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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Government Waste

In a couple days, you’ll be out voting if you haven’t done so already.
We popped into the Port Neches Library Friday week ago and carried out our responsibility as U.S. citizens. I hope you do also.
If you do not, don’t you dare complain in the coming four years. Voting gives you the right to fuss and gripe. Not voting means keeping your mouth shut.
I’ve said it for years. We need a change, not just in the White House but in most of Congress. Most of the research I’ve read concerning the intents of our Founding Fathers was they did not mean for legislators to make a career out of legislating.
Pardon the cynicism, but much of the legislating that goes on in Washington and state capitols today is legislation benefiting those doing the legislating.
But let’s just talk about the federal guys and gals.
Trish Turner of Fox News reported on the waste of taxes documented by the Government Accounting Office, the GAO, one of the few trustworthy sources of federal finance.
Do you have any idea how many job training programs are funded by the federal government? How about 10? 20? Would you believe 47? And would you also believe that 44 of that number overlap in duplication of services.
How about 80 overlapping programs for the ‘transportation disadvantaged’? You know, people who don’t have cars.
And keep in mind, we’re just talking about federal programs, not state.
Ms. Turner went on to point out that the GAO stated the feds have 82 programs spread across 10 separate agencies designed to improve teacher quality, a task every school district in every state has been working on for the last two hundred years.
How does something like this happen?
Pork! Earmarks! The fodder for reelection. "Let’s build a bridge even if we don’t need one." The community picks up some unexpected income and the political sponsor of that project picks up another term in office.
The problem is, as you all can now see, is 16 trillion debt—and climbing by three billion daily.
Representative Eric Cantor claims the GAO report “confirms what most Americans assume about their government. We are spending trillions of dollars every year and nobody knows what we are doing. The executive branch doesn't know. The congressional branch doesn't know. Nobody knows."
Ms Turner reported that Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn stated "This report also shows we could save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year without cutting services."
Without cutting services?
That’s hard to believe, but read on. This information comes directly from the GAO report. Look at the duplication.
       1.Fifty-six programs across 20 agencies dealing with financial literacy.
2.More than 2,100 data centers--up from 432 a little more than a decade ago across 24 federal agencies. GAO estimated the government could save up to $200 billion over the next decade by consolidating them.
3.Twenty programs across seven agencies dealing with homelessness. The report found $2.9 billion spent on the programs in 2009. "Congress is often to blame" for fragmentation, GAO wrote in this section, explaining that the duplicative programs in multiple agencies cause access problems for potential participants.
4. Eighty-two "distinct" teacher-quality programs across 10 agencies. Many of them have "duplicate sub-goals," GAO said. Nine of them address teacher quality in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
And now our president wants to spend more money of math and science teachers.
5.Fifteen agencies administering 30 food-related laws. "Some of the oversight doesn't make any sense," the report stated.
6.Eighty overlapping economic development programs.
And there are many more, writes Ms Turner in her analysis of the GAO report. “In some cases, the programs in question struggled to account for what they did. In the domestic food assistance initiatives, for example, 18 such programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services with GAO estimating $62.5 billion spent on them. States the GAO, "little is known about the effectiveness" of 11 of those programs.
And of the 47 job-training programs run out of the federal government, only five could provide an "impact study" since 2004 looking at outcomes.
About half of them have provided no performance review at all since 2004.
Now stop and think about the last couple paragraphs. Political parties be damned. We’re talking taxes, yours and mine.
In the domestic assistance, $62.5 billion is spent on 18 programs and those monitoring have no idea just how effective are 2/3s of the programs.
And of the 47 job training programs, around 90% failed to come up with impact studies since 2004.
If a private citizen ran his business like that, he’d be bankrupt even before he got started.
There is much more, but you get the idea of the waste going on. Sooner or later, we’ve got to do something about it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chased by a Dead Rustler or Memories of an Old Fogey

I’ve been lucky over the last almost four score years for not only do I have a wonder family, but I’ve also had some of the most frightening and exciting Halloweens ever.
Our little town in the Texas Panhandle was so small we were assigned only half a zip code, but that did not make Halloween any less frightening or exciting.
The night of All Hallows saw all the dusty streets filled with little ghosts and goblins. Not many of us back then could afford costumes. The lucky guys usually had a black mask like the Lone Ranger. Some of girls even had masks of pink or red. Sometimes an old sheet or Grandpa’s cowboy hat and a handkerchief were utilized.
Soaping windows was a big trick for us. We’d grab one of our mother’s bars of lye soap and set out. It was amazing how much writing you could get from a bar of that soap. Some of the older and more daring boys toppled outhouses, what few there were. The next morning’s sun always came up on cows on the second floor of school houses or old-timey wooden wagons on the porch roof of downtown buildings.
But it just wasn’t kids who were out. Oh, no, there were always a few adults who planned on putting extra fright in some of the trick or treaters—all in fun.
I had a couple of those experiences I’ll never forget.
I never tire of telling my favorite, the night we were chased by the dead rustler, Burl Taggart.
One year, I had to spend Halloween on my grandmother’s farm with my cousin, Ed. With only one neighbor a mile away, I figured Halloween was shot. Who could we treat or treat, the chickens? Certainly not the hogs.
Then one of my uncles told Ed and me that if we really wanted to see a scary ghost that night, all we had to do was put our clothes on backwards and then walk backwards three times around the old hanging tree by the cow tank. According to our uncle, if we did that, old Burl Taggart, a rustler who had been hanged on that very tree, would reappear that night.
Well, we didn’t really believe him, but that afternoon, bored with riding calves and shooting snakes in the creek, we put our clothes on backward and walked backward around the hanging tree three times.
That night, Ed and I trudged down the lane with handkerchiefs over our faces like bank robbers in the Saturday picture shows, and trick or treated the neighbors. Of course, they let on like they didn’t know who we were and pretended they were frightened.
Then their two boys accompanied us back to my grandparents so we could trick or treat them. Before we left, we told our friends about conjuring up the ghost of Burl Taggart. They snickered at us.
Now, you’ve got to get the picture here. The full moon was straight overhead. On either side of the lane were pastures dotted with mesquite, and I promise you, in the dark, the twisted mesquite limbs took on mighty scary shapes, at least in the eyes of spooky ten and eleven year old boys.
And the fact we were talking about ghosts and werewolves and such didn’t help. Our frightened eyes made every shadow into Dracula or the Frankenstein monster.
And then we saw it. Far to the north in the pasture, a floating white object. The wind seemed to be carrying it toward us, and then a mournful, whining moan came through the mesquite.
I remember leaning forward and squinting at the apparition. When I looked around, I saw to my horror I was all alone. My cousin and his pals were a hundred yards down the lane. Well, you can believe me when I can tell you, I did my best to catch up with them.
The apparition grew closer, and I ran harder. I caught them as they reached the house, and we burst inside, four breathless, frightened boys.
It must have taken us ten minutes to stammer out what happened. The grownups shook their head, and one uncle growled at us. “Did you boys put your clothes on backward?”
Reluctantly, we nodded.
He groaned. “That did it. That brought back old Burl.”
Another one nodded. “How long’s it been now, fifty-sixty years since he got cut all to pieces after the hanging? I reckon he’s still looking for his missing hand.”
“Story is, they never did find who cut him down and chopped him up.”
Well, you can imagine when we heard that, our eyes bugged out like a stepped-on toad frogs.
And I don’t have to tell you how big they got when my grandfather said, “Well, Kent, it’s getting late. You and Ed walk your young friends back home, and then hurry back.”
Wild horses couldn’t have pulled us from that house.
One of my uncles had to take our friends back home.
And they couldn’t get us outside the next day. 
Years later, we learned the whole family had played a big joke on Ed and me. It was my Uncle Bud, Ed’s daddy, who played Burl in a sheet.
As I stare into the flames in our fireplace now, I tell you this, folks, those are memories I’ll never forget.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Realistic Look at the Health Bill

If you’re like me, you get junk emails daily. You know the kind I mean. They’re the ones warning you about everything from online cremations to One-Man-Rule-of-the-Earth.
I got one through You Tube concerning the health care bill. Actually over the last few years, I’ve received several. Now since I oppose a large part of the bill, I was curious about the video.
Have no doubt in your mind that I do believe we need reform in health care. I can tell you more than one instance when six, that’s right SIX pills cost almost $300. Now, you can’t tell me that isn’t outrageous. Somebody is making a killing, and it ain’t the American public.
This video was unbelievable even to someone like me who opposes the bill. Whoever put it must be the one putting out many of the truth-deficient presidential videos for it is toxic with deliberate falsehoods.
Here are a few examples of how both sides are manipulating the contents of this bill.
First, the video states the government will audit all books of all individuals who are self-insured.
I looked that up in the bill myself. The words ‘audit all employers’ isn’t in that section. All that section talks about is studying markets to make sure all are conforming to the law.
Now, we can get picky on the meaning of ‘audit’ and ‘study’. Either one will reveal deficiencies in a company’s plan. I oppose it because it smacks of BIG BROTHER looking over every self-employed individual’s shoulder, which in my estimation is too intrusive.
Another misrepresentation in the video is that illegals receive health care. On page 129 of the bill, it states ‘Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payment for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.’
Now, you tell me. WHO determines ‘lawfully’? Executive orders pouring out of the White House in recent months have been mighty forgiving of illegals, bending rules to fit the present administration’s desires.
This next one has generated much discussion, i.e. ‘the dreaded ‘committee’.
Yes there will be a committee comprised of the U.S. Surgeon General and primarily private medical and other experts selected by the president and the comptroller general. This committee will only have power to ‘recommend’ benefits included in the various insurance packages. It will have no power to decide what treatments folks get.
Three expressions in this paragraph concern me and should concern you, ‘other experts’,‘selected by president and the comptroller general’, and ‘recommend’
In my way of thinking, anytime committees have the freedom to recommend benefits, such suggestions it makes are often colored by the unspoken but well-recognized attitudes of those who appointed members of said committee. Again, you tell me. How many of those recommendations will turn into requirements?
If the committee recommends one treatment, then what do you think will become law?
Some sources claim Medicare services will be cut.
One of the many items to be trimmed is the fee doctors are paid as the result of a Medicare patient.
Now, if you stop and think about it, if a doctor makes less per patient through Medicare, there is always the possibility that he will see more patients to make up the difference. And most doctors I know are swamped anyway. If they try to see more, that means they’ll have to fit them in an already packed schedule. Such a result has to lead to a decline in service to each one.
That would never happen with the doctors I know, but as unpleasant as it might be to recognize such a fact, there are those out there pad and fabricate Medicare invoices.
There are many more misleading criticisms of the health bill floating around in cyberspace.
And deservedly so.
Have you ever tried to read any legal contract from top to bottom? That is how this bill, all 2700 pages, is written—in a legalese to be interpreted by committees appointed by the president. And on purpose so it can be interpreted however those in charge wish.
It my estimation, it is too long, too convoluted, too vague, too all-encompassing, and too demanding.
From it will spring hundreds of new bureaucracies, that dreaded government organization that creates paperwork just to have something to do, and at taxpayer expense.
To illustrate the government’s insatiable thirst for power, just this last May, according to,, when questioned by Congressman Trey Gowdy about the contraceptive and abortion mandate in Obamacare, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted that she had not taken into account any of the Supreme Court's standard tests for balancing religious liberties against government power, nor could she cite any legal memo written by her lawyers that shows that HHS or the Obama administration considered the constitutionality of the mandate.
If there had been a robust exchange of ideas on this bill, many of the problems that will be haunting us in the future could have been avoided.
And no, I don’t blame one party; I blame both. Government is there to help its citizens, not set up sheer walls of partisanship that prevents exchange of ideas.
This one-sided bill is too long, too vague, too controlling. Give us simple explanations that offer clear outcomes. That’s what the U.S. citizen deserves.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lesson From a Bobblehead

Sometimes folks get too carried away with life about them to remember to live and enjoy their own lives.
I’m not trying to be cryptic or enigmatic; I’m simply pointing out that which goes on around us beyond our own lives is simply a transitory process while our own life is the reality in which we live.
Now that I’ve confused both you and myself, let me see if I can explain.
Never before have I been so concerned about our country. As a kid, listening and watching adults gathered in front of the newspaper reading World War II headlines posted to the window, I never sensed the worry or concern among them that resonates from so many today.
Oh, yeah, back they, everyone worried over their loved ones overseas, but as far as the United States was concerned, they knew it would win the war. There was no doubt. It was just a matter of time.
Today, the demeanor of the general populace has grown more passive, and the future looks more of a tossup than ever.
That is what bothers me. Sometimes, I think ‘what if we end up like some European countries? What if government exerts even more control than it has the last few years? What if George Orwell’s 1984 comes to fruition?
I could come up with a hundred ‘what ifs”, and probably all for nothing.
Concern can sometimes skew our priorities.
My grandson Keegan made me realize that one day when I was taking him home. He looked up and said, “What’s wrong, Pa?” When I asked why he thought so, he replied. “You look mad.”
At the time, I had been listening to more of the nonsense so prevalent with this administration in Washington. I laughed and turned off the radio. “Nothing. So, how was school?”
My little six-week-old grandson, little bobblehead Noah, reinforced my recognition of spending too much time worrying about things over which I had very little control.
Now I enjoy the grandkids. I don’t mind putting important things like mowing the yard and cleaning the cats’ litter box on hold so I can baby-sit.
Anyway last week, I took care of Noah while his mom, our daughter, Susan, and my wife went out for a little shopping and lunch before Susan goes back to work after her maternity leave.
Noah was on his tummy on his blanket on the carpet when the two of them left. He’s starting to hold his head up in a fashion. The little feller could be a model for the bobblehead dolls. But he sure tries.
Just before Susan and Gayle left, Susan mentioned Noah had been trying to roll over. Well, they couldn’t have been gone five minutes when I witnessed one of those ‘baby firsts’. The squirt rolled from his tummy to his back. And yes, I was excited and thrilled to see that move. Naturally, I called Susan, after which I probably took a dozen pictures of him.
I guess I should feel kinda bad, but I wore the little guy out putting him on his tummy and watching him roll over. After a while, he got tired of such play and decided he was hungry.
After giving him his bottle, we played a few more minutes. The little guy is better natured than any of our others at that age though Keegan will run him a close second. He’ll laugh, and he’s starting to coo.
Knock on wood, but he eats, sleeps, does his business, and goes right back to sleep.
There have been times Susan brought him in asleep and he doesn’t awaken before she gets back. I’ve been tempted to wake him so we could play, but, I restrained myself.
After Noah left that day, I picked up Keegan, the eight-year-old. He had an early dismissal, and his mom, Amy, had to stay at Woodcrest where she’s doing her student teaching to sit in on conferences with parents.
Keegan and I played football in the front yard.
Well, he played; I hobbled, but it was fun.
He’d take off; I’d throw a pass; he’d catch it, turn and run back for a touchdown. He’s still a small feller, but he’s fast.
Over the last few years, I’ve been amazed at how much improved he is in physical activities, but then my wife reminds me, he’s growing up, developing those muscles, learning skills.
       Just like all kids. Mikey, Noah’s older brother, is the same way, just as is Kenli, Keegan’s two-year–old sister. They’re all growing, developing, changing.
        I’m a lucky guy.
Regardless of what the result come Election Day, I have family; I have loved ones; and they are my real treasure.
        And isn’t that most important?


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Healthcare from Hell

Last September, the independent Newsmax surveyed 3,660 doctors nationwide in all 50 states. Their political affiliations were mixed with 35 percent Republican; 24 percent Democrat; 26 percent Independent; 6 percent Libertarian; and 7 percent unaffiliated.
This survey showed that if the election were held today, 55 percent would vote for Romney and 36 percent for Obama. The remaining were undecided or claimed to support another candidate.
The survey, conducted by Jackson & Coker, a division of Jackson Healthcare, said Newsmax, is the third largest healthcare staffing company in the US.
While other polls show opposite numbers, what is it doctors see that the rest of us do not?
It could be the following five downsides pointed out by Nick Tate, an award-winning journalist, in the ‘Obamacare Survival Guide’
Downside One: Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.
How? Obamacare has taken $716 billion from Medicare over the next ten years, which means less funds for those of us who use Medicare.
Downside Two: Insurance companies are free to pass on increased costs in the form of higher premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. There is nothing to keep costs in check. AARP has already raised its premiums, says Tate, from 8-13 percent.
Downside Three: Doctor shortage anticipated due to lowered payment rates for Medicare among other areas. Up to 40% of those surveyed could retire on seek other aspects of health care. With the additional millions covered by insurance coupled with a 30-40% decrease in doctors, I’d hate to think how long I’d have to wait to get in to see one.
Downside Four: Delayed implementation of Obamacare as well as hundreds of unwritten rules.
According to Tate, many of the rules of the new healthcare system have not been written. The author surmises that as costs balloon, benefits for consumers are likely to lessen significantly, particular for seniors who are the highest users of health services.
Downside Five: Unelected government official will have control to make decision about your healthcare.
The previous drawbacks are shocking enough, but now let’s get into some specifics.
Downside Four for example-delayed implementation of rules.
If you’ll think back, you’ll remember how we were told many of these ‘benefits’ would be phased in over the years. That was clever political maneuver designed to delay any public outrage until after this upcoming election.
The Americans for Tax Reform has pointed out taxes thast are slated to kick in after the election.
1.             2.3 percent tax on medical devices including pacemakers, prosthetics, stents, even the operating table.
2.             Deductible medical expenses must exceed 10% of your income instead of 7.5% for income tax purposes.
3.             Funds for Flexible Spending Accounts will be capped at $2,500. Currently, there is no cap, allowing families to spend untaxed funds on everything from glasses, contacts, braces, crutches, bandages, anything not covered by insurance. It will even impact families with special needs children.
4.             Surtax on investment income that pundits estimate will take over $123 billion taken from taxpayers’ pockets over the next ten years.
5.             Medicare payroll tax increase, which could cost employers over $86 billion in the next decade.

You want to know how bizarre, how ill-thought out this plan really is? Read on.
In one of the rulings, the Health Resources and Services Administration says "Non-grandfathered plans and issuers are required to provide coverage without cost-sharing consistent with these guidelines in the first plan year that begins on or after August 1, 2012. ... All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for ALL (author capitalization)women with reproductive capacity."
All women. In Oregon, a woman’s age of consent is fifteen, which means a fifteen-year-old girl in that state can request sterilization without her parents’ permission.
Is that the type of idiocy you want to permeate our health care in the years come?
If you watched the presidential debate, you know that not even President Obama could explain his own plan.