To Do List…….

Spring has sprung and a young man’s fancy or whatever. Everyone is working on their yards and airing out their basements and eaves. We all would love to be out playing golf. Soccer games seem to happen at the most inopportune times. Things could be worse. And of course everyone has their dreaded “To Do” list. Please don’t tell me you really like it but we know it is just something you have to do to keep ahead of the weeds. If you don’t it builds up from year to year and sooner or later you are overwhelmed. Hmmm.

Well gang, the boys and girls in DC are back from one of their 14 or so recesses that occur throughout the year. They will tell you that have to get home to take care of business in the state. You know, press the flesh. In some quarters that has taken on a whole new meaning lately. Bear with me for a moment but if they take their marching orders from special interests why do they have to go back to the old sod so often?

If my math is correct we have about five months until elections. 150 days. About 3600 hours. By my way of thinking that should be taken up by the people’s business. I know they are short on attention, gumption and critical thinking so I have taken the liberty to make up a list for our revered pols. I hope you will let me know if I hit the right buttons.I am sure you could add your own. To make it real simple I have prioritized them to make it a no brainer. Consider who we are working with.

Let me confuse the issue even more by saying I don’t care what they decide. Just do something. The infuriating part about the Keystone Pipeline is that Barry won’t say yeah or nay. I have a severe bout of nausea when Big John or Life of the Party Harry won’t bring things to the floor for the vote. Orrin Hatch said there just wasn’t an appetite for tax reform right now. Are you friggin’ kidding me?

Immigration…this is at the top of the list for me simply because we have been hashing this over for at least the last ten to twenty years. We have proposed, studied, analyzed to death. You do one of two things. Either you throw everyone out or you make a sane and cogent way for them to stay here. The bipartisan bill makes sense but if it doesn’t, line up the busses. Just do it.

Entitlement Reform…We have to raise the retirement age to 67 and maybe higher. There is a proposal to do that over 30 years but AARP is railing against it. You have to raise the maximum salary to pay in from the current $117,000 to $200,000. You have to means test Social Security as well as Medicare. Guess I just lost a lot of my readership. The whole thing is on death watch. If you don’t want it then euthanize it and put it out of its misery.

Infrastructure…You have to be blind to not know this is critical. Roads, bridges, airports, utilities of all sorts from water to power to sewer need rehab or total rebuilding. The first piece via the Highway Fund is to raise the gas tax. It hasn’t been raised since 1992. The fund runs out of money this summer. I think we should make them all hold their sessions on the worst bridge in the country and then pray for rain.

Tax Reform…Simpson Bowles laid out a blueprint for action almost four years ago. No one even looked at it or considered it. Nada. Zilch. It would throw out carried interest, corporate welfare and bring some sanity to our tax code. The brass have been looking at this for years and say it is too big to tackle…at this time. When the hell is the right time?

Just these four items. These aren’t nice to do things. They are four programs that are essential to our operating as a sound and thinking entity. Sure it is going to hurt in spots. Yes, you are going to ruffle feathers. But TTG it’s an election year. Precisely. You should know where they stand at this very moment. Not pandering and sidestepping but what side of the fence are they lined up on.

We speak of human capital. Think of the hours of committee meetings and BS that take place on the Hill 24/7. Think of the duplication of effort. That is why I keep this list small, simple and to the point. Can you in any way fathom how much negative energy has gone into all these deliberations if they can even be called that?

Let’s call it our “Final Four” instead of a “TO DO” list. That should make it more appealing. The reason I chose “Final” is because this should be the test you are graded on. No letter grades. Pass or fail. I hope we have someone who reads my musings who can get some news wonk wound up on it. I would love to see a growing tide of disenchantment from the Fourth Estate. Liberal or Conservative? Who cares? Let’s show these clowns we can get something done. Maybe they will get the message.

As Always
Ted The Great

There are approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. 75-80% are from Mexico and Latin America. The most are in California, Texas and Florida with the total of those three states alone coming to 5.5 million.

There are 21 standing committees in the House and 19 in the Senate. All told there are over 200 committees and subcommittees. These are fiefdoms that can lock up a lot of good ideas “in committee”. If they get through, the Speaker of the House or the Majority Leader in the Senate has the sole discretion to send it to the floor or not. Creativity is a dirty word. They will tell you it is part of the deliberative process.

Simpson Bowles issued their report in November 2010. Paul Krugman, Paul Ryan and Grover Norquist are opponents. With that range of negative opinions it has to be good.

The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon. It was last changed in 1992. The price of a gallon of gas at that time was $1.13.

Bugs On The Windshield…

Some days you are the windshield. Some days you are the bug. Right now I am in command. I am performing a very scientific study of life of mosquitoes as we traverse these United States. The grill of this little bottle rocket hurtling along at between 80-90 miles per hour has become the final resting place of some of Florida’s finest. I have discovered that these bad boys don’t get up until at least 10:30 AM. We started out early this morning and the windshield was clean of red and green splatter on our first stop. By the way do you know the last thing going through the brain of one of these critters when they kiss the glass at top speed? Their ASSHOLE of course. Mea Culpa, I couldn’t resist But I digress.

Now Kathy once again is being nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor having been cooped up with yours truly for twenty some odd hours. I saw her looking up Subaru accessories. What are you checking for sweetie? “Cargo nets”, her reply. What for? “You,” she snapped. Actually I have said very little…deep in thought. We listen to CNN on occasion but most newscasts are the same, talking about the Malaysian Airlines debacle or now the Korean Ferry sinking. Not sure how many times you can go over this stuff and who would advertise?

I have been following the drama in Crimea, especially the annexation. Looking at the US, I wonder who would be the first to go and just as fascinating who would take them. If we use Putin’s rationale of language or culture alone then the most obvious choice is Southern, California, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Texas being sucked up by Mexico. Can you imaging Sheriff Joe Arpaio becoming a Federale`? Priceless! Now there is also a case to made for New Yorkers or Bostonians speaking a different dialect. The South? I went into a gas station north of Jacksonville and I swore I was in a different country. I still can’t figure out what rural farmer in Tennessee has in common with a fat cat in Laguna Beach? What a country.

On Easter Sunday they played up the Pope’s activities. Washing feet. Telling people to be kind to the poor. All men and I think he meant women are created equal. Making a case against materialism. What the hell is wrong with this guy? Doesn’t he understand capitalism and the global economy? We are in a new paradigm. Every human being for themselves. It’s the wave of the future and oh by the way we are getting so smart in economics and science we don’t need God. sort of. For the moment we might need him in times of danger or tragedy but don’t worry we are working on that too.

Speaking of religion, the people in the South (Bible Belt) are very religious and are not afraid of showing it. An old couple in an “82 Buick had an actual wooden cross in their rear window of their Le Sabre. . Many towns of small populations have an inordinate number of church steeples. Several farms have signs supporting adoption over abortion. Maybe their nurturing of life in both animals and crops gives them a little different perspective.

There is just one wrinkle. As you travel the byways of Dixie there are huge billboards noting the location several kilometers ahead of porn shops or strip joints. I kid you not. Fantasy Island, Passions and The Lion’s Den Adult Center are open 24/7 and couples are welcome. Kathy’s sense of humor would not even let us go through the drive thru.

All kidding aside I am in a bit of a dilemma. Playing golf and lying on the beach only gets you so far. I celebrated my 69th a couple of weeks ago and I still have some gas in the tank. I have this crazy notion that I want to do more with my life. Actually I want to do more for the world you and I live in. I am not sure how that should shake out. I think it will require some soul searching but more important information gathering.

I read about a fellow named Robert Woodson and he really intrigues me. He is a black conservative. Yes, they do exist. He thinks we have this thing on poverty all wrong. We keep throwing money at it on a national and state level. By the time it seeps down into the needy the various echelons have taken their cut leaving a lot less than half a loaf. He goes on to expound that we treat symptoms and not the problem itself. Only 30% of the impoverished have a solid home. He wants to find out how that minority does it and then tailor programs to success rather than going on blindly with band aids. Very Cool.
I suppose I am naive but I am going to spend time trying to understand this in good old Denver,CO. There has to be a Woodson type guy and I hope to find him. Maybe there is one near you. This may be dead end or a whole new avenue for me? Nothing ventured. As The pavement flies by this is where Ted’s Head is going. Thanks for tagging along and bearing with me. I promise I will report back…..and yes clean up my act.

As always
Ted The Great

I was passed on more than one occasion while cruising at 84 in a 75 mile zone by state troopers of varying states and jurisdictions. He or she didn’t stop me. In Missouri this year there have been 184 traffic deaths to date. 64% of the victims were not wearing seat belts.

People who bitch about things rarely have their own solutions. For instance what would YOU do in Ukraine, about Immigration or Entitlements? I mean really what is your answer.

There are an incredible number of Naval stations in Florida, Air Force Bases in Georgia and Tennessee and Army bases in Kansas. Wish I could tell you why.

The majority of cars in the left lane doing under the speed limit are Buicks driven by octaganerians or vans and more specifically Dodge Caravans or Chrysler Town and Countries driven by mothers with large families. In third place are people on cell phones who truly are a menace.

I Am The Tax Man…….

This being April 15,2014 and not wanting to think about that other constancy of death, I have decided to challenge my brain and try to understand where the money goes. Notice I say “goes” because no one ever worries about where we are going to get the gelt to pay for all this. Don’t want to screw up a good story with details but I have to.

The Wall Street Journal had an excellent table presented last week that seemed to hit home. It broke down where every bit of where our tax dollars go based on $100 expended. We run through $27.70 on defense and veterans, $23.39 on Social Security, and $22.23 on healthcare in the form of Medicare, Medicaid and others. That’s $73.22 before we even get rolling. Let’s assume we can’t touch any of this and that leaves us with $26.78 to spare. A king’s ransom to be sure.

Getting out my old fashioned straight razor and working the strop I can’t wait to dive in. Let’s completely cut out food stamps($2.39) housing ($1.35) and education ($1.32) for $5.06. That is not scaling back but eliminating entirely. There is blood everywhere by decapitating foreign aid ($.97) and agriculture subsidies ($.85). That’s a grand total of $6.38 for all of the above. I am more bloodied than a coroner at a train wreck but I have this sinking feeling I can’t get below the dermis before I hit muscle.

We have got to be able to get some other pound of flesh. Aha! Let’s try the Department of Transportation. They come in at $2.65 of our national C Note. The budget for 2014 hovers around $91 billion. Being quick of wit and fleet of mind I wander over to the website. Do this at your own risk. The first several paragraphs describe platitudes and dream shots which should not be surprising except when they say they are “creating ladders of opportunity for all Americans.” Then it hits me all at once why we have runaway government and ever increasing deficits.

DOT covers the gamut from highways to rail to seaports to airports to public transit to pipelines to of course the St. Lawrence Seaway. They spend $2.45 billion on highway safety alone. They have a congestion mitigation and air quality program. They spend $320 million on metropolitan transit planning. JUST PLANNING! They spend $1.2 billion on Federal lands and tribal transportation. This agency which accounts for about 2.5% of the national budget has their mitts in every conceivable aspect of government. As I go through every item I have this eerie feeling of looking over my shoulder to see the EPA, the Department of Labor and Commerce coming in the back door or over the transom to get their little piece of the action…..and with a totally separate budget.

Now kids I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer but I see how this all happens. The future is not in plastics Mrs. Robinson but fiefdoms. There is the lifetime bureaucrat who gets assigned this new department. He or she gets staff, office space and support. They are the the reigning force (MFWIC), which of course translates to power. Now they are funded and overseen by some committee in Congress which has chairperson, staff and jurisdiction. But that in and of itself can be confusing so we have lots of these overlapping one another in the unending quest of turf and importance…..and power. And power brings the tithings of industry through lobbyists and you now see why this is basically unfixable short of a well placed nuclear warhead.

Mind you I did not take on the DOD or Health and Human Services although right now with the departure of Mrs. Sabelius the time might be right. There is not enough scotch in northern Florida for me to attempt that perilous journey. It boggles my mind and at the same time really pisses me off that we cannot stop this runaway train. Please don’t tell me it’s Obama. This little show has been running for 50 years and every one is complicit.

A close friend of mine sent me some research he has been doing for a reunion he is running. It looks at all the legislation and some breathtaking cultural changes we have made as country in the last half century. Civil Rights, Medicare, Medicaid, War on Poverty, advances in medicine, the fall of Russia, the emergence of China, the Internet, nuclear proliferation et alia. These are earthshaking and some are deemed failures but they have all been crammed into a relatively short period of time.

When this happens so fast we rarely sit back and take stock. We don’t clean house and empty the closets of worn out ideas or unused tools. We somehow want to plunge forward without understanding the implications of all this. We could never have envisioned the scope and length of Medicare benefits way back when. Equal pay and equal rights may have set the stage for the breakdown of marriage and the traditional family. Who would have thunk?.

For the past fifteen years the budgetary process has gotten completely out of whack. In many ways it reflects our personality as a country. Instant gratification, brash and arrogant, eat drink and be merry, I want mine. Pick your poison or make your own choice. Either way like any good drunk we have to look in the mirror and say we have a problem. Tax Day is a sobering bit of reality. Maybe this should be a good starting point.

As always
Ted The Great

The first income tax was levied during the Civil War. Imagine that. George W countered that theory by waging war on two fronts and not only did not raise taxes but cut them. But then again the oil revenues were going to pay for the war in Iraq and the budget would be balanced by 2015. What was I thinking?

There re over 500 separate tax forms that can be used. That probably is the reason we have over 1.2 tax preparers in this country. Think of that. We have as many in the tax army as we have in all of our armed forces. About 65% of the country has their taxes prepared by someone else. We spend well over $600 billion per year on avoiding taxes. Do you really think these dudes want it simplified?

The highest tax rate ever was during WWII when it ranged from 23-91%. It is a little bizarre that we celebrate a “refund” because it actually represents the fact we paid too much in the first place.



Neat But Not Gaudy….

Sorry I am a little late this week. I had to go to temple. No, I am not converting to Judaism. Mormon doesn’t quite fit the bill either although this house of prayer could be Latter Day or Present Day Saints. You know by now my antipathy towards pomp and circumstance when it comes to worship. This cathedral is actually quite simplistic and relies on natural beauty rather than steel, granite and gold. It is the Augusta National Golf Course.

For you who do not follow golf it is the site of the annual meeting of the clan and it is called the Masters. One of the original founders,Bobby Jones, actually did not want to call it that. He considered it too haughty. Therein creates the duality of a place that is on one end of the sector patrician and on the other where people of all shapes sizes and color can spend a day in the pines and azaleas of rural Georgia.

Incredibly you are struck by the charm and warmth of the place before you leave your car. There are parking lots that are paved in grass and are on gentle hills. You walk towards the gates and you begin to notice there is nothing out of place. As in everything the lines of people merge courteously through stiles that are civil and welcoming. Everywhere, staff from security to ticket takers to guides are greeting you with an ever present smile and enthusiasm towards their place of work. “Good Morning”. “Welcome to the Masters.” “Have a wonderful day at the Masters.” “Thank you for coming.” A large portion are African American and they are the most sincere. They really love this place and what they do. Wow!

They have thought of every nuance and piece of a very complex operation. The number of staff is ginormous. They are everywhere making sure there is a not a wayward wrapper, blade of grass or unruly patron out of place. But they do it without any fanfare or ado. You pay $1.50 for an egg salad sandwich and $1 for a soda. Nothing on the menu is over $3.50. Not so in the gift shop where people are wanting anything that bears the familiar logo but who’s counting?

You are struck by the gentility of everyone as no one speaks above a conversational tone. Crass and demanding go someplace else. The main clubhouse is actually quite demure. You can’t see the innards but you know it is in keeping with the rest of the place. The only mark of royalty is the coveted green blazer but they don’t flaunt their 1 or 2% or whatever. They just want to put on the best show imaginable and they succeed.

We are there for a practice round and there are people everywhere. You get the feeling they are not here for the celebrities but just to walk the holes and suck in the atmosphere which is exactly what we did. You see a myriad of sight lines and around each bend was the picture that you had to take just to replicate what you had seen on TV so many times. Only for once it was so much better.

I won’t bore you with hole by hole replays. Kathy and I left not whooping it up but with a sense we had spent four or five hours in a very special place in so many different ways. Time to just savor.

On the ride back to Jacksonville we passed farms and rural Georgia at its best and worst. We had spent the previous night in Statesboro to ensure an early entrance and went to a local sports bar called Loco’s. Appropriate eh? The young bartender was named Dennis and had lived there all his life. He came over to greet us and told of his town and his pride in this place he called home. He said please come back and stay a while and he meant it.

As the miles passed and we came down to the lowlands of the coast I couldn’t help but dwell on how diverse this country is. We have been so many places over the last couple of years it is truly hard to make sense of it and at the same time that is our strength. I am going to write more on this some time soon but right now I am going to keep this short and sweet…neat but not gaudy.

As always
Ted The Great.

There are around 300 members of Augusta. You don’t apply but are invited. It is not all that expensive but you can lose your green blazer in a heartbeat. The annual bill comes in April. If you don’t get it then you are adios.

You cannot use your membership in Augusta for demanding any special treatment. There was a fellow who went to St Andrews and tried to play on a day in which there were no available tee times. He stated he was a member of Augusta. Still no luck. Word got back and he quickly became a former member of the most exclusive club in America.

I think we ought to have the people running this tournament take over major portions of our government. Let’s see…efficient, courteous, profitable. It just might work.


Movers and Shakers….

Vladamyr Putin is flexing his muscles. Thank God he didn’t take his shirt off for this gymnastic episode. He is former KGB and roams the halls of the Kremlin at night bewailing the fall of the USSR from its pedestal alongside the US of A. as partners in global dominance. His philosophical basis goes back to 19th century authors of Russian “exceptionalism”. I think the last time we heard that was in the 1930’s when a wallpaperer by the the name of Hitler was singing out of the same hymnal. Some call him brutal. Some call him maniacal. I call him a sign of the times.

A couple of years ago there was a lone patriot who self immolated in the middle of a square in beautiful downtown Tunis. What was to follow shook the Mideast and all the petty tyrants to the core. One after another the mighty have fallen like one of those cray domino mazes that keep going and going after just one toppled to get the ball rolling. You could not have predicted the “Arab Spring” and it just so happened all the billions we have spent on the CIA and NSA could not have forewarned us about the events of the day.

Think of all the chaos that was wrought after 9/11. A couple of hundred Al Quaeda have caused billions of people to rethink their whole manner of being. We dutifully shed our shoes in seemingly endless lines at airports and then are searched, frisked and x-rayed until our innermost secrets are held out for scrutiny. Whole industries have cropped up to provide terrorism consulting, limos like armored tanks, and ongoing annuities for service brass to tell you the next Bin Laden is right around the corner of Smallville, America.

Look at what one rogue hero or villain named Snowden has done to every aspect of our cyberspace. We were fat dumb and happy to check our emails, catch the latest Facebook post, join the multitudes for this or that You Tube and then all of that shattered. We found “we know where you live” went far beyond a sophomoric threat. Who knows what kind of info they have on me? Ted’sHead may be subversive and downright heretical but you already knew that. But just ask yourself where we would be if this 29 year old had not decided to have a pang of conscience for what he was being paid $125,000 per year to slave away at?

Chavez, Mubarak, Hussein, Churchill, Eisenhower, Hitler, Lincoln, Jobs, Brandt, Gates, Roosevelt, Wilson, Stalin, Lenin, Buffett, Jesus et alia were solitary people. Somewhere along the line they broke from the pack. Some were prodigies and a few were ne’er do wells. Some were book learned but many got their PHD’s from the streets. Was it predestined or merely a turn of fate? Dunno but the bottom line is these individuals in every aspect managed to get the masses behind them. They changed history for better or worse. Now the real quandary is whether they were exceptional leaders or were their constituents dutiful sheep?

Whether you are radical or Messiah you have to be pitching change. The old way of doing things hasn’t quite worked out to the benefit of most. It can be a revolution of the left or the right but it has to be something different. Prosperity can be bland and fleeting. Someone is always going to be pissed off at something. You just have to find that burr in their saddle and tweak it. Refine the message and then sell like hell.

But I just can’t pass over what dopes we all are. Let’s just say there are a few hundred leaders of both government and industry in the world. There are over 6 billion of us working slobs that are led by these dudes and dudettes. Maybe I am just distasteful of anything authoritative or demagogic but this just gets in my craw on both sides of the fence. Why are we so eager to follow and nod dumbly when they tell us things could be better? Do we cogitate or merely capitulate?

I think we are all frustrated by something called government either by claiming it has too much largesse or not enough. We need to cut back waste and inefficiency. We need to stop fraud. We need to drastically overhaul our method of education. Infrastructure? Just look around you. But how many of us have really sat down and pondered these failings? Who is behind it? Why can’t charlatans and connivers be brought to the light of day?

Turns out very few of take time to study a problem. We are too busy. Just give me a capsule summary. I can’t read the whole story. Just let me listen to someone who thinks the same way as I do. Or better yet you just tell me which way to vote by party banner or brand loyalty. If Rush or Rachel say it is, then it must be so. School Boards and Water or Highway Commissions? Those people just dig that stuff. I can’t be bothered.

Mover and shakers take us for a ride every day. They really have it quite easy because no one doth protest too much. Sure we will grouse and especially after a cocktail or two but don’t worry fearless leaders we will all fall in line. I guess that makes us very democratic.The very few can set the tone…good or bad. Been like that for centuries. Give them a bone to chew on and they will follow you anywhere whether you are right or terribly wrong. Sleep tight. Don’t worry. You won’t know what hit you.

As always
Ted The Great

The average American spends up to 4 hours per day participating in social networking. The lower your economic status the time spent is higher. These are the same people who don’t have time to look into a variety of topics in depth. You know I am just so jammed. I have more important things to do.

The Internet has facilitated the growth of one or two person organizations. No longer hindered by “getting published” or achieving notoriety in the press, cyberspace has provided a petri dish for movements both good and bad.

The United Stated armed forces number 1,365,000. We spend $550 billion per annum to maintain this group. This is approximately 39% of what is spent by all nations of the world on defense. We have 285 ships of which 240 are designated warships. We have approximately 20,ooo aircraft.

Terrorist groups probably number less than 50. Abu Nadal, Hamas, Hezbulah and numerous national groups in Columbia, Spain and others. Loosely organized they probably have no more than a couple of hundred in any one command structure. The trained personnel are also no more than a thousand in any one group except for Hezbulah. These few wreak havoc in our civilized world and also have many thousand “sympathizers” who facilitate their activities. We may have to go to Plan B.