Monday, March 29, 2010

Trade Ya?

If you're between the ages of 14 and 19, you should be learning a trade in your spare time. Whether that means your working Saturdays or on your school vacations, you should be working with someone who can teach you how to make, build, or fix something tangible.

If you're 21 years old or over, you should already know how to build, make, or fix something. If you don't, learn.

When I was a boy, I'd often work with my father on Saturdays helping him on his aluminum and, later, vinyl siding and gutter jobs. I hated it at first. Most of my time was spent picking up small chips of siding and wood off the ground and out of bushes and generally keeping the job site clean. As I got a bit older, my dad had me running the saw. Eventually, I learned how to use a utility knife to cut vinyl siding freehand. (You want a useful skill? Learn to cut well with a utility knife. You'll never go hungry.) Ultimately, I became his cut man. He'd be up on the staging measuring pieces of siding for me to cut and hand up to him. Frankly, thinking about it now, I wish I'd never bothered to go to college. He and I could have been a pretty good team.

When I was 16, my dad got me a summer job with a mason he knew. While my friends were all earning $3.35 an hour stocking shelves or serving food, I was making $6.50 and hour and learning important skills to boot. I learned to mix mortar and concrete; and I learned how to set brick and block. It was hard work. Brutally hard work. I thank God I did it.

During another summer, I worked with a company that poured concrete foundations. I learned how to set the forms and how to pour concrete footings and foundations for a house. You don't know what heavy is until you've tried to throw an 8' form back up onto the truck.

I've worked with a landscaping company dropping large trees in sections, planting shrubs, and installing sod. J'ever lay sod in the pouring rain?

Before I started college, I spent two summers working for a small roofing company. The owner used to wear an army cap with the words "Slave Driver" written in felt pen on the back. I started off doing nothing more than lumping the packs of shingles up the ladder all day long for the other guys to install. Eventually, I was taught to lay the shingles myself. After that, I learned how to weave them, how to cap the roof, and how to measure a roofing job.

All told, formally worked with every aspect of general contracting except plumbing and electrical work, and I've certainly experienced enough of both of those to install sinks, toilets, spigots, electrical outlets, and lighting fixtures without the aid of a professional.

OK, so what's my point?

The point is that as an adult homeowner, I've saved myself untold thousands of dollars doing a wide range of projects for myself that would otherwise have required hiring a professional.

The Mead Hall wouldn't exist without the skills I learned when I was a teenager. The brick patio in my backyard would still be a compost pile and patchy grass without those skills. I've painted every room in my house. I used an excavator to break down a retaining wall. I've installed dimmer switches, outlets, and chandeliers. I've installed a gas oven and the range hood over it. I laid ceramic tile on my kitchen floor and linoleum in my basement. I've replaced toilets well as faucets. This spring, we're adding a small addition to our home. The only reason I'm not doing it myself is that I don't want to take the time off from work. But my experience did warn me that the quotes I received for $25,000 were way overpriced and it enabled me to find a contractor to do the work for only $14,000.

This is a short list of what I've been able to do for myself. I could also point to the work I've been able to help others with.

Last week, Math Guy asked me to help him install ceramic tile in his bathroom floor. The job should have taken about 3 hours. But once the old linoleum had been torn up, it was clear that this floor would never adequately hold ceramic tile. Sometime in the 1950's, a previous owner thought it would be a good idea to cut out floor joists to make room for plumbing lines. It took us all of Saturday to shore up the floor, but dammit, we got it done. We laid a new subfloor and a layer of duraboard. On Sunday afternoon, he had himself a very nice tile floor.

I don't buy the notion that these skills aren't for everyone. Everyone should know how to do something, especially you beings who call yourself "men." These are basic life skills. I don't do this for a living. I've never wanted to do this stuff for a living. Heck, I've got a graduate degree from Virginia Tech. I work in the IT field. I'm as soft and spongey as the next pathetic lump sitting in a cube farm. But when I got laid off from IBM, I picked up my hammer and saw and paid the bills for almost two years as a carpenter.

Learn to do something. Sooner or later, you'll be glad you did. You'll find you'll either enable yourself to do something you'll be proud of later, save yourself some serious money, or you'll help a friend with the same. OK, maybe you don't have anything to sheetrock and plaster in your own house, but your friend will, and he'll be willing to replace the starter in your car if you help him out.

Get it?


Monday, March 22, 2010

Ain't That the Truth

“First of all, then we have to say the American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama. Let’s not act as though the president didn’t tell the American people – the president offered the American people health reform when he ran. He was overwhelmingly elected running on that and he has delivered what he promised.”

-Al Sharpton

Not to say I told you so, but I told you so.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Attack of the Arrogant Jerks

The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday night criticized Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) for voting against the Democrats’ signature healthcare bill.

“We even have blacks voting against the healthcare bill,” Jackson said at a reception Wednesday night. “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man."

Well, I guess that settles it. The Supreme Black Leader has spoken.

When was the vote taken to elect "Black Leaders" anyway? I must have missed it.

And Now a Word from Our Treasurer

The Masscare Massacre
On Sunday, White House political adviser David Axelrod appeared on ABC's "This Week" and tried to brush aside the message sent by Sen. Scott Brown's (R-Mass.) improbable election. "Senator Brown comes from a state that has a health care plan that's similar to the one we're trying to enact here," Axelrod said. "We're just trying to give the rest of America the same opportunities that the people of Massachusetts have."

Appearing after Axelrod, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) could barely contain himself. "The American people are getting tired of this crap," Graham spluttered. "No way in the world is what they did in Massachusetts like what we're about to do in Washington." Actually, says Massachusetts Treasurer Tim Cahill, the two health care bills are very much alike -- and that's exactly the problem.

Both health care plans rely on the individual mandate, subsidies, and exchanges intended to match buyers with health insurance plans. "If President Obama and the Democrats repeat the mistake of the health insurance reform adopted here in Massachusetts on a national level, they will threaten to wipe out the American economy within four years," Cahill said, launching an all-out offensive against Romneycare in Massachusetts and its cousin Obamacare nationwide.

Medicaid costs have continued to explode, rising from $7.5 billion to an estimated $9.2 billion since the Massachusetts health care law has taken effect. More people now have coverage, but of the 407,000 newly insured only 32 percent paid for their insurance entirely on their own. The remaining 68 percent were either partially or wholly subsidized by the taxpayers. Only 5 percent of newly insured Massachusetts residents who are not receiving any taxpayer benefits obtained their coverage through the state's "Connector" health care exchange.

What's more, according to figures obtained from Cahill's office, only 23 percent of those enrolled in the state-managed health insurance programs pay anything toward their coverage. About 99,000 newly insured Massachusetts residents now receive free coverage through Medicaid. Another 87,000 receive 100 percent taxpayer subsidies through the Connector's "Commonwealth Care" program. And another 26,000 are legal immigrants ineligible for federal subsidies who benefit under the Commonwealth Care Bridge program.

Not only has health care reform cost the state an additional $4.2 billion, but small businesses and consumers are getting walloped. Health care costs continue to skyrocket. Insurance premiums have jumped 12 percent over a two-year period. So much for bending the cost curve.

In a conference call yesterday, Cahill blamed both conceptual flaws in the bill and Gov. Deval Patrick's implementation. "We haven't changed the way we deliver health care. We haven't changed the way we pay for health care," he said. "Nothing's changed about the cost structure but we've blown a huge hole in the budget to increase coverage by 400,000." Just more people are being moved into a broken system, largely at taxpayer expense.

Cahill argued that the consequences of repeating this at the national level will be even worse. First, Massachusetts already had a high percentage of its population covered. The 2006 Bay State health care reform only insured another 4 percent. In many states, the percentage of uninsured is far higher. Second, as even critics of Cahill's analysis of Romneycare acknowledge, Massachusetts has benefited from both subsidies and regulatory concessions from the federal government.

"Who, exactly, is going to bail out the federal government if this plan goes national?" asked Cahill. He implored "the federal government, Democrats, and Obama" not to "make the same mistake we made in 2006." "There is a reason people in Washington want this pass to quickly," Cahill continued. "We're going to be paying a lot more money."

Reporters asked Cahill for some of the benefits. Did near-universal coverage in Massachusetts bring about a drop in the reliance on emergency room care? No, the state treasurer replied. What about cost benefits from preventive care? Not that Cahill was aware of.

Could it have been better implemented by, say, Mitt Romney rather than Deval Patrick? "I could probably agree with that partially," Cahill allowed. "I certainly have some concerns about how Governor Patrick has implemented it." But Cahill called the bill "fatally flawed from the beginning."

The treasurer noted that the theory was by increasing access, it would bring down health care costs. Instead Massachusetts has seen costs increase almost across the board. Those costs, he said, "are being passed on to businesses and consumers in the form of premium increases."

Cahill's timing has as much to do with Massachusetts politics as the looming national health care debacle. Elected state treasurer as a Democrat, Cahill bolted the party last July and is running for governor as an independent -- a designation shared by 51 percent of the commonwealth's registered voters. This stance allows him to outflank the Republican candidates, tap into the sentiment that propelled Scott Brown to the Senate, criticize the Democratic incumbent, and distance himself from his former party.

But by forthrightly attacking an approach to health care reform that has been embraced by Republican darlings, Cahill may be doing conservatives -- and the country -- a service. "The insurance companies were at the table, the hospitals were at the table, the large providers were at the table," he said during yesterday's call. "The taxpayers and small businesses weren't at the table. It appears to be repeating itself at the national level."

Massachusetts nearly derailed the federal health care juggernaut once before. It remains to be seen whether Cahill can get that to repeat itself at the national level too.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Function of Government

On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.

- Thomas Jefferson

To the liberal milieu, there is no end to the purposes and devices to which government could be applied. Any list presented here of the follies of governmental intervention and imposition upon society, industry, and private citizens would be not but a superficial and tabloid account of the of encroachment this construct has made into all spheres of our lives. Government far overstepped its bounds in the 20th century, usurping authority and power never intended for it.

Why? Why was this allowed to happen? Where were those who were supposed to be keeping tabs on government?

It's been said that the only thing that evil requires for its spread is for good men to do nothing. It can be argued that the same goes for government. When good people do nothing, that is, when responsible people and companies fail to carry out their responsibilities, government steps in to fill the vacuum. This holds as true for banks and businesses failing to manage themselves with ethical practices as it does for parents who fail to provide for, or who outright abuse, their own children. Governmental spread is often by osmosis. Where there is an insufficiency of (self) control, the government will step in and take control. "We understand that individual responsibility is the foundation of a free society," stated the Patriot Post in its March 11th online issue. Unfortunately, we now live in a society where people are anything but responsible.

Governance is the system of control that manages a polital unit. Whether that unit be a sovereign state, a province, or a locality, in a civilized society governments will exist in some form or another. In the United States of America, the Federal Government is divided into three branches, each mandated by the Constitution with separate and distinct powers. It is a compelling and often ignored precept of this Constitution that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people" (Amendment X). These are the reserved powers, those powers that are forbidden from federal assumption. The Federal Government is entitled by the Constition to exercise only the express powers, that is, only those powers that have been enumerated and specifically granted to the Federal Government.

Enter the Necessary and Proper Clause. This clause provides The Congress with the power "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers [the enumerated powers]".

"All laws" encompasses quite a lot and the introduction of this clause provoked bitter controversy among those debating our Constitution. Anti-Federalists argued that this went to far and would enable The Congress to grow out of control. Federalists insisted that this clause was necessary in order for The Congress to execute the powers that were enumerated, and nothing more. The Federalists won that debate.

This was our Rule of Law, that there are supreme laws (i.e. our Constitution) that manage how we make laws, when we make laws, and what a law can do.

Unfortunately, today, it too often is the case the The Congress has altered this clause to include "all laws ... for carrying into execution the foregoing powers and anything else we feel like doing."
Liberals today have departed from our Rule of Law. Instead, there has been, since Roosevelt's New Deal, a tremendous power grab, an exponential increase in the reach of government into areas not enumerated by The Constitution and only speciously connected to that which is "necessary and proper." Far too often, if it feels good for their constituents, then politicians will argue the necessity of a law or governmental program without any thought of what the Constitution dictates.

And that is my point in this blog -- if it's not in the Constitution, if the Constitution doesn't provide for it, then the Federal Government has no business doing it, whatever it is.

You'll notice I haven't mentioned a single program. I'm not arguing against government run health care, or research into methane gas emissions by cows, or the NEA. I don't have to. It's already clear that these intrusions into such areas by the Federal Government are wrong. Constructionists and Constitutionalists don't need to roll around in the mud arguing against political pet projects and programs. It's already clear on the face of it that such projects are unconstitutional.

Think about it. Think about how far away we've wandered from the vision of Thomas Jefferson's Federal Government. Think about the enormous benefits to our society that could be had if we would simply shed these extraneous programs and massive overspending and reform our Federal Government into what was intended.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Putting the Cart Before the Ass

Nancy Pelosi on the Health Care Bill:

"[W]e have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away
from the fog of the controversy." --House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Are you scared yet cuz you should be.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

I'm from the Government and I'm Here to Help You

This is a topic I've been wanting to blog about for some time now, and it's one I think might generate some interesting comments. Namely this: What is the purpose of Government?

Before I post my thoughts, which I shall do shortly, I'd like to solicite yours. What are the functions that government should perform? I'm not looking for "promote the general welfare" sorts of answers, I mean specifically, can you enumerate those areas that the government should be involved in? When the Federal Goverment took over GM and and ensured the American people that GM auto warrantees would be backed and honored by the US Government, was that in line with your principles of what government is? Should a government warrantee privately owned and privately sold vehicles? How about Health Care? Education? The Air Force? Should it monitor what we eat?

I'm genuinely interested in your thoughts. Let's hear them. I'll post mine soon.