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Sunday, November 29 2009

When Representative Joe Donnelly was elected to Congress in 2006, he joined the fictitious club of supposedly conservative Democrats called the "Blue Dogs."  By betraying constituents with his recent embrace of Nancy Pelosi's healthcare takeover, Joe Donnelly has proven himself not a blue dog, but a lap dog.


When Donnelly conducted a town hall meeting in Kokomo last August, he heard from a host of citizens angry about the irresponsible behemoth of a bill that Congressional Democrats had put together.  Despite misleading media reports coming from papers like the Kokomo Tribune that suggested the crowd was "evenly divided" on the issue, over 80% of the comments directed at Donnelly were skeptical and condemning of the Democrats' plan to interject more government into our healthcare system. 


Perhaps surprised by the crowd's hostility towards turning over their freedom to him and his fellow elites in Washington, Donnelly put on his "conservative Hoosier hat" for the evening, promising his constituents he: 1. would read the entire bill before voting, 2. would not vote to add to the deficit (odd, since he had just voted in favor of Obama's pork-laden, deficit-exploding, economy-depressing "stimulus" bill), 3. preferred government stay out of healthcare, and 4. wanted to clean up Medicare first.


Call me a cynic, but I didn't believe a word of it then.  Sometimes I hate being right.


This isn't to suggest that Congressman Donnelly was in an easy spot.  The leaders of his party had put him in a position where he had to choose between losing the support of his party bosses like Pelosi and Obama (and thus the money they would send his way for a re-election campaign), or betraying his constituents by going back on his word.  It was a test of character for Donnelly.  A test he failed.


On his website, Donnelly boasts of himself that, "It has never been about Democrats or Republicans. It's about doing what is right for families here in Indiana and across the country."  Yet when it mattered most, Donnelly proved those to be empty words.  They are the hollow ramblings of just another Washington politician whose primary objective is preserving his own power, even if it means throwing those "families here in Indiana" under the socialized medicine bus.


Donnelly's critical vote allowed a bill to pass that is blatantly unconstitutional.  Democrats, including Donnelly, have not yet been able to explain where Congress gets the authority to force Americans to purchase health insurance.  This is not like auto insurance.  If you choose not to drive, you don't have to purchase auto insurance.  If this healthcare plan goes through, Joe and his compatriots will have left you the following options: buy it, die, or go to jail. 


Thanks to Donnelly's sell-out, we are one step closer to a bill that will slash Medicare spending (section 1161), put the government in charge of approving all health insurance plans (section 224), hammer small businesses with fines for not obeying orders (section 412), cut reimbursement rates for doctors (section 1158), and cause the tax burden on middle class Americans to skyrocket.


This is why when Donnelly brags about having read the entire bill, I actually hope he is lying.  Because if he did read this monstrosity and still voted for it, the degree of his lapdog status becomes even more glaring.


So how does Donnelly explain this outrageous betrayal?  He doesn't.  I've been waiting to ask the Congressman myself, but after setting up a monthly interview with me on my radio program two years ago, Donnelly has participated in just one, earning him the moniker "Silent Joe."  He is apparently more content to talk with media outlets that aren't interested in holding him accountable for his votes.


And evidently Congressman Donnelly has adopted a new policy for interaction with his in and out of the district in secret appearances before anyone catches wind that he's in town.  It is reminiscent of the way the president will fly into a war zone to visit the troops unexpectedly, and then leave before the enemy has a chance to gather.  A word of advice to Mr. Donnelly: when you're having to make stealth appearances in the district you supposedly represent, that should tell you something about how well you're doing your job.


Then again, after reading Donnelly's response to a senior citizen who questioned his vote, this strategy of avoiding his constituents might be wise.  He attempted to pacify her concerns by stating, "I [say], turn off the TV and listen to a Frank Sinatra record."  And there you have it...a perfect indictment of Donnelly as a bona fide member of the inner-Washington crowd sending us peons the message: "Don't you people worry about paying attention to what I'm doing and what I'm voting in favor of...just listen to your records and let me run your life for you.  Just trust me."


Silent Joe must go.

Posted by: Peter Heck AT 02:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, November 22 2009

The storyline is hauntingly familiar: terrorist detainees were moved to a major city to await trial.  While there, fellow Islamic terrorists decided to make a daring and dastardly attempt to gain their release, not by attacking the well-protected courtroom or the heavily guarded detention facility (they are bloodthirsty but they are not stupid),but by going for a more tantalizing target. 


Thirty-five bomb-laden Muslim terrorists stormed a crowded middle school full of parents, teachers, and children.  By doing so, they immediately gained what they desired most: the eyes of a watching world paralyzed with fear at what they might do.  And the world had reason to fear.  Over the course of this three day massacre, the terrorists barricaded doors and tied up authorities in "negotiations" that were used only to buy them the time they needed to coldly execute the stronger men hostages, rape young girls in front of their watching mothers, and rig explosives throughout the complex to ensure that when the authorities stormed the building there would be massive casualties.


This horrific drama played out in the quiet Russian town of Beslan just five short years ago.  In the end, 394 lay dead (over half of them children) with another 704 injured. 


And stunningly, Barack Obama has just invited the same carnage to our shores.


When the President's Attorney General Eric Holder announced the administration's breathtakingly ignorant decision to bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) and five compatriots to New York City to stand trial in civilian court for their act of war, there was undoubtedly a collective gasp in the small towns outside New York.  The citizens there surely must recognize that the high profile status of KSM alone is enough to tempt every terror cell this side of Basra to consider making their rural middle schools the stage for Beslan: Act Two.


Why any president sworn to protect the lives of his fellow citizens would take such an outrageously absurd and completely unnecessary risk is unfathomable.  And make no is unnecessary.  KSM and his fellow terrorists were already being tried by military commissions far away from American children and out of the international spotlight that they so desperately crave.  Many, including KSM, had already pled guilty and requested execution. 


But Barack Obama halted these commissions when he came into office, apparently more concerned with bolstering his image as a "citizen of the world" than protecting his own people.  He then passed the buck to Eric Holder who announced that the terrorists would be brought to one of America's largest cities for the trial of the century. 


The negative consequences of this decision are plentiful.  From endangering innocent Americans to gift wrapping a perfect propaganda opportunity for the terrorist world, this decision is inexcusable.  And considering that the choice to try these monsters in civilian courts was to supposedly ensure that justice would be done, this decision becomes  incomprehensible.  (How, for instance, will these show trials result in any better or more just outcome than a guilty plea and execution sentence - something that the military commission had all but secured?)


In short, this is about to be a circus.


Obama and Holder have now given constitutional "rights of the accused" to these terrorists (something that has never been done throughout all of American history). And if you don't think that their lawyers are going to bring up the manner of their detainment, the circumstances surrounding their capture, any perceived threats or mistreatment, any notion of coerced confessions, their lack of immediate access to attorneys, demand for relocation, complaints about a biased jury, calls for mistrials, and the need for an extensive appeals process, you aren't thinking...sort of like the Obama administration.


With a decision this bad - one that is receiving scorn across the country from angry Americans of all political backgrounds - one might hope that Team Obama would come to its senses and reverse course.  Not likely.


When announcing this preposterous decision Holder stated, "To the extent that there are political consequences, I'll just have to take my lumps." 


Frankly, sir, the grisly images of Beslan are a little too fresh in our minds to be overly concerned with your personal political consequences.  We're a bit more concerned about the potentially deadly consequences this ragingly incompetent administration may have just brought on innocent American citizens.


Vice President Joe Biden once criticized Barack Obama's lack of preparedness for the serious responsibilities associated with the job of president by saying that the presidency was "not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."  God forbid that we're about to see just how right he was.

Posted by: Peter Heck AT 09:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, November 14 2009

Government healthcare is such an emotionally-charged issue that it's become nearly impossible for people to think about rationally, without immediately putting up ideological defenses that thwart any serious conversation regarding its merits.  But the recent "Cash for Clunkers" debacle doesn't have such emotional overtones, and thus allows us a perfect example through which we can view the difference between what the liberal model of central planning and the conservative model of freedom offers the country.


Remember the worthy objectives of this government-run program: 1. benefit the consumer by giving them a financial incentive to purchase a car; 2. benefit the auto industry by stimulating demand for cars; 3. benefit the environment by replacing gas-guzzlers with fuel-efficient vehicles.  No one can or should fault the government planners for their intentions.


But what happened?  Certainly some consumers benefited from the rebate they received for purchasing a government-approved car.  But what about the consumers that didn't need cars but could have used a new refrigerator, washing machine, or oven?  What made their need any less than those looking for new wheels?  Why did the government need to show such favoritism, and how is it justified? 


Wouldn't the wiser path have been to take the conservatives' approach by giving all taxpayers a rebate in the form of tax cuts?  Putting money back in everyone's pocket would have allowed those that wanted a car the opportunity to go buy one, as well as those that wanted to pay off debt the ability to do the same.  Would that not have actually done more to stimulate economic growth instead of the liberals' attempt to specifically target one area of the economy and incentivize it?


Liberals said that the auto industry was in excessive peril and so intentionally focusing on them was appropriate.  If that's the argument, then it's helpful to see how successful the program was in benefitting the automotive industry here in America.  As it turns out, it wasn't.


Consumer Reports highlighted the embarrassing statistics: American-made cars accounted for the top ten vehicles traded in by consumers, while eight out of the top ten purchased vehicles were foreign made.  What that means is that the American government used billions of taxpayer dollars to pay citizens to buy foreign cars.  And that was supposed to stimulate a stagnant American auto industry?  Pathetic.


But what about dealerships?  There was undoubtedly a sudden rush on auto dealerships during the 2-3 month span of the program.  But it was short-lived.  Whereas giving people tax cuts (again, the conservative proposal) would have had long-lasting economic benefit, the liberal solution created a instantaneous burst of economic activity that essentially crammed six months worth of sales into a small window of time. 


This didn't create any new jobs, nor did it produce any increased demand for automobiles.  In fact, the only long-lasting impact it had was frustration and stress to the auto dealerships waiting for reimbursement from the ever-slow government bureaucrats administering the program.  Their sluggish pace put an incredible financial burden on dealers who had to absorb costs associated with the rebate mandated by the central planners.


Okay, so maybe the liberals failed disastrously on their first two objectives, but surely their strategic central planning achieved that most politically correct of all goals: helping the environment, right?  Not exactly. 


As the Associated Press recently reported, "The most common deals under the government's $3 billion ?Cash for Clunkers' program, aimed at putting more fuel-efficient cars on the road, replaced old Ford or Chevrolet pickups with new ones that got only marginally better gas mileage, according to an analysis of the new federal data by the AP."  Get that?  People exchanged gas guzzlers for gas guzzlers, despite the planners' intentions.  And it gets worse.


Other studies have shown that many of those vehicles that were traded in to dealerships in exchange for the government rebate were ones that their owner hadn't been driving anyway.  These were truly clunkers...sitting abandoned in a driveway or junk pile until liberals offered to pay tax dollars for them.  In other words, the government planners took non-polluting, immovable paper weights off of people's hands, and paid them to go purchase a vehicle that would pollute! 


What should all this tell us?  Central planning liberals always have the best of intentions.  They want to help the Indians and less fortunate, they want to give everyone a nice place to live and cars to drive, they want to help you go to college, they want to give you affordable healthcare...but time and time again we see that despite those intentions, their solutions inevitably make the crisis they hope to solve worse.  Visit an Indian reservation to see how well the government provides healthcare, good housing, good jobs, and affordable, quality education to people.


Planners fail not because they are evil, but because people are too different, unique, and have too widely varying skills and needs to be manipulated into happiness by a top-down government bureaucracy.  No matter how wise, well-intentioned, or intellectual our leaders may be, they simply cannot plan our lives better for us than we can do ourselves.


Perhaps we would be wise to learn that lesson before Clunkernomics becomes ClunkerCare.

Posted by: Peter Heck AT 02:52 pm   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, November 07 2009

There is a quote that hangs on the wall of my classroom that says, "War is an ugly thing.  But it is not the ugliest of things.  The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling that thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.  A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety...that man is a miserable creature, who has no chance of being free unless he is made and kept so by the actions of better men than himself."


I don't know the author of that quote, but I do know that it is one of the most powerfully true statements ever spoken.  I also know that it has been read by nearly every student that has come into my classroom, some of whom transitioned from being my students to being my heroes as they set aside their own personal ambition to serve their country. 


For the purposes of full disclosure, the next few words I will write are not those of a veteran.  I chose, as many do, to go to college right out of high school and serve my country in ways other than military service.  Therefore, the position I am about to take in this column is not one born out of any self-serving motive.  I do not stand to benefit from this simple proposal.  Rather, these are the words of nothing more than a grateful American who believes our country has profited immeasurably from the valor and service of its veterans, and that it is time we do more to say thank you.


Parades, tributes, speeches, and church services are all important ways to demonstrate our thanks.  But our veterans, particularly our combat veterans, deserve more...something that is beyond a mere sentimental gesture, no matter how powerful and meaningful those may be.


It is time that American combat veterans be relieved of their responsibility to pay income taxes to the federal government.


I know all the arguments.  There are those who suggest that "paying taxes are our civic responsibility and duty."  I do not disagree.  But surely no one would pretend that those who have served our country in combat have not already met any definition of civic responsibility and duty.  They have not just met such a requirement, they have surpassed it.  They have defined it.


Still others would argue that though military service is undoubtedly an honorable career, so is the ministry, so is teaching, so is saving lives in a hospital.  Again, I have no disagreement with such a conclusion.  I would merely propose that while we can find reasons to honor anyone for their efforts to serve their fellow man (something we should do more of, in fact), there is something particularly distinguished about the American soldier.  While the minister, teacher, and doctor work to improve their communities, the soldier is willing to die in order to protect the very opportunity to do that work.


But what would such a change cost us?  According to U.S. Census Bureau numbers, there are currently 24.5 million military veterans in the United States.  Obviously, eliminating the tax burden of every one of those veterans would provide an excessive and immediate strain on the operations of our national government.  And whereas the eventual elimination of such a debt would be my choosing, I understand that it might not be practical to do abruptly.  But the number of combat veterans, those who have seen action in the field of battle, is a much smaller percentage.  And for those heroes, it is my opinion that their days of paying taxes should be


When discussing this belief with others, I have been challenged by those who attempt to pit my belief in a small tax burden for private citizens against this suggestion.  "If you permanently end all tax payments from combat veterans, other people - like yourself - will see their taxes increase to offset that cost," they argue.  And while I would maintain that there is much to eliminate in the federal budget that could prevent such a reality, I am also a realist in knowing that such is not likely given our current political environment.


So let me be unequivocal about this: as one who loathes the excessive tax burden our federal government places upon us, I will consent to paying an even greater percentage of my income in federal taxes if it means that those who have seen combat in service to our country will receive their U.S. tax form with the words, "PAID IN FULL" stamped across it.


I'm not sure if such a bill has ever been introduced, but I am quite sure that now is the time.

Posted by: Peter Heck AT 09:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments  |  Email
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