Posts Tagged ‘Government’

Michigan Legislature Needs to Get to Work on Permanent Budget

October 5, 2009

Last week, Michigan saw its second government shutdown in the state’s history.  In the history of this country, only two other states have had government shutdowns because of a budget crisis, and Michigan is the only state to have more than one shutdown.  What’s even more sad is that the 2 shutdowns came only 2 years apart.

I ended up watching most of the late-night sessions last week, as I followed the budget crisis, and while there were some humorous segments (such as “I can count!” coming from the chairman of the Senate), most of what I saw was just sad – it’s sad that the Michigan legislature can’t pass a budget on time.

So why does Michigan have problems passing a budget?  There has been a fundamental failure in leadership, as well as the overall impacts of having the state in such a poor economic state.

Michigan is essentially the same position as it was for the 2007 shutdown: a Democratic Governor with terrible economic policies, a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives with Andy Dillon (D-Redford) as Speaker of the House waiting until it is too late to work on the budget, and a Republican-controlled Senate who tried to get the budget done on time, but was unable to overcome the incompetency of the House.

In both the 2007 and 2009 shutdowns, work on the budget started too late, and many legislators (including Republicans) weren’t committed to finishing the budget on time.

While portions of the budget were being passed by the Senate late Tuesday night, the House had already recessed for the day.  We saw the same thing in 2007: Andy Dillon would go would only have the House in session once or twice a week over the summer, and he even took a five-day weekend trip to Mackinac Island after acknowledging that the state was facing a budget crisis.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) had been getting Senate budget bills passed and sent over to the House faster than House bills were coming to the Senate.

But this isn’t to say that all Republicans were trying to finish the budget on time or that all Democrats were uninterested in finishing on time.  While the Senate Republicans seemed to generally work harder as the deadline got closer, NOBODY was working hard enough in the month and weeks beforehand.  Instead of passing a budget 2 hours into the government shutdown, the legislature should be passing a budget weeks or even months beforehand.

Representative Tim Bledsoe (D-Grosse Pointe) has suggested that the Michigan Constitution be amended to require the budget be done by July 1st, and legislators wouldn’t get paid after that date until a budget was passed.  Bledsoe told the Detroit Free Press, “We’ve had every opportunity to get this work done earlier in the year.  There’s no excuse to be moving the budget as late as we did.”

Senator Hansen Clark (D-Detroit) has suggested fining legislators $1,000 a day for each day after the fiscal year that a budget isn’t completed, with the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leaders paying $3,000.  He told reporters, “Even though many of us work long hours, we don’t have the same incentives as other sectors of the work force.  Typically, our incentive would be to do a good job so we can get re-elected, but apparently that’s not enough. … The leaders have to be accountable for results.  If you don’t perform the core mission of your job, and that’s to enact a balanced budget … there should be a penalty.”

Former Majority Leader Ken Sikkema (R) said that the problems run deeper than just legislators not cracking down in time: “The gap between revenue and spending is so large that there isn’t any structural issue that can compensate for it.  It’s a much deeper issue that legislators don’t want to deal with.  Michigan as a state can’t continue the level of spending it’s enjoyed for many years.  The economy has downsized underneath it.  Until you change the tax structure and the spending process, this kind of paralysis is likely to continue.  There is no process change that is going to make this a rational, timely, decision-making process.  Until there are fundamental changes, you can’t avoid this kind of chaos.”

And in part, I would agree with that.  The Democrats in the legislature have refused to accept that spending cuts are an inevitable result of the state’s deficit.  Taxes can only be raised so many times and only to a certain level, and when you’ve exhausted that option, you have to cut spending.  Michigan is not in a position to raise taxes.  Businesses won’t come to Michigan if we raise taxes, and we’ve even seen film companies come to Michigan now that we have a tax credit for film companies.  Raising taxes is only going to hurt the economy more and drive more people out of the state.

Fortunately, an interim budget was passed and signed by Governor Granholm only 2 hours into this year’s shutdown, but we aren’t in the clear yet.  The legislature gavels into session tomorrow, and a permanent budget still needs to be passed for the new fiscal year.  Unless legislators understand that spending cuts are not and option, but a necessity, and that they have to start cracking down and getting to work, we will wind up seeing a full government shutdown when the interim budget expires.

And we need to learn from our mistakes – this cannot happen in 2010.  It’s just unacceptable.  Fortunately, 2010 is an election year, and lawmakers will be trying to pass a budget on time so that they can get reelected, but unless things change, we will see ourselves back in this same position in 2011.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican

House of Representatives Votes to Tax AIG Executives’ Bonuses at 90%

March 19, 2009

The House just passed H.R. 1586, officially titled “To impose an additional tax on bonuses received from certain TARP recipients” (sponsored by Charlie Rangel [D-NY]), which taxes the bonuses of AIG executives.  The bill technically places a tax on any bonuses given by companies who received TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money.

The following is the text of the legislation:

HR 1586 IH

 

111th CONGRESS 

1st Session

H. R. 1586

To impose an additional tax on bonuses received from certain TARP recipients.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

March 18, 2009

Mr. RANGEL (for himself, Mr. ISRAEL, Mr. PETERS, Mrs. MALONEY, Mr. STARK, Mr. LEVIN, Mr. LEWIS of Georgia, Mr. TANNER, Mr. POMEROY, Mr. THOMPSON of California, Mr. LARSON of Connecticut, Mr. BLUMENAUER, Mr. PASCRELL, Ms. BERKLEY, Mr. VAN HOLLEN, Mr. MEEK of Florida, Mr. DAVIS of Alabama, Mr. DAVIS of Illinois, Mr. ETHERIDGE, Ms. LINDA T. SANCHEZ of California, Mr. HIGGINS, Mr. YARMUTH, Mr. DINGELL, Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia, Ms. FUDGE, Mr. LUJAN, Mr. MAFFEI, Mr. PERRIELLO, Mr. CARNEY, Ms. CASTOR of Florida, Ms. CLARKE, Mr. COHEN, Mr. ELLISON, Mr. HALL of New York, Mr. HARE, Mr. KLEIN of Florida, Mr. LOEBSACK, Ms. SCHAKOWSKY, Mr. SIRES, Mr. WELCH, Mr. WILSON of Ohio, Mr. WU, and Mr. HILL) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means

 


 

A BILL 

To impose an additional tax on bonuses received from certain TARP recipients.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. BONUSES RECEIVED FROM CERTAIN TARP RECIPIENTS.

    (a) In General- In the case of an employee or former employee of a covered TARP recipient, the tax imposed by chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for any taxable year shall not be less than the sum of–

 (1) the tax that would be determined under such chapter if the taxable income of the taxpayer for such taxable year were reduced (but not below zero) by the TARP bonus received by the taxpayer during such taxable year, plus

(2) 90 percent of the TARP bonus received by the taxpayer during such taxable year.

    (b) TARP Bonus- For purposes of this section–

(1) IN GENERAL- The term `TARP bonus’ means, with respect to any individual for any taxable year, the lesser of–

(A) the aggregate disqualified bonus payments received from covered TARP recipients during such taxable year, or

(B) the excess of–

(i) the adjusted gross income of the taxpayer for such taxable year, over

(ii) $250,000 ($125,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return).

 (2) DISQUALIFIED BONUS PAYMENT-

(A) IN GENERAL- The term `disqualified bonus payment’ means any retention payment, incentive payment, or other bonus which is in addition to any amount payable to such individual for service performed by such individual at a regular hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, or similar periodic rate.

(B) EXCEPTIONS- Such term shall not include commissions, welfare or fringe benefits, or expense reimbursements.

(C) WAIVER OR RETURN OF PAYMENTS- Such term shall not include any amount if the employee irrevocably waives the employee’s entitlement to such payment, or the employee returns such payment to the employer, before the close of the taxable year in which such payment is due. The preceding sentence shall not apply if the employee receives any benefit from the employer in connection with the waiver or return of such payment.

(3) REIMBURSEMENT OF TAX TREATED AS TARP BONUS- Any reimbursement by a covered TARP recipient of the tax imposed under subsection (a) shall be treated as a disqualified bonus payment to the taxpayer liable for such tax.

    (c) Covered TARP Recipient- For purposes of this section–

(1) IN GENERAL- The term `covered TARP recipient’ means–

(A) any person who receives after December 31, 2007, capital infusions under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 which, in the aggregate, exceed $5,000,000,000,

(B) the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation,

(C) any person who is a member of the same affiliated group (as defined in section 1504 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, determined without regard to paragraphs (2) and (3) of subsection (b)) as a person described in subparagraph (A) or (B), and

(D) any partnership if more than 50 percent of the capital or profits interests of such partnership are owned directly or indirectly by one or more persons described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C).

 (2) EXCEPTION FOR TARP RECIPIENTS WHO REPAY ASSISTANCE- A person shall be treated as described in paragraph (1)(A) for any period only if–

(A) the excess of the aggregate amount of capital infusions described in paragraph (1)(A) with respect to such person over the amounts repaid by such person to the Federal Government with respect to such capital infusions, exceeds

(B) $5,000,000,000.

    (d) Other Definitions- Terms used in this section which are also used in the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 shall have the same meaning when used in this section as when used in such Code.
    (e) Coordination With Internal Revenue Code of 1986- Any increase in the tax imposed under chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 by reason of subsection (a) shall not be treated as a tax imposed by such chapter for purposes of determining the amount of any credit under such chapter or for purposes of section 55 of such Code.
    (f) Regulations- The Secretary of the Treasury, or the Secretary’s delegate, shall prescribe such regulations or other guidance as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out the purposes of this section.
    (g) Effective Date- This section shall apply to disqualified bonus payments received after December 31, 2008, in taxable years ending after such date.

The bill passed 328 (243 Democrats, 85 Republicans)-93 (6 Democrats, 87 Republicans).

Personally, this bill is very troubling to me.  It’s debatable as to whether or not it’s Constitutional.  Some have said that it’s a bill of attainder (a bill that focuses on punishing 1 group of people).  Technically, it never names AIG as the focus of the bill, but that’s definitely the intent.

This bill is more legally binding than Representative Gary Peters’ bill (H.R. 1527) that would impose a 60% tax on bonuses paid to executives if “the ownership interest of the Federal Government” is at least 79%.  Basically that says that if the government owns at least 79% of a company’s stock, it can tax bonuses on that company’s executives at a rate of 60%.  The problem with that bill, which I talked about yesterday, is that the government technically doesn’t own AIG. 

Even if it is Constitutional, I find this a huge invasion of the business sector.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  It’s a complete twist of the American tax code, and it sets a VERY dangerous precedent.

I don’t think AIG executives should have received the bonuses, but that stipulation should have been placed in the original TARP legislation.

Now, that stipulation WAS in the original bill; however, when it went to the conference committee, the Democrats took out that provision.  The exact details of how that happened are still unknown, but Chris Dodd had said that he introduced an amendment at the request of the Obama administration.  When this actually gets sorted out, I’ll let you know what actually happened.

Regardless of how they were allowed to get the bonuses, they were, and taking the bonuses away like this is questionably constitutional, but in the least, a blatant perversion of the tax code.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican

Bonuses for AIG Executives Are Disgusting, but Legally Necessary

March 18, 2009

I’m sure that by now, most of you have heard about AIG giving out $165 million in bonuses, and that has outraged many Americans, including many politicians because people don’t think that executives should be getting money for driving AIG into the ground and then receiving government bailout money.

Personally, I agree that they don’t deserve bonuses, especially after receiving government money.

The problem is, there’s really no way that I see the government LEGALLY stopping these bonuses.  The government lent out money to AIG originally, without putting any requirements on the money not going toward bonuses, so the government has no right to step in and stop it now.

The bonuses are in the executives’ contracts, and thus should be paid out.

And the idea to tax the bonuses 100% is just plain wrong – that’s government intrusion and it crosses the line.

And Representative Barney Frank’s (D-MA) solution isn’t exactly legal either.  He told CNN earlier today:

We own this company in effect, and we’re not asking that these bonuses be rescinded because we have lent money to the company.  I believe we are saying as the owners of the company, we do not think we should be paying bonuses or should have paid bonuses to people who made mistakes, who were incompetent.

No, I don’t think the American people want a situation where Congress, whenever it feels a contract shouldn’t have been signed, passes a law to abrogate that past contract.  That’s why I am saying we should assert our ownership rights.

I want to invalidate these contracts and say, look, we are the owners of this company.  Yes, contracts were signed with you that I wish hadn’t been signed.  But given how badly you performed, I want to argue that they did not perform under the contract.

The difference would be having a precedent that I don’t think the American people want, even if for this situation, we’d all like to see it different, where whenever Congress thinks a contract should be abrogated, it should be abrogated.  So, I’m talking about a legislative abrogation of a contract.  I’m talking about a lawsuit as an owner of the company [that wants to reward a] bonus, we ought to fine you for messing it up.

Well, I personally have a problem with Representative Frank’s plan.  Sure, the government pumped billions of dollars into AIG, but they did it as a loan.  We’re not talking about being the majority shareholder here – we’re not talking about buying stocks, we’re talking about a loan.  Giving a company a loan gives Congress absolutely no ownership rights, and the fact that Barney Frank thinks that the loan gave the government “ownership,” even in the slightest, is honestly quite scary.

Think of it on a more personal level than if it were a company.  Imagine that the government gave you a student loan.  If they gave you a loan intended for school, but never put in writing that it had to be spent on school, and you spent the money on candy bars, you have that legal right.  What Barney Frank wants to do is say, “The federal government is part owner of your life, and you are not allowed to buy candy bars.”  Well, I would be fine with that if it had been in the original agreement, but it wasn’t.  Now, what was in the original agreement was that the the government got “equity participant warrants” for 79.9% of AIG’s equity.  For those of you who don’t know what equity warrants are, they’re a contract that says that the government has the option and right to own 79.9% of the AIG shares; however, the government is not exercising that option now.  Until we exercise that option, the government has NO RIGHT to step in here.

If the government takes back any of this money and gets away with it, it sets a VERY dangerous precedent.

Now, Edward Liddy, the CEO of AIG, is encouraging employees to give back half of the bonus money.  And if they do, that’s fine, because THEY are giving it up.  But if the government takes the money simply because the executives dont’ deserve it, that would be a major government intrusion.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican

Do Ron Paul’s Supporters Refuse to Admit His Faults When It Comes to Earmarks?

March 5, 2009

I was reading an article on ConservativeHQ.com, “Ron Paul’s Pork Problem,” which basically criticized Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) for being a hypocrite on fiscal conservative principles by arguing for smaller government and less government spending but getting 22 earmarks (totaling $96.1 million) in the recent $410 billion omnibus spending bill.

Now, I love Dr. Paul.  He’s one of my favorite Congressmen, but I disagree with his stance on earmarks.  According to his Congressional website, “As long as the Federal government takes tax money from his constituents, he will make every effort to return that money to his district.”

So, while I disagree with him, I still have a HUGE amount of respect for Dr. Paul, but I am willing to admit that this (in my opinion) is a fault of his.

Now, take a look at some of the comments left on ConservativeHQ.com:

  • “Congrats, you just lost a member.”
  • “Ron Paul has never voted for a bill with unconstitutional provisions in it. He is the most principled statesmen in Congress. You lost all your credibility with this “Pork Problem” article. You also lost me as a member!”
  • “This article is very one sided. You obviously cannot stand the fact that Ron Paul is the only real conservative in the Republican Party. Please remove me from any of your biased e-mails! There is nothing conservative about this web site.”
  • “Ron Paul votes against the spending. Then if the money that they voted on doesn’t get spent on ear marks, it ends up being spent by the Executive Branch. Does that sound constitutional to you?! I can’t believe this was posted here. How completely irresponsible. I am out of here. I hope others with any logical sense of reason will follow unless this website retracts this article immediately and sends out an e-mail apologizing for being stupid.”

So, my message to those supporters of Dr. Paul who refuse to admit his faults, he’s a great man, but he’s not perfect, and I think his stance on earmarks is out of line with conservatism.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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Vladimir Putin Warns U.S. Not to Fall into Socialism

February 19, 2009

Well, it appears as if Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin knows more  about economics than President Obama.  The following is an excerpt of Putin’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (transcript courtesy of the Wall Street Journal).  The full speech can be found here:

Esteemed colleagues, one is sorely tempted to make simple and popular decisions in times of crisis. However, we could face far greater complications if we merely treat the symptoms of the disease.

Naturally, all national governments and business leaders must take resolute actions. Nevertheless, it is important to avoid making decisions, even in such force majeure circumstances, that we will regret in the future.

This is why I would first like to mention specific measures which should be avoided and which will not be implemented by Russia.

We must not revert to isolationism and unrestrained economic egotism. The leaders of the world’s largest economies agreed during the November 2008 G20 summit not to create barriers hindering global trade and capital flows. Russia shares these principles.

Although additional protectionism will prove inevitable during the crisis, all of us must display a sense of proportion.

Excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state’s omnipotence is another possible mistake.

True, the state’s increased role in times of crisis is a natural reaction to market setbacks. Instead of streamlining market mechanisms, some are tempted to expand state economic intervention to the greatest possible extent.

The concentration of surplus assets in the hands of the state is a negative aspect of anti-crisis measures in virtually every nation.

In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state’s role absolute. In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated.

Nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that the spirit of free enterprise, including the principle of personal responsibility of businesspeople, investors and shareholders for their decisions, is being eroded in the last few months. There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state.

And one more point: anti-crisis measures should not escalate into financial populism and a refusal to implement responsible macroeconomic policies. The unjustified swelling of the budgetary deficit and the accumulation of public debts are just as destructive as adventurous stock-jobbing.

That’s right, Prime Minister Putin warned against “excessive intervention in economic activity.”  What do you think we’re doing right now as we spend trillions of dollars in bailouts?  That, my friends, is excessive intervention.  He’s absolutely right when he says, “There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state.”

Honestly, this has to be one of the best things Putin has ever said.  He deserves a heck of a lot of credit for this one.  But honestly, did you think he’d say anything else?  He lived through the economic disaster that was the Soviet Union.  He understands that the path that the U.S. is going down is a DANGEROUS path, and he’s doing his best to warn us.

I only hope that the Democrats in Congress and President Obama heed his warning.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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Massachusetts Proposes Using GPS Chips to Tax Drivers’ Mileage

February 18, 2009
Yesterday, on Happening Now on FOX News, there was a  discussion a new idea for a way for Massachusetts to increase their revenue.  The idea was to use GPS chips to track mileage (mileage only and NOT location) of cars, and then tax drivers based on how far they go.  Some like the idea, which is being tested in Oregon.  FOX interviewed Jim Whitty from the Oregon Department of Transportation.  Meanwhile others, such as Massachusetts state Senator Scott Brown views it as Orwellian and an invasion of privacy.  Brown also said that taxes are too high already in Massachusetts.  Watch the video and I’ll discuss it below (video courtesy of  FOX News):

Now, did you catch what Whitty said?  At one point he was talking about the test that Oregon did of using the system and said, “There was no issue with tracking, because we didn’t–we didn’t do that.”  Notice, he never said that “We couldn’t do that.”  He said, “We didn’t do that.”

The whole point of GPS, Global POSITIONING System is to track where you’re at.  Now, I’m sure that the government in Oregon may only be paying attention to the distance that people travel; however, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t just one day decide, instead of just counting the miles, let’s start paying attention to where these people are going.  Originally, it may be to catch criminals, or determine traffic patterns, but that’s a violation of privacy.  And it leads down a slippery slope.

Additionally, Senator Brown is right, taxes in Massachusetts could be lowered if the government would just better manage its money.

But my main problem with the system is the fact that it is, for lack of a better word, Orwellian.  Even my liberal roommate agrees with me here!  It’s an invasion of privacy.

If you’re going to do anything, put a device that measures odometer changes.  But using GPS, Global POSITIONING System, to track people’s “distance” is in invasion of privacy.

Let me know what you think:

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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Kansas Can Now Afford to Pay Tax Refunds and State Employees

February 18, 2009

Yesterday I was watching America’s Newsroom, and Megyn Kelly did a story about the budget crisis in Kansas. According to the Governor, Kathleen Sebelius (D), the state was not going to be able to pay tax refunds or state employees on time.  Sebelius wants to borrow money from other state accounts within Kansas; however, Republican legislators want budget cuts because they feel Sebelius’s solution is irresponsible.  Republican leaders in the state House and Senate (both where they’re in the majority) argued that the internal borrowing wasn’t legal until the Kansas had a balanced budget for the fiscal year (the fiscal year ends June 30).

Watch the video, and I’ll discuss it below (video courtesy of FOX News):

Since that video, the Governor signed a budget-balancing bill, and the Republicans have said that the internal borrowing is now legal.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal told reporters, “I’m extremely pleased that she signed it, because that’s what needed to happen.”  Senate President Steve Morris also told reporters, “This action gives us reassurances that we will have the resources to repay this.”

Meanwhile, Sebelius said, “I’m just sorry that we had to have high drama and worry a lot of Kansans about our ability to pay our obligations in order to get to the end of the process.”

Personally, I agree with Megyn Kelly.  And while she may have been a little mean to Treasurer Dennis McKinney, she has a point – it’s bad management if you need to do borrowing within your state.  The state should be able to balance their budget and pay taxes back to people and pay their employees.  Unfortunately, I can’t find the discussion that went on on FOX News yesterday, but they brought up a point to citizens: Don’t give the government so much money when you fill out information for withholding.  You have the option to withhold more, and if you’re doing that now, just don’t.  I’m not saying lie and withhold less than you should.  I’m saying, only have them withhold the minimum that you legally have to.  That way, when states like Kansas can’t pay you back on time, you’re not getting screwed.  If you don’t pay the government their taxes, you get penalized.  When they don’t pay you back, what happens to them?  NOTHING!  It’s unfair!  So, just don’t give them extra money!

I’ll try to find that discussion video and post that and discuss it in a later blog post, but right now, FOX News’s search for videos isn’t working right.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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President Obama Signs $787 Billion Economic Stimulus Plan

February 17, 2009

Moments ago, President Obama singed H.R. 1, the economic stimulus package into law.  Unfortunately, I was taking a phone call during the beginning of his speech, so I couldn’t live blog it, but I did catch some key parts (I’ll do a summary of the whole speech later).

One part that caught my eye was when he said that the bill was “a balanced plan with a mix of tax cuts and investments.  It is a plan that’s been put together without earmarks or the usual pork barrel spending.  And it is a plan that will be implemented with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability.”

Really?  Because, I remember the Democrats promising that the final version of the bill would be available to be read for 48 hours before being brought to a vote, but it was brought to a vote around 12 hours after the bill was posted (posted on-line around 12:30 A.M. last Friday), and voted on, I believe around 2:00 P.M. in the House, and later in the Senate.  At one point, Representative David Obey (D-WI) got in an argument with a Republican Representative (I don’t remember who), and asked the Republican to show him something in the bill.  He held it up and the Republicans just laughed.  He made a fool out of  himself by SHOWING that nobody could quickly find anything in the bill – it’s over 1,000 pages long!

So, I wonder if the Democrats and Obama will stick to this  promise of “transparency and accountability” or if they will continue to change their promises like they’ve been doing so far.

I see us being right back in position of “needing” another stimulus package in 6 months or so.  Hopefully the next one  won’t be “needed,” but if one is proposed, I hope that one fails in Congress.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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A Normal Day in the Senate: Economic Stimulus, Health Care … Pornography at the National Science Foundation?

February 8, 2009

Alright, so I was watching the Senate discuss more amendments to H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the latest economic stimulus bill.  Anyway, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was talking about his amendment and some health care stuff, when all of a sudden, he breaks off on to the subject of pornography being viewed at work by some of the staff at the National Science Foundation, and that we need to make sure that stimulus money isn’t going towards wasting time at work (whether that’s pornography or not – people should be doing work at work, not viewing pornography or playing Free Cell).  Here’s that video clip, courtesy of C-SPAN: 

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “A Normal Day in the Senate: Economic …“, posted with vodpod

I will say, I love the looks coming from whoever was sitting behind him.  This one really caught me off guard.  I was watching it, but doing other things, but all of a sudden, this snapped me back into paying attention.

It’s never a dull day in the Senate!

But Grassley is right.  If my tax dollars are going to the NSF, I at least want work to be getting done.  The fact that it was pornography just adds insult to injury.  I don’t care if it’s as innocent as playing Asteroid, it’s government TIME.  And the fact that the one manager was using up 20% of his work time to do this is just appalling!  We need more oversight if we’re going to be putting money into this, and this is proof of that need.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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Live Analysis of Governor Granholm’s Michigan State of the State Address

February 3, 2009

The Michigan State of the State address is about to begin.  I will be live blogging the event, giving my analysis (so my apologies for any spelling errors – I’ll fix them eventually).

Alright, she’s entering the chamber (I’m not sure if this is the House or Senate – probably House since  it’s bigger).

Oh – my roommate (Democrat) just about made me die of laughter – he said, “Where is she?”  I said, “Right there.”  And he goes, “Oh, I thought that was a dude.”

Alright – she’s making her way up to the podium – about half the room is still clapping – probably the Democrats.  There’s Lt. Governor John Cherry up in his chair.

There’s Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R) and Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (D).

She’s saying welcome and thank you.  She’s welcoming and congratulating the new representatives.

She’s now welcoming Supreme Court Justice Dianne Hathaway, elected this year.  And she’s congratulating the longest serving president of the State Board of Education.

Now thanking the servicemen and women from Michigan as well as the first responders.

We just gave a moment of silence for those who lost their lives defending this country and state overseas.

“I will not sugar-coat the crisis facing this state. … Our auto companies fought for their very existence, and as the bottom fell out of the national economy” Michigan “went from bad to worse.”  She’s absolutely right about that.  “Any honest assessment of our state’s economy must recognize that things are likely to get worse before they get better. … Things will get better … because Michigan citizens are resilient … because our battle plan is focused on the three things that matter most: fighting for more good paying jobs in Michigan, educating and training people to fill those good paying jobs, and protecting out people.”

“This is not time for pet projects or special interests.”

Now talking about Michigan now having “a friend in the White House who now shares our agenda.  I say this based on pragmatism, not upon partisanship.”  BULL CRAP!

She’s talking about him being focused on energy jobs, education, and protecting people.  COME ON Madame Governor, the Republicans are interested in all of those things too!

“We’ve made many tough choices in our budget.”  True, but you could have done a lot more to fix the state, but you didn’t, and that’s why we’re as bad as we are now.

“I have a veto pen, and I will use it. … The President’s economic plan is a one-time opportunity.”  Really?  Because so far, I count THREE bailout bills.  What’s to stop three more?

She’s saying that our problems will be here after the economic stimulus money is gone.  Lt. Governor Cherry will be in charge of downsizing government, reducing number of departments from 18 to 8.

Something about we can’t have “9-5 government in a 24/7 world.”  Good point there – I’ll give her that one.

Her and Cherry are reducing salaries of all elected state officials in Michigan by 10%.  That’s a good move – I COMMEND HER on that, but I don’t really see how she can directly do that.

“Already, I’ve cut more than any other Governor in Michigan.”

She’s saying that a national survey showed that MI has done more to cut spending than other state in the country.  I’d like to see the details of the survey, but if it’s all true, I commend her on that.

She’s cutting funding for the state fair – because it’s not essential to government.  GOOD CALL!

Talking about preserving our wetlands.

Talking about reducing corrections spending.  We’re going to close 3 more facilities in the coming months.  Reinvest in more law enforcement on the street.  More law enforcement is good, but I’m not too keen on closing 3 facilities – that means more criminals on the streets, since our prisons are already TOO FULL!

Funding for roads, bridges, and transit systems – um, we’ve needed that for the past FEW years!

We can focus on jobs when we spend within our means.

We need to diversify, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing our number one industry, the auto industry.  When pundits and ill-informed politicians take cheap shots at the auto industry and its workers, we (she’s saying this) will defend the auto industry.

Talking about the green auto industry being great.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost since 2000.  “These losses have fueled our determination to bring new industry to Michigan.”  Good – we can’t JUST depend on the auto industry anymore.

Talking about film and TV project coming to Michigan after the tax breaks to film companies.

Three major announcements:

  • Wonderstruck Animation Studios – $86 million in Detroit.
  • Stardock Systems (digital gaming) – build in Plymouth
  • Motown Motion Pictures – $54 million in Pontiac (former GM plant)

Motown MP alone will create 3,600 jobs.  That’s great news – especially for the Pontiac area.

“But our success with the film industry is not an isolated example.”  Talking about renewable energy industry – solar panel production companies are building here in Michigan.

Just like the auto industry “it creates all kinds of jobs for all kinds of people.”  And that’s a good thing – I am VERY enthusiastic about renewable energy, as long as it’s not expensively forced on the people.

She’s talking about wind turbines (and wind power is something I have always been really excited about – that  and nuclear power).

Jobs for manufacturers and engineers – for solar panels and electric car batteries.

She’s getting really intense about this.  “The fact that these jobs are in Michigan is no accident.”

We bring them here by beating out other states and countries.

We passed incentives to make sure those batteries are made in Michigan.  Within weeks of passage, GM said that they’d make batteries for the Volt automobile will be made here in Michigan.  5 million electric car batteries to be made a year, creating 14,000 jobs.

She’s saying that we want electric cars researched and designed here as well as all kinds of renewable energy companies.

She set a goal for becoming more dependent on renewable energy.

  • 3 wind turbine manufactures to expand in Michigan.
  • Unisolar to build solar panel factory in Battle Creek.
  • HSC – $1 billion for solar panel expansion
  • Dow-Corning – more solar panels.
  • Great Lakes Turbine to build in Monroe (where my roommate’s from!)

“We all know that  we need more jobs – a lot more.”  I agree with you there.

President Obama has demanded more use of renewable energy.  This will increase jobs in Michigan.

“By 2020, Michigan will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for generating electricity by 45%. … We’ll do it through increased renewable energy and gains in energy efficiency.”  Sounds like a good idea to me, but I think 45% is high.  I have no problem with it as long as it doesn’t jack up prices.  But if it makes energy unaffordable, don’t do it.

Instead of importing coal, we’ll spend energy money on Michigan wind turbines and solar panels and energy efficiency devices, all installed by Michigan workers.

Ask Legislatures to allow for Michigan homeowners to become entrepreneurs by installing solar panels on roofs and selling money back to power company.  Sounds good to me – it’s giving people the choice to do this, and enables people to eventually make that money back.

Asking utility companies to invest in energy efficient products.  Good.

Unlike the coal we buy right now, the money that we will spend on energy efficiency will create jobs in Michigan.

Create Michigan Energy Corps – creating jobs and turning natural resources into renewable fuels and weatherizing houses.

Saying that we’ll need less coal power  plants here in Michigan.

I’m kinda mad that she hasn’t said anything about more nuclear here in Michigan.

Talking about how she’ll bring new jobs to Michigan – that she’s gone all over the world to get jobs.  Yeah, well you haven’t been too successful so far.  You can go places to bring jobs here, but that doesn’t matter until you bring some here.

Saying she’ll require (I think it was universities) to buy Michigan.  I have a problem with that though, because she wants a tuition freeze in order for universities to get stimulus money.  How can they do that if you FORCE them to buy Michigan-made (more expensive at times).

Saying people should buy Michigan products.  Buy everything from Ford to Faygo.

Talking about the Michigan $4,000 putting college in the reach of all students.  Um, $4,000 really doesn’t do that much.

Michigan will be the first state to replicate the Kalamazoo promise on a large scale.  Something about free education, and I missed the rest.

#2 in the country for well qualified teachers in the classroom.  How are we #2 with the Detroit Public School system?

No Worker Left Behind: Talking about free college tuition – $5,000 per year for 2 years.  Training people for jobs, such as nurses, electricians, computer technicians.  52,000 people.  Helping us to remake Michigan.

Added more resources to the unemployment system – THAT’s what we need – to allow more people to rely on welfare!

Asking universities and colleges to freeze tuition for the next year.  The problem with that is, what if THEY can’t afford it?

Give people 90 days without the fear of foreclosure.  That’s absolutely insane.  If people buy a house that they can’t afford, then they should lose it.

Talking about asking auto insurance companies to freeze rates on auto insurance.  Sure, if they want to, but don’t make it mandatory.

She’s saying we’ll use every administrative tool to ensure that affordable rates are given to consumers.  That should be up to the companies, not the government.

Saying that we shouldn’t strip people of health coverage in order to reduce spending.  We shouldn’t HAVE state sponsored health care!  She’s saying we should protect those whom people of faith often call “the least of these.”  Well, people of faith need to step up and help the poor.  That’s their duty as good Christians (as it is my duty), NOT the governments.  When did Jesus ever say that the government should help the poor?  He didn’t!  He said his followers should – that’s why it makes me angry when people give that as a reason that Jesus would be a Democrat!

And wouldn’t “the least of these” refer to the unborn babies as well?  I don’t see you protecting them, Madame Governor!

“Is it harder to balance the state budget or the budget of a family who went from 2 paychecks to 1?”  Talking about the harships of family being much greater than the hardships of politicians as leaders.

She’s now giving an example of a guy on unemployment who used No Worker Left Behind to go to a university and now he’s working for Dow Corning.

Sorry – my news station just stopped covering it – ABC needed to go back to “regular scheduled programming.”

OK – I’m back.

Talking about hope and strength.  “We together will build a better Michigan.  God bless you all, and God bless the great state of Michigan.”

Tim Skubik is on now – saying that “Doom and Gloom” only got 2 paragraphs.  He’s right – I think she could’ve shown that things are bad more than she did instead of just saying, “This is what we WILL do,” since she’s been saying that for YEARS now.

She never really said exactly how much she wanted to cut out of the government.  I will commend her for some of her pro-energy efficient plans, but I think she may wind up driving up costs at a time that we can’t afford it.  Allowing people to sell back energy from solar panels is a GOOD thing, because it gives individuals the choice to do it, instead of  mandating it.

And now Mike Bishop’s response:

He’s saying that “we all want what’s best for our state.”

“Each one of us has felt the effects of this economy.”

Saying that the Governor wants to use federal funds to fix the state, but a quick infusion of money “will never be the antidote. … You can’t increase spending and debt and somehow hope to resolve a serious budget crisis.”  The Republicans will submit a plan in the next 45 days for instant stimulus – it incentives job providers instead of increasing spending.

The House must pass Senate Bill 1.  Get rid of the 22% business surcharge.

Talking about manufacturing complexes and other companies coming in due to tax cuts, proving that business tax cuts DO work.

The second part of the plan would bring property taxes in line with home values.  Third, a tax credit for purchases of new homes will be created.  This would spur the housing market.  And he’s absolutely right – that was one of the things my parents looked into was the huge jump in taxes we would’ve payed if we moved this past summer.

Review each item in the state budget and find savings – good!

We must “be certain that state resources are used efficiently.”  Absolutely!

Talking about opportunities coming with adversity – leaders need to rise up and “take the reins that will lead us back to prosperity. … Time for us to fix Michigan. … Thank you … God bless you, our families, and our great state of Michigan.”

Alright – I’m off to a meeting – I’ll spell check this and finish my analysis when I get back.

Done Reporting,

Ranting Republican
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