Sunday, September 26, 2010

Send In the Clowns.....

A Nation of Fools by Peary Perry

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“Send in the clowns……”

I really must make it a point next week to run down (not literally) my postman (post-person? postal employee?) and ask him (her? or whatever) what happened to my application for benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Family Program. Surely it must be stuck in their (his, hers, whatever) mail sack or bag or whatever they call the thing they use to carry the mail. Forgive me if I am not PC enough to get all of the terminology correct, I’m doing the best I can.

You didn’t get your notice either? What’s up with this? Maybe we were absent the day the notice went out… think?

Not surprising, no one in our neck of the woods has heard of it either. It must be some sort of regional program.

A little bit of explanation. The Temporary Assistance….let’s just call it the TANF program was part of the stimulus program enacted last year. It was designed to provide some benefits and assistance to our citizens who were attempting to obtain government jobs. So, included in last years stimulus package was this little noticed program which has doled out over 4.3 billion bucks to some 120,000 of our citizens. Lucky them.

Don’t bother to get your calculator out, I’ll do it for you, it comes out to a little over $40,000 per person.

Here’s what the money was to be used for:

Basic assistance- (I could have used this and you probably could as well) I suppose that’s for food, gasoline, tires, clothes, a new flat screen TV…you know all of the things that we need to live on….doesn’t seem to be many restrictions or definition as to exactly what the word ‘basic’ actually means…but those are detail and who cares about details when you are handing our free money?

Emergency expenses-(I could have used this and you probably could as well) this money was to go for such things as rent and utilities. I have those. I could have used money for this. Especially if it was free. My electricity bill is way too high, and if the Queen of England is trying to get her light bill partially paid for by the government, why shouldn’t I? I wonder if she remembers to turn out the lights in her castles as she moves from room to room? Probably not.

Subsidize payroll on jobs- (I could have used this and you probably could as well)...this is a great way to spend government funds. You just go into the private sector and pay for a certain portion of an employer’s payroll. Talk about a boost to the economy. Why the governor of Mississippi (a republican... no less) says it helped his state keep 3,200 jobs. All an employer had to do was keep the person on the payroll for at least six months. What a deal. I really like this one the best. Let’s say I’m in the construction business and you own another company and we are both bidding on a contract. You, poor fellow, did not get notice of the subsidy program, so shame on you. If some portion of my labor costs are being subsidized by this government program, whose bid is probably going to come in lower? I know you readers, you can figure this out. Why… it would probably be mine since I have lower cost associated with the project. I win; you lose…thanks to Uncle Sam and this wonderful free money.

Free money….? Would someone, anyone be kind enough to explain to me where this free money actually comes from in the first place?

Is this the model of efficiency we need for economic growth in this country? Unfair competition for some, but not all? Federal programs being instituted to a select few who just happen to be on the inside and being made aware of what is available?

I know, the naysayers will say that we all can look for these programs, they are open to everyone. You just have to know how to look.

Sorry, but I don’t have time to look…I’m too busy working to pay my utility bills, my mortgage and taxes so you guys in congress can give away more money or pay for clowns like Steven Colbert to entertain you for a day. At least he is honest enough to admit he is a clown, none of you people will do so.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"All of me...why not take all of me?"

A Nation of Fools by Peary Perry

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“All of me…why not take all of me?”

My reading habits range all over the place. I tend to stick with history but I’ll get into some period and stay there until I can take no more. In the past I’ve ranged through Caesar, American Indians, Mexico, the Civil War, World War II, you name it and I’ve probably read about it at one time or another.

Right now, I’m into the French Revolution. Or I should say I’m about out of the French Revolution. There is just so much you can cram into your head at one time about this period in time. I’ve had enough of Louis XVI’s last moments, but then again I’m sure they were painful for him as well.

What is of interest to me about this era is that the following was occurring in France when the revolution got started:

  1. high unemployment
  2. massive government debt
  3. no representation of the people in government affairs
  4. disregard of the laws by government officials
  5. corruption by government officials
  6. poor economy
  7. repeated lies concerning the economy spread by the government
  8. inept finance ministers

Now, consider that this was in the late 1700’s. Sound familiar?

I thought you might.

I do not advocate the extremes which were displayed in France during the revolution, but you can certainly understand the anger of the French people who basically saw themselves as being shut out of life’s little pleasures by a overbearing and insensitive government. Having one set of laws for the wealthy and the clergy and another set for the common people would tend to make anyone question the true value of any government, whether it was two hundred years ago or today.

Which is my point today.

Here we are in a terrible recession, which by the way, has ended according to the reports put out yesterday. According to the latest information from the White House, we are all much better off than we realize. I suppose they think we’re all just too stupid to know the price of bread…oh wait that was in 1789, not 2010….my bad.

Millions of us are without any jobs or any hope of securing a job. The unemployment figures do not represent the total number of Americans without work since they do not track those who have given up their job searches entirely. Then we suffer the indignity of having (positive) figures reported to us with great fanfare and then changed to true (negative) numbers months later. As if no one would know or remember.

So now we are faced with a dilemma, raise taxes or cut expenses. In the past this wasn’t much of an issue since our congress (both democrats and republican) just raised taxes as if there was no tomorrow.

Tomorrow is arriving and we cannot support the debt with our present economy. We must make clear, decisive decisions and do so now. Budget reduction does not mean a reduction in your annual budget request over your budget request from last year. It means making do with less money than you did last year. It means cutting costs and becoming more efficient. It means it’s time to get serious. The tax man cannot keep coming forever. At some point in time everyone will run out of steam and revert back to self preservation and individual substance. Google up ‘survival food’ if you doubt what I am saying.

Time will out as to whether or not our elected officials pay any attention to us. My gut feeling is that they won’t. They seem to say the correct things in order to get elected, and then go their own way once they are ushered into their offices.

It was happening in ancient Greece, Imperial Rome, pre-revolutionary France and is going on today in our country.

Unless we take more time to choose our elected representation than we do what we watch on television we will never escape this downward spiral of our society.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coming soon...Tax on air...

A Nation of Fools by Peary Perry

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“Coming soon….tax on air!!!!”

Every day in this country brings us new joy, doesn’t it? You can never say you are bored with what our government is doing to us on a daily basis can you? Most of the things that will apply to each and every one of us are hidden somewhere in some sort of legislation that gets passed and put into effect without any input or commentary by any of us poor working stiffs.

So, we are expected to be cheerful and sing as we trudge off to the mines each day, hi-ho, hi-ho it’s off to work with go. Sometimes I begin to believe our elected officials really think all of us will get our greatest rewards when we die rather than anytime we may have here on planet Earth. Why should we have any pleasure or fun? They seem to revel in theft, corruption and just plain stupidity each and every day of the week.

Hardly a day goes by that we do not hear of some legislator in some part of the country caught again with their hand in our cookie jar. I don’t know about you, but frankly I’m sick of hearing elected officials tell us that … ‘The rules weren’t clear’ or ‘ I didn’t understand that stealing was not allowed…’ We aren’t dealing with second graders here, we are dealing with grown men and women who supposedly are astute enough to get elected and placed into positions of trust to represent our interests, not their own.

Well, enough about this issue…..

Let’s talk about taxes. Several items have been brought to my mind this past week.

One is the tax on gasoline. Most of the state governments as well as the federal government are talking about raising the tax on a gallon of gasoline. Why? Well it’s very simple, see we are driving less as well as buying vehicles that get better gas mileage than they used to do so the total amount of gasoline being consumed is actually going down due to our being more efficient. You’d think this was a good thing, wouldn’t you? But no, the government (both local and federal) see tax revenues declining due to our being more efficient and therefore they need to increase the amount of tax to equal the revenue they once were receiving. So, using this analogy I suppose when we are able to buy vehicles that get 100 miles to the gallon, we will be paying more in taxes since the government still needs the revenue. Sounds right to me, how about you?

The same explanation is going for our electricity providers who are seeing a reduction in total usage due to better insulation and more energy saving appliances. Got to keep those tax revenues up no matter how efficient we become. Reduction of governmental expense seems to be a foreign concept, doesn’t it?

If you want to look at a harbinger of what could happen in this country you should study the current economic conditions taking place in Greece. This country is in serious trouble and the future doesn’t look well for them any way they go. If they cut government spending in order to reduce their debt, then tax revenues will fall causing more spending to be required to be cut resulting in less tax revenues and on and on. Spending more government money creates more debt so this isn’t the answer as well. They are in a no-win situation due to their massive and unsustainable debt load.

Our local government borrowed a huge amount of money to build a rail system which has resulted in less than one fourth of the expected daily passengers. Since the fare revenue is so drastically reduced, the rail administrators came up with a brilliant plan. Increase the fares to cover the operational shortfall. So, instead of lowering the fares (basically think of it as a tax) to encourage more riders on a daily basis, they discourage riders by increasing the fares. I suppose if only one person rode each day, then untimely that person would be charged the entire operational fee for the entire system.

The problem ( as I see it) is that the majority of persons running our government have never operated a business or had to cover payroll, pay taxes or deal with employees, banks and the IRS. Once you have done this, you begin to understand what it takes to actually manage something in order to remain in business. Governments have no profit motivation since their source of revenue is virtually endless. Opening up credit and reducing the amount of governmental interference is the quickest and surest way to get the economy on the run once again.

Otherwise we end up like Greece, looking for new ways to tax the citizens...such as making us pay for the air we breathe.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I want Mercy...not Justice.....

A Nation of Fools by Peary Perry

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I want…mercy..not justice……

Long ago and far away, I was in a discussion with a friend of mine who was a judge. I was just wondering about certain aspects of the judicial system. I’ll never forget that he told me that if I were to ever find myself in court for any reason whatsoever I had better hope for mercy and not justice. He advised that no one really wanted justice….everyone really wanted mercy.

I suppose he’s really correct, since it’s doubtful anyone would want to be judged by a jury of their peers. Or is that piers? Probably doesn’t matter does it? When you look at the sorry state of our nation’s educational system, you might want to think long and hard about ever coming to trial in any kind of an American courtroom.

Several years ago I was involved in a major law suit that was very complicated and involved. The longer it took to go to trial the more concerned I became. It was difficult enough for me to explain what the case was all about much less the group of attorneys on our side. The experience left me very leery of the entire judicial system. I was not at all comfortable thinking that a group of my fellow citizens who had barely passed high school would be the ones deciding whether I was a winner or a loser. Fortunately the other side settled and I missed the experience of a court room trial.

Do not get me wrong, I’m not saying that all juries are ignorant or dumb. But let’s look at the recent trial of former governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. This trial droned on and on for weeks and then was declared a mistrial due to the hold out of one juror. Later news reports came out with the information that the jury was unable to understand the legal jargon and thought the charges were simply too complex. One juror reported that they got hung up on the charge of ‘conspiring to commit extortion’. It seems they didn’t understand exactly what this meant.

I had no problem with this...the charge looks fairly simple……but then again I wasn’t in the trial so maybe I missed something. However I am under the impression that conspiring to do something means several people got together and discussed committing some type of action, like murder or theft or even extortion. Under the law, conspiracy means an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future, and, in some cases, with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement. There is no limit on the number participating in the conspiracy and, in most countries, no requirement that any steps have been taken to put the plan into effect. So in Rod’s case, the act of discussing on the telephone what he planned to do about filling the vacant senate seat of one Barack Obama caused some confusion on the part of the jury. His discussion of what he planned appears to me to be conspiracy, but then again what do I know?

Folks come to me all of the time asking questions about various things. One of the most common ones I get is whether or not someone should sue someone for something. I’m not an attorney and generally tell them they should consult with a lawyer, but I’d rather get pecked to death by a duck (my friend’s favorite term) than to get involved in a law suit. Looking at the level of education in this country, who wants to spend lots of dollars for a courtroom filled with jurors who cannot read or write, much less understand business practices? If the case was a simple case of someone stealing an apple, perhaps that might not be so bad. However when if comes to complex finances and business issues, then how has our school system prepared our citizens to handle these kinds of challenges?

Simple…they haven’t.

This might sound cruel, but suppose you own a business and someone sues you for whatever…..the person suing you wants all you’ve got. You’re trying to explain that you aren’t wrong to a group of people who normally are asking questions such as … “do you want fries with that?” These people are in a position to judge your fate as well as your future. If it comes to this in your life, I suggest you throw yourself upon the court and seek mercy…you won’t get justice.

Sad isn’t it? But until we get an educational system that rewards achievement and promotes excellence from our teachers as well as our students, we’ll be stuck in the ditch with the rest of the third world countries of this planet.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

“Politicians need summer school….”

A Nation of Fools by Peary Perry (

“Politicians need summer school….”

I have a friend who ran for a position as a district judge. He won.

He told me that after he was elected, one of the first defendants that had to be sentenced had a range of prison time from five years to life. My friend tells me there were not any guidelines or books to help him figure out what was proper in this case. As a result he went back and studied books, case law and prison conditions to find out for himself what was the right thing to do. He wanted to know how to be fair in his elected position. He is a good man.

In the past several months we have seen a number of elected officials who apparently missed their opportunity to learn what was appropriate as well as what was expected of them for their positions.

A Texas legislator was in the news a couple of weeks ago, after it was discovered that he was billing both the State as well as his campaign funds for the same travel expenses. His defense was that ‘he didn’t know it wasn’t the right thing to do’. He’ll probably blame on some poor second grade teacher who failed to stress honesty and integrity to him when he was seven years old. Poor baby.

Another Texas congressional representative has been accused of using funds given to her for scholarships and then awarding them to family members and close friends. Under the anti-nepotism rules of the scholarship program, Representative Bernice Johnson of Dallas was prohibited from giving out scholarship monies to her relatives or children of her staff. Ms. Johnson stated that she had indeed violated the rules, but had done so … ‘unknowingly’. She also stated that she just wasn’t ‘fully aware’ of the program rules. Of course….knowing the ‘rules’ doesn’t seem to be of much interest to many law makers such as Ms. Johnson. According to the news report, these scholarships were to be given to needy students in her district. None of the recipients lived or attended school in her district. Ms. Johnson just wasn’t aware of this small requirement.

The left leaning media is quick to point out that representative Charlie Rangel of New York merely missed several items when it came to ethics. One pundit says that Rangel’s ‘overlooking’ of the taxable income from property in the Dominican Republic couldn’t have been much since the property only cost $82,750. In the writers mind, this meant that the house was not a ‘villa’ and couldn’t have been very ‘palatial.’ I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me that the IRS doesn’t cut anyone any slack just because the property isn’t worth millions of dollars. Rangel also seems to have allegedly abused his office by using his elected position to raise funds for some ‘learning center’. Oh, wait there’s more. Add his lack of candor in filling out some financial disclosure forms as well as perhaps using a rent controlled apartment in New York for a campaign office. Several of Rangel’s defenders took the position that Rangel was hardly the first person in New York to do this, so what’s the big deal? If we all took that line of thinking, then I suppose since Cain killed Able that gives me the right to gun down my neighbor with the barking dog since ‘everyone’ has been doing it for a long period of time.

Last but not least is Representative Maxine Waters. Mrs. Waters is being investigated by the House ethics committee who alleges that Waters's office improperly worked in September 2008 to press for aid to prevent the failure of Boston-based OneUnited Bank. This bank eventually stayed afloat with the help of money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Waters's husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank's board. He owned stock in OneUnited that had declined in value from $350,000 in June 2008 to $175,000 two months later and would have been "worthless" without the bailout funds, according to the ethics committee. Mrs. Waters has defended her position by stating that she was pressing for aid for all minority banks. Apparently the only bank discussed in her meeting was OneUnited, but this seems to not be of any concern to Rep. Waters.
Well, this is all I have time for this week. I’m certain there are others which I could discuss, but four is quite enough for the time being. I guess my point here is that adult people who manage to get themselves elected to a public office should have some level of intelligence, honesty and integrity. They should not use or abuse their elected positions and then blame it off on stupidity or a lack of information about the rules.
If you and I are expected to live and abide by the rules, shouldn’t those who are in our government required to do the same? Perhaps we need some sort of school to train these poorly educated folks who have chosen to represent us in the nation’s governments, after all it doesn’t seem to be their fault if they can’t figure out the difference between right and wrong.
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