Letters: Reader offers thoughts on ‘State of the Union’

To the editor:
I just finished reading the New York Times transcript of Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to the Congress and the nation. I was amazed by the number of typos that were a part of the record. Hey, it’s the New York Times, perfection is the byword.
For the record, I first saw one of these during my high school years when “Ike” (Dwight D. Eisenhower) was our president way back in the 1950s.
Ike was our universal war hero. I sometimes feel that I may have lived too long. His reputation has bounced around violently in the 55 years since he passed the office to John F. Kennedy. I’m on the last pages of Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Patton,” and we are in tarnish mode once again.
English standards have also changed. We no longer capitalize “president” when speaking of our elected leader. That does seem appropriate more and more.
I did my best to watch these State of the Union presentations over the ensuing years whenever I could, both as a good citizen and a history major. That practice ended after Obama’s first one. I could not stand/sit and watch this man. I’m being polite. But, I did take the time to read the transcripts to no personal delight.
One may read the words and take some comfort, pleasure, reassurance, pick your word, but if you have been paying attention to what is going on in the world; you want to vomit.
Let’s start with global warming. We have just been told that 2014 was the warmest year on record since who knows when. All of the “Lame Stream Media” took delight in reporting this. Then the facts leaked out. It was not true. The margin of error on the definitive reports was greater by a large factor than the purported change. Not a single word so far from LSM.
Any number of wonderful benefit initiatives were also put forth in the State of the Union message. One of the awkward aspects for these benefits is the question of who will pay for them.
The minimum wage is always a favorite candidate for this debate. The usual question is, “How can anyone live and raise a family based on this rate of income?” That isn’t the right question, but you all fell for it.
The minimum wage is the wage for an individual who wants to earn some money in an entry level, low or no skill job. This is not a great job, and if it is all you can get, you do have a serious problem.
When an individual enters the work force in an entry level job, a complex financial equation comes in to play. Any and all businesses exist to make a profit for the owners of the firm. In most cases, this is a family running a small, local operation, but it is also Walmart, McDonalds, and every profit seeking endeavor in the world.
The cost of doing business involves all of the components that are encountered in the process. For the majority of firms, the profit margin is extremely small. In grocery stores, it’s about one percent. For them, it is all about the volume and a focus on efficiencies. The same is true for the oil industry. The big oil companies make about 5 cents on a gallon of fuel sold.
Unless the company is involved with something that has a huge profit from productivity gains or a protected environment with an unregulated profit margin, raising the minimum wage is not a good idea.
The bottom line when it comes to mandating an increase in wages or benefits, like sick leave, etc., is that the money has to come from the price of the product or service. As the price is raised, the market adjusts in favor of lower cost providers.
There is no such thing as a free lunch.
This has ever been the blind side of Obama’s “hope and change” clap trap. It’s any easy trap to fall into. If you raise the minimum wage, the affected businesses have only three alternatives:
They can go out of business.
They can raise prices.
They can automate.
None of these are good options for the overall economy and all will have significant repercussions. That is the reality.
Another wonderful idea from Obama is to make two years of community college and an associate’s degree available to all. On the surface, this is a sure winner. What it ignores is that our whole system of education is a huge failure.
I do have a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in education and some experience in the field. A half century ago, I found myself in the position of a full-time, salaried, substitute teacher at a high school in my hometown. I regularly filled in for a teacher of business arithmetic. As I look back, this was one of the few classes where I encountered students who wanted to learn and worked hard to do so. (Most of the other classes where I was filling in did not have this focus.) What truly scared me was that this high school class was dealing with math I had learned in grammar school. I did not engage in ridicule for these students as a result, and ridicule for failure was something I grew up with. I had to admire their desire to learn.
Experiences like this took me out of education and into data processing. To this day, a part of me regrets that move, but not much. Education in America may be the biggest fraud that exists, unchallenged, in our country. We have been throwing money at it for most of my life with few if any gains to show for it.
Even before I entered college in pursuit of a degree in education, I asked my dad a provocative question. My dad was a lifelong teacher who started out with the standard, at the time, two year “normal school” degree.
My question was, “How much of grammar school is really nothing more than babysitting?” My dad was never stumped by a question, but he was at his best in equivocating on this one. I can’t begin to quote his answer. It was mostly, “Yes and No.”
I could go on in more detail to no good effect.
The Genius of America, a phrase I often use, is the desire to prosper through hard work and to excel, with appropriate rewards, via breakthroughs in any and all fields of endeavor. You may pick your “robber barons” of our past, or their successors in today’s world as you will. I challenge you to find a better system.
Resorting to government interference, control, and the “BS” out of D.C. in general is a losing proposition. History has shown that we do need some, limited, oversight for what goes on in the world. Our patent system needs some fine tuning. The FDA likewise. The IRS has become impossible to fathom. Perhaps we should restart from scratch.
Litigation has become a process out of control. The rush to litigate on any excuse needs to be restrained. I regularly get dense legal documents regarding actions being brought about shares of stock I may have owned. Usually I am called upon to document my ownership of the stock in question in exhausting detail long after the fact. I MAY be entitled to a few cents per share, but the lawyers will make a huge payday. I throw them away. After all, if they know I have owned the stock, why should I have to document that? They already know that. It’s all more BS.
The State Of The Union is that we are in serious trouble where the people/citizens are concerned. Members of Congress don’t do a very good job of representing us, and have exempted themselves from the wonderful solutions, like Obamacare, that they have inflicted on us.
This must change!
I’m going on 73 years of age. I don’t know how many “golden” years remain for me, but I’m not hoping for a lot.
Social Security was supposed to be a safety net for retirees if they had nothing else to fall back on. It was to be a very small charge. It was not going to be taxable. So much for that.
Investments in stocks and bonds were going to include differentials for long and short term capital gains. While there is a case for some of these gains to be taxable, why is there no adjustment for inflation?
QE, or quantitative easing, is a mystery I don’t begin to understand. The Fed has engaged in a program of issuing bonds or something in order to buy higher yielding bonds in the open market or somewhere, and produce some benefit to the overall economy. They were doing this at a rate of $85 billion per month for quite a while. Now they have stopped. The Fed now has $4.3 trillion worth of “assets” on their accounts. As far as I can tell, this is all “funny money.” It gets worse. Some $90-plus billion of interest income from the Fed has been transferred to our delightful federal treasury as income as a reduction of the deficit and nobody has blinked.
The emperor has no clothes on.
Joel B. Wulff
Bristolletters to the editor