Monday, January 26, 2009

Heinlein inverted

The worst part of Pres. Obama's tax plan is that it will create a huge class of non-taxpayers. By most estimates, if his tax "cuts" are enacted (and the majority of the most crucial cuts are credits to people who pay little or no tax), then the result will be that more than 50% of the working population will not pay income tax. But the minority of workers who do pay the taxes that help fund the country will be supporting the non-payers' use of an expanding supply of government benefits and services, especially medical care.

This is a recipe for disaster.

The majority who would pay no income tax would not support policies that make them do so, they want to eat their cake and still have it. The minority would continue to get soaked for an ever-increasing amount as Social Security obligations come due to the Baby Boomers (aka The Useless Generation). And the minority would lose the political ability to alter this reality because the non-payers would control who gets elected and re-elected.

Without some first-hand knowledge of what your imposition upon society costs, you will impose more and more. Thus, the failure of TennCare, the single-payer health care solution for Tennessee that sent the state into debt because the TennCare participants had no co-payment obligation and routinely used emergency services for even the most simple non-emergency health issues. Similarly, Massachusetts' insure-everyone plan is a complete failure because there are no evident costs to the people who don't pay for their insurance and can use their benefits repeatedly. Even a minor co-pay makes the rational economic actor realize that there is a price for what he does -- will I use my $10 to get a checkup for my sniffles or just go buy some generic Comtrex and have $4-6 left over for lunch? The wisdom of having a nominal payment is clear: everyone has a stake in the system and everyone has to pay some price to participate.

In the Hugo-award winning novel Starship Troopers (ignore the movies, they're rubbish), only veterans can vote. They sacrificed part of their lives for the country, they had to protect the country from its enemies, they get the reward of the franchise. That logic is not impeccable, but it's better than Obama's plan to create a majority of Americans who contribute nothing or less to the cost of the nation's various programs control the future of the country.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Farewell Mr. President

Today is the George W. Bush's last day as President of the United States.

Bush departs office with 30% approval ratings amidst a potentially severe economic recession and with America's worldwide reputation apparently in tatters.

I will miss him.

I'll miss him because he has been and is one of those very rare folks in politics who says what he means in plain, unremitting language. He has defied Democrats and Republicans alike in sticking to his principles. He campaigned as a compassionate conservative and indeed that is what he may have been. The much criticized bailout of the Big Three angered more Republicans (including this one) by far than he did the Left.

He had, by any measure, an extremely difficult Presidency. Winning Florida narrowly but legitimately nevertheless made him a bastard President for a goodly part of the Left which never missed an opportunity to nettle, attack and maim.

The attacks of September 11 were the greatest foreign policy threat in a generation and this President rose to it admirably.

Assembling the Coalition and changing regimes in Iraq was successful but managed ultimately with the wrong Defense Secretary.

Hurricane Katrina was a farce and if Bush was due any blame then the risible mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana were due ten times that. That and the annus horribilis in Iraq in 2006 crippled the Administration.

Finally the economic crisis that began in 2007 and erupted in the fall of 2008 threatens to be a multigenerational event whose blame is well spread it did happen on this President's watch.

So why will I miss him? As another more able writer screed, that knucklehead Michael Moore notwithstanding, we were fortunate to have this President in office rather than either his predecessor or successor. Nine months into his term Bush faced a crisis that Clinton never did in eight years. We decisively and quickly excised an extraordinarily poisonous and reactive regime.

And in Iraq where we have written much and the outcome remains in doubt but perhaps optimistic Bush made his stand in 2006 on the surge despite the unremitting enmity of the Left and the Democratic party and desertion by many on the right. To depart then - where the lesson of Cambodia is instructive - would have ensured chaos and genocide on a massive scale. The surge worked and Iraq has a better than average chance to be the source of change in the Middle East. Surely it came with cost. Every last penny of capital was spent here. Iran, North Korea, a bitter Russia and Chavez inspired anti Americanism went largely unanswered.

But if Iraq works, it will have been Bush's finest hour. And some day, Bush may yet see the rehabilitation of Truman.

Thank you for your service. Good luck and God bless you.

Friday, January 16, 2009

These guys are good

I remember a joke by a random comedian ridiculing flight announcements that identified the pilot and co-pilot, the punchline: "what do we say? Ooh, those guys are good? I feel safe now?"

Actually, if you're on Chesley Sullenberger III's plane, the answer is: yes. Sully Sullenberger, a former fighter pilot, landed the US Airways Flight 1549 that lost both its engines shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia yesterday. The plane set down in the Hudson River with NO fatalities and only a few minor injuries, none more serious than broken bones. All 155 passengers and crew are alive. And Sullenberger went walking the fuselage of the airplane while rescue attempts were ongoing to make sure the passengers were ok.

This is why commercial pilots are well worth the six-figure salaries they get for only around 100 hours of work per month. The Monk remembers watching on TV -- breaking news -- a flight that landed in Houston 2.5 years ago where the landing gear failed to engage in the front and right sides. The Continental pilot just glided in on one set of landing gear, slowed the plane, then scraped the bottom to the ground. No bad injuries, no problem, no need to use the water trucks and firefighting services that were scrambled to the scene.

The location of the crash landing was also good -- New York. Within minutes private ferry boats, nearby boaters and even public ferries detoured to the floating plane and helped the passengers to safety.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Retiring quiet class

Tony Dungy wasn't the first African-American to become a head coach in the NFL (Art Shell, Raiders) and he may not end up as the best one (that title could go to Mike Tomlin, a former assistant to Dungy), but he has changed the game in two important ways.

First, Dungy is the first black head coach of a Super Bowl champion -- the Indianapolis Colts, who won Super Bowl XLI. That Super Bowl guaranteed a champion with a black head coach because Bears' coach Lovie Smith is also African-American.

Second, Dungy proved that African-American coaches who have dignity, intellectualism, integrity and respectability are viable coaching candidates. Dungy's not a nail-chewing firebrand like Mike Singletary or a butt-kicker like Shell (in his first stint at Oakland, not his second). That's the mold owners sought for African-American coaching candidates. He's more like Bill Walsh than Bill Parcells.

And he won: 148 times overall, a Super Bowl, an armful of division titles and 11 playoff berths in 13 years on the job. There are better coaches in the game, but that list is VERY short. There are few who have or will come close to Dungy in terms of respect and class.

His yellow blazer for the Pro Football Hall of Fame should be in production soon.

Monday, January 05, 2009

DCI Panetta

A happy new year to friends, family and readers. Hope the holiday season was a joyous one.

In a surprise today President-elect Barack Obama appointed former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta to head the Central Intelligence Agency. My initial reaction to this was "HUH!?" A bureaucrat to run CIA strikes me as unseemly as one would seem logically want someone with INTELLIGENCE background to head the agency.

Why Panetta? For one thing it may indicate that there might not be a long list of willing but qualified appointees - George Tenet is out of course - but it may also suggest that Team Obama has realized what a nasty sharkpit the CIA has been to George W. Bush and has decided that more than anything they want a LOYAL BUREAUCRAT who is willing to ensure that no backbiting occurs.

Apparently Dianne Feinstein the new Senate Intelligence chair didn't know about this either but hard to see at the moment how any legislator or group of legislators will deny the Messiah. The downside to this if CIA misses anything big there will(and ought to) be hell to pay.

Thankfully Obama's choice for Director of National Intelligence, Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, formerly CINCPAC, is well regarded.