Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bad Economy, Bad Policy, More Poverty and Welfare Dependency

Poverty is a relative term. Some people understand poverty as cash poor, not having the latest electronic gadget, a huge house, or not taking an expensive vacation. Others think of themselves as poor because they fall behind a certain standard of living that they deem desirable. A third group of Americans may think they are poor because they fall behind the average income in the country. People confuse and interchange wealth, income, and cash constantly.
The figures listed below are the 2012 federal government’s poverty guidelines. However, they are not the figures that the Census Bureau uses to calculate the number of poor persons. The Census Bureau uses poverty threshold data based on gender, size of family, number of children, farm, and non-farm.  (http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/threshld/index.html)

2012 Poverty Guidelines for the
48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia
Persons in
Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons,
add $3,960 for each additional person.


According to Michael Tanner, “The poverty rate has risen to 15.1 percent of Americans, the highest level in nearly a decade…Welfare spending increased significantly under President George W. Bush and has exploded under President Barack Obama.”  Since Obama took office, federal expenditures on welfare have increased by 41 percent, more than $193 billion per year. (Cato Institute, The American Welfare State, April 11, 2012)

Forty-six million Americans live in poverty, even though the government spent more than $15 trillion on welfare since President Lyndon Johnson enacted the war on poverty in 1964. We lost all battles because the federal government was not serious about winning this war, it did not concentrate on fixing the problems by adding jobs to the economy that created prosperity. We outsourced jobs, we “saved or created’ shovel-ready jobs for bureaucrats, and we made poverty comfortable and dependable for an increasing sector of the population.

If we compare these 46 million poor Americans to other nations, their poverty is considered comfortable in most places around the world and well-off in many other countries.

That is not to say that there are no Americans who do not genuinely need help. The lengthy recession born by the bursting of the housing bubble, the subsequent TARP, the failed stimulus, auto bailouts, the mismanaged economy, the crony capitalism, created real victims who lost their homes, their jobs, their insurance, and their livelihood. They did not deliberately “purchase” a home that they knew they could not possibly afford to repay, nor engaged in complicated derivatives trading with other people’s retirement money and savings.

Yet some Americans who truly needed help were reluctant to accept welfare or, if they did, the benefits were inadequate or ran out. There are always Americans in temporary or permanent need who fall through the cracks of welfare. It is people who know how to milk the system who benefit the most from the welfare largesse.

Being on welfare is not just the result of lack of a good education, bad choices in life, unwillingness to work, of a culture of entitlement (it is free and the government owes it to us), it is also a function of bad luck, personal injury, illness, and hard times during cyclical economic downturns.

The federal government uses personal income tax receipts to provide two-thirds of welfare funds, while state and local governments provide one-third from state tax receipts. Economically speaking, welfare is categorized as transfer payments.
The largest transfer of payments (welfare) goes to Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), housing vouchers, State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Medicaid spent the most on health care in 2011 - $228 billion for 49 million Americans. Food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was the second largest expenditure in 2011 with $72 billion for 41 million Americans. This year, 43 million Americans are on food stamps thanks to our tanking economy under the leadership and guidance of the current administration. According to Michael Tanner, Director of Health and Welfare Studies at the Cato Institute, federal spending on welfare rose 375 percent since 1965. Total federal welfare spending rose from 2.19 to 6 percent of GDP.

Since the inception of the War on Poverty, the federal government created 126 anti-poverty programs. There are some with overlapping missions:

-        33 housing programs administered by 4 different cabinet departments

-        21 food assistance programs administered by 3 different departments and one agency

-        8 health care programs run by 5 different agencies at HHS

-        27 cash/general assistance programs run by 6 cabinet departments and 5 agencies

“All together, seven different cabinet agencies and six independent agencies administer at least one anti-poverty program.” (Cato Institute, The American Welfare State, p. 3)

Keynesian economists suggested that a better way to tackle poverty was to give income to the poor without destroying their incentives to work via the earned income tax credit (EITC). As earnings of a family rose to a certain level, the federal government gave them a supplemental “grant,” proportional to earned wages. EITC began in 1975 but became increasingly more generous since 1993, giving income-support to over 22 million families. (Baumol and Blinder, Economics, 2007, p. 458)

We do know how well EITC works since illegal aliens, using an IRS issued number to encourage them to file income taxes, have taken advantage of this IRS loophole, raking in $6.3 billion a year in tax refunds, claiming children who are not even residents or citizens of this country.

Cato’s Michael Tanner suggests that making people more comfortable in poverty and government dependence is a bad idea - more food, better housing, more health care, free day care, etc. The solutions to get out and stay out of poverty:

1.     Finish school

2.     Do not get pregnant outside marriage

3.     Get a job, any job, and stick with it.

 The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a very successful program from the Clinton era, was recently changed by a directive from President Obama to the HHS, from a cash safety net for families in need via a welfare-to-work program that promoted employment, into a funding source for idleness and stay-at-home permanent welfare voters.

“The broad purposes of TANF specified in the law:

-        providing assistance to needy families so that children could be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives;

-        ending needy families’ dependence on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage;

-        preventing and reducing the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies; and

-        encouraging the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.”

(Kay E. Brown, Director of GAO, Testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, June 5, 2012)
Jonathan Alter, a left-wing writer, described in his book, The Promise, a short exchange that happened during President Obama’s first year in office:

“A congressman approached the first lady at a White House reception after the [stimulus] bill’s passage and told her the stimulus was the best anti-poverty bill in a generation. Her reaction was ‘Shhh!’ The White House did not want the public thinking that Obama had achieved long-sought public policy objectives under the guise of merely stimulating the economy, even though that’s exactly what happened.”  (As quoted by Paul Mirengoff in Powerline, July 30, 2012)

While we are $16 trillion in debt, with more Americans applying for disability than applying for jobs, the USDA’s “Reaching Low-Income Hispanics with Nutrition Assistance webpage states:

“USDA and the government of Mexico have entered into a partnership to help educate eligible Mexican nationals living in the United States about available nutrition assistance. Mexico will help disseminate this information through its embassy and network of approximately 50 consular offices.

The USDA-Mexico partnership was signed in 2004, under President George W. Bush, by former USDA Secretary Ann M. Venemen and Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista. This begs the obvious questions, why does Mexico need 50 consular offices in the U.S. when all other countries have only one consulate, and why are we responsible to feed Mexican nationals, including illegal aliens with their anchor babies?

Eradicating poverty should be more than just streamlining welfare – it should be about fighting the real causes of welfare dependency: the breakdown of families, rejection of faith, truancy, dropping out of school, having babies outside of marriage, drug use, crime, and lack of personal pride, responsibility, and accountability for one’s actions. Spreading the wealth, the socialist goal, is a dystopia that will further enslave people into perennial poverty.

Representatives Jim Jordan and Steve Southerland II suggested, “Congress should block-grant the [welfare] funds to states and let them innovate. Grass-roots organizations and state and local leaders know better than Congress what works in their communities.” Follow the model of Habitat for Humanity that requires families to put in “hundreds of hours of sweat equity before getting a new home.”

Taking care of the truly needy and disabled is the right thing to do in our civilized society. Taking advantage of a system that has gone beyond generosity and making welfare a life-style choice and career opportunity is honor-less.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Impeachment Referendum for Old or New Communism

Tomorrow, July 29, 2012, Romanians are going to the polls to vote for or against impeachment of their President, Traian Basescu. It is not something Romanians are happy about since their choices are either the old communist guard represented by President Traian Basescu or the new communism represented by the Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, and his ruling parliamentary coalition government.

It was unprecedented that a German Chancellor attacked another European Prime Minister so publicly. Angela Merkel gave Victor Ponta a dressing down for his attempted coup and unconstitutional removal of the President in a democracy.

Never before did the President of the European Union raise his voice to a Prime Minister of a member country in the manner in which the socialist Martin Schulz expressed his displeasure to the humiliated socialist Victor Ponta.

Victor Ponta and his USL (social liberal union) dominated coalition are eager and desperate to remove President Basescu by any means necessary. In order to remove the president, USL must win the referendum which must be valid, meaning that 9 million Romanians must show up to vote, according to the decision of the Constitutional Court.

Sadly for Prime Minister Ponta, he and the USL do not have popular support. If they did, Romanians would show up en masse to vote and President Basescu would be impeached. The problem is that Romanians are sick of all parties and their endemic corruption. There is a reason why representatives spend millions to get elected – they stand to make billions once they win a coveted parliamentary post.

Prime Minister Ponta was reminded that Romania is beholden to the powers that rule the EU and the monetary policy of the euro, the European Central Bank, the IMF, and indirectly Germany and United States. Romania’s budget is partially covered by its economy and the tax base from the existing private firms. The rest of the national income is derived from EU loans, backed by various banks.

When Romania finally said no to communism in December 1989, the former communist apparatchiks took advantage of the temporary power vacuum created and dismantled as much of the industry as possible, selling national assets for personal gain, piece by piece, without any accountability, to foreign investors who had no idea that those assets belonged to “the people.” Honest citizens remained poor – they did not steal anything, and refused million dollar loans from the west that they knew they could not possibly pay back.

Ponta’s government has a 70 percent majority in Parliament and there should be no reason why it cannot begin to govern and implement the anti-crisis plans they had promised the voters during the electoral campaign. Unfortunately, Romanians know well that the coalition’s sole interest is the interest of most politicians - corruption and bribery. Since President Basescu started doing his job and arrested some of the more blatant corruption culprits, the USL dominated coalition would have to play by the rules of law, an inconvenience that could be eliminated by impeaching the President.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta wrote an article titled “Romanian Reality,” in Foreign Policy Magazine on July 26, 2012, defending his government takeover attempt.

“Impeachment proceedings have been carried out in strict accordance with the law, as confirmed by the Constitutional Court. The proceedings themselves are a response to Basescu’s repeated abuses of power, again confirmed by the Constitutional Court. The vote for impeachment passed Parliament by a two-thirds majority, and 70 percent of voters now oppose Basescu, according to opinion polls. The final word now rests with the Romanian people, who will vote in a free and fair referendum on Sunday, July 29…Basescu’s call for a boycott is an anti-democratic step designed to avoid impeachment at any cost.”

Ponta forgot to mention in his article how he stripped the Court of its right to overrule the Parliament when the Constitutional Court made the decision based on precedent that the President should attend the European summit not the Prime Minister. He also failed to mention how he replaced some members including the Ombudsman, with his political allies. Ponta did not mention the fact that “he seized the official bulletin in which laws were published in an attempt to control legislation, delay the Court, and prohibit the release of new rules by President Basescu.” (Andrew MacDowall, Christian Science Monitor, July 12, 2012)

Prime Minister Ponta sugar-coated the truth with his version of events. Any other objective witness would have called his coup an attempt to bypass democratic rule of law, with the final outcome to remove the democratically-elected President. Traian Basescu may not have been the best and effective president but the Romanian people should decide his fate at the voting booth.

Romanians are ambivalent as to which brand of communism they will have to follow because they know corruption and lawlessness will rule the day. Will it be the winds of the old guard communism or the new brand of European socialism/communism? Either way, voters will be stuck between the rock and the hard place of economic austerity measures proposed by the European Union.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Farewell to the Unsung Heroes

Liquid sunshine is caressing this morning thousands of marble headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is visible on top of the hill as we drive to Ft. Myer. I am reminded of the altruistic sacrifice of thousands and thousands of soldiers who came before my husband, some who have made the ultimate sacrifice and some who still serve our country. They are the quiet heroes who made possible the freedoms many Americans take for granted every day. I appreciate everything because I have lived through tyranny.

We are silent. My inner melancholy reflects on my husband’s usually stoic face. He proudly served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America for 27 years. Today, he will be honored with 33 other soldiers whose collective service represents 796 years of faithful duty. The Commanding General of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, D.C. will review the officers and non-commissioned officers who have honorably served and retired.

The pomp and circumstance will be highlighted by the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own). The Eagle Squadron, the Sabre and Spurs, and the National Spirit will dazzle the audience with a pre-ceremony concert.

I am glad that the usual outdoor ceremony is moved inside, not so much for everyone’s comfort, although temperatures were predicted to reach a scorching 100 degrees today. Not far from our celebration, sailors dressed in white are honoring a fallen hero from the U.S. Navy.

As a military wife and American patriot, the playing of the National Anthem and the presentation of our Flag is not just a customary salute of respect. The rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is deeply felt. It is a tearful mixture of pride, joy, and blessings for the luck and privilege to live in the United States, the best place on earth.

Thirty-four men and women wore their uniforms today for the last time in an official capacity. No civilians can understand or appreciate the places these soldiers have traveled to, the hardships they’ve endured away from their families, the sacrifices they’ve made, the number of nights they’ve slept under the stars, in the sand, in their Humvees, in tents, in tanks, and all the special moments in the lives of loved ones they have missed. They were exposed to the elements, thirsty and hungry at times, dirty, eaten by bugs, injured, alone sometimes, unprotected, under fire, yet seldom complained.

Soldiers volunteer to serve our country because it is the right thing to do – it is about duty, honor, courage, valor, and sacrifice in the defense of our republic. Thousands of faceless and nameless heroes came before my husband, a monolith of men of unparalleled courage and devotion to a common cause that few civilians understand. We owe them a debt of gratitude for what they do for the rest of us. However, few Americans acknowledge, understand, or respect a soldier’s duty and role in our country until their peace is threatened. As one wise soldier once said, “You reside under the yoke of freedom which I provide. Have a nice day!”

“The Americans are coming” has been uttered across of the world, sometimes in fear, sometimes in relief, and every time, it was a nameless, faceless soldier, someone’s husband, son, or brother who rose to the occasion of freeing a nation or punishing evil around the world.

Many American soldiers rest in cemeteries around the world, their sacrifice forgotten, save for the headstone and the occasional wreath. Vandals sometimes deface their tombs.

My husband and I carried home his retirement certificate, encased in an embossed green holder, a letter of appreciation from the Commander in Chief, and a carefully folded American flag which I held like a priceless possession.

I know how much soldiers give up to save people they don’t even know who often don’t appreciate nor are grateful for their help. Soldiers do not ask questions, they are duty and honor bound to do what they are told. For their valor, courage, and fortitude, God bless the American soldiers who make the peaceful existence of the United States of America possible every day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Butler on Business WAFS 1190 Atlanta

My nine minute radio commentary today on Butler on Business, WAFS 1190 Atlanta. Topic: welfare, poverty, and debt. I will be live on the Atlanta's Premier FM station every Wednesday at 10:49 a.m. EST for 11 minutes. Tune in if you can or you can listen to the podcast later on in the day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Welfare Recipients Entitled to Be Lazy and in Debt

“I must confess, when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool.” Allen West

Yesterday I saw a new bumper sticker in Maryland, “Obama cares.” President Obama and his administration must care a whole lot – they love to spend so much money that we are running up a projected fifth year of $1 trillion deficit spending.

The national debt clock is changing red numbers as fast I can focus, reflecting the out-of-control spending in Washington and the weak value of the dollar in conjunction with our disastrous energy policy, high unemployment rates, comatose economic growth, and the rapid rise in welfare.

The public debt today is nearing $16 trillion while U.S. tax revenues are a mere $2.3 trillion. U.S. debt interest alone in 2012 is $3.9 trillion. U.S. debt held by foreign countries is approximately $5.4 trillion.

Total national assets, including small businesses, corporations and households are $91.3 trillion. If we sold them at some unprecedented national auction, that would not be enough to cover the total U.S. unfunded liabilities (Social Security, prescription drugs, Medicare) which are fast approaching $120 trillion.  

Maybe we have enough cash to pay off our national debt? The Federal Reserve (Fed) monetary base is $2.7 trillion, M2 money supply is $9.9 trillion, and Treasury securities $1.2 trillion, for a total currency and credit derivatives (created and bogus money) of $734 trillion.

Maybe we produce enough goods and services in a year (GDP) to cover our national debt and insane spending? U.S. gross domestic product is $15.3 trillion, a drop in the bucket when compared to the federal, state, and local government spending of nearly $7 trillion.

The following ratios paint a very ugly picture of our economy as well.

The ratio of spending to GDP is 44.2 percent.
The ratio of gross debt to GDP is 104.19 percent.
The ratio of revenue to GDP is 32.32 percent.

The largest budget items of the federal spending are listed below. The sad part is that, if I log onto the debt clock.org later today, the numbers would have changed very rapidly up or down, generally up.

-          Medicare/Medicaid ($798 billion)

-          Social Security ($740 billion)

-          Defense/Wars ($673 billion)

-          Income Security ($371 billion)

-          Net Interest on Debt ($226 billion)

-          Federal Pensions ($214 billion)

The United States has a constantly changing population of approximately 315 million, give or take a few 10-20 million illegal aliens who are either in the process of being amnestied by the Obama administration because they were brought here by “no fault of their own” and thus deserve U.S. citizenship ahead of overseas legally petitioning immigrants who have done everything according to the law but are hindered by vast oceans, and more illegal aliens who have already completed the arduous process of having jumped or crossed the southern border “undocumented” and are now benefitting from our generous welfare (income security) system, compliments of politicians who always need grateful legal or illegal voters.

The labor force is listed at 144 million although not long ago it was 156 million. These are the discouraged workers who are no longer counted and have fallen off the face of the earth.  Thirteen million Americans are officially unemployed but the actual unemployment number listed is 23 million. Where did the other 10 million unemployed workers go? They must have disappeared to the same place where President Obama’s shovel ready jobs went.

Not to worry, there are 67.5 million retirees and SSI recipients and almost 46 million food stamp recipients to draw from the overabundance of the combined U.S. evil capitalist wealth which was not created by hard-working Americans but by a benevolent federal government who taxed the heck out of working Americans and then built roads and bridges to the front door of all U.S. small businesses and corporations.

Welfare spending, cash, food, housing, medical care, social services for the poor has increased seventeen times since Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty in 1964. We obviously lost this war on poverty since the Obama administration plans to increase welfare spending rather than reduce it. He will need $46 trillion today and $1-2 trillion a year in the future to meet all the welfare promises made. (Heritage Foundation, Issues 2012)

TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) was a Clinton era 1996 welfare reform success story which prepared welfare recipients for work through on-the-job training, unsubsidized employment, attending high school or a GED program, vocational education, community service work, job search, and job readiness training.  Recipients with children had to perform 20-30 hours a week of work in exchange for cash benefits. Welfare cases dropped by 50 percent, employment earnings increased, and child poverty rates decreased. (Amy Payne, Heritage Insider)

Unfortunately, the Obama administration circumvented Congress and announced a directive through the HHS that welfare recipients no longer have to work to fulfill the TANF requirements. “Vocational training or job search/readiness programs would count, even personal care activities, massage, motivational reading, and journaling.”  “President Obama made no secret about his plans to expand the welfare state permanently,” forcing recipients into a permanent cycle of dependence on government. (Amy Payne, The End of Welfare Reform As We Know It, July 18, 2012)

Since the 1960s, the U.S. has spent $16 trillion on welfare and is projected to spend almost $11 trillion over the next ten years. About 70 welfare programs are spread over 13 federal agencies and account for $900 billion a year in expenditures. (Heritage Foundation, March 17, 2011)

We are fast becoming a nation of lazy and entitled, government dependent citizens, approaching a high percentage of our population, legal and illegal. All entitlements, food stamps, unemployment, housing assistance, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security represent more than half of total spending. At this rate of welfare extension (Obama added millions more to the welfare rolls), Social Security will be exhausted before the projected 2036 because, “in net-present-value terms, Social Security owes $9.1 trillion more in benefits than it will receive in taxes.” Spending on all entitlements “will consume all revenues within less than two generations. No revenue will be left to pay for other government spending, including constitutional functions such as defense.” Who needs national defense when Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China are flexing their military muscles all around the world? (Issues 2012 - The Candidate’s Briefing Book, p. 46, The Heritage Foundation, 2011)

As I watch again the fast changing numbers of the national debt clock.org, I am reminded that we are dismally broke and we cannot afford more welfare. Our number one threat to national security is not just the out-of-control spending that our President, with the blessing of Congress, is engaging in, but the entitlement mentality of able-bodied and healthy Americans on permanent welfare who produce more welfare dependent children at the expense of those who work, gleefully voting for corrupt politicians who promise them more welfare, locking them into perennial poverty and enslavement to a benevolent government that produces nothing.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Referendum Vote for Impeachment

Democracy, its political institutions, and constitutional checks and balances are fragile. Populist politicians, taking advantage of the economic crisis in the European Union created by the welfare nanny state, are attempting to take over hearts and minds with promises they cannot keep.

Populism is supposed to be a “political doctrine that supports the rights and power of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite.” If you replace common people with proletariat and privileged elite with the rich, you have incipient, street level community organizing for communism.

That is how communism was sold to Eastern Europeans 60-70 years ago. That is how communism is sold again to Eastern European countries like Greece and Romania, faced with austerity measures that affect ordinary citizens. The corrupt kleptocracy that squandered EU money and used funds and loans to enrich themselves are not really suffering.

The elderly are nostalgic about the worry-free, poverty level subsistence nanny state. The confused Romanians are tired of corruption and bribery. They have experienced freedom from communism but not from the former communists who had stolen and pillaged the country blind, while the ruling elite closed their eyes to the corruption and took advantage of their new-found power to participate and to squelch democratic judicial decisions and democracy in general.

The current power struggle is fought between the old guard communists with their wealthy families, turned into thriving billionaire capitalists, and the young neo-communists, who have had no memory or experience of Ceausescu’s communist dictatorship. These young neo-commies are lured and supported by European socialist and Marxist parties.

The left-wing Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, took over Parliament in an attempt to remove any checks and balances on his government, while forcing the current president from office. Ponta became Prime Minister in May after two right-of-center coalitions collapsed. (Washington Post, July 2012)

A country of 22 million people, Romania has approximately 12 parties. Prime Minister Victor Ponta cobbled a social-liberal coalition, led by his own Social Democrat Party (PSD). PSD has roots in the former Romanian Communist Party under Nicolae Ceausescu. (Andrew MacDowall, Christian Science Monitor, July 12, 2012)

In January 2012, thousands of Romanians protested President Traian Basescu’s authoritarian rule. The tipping point was his criticism of the deputy health minister, Raed Arafat. Arafat demanded efficiency and transparency in health care and private participation in emergency health services. Arafat resigned after televised direct criticism from President Basescu.

Arafat returned to work eventually, the President scrapped his controversial health care bill, but the protesting group, calling themselves the Romanian branch of the Arab Spring, continued their fight to remove the President. (Christian Science Monitor, Andrew MacDowell, January 17, 2012)

President Basescu, an ally of Emil Boc, the Prime Minister at that time, had a strong majority in Parliament. On February 6, after country wide protests, Emil Boc resigned “to defuse political and social tensions.” An interim Justice Minister was appointed, Catalin Predoiu, the only one in Boc’s cabinet who had no political party affiliation.

People resented Boc’s government because he increased sale taxes from 19 percent to 24 percent in response to the shrinking of the economy by 7 percent which necessitated the $26 billion in loans from the IMF to help pay salaries and pensions.

Ponta and Basescu argued publicly over who should represent Romania at the EU summit. The Constitutional Court, based on precedent and protocol, decided that the president should attend. Ponta disagreed and “stripped the court of its right to overrule the parliament, replacing some members,” including the Ombudsman, with his political allies. Prime Minister Ponta also seized the official bulletin in which laws were published in an attempt to control legislation, delay the court, and prohibit the release of new rules by President Basescu. (Andrew MacDowall, July 12, 2012)

Ponta’s Ph.D. dissertation was challenged and declared blatant plagiarism, in spite of the fact that he tried to disband the academic panel charged with the investigation.

A July 29 referendum is scheduled to decide if the President should be impeached. Having overstepped Constitutional authority, Prime Minister Ponta and his allies hope that the referendum will impeach President Basescu and his allies. The court ruled that the referendum turnout must exceed 50 percent of the voters in order to be valid. The rule would ensure that the President would not be ousted by a low voter turnout.

Ponta did not like the court’s ruling and tried to change it, so that impeachment would be ratified by a majority of those voting instead of a majority of all registered voters. Ponta had to retreat when EU leaders threatened Romania with sanctions.

The European markets reacted negatively to the internal power struggle - the Romanian currency plunged in value and the borrowing costs for Romania escalated.

Ponta and his left-wing allies are not exactly backing down. His campaign will lure voters in the general election with the promise that he will reverse the austerity measures put in place in 2009. President Basescu, the former leader of the Democrat Liberal Party, a former communist himself, is an outspoken and confrontational individual who disdains the opposition. Cristian Mititelu, of the BBC Romania said, “The austerity measures seem to have penalized those who worked for the state, retirees, and people who depended on social security.” (Alison Mutler, AP, February 6, 2012)

According to Ovidiu Nahoi, a Romanian journalist, problems abound. The endemic corruption from the communist regime did not go away, it got incrementally worse. Romania received a loan of 20 billion euros in 2009 from the IMF on the condition that there will be a 25 percent cut in public sector salaries and 5 percent increase in value added taxes (VAT). President Basescu, a Social Liberal, eliminated many state jobs.  Ovidiu Nahoi said, “Pensions, prices, poverty, injustice, and corruption are all major issues that have been amplified by austerity. People are protesting not just against austerity, but against a political system seen to be corrupt and unjust. They want a new structure of society.”

Wanting change, and not sure what kind of change, the people bought the promises of more welfare from the Ponta government. The problem is that Ponta is a die-hard communist, having inherited the roots of Ceausescu’s Romanian Communist Party which exploited his people for 29 years, his tyrannical rule bringing them to the brink of economic and societal disaster. Romanians are finding themselves now between the rock of Ponta’s tyrannical communism and Basescu’s hard place of crony capitalism.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Morning Walk

The July morning is gloomy. A drizzling rain does not deter me from going for a walk in the woods. A cool 66 degrees is a welcome respite from the 100 degree temperatures of a few days ago. It had been so hot, the asphalt on the tarmac at Reagan National Airport in D.C. had melted underneath a plane.

It must have rained really hard last night - all creatures are still taking shelter. A downpour cleared the path of dead leaves – tree roots are clearly visible through the forest floor like pumped veins full of chlorophyll, the blood of the woods.

I am disappointed that I do not run into any deer with their lovely fawn, or the red fox staring me in the face intently and defiantly, the occasional rabbit crossing my path, or squirrels darting to and fro.

The rain intensifies but the thick canopy sifts the large raindrops into a mist that cools my skin. The silence is soothing and comforting. I forget about the world in turmoil outside of the dense forest.

The path winds up and down along downed trees from the recent straight line winds. Sixty foot giant pines will be slowly devoured by parasites and rot, turning them into soil-enriching dust. I reach the Snake Bridge. I baptized the walking bridge after the snake I encountered one late afternoon - he was resting in a coiled position after a satisfying meal bulging from his belly. The water underneath is higher, teeming with small fish and frogs. I do not see any snakes, they must be hiding too.

Steep stairs guide me to the road. I walk alongside the road until I reach the river. The water level is high against the banks. A lone fisherman is casting from his boat, stopped in the middle of the Potomac. A light fog envelopes the banks on both sides. A father and daughter team are fishing underneath the railroad bridge. The fish are really biting. I wonder if they are catching catfish or snakeheads, an invasive species from Asia. Someone had dumped their aquarium pets into the river and they are multiplying like crazy. A man caught an 18-pound snakehead in the Potomac near historic Occoquan. Fishermen catch them for rewards; others eat them as a delicacy. Snakeheads certainly do not look appetizing to me. It is amazing that they can breathe out of water and actually crawl on the ground.

Walking along the river’s edge, water is lapping against driftwood and rocks, very close to my path. As I reach the forest on the other side, I hear the whistle of a slow-moving freight train, barreling towards the bridge. I am wet now; there are no trees to protect me for a short distance. As I enter the woods again, I cross three more walking bridges. The water is lapping underneath my feet, making the wooden planks quite slippery. A few ducks are out on the river’s edge, catching a morning snack.

I turn around and backtrack into the main forest, careful to watch my footing. The ground is soaking wet and treacherous at best. The smell of rain, wet soil, and rotting vegetation is intoxicating. The drizzling rain looks like a sheer curtain draping the tall trees in the finest silk. My shirt and hair are soaked. Tiny beads of rain trickle down my face, cooling my neck and chest. I take a few photographs – nature is alive with shades of luminous greens, yellows, and chocolaty browns. A few white and yellow flowers in the middle of the marsh look like lost hibiscus. The lotus leaves are a luscious shade of green.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blogtalk Radio with Silvio Canto Jr. of Dallas, TX

July 18, 2012 Radio with Bill Katz, Ileana Johnson, Silvio Canto Jr., and Cecilia.
Topics: Current events, bombing in Syria, Bulgaria, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Olympics, London, Security

Carbon Capture, Carbon Sequestration and Carbon Tax

Climate change is shorthand for global warming.” (Alan Caruba)

In spite of evidence from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado that “Arctic summer sea ice has increased by 409,000 square miles, or 26 percent, since 2007,” it is politically and financially convenient for carbon capture, carbon sequestration, and carbon tax proponents to continue the push to fundamentally alter the U.S. economy with the worn out lie, “man has caused global warming.”

“And the planet is certainly warming. Humans releasing trapping gases into the atmosphere are almost certainly responsible for much, if not all, of that warming; the particular patterns of warming, comparison to the historical record, and the basic precepts of physics all indicate this.” (Op-ed, Washington Post, July 18, 2012)

How can one argue with such non-scientific liberal thinking, backed up by “basic precepts of physics?” Science is not “almost certainly,” science has to be factual and exact. If you search, “basic precepts of physics,” you realize that the above statement is shameless and worthless propaganda.

How do environmentalists explain that on June 27, 2012, 116 cities from Montana to Florida measured record low temperatures? Orlando measured 64 degrees overnight, the lowest since 1920. June 1933 was much hotter than June 2012 although atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration was less than it is today.  U.S. has 2 percent of the Earth’s surface (3.8 million square miles) and it “does not indicate temperature patterns elsewhere.”(The Washington Times, July 16, 2012)

What are Americans to do when they suffer the next heat wave? Should they pay a tax to the United Nations and its third world dictatorships for breathing and economically existing? Would that fix the heat wave in the northeastern U.S. and prevent others?

Washington Post advises, in a typical narcissistic liberal view (humans are gods who can control and affect the weather and planetary moves in the universe), that the heat wave should “spur Americans to demand action from their leaders.” The article does not suggest what action we should demand from our leaders, but I am interpreting this to be CCS, carbon taxes, UN Agenda 21, and a return to a primitive lifestyle devoid of industry, electricity, modern conveniences, A/C, cars, and mobility, a world in which only the elites can pollute with their jets and lavish lifestyles.

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) traps and stores underground CO2, preventing it from reaching the atmosphere. Electricity-generating plants are the first candidates for CCS. According to the Congressional Research Service report on carbon capture, “Electricity generation contributes over 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Currently, U.S. power plants do not capture large volumes of CO2 for CCS.” (Peter Folger, Carbon Capture and Sequestration: A Primer, May 14, 2012)

CCS has three steps:

1.      Capture and separate CO2 from other gases
      2.      Purifying, compressing, and transporting the captured CO2 to the sequestration site
      3.      Injecting the CO2 in subsurface geological reservoirs or storing it in the oceans

The above process is expensive and uses more energy. Who will decide where compressed and purified CO2 is stored and is it safe? What Pandora’s Box might be opened? The oil and gas industry in the U.S. already injects 50 million tons of CO2 underground yearly for the purpose of enhanced oil recovery (EOR). However, doing it on the mammoth proposed scale to the tune of billions of tons yearly and keeping the CO2 trapped there indefinitely, may be a problem, expensive, and not such a good idea.

CCS would require significant investments of capital (network of pipeline). Peter Folger said, “Time would be required to assess the potential CO2 storage reservoir, inject the captured CO2, and monitor the injected plume to ensure against leaks to the atmosphere or to underground sources of drinking water, potentially for years or decades until injection activities cease and the injected plume stabilizes.” (CRS, May 14, 2012)

The proposed sites for storage are oil and gas reservoirs, deep saline reservoirs, and un-mineable coal seams. Deep ocean injection of CO2 is controversial because of mineral carbonation, reacting minerals with a stream of concentrated CO2, which form a solid carbonate.

Peter Folger admits, “Acceptance by the general public of large-scale deployment of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) may be a significant challenge.” I hope the public will become aware of this new experimentation on their environment and the possible adverse effects of concentrated CO2 injection tests in their local communities.

Lucky for us, “To date, there are no commercial ventures in the U.S. to capture, transport, and inject industrial-scale quantities of CO2 solely for the purposes of carbon sequestration.” However, Congress has appropriated $6 billion since 2008 for CCS research and development at the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, $2.3 billion through annual appropriations and $3.4 billion through President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. (Congressional Report Service, April 23, 2012)

The research and development of CCS may speed up since EPA proposed a new rule on March 27, 2012 to limit emissions to no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt-hour of production from new fossil-fuel power plants with a capacity of 25 megawatts or larger under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. The air would be clean but the underground, water tables, and the ocean would be infused with massive quantities of compressed and purified CO2. (CRS, April 23, 2012)

The proponents of global warming/climate change are quite powerful, political or politically connected, and overflowing with cash. Rachel Swaffer wrote about the left’s environmental extremists as political goliaths.”The constant careening from environment disaster to environmental disaster allows these very prophets of global doom to raise even more funds to promote their latest scare.” (NetRightDaily.com, July 2012)

Corporate oil interests have spent on the average $12.5 million a year on political activism while environmentalists and other greenies have received mammoth donations from Hewlett Foundation, Pew Charitable Trust, Tides, and Sierra Club. The top 30 environmentalist groups donated close to $287 million in 2010 alone to promote climate change education, UN Agenda 21, sustainable growth, and renewable energy. (Rachel Swaffer, writer for Americans for Limited Government, in NetRightDaily.com, July 2012)

The US Air Force is going to spend $59 per gallon of green biofuel and the Navy will spend $56 per gallon. The justification is that “alternatives” to traditional fuel will be needed in the future if United States would be unable to produce or import petroleum. Such worry is not unjustified since our President has promised, early in his campaign, that he will bankrupt the coal industry and cause electricity prices to skyrocket by directing the EPA to reduce drastically or rescind permits for drilling, shale oil and shale gas exploration, and requiring onerous new regulatory guidelines for both coal and oil industries. The moratorium on domestic drilling in the Gulf of Mexico under the guise of saving humans from potential oil spills such as the BP disaster was the “piece de resistance.” Meanwhile foreign companies were allowed to drill even deeper than BP had.

A House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing in Abingdon, VA on July 16, 2012. Dozens of coal miners who packed the room complained about President Obama’s “war on coal.” Excessive regulations on energy plants will raise energy costs for all sectors of the economy. The loss of so many jobs and private household bankruptcies will destroy the U.S.

President Obama supports an “all of the above” energy policy as stated in January this year, yet the policy does not include fossil fuels. (Joe Gary Street, Vice President of Sales for West River Conveyors and Machinery Co.)

President Obama’s administration proposed a de facto ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2401 (Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN Act) that “would put a stop to the new rule and require a study of the cumulative impacts of several Obama administration regulations on jobs, energy prices, and electric reliability.” (Katie Boyd, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, July 17, 2012)

“Citing mercury and air pollution, the EPA ordered businesses to install the MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) to control emissions from their plants.” EPA estimates the rule to cost $9.6 billion annually, to be paid by utilities and customers alike for new equipment, monitoring and reporting, loss of generating capacity, and higher electricity rates. Energy insiders say that it is a low estimate of the cost.” (Amy Payne, Heritage Insider, June 20, 2012)

According to Matthew L. Wald of the New York Times, EPA required oil companies to pay $6.8 billion in fines and even higher fines in 2012 to the Treasury for failing to “mix a special type of biofuel into their gasoline and diesel.” This synthetic ingredient called “cellulosic biofuel” only exists in a few laboratories around the country. In 2011, refineries were required to blend 6.6 million gallons of “cellulosic biofuel” into gasoline and diesel and 8.65 million gallons in 2012. (Becket Adams, Fire Blaze, January 11, 2012)

North Dakota is currently thriving, with lowest unemployment rate in the nation, thanks to oil shale exploration (fracking), unless the EPA will step in to stop them with possible new regulations.

A Washington Post headline was boldly declaring in July 2012, “Scientists link monster fires in Colorado to climate change.” Somewhere in the middle of the article the author says, “Scientists do not have the data to link climate change to Colorado’s decreased snow and rain. Why then claim that they are linked, for deception and to sell newspapers?

“But climate change has been linked [Where? By whom?] to warmer temperatures that cause snow to melt earlier and rain to evaporate faster, parching the land, contributing to drought and drying out the vegetation that can fuel fires, said John Nielson-Gammon.” (Darryl Fears, Washington Post, July 2012)

Dr. Robert Zubrin, author of “Merchants of Despair,” attributed the recent Colorado fires to the western pine beetle that decimated 6 million acres of forest. The fact that environmentalists forbade logging and thinning of forests facilitated the burning of millions of dead trees and the rapid fire spread over large areas. According to Dr. Zubrin, the western pine beetle has destroyed twice as much forest surface as the 3 million acres logged in the Amazon forest. He calls the environmentalist disinformation agenda, the “antihumanism” movement. (Interview on Savage Nation in July 2012)

Carbon tax or a “national energy tax,” the replacement of the failed cap-and-trade tax system defeated in 2009-2010, was discussed in a left and right wing coalition meeting last week at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in D.C. Marlo Lewis called the coalition the “carbon tax cabal.” 

Daniel Wiser made several points in the Washington Times why a carbon tax is a bad idea.

-         It cannot be revenue neutral since it can be raised any time
-         Poor people spend a higher percentage of their incomes on energy, thus are taxed more
-         A carbon tax would not reduce fuel consumption unless it is high like Europe, $5 per gallon;   coal would then cost $500 per ton instead of the current $65 per ton

The carbon tax as an alternative to onerous regulations is still a tax we do not need to pay. Using the hot weather to promote faux manmade global warming agenda in order to empower elites to collect more undeserved taxes is a farce. The government must learn to live within its means and stop spending so much money we do not have. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in March 2012 that long-term weather trends “have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change.”