Time for Drastic “Anti-Smoking” Policies

by Jayne Frank

Of the several hundred articles written in Libertyssong Blog over the past couple of years, the one article receiving the most views, and I should say negative comments from smokers, is our previous article on whether smoking should really be considered a Right.  A few years later, my opinion that smoking is NOT a right is validated by the Centers for Disease Control, American Lung Association and our Government’s own current statistics.  This discussion is critically important today because the U.S. is broke and cuts must be made.

Here are the stunning statistics about the cost of smoking in the U.S.:

  1. $.25 of every health care dollar is used for illnesses related to smoking and other behavorial lifestyles, and practically NONE of those dollars are paid for by the person involved in such behavior, but are paid for by 1) increases in insurance premiums for the rest of society, b) disability costs and c) government expenditures for health care.
  2. There are 443,000 deaths (1 in 5) attributable to smoking each year.
  3. 49,400 deaths are attributable to second-hand smoke
  4. Smokers will die 14 years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts
  5. 8.6 million people live with chronic illness (and those costs are multiplying rapidly as life span increases).
  6. $96 billion is the staggering number spent on medical costs related to smoking.  Medical costs for smoking related illnesses have risen 8 times more than in 1980.
  7. $97 billion lost productivity costs to U.S. businesses each year

The argument you get from the liberal left in this country is exemplified by the following excerpt from an article by Santa Monica University:

“Clear as this reasoning seems, penalizing individuals for unhealthy behaviors could result in great injustice and social harm. While 18 percent of U.S. citizens with incomes above the poverty line smoke, for example, the figure almost doubles to 33 percent for those with incomes below the poverty line. A one-dollar cigarette tax would have a strongly regressive effect on the low incomes these individuals receive. Consider the added problem of tobacco addiction and the probable result of a tax is not less smoking or lower health care costs, but fewer dollars spent on nutritional food and other essentials – conceivably leading to more illness and higher health care costs.”

As a “middle class” citizen, taxpayer and a Conservative, this kind of rhetoric is deplorable and does nothing but  make people feel guilty who want to see our insurance and medical industry reformed because of those who smoke.  The costs and impact of smoking are staggering and quite frankly, I really don’t care if putting higher taxes on cigarettes will affect lower income people and I don’t care of they choose to buy a pack of cigarettes instead of taking care of themselves–choosing to smoke cigarettes instead of eating.  Shame on this kind of argument!

What I would like to see is a real economic punishment for those that choose to live an unhealthy lifestyle, in the form of higher insurance rates and lower benefits for unemployment and welfare if recipients continue to buy cigarettes.    Period.

Our Congress and the Obama Administration have started this class warfare argument and are currently targeting the very expenditures for which Government was instituted (our national security).  They are also mass targeting seniors for COLA and benefit cuts, even those who have never smoked and are attempting to live an active lifestyle.  The real argument to be made is whether seniors have to do without their prescriptions which they pay for because of rising insurance premiums which they also pay for.

It is high time our Representatives stand up and start addressing this epidemic in America, both for economic and health reasons.

Again, smoking is NOT a right.  It is costing this country immeasurably in human treasure and financially for our children and grandchildren.  Let us all take a stand for what is right for the country as a whole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distortion of Reality

by Richard H. Frank

Over the past nine months the American public has been force-fed a steady diet of political rhetoric as we  rapidly approach the 2012 General Election.  Cable news and networks desperate to fill 24 hours of broadcast air time call upon a never-ending legion of pundits to predict the outcome of votes in the primary election race to pick candidates for the respective political parties.  Should you believe the pundits, the process would be all over with the results from Iowa and New Hampshire.  The reality is that these votes and caucus results choose less than 2% of he delegates needed to establish a candidate.

Today, the talking heads are quick to state that no candidate for the Republican nomination has caught fire with the electorate and assumed a commanding lead to secure the nomination.  Somehow, they have lost perspective that eight individuals were seeking the nomination as recently as last week.  Under these circumstances simple math would indicate that any candidate receiving 12.5% of the vote or more should be considered a serious contender.

The news media however, with their liberal bias has skewed the debates away from addressing the issues facing our nation and purposely structured their questions to foster attacks by one nominee upon the other.  The underlying purpose of their distortions is to tilt the momentum away from whomever the Republican nominee eventually emerges toward the re-election of Barack Obama.  Their bias is plain to see, not only in questioning of candidates during the debates but in the post-debate analysis by carefully selected pundits.

Fortunately, for Republicans and independents, the field of prospective candidates for the Republican nomination will be pared down significantly following the Florida primary.  That is when media distortion and bias will be evident for all to see, especially as they “position” each GOP frontrunner as wanting to kill the benefits given to senior citizens, a huge voting block of that state. If you think the primary race has been ugly, just wait until a Republican candidate has to go up against Barack Obama.

The media distortions will kick into high gear as the media places Obama on a pedestal for his “achievements” in foreign policy, his leadership as Commander-in-Chief and his accomplishments in fostering economic recovery, all of which are distortions of reality.  One only needs to look around to know the truth about Obama’s socialist policies.  Unemployment and under-employment about 25%, foreclosures accelerating at a rate to reach 6 million or more, 47 million American families receiving food stamps; inflation creeping upward to decimate our middle-income families and senior citizens, and  a national debt of 16 trillion.

These are the realities given to us by Barack Obama and his administration.  I for one do not believe this Nation and our Republic can withstand four more years of Barack Obama and his administration’s policies.

Keep these realities in front of you as you endure the continuing media onslaught of distortions over the coming eleven months  before the November, 2012 General Election.

 

The Baby-Boomer Generation – Americas New Underclass!

By: Richard H. Frank

Seventy-six million babies were born in the US between 1946 and 1964, a span of 19 years. According to the 2000 census 72 million of these babies have survived and are eligible to begin receiving full Social Security benefits in 2011 and it is expected that an average of 3.0 million will be added to the roles with each successive year. These individuals have paid into the SS system their entire working lives and some will continue to support the system over the next 20 years.

The average benefit paid to recipients is just under $1200.00 / month with those receiving disability benefits approximately $1100.00 / month. Annually that equates to about $14,400/ year slightly above the poverty level. The poverty level for all states in the U.S. for the 2009/2010 timeframe was set at $10,830 for an individual and $14,570 for a family of 2 persons. Assuming the CPI for food and energy continues to increase at an annual average rate of 5.0%, which is not included in the cost of living inflation rate, there will be substantial erosion to the fixed benefits paid to recipients and ultimately force them closer to the poverty level.

According to government estimates there were 44 million Americans living below the poverty level in 2009, or approximately 14% of the population. Most baby boomers retiring have no pensions, or at best limited IRAs, upon which to supplement their Social Security benefits. The largest investment made during their working lives was the equity built through the purchase of their homes. That equity has been diminished substantially by the recent crash of the real estate market. Those retirees that do not own their homes will bear the additional inflated costs to provide shelter for their families in addition to the uncontrollable inflated costs of food and energy.

Government, not the individual, is the problem with regard to having a sustainable Social Security safety net.  Social progressives have looted the mythical Social Security lock box of more than $2.5 trillion dollars for programs never intended to be funded under the original law. Today we have created an unsustainable Ponzi scheme in an attempt to redistribute wealth and level the playing field for all residents instead of creating a safety net for those seniors that have contributed to the system and are in real need.

Over time inflation and hyper- inflation will create a new underclass in America. That underclass will consist of illegal aliens, retirees and the growing numbers of baby boomers attaining retirement age over the coming twenty years.

The feeble attempts made by Congress to revise the SS system will only result in compounding the situation over the long run. The real answer is to limit the government influence over achieving energy independence in America as the stimulus that will drive efficient job creation and a resultant thriving economy. Government over- regulation of the free enterprise system in America must be reduced to the level of assuring safety and protecting against fraud. The reality is that Big Government has created Big Problems all of which were foreseen by our founding Fathers and warned against when drafting our constitution. Government must return to the values and principles ascribed to by the founders.

Unfortunately, there is an entire generation of Americans that will spend their “Golden Years” experiencing  a substantially reduced standard of living from that which they were anticipating all the years of their working lives.

Federal Government: The Barrier to Achieving Energy Independence for America!

by Richard H. Frank

Just how fragile is the American economy when it comes to our “non-existent energy policy?”  Every American is suddenly thrust into the politics of an unstable Mid-East as evidenced today by the unrest and potential revolution boiling over in Egypt.  Should the Suez Canal be embargoed or blockaded by militant factions in the Mid-East it would cut off the world supply of oil from Saudi Arabia.  The price of oil would skyrocket and impact every facet of the world’s economy.  $5 or more per gallon for gasoline and doubling the cost of home heating oil would surely cripple the United States.  Moreover, such actions would have the potential for lighting the fuse leading to conflict and the impetus for a Third World War.

Our Government over the past 40 years has chosen to bury their heads in the sand and refused to adopt a concise comprehensive energy policy for America.  Government has frittered away at least 30 years which could have been dedicated to becoming energy independent while providing freedom from the massive deficit our children and grandchildren face in the future.

Our Federal Government has instead erected barriers to exploration and development of our natural resources of fossil fuel in the name of “saving the planet” and punishing greedy energy producers.  Billions of dollars of American treasure are exported annually instead of invested in energy independence here in the United States of America.

Barack Obama’s statement in the State of the Union address, that green energy will provide 85% of the nation’s energy needs by 2035 is a pipe dream.  Today’s level of green technology produces less than 1% of the nation’s needs.  In order to achieve his projection, a breakthrough in technology heretofore unknown would be required. Assuming that breakthrough was on the horizon it would take more than 25 years to adapt that now mythical technology to meet our needs.

The Federal Government through the Department of Interior and other agencies such as the EPA and the Department of Energy have usurped the Authority of Congress to adopt a policy of energy independence and erected administrative barriers to circumvent the wishes of Congress, the courts and of “We the People.”

Federal regulations under the Bureau of Land Management, part of the Department of Interior, has jurisdiction over onshore leasing, exploration, development and production of oil and gas on Federal lands.  The BLM in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service and the GSA also share in authority over onshore gas and oil leasing. Authority for the BLM extends to all states east of the Mississippi River and sixteen states west of the Mississippi.

The Bureau of Land Management national regulations are contained in the Gold Book:  “Surface Operating Standards & Guidelines for Oil & Gas Exploration and Development.”  These regulations are comprised of numerous “forms” and “orders” that create barriers to exploration and development.

Today’s energy policies are drafted such that they represent a war on fossil fuel production.  Instead of establishing new Federal and state partnerships, with revenue-sharing models established that will create local support for environmentally sound energy exploration and production, our Federal Government has chosen to stifle domestic production in favor of imposition of taxes on these producers as a means to fund unknown alternatives.

In the interim, our dependence on imported oil has risen from 40% in the 1970s to more than 60% today. Government policies have put the most promising domestic oil and gas prospects off-limits to exploration and production through moratorium.

The Outer Continental shelf is an area of 1.76 billion acres submerged off the coasts of the United States and controlled by the Federal Government.  Today 97% of this area remains under moratorium preventing any exploration or production of oil or natural gas.

Through Government fiat we are prohibited from access to an estimated 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  In addition, it is estimated that 83% of Federal lands onshore contain 28 billion barrels of oil and 207 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

According to the DOE, the United States is sitting on coal reserves with energy value equivalent to 6 trillion barrels of oil.  Oil shale and heavy oil sands contribute an additional 2,154,000,000,000 equivalent barrels of oil to our domestic supply.  To put the enormity of our potential reserves in prospective, consider the fact that the United States has consumed a mere 197 billion barrels of U.S. oil since our first domestic well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859.

At the end of the first decade of the 21st Century we find ourselves in a similar situation to that of the oil embargo of the 1970s.  The past 40 years have been spent arguing about the evils of oil, fossil fuels and nuclear power generation.  The actions of our Federal and state governments have only served to enrich those Mid-East countries that do allow exploration and production at the expense of every American.  Economically, produced energy drives the engine of economic production and innovation here in the United States.  This is evidenced in the standard of living achieved in America during the 20th Century.  We need to create a domestic supply of economically-priced energy if we are to sustain and increase that standard of living for all Americans.  A new cohesive energy policy must be built on a foundation of domestic oil, fossil fuels and nuclear production to establish a bridge for achieving competitively-priced renewable energy sources.  Our Federal Government seems to have disregarded the history of the 20th Century and the part fossil fuels played in building the most prosperous, powerful nation in the World.

Our Government policy should be “drill here, drill now,” build nuclear power plants, open Anwar to exploration and production and use revenues generated to support wind and solar development.

We must start now and stop political arguing and turn the implementation of the new policy over to free market entrepreneurs.  Contrary to our President’s belief, NASA did not put us on the moon; free enterprise innovation and production did.  No politician and their political rhetoric ever produced anything but hot air.

The time has come to seriously pursue energy independence and not waste another 40 years which could have seen us independent today if it were not for Government interference!

Politics in America – The Perpetual Campaign!

By: Richard H. Frank

Over the past decade we have seen the political process in this nation evolve from the selection of qualified representatives to govern to an “American Idol” system based upon non-stop campaigning to gain the popular advantage over an opponent. No sooner have the results of an election been tabulated, and even before the winners are sworn in, do the professional politicians begin the campaign for the next election.

Take for example the case of Barack Obama following his election to the 110th Congress as the junior Senator from Illinois . Two years following his taking the oath of office as Senator  he was elected President. By all accounts he devoted a total of approximately nine months, in the interim period between elections, at “real” legislating. The balance of his term as Senator was spent campaigning for President and not doing the business of his constituents in Illinois.

On November 3, 2010 the cycle is once again repeating itself, not only in the Democrat’s camp but also in that of the Republicans. The reality is that the media and the 24-hour 7-day news cycle is largely to blame for this phenomenon. The lead story on most television newscasts is not what must be done by government to solve the nation’s pressing problems, but who is most likely to defeat incumbents in the next election. What ever happened to our “Representative Republic” where politics took  second or even third place to governing in the best interests of “We the People”?

The situation in America today reminds me of my experience from 20 years ago while travelling extensively on business in South America and Mexico. Political campaigns seemed to be never-ending and run like marathons. Could it be that we in America are approaching politics as many second and third world countries do?

Perhaps a change in the process needs to take place where a moratorium is placed on primaries, conventions and campaigning until 6 months before any election is held. In the interim those in office and those seeking office might just concentrate on the people’s business and less upon their own re-election.

All the political pundents and advertising agencies will cry foul since campaigning in America is a multi-billion dollar business. A business that creates nothing of lasting value nor anything to spur lasting economic growth.

The question being asked by all the talking heads this morning is who can defeat Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential election? I for one think that President Obama will defeat himself should he not change the course his administration is presently pursuing. Whether he believes it or not, the electorate has rejected his pledge to “fundamentally change America and the world.” Should he continue to insist upon his agenda and ideology he does so at his own peril and that of his party.

He needs to recognize that his only challenge does not reside within the Republican party but from within his own. I for one believe he lacks the experience, qualifications, maturity and dedication to the values and principles embodied within our Constitution to hold the office of President of The United States. Further I believe history will record Barack Obama as his own worst enemy.

Our Nation in Peril from Government Policies!

By: Richard H. Frank

What has become of the American dream? That picture of a future that included the opportunity, not the right, for any individual to achieve their personal vision of what that dream constitutes. Most Americans of my generation would have described the dream to include the following:

  • The opportunity and choice to secure a good education either academically or vocationally.
  • To be able to provide a better standard of living for our families than that which our parents or grandparents had experienced.
  • The opportunity to own a home that would always be the shelter and sanctuary for our family.
  • The freedom to pursue any endeavor we might chose, including acceptance of the consequences associated with failure.
  • The right to openly participate in and express the religious doctrine of my choice without interference from any individual or government agency.

There are two elements present in each and every aspect of the American dream as described above. First is the reliance on the individual willing to work and pay the price to achieve any and all aspects of that dream. Second, is the limited role of government to provide the opportunity for the individual and to shield that opportunity from undue outside influences.

Unfortunately, over the past 60 years government has expanded their role to become paternalistic with regard to achieving “equality” and “social justice” as opposed to “opportunity” and “justice under the law.” Those individuals that we have elected to represent “We the People” somehow believe that they have been elevated to a position of the “ruling class” and are entitled to meet out opportunity and freedom to the electorate to satisfy their vision of the American dream.

The law of unintended consequences ultimately prevails and results in stifling opportunity and eroding our individual freedoms. More damage has been done to this nation from well intentioned politicians that believe they can legislate morality and equality than from all the natural disasters in America since this nation’s founding.

Today we find ourselves on the brink of the worst economic disaster in over a century predicated on laws passed largely by unthinking legislators willing to rely upon the tenants of Keynesian economics to cure all the Nations ills. The anti-capitalist, anti-free enterprise policies of the congress over the past 10 years and redistributive agenda of the Obama administration bear testimony to the destructive impact they have had on the nation. The outlook for our country is bleak and the prospect of returning to prosperity where we may once again pursue the American dream may now be decades away if to ever be realized again.

Today senior citizens who have relied on the equity built in their real estate investments have seen that equity evaporate and may never return in their lifetime. The dream of spending their “Golden Years” with a sense of security no longer exists. This is directly due to government interference in the mortgage loan industry over the past decade.

Young people view our Social Security System as the greatest Ponzi scheme ever imposed upon a country. They see how Congresses of past decades have raided and squandered the Social Security lock box in the cause of “social justice” at the tune of $2.4 trillion and believe they will never see any portion of their contributions returned.

At one point in history full employment was considered achieved when 95-96% of the workforce was employed. The new norm for full employment according to the revised Obama administration methods for calculating is more closely aligned to 90% employed. This means those working individuals will carry the burden for the 10% of the unemployed workforce and more likely 20% if the under employed are included.

Once again we bear witness to the law of unintended consequences as we see the impact of the 2400 page “Affordable Health Care Legislation” passed by the 111th Congress and signed into law by President Obama. All of the pledges made by President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are being exposed as the great lies forced upon the American public. It has now been confirmed that costs will rise, coverage will be rationed, and the first step toward a government run single -payer system (nationalized health care) is being taken. All this done under the guise of reducing the national debt, bending the cost curve downward and insuring 30 million uninsured Americans. All these statements exposed as lies and predicted as such when an administration of idealogues and a corrupt Congress continue to govern against the will of the people.

The cancer of liberal progressive ideology has moved our nation to the brink of becoming a socialist welfare state. Changing the dangerous course our country is on will be painful to say the least. That pain will be felt at every level of our society and paid for in terms of altering future entitlement programs and stopping the out of control government spending as we return to the constitutional limitations placed on the Federal Government. The power brokers and special interests that influence Washington can and must be removed through the election of representatives that will speak and vote with the voice of their constituents.

One election will not cure the cancer and it may take a decade or more of intense treatment, likened to chemotherapy, by holding our elected representatives responsible to the electorate to finally cure and rid the Federal Government of those persons governing outside the constraints of our Constitution. Should “We the People” fail to take action and remain vigilant at holding government accountable, the once great American dream will never be realized again by our children or grandchildren.

Set yourself above party politics, educate yourself as to the real issues, and place only those people in government office that support the values and principles ascribed within the American dream. Take the step now toward taking back our country for “We the People” and vote on November 2, 2010.

Government by the “Ruling Class” No Longer “Of, By and For the People”

By: Richard H. Frank

Following the Constitutional Convention of 1787,  Benjamin Franklin replied to a question as to what sort of government had the representatives given America. His reply was a “Republic, if you can keep it.” In fact, the Constitution established a “Representative Republic” with specific enumerated powers delegated to the Central (Federal) Government leaving all other matters to the States and to the People to govern.

The Federal Government today, embodies all of the elements that were adverse to the values and principles enumerated in the Constitution and were warned against by the Founders as being destructive to the Republic. States’ rights as specified in the Tenth Amendment have virtually been eliminated by judicial misinterpretation of the language contained in the Constitution. Those that read Article VI, clause 2 of the Constitution as the “supremacy clause” allowing Federal law to trump any and all State laws , fail to recognize the Constitutional restraints placed on the Federal government to enact legislation not specifically enumerated in the document.

The Progressives in Congress have expanded the original intent of the commerce clause to the point of imposing legislation upon “we the people” not only against our will, but to a degree far exceeding the charges leveled against the King of Great Britain as specified in out Declaration of Independence.

Our Federal Government has replaced our Representative Republic with a ruling class intent upon legislating against the will of those citizens that elected them to office. Never before in our history has a legislative body been so intent on creation of onerous law that reaches into every aspect of American life. Almost every issue that arises is labeled a crisis that can only be resolved by Government through mountains of legislative restrictions, rules and in many cases through administrative fiat.

All this without regard to intended or unintended consequences for individual Americans or to the continuation of the Republic. Political ideology overrides the restrictions placed on our legislators by the Constitution. They don’t care if their actions are Constitutional or not. Just pass a law and we will figure out what’s in it later. Should problems arise we will leave it to the courts to work out. This is not the philosophy subscribed to by the architects of our Constitution.

Unfortunately, politics has become a profession in America. Congressmen and Senators are allowed to seek reelection decade after decade. Power, not representation of their constituents is what drives these professional politicians. Yet “we the people” are content to return them to office election after election without regard to the damage they have done to our free enterprise system, our liberties and to the Republic. No longer can we assure that Abraham Lincoln’s vision that, “a Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.”