Thinking Magazine #19 03-16-93

Yes - I Still Support Clinton

I'm sure by now you've heard the speech the President gave and are evaluating it. I was highly impressed. Whether or not you agree with Clinton you have to give him credit for one thing -- he's one hell of a salesman. I sure wouldn't have wanted to sell his plan and I think he did a superb job of presenting it.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't consider Clinton's plan for the economy to be the best plan possible, or even the best plan achievable, but I do consider it to be generally on the right track. It is certainly the boldest economic plan that has been presented in my lifetime and you have to give him credit for having the balls to put it forward.

Since everyone has a different interpretation of what Clinton said and since few of you are economists, let me share with you some of the math behind how the economy works. But before I get into that, here are some of the letters I've been writing which deal with some of my views.

This first letter is one that I sent to about one-third of Congress. Here's what I said:

==[ Trickle Up Economics ]==

This second letter is similar to the one I sent Congress. It is stripped down for size and takes a more visual approach to the problem.

==[ Clinton proposes Trickle Up Economics ]==

This third letter went out to 250 newspapers. In this letter I propose a practical solution to start on economic recovery and get more economic ideas on the table.

==[ Cut the Budget Contest ]==

This fourth letter deals with the concept of investment. Not all spending is bad. Some spending, when it leads to making money or saving money, is spending we need to do.

==[ Digital Data Networks ]==

Getting back to Clinton plan. I think that if you are going to have taxes that he spread the taxes as fairly as possible. He has some good cuts on the table and his spending plan, for the most part makes sense. He is also presenting a plan that can realistically be passed, and if it is passed, has a pretty good chance of being as successful as he predicts.

But there is plenty of room for improvement in this plan. I think the spending cuts can be greater and the plan to increase revenues can be seriously improved. And you the reader can be part of the plan. Every one of you has the potential to be as effective as I am, (or hope to be would be more accurate). I am after all, just a poor brain damaged hippy. Some of you went to skool!

A lot of people are calling for more cuts. I want to see more cuts. But what happens is that when you increase the number of cuts you increase the number of people resisting the plan. The more people resisting the plan the more likely it is to fail. Thus, I think that it is accurate to say that the amount of cuts which can realistically be achieved depends on the amount of public support for cuts. The more letters and faxes you send to the news media and Congress, the bolder they will be on the cutting side.

The Republicans are bad-mouthing the plan but they have this identity crisis they're dealing with. All they have come up with so far is to resist. So if you're in a letter writing mood then write to Republicans and tell them to support the President on his cuts and add more cuts. I'm a little tired of these jerks who have nothing to offer in the way of a solution.

But one key issue that needs to be dealt with is that good ideas are not enough. It's time to get out the great ideas and put them on the table. Progress will be slow if we limit ourselves to conventional ways, we need to think about the unconventional ways. It's time to bring out the genius weirdos.

Military Base Closing List

I saw something interesting on C-Span. Senator Hollings was talking about base closings and was upset about closings in his area. In the press interview he was asked about how the base closing list was created. They wanted to know if it was political.

Senator Hollings said that the cuts came from the military and not the president. That this list was basically the same list the military came up with in 1992 when Bush was president. I was impressed that this list represented what the military thought were the right cuts and not what political forces thought was right.

Russian Politics

Well, it looks like things are falling apart in the former Soviet Union. If one tries to project the events of today into the future the projection is very unpredictable. No one has any idea what is likely to happen over there. In my opinion, this uncertainty itself is a grave problem.

But, there is something we can do about it which is outlined in the following letter to the President.

Banking Regulation Reform - Yes!

Got to hand it to Bill on this one. Clinton is changing the way bank regulators monitor how banks make loans. After the S&L crisis the bank regulators required a ton of paperwork on every loan and would only allow banks to loan money based on the collateral of the borrower. This process made it difficult and expensive for banks to loan money to business and drove a lot of businesses under.

The new regulations require much less paperwork and allow for more weight to be given to the borrowers credit history and less to collateral. Thus if someone has borrowed money in the past and has paid it back in a timely manner, they will be able to borrow more money more easily than they could under the old rules.

Thus, small businesses will be able to expand and hire new employees and more people will be able to borrow money to start new businesses. This should help fix the unemployment problem and create new jobs to hire people losing their jobs to government cutbacks. And it stimulates the economy without raising taxes.

Compuserve Starts White House Forum

Compuserve this week has started a White House forum. This forum does in fact have ties to the White House and there is an official White House contact, Jock Gill, who works for the Clinton administration. If you're a Compuserve member you can send you letters EMail to 75300,3115. To get into the forum, type GO WHITEHOUSE at any ! prompt. The White House is monitoring the forum and all the brilliant suggestions are (in theory) being brought to the people who make things happen.

The forum libraries have information like economic plans and Presidential speeches. There are also schedules as to where the President will be on any particular day.

Since the forum is new the amount of White House response has been minimal. They seem to be in "Read Only" mode and I'm hoping that will change. I'm impressed that the Clinton Administration is sharp enough to want to tap into electronic communications. Perhaps now the voice of the nerd will be heard in Washington.

Tax on Fat? Interesting

I came across an interesting idea on Compuserve. Someone in the Whitehouse forum suggested that we should perhaps have a meat tax. Taking the idea a little farther, the idea of taxing food based on fat content is an interesting concept.

The idea is that at the food manufacturing level you impose a tax on the number of grams of fat in the food product. Thus, it would create a tax incentive for food producers to lower their fat content to reduce their tax burden.

For example, there is a lot of difference in potato chips fat content from one brand to another. Most consumers don't bother to look at the fat when purchasing chips. Low fat chips are more expensive that those with high fat. But if we had a fat tax then it would be cheaper for companies to produce low fat chips to avoid the fat tax.

Yes, it would make potato chips a little more expensive. But you would make it up by what you would save not having a heart attack. Sounds like a bargain to me.

This is an idea that the President should look at. As someone who eats at McDonalds, he's eating a lot of fat. This tax would cause McDonalds to want to reduce the fat content of a Big Mac to compete with the Burger King Whopper, which has a lower fat content.

Marc @ Lincoln Day

Speaking of unconventional, here's one for ya. Every year in the Spring the Republicans in this area have "Lincoln Day" which is the annual Republican party gathering. Anyone who's anybody, (especially if they are running for office), is there. So, your's truly, being a prominent Springfield Republican made my annual appearance.

I put on my best suit and wore my Clinton inauguration button. The button was quite the conversation starter. The Republicans in Missouri took a strong beating in last years election. I probably talked to one third of them over a two day period. I was particularly interested in the Congressmen and Senators that were there. The Congressmen were Mel Hancock, Bill Emerson, and Jim Tallent. The Senators were Christopher Bond, Jack Danforth, and Arlen (magic bullet) Spector.

I had a number of conversations that were similar. Here's how it went. Someone would notice my Clinton Button and say, "What are you doing here with that?" "Well", I said, "I'm a Clinton Republican. I'm one of the many Republicans who voted for Clinton, but probably one of the few who are here today. I am here because I'm concerned about the future of our party. I see this last election as an opportunity for the Republican Party."

"Opportunity?", they say, "How's that?" "Well, Bill Clinton has proposed some serious spending cuts and tax breaks for small business. A lot of his suggestions are very much in line with Republican objectives. We Republicans should support the President in these spending cuts and share the glory of being part of the solution, rather than share the blame for being part of the problem."

"But the Democrats don't want those cuts. All that will get passed is the taxes!" "Well, that's why it is important for us to make sure that doesn't happen. Clinton will always pull a share of his party's vote, but on the spending cut side it may well be us Republicans that put the cuts into law. We can make the difference to make these cuts pass and we will get the credit for getting them through. Not only that, but we can come up with additional cuts and if we get Clinton in on the additional cuts, we can argue better against the tax increases."

"In 1994", I continued, "All the House and one third of the Senate is up for re-election. When we go before the voters, how are we going to be perceived? Are we going to be part of the recovery? Or are we going to be part of the gridlock? America is in trouble. We don't have four years to wait. Clinton's plan must pass and it must be successful. And we Republicans must be part of that success."

It was a very effective argument. I feel like I made serious progress with Bill Emmerson and Arlen Spector in particular. Both men gave speeches that focused on a "new direction" for the party and with a minimal amount of Clinton bashing.

I was impressed with Spector. He did a local news conference where he said that the Republican party need to abort the anti-abortion plank in the Republican platform. Spector is pro-choice and said the government should stay out of peoples private business.

This represents that there are a few people in the Republican party that are ready to deal with reality and I am hopeful that the Republicans will do the right thing. But we can't just trust them, we need to stay on them and make sure they do what's best for all of us.

Pro-Life Terrorists

As you know, an abortion doctor was murdered by a member of Operation Rescue. In response to this I faxed this letter to the press:

I don't believe this is an isolated incident. Operation Rescue has sponsored bombings and torchings of abortion clinics for years. These people have attacked the doctors and their families. The circulate posters of the doctors with "Wanted for Murder" as a heading. The have and continue to work hard to create the environment where such killings occur.

In my opinion I see what can only be classified as Christian sponsored terrorism. Christian leaders have been giving implicit endorsement of this kind of behavior. Being a non-christian, I have no more tolerance for this than I do for Islamic terrorists. Society will not tolerate religious terrorism.

I Got A Button Maker

You've been to different places where you see people selling buttons? Did you ever wonder where they came from? Well, I needed to make about 1000 buttons for a computer conference and I found out that making buttons is easier than you think.

I bought this button making machine from a place called "Mr. Button" in Indianapolis, Indiana and it only costs $150 for the machine. The button shells themselves were only 11 cents each when bought 2000 at a time. All I needed to add was the artwork and the labor.

I'm getting the artwork cut into circles, but I also bought a circle cutter with it. You can cut circles out of photographs or magazines (like this one) and make buttons out of them. There are catalogs of pre-printed button circles, or if you have some imagination you can make your own.

For those of you who are unemployed, or aren't happy with your job, you can get into the button business cheap. You make them for 20 cents or less and sell them for two bucks. Just make up a bunch and show up where people are. If you sell 10 an hour your making $18 an hour which may be more than your making now! So wander into the boss's office and start singing, "Take this job and shove It!" and start your own business!

I'm starting out making some "Nerd Liberation Movement" buttons. "Coming out of the back room", they say with a picture of a nerd in the middle. I took a few with me to lunch with the local computer club and sold three of them for a dollar each. Not bad for no effort.

Bathing Your Cat

Having been around cats for many years I've made an interesting observation. If they smell like a beast, they think like a beast. If you give them a bath then their personality changes. They become a pet.

If you have never bathed a cat before, this is not a task for the meek. These little cute creatures quickly turn into a hissing ball of claws and teeth when they are put in water. If you can't handle it then you might want to take your beast to a vet or animal groomer. But for those of you who want to try it yourself, here are some pointers.

If your beast has fleas then this is a good time to get some flea soap. If you're going to go to the trouble to bathe him you might as well nuke the fleas at the same time.

Fill the tub up with water. The deeper the water, the better. Cats are fast and the deep water slows them down. A cats body temperature is about 8 degrees higher that humans. The water should feel slightly warm to the touch. Don't use hot water like you like because cats don't sweat like humans to and hot water is uncomfortable for them.

The only safe place to grab the cat is by the loose skin on the back of the neck. Hold on and lower the cat into the water. At this point the cat will make the most awful howling sounds you can imagine. Don't give into fear. It isn't as bad as it sounds. After some initial thrashing and howling the cat will wear down somewhat. After this you can apply the soap.

Always pay attention to the cat. If he gets a chance to escape he will take it. Don't let him get a claw into you or he will try to climb you like he climbs a tree. Let the cat thrash in the water because the thrashing cleans the cat.

After you and the cat have had enough, lift him out of the water and run your hands down the cats body to squeeze the water out of his fur. Wrap him in a thick towel with his head sticking out and dry him as well as you can. Then let him go in the house so he can shake and lick. It may take several hours for him to dry.

If it is winter or the weather is cold, try to keep the cat inside until he's dry. A wet cat can catch pneumonia if it gets cold while it wet. If you can get near your cat you might be able to brush his fur which helps him dry.

Cats are very forgiving. After he's dry he will be ready to be loved again. Every time he gets a bath it's easier to do. I bathe mine about twice a year or so. He has long hair so he needs it more often.


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