Monday, September 28, 2009

"You're fired."

Perhaps the most striking act of the Obama Administration to date is the firing of the CEO of General Motors. I was deeply disappointed that so few people asked whether the Constitution grants such power to a president (it doesn't). Yet the event set me to wondering. Mr. Obama ostensibly derived his power from the federal government's majority holdings in GM (also unconstitutional). Following that logic, could Mr. Obama also be fired?

Those of us who recall the Clinton years know that a president may be removed from office by Congress for "high crimes and misdemeanors." What that phrase means is difficult to say, although it seems to exclude taking advantage of young women and lying under oath. However, it seems doubtful that the Reid/Pelosi Congress would bring an impeachment action, unless Mr. Obama were to egregiously renege on his liberal agenda.

But impeachment is not the only way to remove a president. The 25th Amendment provides (in part):

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Which appears to mean that Mr. Obama could be ousted by Mr. Biden, if the latter had the support of the Cabinet. To make it stick, however, two thirds of both Houses of Congress would have to agree. I almost regret that.

It is ironic, but I hope not unpatriotic, that I frequently find myself wishing that the Chinese Premier would drop a dime and tell Mr. Obama: "You're fired."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Open Letter To Maxine Waters

Dear Representative Waters,

I have read with interest reports that you want those who attend various "Tea Bag" protests to be "investigated."

The reports are unclear. I cannot tell whether you mean "investigate" in the "Nixonian" sense - as a thinly veiled form of intimidation - or whether you were taking a more generous approach, such as "Let's find out what their concerns are and address those concerns forthrightly." It would be helpful for all if you would clarify your meaning.

Assuming you genuinely seek to engage with critics of the Administration, permit me to introduce myself and summarize my concerns.

I am a middle aged white guy. Because of the economy, I have been unemployed since June, and it appears the job market is still contracting.
I genuinely do not know how long I will be able to keep a roof over my head and will shortly be compelled to apply for food stamps. I am also unwell, having just had by pass surgery. That surgery, however, was covered by my former employer, who agreed to pay for my health insurance after my termination date.

But I'm in a good position. I am highly educated and have talents that pay quite well when the economy is growing.

Which brings me to my objections to the Administration's programs. Quite simply, they are the same measures that EXTENDED the Great Depression. The Administration is destroying jobs and prosperity, rather than creating opportunity. Business cannot grow when locked in the strangling hand of government. Moreover, investors are reluctant to spend their money when they do not know whether the market they have chosen will be crushed by government regulation and/or taxation. Sometimes I think I might be better off to stay unemployed and dependent, rather than to go back to work and try to pay the new taxes that will inevitably flow from Mr. Obama's programs.

Those are my concerns. The government has put me out of work and its policies are keeping me in that situation. How can you help me out? All I want is a job. Didn't John Kennedy say that the best form of welfare is well-paying job?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It is time for another apology

“I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers.”

--- B. Hussein Obama addressing a Joint Session of Congress on August 9, 2009.

To the people of the world - I apologize for not doing more to prevent the election of the nincompoop who uttered the words above. I truly hope that, by his hubris and ignorance, he does not drag the world into an economic collapse that will last for generations.

Before I begin my exegesis, I should present my bona vides. Like Mr. Obama, I am an attorney. Unlike him, I've never edited a Law Review. I quit the Wisconsin Law Review after one semester, when it became clear that the editors were politically correct and I was not. Also, unlike Mr. Obama, I have spent 20 years in commercial law. I understand how the market works - how one takes risks in the hope increased return - those evil things called "profits." Profits allow a company to grow and hire more people, or to re-invest in new processes and drive down costs. Or the profitable company may simply pay its people more as a reward for a job well done. Also, I was for many years an attorney to a health insurance company. I understand where the premium monies go. Surprisingly, little goes to "fat cats" living, or even vacationing on Martha's Vineyard.

Let's start with Mr. Obama's basic premise: "the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premium it collects." Presumably this statement is meant to reassure us that the public option would have to be competitive - rather than reliant on tax payer subsidies. While this approach seems sound, it is unconstitutional. The Constitution does not give Congress authority to enter into competitionn with the free market. The Bill of Rights was added to protect us against people like Mr. Obama, who argue that "I can do whatever I want unless it is expressly prohibited."

In his next sentence Mr. Obama makes a problematic reference to "overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries." I have never before seen "profits" referred to as "overhead." In business parlance "profit" is what remains after overhead (costs, interests on debt, taxes, etc.) is paid. People invest in companies to earn profit. Mr. Obama's statement suggests that he is ignorant of basic business practices and vocabulary, or that he believes profits do not belong in the pockets of those who own the business.

As for excessive administrative costs, I know of no successful company that is not constantly attempting to cut "fat." Fewer people doing more, faster and smarter, is a recipie for business success. It has never been a description applied to any government enterprise, with the possible exception of the military. For example, why does Mr. Obama need 30-odd "tsars" to help him with his work when the Executive Branch already employes tens of thousands? Neither do the health insurance companies control their administrative burden. Health insurers are regulated by the 50 states, and the laws are not uniform. What is permitted in California may not be permitted in Maine. Alaska may require the same financial information as Florida, but on a different form. The cost of regulatory compliance for a company that operates in several states can be staggering. Mr. Obama's suggestion that private companies willfully fritter away money and excuse it as "administrative expense," is, at best, groundless and more probably another display of his ignorance. (He was perhaps referring to luxury retreats for executives and sales folk, often at large expense. Having somewhat Spartan tastes, I do find these offensive, and I elect not to invest in companies that permit such things. But I am also offended by Mr. Obama's lavish "date nights" with Mrs. O, at my expense and yours.)

There remains Mr. Obama's comment about "premium" being eaten up by "executive salaries." As a general rule, executives are paid for results. Mr. Welch of GE was very well paid. He also made the company VERY profitable. If Mr. Obama were CEO of a private company, in contrast, the deplorable results of his first seven months would probably get him fired.

There are other flaws in Mr. Obama's statements that add to the concern that he is arrogant and ignorant. For example, he appears to know nothing of the importance of investment income to insurance companies, or how reinsurance works. But he does believe he knows how to turn a phrase.

In two brief sentences we have a disturbing portrait of the commander in chief of the greatest military force ever known. He acknowledges no limits on his powers, has the most superficial understanding of the issues he confronts and is secure in his belief that he has all the answers. It may be entertaining, to some, to watch him squeeze dry the American private sector. But, once that task is accomplished, what will deter him if he decides that Venezuala, for example, has more oil than it needs?

Joe Wilson's Gaffe

Joe Wilson is being excoriated for calling Mr. Obama a liar on the floor of Congress.
Few other statements better fit the definition of "gaffe" - when a politician inadvertently tells the truth.

Was it a breach of decorum? Perhaps. But Mr. Obama seems to believe he is a prime minister, rather than the subject of a written constitution. Let him then be subject to the rules of a parliament. Indeed, putting Mr. Obama through British-style question time on a regular basis might be highly entertaining, and informative.

As far as Joe Wilson, I like to think I would have done the same thing in his shoes. I am glad he had the nerve to do it for me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A New Definition of Freedom?

In his speech to Congress this evening, Mr. Obama called for a requirement that those who can afford health insurance obtain such coverage.

Pardon me, Mr. Obama, but doesn't "freedom" include the right to do, or not do, based on one's own preferences and judgment?

Or were you really saying "You will all pay for my new bureaucracy, one way or another"?

For a rebuttal, I offer a much better speech, by a much better speaker, who loved, rather than loathed, the idea of America and individual freedom:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is That Lame Duck I Smell?

Within 24 hours Barack Obama will attempt to resuscitate "health care reform" with a special address to a joint session of Congress. We do not know whether he will flourish a pair of defibrillator paddles and shout "Clear," following the lead of countless TV docs, but it is clear that the Administration believes that "reform" is in jeopardy, and that the master's touch is needed to revive it. Much may ride on the president's performance - he has made "reform" a central part of his agenda.

As an aside, I use the term "reform" advisedly. "Reform" generally connotes a change for the better, not change simply for the sake of change. The plans I have seen offer a variety of changes, but no improvements, unless one lands a job with the new bureaucracy that would spring up like toadstools to administer the new system. But, as "reform" is the popular term for what is churning through the Congress, I will use the term, but under protest.

Mr. Obama's decision to take his case directly to the Congress is generally being portrayed as a typically bold gesture by an inspired leader. Who, the media asks, can resist the combination of his passion to serve man, his vast intellect and his unequaled eloquence?

I see a different meaning. Despite having the strongest hold on both houses of the Congress in recent memory, he still can't get his programs passed. He doesn't need a single Republican vote, but he still cannot get his programs passed. His decision to appeal publicly for "cooperation" from Congress demonstrates both his incompetence and his political weakness. Once he publicly admits to Congress that "I can't do it without you," the price of that cooperation may increase exponentially. Mr. Obama does not appear to grasp that fact of political life. Neither does is his stature enhanced by publicly demonstrating the limited influence he wields within his own party.

Mr. Obama's administration is young, and the future may bring it triumphs and return prosperity and security to the us. At the moment, however, it is safe to say that, on the domestic front, he is no LBJ. Indeed, he may have already rendered himself irrelevant.