Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Congressional Pay

We all are aware of the discontent most of us feel with our national legislative and executive branches of government at this time. There is no need to point out the surveys; we are the people who want real change.  We talk a lot of spending as well. What are we spending on their salaries?
The pay for rand and file congress folk is $174,000 per year. This means a person serving a 4 year term will receive in salary $696,000 in their tenure.  For the leadership the salaries are:
Senate Leadership
·         Majority Party Leader - $193,400
·         Minority Party Leader - $193,400
House Leadership
·         Speaker of the House - $223,500
·         Majority Leader - $193,400
·         Minority Leader - $193,400
From 1789 to 1855, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily payment) of $6.00 while in session, except for a period from December 1815 to March 1817, when they received $1,500 a year. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1855, when they were paid $3,000 per year.
Members elected since 1984 are covered by the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS). Members of Congress under FERS contribute 1.3% of their salary into the FERS retirement plan and pay 6.2% of their salary in Social Security taxes.
Members of Congress are not eligible for a pension until they reach the age of 50, but only if they've completed 20 years of service. Members are eligible at any age after completing 25 years of service or after they reach the age of 62. Please also note that Members of Congress have to serve at least 5 years to even receive a pension.
The amount of a congressperson's pension depends on the years of service and the average of the highest 3 years of his or her salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member's retirement annuity up to 80% of his or her final salary. That is a nice return on a 1.3% investment.  This means that the average congress person can pay around $2,262 annually and receive up to $139,000 annually. That is a 50 fold return on the retirement investment!
The median personal wealth for members of Congress grew to $911,510 in 2009, up from $785,515 in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Nearly half of the members of Congress are millionaires.
As for the president, the annual salary of the president of the United States was increased to $400,000 per year, including a $50,000 expense allowance. That is $1.6 million for one term.
Under the Former Presidents Act, each former president is paid a lifetime, taxable pension that is equal to the annual rate of basic pay for the head of an executive federal department -- $199,700 in 2011 -- the same annual salary paid to secretaries of the Cabinet agencies.
Each former president and vice president may also take advantage of funds allocated by Congress to help facilitate their transition to private life. These funds are used to provide suitable office space, staff compensation, communications services, and printing and postage associated with the transition. As an example, Congress authorized a total of $1.5 million for the transition expenses of outgoing president George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle.
The salary of the vice president is currently (for 2011) $230,700.
In 1974, the Justice Department ruled that presidents who resign from office before their official terms of office expire are entitled to the same lifetime pension and benefits extended to other former presidents. However, presidents who are removed from office due to impeachment forfeit all benefits.
Six months after a president leaves office, he or she gets funds for an office staff. During the first 30 months after the leaving office, the former president gets a maximum of $150,000 per year for this purpose. Thereafter, the Former Presidents Act stipulates that the aggregate rates of staff compensation for a former President cannot exceed $96,000 annually.
It seems that the big business getting paid for failing institutions that congress barked about aren’t the only ones receiving big tax funded pay and benefits for their failing actions.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guns Gone Wild -- ATF's Good Intentions Gone Bad

Alexander's Essay – July 14, 2011
Obama's Solution: New Gun Control Measures
"The ultimate authority ... resides in the people alone. ... The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation ... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition." --James Madison

Obama's ATF Political Folly
In January of this year, Federal Judge John Roll, a Republican nominated by President George H.W. Bush, was among six citizens murdered by a psychopath in Tucson. Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was among 14 wounded in that attack.
Predictably, Barack Hussein Obama and his Leftist cadres in the Democrat Party were quick to convert the Tucson tragedy into political fodder to formulate a new round of "common sense" gun control legislation. Indeed, Obama claimed the Tucson assault should "at least be the beginning of a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people." He went on, "I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way [to confiscate guns]."
But Obama's nefarious plan to undermine the Second Amendment was well underway many, many months prior to the Tucson murders -- and well below the radar. In fact, anti-gun activist Sarah Brady said that Obama told her, "I just want you to know that we are working on [gun control]. ... We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar."
Why would Obama want to be so clandestine with his anti-2A agenda?
In recent decades, Democrats have suffered serious electoral and judicial setbacks when trying to enact gun control measures. Given the lack of broad support for such measures, Obama is silently advancing the Socialist agenda to disarm Americans and, ultimately, neutralize our ability to defend Essential Liberty.
In March of this year, I detailed insider accounts regarding Project Gunrunner, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation begun in 2005, which originally had the objective of tracking weapons transfers between the U.S. and Mexico in order to expose Mexican drug cartels.
However, in early 2009, the Obama administration determined that the original purpose of Gunrunner could be altered in order to provide a new mandate for implementing their gun control rationale: Stopping the flow of "assault weapons" into Mexico. To facilitate that agenda, Attorney General Eric Holder authorized operation "Fast and Furious," that set into motion an ATF plan to encourage and enable "straw purchase" firearm sales to arms traffickers, and allow the guns to make their way into the hands of violent Mexican drug cartel assassins.
Holder determined that he could manufacture a case that guns purchased in the U.S. were responsible for all the violence in Mexico. Then Obama could use that "evidence" to make the argument that, in order to stem the violence, more stringent gun control measures were necessary, starting incrementally with restricting gun sales in Border States. As Demo Rep. Carolyn McCarthy put it, "[Obama] is with me on [gun control], and it's just going to be when that opportunity comes forward that we're going to be able to go forward."
The "opportunity" was moving forward unabated until one of the ATF's Fast and Furious guns was used last December to murder U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, and other guns were used in the February ambush of Immigration and Customs Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila by Los Zetas Cartel soldiers in Mexico. Agent Zapata was killed in that assault.
I should note here that in all accounts from my sources within ATF, clearly the agents involved at the tactical level of Gunrunner and F&F were under the impression that these operations were legitimate efforts to identify transit lines between the U.S. and members of Los Zetas and other Mexican drug cartels.
However, at the strategic (high-level management) levels of the ATF in Arizona and Texas, it was well understood that Holder had a scheme to use this operation to jumpstart Obama's gun control scheme. (In a March 2010 ATF memo, agents reported that the managers in charge of Fast and Furious were "jovial, if not giddy" over news that ATF guns were associated with murders in Mexico.)
There is new evidence that Holder even used "stimulus debt" to launch "Operation Castaway" in Florida -- putting guns into the hands of the world's most brutal transnational gang, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) -- to generate additional "supporting evidence" for Obama's gun control mandate.
Recall if you will, Democrat outrage when Oliver North, working for the Reagan administration, ran a clandestine operation selling arms to Middle East bad guys so they could kill other bad guys over there, and then used some of the sales proceeds to fund the good guys in Central America fighting against Marxists south of our border. No such Democrat angst is evident this time.
Obama and Holder are moving forward with their subterfuge with no concern about rebuke. Moreover, they are doing so as if agents Terry and Zapata were still walking the line.
Last Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced, "The president directed the attorney general to form working groups with key stakeholders to identify common-sense measures that would improve Americans' safety and security while fully respecting Second Amendment rights. That process is well underway at the Department of Justice with stakeholders on all sides working through these complex issues. And we expect to have some more specific announcements in the near future."
Well underway, indeed. Lost amid the din of all the extra-constitutional federal tax-n-spend debates this week, Obama spared Democrat congressional action on gun control by unilaterally circumventing the Second Amendment via an Executive Order. You guessed it -- he decreed new restrictions on gun sales in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Holder's Deputy Attorney General, James Cole, claimed that Obama's EO would help the ATF disrupt illegal weapons trafficking networks between the U.S. and Mexico.
Meanwhile, there's a growing list of serious crimes committed in the U.S. with ATF guns that were thought to be in Mexico.
As Obama ramps up additional gun control measures, I would remind him that the first shots of the American Revolution were fired in response to the government's attempt to disarm American colonists, specifically to capture and destroy arms and supplies stored by the Massachusetts militia in the town of Concord.
As reflected in James Madison's words regarding the "ultimate authority" for defending liberty, our Founders fully understood that to secure Liberty, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."
As Madison's Supreme Court appointee, Justice Joseph Story, wrote in his 1833 "Commentaries on the Constitution," "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."
Those who are foolishly willing to compromise Essential Liberty to pursue Obama's illusion of safety, in the timeless judgment of Benjamin Franklin, "deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Treasurer's Commentary: It's the spending, stupid!

Treasurer's Commentary: It's the spending, stupid! By State Treasurer Ken Miller

While recent reports show state economic prospects heating up, no recovery is guaranteed. Oklahoma is not immune from macroeconomic conditions or bad decisions made in our nation’s capitol. Unfortunately, the current Washington stalemate threatens our economic recovery just as it’s catching fire.
With the federal government borrowing 40-cents of every dollar spent, much focus is on the US debt crisis. In the last 10 years alone, the gross federal debt has ballooned about 150 percent from $5.8 trillion to $14.3 trillion. This is an increase from 56 percent of GDP in 2001 to more than 100 percent today. The cause is simple – it’s the spending, stupid!
Nearly 200 years ago, political observer Alex de Tocqueville wrote, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.” Studies show most voters negatively view spending in the aggregate, but positively view spending on favored programs that comprise about 90 percent of the federal budget.
Some of our recent deficits are attributable to prolonged war and deep recession. But much of the debt is the consequence of politicians who can’t refuse special interests that demand more government than we can afford, and it’s a bipartisan affair.
The debt ceiling was raised seven times under the most recent Republican president and debt grew under the last four. The current Democratic president accelerated the debt by more than $1 trillion each year. Congress under both parties has spent freely.
The consequences of continued irresponsibility would be devastating. The global economy is built on the full faith and credit of the United States. If that faith were damaged by default or austerity, Oklahoma would suffer from negative effects on the dollar, interest rates, investment, consumption and jobs. Billions of federal tax dollars returned to Oklahoma for core functions would be in doubt and $4 billion of state investment in federal securities could be at risk.
The President and Congress have left the country the choice between bad and worse: going further in debt or default. Now, they must finally take action with a credible long-term deficit reduction plan that takes into account fragile aggregate demand and the peril of defaulting on U.S. debt.
Once our national leaders avert the immediate crisis, they must commit to strict constitutional spending constraints that include a cap and balanced budget requirement. If policymakers would just return to our post-depression debt average near 60 percent of GDP, our $14 trillion economy would have to grow $10 trillion to reach the debt ceiling.
Though Tocqueville warned representative democracy lends itself to overspending, he also said, “the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her own faults.”
America is best equipped to tackle her faults when we work together to correct them. Our country is facing a defining moment that requires statesmen to work in a bipartisan manner so American exceptionalism survives to benefit the next generation.

Debt Ceiling Drama

The debt ceiling debate is providing plenty of opportunity for political theater in Washington. Proponents of raising the debt ceiling are throwing around the usual scare tactics and misinformation in order to intimidate opponents into accepting more debt and taxes. It is important to distinguish the truth from the propaganda.

First of all, politicians need to understand that without real change default is inevitable.  In fact, default happens every day through monetary policy tricks.  Every time the Federal Reserve engages in more quantitative easing and devalues the dollar, it is defaulting on the American people by eroding their purchasing power and inflating their savings away.  The dollar has lost nearly 50% of its value against gold since 2008.  The Fed claims inflation is 2% or less over the past few years; however economists who compile alternate data show a 9% inflation rate if calculated more traditionally.  Alarmingly, the administration is talking about changing the methodology of the CPI calculation yet again to hide the damage of the government's policies. Changing the CPI will also enable the government to avoid giving seniors a COLA (cost of living adjustment) on their social security checks, and raise taxes via the hidden means of "bracket creep."  This is a default.  Just because it is a default on the people and not the banks and foreign holders of our debt does not mean it doesn't count.

Politicians also need to acknowledge that our debt is unsustainable.  For decades our government has been spending and promising far more than it collects in taxes.  But the problem is not that the people are not taxed enough.  The government has managed to run up $61.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities, which works out to $528,000 per household.  A tax policy that would aim to extract even half that amount of money from American families would be unimaginably draconian, and not unlike attempting to squeeze blood from a turnip.  This is, unequivocally, a spending problem brought about by a dramatically inflated view of the proper role of government in a free society.

Perhaps the most abhorrent bit of chicanery has been the threat that if a deal is not reached to increase the debt by August 2nd, social security checks may not go out.  In reality, the Chief Actuary of Social Security confirmed last week that current Social Security tax receipts are more than enough to cover current outlays.  The only reason those checks would not go out would be if the administration decided to spend those designated funds elsewhere.  It is very telling that the administration would rather frighten seniors dependent on social security checks than alarm their big banking friends, who have already received $5.3 trillion in bailouts, stimulus and quantitative easing.  This instance of trying to blackmail Congress into tax increases by threatening social security demonstrates how scary it is to be completely dependent on government promises and why many young people today would jump at the chance to opt out of Social Security altogether.

We are headed for rough economic times either way, but the longer we put it off, the greater the pain will be when the system implodes.  We need to stop adding more programs and entitlements to the problem.  We need to stop expensive bombing campaigns against people on the other side of the globe and bring our troops home.  We need to stop allowing secretive banking cartels to endlessly enslave us through monetary policy trickery.  And we need to drastically rethink government's role in our lives so we can get it out of the way and get back to work.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Defend and Save Social Security Act - Raise Retirement Age

SOCIAL SECURITY -- (Senate - June 22, 2011)
[Page: S3987]

---
Mrs. HUTCHISON. Madam President, I rise today to discuss Social Security and its future.
This is certainly an issue that affects all Americans, and now is the time we can address it in a way that will not be horribly obtrusive to the people who will be on Social Security in 25 years, when it just hits the bottom and we have stark realities that are going to hurt people. We can avoid that.
Last Thursday, I introduced, with Senator Jon Kyl as an original cosponsor, S. 1213, the Defend and Save Social Security Act, a bill that will secure Social Security for the next 75 years without raising taxes and without cutting core benefits to anyone.
Madam President, 28 years ago this past April, Congress and President Reagan came together in a bipartisan manner and acted decisively to address Social Security's finances to save the program for retirees. The men and women of that Congress, working with President Reagan, did it because at that time the program's expenditures had begun exceeding revenues in 1975. By mid-1982, the Social Security trustees warned:
Social Security will be unable to make benefit payments on time beginning in the latter half of 1982.
So the President and the Congress, in a bipartisan effort, started on a glidepath of raising the retirement age to meet the current actuarial tables.
Today, we are in roughly the same place. This spring, the trustees estimated that the Social Security trust fund reserves will be depleted in 2036, which is 25 years away. We have a little more time than President Reagan and Congress had back in 1982. The trustees today estimate that at that point in time, payroll tax revenue to the Social Security trust fund will only be able to pay out 77 percent of benefits to beneficiaries. In today's dollars, that would mean a cut in benefits of 23 percent, or $271 a month average, in core benefit cuts if we do not do anything.
Last year, just to give you the numbers, 157 million American workers paid Social Security payroll taxes, totaling about $637 billion in revenues.
However, a total of $702 billion in benefits was paid to the approximately 54 million beneficiaries. These numbers are clear. The amount of Social Security benefits being paid out now exceeds the revenues that Social Security is collecting. The trustees, when they gave their report a month or so ago, said that to increase the assets you could increase taxes right now. The payroll taxes on employees and employers could go from 12.4 percent to 14.5 percent right now during this jobless economic situation. I would not vote to raise taxes on our Social Security payers now or our employers. It would be unthinkable.
The other thing suggested by the trustees that would meet this shortfall is that you can have a cut in benefits right now. An immediate cut of $150 a month from core benefits would do it.
Well, what kind of option is that? It is no option. We are not going to do that. Everyone knows we are not going to do that. We are not going to raise payroll taxes and we are not going to cut core benefits now. We have more time today than the ``race against the clock'' that occurred in 1983. We have the option for 25 years of doing something that would have a gradual reform to shore up Social Security and give future retirees sufficient time to prepare for the modest changes in raising the retirement age.
If we wait, we have a 23-percent cut in core benefits. So it is imperative for Social Security's financial future that we join together again in a bipartisan effort to stabilize Social Security and ensure that full benefits are paid out for the next 75 years. We can do it if we do not delay.
In 1935, when Social Security was established, there were 40 workers supporting each retiree. Twenty years later, in 1955, the ratio was nine workers supporting one retiree. Today, there are three workers supporting one retiree. In tandem with these rapidly changing and troubling demographics is the fact that we also must start taking the necessary steps to pay down--not add to--our national debt.
We know Vice President Biden, along with members of the House and Senate, is negotiating. As we speak, the staffs are working and the Members have been meeting. They are negotiating to try to do some kind of spending cuts before the debt ceiling is reached. The $14 trillion debt ceiling will be reached around the first of August of this year. So now the Vice President and the group from the House and Senate are meeting to try to cut spending, because we are not going to raise the debt ceiling unless there is real reform. A number of us on both sides of the aisle have agreed, we have got to have spending reforms so we do not have to raise the debt ceiling again beyond $14 trillion.
Now is the time we can address the issue of the debt and do it in a responsible way, because if we just use discretionary spending for the reforms needed, we will never get there. We will never have enough cuts in discretionary spending. Why is that? It is because discretionary spending is less than 50 percent of the spending of our government. It is the mandatory spending that is the vast majority of the spending.
Discretionary spending is in the 40-percent range--60 percent is mandatory. So we cannot get to responsible budgetary cuts without looking at the entitlements. Now, what kind of entitlements do we have to work with? Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. I think we can do a lot to reform Medicare. But it is complicated, and it will take time. It will take time to work out all of the pieces because so many people are dependent on Medicare. It is the people who use Medicare, and it is the providers who provide it, and it is the insurance companies that augment and supplement it, so there are a lot of moving parts in Medicare which we need to address.
But what can we do between now and August 2 that would make a real difference, that would put us on a more responsible path, and begin to make the reforms that would allow a responsible lifting of the debt ceiling, knowing that we are going to cut those deficits so we will not have to do this again, hopefully ever.
That is where Social Security comes in. My Defend and Save Social Security Act, which Senator Jon Kyl and I are sponsoring, will do the following: It will raise the age gradually. Under my bill, with Senator Kyl, anyone who is currently 58 years old or older will not be affected at all by the gradual increase of the retirement age. For everyone else, the normal retirement age and the early retirement age would increase by 3 months each year starting in 2016. The normal retirement age would reach 67 by 2019. Keep in mind that we are already on the glide path to go to 67. That is what President Reagan and the previous Congress did, and that was done with the Greenspan commission's input later. So with that trajectory, we will go to the 67 age. My bill takes us to 67 in 2019. We would already be going in that direction anyway. It then goes, by 2023, to age 68, and by 2027 to 69. The early retirement age would gradually increase to 63 by 2019 and, by 2023, 64. So you have 3 months per year added to the retirement age. It is a very gradual increase, to 69 or 64.
The second part is the COLA. We do not cut core benefits at all. But the cost-of-living increase is meant to hedge against rising inflation. When inflation gets above 1 percent, then you need, in my opinion, to start helping people with COLAs. Under my plan, we would have COLAs after inflation is over 1 percent. The average COLA has been 2.2 percent. The rate of inflation has been about 2.2 percent over the last 10 years. So the average COLA would, under my bill, start after 1 percent. If it is 2 percent, you would get a 1-percent COLA. I believe that a 1-percent reduction in the COLA, not for benefits, would be preferable to the drastic cuts in core benefits that will evolve if we do not do something now.
In today's dollars, a 1-percent cost increase that you would get in a COLA is about $11. So you would not get $11 of increase, but you would get your core COLA. Then after 1 percent, you would get the regular COLA that would be expected. So my bill will generate cashflow for Social Security, maintain a positive balance for the trust fund over the next 75 years.
Social Security's deficits would be eliminated under my bill. We had the Social Security Administration look at our proposal and give us all of our numbers. According to the Chief Actuary, my proposal would achieve, in the next 10 years, $416 billion in deficit reduction.
What that means is, in perspective for what we are dealing with in the budget talks for the debt ceiling lift, we are talking about a 10-year window. Within that 10-year budget window, we could take out $416 billion in deficit reduction, along with the spending cuts in discretionary spending that are part of any kind of reform. So we can address a responsible cut in the mandatory spending over the 10-year period with these very gradual and small adjustments, and help in our deficit reduction, which we have to do if we are going to achieve the reductions that must be done. Every year we wait, we are going to have to shave more off the COLAs or the age.
There are some proposals out there that take the age to 70, and maybe over the next 25 years that will be part of our actuarial table, because today the average lifespan is 77, so people are wanting to work longer. They are healthier longer. A lot of people are trying to keep working longer. I think more and more of the companies and employers want that experience, want the experienced people to stay longer. So it is part of our actuarial adjustment that we should be making.
Over the next 25 years, we would be going into the long-term adjustments that are necessary. If we look, say, out until 2085, we will take $7.2 trillion off the Social Security requirements. So now you are talking about fiscal responsibility looking at both sides of our spending equation, mandatory as well as discretionary, which gives us a real chance to make a difference and to say this Congress, hopefully working with this President, because it has to be bipartisan--we cannot pass a bill the President will not sign.
The Democrats are in the majority in the Senate. Republicans are in the majority in the House. So this is going to take some compromising. The Republicans do not control the Senate, and the Democrats do not control the House. And the Republicans do not control the White House. So it is not as though we are able to say: My way or the highway. You cannot do it, and neither can the President. So we have got to come together if we are going to make the very tough choices that will get our fiscal house in order for future retirees to have the cushion that Social Security would be--it is supposed to be a safety net--to talk another day. But we need a better retirement option for our retirees as well, so they can save more in IRAs. Because Social Security is not supposed to be a pension plan. It is a safety net. It is a supplement. So if we can solve this, the next thing we ought to be doing is adding more options for people to save. We have done some of that with the bill I sponsored with Senator Barbara Mikulski, the Democrat from Maryland, with spousal IRAs.
We have increased the amount you can save and that a stay-at-home spouse can save, and we have made some major good moves in the right direction. But that is different from what we are talking about today, which is Social Security.
I have written a letter to the Vice President. I have asked him to put Social Security on the agenda, because when we finish all of these discussions, they are going to come back with cuts in discretionary spending, but it cannot be enough when it is less than 40 percent of our spending. We have to look at entitlements if we are going to be responsible.
Since I have filed my bill last week, and have had the opportunity with the Heritage Foundation and the media to talk about my plan, we are getting some good support. Of course, we are getting the people who say: No cuts, no way, no how. We expect that. But it is burying your head in the sand if you say: No way, no how.
So we are getting some support. The founder of the Association of Mature American Citizens, Dan Weber, who on their Web site says they now have 160,000 members--the fastest growing organization for older Americans in our country--has stated his support for my proposal. They see changes have to be made. They have even gone a step further and talked about private accounts, which I certainly support, but it is not in my plan.
I appreciate the Association of Mature American Citizens being willing to do what is right for their constituents, their retirees, but also for the long-term, to say we know that if we are going to have a responsible approach, entitlements must be on the table. And Social Security is one that we can do, if it is bipartisan, together.
My plan will address the issue now, with no tax increases and no cuts in core benefits. It will have the gradual rise in the retirement age, affecting no one before the year 2016 and after that just 3 months a year in added age to be eligible for Social Security. The cost-of-living adjustment would be adjusted 1 percent down, and after 1 percent inflation, then you would have the cost-of-living adjustment as well but no cuts in core benefits. The amendments of the past--in 1983--the amendments that have put us back on track with actuarial tables in the past can be done again.
It is my great hope that we can step up to the plate, as those who came before us did, and do the right thing for the long term and burst the bubble that we can reform spending only addressing the discretionary side. It is a myth. Anyone who tells you with a straight face ``I am not going to look at the entitlements'' is not being a responsible steward of our problem. That is what we were elected to do, and I hope we can put together a bipartisan coalition, working with the President, to do it.
Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the Association of Mature American Citizens article by Dan Weber.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
[From the Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2011]
While AARP Waffles AMAC Proposes Change in Social Security
(By Daniel C. Weber)
According to the Wall Street Journal AARP has decided to accept some changes in Social Security to assure that it will continue to be financially stable. However as soon as the story came out and was broadly circulated its C.E.O., A. Barry Rand issued a statement saying AARP has not changed its position on being against changes in Social Security.
But, Mr. Rand in his statement said their position is ``that any changes would be phased in slowly, over time and would not affect any current or near term beneficiaries''.
In response, Dan Weber, president of AMAC, the Association of Mature American Citizens, said ``that sure sounds like he is in favor of making changes to me''.
AMAC, which bills itself as the conservative alternative to AARP is the fastest growing organization for older Americans according to Weber.
``We have over 160,000 paid members and are growing stronger each day.'' Weber said, ``And while AARP is waffling AMAC has proposed serious changes in Social Security that will stabilize Social Security and allow people to have more money when they are retired than the present system.''
Weber explained the AMAC proposal was to incorporate the change recommended by Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and others, to raise the age when a recipient would receive their full benefit from age 66 to age 69. The new age would start to be implemented in 2013 and won't be fully phased in until 2018.
The key difference between their suggested changes and ours is that we would also incorporate the mandatory offering of a new ``Social Security IRA'' to anyone who would be affected by the change in age. The SS IRA would be tax deductible, payroll deducted and put into an individual IRA owned by the wage earner. The funds invested would not be accessible until either age 62 or Security 65. It could be started with as little as $5 per week and be put into a plan offered by the same companies that presently offer IRAs and 401ks.
Fifty percent or more of the funds would have to be invested in guaranteed interest accounts so the person would be guaranteed to have gains in at least half of their funds.
Weber said ``It is unfair to force Americans to continue to work until age 69, especially those who work in occupations that require physical labor. People who are farmers, construction workers, laborers, skilled tradesmen such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, masons and other workers have punished their bodies after years of labor suffer from various ailments that white collar workers generally avoid.
They should be able to stop working at a lower age and the SS IRA would allow anyone to do that.
At the same time, extending the full age to 69 would make Social Security stable for many years in the future. Weber ended by saying ``It is time for the political leaders of both parties to have courage, and stand up to solve this problem by adopting the AMAC plan.''
I yield the floor.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from North Dakota is recognized.
END

Thursday, July 7, 2011

SOLVE THE DEBT PROBLEM – James Lankford

SOLVE THE DEBT PROBLEM – James Lankford (House of Representatives - July 06, 2011)

[Page: H4593]
---   (Mr. LANKFORD asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend his remarks.)
   Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. Speaker, today I rise after spending the week of July 4th in the heartland of America, central Oklahoma, where I had the opportunity to hear the thoughts of the families in my district regarding our economy and the debt.
   No one approached me during the last week to tell me they wanted more government spending to create jobs. No one asked me to create more instability in our economy by raising taxes. In fact, no one told me they wanted to celebrate Independence Day by seeing more government dependence.
   But over and over again, people asked me to work on solving the problem of the debt, not just voting for another blank check debt ceiling. We need real spending limits to offset our serious budget shortfall. We can't pretend that we can borrow forever with no consequences.
   There is a limit to how much debt this Nation can carry and our worldwide markets can sustain. Our current real debt equals our GDP. And I would hope that many others in this House would see that as a problem as well.
   Second, we need to address our entitlements. These programs are critical safety nets for the neediest Americans, but they will be worthless for everyone if we allow them to go insolvent.
   And, finally, we need a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution, with real teeth to hold Washington accountable. There is simply no other way to bring future stewardship of taxpayer money. Fifteen years ago, the Balanced Budget Amendment failed to pass the Senate by one vote after it passed this House with overwhelming bipartisan support. Our fiscal reality would be very different.
   Mr. Speaker, we are at a crossroads in our nation's history. We do not have a debt ceiling vote crisis, we have a debt crisis. We need to stop focusing on a single vote and instead focus on the future consequences of our actions. It is time to put America back on track to debt reduction and job growth.

Tom Cole on Executive Order

 Mr. COLE. Mr. Chairman, in April, a draft executive order was circulated that would force companies as a condition of applying for a Federal contract to disclose all Federal campaign contributions. In my view, if implemented, this executive order would lead to a significant politicalization of the Federal procurement process. Instead of a company being evaluated and judged on its merits, their past work experience, their ability to complete the government contract in question, this executive order would introduce the potential that they would be evaluated politically as opposed to professionally.
   It's never a good idea, Mr. Chairman, in my view, to mix politics with contracting. My amendment would prevent the President from implementing the proposed disclosure requirements.
   Congress actually considered something similar to what the President is proposing in the 111th Congress, the so-called DISCLOSE Act. It's instructive to me that that Congress--the majority of which in both Houses was controlled by our friends on the other side--decided not to implement such a requirement. Frankly, I think doing so now by executive order is effectively legislating through the executive branch.
   The executive order in question that's being considered would not in fact lead to more objectivity in the bidding process, and it could potentially chill the constitutionally protected right of people to donate politically to whatever candidate, political party, or cause that they chose to do so.
   It's worth noting that nothing in this amendment would affect the current Federal disclosures under the law. We're not trying to change things; we're not trying to let people do something they can't do now. We're simply trying to make sure that political contributions and political activities never move into the contracting process. Pay-to-play has no place in the Federal contracting process, and requiring the disclosure of campaign contributions for government contracts does just that.

Oklahoma’s Federal Legislators Voting Records

Each link will open in a new window with the voting record of that senator or representative. Each vote shown has a link to the bill or amendment being voted on with more information.
You voted for them now see how they are voting for you!

More Power for the President

The “Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011” (S 679)  exempts certain presidential appointments to cabinet-level agencies, independent commissions, and boards in the executive branch from the requirement of Senate confirmation. The bill passed by 79 to 20. This bill will do away with the checks and balances that separate an American form of government.
The Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that the President:
 … shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
For principal officers of the United States, such as the heads of executive departments, the President nominates an individual for the office, the Senate consents (or not), and after the Senate consents the President appoints the individual to the office. The same three-step process applies in appointing the inferior officers, unless Congress by law vests the appointment of an inferior officer in the President alone, in a court of law, or in the head of a department. This act will give the President alone the appointments to several hundred inferior offices in executive agencies that now require Senate consent. This is another step out of the forms of a republic government. Much as giving the control of our nations finances to private for profit bankers in the Federal Reserve.
These positions include but are not limited to:
Department of Agriculture
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE FOR ADMINISTRATION
RURAL UTILITIES SERVICE ADMINISTRATOR
COMMODITY CREDIT CORPORATION

Commerce
CHIEF SCIENTIST; NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION

Department of Defense
ASSISTANT SECRETARIES OF DEFENSE
MEMBERS OF NATIONAL SECURITY EDUCATION BOARD
DIRECTOR OF SELECTIVE SERVICE

Department of Education
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR MANAGEMENT
COMMISSIONER, EDUCATION STATISTICS

Department of Homeland Security
DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE FOR DOMESTIC PREPAREDNESS
ADMINISTRATOR OF THE UNITED STATES FIRE ADMINISTRATION
DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF COUNTERNARCOTICS ENFORCEMENT

The TREASURER OF THE UNITED STATES as well as the ASSISTANT SECRETARIES FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND MANAGEMENT will also no longer be subject to congressional approval.
There was an attempt to stop his with an amendment to end the appointments of presidential Czars who have not been subject to the advice and consent of the Senate and to prohibit funds for any salaries and expenses for appointed Czars. This was defeated 51 to 47.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.