The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Zachary Hubbard

April 17, 2011

Random thoughts on politics and stupidity

— If you pay attention to Capitol Hill politics, it quickly becomes evident that politicians think you’re stupid. Consider the following examples of political deception. Can there be any other explanation?

The Republicans eliminated congressional earmarks. That’s what you were led to believe. 

Bring on the budgetary legislative proposal (BLP). 

Republicans fought hard to kill earmarks. However, as part of the planning process for the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization bill, House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) issued BLP instructions to the committee. While not identical to an earmark, the new BLP accomplishes the same thing by funding projects the administration did not include in its budget request. While BLP rules are somewhat more restrictive than earmark rules were, members of Congress can still bring home the bacon.

“Birthers” claim President Obama is not a native born U.S. citizen. Think about it. If Obama was not born in the United States, the powerful Clinton political machine would have uncovered this when Hillary ran against him for the presidency. Why then does Obama not produce his long form birth certificate?

Perhaps it is to his advantage to keep the birthers talking foolishness until he releases it to the media just before the 2012 election. How ridiculous the birthers would look!

Reduction in Social Security payroll withholdings for 2011 is a good deal. Many people are happy Congress voted to reduce the amount of Social Security withholdings taken from their paychecks for 2011. 

Politicians like legislation that makes them look good to voters. However, this particular instance is a classic example of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. While you save money this year, you will accrue less in your overall Social Security contribution basis, meaning your future Social Security payouts, if they still exist by the time you’re old enough to collect, will be somewhat less.

The Social Security “lock box” isn’t locked at all. Congress has been borrowing annually from the imaginary lock box, the fund where your monthly Social Security contributions supposedly go. The box is full of IOUs. As an accounting trick, the amount borrowed from Social Security each year is deducted from the overall annual federal deficit figures, making the deficit appear smaller. 

Unfortunately for Congress, Social Security now pays out more than it takes in. No more tricks! The Shadow Government Statistics website discusses this and many other examples of accounting sleight of hand by the U.S. government (www.shadowstats.com).

Politicians promise more and more, knowing they can’t deliver. The country is technically bankrupt. Many politicians want you to believe the government gravy train will never stop rolling. To assure us, they’ve invented a new financial lexicon. “Investing in the future” means accruing more national debt. “Revenue enhancement” means more new taxes. “Lock box” means cash cow. “Showing compassion” means confiscating and redistributing wealth.

Walter E. Williams, George Mason University professor of economics, has clearly demonstrated that the economic disaster in our country can be solved only by reducing government spending. In a recent column (“Eat the Rich”) on his website, Williams explains that the economic woes of the federal government could not be solved by taxation, even if the government confiscated all of the earnings of the so-called rich (individuals earning more than $200,000 per year or couples earning more than $250,000), all of the profits of the Fortune 500 companies, and all of the assets of the 400-plus billionaires in America. 

The government must reduce spending to secure your future, which means cutting entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. 

You’re not going to get everything the politicians have promised. 

We are not at war with Libya. It is merely a “kinetic military action.” What a great euphemism!

 According to the Obama administration, we attacked Libya for humanitarian reasons. However, any suggestion that Libya is a humanitarian mission doesn’t work. One essential element of humanitarian assistance is the need to remain neutral.

Operation Restore Hope in Somalia started as a humanitarian assistance mission. 

However, all pretense of American neutrality ended when President Clinton took sides and deployed Delta Force to capture the former Somali president, Gen. Mohamed Ali Farrah Aidid.

In contrast to Somalia, from the beginning, the United States took sides with the opposition forces in Libya. We exceeded the authority of the U.N.-mandated no fly zone when we attacked Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s ground forces.             

NATO is now in charge of the war in Libya. Some politicians make it sound as if NATO is a country that has assumed control of the war in Libya. NATO is an alliance. It is and has always been led by the United States.

We pay the majority of the costs, we provide the majority of the military forces, and we command them. NATO’s military commander, Adm. James Stavridis, is an American.

On April 13, a U.S. Department of Defense official revealed that U.S. airplanes are still bombing Libyans. 

Using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve can reduce fuel prices here at home. A number of politicians have recently discussed the idea of tapping the national strategic petroleum reserve to lower fuel costs.

This would be like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. 

According to DOE, the reserve has only a 75-day supply. It was filled at an average cost of $29.76 per barrel and would eventually have to be refilled at more than $100 per barrel.  

Where is the money to refill it going to come from? More importantly, what would the country do if we deplete the reserve and then have a real emergency?

Fuel prices are driven by global demand. With rising economies such as China’s and India’s hungry for oil, the law of supply and demand pushes prices up. Throw in a weak U.S. dollar and the possibility of lowering fuel prices without significantly increasing domestic oil production is very low.  

The U.S. inflation rate is low.

The Consumer Price Index  is the standard used by the federal government to describe economic inflation. In case you hadn’t noticed, Social Security checks and government retirement annuities did not receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment this year because, according to the CPI, inflation was low in 2010.

Unfortunately, for most inflation calculations, the government used the so-called “core CPI,” which strips out the cost of fuel and food, commodities with highly volatile prices.

Notice any increase in the cost of fuel and food lately?

Do the government’s financial wizards really believe these don’t have an impact on your cost of living?

Of course not! Including the cost of fuel and food, 2010 inflation was nearly 10 percent.

Feeling stupid?

Don’t.

Feeling lied to? 

You should be. 

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are fit to run this country. Revenge is a dish that is best served cold.

Get yours at the polls in 2012.

Zachary Hubbard is a retired Army officer and freelance writer residing in Upper Yoder Township. He is a member of the Tribune Democrat Reader Advisory Committee.

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