Saving America, Sharing the Pain

Paul R. Hollrah

By Paul R. Hollrah, Guest Blogger

On Dec. 3, Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (a.k.a., “Debt Commission”) voted on the plan they had developed to save our country from utter fiscal ruin. The vote fell three short of the fourteen votes required by rule to send the plan to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

Voting in favor of the plan were the co-chairmen, former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles; along with Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.); Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.); former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alice Rivlin; Honeywell Corp. CEO David Cote; and Ann Fudge, former CEO of Young & Rubicam.

Voting against the proposal were Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.); Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.); and Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union.

If Obama expected courage from his commission members, he might have skipped over members of the House of Representatives, all of whom run for reelection in 2012, and union leaders such as Andy Stern, who could never be trusted to put the national interest first. Without going into detail, the commissioners recommended what can best be described as a little pain for everyone. They suggested cuts in Social Security and Medicare, the elimination of tax breaks for mortgage interest and child care, and, surprisingly, a reduction in tax rates for individuals and corporations.

As expected, howls of protest could be heard immediately from the right and from the left, but in each case from those who apparently would rather see the entire nation go down the drain while they scramble for the last remaining seats in a sinking ship of state. So, for those who are serious about saving a bit of the American Dream for our children and grandchildren, what are some of the things that could and should be done almost immediately?

REPEAL OBAMACARE

The first item of business should be to repeal Obamacare, replacing it with meaningful reform that eliminates fraud, waste, and bureaucratic paper-shuffling, protects families from financial ruin in cases of catastrophic illness, eliminates free healthcare for illegal aliens, charges patients only for justifiable doctor and hospital services, and focuses on strengthening the doctor-patient relationship.

CANCEL UNSPENT STIMULUS FUNDS

Of the $787 billion authorized by Congress under Obama’s ill-fated economic stimulus plan, some $292 billion remains unspent. These funds have been allocated to various government departments and agencies but have not been spent and could be withdrawn by act of Congress.

ESTABLISH SOCIAL SECURITY MEANS TESTING

In order to save Social Security for current and future generations, we should begin by answering this question:  Can we morally justify sending monthly Social Security checks to Warren Buffet and George Soros while millions of ordinary Social Security recipients must choose each day between the cost of food, healthcare, utility bills, and prescription drugs?

Anyone who believes in the sustainability of the current system, or who wishes to argue that, since an individual has paid into the system for 40 or 50 years, he/she has a right to withdraw full benefits for a lifetime, regardless of personal wealth, should please stop reading now… we’ve heard that silly argument before, and it is of little or no value in the current debate, given what is at stake.

An individual taxpayer born in 1945, who entered the workforce in 1965, and who retired in 2010 at age 65 with an annual salary of $110,000, will have paid a total of $126,715.89 into the system.  With a monthly benefit of $2,135, that individual will receive that same amount in benefits in just four years and eleven months. If he/she lives to be 85 years of age, the total amount paid to that individual will be $512,400… four times their total contributions.

A graduated reduction in Social Security benefits, beginning with annual incomes of $50,000 and zeroing-out benefits for those with annual incomes of $150,000, or more, would provide long-term sustainability for the system while not causing any undue amount of pain for current and future beneficiaries, regardless of income level. We simply must find the courage to do it.

REDUCE SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI) PAYMENTS

The SSI program guarantees a minimum level of income to financially needy individuals who are aged, blind, or disabled. However, the program has been substantially liberalized by extending benefits to many who are disabled by reason of addiction to drugs, alcohol and gambling.

The State of California will soon reduce SSI outlays for more than 1.1 million low-income seniors and people with disabilities to their Dec. 1, 2008, level.  For an individual recipient, this means the maximum grant will drop from $907 per month to $870 per month, a 4.1 percent reduction. The Congress should direct the Social Security Administration to follow California’s
lead. SSI benefits should be available only to U.S. citizens and only to those who are unable to work due to age, blindness, or physical incapacity. We cannot continue to raid the Social Security System by paying benefits to able-bodied citizens who are many years away from retirement age.

ELIMINATE MANDATORY RETIREMENT AGE

One of the greatest mistakes our nation has ever made was to set a mandatory retirement age at 65.  Telling our most knowledgeable, most experienced, and most skilled workers to go home and sit on their behinds until they die, when the vast majority of workers are capable of being productive until age 70 or 75, makes no economic sense and only serves to swell the ranks of government entitlement recipients. The age of retirement should be left to negotiation between the individual and his/her employer, not dictated by government or corporate policy.

REDUCE FEDERAL WORKFORCE

The Congress should take immediate steps to reduce the size of the non-military federal workforce by ten percent over 10 years. According to 2009 data provided by the Office of Personnel Management, the total federal workforce for calendar year 2009 stood at 4.43 million — 2.77 million executive branch, 66,000 legislative branch and 1.59 million uniformed military.  Excluding our uniformed military, the federal workforce numbers approximately 2.84 million people.

A 10 percent workforce reduction would require the elimination of 284,000 non-military jobs.

The elimination of the U.S. Department of Education (5,000 employees, 2010 budget of $56 billion) and the U.S. Department of Energy (16,000 employees and more than 93,000 contract employees, annual budget approximately $25 billion), both unnecessary and unproductive organizations, would provide a good starting point.

ROLL BACK FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SALARIES

Recent news reports indicate that:  a) salaries of federal workers are roughly double the salaries paid for similar work in the private sector, and b) the number of federal jobs paying in excess of $150,000 per year has doubled under Barack Obama. Using the “power of the purse,” the Congress should begin immediately to roll back federal salaries to private sector levels.

ROLL BACK MINIMUM WAGE TO 2006 LEVELS

Since gaining control of Congress in 2006, Democrats have pushed through three increases in the minimum wage, a 40 percent increase from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour. Studies show that, for every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, the overall number of jobs available decreases by as much as 2 percent.

The impact on entry-level jobs is even greater.  For each 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, the number of entry-level jobs for teenagers and unskilled workers is reduced by from 4 to 5 percent.

At the very least, the Congress should establish a two-tier minimum wage… a $5.15 per hour minimum wage for teens and unskilled entry-level workers and a $7.25 per hour minimum wage for those with marketable skills who find themselves temporarily unemployed.

ELIMINATE WASTE, FRAUD AND INEFFICIENCY

It is clear we cannot rely on Obama to eliminate waste, fraud, and inefficiency. He has identified only $140 million from his $3.6 trillion 2010 budget request as wasteful. He has also proposed a partial offset of the cost of ObamaCare by cutting $622 billion in Medicare and Medicaid “waste and inefficiencies” over the next 10 years. We’ll never know if that is a hard number or if it was
merely a “blue sky” number invented to help sell his healthcare program. Either way, it’s a good place to start. We only need to inject a bit of courage into those who represent us in Congress.

The dire predictions of where we are headed if we fail to take decisive action now should scare the pants off every thinking American. Let’s take our medicine now so that our children and grandchildren won’t find themselves having to swallow a far more bitter pill in years to come.

Hollrah is a senior fellow at the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a contributing editor for Family Security Matters and a number of online publications.  He resides in northeast Oklahoma.

‘Rubberstamp Rusty’ Carnahan Talks Health Care at Area Facility That Received $1.3M in Stimulus Cash (Update)

Few people will be surprised by what Russ “Rubberstamp Rusty” Carnahan, a liberal Democrat who purports to represent Missouri’s Third Congressional District, will say when he speaks about health care during a 1 p.m. Central engagement today in St. Louis.

More than likely, he’ll tout the work of the people at the Family Care Health Center, a program that received almost $1.3 million funding in Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a., “Stimulus Act”) as a prime example of how the government-run health care legislation (a.k.a., “ObamaCare”) that became the law of the land last week — thanks in part to his vote in favor of it — is a good thing.

In addition, he’ll borrow language from the organization’s web site as he highlight’s the organization’s work (i.e., “provides affordable and accessible comprehensive primary health care services to anyone, with emphasis on the medically underserved, and promotes the general health of the service area”).

What he will probably not mention is the fact that $355,188 of the center’s stimulus funding is for “funding for increased demand” and $941,705 is for funding for capital improvements.

Why won’t he mention the specifics of the funding?  Because the increased demand and need for larger facilities will likely be generated by the skyrocketing unemployment resulting from ObamaCare’s stifling effect on the economy.

Congressman Carnahan will be speaking at the organization’s Carondelet location at 401 Holly Hills Avenue in St. Louis.  Map.

Stay tuned to this blog for news about what “Rubberstamp Rusty” actually says.

UPDATE 3/30/10 at 2:51 p.m. Central: Adam Sharp at Sharp Elbows tried to get inside the Carnahan Love Fest today, but was not allowed in.  Below is the rough-cut video which, near the end, features the citizen journalist asking “Rubberstamp Rusty” health care-related questions.  Enjoy!

Stimulus Dollars Buy Greyhound Buses in Missouri

I’ve never had the kind of fun enjoyed by passengers in the 1980 Greyhound commercial below, but I’m thinking about taking a ride on the commercial bus line soon.  Why?  Because, as a taxpayer, I’m paying for it.

I came across this news after reading a release on the White House web site that listed the Missouri Department of Transportation as the recipient of $4.9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a., “stimulus”) funds for use in “construction of two facilities and purchase of two intercity vehicles.”  Curious as to the specifics of the spending, I placed a phone call to MoDOT and reached spokesperson Jorma Durant.

During the first conversation, he explained that his agency would be spending the money on construction of buildings for two nonprofit transportation agencies — one each in Poplar Bluffs and Macon, Mo. — as well as on the purchase of two Greyhound buses.

Somewhat surprised, I asked him to explain why the MoDOT was buying Greyhound buses.  Durant’s reply was open and honest.

“You have a great question,” he said.  “You have an amazing question.  Why are we dealing with Greyhound bus?  Actually, it kind of surprised me as well.  And I’m probably not going to have the right answer for you.”

Rather than concoct answers for me on the fly, Durant told me he would dig for more details and call me back.  About five minutes later, he did.

During our second conversation, the MoDOT spokesperson confirmed that, in order to meet the federal mandate that 15 percent of ARRA funds provided to states be spent on intercity bus transportation, the State of Missouri will use $945,210 of federal taxpayer monies to reimburse Greyhound Bus Lines for the addition of two new buses to the company’s fleet.  In other words, Greyhound is getting a federal subsidy and the Show-Me State is acting as a laundromat of sorts.  But I digress.

As for the rest of the $4.9 million, Durant said, the remainder will be spent on construction of facilities for two nonprofit transportation programs in Poplar Bluffs and Macon that exist, primarily, to serve older adults and people with disabilities in multi-county rural areas.  In Poplar Bluff, $1.2 million will be spent to construct a facility for OATS, Inc.  In Macon, $2.65 million will go to SMTS, Inc.

If you’re old enough, you might remember the Greyhound slogan, “Leave the driving to us.”  Now, you know who “us” really is — the taxpayers.

UPDATE: Cross-posted today at Big Government.com today.

Despite High Jobless Rate, Good Help Hard to Find

Despite so many people being out of work, I’m finding it difficult to find good help. As you can see in the photo above, my blogging assistants, Bo and Butters, do not indulge in coffee and, as a result, tend to doze off through most of the workday.  Perhaps a stimulus plan (a.k.a., “catnip”) would perk them up so they could be productive.

Stimulus Fails to Deliver Economic ‘Shot in the Arm’

A lot has happened during the year since President Barack Obama signed the so-called “economic stimulus” into law as as a measure that would give the economy a “shot in the arm.” Unfortunately for the president, little of what has happened can be described as good.

The nation’s unemployment rate stands close to 10 percent despite the president’s promise to save and create jobs and not allow unemployment to rise above 8 percent.   Furthermore, Obama-loving politicians, including first-term Gov. Jay Nixon (D-Mo.), are on record telling a C-SPAN audience that, “If there’s debt, Missouri kids and grandkids will pay that debt off”.

On the positive side, however, the passage of the stimulus spurred a nationwide tea party movement that has raged against out-of-control federal spending and attempts to nationalize health care while holding their elected officials’ feet to an increasingly-hot fire.

If Obama keeps up his efforts to socialize the nation, Americans might get fired up enough to ensure Constitutional order is restored to the nation’s government.

Cartoon Represents How Many People Feel

"Turkey Day" by David Donar at Political Graffiti

In a day and age when elected officials in Washington, D.C., seem to be treating the American people more like turkeys than bosses, I offer the Thanksgiving Day cartoon above as representative of how many Americans feel on this special day.

Though I’m not advocating violence against elected officials (at least, not yet), the thought crossed my mind that the turkeys in the cartoon represent taxpayers who are angry over the fact that their elected officials seem to be dragging the country toward socialism.  Conversely, the pilgrim tied to the table is a member of Congress who ignores the will of the people and votes in favor things like government-run health care, bailouts for automakers, banks and insurance companies and so-called stimulus packages.

I’m thankful on this day for all I have.  At the same time, I’m not eager to give it up.  That’s why I will continue the good fight for truth, justice and the American way…INSTEAD of socialism!

WARNING: My liberal friend, David Donar at Political Graffiti, drew the cartoon above.  If you visit his blog, you’ll find a link to a PETA commercial supposedly banned from television, below the turkey day cartoon.  So just ignore it if you want to avoid exposure to the upside-down views of PETA.

‘AMERICA’S LEAST WANTED’ Coming to Television

America's Least WantedTwenty-two years ago, John Walsh launched “AMERICA’S MOST WANTED,” a ground-breaking television program that has helped take down more than 1,050 dangerous fugitives and bring home more than 50 missing children.  As explained here, it was not the career he envisioned for himself; rather, it’s genesis lies in tragedy — the 1981 abduction and murder of Walsh’s six-year-old son, Adam.

Today, I predict another similar program will be launched by entertainment-industry friends of President Barack Obama if, God forbid, government-run health care (a.k.a., “ObamaCare”) becomes a reality in this country.  Instead of focusing on kidnappers, murderers and thieves, “AMERICA’S LEAST WANTED” will highlight government efforts to reduce health care spending by any and all means possible.

Andy Stern, SEIU President“AMERICA’S LEAST WANTED” will be hosted by Andy Stern (right), a man who tops the list of frequent visitors to the White House and serves as president of Service Employees International Union. During each episode, he will give marching orders to groups of purple shirt-wearing thugs — members of his 2.1 million members-strong labor union.  For example:

  • “UNPLUGGED!” segments will feature SEIU members tracking down hospital patients who’ve been identified as having sapped “more than their fair share of government health care dollars” and bringing their greediness to an end; and
  • “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” segments will follow SEIU members as they descend upon retirement communities and nursing homes on missions to provide citizens who’ve been declared “no longer productive members of society” with appropriate end-of-life counseling.

“AMERICA’S LEAST WANTED” will also feature non-SEIU segments, including:

  • “DR. K” – Hosted by Dr. Jack Kevorkian, these segments will focus on the latest life-altering programs available from groups such as Planned Parenthood and The Hemlock Society; and
  • “THIS OLD HOSPITAL” — Targeting fans of the do-it-yourself and home-renovation programs that have made HGTV a success on cable, these segments will focus on innovative ways communities across the nation are using stimulus dollars to convert buildings that once served as hospitals into new roles as public housing and prisons.

“AMERICA’S LEAST WANTED” will be riveting television — but for all the wrong reasons.

If you don’t want to see this ObamaCare production among your television offerings, CONTACT YOUR SENATORS in Washington, D.C., and demand they vote against government-run health care.  It could save your life!