Tag Archives: John Boehner

A Few Raucous Rants Against Random Acts of Revulsion

IT techies, banks and The Tea Party make the perfect ménage-a-trois of nincompoops.

Now that the “Bickering Bickersons” – otherwise known as the Republican members of Congress – have taken their openly self-destructive squabbling that shut down the government back into the shadows of Congressional caucuses, the media has been freed to concentrate on the really important world issues.

But even in the darkness, you can almost “see” beleaguered Republican leader John Boehner as the bumbling civics teacher standing before a Boehnerclassroomful of out-of-control hooligans, attempting to teach something about Modern Government. The “students” are hurling spitballs and paper airplanes, yelling, laughing and breaking up into groups as Boehner tearfully pleads with the unruly mass, “Come on now. Settle down. This is serious.”

As what does the media now identify as serious? Is it the continuing deadly civil war in Syria? Is it the brutal military dictatorship again being imposed on the people of Egypt? Is it the rapidly expanding anarchy in Libya? No, of course not. As far as the media is concerned (at the moment) the number one threat to the future of this country is the thoroughly discombobulated rollout of the web site supporting the launch of Obamacare.

This is supposed to be a great shock? You think there has never been a flawed IT rollout before this fiasco? Of course, the Republicans and the Tea Party primates jump on this web site confusion as if it is a clear message from their God that Obamacare is a bad plan. Obamacare may be a bad plan (but remember, the majority believed that Social Security and Medicare were socialist-inspired acts of the Devil when they were introduced). Still, it is false logic to suggest that a bungled IT system proves the point. It’s a little like buying a fancy new car but when you attempt to drive it off the lot, it won’t start because someone forgot to put gas in the tank. Then claiming the car is defective and asking the dealer to take it back and give you a refund.

If you don’t know that IT rollouts always get mucked up, you don’t know IT.

The problems the Obamacare rollout encountered are not the fault of the health care system, they are the fault of IT systems. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in business working with the geniuses of IT development and systems knows that never – I mean never – in the history of the world has a rollout of a new IT system been without problems. Think about it: How many times have you received a message on your computer, tablet, or smartphone alerting you to “fixes” that needed to be downloaded for your software or Apps? Remember Apple’s rollout of its “turn-by-turn” Maps app to compete with Google Maps? The one that, among other a jillion other glitches, led drivers onto a taxiway at Fairbanks International Airport in Alaska. A rollout so bad it prompted CEO Tim Cook to offer a rare public apology to users for its poor debut performance?


It makes no difference if the change is a simple upgrade, a full-blown “conversion” or a new system; they never initially work as promised. No matter how detailed the plans had been, no matter how much “testing” was completed, or how many “beta groups” worked with the new program, when it is rolled-out for real, it NEVER works as the user anticipated.

But don’t think for one minute that this happens because IT techies are dumb. On the contrary, it is part of their carefully planned and calculated modus operandi. The IT gurus like to think they are smarter than most of us and for the most part they are right. What many fail to recognize is that this is all part of a sinister plan the IT techies have to take over and dominate the world.

It has been my long-held belief that the moguls of IT have always been more of a threat to the peace, security and freedom in the world than the Communist menace ever was. And now we know it is true: The Communists are gone, but the IT people are still here, and stronger, more dominating than ever. The Obamacare muck-up is just another example of their master plan to control all that happens and to allow nothing to happen without their approval. A sub-set of their plan is also to assure perpetual job-security for all their munchkin followers.

You think their plan is not working? Just look how the web site rollout of Obamacare has crippled it and imagine how many millions and millions of dollars (ransom) that will now have to be paid out to “fix” the system. Take note my friends: The problems we are witnessing are not about Obamacare; they are about IT controlling the world.

Just Follow the Money

Bankers have some of the same objectives as IT people. Since they control the money, it’s their belief they can control the world too, but they are not nearly as smart as IT techies and therefore can’t be quite as devious in their actions. This lack of intellectual capability (I have coconuts in my backyard that are smarter than most bankers) forces bankers to be much more clumsy and blatant in their efforts. In addition, bankers have the individuality and leadership traits of drugged sheep; where one goes, they all follow.

Just this past week we were presented with two more examples of the length and depth bankers will go to achieve personal gain by ripping off customers. First, JPMorgan Chase, without so much as a blink of the eye or an insincere mea culpa, agreed to pay a fine of $13 billion to make government charges of bilking investors go away. You remember that JPMorgan was caught selling-short the very mortgage investments they were pitching to investors. Can you imagine how much money the bank made off these investments if it was willing to pony up $13 billion (only of which $4 billion is expected to go back to investors) in order to make this problem go away?

But that isn’t the most galling aspect of this issue. What is unconscionable – what is deserving of a rant – is that the individuals and executives at the bank who were responsible for these abuses – earning big salaries and even larger bonuses – get off scot-free. Think about it: The executives who perpetrated this fraud on investors suffered no accountability or recrimination at all. How just is that? How much incentive is this lack of accountability going to have in preventing the same type of anti-consumer activity in the future?

In the same week the J P Morgan story broke, a jury determined that Bank of America was liable for fraud related to defective mortgages sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in a program described as little more than a “hustle” perpetrated on unsuspecting customers. It is not known how much Bank of America (really its shareholders) will end up paying out to settle this fraud, but one thing certain is that the executives who benefited from the scam will not be held accountable or required to pay back of a dime of their bonuses.

Tea Party

As to the final subject – the Tea Party – it is bordering on iniquitous to rant against the group. After all, since there is no rational defense for their irrational strategies and tactics, to mock the group would be analogous to bullying; picking on those who have no way to defend themselves. To be fair, it’s difficult to disagree with some of what they call their “non-negotiable core beliefs.” Who can argue with the desire for less government, reduced government debt, lower taxes and more freedom for everyone? (There are a number of other fanatical fringe core beliefs that not many would agree with, but we won’t deal with them here.) What makes the Tea Party such an irrelevant group of nincompoops is not so much the goals they seek but the strategy and tactics being employed to achieve them. The Tea Party attitude harkens back to the oath of the John Birch Society in the fight against Communism in the 1950s – “I’d rather be dead than red.”

For the Tea Party it is “all or nothing.” As proudly and prominently displayed in Tea Party propaganda, their demands are “non-negotiable.” Anyone seen as the least bit willing to compromise on any tenant of the Tea Party is a traitor. It’s an attitude that cries out: Do anything that can be done to cure the disease, even if it means killing the patient. What this effete corps of imprudent snobs who characterize themselves as the intellectuals of political purity forget is that the very document to which they pay homage – the American Constitution – was possible only because of compromise.

We really should not be surprised by the attitude and obstinate rigidity of the Tea Party. You can tell a lot about an organization by looking at its heroes. What type of organization do you think will emerge when the likes of Michele Bachman, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz are put up as the intellectual and inspirational role models for the group? It is like worshiping a holy trinity made up of two lethally ignorant dingbats and a foreign-born, ego-maniacal poseur. This brings to mind the old 1970s NBC TV program “The Gong Show” hosted by Chuck Barris. The show is best remembered for the idiots with no talent but a strong desire for the limelight who would happily make fools of themselves on national television. When you look at the antics of the Tea Party and also take into account their three heroic spiritual leaders, a better title for the group would be “The Gong Party.”

And the Moral of the Story …

So many potential rants and so little time. What is one to do? There are a lot of stupid, unjust and unfair things that go on the world today that we can’t do much about, but it does help to once in a while rant about them. It reminds me of what author Jarod Kintz once wrote, “Instead of a Lemonade Stand, I should open up a “You know what I can’t stand” Stand. I’ll sell rants in small, medium and large.”

 

 

 

Election Results Portend Lessons in Leadership

To witness the whoopin ‘n hollerin, chortling, cavorting and self-righteous back-slapping of the Republicans, combined with the gnashing of teeth and cries of apocalyptic doom coming from the Democrats, one could easily assume that the recent midterm elections resulted in a seismic shift in American culture and government. That may be true, but don’t be so sure.

Before coming to such a conclusion, we should recognize that the results of this year’s midterm elections represent the norm, not the exception. Since Abraham Lincoln was president, the party holding the White House during a first term has lost House seats in every midterm election, except for 1902, 1934 and 2002. This means that Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and George W. Bush were the only presidents not to suffer Congressional losses in their first midterm election (Granlund cartoon used with permission).

Many are suggesting that the losses suffered by the Democratic Party combined with Obama’s low approval ratings signal that Barack will be a one-term president. That may be, but before that conclusion is drawn, one must remember that both Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Bill Clinton had lower public approval ratings than Obama, at the same time in their presidency. And, yet both went on to win rousing re-election and are considered saviors of their parties.

The “political experts” tell us that Republican control of the House, along with the rise of John Boehner as Speaker of the House, spells the end of the Obama program and presidency. But, before that conclusion can be accepted, one must remember that after the first midterm election of Bill Clinton’s presidency, he was faced with a new Republican majority in the House and the rise of the dogmatic and mercurial Speaker Newt Gingrich. (Compared to Gingrich, Boehner seems more like Mother Teresa.) Clinton had his greatest success as a president in that contentious environment. It also should be noted that at no time did the Republicans have control of Congress during Ronald Reagan’s two terms as president; and he is considered one of the most successful and effective presidents of our time.

So, one could argue that the best thing to happen to Obama since his election is the loss of Democratic control of the House. How can that be true?

Well, for one thing it is always easier to criticize than to create. If you are not in control, you cannot be held accountable. If you don’t have the job, you don’t have to do the work. It may be that the biggest challenge faced by Obama in his two years in office has not been the economy or terrorism, but the large Democratic majorities in Congress.

Complete control and power can (and did) lead to arrogance, aloofness and complacency. In many ways – whether intended or not – President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid fell prey to the virus of power. It really became an attitude of “their way or the highway.” In a democracy, the greatest risk to power is power itself.

During the past two years the Republicans have been in the enviable position of being able to criticize without being accountable. They could bemoan the loss of jobs without having to offer a specific plan as to how to create them. The Republicans have been able to attack the bailouts of the auto, banking, insurance and mortgage industries without the requirement to offer an alternative or explain what would have happened had these industries collapsed. The Republicans have been in the enviable position of being able to call for tax cuts for the wealthy, while at the same time lament the rise in national debt. The Republicans were free to harangue for cuts in government spending, without the requirement to be specific. The Republicans had the luxury of resisting any and all reform of health care, without the obligation to offer an alternative to the status quo – which clearly was a broken system.

Now, all that has changed.

The media has proclaimed that the “honeymoon” for Obama is over. That may be true, but with full control of the House and the ability to block legislation in the Senate now in the hands of Republicans, clearly their “vacation” is over. The Republicans are now going to have to do more than criticize – they are going to have to actually lead. And they may well find that real leadership is not nearly as easy as they have led us to believe.

For example, many of the new members of the House and Senate – mostly the Tea Party backed candidates – were elected based on the promise to cut spending and reduce the national debt. A laudable objective, but easier promised than delivered.

Early in 2011, the government will reach its legal limit for national debt. Unless Congress votes to lift the ceiling, the government will be bankrupt and have to shut down. The ramifications of the U.S. Government defaulting or being unable to pay its debts – not only here in this country but worldwide – would be cataclysmic. And yet, many of the new Republican members of the house and Senate have promised the voters that they will not vote to raise the debt. The only way to avoid this conflict is to cut spending.

As Obama and the Democratic Congress have had to be specific regarding their plans during the past two years, so too will the Republicans have to be specific as to their plans. It is great that the Republicans want to cut spending and reduce the deficit – we can all agree to that goal. But, what will they do with their power?

Of the total Federal Budget, less than 40 percent ($1.4 trillion in 2010 budget.) is made up of discretionary spending. Of that amount, $844 billion goes to defense and Homeland Security, $84 billion for health care, education accounts for $47 billion, transportation $76 billion and energy $37 billion. Take a look at this budgetary pie chart and you’ll soon see how entitlements leave legislators scant wiggle room to pare spending.

Will the Republicans be true to their promises and be willing to take the heat (and take if off Obama) by proposing deep cuts in defense and a significant reduction in social security or health care benefits to seniors? Will the Republicans be willing to tell the parents of our country that their kids will be better off if we lop off a few billions of investment in education? Or, that it is better for us to remain dependent on foreign oil rather than invest in energy development?

The point here is not to indict or criticize the Republicans – the Democrats could be chastised as much if not more – but rather to highlight the challenges of leadership. Leadership calls for making decisions and being accountable.

Now in a position of leadership, the Republicans are in a conundrum. They either go back on their promise not to increase the national debt and vote against increasing the ceiling or they drastically cut spending in areas that will make them hugely unpopular with voters. One thing they know is that there will be another election in two short years.

This is not the first time this issue has come up. In 1995, Newt Gingrich and the Republican-controlled Congress refused to pass a budget that required an increase in the national debt ceiling. While the Republicans blamed Clinton for not being willing to accept cuts in the budget, the public blamed the Republicans for shutting down the government and Clinton’s popularity rose to its highest levels.

And the Moral of the Story …

The loss of Congressional control may be more a blessing than a curse for President Obama – and the country. Rather than being on the outside and free to criticize without accountability, the Republicans now have to share both the responsibility and accountability for leadership.

Power does not define leadership. Leadership is best tested and exposed when power is less than complete and challenged. True leaders emerge in times of conflict not compliance. As Reagan and Clinton before, Obama will have the opportunity to exhibit his leadership–or lack of it. In either event, it will now be easier for him to contrast his philosophy and leadership with what the Republicans have to offer, because now they will have to offer something other than promises.

The irony is that this loss of power by Obama could actually lead to increased power. If he exhibits true leadership he will join the leadership club of Reagan and Clinton. If he fails and is less the leader than we thought we elected, then he would rightly be relegated to the club of Carter. In any event, we should remember that as one politician (Republican, Democrat, it makes no difference) said, “Politics isn’t about big money or power games; it’s about the improvement of people’s lives.”