time will tell what the Obama administration will do, but we can only hope that they do not pursue the naïve approach of appeasement.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

You Cannot Negotiate With Terrorists, Even Those In Palestine

Since the nation of Israel was re-established after the Second World War, there has been building violence against Israel. The violence has culminated with the seemingly, never ending struggle with Palestine and their militant rulers, Hamas. Yasser Arafat, of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, led Palestine from the mid 1970’s until his death in 2004. Arafat and the PLO were committed to the destruction of the state of Israel and the killing of innocent Israeli civilians. After his death, the people of Palestine elected members of Hamas to lead them.

Hamas is an admitted terrorist organization committed to wiping Israel off of the map and replacing it with an Islamic state. Their funding has been traced to Syria and Iran, whose leaders have themselves called for the destruction of Israel. From June 2007 until June 2008, more than 1500 missiles were fired into Israel and almost 1800 mortar shells fell on Israeli soil. In 2005 Israel pulled completely out of Gaza in an attempt to end the violence. Unfortunately, Israel is learning that you cannot negotiate with terrorists.

Last week, Israel finally decided to stop rolling over and allowing the terrorists to attack them without any retribution; Israeli jets started bombing Hamas compounds and rocket launchers. Israeli ground forces also prepared for a full-scale invasion. While they have not moved into Gaza, they are ready to commence their ground assault at a moment’s notice. The United Nations has called for Israeli restraint, but was noticeably silent for the past year and a half while Hamas was continually attacking Israeli civilians.

The Bush administration has called for Hamas to stop firing their missiles into Israel and has defended Israel’s right to defend herself. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice correctly applied the blame for the current attacks to Hamas and the constant barrage of missile and mortar attacks. President Bush and his staff have only a few weeks left in office before President-elect Obama and his staff will decide the U.S. position. Surprisingly, Obama has been silent on his position of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the past, Obama has stated that if someone were constantly firing missiles at his children he would do something about it. We will soon know whether Obama was serious about talking to terrorists without any preconditions, or whether he understands that there is no negotiating with someone that will strap a bomb on their own child and send them off to kill as many infidels as possible. My prediction is that there will be no peace until there is a clear winner and a clear loser. The continual forced ceasefires only serve to prolong the violence.

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