Thursday, June 28, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Gosh, I wonder if I can find anything interesting on which to ruminate?

You bet your outrageous tax increases and onerous government intrusion I can.

The Supreme Court today upheld the Obamacare individual mandate, perpetuating the march toward socialized medicine in this country. The Supremes said that the individual mandate is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution. Those were arguments 1 and 1A by the Obama Administration. The Court did rule, however, that the mandate was constitutional as a tax. The power to levy taxes rests solely with Congress, and instituting a tax was within their purview, so as a tax, the mandate survived.

Acording to Chief Justice John Roberts, Obamacare's requirement that individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining insurance could be characterized as a tax and Congress has the ability to implement a tax. Therefore, the Court chose not to rule on the wisdom or fairness of Obamacare, but on the structure of the penalty for not obtaining insurance.

Here are some thoughts about today's events:

Early in his presidential term, Obama promised not to raise taxes in the midst of a deepening recession and especially on the middle class. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, Obamacare is strewn with numerous tax increases, some of which were not discovered until after the Democrats in Congress has rammed the bill through the legislative process. In all, there are 21 new taxes in Obamacare that will gouge and estimated $675 billion annually out of the economy.

And that "no taxes on the middle class" pledge? 12 of the 21 new taxes land squarely on the the middle and lower income brackets.

The ruling also continues the mandate that insurance companies accept an person without regard to pre-existing condition or risk factors, and cannot price the healthcare coverage for those individuals accordingly. The environment for health insurance companies has gotten to be very precarious now. It has become more difficult for insurance companies to manage their risk and pricing models under Obamacare, and the ability to be profitable and continue in business is going to be more difficult. It is easy to vilify insurance companies in the healthcare debate, but the fact remains that private insurance companies faced a daunting task of providing coverage and trying to remain proftitable. Government intervention into the market place had made that difficult; Obamacare will make that almost impossible.

And perhaps that is the end game of this administration and its liberal acolytes. Foul up healthcare in this country to the point that private insurers bail out and all of us are forced into a single payer system. On the surface, that may sound good and efficient.

It is not.

I have friends who are living in countries with a single payer system. The inefficiencies are breath taking. The wait for services is staggering. And ultimately, health care is rationed.

All in the name of the government having control.

The Supremes did strike down the expansion of the Medicaid provisions. States still have the right to opt out of insurance exchanges- which would be controlled by the federal government- and not face penalties for doing so.

So think about this: if your employer deems it too costly to continue to provide insurance as a benefit and leaves you uninsured, what will you do? Purchase insurance on your own? The costs are going to be astronomical.

No, you will be forced under a government program. Just decide of your own volition not to purchase insurance, however, and face the wrath of the IRS.

Oh yeah- the IRS.

An extra $500 million has already been allocated to this agency for the sole purpose of adding new enforcement agents to insure compliance with the government's socialized medicine program.

Now, you are an intelligent person- you are reading this blog, after all. So here is a question: how aggressive do you think the IRS will be in enforcing this mandate? Think they might snoop around a bit in your personal life to make sure you are complying? Think more Americans are going to subjected to audits?

We all know that the IRS can be intrusive. Now there are new grounds on which the IRS can rummage around in our finances.

The debate still rages- some argue rightly- the over reach of this law into the areas of contraceptives that are mandated into religious entities such as hospitals operated by the Catholic church. Expect that issue to continue to wend its way through the court system.

Much more will be written about this, and analysis will come from people far smarter, but there are some important takeaways that we should all have in mind.

This program was sold as a cost effective way to remedy the problem of 50 million uninsured Americans. That was a lie. This program was a blatant power grab by the federal government. For years, Democrats have lasciviously looked upon health care as vital cog in their desire to control the economy. For Democrats, it is not about solutions; it is about power and control, and exerting so much influence on 1/7 of our national economy gives them unprecedented control.

Health care reform was premised to be a cost effective way to stabilize healthcare services without a negative effect on the economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The true extent of the economic damage was hidden in the bill and only came to light after it was rammed through Congress by the Democrats and signed into law by Obama. Recall the infamous comment from the venal Nancy Pelosi, who said, "We have to pass the bill to find out what is in it." What is in it is a myriad of taxes and penalty traps for those that do not comply with this debacle.

Look at our Social Security sytem and the finances of this country in general and ask yourself if you are confident that the federal government can run the health care system effectively. Government cannot for the simple fact that government has never had to comply with the requirements of the marketplace. Government has never had to run efficiently or make a profit. Government does not care about waste, fraud, or abuse.


Because you and I as taxpayers have to make good on any shortfall, however it may have occurred.

And therein lies the problem.

You and I as taxpayers are seen as an unlimited supply of dollars to be spent and misspent by those that think they know more about what is good for us as individuals than we do.

Now this is important:

I believe that we as a just and moral society have an obligation to assist those less fortunate. I believe that we need to create an environment where we as a society are focused on those that are in need and are crafting effective solutions to meet those needs.

Obamacare epitomizes the competing visions of achieving those goals. Either we as a society engage as individuals to meet the needs of those that are in dire circumstances, or we can abdicate that responsibility to the federal government and let them confiscate our resources to meet those needs.

We have a long track record of how well the government has done in that arena.

And it is horrific.

The decision by the Supreme Court today has defined our choices in very stark terms.

We can take responsibility for the welfare of our fellow man- and ourselves- and in so doing retain our freedom to make signifcant life choices. We can retain our economic freedom in so doing.

Or, we can give up that responsibility and cede it to the government. Doing that results in a loss of personal freedom and economic resources.

The choice is ours in November.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Predators Draft Review

The Nashville Predators selected 9 players between the second and sixth round of the 2012 entry draft. The class is solid if unspectacular, but the Predators did fill some needs. The Predators selected 6 forwards, 2 defensemen, and a goalie.

Perhaps the player selected with the best upside is the first pick by the Predators, 37th overall, Pontas Aberg, a 5'11", 198 lb. left wing that is a very good skater and puck handler and has a good shot. Many pundits believed that Aberg could have been a first round pick, and this selection by the Predators has the potential to eventually emerge as an impact offensive player.

Here is the evaluation of Aberg from Hockey Prospectus:

Pontus Aberg has had a nice year over in Sweden from a counting numbers perspective for an 18-year-old, logging over 10 minutes per game, which is good for a player his age in that league. He got off to a hot start, but injuries impeded him somewhat in the second half of the year. Aberg is a plus skater with very good acceleration off his first few steps and a pretty dangerous top speed. He also has a plus shot which will drive a decent portion of his offensive value and allow him to maintain an above league average shooting percentage over his career. His shot is pretty accurate with good technique on his release, his one-timers fly off his stick with remarkable speed, and Aberg has the makings of a dangerous power play triggerman. Aberg has great hands and can show some flash in that area in terms of being able to make great individual plays in creating space for himself. His true strength isn't about being a dangerous puck controller, though, as it is playing a speed game and getting the puck to the net. At times, he can move the puck around at an average level, but he doesn't overly impress with his vision. Aberg also needs to work on his defense, although with his on-ice work ethic, there is reason to believe the finer points of his defensive game will come along. Aberg's physical game also likely tops out as below-average because of his size but he does work hard and has a gritty edge to his game. 

With the 50th pick and their second in the second round, the Predators took 6'1" RW Colton Sissons from the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. Sissons appears to be a project that could be a third or fourth line forward. Again, from Hockey Prospectus:

Sissons has had a fine second WHL season, and while he's a decent prospect, it's hard to see him having legit offensive upside at the highest level and he seems more like a bottom-six player. He can certainly skate and shoot, though, which will generate some offense. Sissons moves at a fine level showing solid speed; he looks technically sound and projects to certainly skate with pros. However, despite being a good skater who can distribute the puck fine, it's hard to see him creating a whole lot of offense by himself. He isn't the most gifted puckhandler or creative player. Sissons has fine hockey sense, though, and makes a lot of decent plays but doesn't overly impress when it comes to scoring chance creation. He is a pretty gritty player who does a lot of good work along the boards, plays a nice power game and has a pretty bulky frame that should translate to the pro game well in two years. While I haven't really seen him shoot that much, WHL scouts I've talked are impressed with his finishing ability. 

In the third round, with the 66th selection, the Predators selected 6' 179 lb LW Jimmy Vesey from Harvard University. The evaluation of Vesey from Hockey Prospectus:

The son of former minor pro player Jim Vesey has scouts saying he has the same quality puck skills and hockey sense as his father, but not the replacement level skating that kept him out of the NHL. Vesey has a good possession skill base between his hands and playmaking skills. He has very desirable hockey instincts in terms of how he anticipates the play well off the puck and the way he sees lanes and plays develop when he has the puck. I'd say his puck skills are above average and may even flash a tick higher although he does showboat a bit with the puck here and there. Vesey's skating has improved somewhat from last year when he went undrafted, although I'd say it is still slightly below average. He's not a bad skater though, and he has a mechanically sound stride with decent power off his extensions, he just doesn't generate a good top speed. There are some concerns from the odd scout about his physical game and work ethic, but the majority of those I've heard from do not seem concerned with that aspect of his game. Vesey is a potential sleeper in the draft with legitimate scoring upside.

Also in the third round, with the 89th pick, the Predators selected 5'8" center Brendan Leipsic from the Portland Winterhawks. Leipsic has good speed and skill, which combined with a good work ethic and grit make up for his lack of size. He has the potential to be a play making forward in the mold of Cliff Ronning.

The fourth round saw the Predators select C Zach Stepan with the 112th pick. The 6' 172 lb. center is the cousin of the New York Rangers Derek Stepan and recently finished at Shattuck St. Mary's. Stepan is a very good skater and strong on the puck. His vision and ability to create opportunities with the puck are strengths to his game.

With the 118th pick in the fourth round, the Predators drafted defenseman Mikko Vainonen, a 6'3" 207 lb.from the Finnish Elite League. Hockey Prospectus has this to say about Vainonen:

Vainonen is not a really gifted from an offensive standpoint as he won't be the kind of player who makes a seeing eye pass coming out of his own end, or leads a rush up the ice, but he's a solid, mobile defender who will deliver on some lower-tier value. Vainonen has good size at about 6'3" and over 200 lbs, he uses his frame well and as displayed by his weight, he has a decent amount of muscle and strength for a player his age. Vainonen is also pretty mobile for a big defender, showing average to solid-average speed and four-way movements that is quite good for a player his size. He closes his gaps well, is smart with his positioning and stickwork, and overall has the build of an effective defensive defenseman. That being said, Vainonen has a little bit of touch with the puck, but it's more being able to make basic maneuvers or the odd move as opposed to above-average skill. I also don't see Vainonen as anything beyond a basic puck mover. 

Round 6 saw the Predators draft three players: 6'4" defenseman Simon Fernholm (164th pick) from Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League; 6'2" RW Max Gortz (172nd pick) from Farjestad in Sweden; and 6'3" 185 lb. goaltender Marek Mazenac from HC Plzen in the Czech League.

Hockey Prospectus again provides this evaluation on Fernholm and Gortz. On Fernholm:

A big stay-at-home defenseman. Fernholm has great reach and plays a very sound game in his own zone. Not very spectacular. Tries to make simple plays. Is mobile for his size, but could still work some on his skating. Should play more physical with the size advantage he has. (EP 2012) 

And Gortz:

A big and strong forward. Has pretty good feet and challenges his opponents. Has a good release and solid technical skills. (EP 2011)

The Predators have added some depth to the organization and some young players that can (hopefully) develop into solid contributors to the team. All of the draftees are expected to attend the Predators prospect development camp, and it will be interesting to see these young men on the ice.

The strength of the Predators organization has been the ability to develop young players in their system. With this draft, the Predators have added players that have the potential to be solid contributors in the future.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Want to know why it is so hard to create jobs in America right now? Consider this: you're going to start a business or expand the one you have. To do so, you are going to take on a partner. The partner, however will not give you any capital- you have to come up with that on your own. The partner will not supply any labor. In fact, the partner will not be involved in any of the daily operations of your business. What the partner will do is demand that you will follow a multitude of rules about what products and services that you can offer; how much and how often you pay your employees; and where and when you operate your business. In return for the partner's involvement, he will take roughly half of the profits of the business. And an additional 12% of whatever you pay your employees to cover the partner's "expenses". In spite of all of this, if your business succeeds and grows and you decide to sell it, you will pay the partner 20% of the capitalized value of the business. And it really doesn't matter if you think this is reasonable, because this partner is going to be a part of your business whether or not you like it. By now, you know that partner is the federal government, and the heavy handed way in which it interacts with the business owners in this country is an impediment to job creation. Until government changes its focus and begins to cooperate with businesses and entrepreneurs rather than confront them every step of the way, the ability to create jobs in abundance and grow our economy will be stymied. (Stick tap to Porter Stansberry for the information for this article).

Wisdom comes with old age. So does memory loss. Also, so does memory loss.

Have you heard of the Liverpool Care Pathway? This is a protocol used by hospitals in Great Britain as mandated by the National Health Service (NHS), the governing body of that country's socialized medical system. The Liverpool Care Pathway is used when doctors believe that the recovery of a patient is impossible and that death is the only outcome. This protocol can include the withdrawal of treatment, including food and water, and usually will bring about death in 33 hours. Great Britain has a socialized healthcare system, and as such, hospital beds are at a premium due to the inevitable shortages that occur under this type of system. The Liverpool Care Pathway was created to provide regimen of care for patients that might not recover to functional health, but it has been used in the extreme to hasten the death of many patients to free up beds, according to Professor Patrick Pullicino, Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Kent. Great Britain averages around 450,000 deaths each year by patients that are hospitalized, and approximately 130,000 of those deaths are by patients are on the Liverpool Care Pathway, or 29%. Professor Pullicino has claimed that the Liverpool Care Pathway has been turned into the equivalent of euthanasia for many patients to free up scarce resources. Inevitably, socialized medicine results in a scarcity of resources. Great Britain has shown how one country responds to such scarcities. Tell me again why we think implementing socialized medicine in this country is a good thing?

Math problems are the only time two trains can be speeding toward each other and no one is concerned.

According to the Congressional Budget Office's Long Term Budget Outlook, the United States is fast going down the same path that Europe is presently traversing. The CBO says that if we continue our current fiscal policies, mandatory federal spending on health care entitlements (Medicare and Medicaid) will double from 5.4% of GDP to 10.8% by 2037. Interest payments on our debt would rise from 1.4% of GDP to 9.5% by 2037. Publicly held debt will be 93% of GDP by 2022 and 200% by 2037. In a similar situation, some countries in Europe have responded to their fiscal crisis by raising taxes. Greece raised its value added tax 77%; Spain raised its investment tax by 44%; and Portugal is in the process of raising taxes on the rich and value added taxes on everybody. And the economies in those countries have cratered. Oh yeah- raising those taxes has been the only action these governments have implemented. There has been no reform of government programs (I know Greece has raised the retirement age and changed some of their social security/pension equivalent programs, but only for new participants. There has been no reform for existing participants). Here is what each of should realize: raising taxes alone will not solve our fiscal crisis. True reform has to encompass changing our entitlement programs and government spending. Fail to do so and the United States will walk the same path many countries in Europe are now painfully treading.

I have to admit, dyslexia turns me no.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pete Weber named Tennessee Sportscaster of the Year

While several of the Nashville Predators are in the running to bring home some hardware and accolades from the annual NHL awards show in Las Vegas, one person affiliated with the Predators has already been honored. Last week, Pete Weber, play by play announcer for the Predators, was named the Tennessee Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

This honor was well deserved by Pete for his work with the Predators in the broadcast booth as well as in the Nashville community. The Predator faithful are fortunate to have a broadcaster of Pete's talents.

However, Pete's roots in hockey run much deeper than the Predators. In fact, Pete took a special interest in the Stanley Cup finals and the fortunes of the Kings because Pete was once the man behind the microphone for the Kings.

Tom Hoffarth, a writer with the Los Angeles Daily News, has a great article about several of the Kings former play by play announcers, including Pete, and their reactions after the Kings clinched the Cup. You can read that article here. Included in the article is a great picture of a young Pete Weber from 1980.

We as Predator fans are fortunate to have a knowledgeable, personable, and talented play by play announcer in Pete. The honor bestowed by the NSSA is confirmation of that fact.

Congratulations, Pete

Monday, June 18, 2012

All In or All Over?

At the trade deadline, Nashville Predators GM David Poile pronounced to the hockey world that the Predators were "all in" in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup. Trading draft picks for trade deadline acquisitions and the successful completion of tortuous negotiations to bring Alexander Radulov back to the NHL were taken as proof that Poile had pushed his chips to the center of the table.

Perhaps the biggest move at that time was the move he did not make, and that was refusing to entertain offers for soon to be free agent defenseman Ryan Suter. Instead, Poile said that Suter was integral to a run for the Cup (he was), and every effort would be made to sign Suter to a long term contract. The ownership group of the Predators had committed the financial wherewithal to do just that and had given the go ahead to that effort.

Predators fans cheered the ballsy moves by Poile and the way he had positioned the team for a run at the Cup. Certainly there was risk in not maximizing a return to the team by trading Suter, but if the Predators and Poile were truly "all in" then keeping Suter on the roster was essential.

Fast forward to mid-June, and the Predators are without a Stanley Cup and a contract in hand from Suter, who has indicated that he is going to look at the offers that come his way in free agency on July 1.

Now, that push to go all in without getting Suter signed or trading him for other assets seems not ballsy, but foolish.

But was it?

There is no doubt that Suter is one of the best defensemen in the NHL, so trading Suter at the deadline would have certainly weakened the roster moving into the playoffs. Of course there would be player(s) coming back had Suter been traded, but trading Suter would have a far more lasting impact than just that transaction and the effect on the team in the playoffs, though.

Shea Weber- remember him?- is a restricted free agent this year, and one can only imagine how those negotiations are going to progress between his camp and Poile and the Predators. But you can count on this as sure as Shea's slap shot topping 100 mph, and that is that both he and his agent are watching closely to see not only how the negotiations with Suter progress, but if the Predators are committed to doing what it takes to bring a Cup to Nashville.

So what message does Weber take away from the Predators if his long time defense partner and vital cog to the team is traded away at the deadline? Or between the end of the season and the free agent deadline? I can't speak for Shea, but I would believe that it would make all talk of of commitment to capture a Cup sound hollow.

Suter said during the season that one criteria for any team of which he was going to be a member is that team had to be committed to winning a Cup. Part of that commitment has been demonstrated by several years of stable local ownership and the indication from the ownership that they were committed to spending the money necessary to get the players that could get a Cup to Nashville. The moves at the trade deadline to add players that potentially get the Predators the Cup was further affirmation of this commitment.

You had better believe that is one of the criteria that Weber will be using to make his decision as well.

And Poile knows that.

Arguably, signing Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, and Ryan Suter represents an inflection point for this franchise. Young talent will be developed and more importantly, retained is the message that is emphatically delivered. Rinne was the first step, and a significant one. Now the task for Poile is to get the two premier defensemen signed.

And if he is successful in that process, the  Predators become a "destination" franchise, one that will be attractive to other talented free agents. Nashville as a franchise is already highly marketable to prospective free agents as a place to live; signing Suter, and then Weber and legitimately competing for a Cup every season makes Nashville an even more attractive place for what happens on the ice. The ability to position Nashville as destination for talented free agents that want to win a Cup would have been severely damaged if Suter had been traded.

So is it all over for the Predators and Suter?

I don't think so.

There are a lot of attractive attributes to the Predators that appeal to Suter, not the least of which is that the team- with Suter on the roster- is a perennial playoff participant and is close to challenging for the Cup. Suter likes Nashville and is comfortable here off the ice. It is my belief that money, quality of life, and the potential to win a Cup are available in Nashville, and potential suitors will have to show that they are able to surpass his present situation to entice him to move.

I am not an apologist for Poile and his actions. I will be as upset as every Predator fan if Suter leaves the team, especially with no compensation coming back the other way. But the negotiations with Suter are one part of a larger dynamic. And if Poile had played it any other way, the opportunity to sign Suter this season would have been obviously lost, but it is my belief that so would the opportunity to sign Weber to a long term contract.

Certainly Poile can still trade Suter's rights to another team. At this time, there is no indication that he will. His stated belief is that the Predators still have a very good chance of signing Suter.

So while it may have been "all in" in their quest for the Cup, Poile and the Predators are playing another high stakes game in going to the deadline with Ryan Suter.

And it is hoped that David Poile has played his cards well.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Predators Trade Lindback to Tampa Bay

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have traded goaltender Anders Lindback to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here is the press release from the Predators:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has acquired two second-round draft selections (37th and 50th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, a 2013 third-round selection and goaltender Sebastien Caron in exchange for goaltender Anders Lindback, forward Kyle Wilson and a 2012 seventh-round selection (202nd overall).

The Predators now have nine selections in next week’s Entry Draft at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. In addition to Tampa’s two picks, and three picks of its own, Nashville previously acquired Toronto’s third-round pick (66th overall), Phoenix’s fourth-round pick (118th overall), Dallas’ sixth-round pick (164th overall) and the New York Rangers’ sixth-round pick (179th overall).

 Lindback was a seventh-round choice of the Predators (207th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Wilson, Minnesota’s ninth-round selection (272nd overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, was signed as a free agent prior to the 2011-12 season. 

This trade gets the Predators back into the upper rounds of the upcoming draft, as previous first and second round picks had been traded away in the acquisition of players during the previous season. 

This is also a good opportunity for Lindback as he will have an opportunity to become a starting netminder with the Lightning. Lindback had backed up starting Pekka Rinne and was 5-8 with a .912 save percentage and a 2.42 GAA in the regular season. Lindback did not make an appearance in the playoffs.


My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

By now, we are all aware of the "private sector is doing fine" gaffe from President Obama. While this comment shows that the President and those that surround him are painfully out of touch with what is happening in this country, it is reflective of their world and the world of government. For so many at all levels of government, the perception is that government creates jobs and grows the economy. Nothing could be further from the truth, as government does not add anything to our nation's GDP or productivity. For most of us in the private sector, government is extra weight that must be lugged around in order to be productive. Yet the mantra out of Washington is that more spending on government will boost jobs and productivity. Ya think? Consider this: since the recession began in in 2008, the private sector has lost 4.6 million jobs while federal government payrolls have fallen by 240,000 jobs. Looking at our economy today, are we financially healthier and better off now than we were in 2008? The obvious answer is no, yet those in Washington insist on piling on more regulation and government intervention- and more government workers- while the private sector struggles to add jobs. Here is the fact that should predominate our thinking on this matter: it is the private sector that creates jobs, not government. It is the private sector that takes the risk and makes the investments necessary to add new employees, not government. And if our economy is ever going to grow and add new jobs, it will come from the private sector and not government.

Thinking about getting married? Try assembling some IKEA furniture first to see if you're really compatible.

As we draw closer to the November election date, the rhetoric is going to heat up, and I encourage any of you to get your BS meters out to test what comes out of a candidates mouth. The latest comment that caused the BS meter to go off the scale was President Obama's claim that "since I have been President, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years." The mendacity of that statement is breathtaking, but since the main stream media, an unabashed arm of the Democratic Party, will not fact check the claim, I am here to do so. To see how breathtaking that lie is, we need some historical context. Using the federal government's National Income and Products accounts as a basis for measurement ( a more accurate measure of appropriations and outlays in comparison to GDP, or national income), we find that when Bill Clinton became President in 1992, government spending was 23.5% of GDP, and working with a Republican Congress, was 19.5% of GDP when he left office 8 years later. Now the numbers get interesting. During the first 6 years that George Bush was in the White House, federal spending rose to 21.4% of GDP. However, during the last two years of his second term, federal spending rose  27.3% of GDP, the largest peacetime expansion of federal spending in history. Since President Obama has come into office, we have had $1.8 trillion in two different stimulus programs (see the item above to see how effective these were in creating jobs): over $3 trillion in new debt (and more, much more coming); and the $1.7 trillion socialized medicine program known as Obamacare. Oh yes, don't forget the impending $607 billion dollar tax increase awaiting us on January 1 if Congress and the President do nothing to extend the lower tax rates. Currently, federal spending as a percentage of GDP sits at 26%, with the drop attributable to repayment of TARP funds from banks which was counted against spending. Oh, yeah, that 26% of GDP does NOT include the onerous burden of Obamacare, which begins to kick in next year. The most important take away from all this is simply that government spending cannot continue unchecked. Both parties in Washington are guilty of spending wildly, and we as citizens are going to have to get involved in the numbers and begin to hold our leaders accountable for their profligacy.

I tried one of those "make money at home" endeavors, but counterfeiting is harder than it looks.

Watching what is going on in the Eurozone with the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) and their economic struggles is both fascinating and a portent of what could happen in our country and other economies if not careful. How? One of the measures to restore economic health in these troubled countries has been to raise taxes. Now there is no doubt that there has to be tax revenue flowing into any government for it to function, to provide for a national defense, the general welfare, and those (supposedly) limited government functions. The dilemma for most politicians and bureaucrats is the age old question of how much tax should be collected. For most politicians, taxes are never high enough. Well, according to a recent European Commission report, up to 40% of the debt reduction in these troubled countries has come from tax hikes and not spending cuts. And we are seeing how that is playing out with social upheaval and the potential of the break up of the European Union. Here is the bottom line: raising taxes in the middle of an economic downturn, as Obama and the Democrats are proposing, is an economic disaster. Raising taxes without curtailing the bloated level of government spending is untenable. We as nation are on the same same path as the PIIGS, as "old" Europe, and we will reap the same destructive economic and societal results if we do not change course. For lasting economic reform, we must demand that the government reign in its spending and not just raise taxes. This is what the November election is about.

Some days, my wife tells me she feels like the weight of the world is on her shoulders. Other days, she doesn't carry a purse.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

As I mentioned last week, it appeared that Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin would survive the recall election launched by the public sector unions and liberal groups both in and out of the state. Not only did Walker survive the recall, but he trounced his Democratic challenger. One of the reforms that Governor Walker instituted a year ago was the elimination of the mandatory union dues check off, meaning that any person that was hired as a government employee did not have union dues automatically deducted from their paycheck, giving them no choice as to whether or not to join and fund the public sector union. Public sector unions adamantly opposed this reform in Wisconsin, as the do across the country. Why? After the reform was passed and public sector employees were given a choice, over 33% dropped their union dues. This approximates to 45,000 government employees in Wisconsin.. Interestingly enough, in the recall election, exit polls indicated that 30% of the remaining union members supported Governor Walker. The point of this is not to bash unions- my dad was a union man all his working life- but to point out that both our states and our nation are in a fiscal mess, and working out of this mess is going to require innovative and sometimes painful solutions in which everyone shares some of the burden.Oh yeah, how has Wisconsin fared since Governor Walker instituted these reforms a year ago? A $3.6 billion dollar state deficit has been eliminated, unemployment has fallen from 7.7% to 6.8%, and last year, the state created 23,000 new jobs. So tell me again why the unions wanted to recall Governor Walker?

My first job out of college was at an origami plant, but it folded.

You may recall that during his campaign for President, then candidate Barack Obama was discussing energy policy and made the casual remark that he would "bankrupt" the coal companies since they did not fit in with his world view of clean energy. Not much has been made of that comment, as focus has been on other areas of our economy that Obama has decimated, but we all should pay attention to this. Why? As recently as last year, coal fired plants accounted for 44.6% of all electric power generation in the U.S. This year, it will be 36%. Now you may say "good riddance", we didn't need those dirty coal fired plants anyway. Never mind that most had been retrofitted with modern pollution controls and the older plants that were not upgraded were de-commissioned. But here is what is going to happen. According to PJM Interconnection, the company that operates the electric grid in 13 states from the mid-Atlantic to the mid-west, the price for 2015 capacity (most utility companies/grids buy capacity several years in advance) is $136 per megawatt. The per megawatt cost of electricity in 2012? $16 per megawatt. And this is happening with utilities all over the country. Utilities are already seeing higher contract prices for electricity because of the phase out of coal fired plants and their replacement by natural gas fired plants, which are more expensive to construct and operate. And you know who is going to pay for that increased cost? That's right- you and me. Prepare to reach a little deeper into your wallet to maintain your standard of living.

A word of advice: NEVER ask anyone to cut you some slack just before you bungee jump.

As our population ages and more baby boomers move toward retirement age, our entitlement system continues to slip further into bankruptcy. Case in point: Medicare spending is growing faster than any other part of the federal budget and is a major contributor to our long term deficits. By 2050, Medicare spending will be greater than Social Security, Medicaid, Obamacare, and other non-interest expenditures in the federal budget. Signed into law by President Johnson in 1965, Medicare now provides health insurance coverage to 48 million Americans. In 1965, there were 4.6 workers for every Medicare recipient; today there are 3.3. By 2030, there will be 2.3 workers contributing to the program. Couple that fact with increasing life spans and more people entering the program every year, and you can see the problem with adequately funding the program. Currently, 88% of the cost of Medicare coverage is paid through payroll taxes, which is set at a rate of 2.9%. If taxes alone are used to cover the current deficit (not projected future deficits), that rate will have to rise to 5.33% according to a study from the Heritage Foundation. The condition of Medicare is going to get worse quickly, as Obamacare immediately cuts $421 million from the program to pay for other provisions of the socialized health care plan. One can see that real reforms are going to have to implemented- and quickly- to keep this program on which many seniors rely for health care coverage from becoming totally insolvent. We cannot afford any longer to ignore this looming financial disaster.

If people really learned from their mistakes, we would be surrounded by geniuses.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Predators Part Ways With Radulov

The relationship between The Nashville Predators and their prodigal prodigy Alexander Radulov ended not with a Cup but with a crash as the Predators GM David Poile stated today that the team would be parting ways with Radulov.

According to Poile, the team would attempt to trade his rights to another NHL team if he wanted to remain in the League or would allow him to return to the KHL if he so desired.

It was hoped that Radulov would provide the scoring punch that would propel the Predators deep into the playoffs and hopefully a run to the Cup. As it was, the Predators were defeated in the second round, and Radulov was not a factor against the Coyotes.

By returning for the final 9 games of the regular season and the 8 games in the playoffs, Radulov was able to burn the last year of his entry level contract that was still pending since he had skipped out and grabbed a lucrative contract in the KHL. This leaves Radulov as a RFA in the eyes of the NHL, and would allow the Predators to trade his rights if there is a suitor. If Radulov returns to the KHL, the Predators will receive no compensation, and if he chooses to return to the NHL after age 27, he will be an unrestricted free agent and free to negotiate with any team.

The salient question that emerges from this situation: did Radulov's escapades in Phoenix bring about his demise with the Predators?

There is no doubt that the late night carousing and curfew violation by Radulov hurt. It hurt the Predators in their series with the Coyotes and it hurt the reputation of Radulov. The playoffs are a war, and the team's that are successful draw closer together and play with greater cohesion and trust than even in the regular season.


That trust is critical, both on and off the ice. Players have to be responsible in all zones. Players have to know that their teammates are where they are supposed to be on the ice and that they are laying it on the line in every shift. The physical play and the effort is ramped up to a new level. A player has to trust that their teammate is ready to bring it every game.

Players also have to trust that their teammates are doing the right thing off the ice.

To find out that one of your teammates has selfishly decided to party the night before a critical game is devastating to that trust.

The incident in Phoenix belies a more fundamental issue, and that is a player that puts their own desires ahead of the the good of the team. The grind and the challenges of a hockey season are tough enough and for a team to be successful, there has to be cohesion in the locker room. Even more so in the playoffs. A player that puts their needs, puts themselves above the team destroys that unity and cohesion. The disruption is tangible and corrosive.

In my view, Radulov was already skating on thin ice by his previous action of failing to honor the last year of his contract. Trust was already an issue with Radulov. His abandonment of the Predators for the KHL clearly spoke to his self centeredness. Yes, I know that there were not agreements in place between the NHL and the KHL at the time, and yes, there was significantly more money involved in his KHL contract. Yet his actions screamed "me" rather than team.

Ultimately, it came down to whether or not the players and coaches could trust Radulov as a player and a person.

The Predators answered that question today.

Was it the right decision by the Predators?

It was.

Radulov would have commanded more money from the Predators if he decided to remain with the team and the NHL. Contracts are a two way street involving compensation from the team and commitment from the player. Radulov had become "damaged goods" because his commitment was now in question.

The experiment with the enigmatic Radulov certainly did not turn out the way the Predators or their fans would have wanted.

There will be questions about this course of action by the Predators. We all can second guess this action.

I believe it was the right thing for the Predators to do.