Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year; Blog Notes

           I wish you all a Happy New Year!  May you have a good year in every way. 

May there be more peace, freedom and prosperity in the world and May God bless America and Pennsylvania particularly.     

My last post was my 750th.  With this post, I have now posted more times this year than in 2013.  As always, thank you for visiting.  Please continue to visit periodically.  

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf Partially Vetoes Another Balanced Budget that Did Not Raise Taxes

           Liberal Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf used a line-item veto on key portions of the $30+ billion 2105 balanced budget that did not raise taxes which was approved with bipartisan support by the Republican-majority General Assembly. 

In addition to vetoing other spending, including for the Legislature and other punitive spending cuts, Wolf vetoed education spending, thus making the only cuts to education in the 2015 budget process.  He claims that the budget represented a cut to education funding, but there was an overall net increase of hundreds of millions of dollars in the Commonwealth’s budget, on top of already-record spending levels for education.  Liberals like Wolf call any spending level that is less than desired, even if it is an inflation-adjusted increase over the previous year, a “cut.”

Billions of dollars could be freed up for education or other spending or to reduce taxes if Wolf and the Legislature could agree to significant public employee pension reform.  A compromise they reached earlier in the process would have made only modest progress toward that goal. 

            By signing the rest of the budget, Wolf was able to free up funds for counties, municipalities and school districts, as well as for state-contracted social service entities.  However, funds for Medicaid and corrections were among the line items that were vetoed.  As I have posted, he could have exercised a line-item veto several months ago on the budget approved by the June 30 end-of-the-fiscal-year deadline in order to avoid the crisis the budget impasse has caused, or signed a stopgap budget into law, but he wanted to put pressure on the Republican legislative majority to give into his demands to raise taxes to fund his spending spree. 

Wolf’s recent blaming of the House of Representatives for the impasse after the Senate had approved a compromise budget was a tacit acknowledgement that he had been the culprit heretofore.  His exercise of the line-item veto, signing of the rest of the budget and freeing up of certain funds even more clearly proves that he was responsible for the crisis.  With less of a crisis atmosphere, now the Chief Executive and the Legislators can better work out a more fiscally-responsible compromise.  

The Legislature should continue to approve spending cuts to pay for any further increases for education, instead of increasing the already-high burden of taxation born by citizens and businesses in Pennsylvania.  In particular, they should enact significant pension reform without underfunding the Commonwealth’s pension obligations.  

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015 Message

           I wish you all a Merry Christmas! 

Even more than before, I am thinking especially this year of our Christian brothers in the Holy Land who are being violently persecuted for their faith and driven to flee en masse from their native lands.  May we pray and do what good deeds we can for their sake.  

May God bless them and all of you.      

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Environmental Benefits of Warmer Weather

           The Eastern United States has been experiencing a milder meteorological winter than usual, with many record-breaking higher highs and lows.  Ever-fluctuating global temperatures, which had risen to some degree the previous few decades for a variety of reasons that are not all fully understood, have been stable for nearly two decades. 

Therefore, with temperatures having reached a plateau, only a slight increase from the twenty-year mean is likely to produce broken records, as records have only been kept since the late Nineteenth Century, at most, which is an insignificant length of geologic time. 

            Regardless, the warmer weather has demonstrated how higher temperatures benefit the environment, as warming necessitates less energy usage for heating.  Because of lower demand for energy, less drilling or mining for fossil fuels is necessary, which, in turn, saves more energy and also causes less environmental contamination or disruption, and less energy is required to refine or transport fuel.  What is even more significant is the decreased burning of fossil fuels, which, in turn, leads to less production of so-called “greenhouse gases” that are theorized to be responsible for global warming, such as carbon dioxide, thereby creating a positive feedback loop.  In addition, with rain instead of snowfall, less environmentally-damaging salt is put on roads.  

           At times in geologic history, the earth’s climate swings have been dramatic, as the planet has been either mostly glaciated or almost not glaciated at all, with tropical climates even in the arctic.  The earth is currently in another relative interglacial period of its most current Ice Age.  It is reasonable to expect at some point over the next tens of thousands of years yet another disastrous period of extreme glaciation, in which case some off-setting global warming would be welcome.  

           Indeed, modest global warming would be beneficial for life, as sea-life would flourish over a larger area and although there would be even less land, much of the remaining land would be more vegetated and inhabitable by wildlife and more arable than it is currently.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Update on the Pennsylvania Budget: the Legislature Passes a Balanced Budget with no Tax Increases

           The Republican-led Pennsylvania General Assembly approved by nearly a two-thirds majority a balanced budget for the 2015 fiscal year that began July 1 that does not raise taxes.  The bill received bipartisan support.  It is now up to liberal Democratic Governor Tom Wolf to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature.

            The budget impasse—the longest in Pennsylvania in 45 years—was created by Wolf’s vetoes of previous balanced budget bills that did not raise taxes, including a stop-gap measure, as he demanded dramatically more spending and taxes.  He even opted not to exercise his line-item veto authority to remove the provisions he opposed and sign into law the majority of the bills he favored.  Wolf, the most liberal Governor in the American Union, refused to release funds to schools or contracted public service agencies or to pay certain vendors or employees in order to create a crisis to try to exert political pressure on legislators to give into his demands. 

            The measure approved by the legislature authorizes $30.3 billion in spending by the Commonwealth, which is less than Wolf demanded, but is nonetheless a 3.7 increase, including $300 million more for schools than in the 2014 budget, which were already receiving a record amount. 

The plan lacks any much-needed pension reform for public employees or alcohol privatization, both of which were priorities for conservative Republican legislators.  All House Democrats had voted yesterday against a pension reform compromise that had been agreed to by Wolf and the Senate in exchange for more taxing and spending because the minority caucus in the lower chamber opposed shifting any future employees into even a less-costly hybrid plan, while a majority of the GOP caucus opposed the measure because it would have led to inadequate savings and underfunded the state pension plans without producing any savings for the current fiscal year.  Because Wolf and the legislature could not agree on adequate pension reforms that could be supported by a majority of the House, a majority of neither chamber of the legislature could support a tax increase to fund Wolf’s proposed spending spree.  Pension reform would be among the ways for the Commonwealth to reduce wasteful spending to avoid future tax increases or even to reduce taxes, as Pennsylvania already has one of the higher burdens for personal and business taxes.  Alcohol privatization would increase state revenue through the sales of licensing and the collection of more taxes from sales with better consumer convenience, selection and pricing.

            After agreeing to the Senate compromise, Wolf blamed the crisis he created on the House for not giving into his demands and concurring with the Senate.  But now that both legislative chambers have approved a balanced budget that significantly increases education spending, despite a decrease in student performance over the last few decades as state spending on education has skyrocketed, he would be solely responsible yet again for extending the budget impasse. 

It is time Wolf recognizes that Pennsylvanians neither need nor want to pay more in taxes for wasteful spending.  Conservatives in the General Assembly have held the line against tax increases.  With the support of conservative private citizens, may these legislators continue to stand firm for fiscal responsibility while continuing to work for adequate public pension reform and alcohol privatization.  

Note: I am among the state employees who have not received compensation for their public service because of Wolf’s budget crisis.  Although it is claimed and reported that state employees have been receiving their pay, I have not received any checks since June for one of the two commissions I hold, as the Administration reclassified us employees commissioned for certain additional services earlier this year as “vendors.”  

Follow-Up on the Continued Victimization of Cinfici by “Obamacare”

           In my last post, I calculated an inflation rate of over 124% for my health insurance premiums since the inception of the federalization of health insurance, known as “Obamacare.”  However, that figure was calculated over a two-year (24-month) period.  For the inflation rate during only the 17 months since the inception, I have calculated the figure to be 303%!

            I note there were significantly fewer choices in plans this year, especially in Pennsylvania.  Although the lack of selection made the choice easier, it meant there was less competition and thus more cost for consumers.  Plans were cancelled the first year because they were not exactly compliant with the federalization of health insurance, despite the promises that people could keep the plans they liked, while many plans were cancelled this year because of the increased losses from Obamacare to insurance companies, as dramatically more Americans than the Administration expected have opted either for Medicaid or not to obtain health insurance.  

           The Obama Administration has continued to extend the mid-December deadline to obtain a new health insurance plan in order to avoid any monthly gaps in coverage by the start of the year because there were tens of millions of Americans, including many of us for the second year in a row, scrambling to replace their current plans that were cancelled because of Obamacare.  

           In short, among other problems, Obamacare has led to increased costs, less choice and more inconvenience for the many Americans who had been satisfied with their previous health insurance plans.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Continued Victimization of Cinfici by “Obamacare”

For the second year in a row, my health insurance plan, like that of millions of other Americans, was discontinued because of the federalization of health insurance, known as “Obamacare,” inconveniencing me into again having to find another plan by a deadline on relatively short notice. 

See my post from May of last year, The Victimization of Cinfici by Obamacare,, in which I note the dramatic increase in both my premium and deductible for relatively little advantage.  

I also experienced this year how non-user-friendly the federal website for shopping for health insurance is, as it repeatedly led me in circles, among other problems, such as its inability to allow the visitor to go back to certain previous pages.  The site had infamously crashed at its inception and caused other problems, but the media has not reported any ongoing problems. 

The premium of the new health insurance plan is 25.85% higher than the old one, meaning that my premium has increased 175.67% in only 17 months, which represents an annualized inflation rate of 124.43%.  The pre-Obamacare plan I had until mid-2014 did not cover as many unnecessary items as are required under Obamacare, and I had the option to exchange a higher deductible for a lower premium, which I am not permitted today.  The increases in the premium are greater than the value of more covered preventative care benefits.  I would not have chosen such an expensive plan, as lower premiums would have made any necessary care more affordable and I did not need to be incentivized by a paternalistic federal government to seek preventative care.  Like my current plan, my previous plan was cancelled, even though I was satisfied with it and liberal Democratic President Barack Obama had promised that people could keep their health insurance plans if they liked them.

Obama’s quasi-socialist federalization of health insurance is a thinly-veiled form of wealth redistribution, even apart from the massive increase in subsidization through Medicaid, as the increases in premiums on the middle class and wealthy are paying for those who are poor, and those who take care of their health are forced to subsidize those who do not adequately take care of themselves, instead of being rewarded with lower premiums for being less of a risk.  There are numerous other problems associated with Obamacare, such as higher costs for the federal and state governments, a tax on medical devices, less choice for patients of healthcare providers and other interference in the doctor-patient relationship and the providing of care.  

Conservatives should continue to work for the total repeal of Obamacare and the elimination of the federal restriction on interstate purchases of health insurance, as well as for federal and state tort form.  In addition, federal and state tax policies should encourage the complete separation of health insurance from employment, by at least taxing employer-provided health insurance as income, which would eliminate the current unfairness for those who purchase their own insurance; such changes would make many patients appreciate better the costs of health care and thus to incentivize them in a non-paternalistic way to be healthier by avoiding unhealthy lifestyles and seeking preventative care and to make more fiscally-responsible decisions by avoiding unnecessary healthcare spending.  

Pennsylvania Liberal Democratic Governor Tom Wolf Proposes a $1.2 Billion Tax Increase

          Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, the most liberal state chief executive in the United States, has proposed a tax increase of $1.2 billion to balance the budget and pay for his spending spree, which is an even larger tax increase than the one rejected by the General Assembly last month.  See my post from then: Proposed Pennsylvania State Budget Tax Increase:

            The Commonwealth’s 2015 budget is nearly six months late, after Wolf had vetoed a balanced budget approved by the Republican-led legislature that did not raise taxes and then he even vetoed a stop-gap bill.  He also opted not to exercise his line-item veto authority and sign the rest of the budget into law.  The late budget has created a crisis for Pennsylvania’s counties, municipalities and school districts that are dependent on state money.

            The Senate recently approved Wolf’s latest proposed budget, despite the lack of any specific plan on how to levy the tax increase, whether by income, sales or excise taxes.  Much of the budget and companion bills were passed with little legislative or public review, a process now taking place in the House of Representatives while under pressure from the Wolf Administration to end the crisis immediately.  The Administration now blames the House for the crisis, which is a tacit acknowledgement that he was the culprit for the first five-plus months.

Wolf’s proposed budget raises spending by hundreds of millions of dollars more than his previous budget proposal, including for more pork.  In exchange for the tax and spending increases, in addition to the modest, but critical pension reforms outlined in the previous proposed budget, there would be minimal privatization and liberalization of the alcohol market. 

However, there are some technical pension problems that would cause the state’s pension funds to be underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars and a lack of an otherwise legally-required actual note.  Also, the Commonwealth would retain its wholesale alcohol monopoly, which means all alcohol must continue to be purchased from the Commonwealth while most of its retail monopoly would remain, as no state stores would be sold or privately licensed.  Only those few supermarkets with in-house dining areas that currently may sell non-takeout alcohol would be permitted to sell up to four bottles of wine to go, which means the total state monopoly on the takeout retail of liquor would remain, in addition to numerous other restrictions on the sale of wine and beer.  Pennsylvanians would continue to purchase alcohol across state lines, where there is more convenience and selection, as Pennsylvania would lose millions in revenue to bootlegging. 

There would be more than sufficient savings to balance the budget without any economically-harmful tax increase if there were adequate pension reform and a complete end to the state wholesale and retail monopoly on alcohol, as well as the elimination of pork and corporate welfare, both in terms of spending and special tax breaks.  Conservatives in the House were willing to accept some new spending above inflation and population growth for education, but are unwilling to raise taxes, especially without adequate pension reform and more alcohol privatization. 

Conservatives should continue to insist on a fiscally-responsible balanced budget that reduces spending and does not raise taxes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Democratic Opposition Wins a Supermajority in the Venezuelan Congressional Elections

The people of Venezuela have demonstrated a new way to end dictatorship by electing a supermajority of democratic opposition candidates to the national assembly.  The Socialists had won every election in Venezuela in 17 years and had entrenched themselves in power by increasing authoritarianism and handing out benefits to poor voters to win their support. 

The results are a stunning blow to the left, as Venezuela was the heart of the socialist revolution in Latin America.

The Socialist regime had announced after midnight Eastern Standard Time that the opposition had gained a majority of seats, with several results still uncertain, and the dictatorial President conceded defeat and renounced his implied threat of violence if the opposition won.  By the opposition’s count, they have won at least two-thirds of the congressional seats.  Venezuela has been plagued by a severe economic crisis and a high rate of violent crime.  Even when the oil-rich state benefited from high energy prices, there had been chronic power outages in the “Socialist Paradise.”  Oppression and corruption were additional concerns of Venezuelans that helped produce the opposition victory.

With its supermajority, the opposition not only can override the dictator’s vetoes of legislation, but can fire the vice president and ministers, as well as constitutional and other high court judges and appoint judges in their place, which is crucial because the regime controls the courts.  It can also enact constitutional reforms and place referenda on the ballot, as well as recall or impeach the President. 

As I have posted frequently, Venezuela’s anti-American Socialist regime has exported revolution, thwarted drug control efforts by the United States, given support to Colombia’s Marxist narco-terrorists and other terrorists, and, as a member of what I call the “Axis of Rogues,” even allied itself with Iran and other rogue states.  Despite their democratic election to power, the Socialists had curtailed the freedom of the press and assembly, destroyed the independence of the judiciary, and jailed political opponents on trumped-up charges and prevented many of them from standing for election.  Violence and intimidation were tools of the regime and its supporters to maintain their grip on power.

The opposition had to face the threat of death (and one of them was, in fact, murdered at a rally) to campaign for election and the people, too, had to brave intimidation from the regime in order to cast their ballots for their candidates of choice.  Although there is some concern the regime will try to entrench itself further in power in the next few weeks before the incoming congressmen take office, the opposition is confident it can undo such efforts.   

In addition to addressing Venezuela’s terrible problems and beginning to substitute free-market reforms for socialism, among the priorities of the incoming congressional majority are freeing political prisoners and cutting off subsidies for Communist Cuba and Marxist-led Nicaragua.  As a result of the elections, the incoming pro-American conservative President of Argentina, whose election victory late last month was a harbinger of the beginning of the end of Venezuela’s socialist revolution, has now dropped his efforts to exclude Venezuela from a regional body because of its authoritarianism.  

The win by the Venezuelan opposition guarantees that one of the three branches of government will act as a check on the others, and thus the long-suffering people of Venezuela will be able, at least to some degree, to enjoy liberty.  May Venezuela soon enjoy peace and freedom and may the incoming congressional majority be successful in improving the lives of Venezuelans.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Analysis of the 2015 General Election for Reading School Director

           Although I was not successful in the General Election for one of the five seats for a four-year term for Reading School Director, I would like to thank the nearly 2,300 people who voted for me and all those who supported my candidacy in any way.

            Now that all the votes have been counted, I can analyze the results.  I was pleased that I received more votes this time than I did in the 2009 or 2011 General Elections.  I was among the top five for the five seats on the ballot in five precincts, including most of the largest ones, which includes my own, and tied for fifth place another large one.  I was within the top five overall in the 17th Ward, which is the largest ward and is also my own ward.  I am especially proud that I was most successful in those neighborhoods where I was most known or had campaigned the most intensely.

            Despite a Democratic voter registration advantage over Republicans of 5:1 and despite a relatively large Democratic turnout for the mayoral race and despite being heavily outspent with money that came from outside the Reading School District, the ratio of the vote totals for the candidates who were elected over mine was only 2:1.  Democrats were encouraged by their party to vote push the straight Democratic button in the voting machines or check the straight Democratic box on the paper ballots.  Unlike in the Democratic Primary, when voters were selective of individuals, most of the voters who voted for my opponents voted for all of them, which proves that most Democrats did, in fact, vote straight party.  In addition to Republicans, then, I must have won the votes of at least several hundred Democrats, as well as non-partisan and third-party voters. 

Indeed, I enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support throughout this year’s campaign, for which I am most grateful.  As I noted in my post from May of this year, Analysis of the 2015 Primary Election for Reading School Director,, I came within 64 votes out of thousands cast of winning the Democratic nomination, while finishing in first place on the Republican ballot.  I have proven again that a conservative candidate who champions good, honest government and with a record of reform can appeal to a broad spectrum of voters even in an urban district.

            My campaign was not in vain.  In addition to helping to set the record straight about my previous service on the Reading School Board, I helped prevent the current Board from increasing taxes and educated the incumbent and incoming School Directors on their proper role. 

I shall be observing closely whether or not the new School Board begins to become more open and transparent, to do its job of following the law and Board policy, and to fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers.  

Again, thank you to everyone for your support.