Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Weekly Comments: Minnesota plows while Wisconsin protests #643

Feb. 20, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS: Protests in Wisconsin have knocked the protests in Egypt off the front page. In Egypt, they protested against a dictator because they want freedom to find a job paying more than $2 a day. In Madison, they are protesting against a governor because they don’t want to pay $2 toward their retirement. As for freedom, the Governor says these teachers and government employees are always free to look for another job.

Snow has shut down Minneapolis today (Sunday). Not completely, of course, but it closed the airport long enough to give me an extra day or two here. But I ain’t complaining. We had a fine crowd up in Staples last night and I’d a lot rather have my flight canceled after a show than before it. Minnesota poked fun at Oklahoma with their 20 to 30 inches a couple of weeks ago; now it’s Minnesota’s turn to show us how to deal with half as much. They’ll be plowing snow for awhile.

On the way to Staples I got to stop at the boyhood home of Charles Lindbergh. It’s at Little Falls, on the west bank of the Mississippi River. They have a museum, and even if you know a lot about this aviation hero you’re guaranteed to learn something new. For instance, he attended eleven different schools, and at the University of Wisconsin he quit after three semesters before they could kick him out for poor grades. But then he went to Flight School, and he did ok.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are more than neighbors. In 1928 I said, “A child born in Wisconsin is taught two things. One is to love LaFollette, and the other is to hate Minnesota. Wisconsin is never doubtful. You can always count on it doing just exactly what the other forty-seven states don’t.”

Governor Walker is never doubtful, and he’s got governors across the country, both Republican and Democrat, watching because many states need to do exactly what Wisconsin is doing. And if you asked these governors, I bet they are all irked by the President’s meddling in Wisconsin affairs. While Mr. Obama admits he’ll spend 40 percent more than he takes in, these governors are forced to balance a checkbook.

Mr. Obama is an intelligent man. No argument on that. And I bet that if you go back into his childhood, all through school, and on up to recent years you’ll find that he was in a lot of clubs and organizations. He was probably president of a few. But I bet out of all of them, he never once served as Treasurer. If he did, and he managed that account the same as he’s managing the one he’s in charge of today, the club would be defunct.

Minnesota’s Governor Dayton is using the old fashioned approach to balance a budget: raise tax rates. Dayton is counting on folks not leaving just because of higher taxes. But if General Mills, Target and the billionaire Pohlad family, for example, pulled up stakes and moved to Florida, he’ll face a deficit worse than Wisconsin. Illinois already raised their tax rates. The Illinois governor announced, “I haven’t heard of any rich men leaving, and I know for a fact we’ve added fourteen Democratic Senators from Wisconsin.” Well, it’s a good thing he raised taxes; it can take a lot to feed and house a wayward Democrat.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:
“Somebody with a sense of humor built St. Paul and Minneapolis close together. They were born the “Twin Cities”, but since birth they have grown together. Now they are locked. One can’t do anything without interfering with the other… The Mississippi River is between them, but Lord, that don’t stop ‘em from cussing each other. What should separate them is the Pacific Ocean.” WA #152, Nov. 8, 1925

Randall Reeder
Will Rogers Today
Need a Speaker? Hurry up and hire me before I die... again.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Weekly Comments: U.S. Budget woes strain relations with China #639

Jan. 23, 2011

COLUMBUS: President Obama spent the past few days preparing his State of the Union address to Congress. You notice that the speech was scheduled to come after (not before) a visit from the leader of China. Our President wanted to sure that he didn’t give a glowing report to the nation about our economy only to have China show up the next day and foreclose.

We rolled out the red carpet for China’s President Hu. Even honored him with a State Dinner at the White House. But he did not appear to enjoy the trip, never smiled, usually just looked straight ahead like a good poker player with four aces.

All our big comedians were telling jokes on him, not to his face of course, but I think he got wind of it. His name is Hu (pronounced Who), and they brought up the old joke about "Who’s on first, What’s on second." Someone asked Hu, "How’s the president of North Korea?" Hu replied, "He’s Ill." Well, that may be funny to us, but in China poking fun at the President can land you in jail. Don’t be surprised if the next time we need to borrow a Trillion dollars, he’ll jack up the interest rate a couple of points.

Congress is getting serious about cutting the budget deficit. Republicans want to cut spending, but have not admitted which expenses they want to cut. Democrats prefer to raise taxes, but are afraid to tell which ones. Here’s a modest proposal for consideration: Return federal employment to 2008 numbers, and trim the salaries of the ones left to 2006 levels. That may seem cruel, but if a small business found itself spending a third more than it took in, that’s what the owner would do, usually starting with his own pay. As for taxes, concentrate on raising more revenue, not higher rates. If a business or manufacturer doubles production, tax revenue would naturally go up. And they might hire some of those out-of-work federal employees.

Folks in Washington and on television continue to harp on any use of battlefield language in politics. Words like target, attack, cross hairs, gunning for, aiming at, and bullet points. In Detroit Sunday afternoon, a gunman barged into a police station and shot four officers. I’m waiting to see if the New York Times blames Sarah.

The Chicago Bears and New York Jets made it close at the end of their games, but it’ll be Green Bay against Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. After winning games in frigid weather, these two old industrial towns will battle each other in comfort in Dallas.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:
"Politics pretty quiet over the week-end. Democrats are attacking and the Republicans are defending." DT #1917, Sept. 26, 1932

"One of the few stipulated duties of the President is that every once in awhile he delivers a message to Congress to tell them the "Condition of the Country." This message as I say is to Congress; the rest of the country knows the condition of the country, for they live in it. But the Senators and Congressmen being in Washington all the time have no idea what is going on in America. So the President has to tell 'em." WA #371, Feb. 2, 1930

"The budget is a mythical bean bag. Congress votes mythical beans into it, and then tries to reach in and pull real beans out." DT #2047, Feb. 24, 1933

Randall Reeder
Will Rogers Today
Need a Speaker? Hurry up and hire me before I die... again.

Weekly Comments: Deficits and dictators, but is spring far off? #640

Jan. 30, 2011

COLUMBUS: While we’re all worrying about China and the deficit, why Egypt breaks out on us. It seems that a poor young Egyptian heard about the protests in Tunisia, sent a few friends a message on Facebook saying, ‘Let’s protest against our dictator Mubarak,’ and the next day a million showed up. I know they’re poor, with extreme unemployment, but how bad can it be when everyone seems to have a computer, a cell phone, and a TV to watch Al Jazerra.

Mubarak has been in there for thirty years and frankly no one in Washington expected him to last this long without getting shot. If we had a President for even half that long we would have riots, too. Mubarak helped keep the Muslim terrorists from getting a foothold in Egypt so we kinda strung along with him. We don’t like dictators, but we don’t like Hamas and other Islamic radicals either, like the ones running Iran and Gaza.

I have a friend in Cairo and I hope he can let me know soon how it looks to him. Egypt is a great country with a civilization going back thousands of years. It has survived storms worse than this, but a fairly smooth shift to democracy would be good for them, and the rest of us, too.

President Obama gave his solution to the budget deficit in the State of the Union speech: keep spending the same amount for the next five years. He probably meant it as a joke, but nobody is laughing. His plan would raise our debt $7,500,000,000,000 by 2016 if revenue stays the same.

There are two industries doing well through the Great Recession. Maybe with some encouragement those two can increase revenue and add to the overall economy. What are they? One is agriculture. Don’t laugh; farmers are growing more crops and exporting more than ever to balance imports of other goods. The other is the oil and gas business. Producing more of our own fuel can decrease imports, reduce prices, and lessen the headache that might result if the Egyptian protests spread to Saudi Arabia.

Hey, it ain’t all doom and gloom. Groundhog Day offers hope for an early spring.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

"It's kinder as I heard a very learned American man one time say, ‘Dictatorship is the greatest form of Government there is, provided you have a good Dictator.’" WA #641, Apr. 7, 1935

"A Senator introduced a bill where the government couldn’t appropriate more money than was coming in. That is, if you didn't have any money you could not dole out any. Well the Senate like to mobbed him. They called the idea treason, sacrilegious, inhuman and taking the last vestige of power for a politician, that is, the right to appropriate your money which you don't have." DT #2024, Jan. 29, 1933

Randall Reeder
Will Rogers Today
Need a Speaker? Hurry up and hire me before I die... again.

Weekly Comments: Inside information from Egypt #641

Feb. 6, 2011

COLUMBUS: With twenty inches of snow at Claremore and Oologah, a lot of the Oklahoma home folks wish they still had a horse. Ford cars and ATVs got stuck in the drifts, but an old horse had no trouble at all. More snow coming.

That snow was from the same winter storm that froze Dallas during Super Bowl week, making Green Bay and Pittsburgh fans feel right at home. At least they played the game inside. The Packers beat the Steelers 31 to 25, and Aaron Rodgers escaped Brett Favre’s shadow.

My friend in Egypt sent me a first-rate report and analysis on the protest, including a couple of details you haven’t heard on the networks: "The present violence is the result of the damned dictatorship. The regime is so corrupt. Mubarak’s party netted all except 6 of the 498 Parliament seats in the elections last October!

"Many TV stations put the wealth of the president, his wife and his two sons at $52 Billion. The UN says 40% of all 85 million Egyptians live below the poverty line on $1 a day. The government claims only 20%, or17 million Egyptians, are in poverty. [Folks, can you imagine the uproar if one of our Presidents amassed even $1 Billion while in office?]

"Party officials use the secret police and hired thugs to make us feel unsafe and force the protestors to return to their homes to defend them. They want us to choose between safety (and no democracy) under the present regime, or party-sponsored terrorism under any other regime. It is the classical birth pains of a new order in Egypt, painful but necessary!

"The protest focuses on the Tahreer (Liberation) Square in front of the Egyptian Museum, the Nile Hilton and the massive government office building. Protestors overflow into the square between the Museum and the Ramses Hilton, near the entrance and exit ramps of the October Bridge in the TV coverage. There are also many major demonstrations in other parts of Cairo and in other cities and towns around Egypt.

"Egyptians are safe as long as the army does not take the side of the government. This might have changed, however, after the army failed to protect the unarmed protestors from being massacred in the Tahreer Square (Feb 2) by government thugs and secret police.

"Our city, about 20 miles from Cairo, has been relatively quiet during the current uprising. There were scattered serious incidents, however, in several other towns. When the national police vanished on Friday night, January 28, the country was terrorized by lawless bands that ran wild and unchecked, stealing, terrorizing and killing. It was no accident. The regime that withdrew the police most probably planned and organized the bands, consisting of undercover police, government-paid thugs, thousands of convicts who broke out (or were forced to break out), and criminals who simply took advantage of the situation.

"On January 29, our village owners association put in place an emergency protection plan using armed security groups during the curfew hours, 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. No serious incidents occurred to the village, except perhaps a couple. The armed guards were let go 4 days later." [I posted 2 more paragraphs in the current Weekly Comments on]

President Obama is limited in what he can suggest or do with Egypt. We want democracy and elections, but not if the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood is likely to win. If we had supported the Iranian protesters last year, maybe the current situation would be more predictable.

In Egypt, half of all income for the average family is spent on food. By comparison, in the U.S. we only spend 10% for food, and half of that is in restaurants. If Mubarak’s $52 Billion were returned from Swiss banks and spread around, Egyptians could be well fed for a while.

Today was Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday celebration. He seems to have picked up a few more friends since he died, which offers eternal hope for the rest of us.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:
"Hurry up planes and start leaving here. I can't walk in these snowshoes. Been run over by two sleighs today. Taxicabs are being pulled by dog teams and the weather man says there will be a blizzard tonight." DT #2361, Feb. 26, 1934
"There’ll never be a time when the old horse is not superior to any auto ever made." WA# 507, Sept. 11, 1932
"Just passed thru Chicago. It's not a boast, it's an achievement. The snow was so deep today the crooks could only hit a tall man." DT #1079, Jan. 9, 1930

Randall Reeder
Will Rogers Today
Need a Speaker? Hurry up and hire me before I die... again.