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2013: a year of forgetable triumphs and memorable failures

2013 started the year on somber tones – the loss of children in the Sandy Hook shooting was still very fresh in the mind of the nation. Equally as memorable were the lingering questions about what happened at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It was the beginning of the 2nd term of President Obama. The transition promised in 2007 was mere moments away, in the eyes of Liberals and fears of Conservatives.

At the beginning of the year, Congress was at 15% approval. A rating that was well earned due to the gridlock in Washington D.C. It was not only a feature of the 1st Obama Administration, it was a guarantee to continue based on the unchanged chasm that separated the Republican led House of Representatives, the Democrat led Senate, and a President who had many promises but little to show for them.

Thus, the year started with an assault on the 2nd Amendment. For the “good” of the nation, to “protect” our children, the President circumvented Congress and enacted 23 Executive Orders to create gun restriction laws. A use of Executive Orders that a Senator named Barack Obama denounced President G. W. Bush for even considering on 2008. Actions that even VP Biden admitted (though little covered by the major news media)

At the same time, Congress expressed its unwillingness to do its job in regard to fiscal responsibility with the enactment of HR 8. Government spending increased, taxes increased by $41 for a mere $1 of increased spending reductions. The road to fiscal instability was set and confirmed.

All of which meant that while Congress succeeded in avoiding the “fiscal cliff” of 2012 it failed horribly to address the long-term danger that the national debt posses to the nation. That the President succeeded in providing the delusion of safety, while failing to impede the criminal or criminally insane from their actions and yet criminalized law-abiding citizens that never posed a problem in the first place.

If that were all that 2013 did to America it would have been bad enough. But with a steady and increasing pace we learned that it would get far worse. In fact on January 20, 2013 I made a statement that would prove to be the summation of the year

“What is our path?

Fiscal unsustainability, modified by international instability, adjusted for an ever growing centralized Government power on the backs of ever fewer individual freedoms and Rights, wrapped by political gridlock and a pursuit of the best intentions that lead to… well you know the saying.”

But the specter of an immigration reform that rewarded violation of our laws edged closer to reality. A process that would continue, in ebbs and flows, throughout the year. While no final course has been set, the path that we are approaching in 2014 seems to lead to a politics backed law that negates the rule of law and needed reforms.

Separately, North Korea followed by Syria and then Iran, all took their places at the forefront of international politics. Each with the terror of weapons of mass destruction as a critical component of how we reacted. And in order, we effectively ignored North Korea, threatened unilaterally Syria, and capitulated to Iran. Hardly actions of a strong defender of democracy across the globe. Actions that concerned, angered, and distanced our international allies while emboldening our enemies.

In fact it can be well argued, and Israel is making that argument, that our actions have done more to destabilize world peace in the long run than even produce a short-term calm. Chemical weapons are (allegedly) being used by those we supported in Syria, North Korea continues to advance its nuclear arms, and Iran seems destined to become a nuclear power sooner than later (though their promises of a lack of interest in nuclear bombs belies the untruth they have proven to speak in past promises).

On the fringe of all these major headlines (not even to the middle of the year for most of this) there was the terrifying question of what our Government is doing with Drones – aerial unmanned vehicles. We learned early on that our Government sought, and possibly gained approval from the DOJ, to kill U.S. citizens abroad – via drone strikes and without trial or forewarning – for actions they may or may not even be aware of. An issue that was sadly forgotten before the 2nd Quarter even started, as the Drone Caucus (which includes Rep. Richard Hanna) continued to march the nation towards unlimited use of drones domestically [More on that in a bit].

Also on the fringe, there were the early promises of tax reform and infrastructure reform (which every year since 2009 has been called by a new catch phrase – “shovel-ready jobs”, “infrastructure investments”, “fix-it-first”, and so on). There were promises of a bloom of renewable energy jobs and global warming (or climate change as the new phrase) prevention – which were based on a desired outcome even in the face of a reality that confirmed without question that the jobs were not blooming and that climate change was infeasable at best and ineffective regardless of action.

Add to this even more Commissions. To support American manufacturing as of the State of the Union (that went nowhere from that moment on), then on the NSA and the Affordable Care Act as the year waned. But like Bowles-Simpson and the President’s Job Council, the answers that would be provided ensured no real action from Government nor the Congress. While some may hold hope for results in 2014, history has shown that regardless of the determinations made, the Obama Administration and Congress only regard these Commissions as a means to politically ensure re-election and maintaining political powerbases.

All of this and we still have failed to even reach the middle of 2013 overall.

But let’s skip to the middle of the year. Scandals and Government overreach, with a Congress that was locked in gridlock with representatives that were either unwilling or too calculating to take positions until the political math of the situation was clear.

Take your pick. There was the continuing inconsistent answers on Benghazi – with a complete lack of accountability for anyone that was publicly even tangentially connected to the fiasco. There were the revelations of the abuses by the NSA, domestically and internationally, that drew public outrage while some politicians flip-flopped and obfuscated their position (I specifically will point out Rep. Richard Hanna). There was the rush to unilaterally engage in essentially an act of war against Syria – instigated by the President, over the objection of the public and for once most of the Congress (at least those that took a position).

The Benghazi attack is now being brushed aside as a false distraction while legitimate questions remain. The NSA continues to wield power that at least one Court believes is unconstitutional, even as the findings of a Commission is being evaluated without even a hint of promise a single recommendation will be enacted. Syria remains embroiled in a war, with both sides having chemical weapons, neither side pleased with America, and our nation embarrassingly dragged into an agreement that lessened our stature and international standing.

Plus there are the revelations that The FBI, DEA, and other Agencies of the Government have been using drones domestically – without a shred or clarity on how they have been used, if abuse has occurred, or any impact of the legality of their use – since 2006. Sadly, there is also the delusion lifting reality that mass shootings continue to exist unabated – just as VP Biden promised, even as freedoms were restricted.

Which leaves only the Government shutdown and Obamacare.

The fiscal ineptitude of Congress manifested itself in a attempt to remove Obamacare – based on the fear of its inability to achieve the goals that it promised, and the freedoms it sacrificed. This was not a universal move – it was pushed by Republicans that had voted repeatedly to remove Obamacare (well those that did not abandon the votes they had made – again I specifically point out Rep. Hanna). It resulted in a limited shutdown, that was emphasized by drastic measures meant to create an emotional backlash and result in a political win for Democrats (much like the Sequester, but this time done effectively).

The result was a Congressional approval rate of 8%, a political loss for Republicans, and ultimately a budget deal that increases deficit spending, grows the national debt, expands the size of Government, all for a promise of a future reduction in future increased spending. The reality is that the addiction of Government to spending taxpayer money they have yet to earn remains the only constant regardless of political party.

As for Obamacare, well, the description of failure is a compliment. Perhaps the quote of President Obama – labeled as the Lie of the Year – puts it into context

“If you like your health care plan, you can keep it”

No, millions cannot. The President, and Democrats in general according to Sen. Gillibrand of NY, knew it years ago. In addition we learned the President, knew that the Healthcare.gov website would fail the moment it was unveiled. That many of the fears of Conservatives were absolutely true and correct. That for the hundreds of millions of dollars in over-budget spending that was allocated and spent, untold tens (maybe hundreds) of millions more would need to be spent to even be moderately functional.

At the end of the day, and year, with deadlines made and passed by, the website that is the hub of all that Obamacare (or the Affordable Care Act – the name changes with the popularity of the program) was promised to be continues to fail to be 100% operational. Essential targets of young and health Americans signing up for the program have failed to be met (by enormous proportions). Attempts to appease the public have resulted in attempts to usurp power from Congress (President Obama “allowing” plans that legally cannot exist to continue).

All of this while an Obama Administration struggles to prop up dubious and insignificant facts (numbers of visitors to the website), rewords clearly stated and recorded facts (see the Lie of the Year), and shrugs off detailed and absolute calculations of requirements (numbers signed by specific dates), and claim success where abject unmitigated undeniable failure is apparent even in the eyes of the most Left and unwavering of supporters (like Jon Stewart).

The result of 2013 has been the equivalent of a boil on the arse of the nation.

At every turn the public has been failed. From the Executive Branch and the Legislative. From politicians at various levels. From mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility. From abuse and overreach of powers. From limits and restrictions of freedom.

For all of this, 2013 has been a year where the only memories that Government has provided are of ineptitude and uncompromising failure. Each claim of success has been met with an ever greater misstep and decline.

The only thing that is a positive is the hope that in 2014 the nation cannot fall as far as it already has. That with the mid-term elections of Congress and various State and local races, there might be some hope of regaining accountability, responsibility, fiscal austerity, and protection of freedoms that are essential to the continuation of the nation.

2014 could be a year of great upheaval in Congress, which would mean great change in Government – whether the political parties like it or not. It could be a year where Government regains its limitations, improves its confidence with the American public, and rises from the mire of its current international standing. 2014 could be all of this…

But that will be a different summation, for a different day.

Government shutdown over Obamacare – is it worth it?

The Government of the United States has officially shutdown as of 12:01 AM on Oct 1,2013. Well the discretionary spending portion of the Government anyway. Now come the blame game and dire finger pointing by the media and pundits alike. But was this shutdown over Obamacare worth it?

The answer to the question depends entirely on why politicians sought the OK Corral showdown in the first place. But before I go there let’s get some perspective.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was presented as a non-tax that would provide everyone in America with health insurance if they wanted or needed it. For those that did not want to take part in the Government healthcare exchanges, they were told they could keep their existing plan and doctors. The best part, as the public was told, was that the cost of healthcare would go down, and it would save money from being added to the deficit. This was the promise of Obamacare.

Since June 2009 the majority of Americans (that’s Democrats, Independents, and Republicans) has not bought into the above pitch. According to every poll, by anyone you want to select as far as I am aware, there has not been less that 51% opposition to Obamacare in over 3 years.

In the meantime, the public has learned that Obamacare is a tax, which is why the Supreme Court did not strike it down. Chief Justice Roberts also made clear that the quality and repercussions of laws are not the responsibility of the Supreme Court, just the constitutionality.

We have learned that the cost of healthcare has increased, and there is no cost savings. In fact Obamacare increases the deficit. Almost everyone in America is expected to be covered – just a pesky 10-15 million won’t be involved for reasons ranging from lack of knowledge, lack of income, dislike of the law, and in some cases the perceived lack of need.

It gets better. As years have passed America has learned of hordes of flaws in the law, most unintentional and likely due to the fact that the law was passed without being read by the supermajority of Democrats that passed it (which oddly enough is not considered a partisan action by the media). We have learned that boat-loads of corporations from the smallest to international giants have chosen to bail on healthcare – eliminating the option of workers from keeping their plans and doctors.

We have also learned that implementation of this law has been about as flawed as its creation, with serious questions on the safety of the data input by Americans that chose to explore the exchanges (whether they want to or now need to). At the same time one of the biggest parts of the law, and several smaller parts, have been pushed back at least a year due to complications – but not the mandate on the public.

But the promise of cheaper monthly premiums for healthcare has been all the rage leading up to Oct. 1st. Still, in all that hoopla the math presented left out the costs of out-of-pocket expenses – like copay, deductibles, and what is or is not covered by the plans. The real world cost is not just a monthly premium, but you’d never know that from what has been presented so far.

Thus, public opinion has remained negative. Even in the face of uncounted speeches by the spectacular orator President Obama. Even with the aid of multiple Hollywood supporters, members of the NFL and NBA, and a host of other marketing gimmicks meant to spur a positive response.

So back to the question at the start. Is this partisan attempt to wipe out Obamacare worth shutting down the Government?

If, as some on the far left have told me, it is an attempt to attack the Black President then no. But there is nothing in the language used by anyone over the past 3 years when discussing Obamacare to imply anything racial. That doesn’t stop some from suggesting it, but it’s an issue that doesn’t exist.

If it is simply an attempt by the political party out of favor at the moment to confound the other side of the aisle, then no. But the pubic opinion and the problems above explicitly describe more than a political tug-of-war.

If it is just an attempt by Republicans to preserve their ability to get re-elected by constituents who want to see a more principled and conservative representation, then no. While there is no doubt that more than a few Republicans, either with dreams of elections to higher office or looking to shore up a very moderate if not Democrat voting record, have voted to repeal or defund Obamacare just for the political gain that is not enough of a reason to shutdown the Government. Again, the public and the litany of problems, plus revelations on what Obamacare really is and does clearly states that this is more than mere political math.

If this is an honest (or at least as honest as some politicians get) attempt to represent the views of the majority of Americans for more than 3 years, then it is worth it. It would mean that this has been an attempt to correct the initial partisan passage of the law, the failures of the law to address serious concerns (like malpractice insurance – a key factor in healthcare increases, and interstate competition for health insurance plans, ect), and the consistent refusal of Democrats to repeal a law the nation has not wanted (which in itself is a partisan reaction without the slightest concern for public opinion or representation).

For me, I believe that a shutdown of the Government as an attempt to repeal or defund Obamacare as it is written is essential for a reason I believe is more important than everything else mentioned so far. Because it is a law that gives power to the Government over the public in a manner never seen before.

Nothing is more terrifying than a Government that can tell its populace they must do whatever. Not that they can choose this or that, or if they elect to invoke this privilege they must comply with regulations and laws. Obamacare is the Pandora’s Box that leads to a far less free nation than has ever existed before. It is only a question of time before a new law – for the good of the public – is passed (possibly with great enthusiasm) the restricts and limits freedom in ways that generations 2 or 3 decades ago would have rioted over. This is the path that leads to Governments like Syria, Iran, the old USSR, and China to name just a few examples.

IF, and only if, Republicans have taken this hard stance to represent the public and protect the freedoms they swore an oath to defend, then the Government shutdown is worth it. Anything less is just political grandstanding, and an attempt to ward off election challenges from the Right and the Left.

Which reason, for each Representative, will be very clear is short order. Hopefully the public at large will notice.

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