American Elephants

Obama’s Latest Bright Idea: A “Secretary of Business” by The Elephant's Child

Eight days before the election President Obama turned up on “Morning Joe” to propose creating a new cabinet post: a “Secretary of Business.” Well, that’s not particularly surprising.

The campaign is close, and Mitt Romney is out at event after event saying that his sterling experience in business gives him the knowledge of how to help business to recover and start hiring.

Obama’s understanding of business ranges from infinitesimal to non-existent, as he has demonstrated effectively for four years. So why isn’t the answer a new department consolidating stuff like the Small Business Administration and placed in the hands of a genuine expert, like maybe somebody from a business school, to help business to develop entrepreneurs, helping with exports, trade policies. Should be a winner, shouldn’t it?

commerce (kom′ ars) n. The buying and selling of goods, especially on a large scale, as between cities or nations. business; trade.

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce was Gary Locke,  who was appointed Ambassador to China, who was followed by John E. Bryson, who resigned for medical reasons, and the current Acting Secretary of Commerce is Rebecca Blank.

Wikipedia says the U.S. Department of Commerce is the Cabinet department of the U.S. government concerned with promoting economic growth. The mission of the department  is to “promote job creation and improved living standards… It has 43,880 employees (2011). Texas Gov. Rick Perry recommended eliminating it along with Education and Energy. Wikipedia has a long sector on “Reorganization proposals.” As economic growth keeps declining, perhaps the federal government does not possess the expertise they think they do.

No one seems to know what the agency does, but the problems that afflict U.S. business are not the result of the absence of a Department of Business, but rather the presence of too much government interference, too much government regulation, too much government taxation, uncertainty over the mandates of ObamaCare, new environmental regulations, new overcriminalization, and the simple fact that government just keeps getting bigger and more interfering.

Administration actions to force public acceptance of alternate fuels have raised the cost of energy sharply, which means everything costs more.  And our corporate taxes are the highest in the industrial world. Obama seems not to have noticed. The president does not understand profit, and seems in general to be opposed to it, as are many in his administration. The burden that ObamaCare places on business seems to be little-understood, and the resulting low growth and high unemployment  are not understood as natural consequences of that burden.

Perhaps we should enlist someone who actually does understand the needs of business.

Some of the Costs and Perks of the Presidency by The Elephant's Child

A new book Presidential Perks Gone Royal by Robert Keith Gray, points out that American taxpayers spent $1.4 billion on everything from staffing, housing, flying and entertaining President Obama and his family last year. In comparison, British taxpayers spent just $57.8 million on the royal family.

Obama is not the first president to take advantage of the expensive trappings of his office, but the amount spent on the first family, Gray argues, has risen tremendously under the Obama administration and needs to be reined in.

The $1.4 billion is the total cost of the presidency, factoring in the cost of the biggest staff in history at the highest wages ever, a 50 percent increase in the numbers of appointed czars, and an Air Force One “running with the frequency of a scheduled airline.” When a trip on Air Force One is deemed political, it is customary for the president to pay the equivalent of a first class commercial ticker for certain passengers, but that hardly covers the taxpayer’s cost of flying the president and his staffers around on campaign trips.

Gray argues in his book that Americans want their president to be safe and comfortable, but argues the system should be reformed. Aside from his salary, the president gets a $50,000 a year expense account, a $100,000 travel account, a $19,000 entertainment budget and an additional million for “unanticipated needs.”

The president has 469 senior staffers, and 226 are paid more than $100,000 a year. Seventy-seven are paid as much as $172,000. He has also appointed 43 czars.  All are appointed without Senate confirmation.

He can vacation for free at Camp David. Each round trip made to Camp David costs the taxpayers $25,350. It is estimated that the combined transportation and personnel costs for a Camp David visit are $295,000 per night.

The president has a full-time movie projectionist in the White House theater. The projectionists sleep at the White House so they can be on call 24 hours a day . The president’s family gets travel and security expenses paid while vacationing. Michelle Obama drew some flack from the media when it was disclosed that, not counting weekends, she spent 42 days on vacation in the span of one year.

Bo has his own highly paid staffer at $102,000 last year, and roused some criticism when he got a separate flight to join the president on vacation in Maine.

Up until 1958, the federal government provided no pension or other retirement benefits for former U.S. presidents. In 1955, former President Harry s. Truman’s limited financial resources for an office staff prompted legislation to provide benefits to former presidents. President Eisenhower was the first to fall under the Act.

By law, former presidents are entitled to a pension, staff and office expenses, medical care or health insurance, and Secret Service protection. The pension begins immediately after a president’s departure from office. Bill Clinton will have lifetime Secret Service protection, but George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and following presidents will have it for only ten years.

There is a presidential townhouse reserved for former presidents when they come to Washington. What happens when several former presidents turn up all at once is not clear.

Obama Said He Didn’t Get Beyond 7th Grade Math. by The Elephant's Child

A report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently revealed that the United States now spends more on means-tested welfare than any other item in the federal budget — including Social Security, Medicare or national defense. Including state contributions to the roughly 80 federal poverty programs, the total amount spent in 2011 was approximately $1 trillion.  Federal spending on such programs was up 32 percent since 2008.

If you believe that giving a good chunk of your income to the government because they will use it to do good and help the poor is a good thing, you might need to rethink that.

Last year the government spent over $60,000 to support welfare programs for each household that is in poverty. The calculations come from the Census, the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Research Service. That dollar figure is almost three times the amount the average household in poverty lives on each year.

So, if I am doing the math correctly, and $60,000 divided by 3 is $20,000, then it costs the government $40,000 to distribute $20,000 to the poor to keep them poor. So they could just mail a check for $50,000, which is approximately the median national household income, to each poor family, and thus eliminate poverty completely.

Then they would still have $10,000 per household left over to pay for stamps, envelopes and the checks, which would leave a fair amount left over to return to the taxpayers, or have a big blowout convention in Las Vegas.

That’s a fair demonstration of why Republicans oppose big government.

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