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Friday, September 28, 2007

Big Salaries

Big Salaries

From time to time you and I hear lots of complaining in the news media about the excessive compensation paid to presidents and officers of major corporations, especially publicly held corporations. I always chuckle when I hear such complaints, especially because the media never remarks negatively about the excessive compensation of professional athletes, or of Hollywood stars, or of Rock stars.

There are plenty of things to criticize the management of large public corporations for, such as manipulating the stock value to the benefit of management instead of the stockholders. But, as a stockholder I don’t object to huge pay for a corporate leader that performs. If he does a wonderful job providing better services or products and the stock soars, why should I complain about his compensation? Furthermore, what business is it of non stockholders? A stockholder has options. He can get rid of the stock if he thinks the compensation being paid to the president of the corporation is excessive. No one is holding a gun to his head. He can attend the stockholders’ annual meeting and raise a rumpus about compensation if he is concerned.

Complaining about big salaries is just the politics of envy. It’s not right. It’s not healthy. In fact, the Bible calls envy a sin. If we can cheer on baseball players that make more than $10 million a year, then let’s also cheer those high paid business executives that year in and year out, run companies that give their investors a healthy return on their investment. It’s fun to see your favorite star hit a home run, but it’s even better to see a business star make your stock value rise.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Free Market Economy

A Free Market Economy

The free market is wonderful. It gives us options and those options are called freedom. We don’t have to buy from a company we don’t like. We have choices and those choices are called freedom. Beware of the politician that wants to "help" by giving the government more control over the products and services we need. Government doesn’t create anything, it can only regulate and create scarcity. Government always limits choices. Government can create equality, but that equality is guaranteed to provide products and services that are inferior.

Only government creates monopolies. AT&T had a monopoly on long distance telephone services until MCI broke their monopoly by going to court. Professional sports teams pay players millions and millions of dollars per year. Why? Because local governments subsidize these sports and because the US Government gives these sports monopolies. Every attempt to set up a monopoly by a big corporation always turns to ashes in the end because of the freedom the marketplace gives to other individuals to create a better product or service.

Politicians love government regulations and control. They love the monopolies they set up which give them more power. A politician’s overriding goal is getting re-elected and gaining more power over our lives. The more people that are obligated to government for their livelihood, their retirement or for their health care, the more votes politicians can control.

The Founders of our nation feared such politicians. Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry spoke forcefully on the danger of a powerful centralized government. They understood that politicians would be tempted to use the power of taxation and government regulation to perpetuate themselves in power.

We are enjoying wonderful prosperity in a thriving, powerful economy. Our standard of living is the envy of the world. If you doubt it, go to the US Border with Mexico and watch which direction people are crossing the border. The Berlin Wall was built to keep people in who wanted to flee to freedom. We don’t have that problem because people want to come here to enjoy our freedom.

The free market isn’t perfect, but it is far, far better than any other attempt at generating universal prosperity. It is, in fact, the lynch pin, of all our freedoms. Without economic freedom, all the other freedom we enjoy will quickly diminish.

Jimmy Carter’s Legacy

Jimmy Carter’s Legacy

Lest we forget, it was Jimmy Carter who is primarily responsible for the mess we currently face in the Middle East. Sure, lots of other folks have contributed to the problems we face, but Jimmy Carter certainly got the ball rolling when he intentionally destabilized Iran and undercut the Shah. The cause of Carter’s crusade was ostensibly human rights. He made the Shah a target because of his poor human rights record in Iran. Jimmy Carter made it publicly clear that he opposed the continued rule of the Shah (or his successor) and did everything possible to undercut his continued rule. Mr. Carter’s success in this endeavor gave the world the Ayatollah Komeni.

The fact is the Shah of Iran was the lynchpin of United States influence in the Middle East. He was a strong ally, and because we supplied Iran with the latest in weaponry, other nations in the vicinity of Iran kept their anti-Israel and anti-US intentions under control. Moreover, while Iran was not democratic under the Shah, it was the most modern country in the Middle East, outside of Israel. 

Our approach to the Middle East prior to Jimmy Carter was not pie in the sky. We didn’t talk about democratizing the Middle East. Does anyone really think that’s possible? Rather, our approach was pragmatic—we supported the Shah because it kept the lid on the Middle East cauldron and during the Cold War it successfully countered the attempts of the USSR to bring the Middle East fully into their orbit. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was a practical one that worked. The Shah wasn’t perfect, but compared to the lunatics in Iran and other parts of the Middle East today, he was a saint.

When we kicked the legs out from under that table, we destabilized the entire Middle East. The result is the mess we face there today.

By the way, Jimmy Carter did the exact same thing in Nicaragua. When he kicked out Omar Trujillo, he exchanged a strongly pro-US tin horn dictator for the Ortega brothers, much more dangerous and with a much more repressive, soviet style régime. Once again, he destabilized an entire region of the world because he was either too naïve or ill informed to understand the consequences of his actions.

Now Carter praises Caesar Chavez, a Fidel Castro wannabe. Chavez, the communist despot in Venezuela who has seized control of the news media, demolished the country’s economy and killed off his enemies, seems to be some sort of hero to former President Carter.

I won’t even get into his foolish visit to North Korea and his praise of
Kim Jong Il (who truly is ill). One only wonders what Mr. Carter would be saying of Joseph Stalin or Adolph Hitler if they were still alive today.

For his ill advised words and actions in the Middle East, in Latin America and around the globe, Jimmy Carter deserves a dunce cap, not a Nobel Prize.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Jim Webb Comedy Hour

           The Jim Webb Comedy Hour

Jim Webb was elected to the US Senate in 2006. Virginians decided they would elect this fellow over the incumbent, George Allen. While I contributed to and voted for George Allen, I must say that Jim Webb is much more entertaining than George Allen. I have never met the man, but his actions and statements put an instant smile on my face.

I don’t like putting labels on people. It’s usually an excuse for being unwilling to debate someone on the issues. It’s a nasty habit, but one that is very common to the political classes.

So let me make it clear, I’m not saying that Jim Webb is a left wing nut. I’m not saying that he’s a right wing nut. He’s just a plain old, garden variety nut. We all have friends, neighbors, relatives or acquaintances like Senator Webb. You know what I mean, that odd uncle or aunt who says and does things that are a little strange. It’s fun to have them around once in a while for entertainment purposes, and we’re going to have Jim Webb around for nearly six more years.

Jim Webb hasn’t been in office a year, and already he’s been entertaining. First, there was the formal reception at the White House shortly after his election at which he made a point of refusing to shake hands with the Commander in Chief. The President ignored the affront and inquired after Jim Webb’s son (who was then serving in Iraq). Jim Webb’s response was, "It’s none of your business." Some people would say Jim Webb has no class, and perhaps that’s true, but I think he was just being Jim Webb. He exhibits erratic behavior.

After all, this is the same Jim Webb who resigned in a huff as Secretary of the Navy. The same Jim Webb who gave his aide a bag to bring to his office that contained a big handgun and several additional clips of ammo (He was expecting what, a small war?). When his aide was detained by security, Webb complained that he had received death threats. Maybe. But perhaps he just wished he was important enough to have received death threats.

He has jumped from party to party like one of those famous jumping frogs of Calaveras County. He started out as a Democrat, supported Ronald Reagan, opposed Ollie North, endorsed George Allen for US Senate in 2000, blasted Bill Clinton, and then rejoined Clinton’s party to run for US Senate. As I said, Jim Webb is entertaining.

When it was pointed out that Jim Webb had some pretty blatant pornographic passages in his novels, he responded gravely, "I am a serious writer." That made me laugh. I’m not challenging the fact that Webb has writing talent, but serious writing his books are not. At best they are entertaining novels, at worst they are a seamy look at the underbelly of Vietnam.

But Jim Webb’s response is classic Jim Webb. I understand that Senator Webb has quite a high opinion of himself. Of course, all Senators and Congressmen have huge egos. It seems to go with the territory, but most of them know who they really are. Jim Webb apparently has no clue. He’s what Forbes magazine might describe as an "overreacher." But lightning struck Jim Webb. In 2006, the Democrats wanted any candidate that would give them one more vote in the US Senate. So Democrats were even willing to nominate Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of the Navy if it would give them control of the US Senate. Their gambit paid off, but Jim Webb may turn out to be more than the Democrats bargained for. They have already found out that Webb is not some thoughtful maverick, he’s just a loose cannon that rolls all over the deck.

There is a positive note. Jim Webb provides great material for Jay Leno. With his red face and off the wall antics he reminds me of the comic strip character Popeye, huffing and puffing around. Maybe Ollie North hit him too hard in the head when they were boxing at the Naval Academy. Whatever the reason, I promise you that the Jim Webb comedy hour has just begun. It should be fun. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Good Read

A Good Read

I read lots of non-fiction books, but there’s almost nothing I find more enjoyable than picking up a good novel. I’m always looking for good writers, but the good ones like David Baldachi, Joel Rosenberg, and Tom Clancy seem to be few and far between. Recently, however, I came across a writer who has been around for quite a while, but I just never knew about him before. 

Vince Flynn writes books that are good reads. In the last month I have read two of them, Memorial Day and Consent to Kill. These books are built around a character by the name of Mitch Rapp. Rapp is a former US Olympian whose girlfriend was killed in the Lockerbie bombing. He is subsequently recruited by the CIA to lead the clandestine fight against the terrorists. Mitch Rapp is a lot like Jack Bauer from the hit series 24. He doesn’t let legal technicalities get in his way of stopping the bad guys. 

Flynn doesn’t write politically correct novels, so don’t wait for the movie because Hollywood would never agree to create a movie which is based on the realism that the terrorists are male Islamic Fascists from the Middle East. Most of Flynn’s books are available in paperback, so you don’t need to take out a loan to buy a copy.

I’ve already purchased two more Flynn paperbacks – Executive Power and Separation of Power – and look forward to several pleasurable hours of reading. I should warn you that if you don’t like the violence of Jack Bauer’s 24, you won’t like the violence of Mitch Rapp. But if you like a good read about fighting terrorism that is unabashedly patriotic, I think you will like Vince Flynn and his character, Mitch Rapp.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Gasoline Taxes and Bridge Collapses

  Gasoline Taxes and Bridge Collapses

What a tragedy it was when the I-35 Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. Imagine the sheer terror experienced by the motorists as the bridge they were driving on began to collapse into the Mississippi River. In the 1800’s, bridge collapses were not unusual. In fact, one year, shortly before construction on the Brooklyn Bridge was approved by President Ulysses Grant in 1869, 40 bridges collapsed. The reoccurring problem was design flaws. Engineers simply did not have the design knowledge or the materials available to ensure that bridges would withstand the weight of the trains and carriages they carried. But this is more than 100 years later and bridges are not supposed to collapse. We have the technology and the construction materials they didn’t have in 1800’s. The investigation results are not in, but I would venture a guess that it wasn’t a design failure which caused the Minneapolis bridge to collapse, as was the case with the bridges built in the 1800’s. Quite likely, the cause of the collapse was a maintenance issue.

I can’t help but wonder if the collapse of this bridge and the loss of so many lives is not the direct result of what has happened to the use of gasoline tax dollars (both state and federal) over the past 30 years. 

I don’t particularly care for taxes, but I always thought that gasoline taxes at both the state and federal level came as close as possible to being the ideal tax. When they were originally instituted many, many years ago, the law stipulated that every dollar collected be spent exclusively on highways – maintenance and construction. It was a great concept, the people who paid gasoline taxes, who drove on the highways and roads, paid for highway maintenance and construction. It was perhaps the fairest tax ever instituted in the United States. This was the policy followed by both states and the federal government regarding the expenditure of gasoline taxes.

But, you see, you and I view taxes in a very different way than politicians. Beyond certain essentials, politicians view tax dollars as a means of getting re-elected. The French historian, Alexis De Tocqueville, who traveled the United States in 1831, observed that when American politicians realized they could perpetuate themselves in power by taxing, spending and electing, our democracy would be dead. Well, our democracy is not dead, but when professional politicians, who now populate both political parties, see the primary purpose of tax revenues as a means of getting themselves re-elected, it damages all of us. The collapse of the bridge in Minnesota is a sad example.

The politicians cheered loudly when they finally broke the highway trust fund in Congress. Actual cheering occurred because they had opened the door to spending more money for pork barrel projects and mass transportation that would generate votes in their home districts. They ignored common sense and the remarkable fairness of a system that used highway taxes exclusively to build and maintain highways. Shortly thereafter most states followed suit and cannibalized gasoline tax revenues for their general treasury.

Today, gasoline taxes, both state and federal, are spent entirely at the whim of the politicians. Instead of devoting all gasoline tax dollars to roads and bridges, they are spent on all sorts of silly things to cover shortfalls in tax revenue caused by irresponsible spending at the state and national level.

New highway construction could eliminate much of our stop and go traffic and simultaneously clean literal tons of pollution from our skies. Better bridge and tunnel maintenance could eliminate bridge collapses and tunnel problems such as those that occurred with the big dig. In short, spending gasoline tax dollars exclusively on highway construction and maintenance would help us breathe cleaner air and drive over safer bridges.

But I’m afraid we will never be able to put that genie back in the bottle. It’s a shame because congestion has never been worse, there is too much pollution, and the safety of our bridges, highways, and tunnels has never been in greater doubt. Much can be said about politicians, Republican and Democrat, but they will never be accused of having too much common sense.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


In my recent blog titled "The Rules Have Changed," I erroneously stated that the majority of the black vote went to Presidential Republican candidates from the time of Abraham Lincoln until the time of Dwight Eisenhower. That statement was incorrect. I sent an e-mail to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas ( after someone questioned that statistic. I received a nice response from Herb Pankratz, who serves as Archivist of the Eisenhower Library, in which he states that "21% of black voters supported Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and approximately 42% voted for him in 1956." I appreciate Mr. Prankratz’s response.

While I was incorrect in regard to my statement that the majority of black votes went to Dwight Eisenhower, the premise of my article is still true. The black vote did, in fact, go to the GOP from 1860 until 1928 (68 years). Admittedly, the black vote in the 1800’s was of limited in impact. Apparently it was not until Franklin D. Roosevelt put together his coalition in 1932 that the Democrats captured the black vote. However their hold on that vote, in light of Eisenhower’s 42% share in 1956, was tenuous until the Goldwater candidacy in 1964.

While it was Dwight Eisenhower who signed into law the landmark 1957 Civil Rights Act, African Americans have not trusted the GOP since their "Southern Strategy" was put in place, and understandably so. But the 1960’s were a long, long time ago and it is, as I said in my blog, time for a second look. 

For example, in the area of education, conservatives have taken the lead in getting voucher programs in place. Vouchers provide a real and proven solution to the problem of bad schools in the poor areas of our cities. In Wisconsin, conservatives teamed up with Polly Williams, an African American state legislator, in a successful effort to pass school vouchers. This school voucher program has become a model program for schools located in economically depressed areas. 

In fact, St. Marcus School, located in central Milwaukee (, is a shining example of what can be accomplished thanks to vouchers. It was visited by former District of Columbia Mayor, Anthony Williams, and served as reinforcement for his support of a voucher program for DC.

Conservatives and black Americans have found common ground in many other areas including the establishment of Enterprise Zones, cross-cultural alliances with suburban churches, and many other unheralded efforts by conservatives who give their time and money to improving conditions and creating opportunities in some of America’s most difficult and challenging areas.

Yes, African Americans are understandably distrustful of conservative Republicans, but the past is not the present. It is indeed time for a second look at candidates running for public office, regardless of their party label. It’s time to assess whether a candidate simply wants votes, or has real plans to solve problems. The black American community needs more than just expressions of "I feel your pain," it needs new and unique approaches that address the very real issues they face on a day-to-day basis. It’s not about racism, it’s about opportunity.

Friday, September 7, 2007

An Odd Definition of Compassion

An Odd Definition of Compassion

There’s something that has stuck in my craw for a number of years – the odd definitions of compassion and generosity that seems to exist in modern society. It has to do primarily with our politicians. It’s generally understood that if a politician votes to give money to someone in need, that’s compassion. To my thinking, that’s an extremely odd definition of compassion. Now, if that same politician reached down in his own pocket and gave his own money to someone in need, that would indeed be genuine compassion. He would be a truly generous person.

But simply voting to take someone else’s money and give it to an individual in need is not compassion, at least not by my understanding. Compassion is giving your own money to help someone else.

Using the power of government to help someone else may be a necessary thing, but it has absolutely nothing to do with compassion. It’s like the story of a citizen and a politician walking down the street. They come upon a street person who asks for help. The citizen reaches down in his pocket and gives $20 to the person and tells him that if he’ll stop by his office to work he’ll pay him $10 per hour. The politician is impressed by the generosity of the citizen, so when they come across another street person he walks over and gives him directions to the welfare office, then takes $20 from the citizen (holds out $5 for administrative costs) and gives the balance to the street person.

Voting to give other people’s money to folks in need may make a politician feel good and he may think he is compassionate when he does so, but this is not compassion. Being generous with someone else’s money is easy to do, but in most cases it’s just self-serving. The politician’s goal is often just to make that person feel indebted to him, and helping him is incidental to the situation. 
In fact, government aid to the poor is usually a disconnect. What is disconnected is the love that motivates an individual to help another person. For most politicians, giving other people’s money to the poor is just another way of buying votes. And truthfully, most politicians don’t care a whit if the money really gets to the person in need. They just want it on the record that they are "compassionate" and want to be sure that the person helped is committed to vote for them.

If this seems cynical, just ask your politician how much of their salary they donated to charity last year. You’ll be shocked to learn that politicians of all stripes, conservative, liberal, Republican and Democrat give very, very little of their own money to charity. It’s hard to find out what the numbers are, but when the sums are disclosed it’s almost always less than 2% of what they earn!

In contrast, the hard-hearted businessman (as portrayed by Hollywood) is often among the most generous and compassionate in our society. I work with many fine folks in the business community who give much more than 15% of their income and profits to charity each year. On top of that, they volunteer their time to serve others in need. Without any fanfare or credit, tens of thousands of small business leaders help less blessed members of our society by donating their time and dollars.

For you "compassionate" politicians who portray yourself as "compassionate" because you give away other people’s money, you deserve nothing but the Bronx cheer. But for you truly compassionate businessmen and businesswomen as well as all Americans who dig down deep to help make this a better country in which to live, you deserve a round of applause.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Start Your Day Out Right!

Start Your Day Out Right!
Wouldn’t it be great to start out each day on a positive note? I do something that charges me up more than a tall glass of orange juice or a great cup of coffee and it works every time. After I sign in on my computer, I take just 20 to 30 seconds to read my Grace Moments™ e-mail from Mark Jeske. It gives me just the right perspective that I need to appreciate all the blessings I have, even when things are not going my way.

I challenge you to give it a five day trial. Start today by clicking on You’ll get a great, upbeat message about God’s love that takes only 20 seconds to read, and will get your day off on the right note.

If, after five days, you’re hooked (like I am), just go to to sign up for your daily Grace Moments™ e-mail. I look forward to mine each morning. You will too.