Monthly Archives: January 2013

Working at Reducing Unemployment

From 1948 until 2012, the average unemployment rate in the United States was 5.8% The highest unemployment rate was 10.8% in November 1982. The lowest unemployment rate was 2.5% in May 1952.

So how is the unemployment rate determined? The obvious simple answer, and the widely accepted answer, is that it is “the measure of the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labor force.” We need to keep that definition in mind, as it will appear later in this article.

Currently, for December of 2012, the unemployment rate in the US has been calculated at 7.8%. At the beginning of the year, the average unemployment rate in the US was 8.5%. As an aside, the state with the lowest unemployment rate in 2012 was North Dakota at 3.2%.  That is relatively easy to understand.  Small state – newfound oil.  But the two states in a tie for the highest unemployment rate in 2012 were….. Nevada (understandable) and………….Rhode Island! I have not a clue as to why Rhode Island has a high unemployment rate of 10.2%.  Who would have guessed?

In the United States, unemployment benefits are usually called unemployment compensation. Benefits are generally paid by state governments, funded in large part by the federal government to workers who have become unemployed through no fault of their own. This compensation is classified as a type of social welfare benefit. According to the IRS Code, these types of benefits are to be included in a taxpayer’s gross income.

The idea of unemployment insurance in the US began in Wisconsin in 1932. Through the Social Security Act of 1935, the federal government effectively encouraged the individual states to adopt unemployment plans. To facilitate the program, Congress passed the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) which authorizes the IRS to collect an annual federal employer tax used to fund state workforce agencies.

Here is a thumbnail sketch of how the federal-state unemployment benefit works. The jobless generally receive up to 26 weeks of state benefits and then shift to federal emergency unemployment compensation, which is broken into four tiers and lasts up to 47 weeks. There is a separate federal extended benefits program, which provides up to 20 weeks, but only New Yorkers are eligible for it at this time. (Really?  How did New York vote in the last presidential election?)

The federal government has spent far more on unemployment insurance in recent years that it had in previous economic downturns because of the unprecendented response to the Great Recession (Not to be confused with the Great Depression). Federal benefits were extended to a record 99 weeks in November 2009. That safety net was extended multiple times until late 2012, when Congress extended the deadline to file, but shortened the duration for which the jobless can receive checks.

How much does all of this cost us? Over the last five years, state and federal unemployment insurance programs have cost roughly $520 billion, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released in late November of last year. That is over a half a trillion dollars!  When it comes to our government, trillions are “in” and billions are “passe.”  That money is spent over and above the monies collected from the working labor force through the collection of unemployment taxes.

This is not the first time this has happened. The “Greatest Generation” also lived through the “Great Depression.”  Common sense tells me that the federal goverment had better programs in the 1930s than it has today.

The Great Depression was a worldwide horrific event. A combination of unemployment, inflation, political instability and climatic conditions all converged at one time and lasted approximately 12 years in the US.  Oddly enough, World War II was primarily responsible for breaking the stranglehold of the Great Depression.  I am by no means advocating WW III to turn our current misfortunes around.

Here is what our government did in response to getting people working during the Great Depression:

Civilian Conservation Corps

The CCC was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1943 in the US for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families. These men were ages 18-25. As a part of the New Deal initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments. Maximum enrollment at any one time was 300,000.  In nine years, 2.5 million young men participated in the CCC, which provided them with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a small monthly wage of $30 a month, $25 of which had to be sent to their families. The principal benefits of an individual’s enrollment in the CCC included improved physical condition, heightened morale, and increased employability. During the program’s tenure, volunteers planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide, upgraded most state parks, updated forest firefighting methods, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways in remote areas.

Some of the notable alumnae of the CCC program were:

Hyman G. Rickover, 4-star Admiral, former Corps Area Commander
Raymond Burr, actor (noted mostly for Perry Mason)
Archie Moore, the Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World
Robert Mitchum, actor
Chuck Yeager, test pilot (first human to break the sound barrier)
Walter Matthau, actor
Stan Musial, baseball player

Now aren’t you glad you read my blog?

Civil Works Administration

This program was also a part of the New Deal, and was created in November 1933 to rapidly create manual labor jobs for millions of unemployed workers. The jobs were merely temporary for the duration of the hard winter. The CWA created construction jobs, mainly improving or constructing buildings and bridges. It ended on March 31, 1934, after spending $200 million a month and giving jobs to 4 million people. The CWA’s workers laid 12 million feet of sewer pipe and built or improved 255,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 3,700 playgrounds, and nearly 1,000 airports (not to mention building 250,000 outhouses still badly needed in rural America).

Works Progress Administration

The WPA was another larger New Deal program that began in April 1935.  It employed millions of unemployed people to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. Almost every community in the US had a new park, bridge, or school constructed by the agency. The WPA’s initial appropriation was $4.9 billion, which was about 6.7% of the 1935 GDP. In total, the program cost $13.4 billion.  From 1935 until 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs. The goal of the program was not for full employment, but to provide a paid job for the breadwinner suffering from long-term unemployment.  In my home town of Soft Rock, two parks and our high school athletic field were all constructed by workers of the WPA. That was pretty big for a town that had a population of less than 700 at the time.

Do not get the impression that these programs did not have their detractors. These programs were under fire and under scrutiny, because opposing politicians thought the projects selected were rewards for some while attempting to buy political support from others. But the end result was that many people, sorely in need of a job, received a job. And the upside as compared to today? The communities, states and the federal government all received something in return for the employment dollars spent on the programs. Now common sense tells me that they had better programs in the 1930s, than we do today. What did the taxpayers receive in return for the half trillion dollars spent on unemployment in the last 5 years. The answer? Butkas. Nada. Zero. Nothing.

So now we get to that sticky point where I comment, “Should we continue with unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks and continue to expect nothing in return?”  Why can’t we have programs like they did in the 30s? Have we become such a nation that manual labor is considered beneath our dignity?

Our country has become a fairly well-educated country. The following statistics are for the educational attainment in the United States for persons aged 25 and over:

High school graduate 87.58%
Some college 56.86%
Associate/and or Bachelor’s degree 39.89%
Bachelor’s degree 30.44%
Master’s degree 7.95%
Doctorate or professional degree 3.00%

It makes complete sense to me, that our highly educated and, hopefully, evolved elected officials could institute a more modernized version of the 1930s programs.  They can surely make better use of the vast amount of college-educated, experienced, highly qualified people who are currently collecting unemployment compensation.  What a waste of talent!   Many of those 1930s programs were headed by reserve component officers or military men. That would not fly today, but someone, somewhere should have the organizational skills to put these people to productive use in exchange for an unemployment check.

How about this?  We give everyone the 26 weeks unemployment compension and if they cannot find a job, then we give them a job and their pay is the unemployment. Of course, you would want these people to have opportunities to continue to apply for other work. What if we stick them with companies that can use their skills at the government’s expense? They would get 12 weeks with each company, and then move to another. They could possibly be hired by a company once they have shown their capabilities. That would be a win for the government, and a win for the hiring company.

I am a firm believer that everyone is not cut out for college. I also believe that we are missing the boat by not providing technical/vocational training to our high school students. Even though our schools are tailoring their curriculum toward college prep, only 40% of the people have a Bachelor’s or higher degree. We must prepare our students for other vocations.

The government could assist in lowering unemployment by repealing Obamacare. Why?  Because when the act was passed, companies began downsizing to allow for the anticipated 20-25% increase in their total payroll costs.  After all, as mentioned in a previous post, companies are not in business to lose money.  But they did reduce their work forces in anticipation of the implementation of Obamacare, thus fueling the fire of an already bad economic situation.

So now for my more studious readers, I am going to pose this question. If we could magically lower the unemployment rate to zero, would all capable Americans be employed?  The answer?  Not even close! The definition for the unemployment rate in the second paragraph says it is determined by “people actively looking for a job.” We have just under 5% of our country on welfare. They are not looking for a job. So if you were to add that 5% to the 7.8%, the true number of capable people not working is over 12%.  If you think unemployment is expensive, wait until my next blog about welfare.

The Media and Cowardice – Contributing Factors for Mass Shootings

I am a baby boomer. Baby boomers are the generation that are now grandpas and grandmas. We are an easily recognizable bunch. The gray thinning hair, wrinkles in places you never knew could wrinkle; well, you get the picture. We are never mistaken for Gen X’ers, Y’ers, or any other generation. We are also the generation from whom kids expect to receive large birthday and Chrismas presents.

I am proud to say that, in recent history, no mass killings have been committed in the United States by baby boomers. That is not to say we did not have our usual assortment of “nut cases” and murderers. It is the younger generation committing these heinous crimes, such as shooting grade school children, innocent moviegoers, or people in Washington, D.C.

My theory about why these tragic events are occurring today is based on cowardice and the media. Let me explain.

When growing up in the small town of Soft Rock, (population 969) we had a movie theater. As a matter of fact, the name of the theater was the Soft Rock Family Theater. Our little theater had about 200 seats. Movies were 25 cents, and popcorn and a soda were a dime each. The theater ran two different movies each week. One movie ran Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The second movie would run Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. So, in the early 60s when my parents wanted the kids out of the house, we would use our weekly allowance of fifty cents. We would be dropped off at the door of the theater. Now here is how life was very different from today. My parents would drop me off without even looking at the marquee to see what movie was playing. They knew that no movie would be shown at the Soft Rock Family Theater that was inappropriate for children. There wasn’t any PG, PG-13, R, or any other designation. There weren’t any warnings regarding language, nudity, sexually explicitness, extreme violence, etc. Warnings were not needed.

Our parents never had to worry about what was on nighttime television. It was appropriate for all ages. Sunday night was family night in front of the TV, a tradition that is sorely lacking today. Everyone was home. There were no acceptable excuses for not being home on Sunday night. The shows included Ed Sullivan, Bonanza, a host of variety shows, and my very favorite, the Wonderful World of Disney. Walt Disney provided some of the best programming anywhere and at any time. Today Disney is known for their theme parks, but their entertainment during the golden age of television was so much more impressive.

We also had Saturday morning television with shows featuring real people actors. Our shows had people like Roy Rogers (my personal favorite), Hoppalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Zorro, The Lone Ranger, Sky King, Pinky Lee, Superman, Wild Bill Hickok, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody. We even had animal shows like Fury and Rin Tin Tin. I don’t know how they did it, but that horse and dog either saved a kid, or they assisted in capturing a bad guy in every episode. Amazing!

At 6:00AM on Saturdays, while the parents were sleeping, I would sneak downstairs and turn on that cherished 19″ black and white TV, wait for that baby to warm up (about 30-45 seconds), and watch an hour of cartoons before my real live heroes came on the air. And when they came on, I was excited. I knew that good was going to triumph over evil, and the world was going to be a safer place because of the efforts of my heroes. Never mind the fact that most of them were westerns taking place in the 1800s, I just knew that they made America safe for me today.

My heroes were my role models. The bad guys always got what they deserved. And, if one of my heroes had to pull out a gun to bring him to justice, he shot to “wing” him. The hero was always an excellent shot, only shooting the villians in the shoulder, and occasionally, a leg. No hero ever shot a “baddie” in the head or torso. Apparently in the Old West this was not allowed, either on purpose or by accident. My heroes were so considerate that even when they had to shoot the villian, my heroes would not let him bleed. Obviously, there was no blood in those bad guys.

You could say that our entertaiment was “white-washed.” Many people would argue that it was not realistic. But to us baby boomers, it was entertainment!

There is a reason why it was whitewashed. Our parents, what Tom Brokaw calls the “greatest generation”, were the responsible parties for this whitewashing. They had lived through the Depression, lived in houses without electricity and indoor plumbing, and had won World War II. They were a tough, hardworking generation that lived at a time when you really did “eat what you killed.” And, they saw, lived in, and experienced the horrors associated with World War II. The returning service members lived in the mud and saw the blood and the death that is inherent to warfare.

Now that the war was over, the returning servicemen made bowling the second most popular indoor sport. The baby boomer generation was the result. “And by God, no kid of mine was going to experience what I did during the Depression and during the War!” Thus, television and movies were entertaining, upbeat, and bloodless. And, as a result, there were no shortage of role models for any of us young boomers.

The “greatest generation” had WWII, and the baby boomers had a country and a war called Viet Nam.

Viet Nam. The first time in our history that television reporting could be reported instantaneously. And the media, particularly television, did not pass up that opportunity. For the first time, the horrors of warfare were brought to the American public. It was dubbed the “living room” war because pictures of dead and dying enemies, dead and wounded civilians, and the carnage of war were shown up front and personal. The opportunity to show a dying American serviceman drawing his last breath while medics and doctors were frantically attempting to save him was also not wasted.

At first, Americans were appalled. But as the war lingered, and the casualties and carnage increased, the American public became “desensitized” by the whole affair. After seeing so much blood, so many bodies, and cities and towns destroyed, it just did not affect the public as did the initial onset of the war. (I quit watching television news during the Viet Nam war. I was a young Army officer not in the war, who’d lost too many friends and quit watching. I currently read newspapers and peruse news sites on the internet, and I can choose what I want to read.)

The gloves came off of our media, particularly television and movies. Nothing was off-limits. The “whitewashing” done by the media in the 50s was gone in the 70s.

We needed rating systems not only for the movies, but also for television. These ratings were to warn of: sexually explicit language, nudity, adult situations, graphic violence, and any one of numerous other reasons. So much for “whitewashing.”

Then, as technology advanced, we were subjected to computers and video games. The video games require a rating also. And one of the ratings is “not advised for people under 18.”

So here we are. With all of our technological advances we finally arrived at the “Freddy Kruger” generation. I know this is not the technical term, but it does signify that we left my Roy Rogers era and came to grips with a whole new era where the parents are not protecting their children from the crap that is now being pandered as entertainment. Now there is even a “Chain Saw Massacre” sequel. It astounds me that this stuff is both popular and profitable enough to continue with sequels.

It has also spilled into television. During my childhood, there was no lack of entertaining comedy. Now, it is difficult to find comedy that should really be seen by children. But there it is! There is no lack of blood and gore. Moreover, the plot takes a backseat to the gratuitous blood and gore.

I want to be entertained and relaxed while watching television. I do not want to see pedofilia on Criminal Minds, or 15 different ways to decompose a body on Bones. Have you seen the warnings preceding Bones? It baffles me that it can be shown during family prime time. Grandma and I quit watching both shows, because they went from educating to sensationalizing.

Now kids play video games loaded with violence.

Last weekend, a group whose objective is to clean up media, sent people to audit the violence shown in the 5 biggest box office drawing movies. Between these 5 movies, there were 185 incidents of violence, with many of them being murder. Apparently, this is what sells, and this is what the public wants.

My heroes used a six-shooter to bring the bad guys to justice. The modern protagonists (not heroes, by my standards) use a sixty shooter to eliminate the bad guys. Every person appears to have an assault rifle. My heroes were intelligent and attempted to minimize harm to everyone, including the villians. The modern protagonist is idolized for his strength and weaponry, and ability to cause mass destruction and carnage. In retrospect, I realize my heroes were actors playing a part. The characters being portrayed were good. In my young mind, they were real. I wanted to emulate them.

Who are the role models today? Cartoons do not qualify as a role model. Can you think of five people who are providing our youth with positive role models from the media? Someone a child can look up to and say,” I want to be like him.” And you would be proud.

The current crop movie and TV producers, as well as the video game makers, claim that they are in no way responsible for any of these mass killings. They may not be the “reapers” of their products, but common sense tells me that they have “sown” the seeds of heinous crimes with their products. When young, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. My heroes were real to me. Some people do not mature past that level. They may be unbalanced. They are provided with many media “field manuals” to violent behavior. Our children have been desensitized by all the blood, gore, violence and killing from which they have been exposed. And as long as we, the public, keep buying it, they will continue to make it.

During the 50s, a school yard fight usually entailed two fifth-graders slugging it out. The damage done by these fisticuffs was minimal. It was just the way all disagreements were settled. In Medieval warfare, one combatant stood face to face with his foe.

Both of these scenarios have one thing in common; both combatants were within arms’ reach.

It takes a lot of “guts” to stand in a fist fight and fight within arms’ reach of your opponent. It takes a coward to gun down and murder unarmed, defenseless people.

I wondered why the Colorado theater shooter was not shot during his spree? The answer is that he picked a theater that did not allow guns. He passed two theaters that did allow guns to get to the theater that did not allow guns. Thus he was unmolested during his killing spree. If there were three or four guns in the theater, there would surely have been fewer innocent victims, and possibly one shooter victim. The coward went to a theater where he would be unmolested while committing his heinous act. (His trial has been delayed, because his attorneys are not prepared to enter a plea. Three hundred witnesses, and he has not stood trial.)

Do you think the Fort Hood psychiatrist would have had a chance if any of his soldier victims had their weapons? You can surmise that there may have been two or three victims, and he surely would have been one of them. But this coward also chose to shoot people who could not retaliate. His trial has not begun, even though the crime took place over a year ago.

It appears the Sandy Hook elementary school shooter was mentally unbalanced. His crime was the most vile and heinous of any, as he targeted elementary school children. Unfortunately, this is the crime that is causing knee jerk reactions in cities, in states, and in Washington D.C. Enough bad legislation cannot be written and passed quickly enough by our politicians. All of this done to convince their voting public that they are on top of the current situation.

These cowards would not have done their deeds, had they not thought they could get away with doing so.

And our media? They have provided these surviving killers, and any future copycats with more press coverage and television time than they could ever had hoped, yet they cleanse themselves of any responsibility.

Gun Control in America – the new Big Bang Theory

In early American history, our forefathers viewed the “right to bear arms” as important for the following reasons:

*  deterring tyrannical government

*  repelling invasion

*  suppressing insurrection

*  facilitating a natural right of self-defense

*  participating in law enforcement

*  enabling the people to establish a militia system

Because of the listed concerns, the “right to bear arms” became the second amendment.   If it had not been important to our forefathers, this right would have had a higher number, rather than immediately following the first amendment granting “freedom of speech.”

It is hard to imagine that any other amendment to our Constitution has been under more scrutiny than the second amendment, especially in light of the recent Sandy Hook School massacre in Connecticut.

So now let’s get into the present.  Legislation is currently being introduced into Congress to reenact a ban on assault weapons.  There was a 10-year ban on assault weapons from 1994 to 2003.  It appears that this law did have more holes than a wheel of Swiss cheese, but had little effect, either positive or negative, because assault rifle weapons are only used in two to eight percent of all gun crimes.  Why the difference in the percentages?  Which was it, two or eight percent?  Well, one thing that Grandpa T learned regarding statistics about crimes and guns is that you can find a myriad of statistics supporting one view or the opposing view.

What is my personal take on assault rifles?  Well, as a former hunter, former soldier, and current owner of guns, I do not see why anyone would want to own one.  They are not so accurate compared to other non-assault rifles.  Also, they cannot be used for hunting because of the small caliber of the ammunition.  Lastly, it can get kind of spendy if you decide to shoot magazine after magazine.  But what are you shooting?

Common Sense tells me that there are only five reasons why someone would want to have an assault weapon:

*  1.  Because you are in the military or in law enforcement.

*  2.  Because you are either a frickin’ soldier or cop wannabe, and you have watched way too much television.

*  3.  Because you want to investment.  The value is rising because people are stockpiling arms and ammunition.

*   4.  Because you are a collector.   Your collection simply would not be complete without a crappy- looking Rumanian-made AK-47.

*   5. Because you plan to commit a crime and therefore possess as much firepower as you can obtain.

I am sure there must be other reasons, but I would be hard pressed to provide them.  I am sure-shootin’ that I am going to get a response to this last paragraph.

I am not anti-NRA.  During my military career, the NRA was unmerciful in attempting to make members of my fellow soldiers and me.  We were a poor group to target  because we possessed and trained with assault weapons.  For purely selfish reasons, we never wanted to face an enemy that was armed as well as or better than we were.  That survival thing kicked in.  I am pretty sure that most law enforcement people feel the same.  As a result, we did not join the NRA because of their concerted efforts to protect assault weapon ownership.  Second amendment – si; assault weapons – no.

But like most things Washingtonian, our politicians are sure to screw up this law.  The 1994 assault weapon ban made illegal any magazines that held more than 10 rounds of ammo.  A good thing in my opinion, as I never shot over three times at any game I ever hunted.  So what happened?  While the law was being debated in Congress, manufacturers flooded the market with large capacity magazines.  They are all available today. Gun dealers cannot keep assault weapons on the shelf, as the pending legislation is causing panic buying at lucrative profit once again.  It is too late.   There are too many of them already in circulation.

As an aside, when assault weapons first started becoming available, especially AK-47’s from either Russia or China or some other third world sinkhole at gun shows, you could buy an AK and get a crate of ammo for $150.  This was less than 15 years ago, and those crates contained 2200 rounds of ammo.  I never bought one.  They looked junky.  I did not need one, and I did not need to fill my soldier wannabe void.

So, now that we have weapons galore in the U.S., how do we protect ourselves?

Two of our ally nations have taken the path of attempting to eliminate guns entirely in their countries: England and Australia.

Now here is where the statistics get so divergent that I am not going to attempt to scrutinize who is right or wrong.   I will attempt to generalize what has been published in the 5 consulted sources. Who is right and who is wrong is going to be determined by what you want to believe.  Currently, the passions have been raised to fever pitch on both sides as both sides are very passionate about the subject.  So here we go!

The State of Illinois has the most stringent gun laws in the U.S.  However, the City of Chicago experienced over 500 homicides in 2012.  More homicides in Chicago than soldier deaths in Afghanistan. Obviously gun control laws have failed.

It appears you cannot get a consensus in England as to the effect of their gun law.  The law took guns out of the hands of the citizenry.  Having said that,  Common Sense tells me that only law-abiding people will turn in their weapons. The non-law abiding people will keep their weapons.  The British police force has had to arm themselves after the passage of the law for the first time in history!  We all have seen the old movies with the Bobbies walking the beat with a whistle and a nightstick.  Since the passage of the gun law, they are now carrying weapons.  The absence of all other statistics with regard  to crime reduction or increase is amazing. But name one legislative body that will admit they have made a major league screw-up at taxpayers expense.

Australia is another matter.  The government paid their citizens to turn in weapons.  As a result, 640,381 weapons were turned in at a cost of $500,000,000 to the government.  That is about $780 per weapon and this was done over ten years ago.  Now here is the irony of this.  The government knows exactly  how many weapons were turned in, but the results ofthis  buy-back program in relation to crime statistics run the gamut from “no effect on the crime rate” to “huge increases in the crime rate.”  Bear in mind, the government spent a big boatload of money and does not want to admit failure in the program.  The general concensus?  Crime increased dramatically in all categories as a result of the buy-back program.  Just like in England, the law abiders turned in their weapons, and the crooks, felons, and thieves all kept theirs.  If you can believe some of the statistics, homicides increased 171% in Victoria and armed robbery increased by 200% across the whole country.  The assault rate has increased from 200% to 800% after the buy-back depending on whose statistics you want to believe.  If home invasions are included in the 800% number, then it appears plausible as home invasions increased dramatically.  I could not find any statistics to substantiate a crime reduction.

Think about it.  Would a potential home robber feel more emboldened if he knew the house he was going to rob was unprotected?  Well, that is exactly what is happening in Australia.

Another of our allies, Israel, has taken a totally opposite course.  They are an armed citizenry, because they are the only country in the world that has had to fight for its existence every day since its founding in 1948.  Their crime rates are low.  Grandma and I saw this at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  A group of about 10 preschoolers were walking single file, being lead and followed by two military aged men.  As they passed, we noticed that each man had a pistol tucked into their belts behind their backs.   When they crossed the busy street, one man led, and the other stopped all the traffic and the kids crossed.  Now that added a whole new dimension to street-crossing guard! (Damn!  I was a street-crossing guard in grade school, and I would have given anything to have had a “heater” with my Sam Brown belt!)   In addition, teachers in Israeli schools are armed.  Is this a possible solution to our problem of school shootings?

We need to be more diligent and detailed in determining who can purchase and carry weapons.  Unfortunately, our massacres of late have been caused by people with mental problems and a death wish.  Because of privacy laws, even law enforcement cannot find out if a weapons purchaser or permit seeker has mental problems. So when one of these massacres occurs, the shooter is in the mindset to die, but he wants to go out with a big bang.  The media appears to be a willing accomplice in sensationalizing these crimes, thus begetting more attempts.   How do you legislate against insanity?

I will be the first to say that guns do not kill people.   People kill people.  The gun is only one of the instruments  that can be used to murder.  Knives, fists, feet, cars, mad dogs, have all been used to kill people, but there is not a movement “afoot” to have “feet” control.

Now what do you suppose would happen to our crime rates if we required everyone to go through a stringent training program in order to carry a weapon?   A provocative thought, though it will never become reality in our society.  But supposing it did, you would have to be insane to commit a crime. Unfortunately, insanity abounds.   Then gun control would revert to the military definition:  site picture, breathe, squeeze, target hit; perfect gun control – military style.

In the State of Florida, there are now over one million concealed carry permits, the most of any state in the U.S.  That is over 5% of the population and the number of applicants is climbing steadily.  Only time will tell what will happen to crime rates in Florida.

Admittedly, Grandpa T has not offered any Common Sense or sure fire solutions to some of the presented problems.  I do know that we cannot legislate effectively as a result of emotionally charged events like the Sandy Hook School shooting.  Short-term emotionally-charged solutions can lead to long-term consequences.


The Popularity of Term Limits versus the Popularity of Ice Cream

If a “man on the street” poll was taken between the popularity of ice cream versus the popularity of term limits, you may be surprised by the results.  Let’s assume that 90% of the public enjoys and approves of ice cream.  (Yes, there are people that do not like ice cream, and I am not going to waste one second of my time painting lawn ornaments to take a poll.)  Did you realize that in our recent history, over 75% of the voting public was in favor of term limits for our elected officials?  Who knew?  But more of that later.

We all realize that without term limits we are inviting many people to obtain unlimited power with other people’s money; specifically, our money.  Also, with people “homesteading” in Congress, new and original ideas are more difficult to obtain, as they are now more firmly entrenched in their “party line.”  They get elected, they build their walls, spend way too much time and money on getting reelected, and regurgitate crappy watered-down legislation for us, the ignorant public.

So, have term limits only been a problem for our young representative democracy?

Our form of government is indeed a baby when in ancient Athens, the 500 members of the elected council were all rotated annually.  The Spartans did the same.  Of course, you can imagine that being an elected official was time consuming, and took you away from your daily chores of making a living.  You still had to tend your flocks, pick your olives, and get ready for the next invasion by those pesky Persians.

The ancient Roman Republic had a system of elected magistrates; tribunes of the plebs (think Richard Burton as Marc Antony), aediles, quaestors, praetors, and consuls, who served a single term of one year, with reelection to the same magistracy forbidden for ten years!

But our country had its proponents of term limit supporters during our infancy.  In October, 1789, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of thirteen to examine forms of government for our impending union of the states.  The proposal from the State of Virginia, written by Thomas Jefferson, urged term limits, or as they called it, “limitation of tenure.”  He proposed this, “to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress.”  This was included in the Articles of Confederation.  The fifth Article in the Articles of Confederation stated that “no person shall be capable of being a delegate (to the continental congress) for more than three years in any term of six years.

So far, so good.  But what happened?

In contrast to the Articles of Confederation, the federal constitution convention in Philadelphia omitted mandatory term limits from the second national frame of government (i.e). the U.S. Constitution of 1787 to the present.  Nonetheless, largely because of grassroots support for the principle of rotation, rapid turnover in Congress prevailed.  At the time, the public did not want a form of government that was akin to England, that being a monarchy.  George Washington set a precedent for two terms for the presidency, until FDR came along.

But our forefathers were pretty darn smart.  Many of them fought for term limits to be added to the Constitution; foremost among them being Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and George Mason.  They believed that without term limits, our country was susceptible to becoming a “most highly and dangerous oligarch”.  So even though term limits were not specifically added to our Constitution, it was not a problem in the remainder of the 18th and the 19th centuries.   That was because the fear of mistrust upon political power was so ingrained into American culture that even the officeholders themselves perceived their occupations in a disparaging light.  James Fenimore Cooper, the novelist, described the common view that “contact with the affairs of state is one of the most corrupting of the influences to which men are exposed.”  Holy crap, batman!  Not only did he write the Last of the Mohicans, but the guy must have had a 20-20 crystal ball!

“Homesteading” in Congress  was made possible by reelection rates that approached 100% by the end of the 20th century. This brought about a “term limits movement.”  The elections of 1990-1994 saw the adoption of term limits for state legislatures in almost every state where citizens had the power of the initiative.  In addition, 23 states limited service for their delegates to Congress.  These 23 states were bold and brash enough to correct a problem that even the ancient Athenians anticipated.

So, to change directions for a moment, let us review the current U.S. term limits. The POTUS (President of the United States) has a total of two 4-year terms.  The Senate, House of Representatives, and Vice President have no term limits.  Did you catch that?  The VP has no term limits; so we could still have Al Gore as Vice President!  How did we let that get away?  But now, here is the clincher.  The Justices of the Supreme Court are elected for life, and consequently have no term limits.  This is indeed one of the failings of our forefathers.  But let’s face it; they all lived in a time when life expectancy was about puberty times two.  I am sure they did not foresee Supreme Court Justices fossilizing while sitting on the bench.

Now let us return to the 23  magnificent states that were bold, brash and heroic enough to vote to limit the terms of members of the national government.  “So why Grandpa T”, you ask, “do we not have term limits on our senators and representatives?”  “It was passed by 23 states.”  A very good question, and here is the answer…..wait for it…..wait for it….here it comes; because those term limits were declared invalid by the only group of people without term limits: our United States Supreme Court!  Yes, the people who can serve until an air bubble or lump of cholesterol does them in ruled in May, 1995, in the case of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, that states cannot impose term limits upon their federal Representatives or Senators.  Now does that pass the common sense test?  Grandpa T’s tachometer of common sense has just hit negative numbers.

How does it feel to know that just about half the states passed legislation restricting their representation to Congress, only to have the Supreme Court do a WWF smack-down on the voters wishes.  Those Supreme Court Justices in 1995 must not have googled or wikipediaed to find out our forefathers were very much aware of the dangers of not having term limits.  As an aside, today there are 15 states that do have term limits for state-elected officials, of which I reside in one of them.  Now get this, six of the states (remember the original 23?) have since had legislatures that have nullified term limits in their respective states.  Thirty- six states do have term limits for their governors.

In 1994, a part of the Republican platform was to pass legislation setting term limits in Congress.  After winning a majority, a Republican congressman brought an amendment to the House floor putting a limit of 12 years on Senators and Representatives.  The bill got a majority, but not the 2/3 needed, as 290 votes were needed, and 227 were cast in favor.  Defeated in Congress and overridden by the Supreme Court, the federal term limit uprising was brought to a halt.

There have been discussions about limiting the terms of the Supreme Court Justices.  A very good one is to limit them to 18 years, even though they have served just over 26 years, on average, in modern times.  The thinking is that one Justice would be replaced every two years and that every president would be able to nominate two.  This makes too much common sense, and it puts Grandpa T’s tachometer of common sense into red line numbers, so it will never be implemented. Besides, the general public does not care about term limits for the Supreme Court, much less how many Justices there are or who they are.

Some day, there may be another effort to legislate term limits; but it would have to be a very dynamic grass roots effort.  After all,  once you have cockroaches in your house, its damn tough to get rid of them.

I want to thank google and wikipedia for providing me information in less than 5 minutes, that would have taken me 6 hours twenty years ago.

Whew.  All this thinking and writing has given me a headache.  I think I will have a bowl of ice cream.