Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sarah Palin's Qualifications

I've never understood why so many people think that Sarah Palin is not qualified to be president.

I'll certainly agree that she did not do well in some of the interviews during the 2008 campaign, and while many of her Facebook posts are actually very strong on policy, as have some of her op-ed's in the Wall Street Journal and on National Review and some of her speeches, she needs to improve at speaking as eloquently as a tv commentator.

But from a standpoint of previous government experience, an objective look arguably makes her as qualified if not more qualified than Bill Clinton in 1992, Howard Dean and John Edwards in 2004, and Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, and Barak Obama in 2008.

I know that sounds odd, but read this piece on and tell how that doesn't stack up to the experience of the candidates I listed above.

Bill Clinton lost a U.S. House race in 1974, was Attorney General of Arkansas from 76-78, and was elected Governor of a simarly small state with a smaller budget than Alaska's (although he did serve 3 1/2 terms as governor). Howard Dean was a Vermont House member for 4 years and then Lieutenant Governor of Vermont for 5 years before serving for a little over 2 terms as governor of Vermont, one of the smallest states in the Union where the governorship is not very powerful. John Edwards only previous political experience after his 2-decade career as an ambulance chaser was that he narrowly won a U.S. Senate race in 1998 and thus had served part of 1 Senate term. Romney's only prior government experience was a failed US Senate run in 1994 and 1 term as Governor of Massachusetts. Hillary Clinton, apart from being Bill Clinton's wife, only had experience in an official capacity as U.S. Senator for 8 years. And of course Barak Obama was only a State Senator in Illinois, and spent less than 2 years in the U.S. Senate before making running for President a full-time job.

If those are all perfectly fine resumes in order to be President, I don't know why Sarah Palin's resume as PTA member, city council member, long time mayor of fastest growing city in Alaska, Alaska Oil and Gas Commissioner, and most popular Governor in the U.S. (at the time she was picked as the VP candidate by McCain in 2008) isn't sufficient. If you don't like her, then fine, you can say that. If you think she could have done better in the Katie Couric interview, then fine, even she admits that. If you buy into all the media bashing she has taken and find her controversial and don't like her style, then fine, I readily admit the media hyperventilates about her. But don't say she is not qualified. Objectively, she is qualified. She hasn't spent 30 years in the Senate like McCain or 2 full terms as Governor of a populous state like George W. Bush, or served as Vice President for 8 years like George H.W. Bush and Al Gore, but her qualifications fit right in with the rest of the candidates I mentioned earlier.

Afghanistan Media Messaging Failure

This poll is infuriating. Well, not the poll itself, but what it tells us about the utter failure of the U.S. and NATO to communicate to the local Afghans.

The poll says that 92% of Afghan men in the Taliban strongholds of the Helmand and Kandahar provinces HAVE NEVER EVEN HEARD OF 9/11!!!! Unbelievable.

It is definitely hard to win the hearts and minds of Afghans to side with us instead of the Taliban when they are completely unaware of why we have our military in their country! If they are unaware of 9/11, then I think it's safe to say they have not heard even the most basic messaging from the U.S., and could not view our military there as anything else but an unprovoked invasion by a foreign military.

If I was in charge of the U.S. military, the first thing I would have done way back in 2001 is air drop in hundreds of thousands of tiny radios with enough batteries to last a couple years and then start broadcasting a message that could be picked up on those radios. I also would have dropped millions of leaflets over every single town or village until in would be almost impossible for anyone in the region not to understand what provoked us to come there and why they should side with us instead of the Taliban, or at least why they should moderate the Taliban and kick out all the Al-Qaeda types.

I know literacy it very low in the rural Afghanistan regions, so I'm not sure if distributing a newspaper would have helped much (that actually goes for the leaflets too), but I would have tried that too.

Getting the messaging right from the start could have saved thousands of U.S. soldiers and Afghan civilians lives.

Dream Act a Nightmare?

The Dems are back during the lame duck session and Harry Reid is following through on his pandering to the Hispanics during his recent campaign, and will bring up the DREAM Act for a vote again. On the surface, the DREAM Act sounds reasonable, and is supposed to give illegal aliens who entered the country as kids and have completed college or served 2 years in the military a path to citizenship. But consider some of these details:

1. The DREAM Act Is NOT Limited to Children, And It Will Be Funded On the Backs Of Hard Working, Law-Abiding Americans

2. The DREAM Act PROVIDES SAFE HARBOR FOR ANY ALIEN, Including Criminals, From Being Removed or Deported If They Simply Submit An Application

3. Certain Criminal Aliens Will Be Eligible For Amnesty Under The DREAM Act

4. Estimates Suggest That At Least 2.1 Million Illegal Aliens Will Be Eligible For the DREAM Act Amnesty. In Reality, We Have No Idea How Many Illegal Aliens Will Apply

5. Illegal Aliens Will Get In-State Tuition Benefits

6. The DREAM Act Does Not Require That An Illegal Alien Finish Any Type of Degree (Vocational, Two-Year, or Bachelor’s Degree) As A Condition of Amnesty

7. The DREAM Act does not require that an illegal alien serve in the military as a condition for amnesty, and There is ALREADY A Legal Process In Place For Illegal Aliens to Obtain U.S. Citizenship Through Military Service

8. Despite Their Current Illegal Status, DREAM Act Aliens Will Be Given All The Rights That Legal Immigrants Receive—Including The Legal Right To Sponsor Their Parents and Extended Family Members For Immigration

9. Current Illegal Aliens Will Get Federal Student Loans, Federal Work Study Programs, and Other Forms of Federal Financial Aid

10. DHS Is Prohibited From Using the Information Provided By Illegal Aliens Whose DREAM Act Amnesty Applications Are Denied To Initiate Their Removal Proceedings or Investigate or Prosecute Fraud in the Application Process

Here's a press release with more details on all these points. The devil is always in the details.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The U.S. Budget Trends

I looked up the recent years of federal spending. We are spending a LOT more while revenues have dropped over the past couple years. You have to start looking at these numbers to start getting the concept of how bad of a situation we are in. In 2009, revenues were $2.165 trillion and on the spending side just the categories of Social Security, Medicare, Health (includes Medicaid), and Income Security (unemployment insurance, federal pensions, housing assistance, food stamps, etc.) added up to right around $2 trillion. People complain about war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, but those are only $100-150 billion annually. I say "only" only in comparison to the rest of the massive amount being spent. With the deficit at $1.5 trillion, even if you stopped the wars tomorrow and could save all the money being spent on them, you would have only cut out 10% of the deficit.

Year Receipts Outlays Surplus or Deficit(−)
2008 2,523,999 2,982,554 -458,555
2009 2,104,995 3,517,681 -1,412,686
2010 estimate 2,165,119 3,720,701 -1,555,582

By the way, the last Republican Congress' budget for fiscal year 2007 (before Democrats won in 2006 and took office in 2007 and created the 2008 budget) was $2.7 trillion. Bush's first budget was in 2002. We did not like that he let the budget increase so fast. But he signed off on a spending increase from $2 trillion to $2.7 trillion, an increase of $700 billion, in 6 years. The Democrats and Obama have increased spending by $1 trillion in just 3 years! And this as revenues were dropping.

Overall, spending has over doubled since 2001 even as revenues are currently only 9% higher than 2001.

Some Ideas for Reducing Government Spending

Matt Moon at The Next Right gets more specific with ideas that Republicans could push for:
What are some budgetary principles that should be communicated by Republicans to the American people?

* The Solution Principle: Every challenge facing the American people does not require a federal office and federal funding.
* The Priorities Principle: Every family and every business has to balance their checkbooks, their revenues with their expenses. Through good times and bad times, families and businesses have to sacrifice what they might want and prioritize their spending. The government should operate like any prudent family or business does, and prioritize.
* The Investment Principle: The American people are "forced to invest" their income into government. Each taxpayer is, therefore, a shareholder in government. Because taxpayers have invested their money into government, taxpayers deserve the best return on their money. This means the "portfolio of investments" (otherwise known as government projects and agencies) must be reviewed carefully and objectively in order for the government to fulfill their due diligence.

How can we turn those principles into solutions? The answer is to do what's difficult, not easy (i.e. earmark moratoriums), and be innovative about our budget from both procedural and substantive points of view:

* Follow the lead of Paul Ryan and his "Roadmap for America's Future" when it comes to restructuring our entitlements.
* Don't allow earmarks to be placed during conference committees between the House and Senate.
* Install a biennial budgeting process, something promoted by Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), while also requiring supermajorities to increase in a fiscal year after a budget has been passed (for legitimate emergencies).
* Separate capital budgets from operating budgets for each department. Long term projects are very different from short term day-to-day costs.
* Instead of an executive Chief Performance Officer that gets to pick and choose what works and what doesn't under subjective criteria, have Congress create a Congressional Agency Performance Office that has some independence (like CBO) to constantly scrutinize the operations of all government agencies.
* On capital projects that go to specific state and local governments, quasi-agencies, and companies, start a Congressional Office for Spending Oversight. Just like every business has control officers, this independent office should scrutinize long term projects' spending practices. This can allow Congress to reward under-budgeted projects and punish over-budgeted projects.
* Not only should spending be posted online before it's passed. It should also be posted online when it's spent. Just like many state governments have done, the federal government's checkbook should be posted online.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Updated Employment Chart for Post WWII Recessions

Hat tip:

Reducing Deficits Requires Cutting Entitlements

See Philip Klein' piece in The American Spectator which points out that getting the deficit under control requires cutting the big 3 entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) that compose almost all of the mandatory spending that is 59% of our budget. There's this nice graph there: