Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Death Of The Silver Birds

          American Airlines decided Monday to file for Chapter 11, bankruptcy protection, citing high fuel costs and labor problems.  Is it possible they are ignoring the obvious?  In any industry, labor and operation costs may be passed to the customer, if the goods or services provided, warrant it. 
In the past ten years, airlines have reduced or eliminated numbers of flights; added additional seats making airplanes more crowded; downsized or eliminated meals and snacks; and started charging additional fees for everything from pillows to luggage. 
Apparently, the customer base is not expanding and airlines are forced to squeeze more revenue from existing customers.  An MBA is not required to understand that these tactics will never expand customer base and without new customers, bankruptcy is the only possible end.  Surely, airline executives know this and they are not ignoring the obvious, but their hands are tied by government intervention.  They cannot change the customer inconveniences that started the cycle destined to destroy the airline industry, sooner or later.
Is it possible that potential airline customers tired of arriving two hours before their flights so they can be scanned, questioned, groped and herded as if they were convicted felons?  Are those who deliver and retrieve passengers, weary of limited access and information?  Are Americans from the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” rejecting an industry controlled by fear, not freedom?  Also, for anyone who may be interested in facts, not political correctness, the 911 terrorists did not look like American grandmothers or pre-school children. 
Perhaps, declining customer base is not due to lack of peanuts during the flight. 

Jim

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Commerce Clause

An email from T.L., my friend, asked, “Where is the Constitutional authority for the federal [government] to interfere and manipulate private commerce?”  Like many other Americans, I was led to believe that from the beginning, the so-called “Commerce Clause” in the Constitution, granted Federal Government exclusive control of all commerce in the U.S.  The referenced clause reads, “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;”
Rereading this clause, with my friend’s question in mind, and believing the Founding Fathers wrote what they meant and meant what they wrote, it is obvious that private enterprise is not mentioned.  So, how did Federal Government go from having only the authority to regulate commerce with specifically named sovereign entities, to regulating private commerce?
As the expanse of steel rails multiplied across the nation in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, so did the power of the companies that controlled the rails, as railroads became the primary carriers of freight.  Larger railroads would drive their competitors out of business by lowering rates and when the competition was gone, they would raise prices well above previous levels.  Railroad trusts were formed to fix artificially high rates, usually for short hauls, making it impossible for local businesses to compete with nationwide conglomerates.  Only those businesses that “played ball” with the railroad moguls would receive timely, economical, rail transportation for their goods.
Public outcry resulted in States passing laws to stop the discriminatory and abusive practices of the railroads.  Unhappy that state governments were regulating the heretofore, unregulated monopolies, Wabash, St. Louis, & Pacific Railway, sued Illinois.  In 1886, the Supreme Court ruled that state laws regulating railroads violated the “Commerce Clause” of the U.S. Constitution, which they said gives Congress the “exclusive right to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”
In one decision, apparently based on something other than the Constitution itself, the power of Federal Government went from that of regulating commerce with other sovereign governments, to include exclusive regulation of private commerce.  This decision also freed railroads from the restraints of state law and dealt state control of commerce a deathblow.
Perhaps, the railroad moguls celebrated their ability to influence the “Supremes” that freed them from state regulation, but the victory was short-lived.  The post Civil War Congress was willing to exercise the power taken from the states and handed to them by the Supreme Court.  The following year, Congress passed and President Grover Cleveland signed into law, The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, which, with its revisions, gives Government the authority to regulate private commerce.
A Supreme Court decision that shielded wealthy railroad moguls from state regulation; a Congress that took advantage of an opportunity to expand their power; and a President that sided with the absconding of state authority and expansion of federal authority, all came together to disregard the Constitution.
Today, the “Robber Barons” that controlled and manipulated railroad transportation, to cripple and bankrupt many American small businesses are no longer a threat, but their legacy lives in a government that does the same with excessive regulations. 

Jim

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Social Security Windfall

            Recently, my wife and I received letters from the Social Security Administration informing us that our “benefit” would increase by a collective $15 per month.  To what do we owe this windfall?  The increase is based on a recalculation to include self-employment taxes for the year we retired, in the amount of $4,907.  It is likely, that apart from this action by the SSA, we would never have known our complete tax payment amounts were not included in the initial calculations. 
Even though our ignorance was due to the fact that when we retired, my questions about calculation formulas, specific amounts, and other information needed to determine the exact amount of our “benefit,” went unanswered, it would be unfair to hold this against them, since the adjustment is effective some 15 months after we retired.  How could this forthright and unsolicited action not inspire confidence in the system, and offset the “stonewalling” met by my initial questions?
Only unvarnished ingrates would fault a system that extracts $4,907 from earned income, to repay it without interest, in equal monthly installments of $15, spread over twenty-seven years and three months.  What could possibly be lacking in this system?  Should my wife and I live until we are 92, our initial “investment” will then be fully repaid and we will continue to receive $15 per month interest on our money, until we die.  On the other hand, if we should die before our “investment” is recouped, the balance is forfeited and our heirs are not burdened with settling an addition to the estate.  Little wonder, the SSA refers to this payment as a “benefit.”  It is sad that politicians receiving “entitlements” from a different system do not know the joy of receiving “benefits” from Social Security.

Jim

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This Grass Won't Grow

            Glendale, California has banned the use of artificial turf for lawns in front of private residences.  City officials say they are concerned about the plastics and chemicals used to make the turf.  In a leap of logic known only to these officials, it is still permitted in the back yards of homes.  Making this ban even stranger is the water shortage in that part of the Country. 
Right thinking people might conclude it is better to use artificial turf in place of real grass that requires precious water.  They might also think if turf is toxic in the front yard, it will be toxic in the back yard.  One might also conclude that there are undisclosed money or control issues behind this ban.
While it may seem strange that Glendale would enact this ordinance, the truth is that similar actions are enacted frequently in communities all across the U.S.  For years, local ordinances in the form of building permits and zoning have been used to restrict the free use of private property, and this noose around the neck of freedom is getting tighter with the passing of time, as demonstrated in Glendale. 
The common denominator in the plethora of local building and zoning ordinances is not public safety, for things that are acceptable in one locale are illegal in another.  The common denominator in building and zoning codes is the economic advantage and/or control they give to someone.  Even the mighty Wal-Mart Corporation must bow to these demands.  For example, when local businesses fear the competition, these laws are used to keep Wal-Mart out of the community. 
Simply put, most restrictions on property rights are about power and money.  The fa├žade, behind which those who make the rules hide, is public safety.  A real travesty is this system often becomes a training ground for career politicians.  Given some thought, it is obvious that most legislation at all levels affords someone an economic advantage, frequently at the expense of private property rights.  This “experience” is not needed in any level of government.  Another good reason for “ZERO INCUMBENTS.” 
           
Jim

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Legislative Immunity

            The U.S. Constitution grants Members of Congress immunity from arrest during their attendance at sessions of their body, save for treason, felony, or breach of the peace. Furthermore, they shall not be questioned by any agency for any speech or debate in either House.
            Early in High School, my generation was taught these provisions were necessary to preclude detaining legislators under color of law, thereby preventing participation in their legislative duties.  While the Constitution provides that a legislator is not immune to arrest for such things as leading a riot, robbing a bank or betraying the Country, they cannot be arrested for minor offences such as a parking ticket.  The wisdom, in these immunities, designed to prevent disruption of the legislative process is obvious, but it is doubtful they were intended to grant unrestricted authority for legislators to exempt themselves from any or all Acts of Congress. 
However, while “We the People” sleep, Congress habitually exempts itself from its own legislation.  Two of the more blatant exemptions are from Social Security and the new Health Care Laws.  These and other exemptions may be distasteful, elitist, and self-serving, but they are not exemptions from otherwise criminal activities.  Now, there are reports of insider trading by Members of Congress, their spouses and staff members, only they claim Security Laws do not apply to them. 
If the legislative purpose of Congress is to enrich its members, then perhaps, there is reason for them to determine their own immunity.  If not, Members of Congress should be subject to the same laws everyone else is.  Better to follow the letter of the Constitution and take a chance on a legislator being detained, than to continue the perversions of the Legislative Immunity envisioned by The Founders.  As a commonly circulated email says, “Social Security would be fixed tomorrow if Congress were required to participate in it.”

Jim

Monday, November 14, 2011

Don't Send It Here

            Canada announced that because the U.S. Government is refusing to approve a pipeline to transport oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast, their government will seek to sell their oil to other countries, including China.  This is another in a long list of projects over the past 50 years that those who worship the creation more than the Creator have stymied.  Here’s guessing the Chinese Government will not be influenced by earth worshippers seeking to derail its efforts to do what is necessary, to supply energy for their people, and that China will eagerly build all the tankers and facilities needed to transport Canada’s oil to their country.
            Strange, those so-called “godless” Communists think their people are more important than flora and fauna, while “Christian” America has trouble with the concept.

Jim

Friday, November 11, 2011

Moral Responsibility


            The student demonstrations (or riots, depending on viewpoint), along with the comments of his supporters, concerning the firing of Joe Paterno, seem to indicate a blurring of the line between moral responsibility and legal responsibility.  For those who missed it, while walking the crowded hallways of some educational institution, or shoveling manure in the barnyard, here is a bulletin:  Following the letter of the law does not always fulfill moral responsibility. 
Legal responsibility involves adherence to society’s code of laws, but moral responsibility comes from within the individual, based on respect for others and demonstrated by treating others as we would be treated.  Morality is not demonstrated by a person’s success in life, or a narrow concern for one’s own family and friends, but by respect for everyone, especially those unable to help themselves. 
Perhaps, Paterno covered his legal responsibility by reporting to his job supervisor, but he failed his moral responsibility by not calling police.  His own admission is that he should have done more.  One might conclude the good coach thought more of his own position, friends, and the system he represented, than he did of the young boys who were sodomized.
An interesting thought concerning morality is that immoral people have trouble recognizing it.

Jim McColloch

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thank You To Our Veterans

"For those that will fight for it...FREEDOM...has a flavor the protected shall never know"—L/Cpl Edwin L. "Tim" Craft, 1968, Khe Sanh Combat Base.
Paraphrasing L/Cpl Craft, “Without those that will fight for it…FREEDOM…shall never be known.”
All our veterans deserve our respect and thanks, even if the war they fought was unpopular, or if they did not fight a war, for their service clearly announced to friend and foe alike that they were ready to defend freedom, regardless of the cost. 
Freedom is never free.  Thank a veteran today.

Jim

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Real Christmas Tree Tax

            One of today’s hottest stories on the web is the new Christmas tree tax.  To say some people are outraged is an understatement.  Opinions range from thinking it is foolish; to thinking it is an attack on Christianity.  One person wrote that it is discrimination against Christians since Muslims do not buy Christmas trees and therefore do not pay the tax.  By that standard most taxes are discriminatory since everyone in every class does not pay them.  However inflammatory, discriminatory, or foolish this tax may be, the real problem, as with our entire tax structure, is the hidden cost.
            One might ask, “Why all the fuss over a mere fifteen cents per tree?”  The standard line from politicians and bureaucrats when implementing new taxes is always to focus on the seemingly insignificant amount of the tax.  But the amount of the tax is not the whole story.
            The following paragraph is from the online Federal Register at http://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2011/11/08/2011-28798/christmas-tree-promotion-research-and-information-order#p-116:

“An estimated 12,455 respondents will provide information to the Board (12,255 producers and 200 importers). The estimated cost of providing the information to the Board by respondents will be $348,975. This total has been estimated by multiplying 10,575 total hours required for reporting and recordkeeping by $33, the average mean hourly earnings of various occupations involved in keeping this information. Data for computation of this hourly rate was obtained from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.”

            The estimated cost to businesses for the recordkeeping required collecting this tax is $348,975.00.  In addition to the tax that is sure to be passed to customers, the customers will also repay these collection costs.  But these costs will not be marked on an invoice as tax.  They will come as price increases on the product, insulated from the downward pressures of competition and the faltering economy.  The cycle is endless.  Prices go up.  Government expands, and our economy is less and less stable.  Another point is that regardless of who pays the bill, 10,575 hours will be consumed doing government required paperwork that should be devoted to improving the businesses.
            This is not isolated to a Christmas Tree Tax.  The hidden costs to businesses and the increasing costs of government are out of control under our present tax code.  Every tax on the books has hidden costs.  Anyone who thinks businesses pay taxes does not understand that businesses only collect taxes and pass them to the government, while passing the costs of collection to their customers.
            Surely, a nation that has the ability to put men on the moon has the ability to implement a tax code without hidden costs that smother businesses in paperwork, and escalate prices.  Perhaps, the problems are ignorance of the system, apathy of voters, and lack of political will for politicians.

Jim

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Government Against The People

            With clear indifference to the welfare of a group of Missouri residents, unelected bureaucrats in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decreed that structures built on the shores of the Lake of the Ozarks over the past eighty years, since the completion of the lake, are encroachments.  Consequently, these “Regulators” refused to grant Ameren, the company that owns the lake, a new 40-year license to operate the dam until the structures in question are removed. 
            They are not talking boat docks or outhouses.  This ruling affects hundreds of residences and hundreds of millions in real estate value while setting a precedent to confiscate private property along the shores of any lake that requires a permit to operate a dam.  This is not a case of eminent domain where property is taken after due process and remuneration, for the construction of projects for the public good.  This is forced removal and these petty people with power seem to ignore that property owners have title deeds, and that private property along the shores for the past eighty years has not created any disasters. 
            No doubt, the bureaucrats will claim they are only following the law, but in this there are only two possibilities:  The laws they cling to were passed after the properties were built, or the laws were not enforced, thereby deceiving property owners, title companies, lending agencies, title attorneys, developers, Ameren and everyone else involved.  In either case, it is unreasonable to punish property owners. 
How much longer will voters tolerate government agencies with the unaccountable authority to oppress our own citizens?  This ruling will cause many sleepless nights, untold stress, enormous legal expenses, disruptions in life, liberty and the pursuits of happiness for these property owners and in the end, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that wrought this misery will feel none of the pain. 
How would you feel if you were notified that your home would be razed because some government agency did not like the location?  If we allow the government to do this to these people, the next time they may do it to us.  Meanwhile, folks that have lakeside homes across our nation are in real danger of losing them when it is time to renew the dam operating permit (pun intended).
For more information and to sign a petition go to:  http://www.lakeareaconservativeclub.org/ferc-and-the-lake-of-the-ozarks/

Jim

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Word That Works

My friend, Rev. Tom Doty (twdoty02@yahoo.com), recently wrote in one of his daily devotionals,

“While our society wants to get rid of God’s Word it continues to appear.  God’s Word is quoted in books, movies, speeches, and is even twisted by Satan and his demons.  It’s like Jesus said, ‘Everything else may fall apart, but my word is solid and everlasting.’ If your world is falling apart, maybe you need to get something solid in life.  The only sure cure for a falling apart life is the truth of God’s Word.  Everything in your life may be going to pot, but you can be assured that God’s Word, if followed, can and will make your life complete.”

            Pastor Doty points to something clearly understood by our Founding Fathers that is more and more being ignored today—The efficacy of the Bible.  Modern thought suggests that if the Bible works at all, it only works for those who believe it.  The Patriots who originally forged this Nation knew better.  This is not to say each of them trusted Jesus as personal Savior and Lord.  In fact, many of their writings suggest otherwise.  Even so, they did realize the living principles contained in the Bible are just as certain and irrefutable as the laws of physics. 
One may deny that water seeks its own level, but the laws of nature’s God make it happen because it is necessary to maintain order.  Likewise, one may deny the Ten Commandments and the God who wrote them, but they are still necessary to maintain order.  The Word of God applies to Saint and sinner alike, not because one believes or disbelieves, but because the Creator of Heaven and Earth is the Authority behind it.

Jim