Economy Thoughts From A Hockey Guy

December 1, 2008

Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Washington Capitals, posted this on his blog…it’s interesting reading about his ideas for the economy. You can visit his blog here.

I was recently asked by someone close to the new administration what I would do to jump start our economy and what “out of the box” programs I would implement to help make America great again. I warned this person that what I would have to say wouldn’t be “sweet nothings” and that I believed that we needed to take our medicine and admit defeat and to get real about our problems and some solutions to get us positioned well for the mid and long term. There were no short term solutions because our problems were that deep rooted. I also knew that no politician would ever risk his reelection by suggesting or implementing tough love on our populace but I honestly think that is what is needed.

So, in a nutshell, my 10 crazy ideas not for the timid and I know these ideas will challenge people and get some folks really angry so I apologize in advance:

Make retirement age 70 not 65. Social security benefits are killing our nation. We can’t afford it. People are living longer and retiring earlier. We should make people work and be productive and pay taxes for a longer period of time – heresy I know – but truthful and needed. We need more productivity from all of our workers, 70 is the new 60 anyway. Who said 65 years of age was a retirement birthright anyway? This will save hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.

No Medicare or health benefits to people over 85. My dad died at 94 years of age. The majority of the expenses racked up for his Medicaid benefit were from 92 to 94 years of age. People are living longer and using very expensive technology to squeeze a few more years of life for the elderly is a luxury we cannot afford. In the last 50 years or so, we have seen a 10 year added longevity curve just in men and it will soon reach 80 years of age. Our technology and medicines will keep us living longer but the really elderly shouldn’t be eating up an over indexed amount of our health costs that young people pay for. This will save hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. This will help us save on social security costs as well.

Mandatory service. All graduating students from college MUST serve in a public service position for two to three years. The Government will pay them a stipend of which 25 percent of all payments go into a mandatory savings plan or the parents’ mandatory savings plan. All college debts must be paid off via the service career and after two to three years, the students can go into the world with real world experience with no debts and with cash savings in the bank. The students should all work in positions with the police; fire departments; hospitals; military; Peace Corps, etc. Help us to rebuild our infra-structure or educational systems. This move will help rebuild a sense of community and teach young adults the power of having no debt and of having savings in the bank. And it will also inject a higher sense of purpose into our young adults.

No tax cuts for the middle class or wealthy for four years. We should focus all of our energies and dollars to lift the poorest of the poor out of poverty. That should be our priority. The poorest of the poor need the help immediately and in all of our budgets, they receive less than 15 percent of all dollars. I would cut the overall budgets but amp up dollars to the ones that need it most. This could save us hundreds of billions of dollars and get more equality into the system; cut waste; and really help those who need it.

Tax cuts in the form of a government grant to a savings account. All other forms of tax cuts would go via check into a mandatory savings account that is established for each American household and placed in an FDIC-insured bank. If we stimulate consumer savings, banks will have money to loan to people and we won’t have to borrow money from other nations. I was amazed that the stimulus checks that were last sent were aimed at people going to a mall and using credit cards to charge up more stuff. We need to keep dollars in our own savings accounts. The government should make savings a mandatory program for each and every household. We will save hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars in interest payments to foreign nations if we have more savings in US based banks.

Less technology for our military. Technology is hyper expensive to maintain and keep relevant and it allows us to save lives because we send machines to do the work of people. If more people’s lives were at stake in a skirmish or war, our leaders would think twice about sending young Americans to fight for us. We have become so automated and high tech that our bills are astronomical and our trigger fingers are too easily placed on the wrong buttons. Slow down the technology spending for awhile and add more people to the service. It will create jobs, cut costs and make us more concerned about a policing action overseas. This will save us more than $100 billion and the world will be safer.

Stop acting like we are a super world power when we are the biggest debtor in the world. Never in history has a country that owed so much money to foreign governments been seen as a super power. In fact, debtor nations are seen and weak and ineffective and non-aspirational. I would find a way to get some payback from countries, too, that we had helped and were now flourishing. I would stop acting like a worldwide police force or, if I was, I would charge a fee to help. There has got to be a way for Iraq to pay us back for our work and sacrifice in freeing the country from tyranny and oppression. We have sunk literally hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars into their economy and the war and lost lives and shed blood. What is the payback? I would make our government adhere to the same regulations that companies have to do now in terms of market to market accounting and disclosures and to a Sarbanes-Oxley-like contract between government spending and budgeting. Why should a company be regulated when the government isn’t as it pertains to balance sheets and income statements and fiscal transparency? And isn’t it ironic that Communist countries now have better economies than ours? We need to face facts and stop being a debtor nation and become a savings-based economy.

We need to birth more children. People are living longer and, at the same time, we are having fewer children. At some point soon we will flip and we will have less people being born than are dying off. This is a real problem. It means no growth of populace and productivity will decrease and we will be an old and decrepit nation. We need to celebrate children. We need to reward marriages with tax breaks. We need to reward people having more children. Guess who is the most productive nation on earth now? China. Why? They have all of the manpower and know how to manufacture goods. We need to birth more children to keep the country and economy growing and we need to create programs that shed light on the power of marriage and dual family households. Divorce and single family households are big drivers of poverty and issues for our country. We need to embrace true family values because it has an economic underpinning for our nation besides all of the goodness that comes from a true family environment.

We need to refocus our schools and business schools onto “making stuff” on manufacturing. Our best and brightest should be going into the tech sectors or to Detroit or innovating to ship overseas our green tech. We need to stop graduating people who want to work on Wall Street and think our business is about dollars and esoteric financial instruments. The government should pay for students to go into math – engineering, technology and manufacturing -and no scholarships for Wall Street-oriented positions. We need to be the best manufacturers of cars and appliances and household goods and computers and network systems in the world. When a company buys from the US based partners, they should get a tax break. Keeping our dollars here and not sending them overseas will create an economic stimulus that is beyond our wildest dreams. Once Detroit is reinvented to make hybrid and electric cars and we don’t need to buy foreign oil, our air will be cleaner; our debt will be smaller; and we will save trillions of dollars. It is absolute madness that we borrow a trillion dollars from China and Japan so we can then send it over to OPEC nations to get their oil. Stop that madness.

Government communications. The Government should do a mini-bailout for certain media companies and all newspapers. Traditional media is soon to go out of business. The Government should help prop up these institutions and in payback, all political media should be free. This way politicians won’t be so focused on fundraising and they can have the inventory to tell us what the content of their programs are and the media titans can try to be honest brokers to report on what is really happening. We need a thriving media to keep the process honest and working. The system is broken now. We give dollars to politicians who promise us the world. The politicians then give the monies to media companies to help them broadcast their message in a sound bite “No new taxes” so they can get elected or re-elected. The politicians are then in league with the donors. Let us just short circuit this craziness and have a real platform for communications and keep an independent media business thriving. It would make a lot of sense. If we are helping the banks and soon the car companies, we might as well help the media companies too and in return politicians will get free air time and space and we will be more informed consumers.

So there you go, ten out of the box crazy ideas. Many would work and help us. They would be short term unpopular but would work in the long term and we would leave a better world and a safer world to the next generation.

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The Presidential Debates…In Case You Missed Them

November 18, 2008

Synchronized debating by Sens. Obama and McCain…

Watch the video here.


Chuck Norris’ Letter to President-Elect Obama

November 11, 2008

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CHUCK IS WATCHING | One of Obama’s ‘300 million bosses’

To me, Chuck Norris will always be Walker, Texas Ranger (even though I’ve never seen the show) or the home gym guy on the commercial, working out with Billy Joel’s ex-wife. But these days, in becoming a more couth, refined version of Ted Nugent, the martial arts-legend turned TV star has become someone my boys talk about in can-you-top-this one-liners heard at school:

– Chuck Norris was born in a log cabin he built with his own hands.

– Chuck Norris doesn’t actually write books. The words assemble themselves out of fear.

– Chuck Norris can divide by zero.

– Chuck Norris ordered a Big Mac at Burger King…and got one.

– Some people wear Superman pajamas. Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.

– If you Google “Chuck Norris getting beat up,” it generates zero results – it just doesn’t happen.

Add to his resume the job of being an columnist…here’s something he wrote today – an open letter to President-elect Barack Obama…Dear President-elect Obama:

First, congratulations on your victory. The historical magnitude of your presidential win is nothing short of stupendous and a colossal fulfillment of the American dream (an achievement embedded long ago in the equality clauses of the Declaration of Independence).

It’s likely no big surprise that I don’t see eye to eye with you politically. Actually, I stand in stark opposition to most of your politics. Still, I realize that we must learn to work together if we are to see our country get back on track. After Election Day, I asked myself, “How can I work for our new president to help better America?” Then a thought occurred to me. The first question that should be answered is: How will you work for me? After all, “We the People” of the United States employ you, correct?

So here are a few ways you might begin to gain the respect of those who oppose you and to show that your campaign pledges to bridge the divides were not empty promises to get you into office. And these requests I make are based upon the inaugural oath you will make Jan. 20, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” No doubt these won’t be my only requests through the years, but they serve as a good beginning:

–Use and cite the Constitution. If that constitutional oath (“preserve, protect and defend”) is the central duty of your job description, then I assume we will be hearing often from you about exactly how you are doing just that. There is no replacement for strict adherence, application and defense of the Constitution. And it’s high time that presidents quit reciting the presidential oath tritely and then abandoning its tenets when they enter the Oval Office. You should be quoting from the Constitution publicly as often as a preacher quotes the Bible to his congregation — at least weekly. If you take this oath and challenge seriously, you will limit the powers of federal government, reduce taxes (for everyone), encourage the freedom of religion and expression (even in the public square), and stand up for such things as our right to bear arms. The American public and the government have lost their grip on the content and role of the Constitution, but if you daily choose, you can help to re-educate and model its usage for them.

–Protect American life. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1809, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” Those are powerful and enlightening words. Of course, such a role was created and secured in the very fabric of our nation — in the Declaration of Independence. The commitment to protect life should serve as the basis for all you do, even as a foundation for your national defense strategy. I’m sure the first of your secret briefings this past week on our global security threats have opened your eyes to the extensive onslaught of our enemies. Don’t allow your pride, partisanship, personal bias or political abilities to jeopardize the safety of Americans lives. As commander in chief, you are called to preserve American life. Quite frankly, that is why I’m surprised that a man such as you, who professes to fight for minorities, would not recognize the clear value of a human life in a womb. Federal law should not decree the sacrifice of one human life for the preference of another. Both lives should be protected. Otherwise, what do Jefferson’s 1809 words mean? As president, you are called to protect (not destroy) human life; it is the “first and only legitimate object of good government.”

–Lead more from the center. It’s been pointed out by countless pundits, and your track record is clear: You have one of the most liberal records in the Senate. You’ve had the liberty of voting and fighting for an agenda “from the left” as you’ve tried to persuade state and federal lawmakers to do the same. But if you continue to lead our country down a more liberal road, you will follow the peril of Bill Clinton, who stepped into office and initially tried to lift the ban on gays in the military and extend abortion rights, only to prompt the creation of a more balanced and strong Republican Congress in the 1990s. Don’t underestimate the resurrecting power of the conservative voice. You observed in last week’s election how three states across this union voted to protect marriage in their constitutions (the 28th, 29th and 30th states to do so — California, Arizona and Florida).

We will be watching who you choose to be in your Cabinet. We will discern how you lead Pelosi and Reid. We will be observing those you select as candidates for Supreme Court justices. The election is over. No more promises. No more words. You might work well in a team, but this time, you don’t have congressional members to hide behind. You’re on your own — leading the pack — and the whole country is watching. I, especially, am watching. So make sure you lead more from the center.

One of your 300 million bosses,

Chuck Norris


Footloose

November 9, 2008

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LOSE YOUR BLUES | Rocking at the Temple

We took in the final show of the Temple Theatre’s second Main Stage show, “Footloose,” on Saturday night. I knew it would be a great night when we walked in and the pre-show music was all 1980s stuff – most of it I have on my iPod.

Peggy Taphorn and her crew and cast did a great job with a difficult show. The dancing and singing were top-notch, and even though some of the dialogue was difficult to hear and understand – a complaint I heard echoed by audience members around us – “Footloose” was a great experience.

There were some impressive individual performances and company numbers. The highlights were the scene featuring “Somebody’s Eyes,” the Karla Bonoff song from the 1984 movie, and the “Almost Paradise” duet by stars Alex Copas and Jentry Womack – as good or better as the Mike Reno/Ann Wilson version from the movie.


Cool…

August 5, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LONG VIEW | Mountain air revives

Just getting back to posting after a much-needed vacation break. My family and I spent the last few days with my best friend Scott and his family in a home in Wintergreen, Virginia, basically doing nothing but enjoying the cool mountain air, wonderful views like the one above, rekindling memories and creating new ones.

Scott and I were friends back at Valley Heights High School in Kansas and our families (he and wife Tresa have four children – boys ages 17, 15 and 7, and a delightful daughter who’s 14) have been vacationing together most summers for the last 10 years. We’ve done a number of beach trips and last year did an adults-only trip to western Canada. This summer, the Burgers spent the first part of their two-week trip east in Washington, D. C., and Williamsburg, Va., taking in American history-related stops. We gathered together Thursday night up at Wintergreen Resort in a rented house and had absolutely nothing on the agenda except to decompress. We did have a single round of golf planned (Scott, who plays a lot, shot 76, and I staggered home in my second round in 10 months with an 86; Scott’s son Jason shot 96 and my son Zach, after a 48 on the front nine – his first round in exactly a year – ended up at 107), but that was it as far as pre-planned stuff.

We hiked, we swam, we took the girls shopping for Webkinz, we spotted a couple of bobcats, we looked at stars and we had a “movie of the night” each day, including our annual tradition of watching “Notting Hill” and laughing hysterically at many parts of it. The highlight was probably a big tuna & steak cookout our first night on the big grill, with 30-miles views of mountains around us, and the final two nights, where we left the kids “at home” for a couple of wonderful dinners. (We were only going to do a single adults-only dinner, but we came home after the first one and the kids had cleaned up the kitchen and straightened up, and there were no bruises or fights, so we repeated it the following night.)

We love the mountains and the temperatures were in the mid-80s during the day, but in the low 60s at night, if not cooler. I read it was near 100 degrees in Sanford. It’s good to be back home, but it makes me really look forward to fall…


Eatin’ Some Dogs

July 4, 2008

From the July 4 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest…


Coming Soon: Alaska Diaries

June 17, 2008

A work-related trip to Florida that started on June 4 was immediately followed by a long-planned, long-awaited cruise to Alaska, and after arriving home at 3 a.m. on Monday, I’m back in the office. I know no one wants to read a boring travelogue about our Alaska adventure, but in the coming week I’ll provide a few entries about some of our more interesting experiences, beginning with our flight to Seattle and a Northwest Airlines’ flight attendant’s attempt to teach my 11-year-old daughter the finer points of alcohol consumption. I’ll also write about what it’s like to be quarantined to your cruise-ship cabin, how to tell if bear scat is fresh and what water from 400-year-old glacier ice runoff tastes like. Oh, and I also have whale pictures.

Glad to be back…

In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, here’s the dance scene from “Napoleon Dynamite.” At the very worst moments of the bug I somehow picked up in Seattle before our cruise (I’ll spare you the details) this little clip from the movie – I have it on my iTouch; it’s one of my favorites – kept me going and sane…