The “Stupid” Tax

February 19, 2010

UPDATE: Here’s a great essay that was written 13 years ago on the same subject, incorporating a terrific analogy. Don’t miss it. 

Yesterday, I read a spot-on article by Dave Ramsey, a best-selling writer, financial expert, radio personality, and author of the weekly column, “Dave Says“. The article so struck me that I requested (and received) permission to reprint it in full here on Grand Rants. It’s really a micro view of what’s happening all over our country today, and in its larger incarnation, it’s a huge reason Tea Party people are mad upset angry active. 

Responsibility leads to wealth

Dear Dave,
Why is it that some people have enough money for pizza, lottery tickets, cable television and cigarettes, but they don’t buy something as inexpensive as renter’s insurance, and then they expect someone else to bail them out when a fire destroys their home?

Dear Keith,
This kind of behavior falls into the Stupid Tax category. It’s an aggravating thing, but at the same time there’s something about fire that elicits sympathy from me. Even if there’s stupidity involved in what happened, it’s such an emotionally devastating event. But I think it’s important to talk about what you’ve brought up. 

Let’s put it another way. Why are there people who get mad at others for building wealth, or expect other people to bail them out after they’ve behaved irresponsibly? Ninety percent of America’s millionaires are first-generation rich. They started with nothing, and instead of buying lottery tickets and smokes, they saved money and bought things like renter’s insurance. They kept things like car insurance and health insurance in place, so that if they totaled their car or had to have an operation, they could pay for it instead of filing bankruptcy! 

In other words, they were responsible. They stayed out of debt because they were mature enough and responsible enough to delay pleasure, and then after years of living this way, they looked up and discovered they were millionaires. That’s how it happens. You delay bits and pieces of fleeting pleasure for a quality life in the future. Now, you don’t trade away all momentary pleasures. You don’t have to completely give up fun to win with money, but you trade impulsive, immature decisions and purchases for the reward of a better life later. 

Most poor people delay none of the pleasures. They live only in the moment, and that’s why they stay poor. If they want a better washer and dryer, they’ll rent-to-own instead of saving up for a little while and buying a decent, used combo in the classifieds. I understand that bad things sometimes happen to good people, and you can end up broke that way, too. But I firmly believe that in most cases, it’s not that they don’t have the money, it’s more a case of they don’t have a vision for the future. They surrender a great life down the road for “Thank God it’s Friday. Oh God, it’s Monday!”

I love Dave’s concept of the “Stupid” tax. And of course it applies to far more than the example cited above. Renter’s insurance, health insurance, getting an education, not having babies at 16 years old, every sensible person can recite the litany of self-indulgent, self-centered, and, frankly, stupid behavior that we all end up paying for. 

And so often this behavior is assisted by vast and expensive government programs which while nominally providing a “safety net” for society, actually end up rewarding the bad behavior and encouraging more of the same. And who pays for all those government programs? Why we do, of course. 

We all pay a “Stupid” tax by subsidizing bad behavior and poor personal choices. And we’ll continue to do so until we as a society require a higher level of personal responsibility of ourselves and each other. And until we elect leaders who do the same. This is part of what the Tea Parties are about, and it’s why Tea Partiers work so hard for Congressional candidates who understand and support this concept of personal responsibility. 

Until that happens though, “Stupid” will drain our monetary resources, as well as sap the lives of those who are dumb enough to rely on social programs for their well being instead of doing for themselves. 

But for now, “Stupid” pays. 


Liz Cheney’s Arm-Candy Surprise

February 18, 2010


Back in May of last year, blog pal Sissy Willis observed that former VP Dick Cheney was the ultimate antidote to Obama. She was correct last May, and based on the response from the CPAC audience, I’d say she’s still correct.

“I think Barack Obama is a one-term president.”

Handsome, direct, smart, succinct, conservative: what’s not to love?


Obama’s Next Tactic – The Executive Order

February 18, 2010

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” – P.T. Barnum

There’s been speculation whether it was really P.T. Barnum that said that or, perhaps, actually Abraham Lincoln who first used it. No matter. Barack Obama seems to have based his entire political career (and his socialist agenda) on the assumption implied in James Thurber’s variation: 

“You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.”

To a political extremist (left-wing or right-wing), the best-kept secret for years has been the sleeping constituent. An American more concerned about the outcome of American Idol than what’s taking place in Washington has been a dream come true. And it’s worked especially well for Barack Hussein Obama, hasn’t it?

But like the Japanese in World War II, Obama pushed the American people until we awoke “with a terrible resolve.” Suddenly, the big smile and teleprompter sincerity aren’t swaying the masses like they used to. And the backlash has begun.

We’ve seen Obama’s approval rating falling faster than any other President as more and more of his socialist agenda becomes known, and as more and more of his “Czars” are exposed as tax-cheats and worse.

Now, key election losses by Democrats to Republicans in several states have served notice: Obama-mania has officially run its course. The recent Senate election in Massachusetts won by Republican Scott Brown to replace Ted Kennedy also ended a filibuster-proof Senate. Given these recent events, it would be easy to think we are well on our way towards regaining control from the Obama-socialist agenda.

But don’t pop the cork on that champagne just yet. We are far, far from the point of celebrating, folks.

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has advised Obama to  utilize the “Executive Order” technique used by many Presidents (including Bush and Clinton) to jump-start his agenda. In doing so, he would effectively bypass a Congress whose members are getting more and more reluctant to slit their own political throats by supporting the administration’s agenda. 

What We Can Look Forward To

Obama has  been frustrated by a Congress that has failed to confirm a number of his Cabinet nominees. As Donald Borsch Jr. writes on, Emanuel has been quoted as saying:

“We are reviewing a list of Presidential Executive Orders and directives to get the job done across a front of issues.”

Translation: Obama is going to confirm, by himself, several appointments that Congress hasn’t acted on. And if that works, bend over, folks. If  Congress won’t pass President Obi-Wan Conniver’s  Health Care or Cap & Trade, he may well choose to force it down our throats with an executive order (What the heck did you think this is, folks… a democracy?).

As Borsch writes:

With the Senatorial recess approaching, it would be the perfect time to confirm those (nominees)  he wants with no fuss. In a meeting at the White House, President Obama told Mitch McConnell of Kentucky that he would use his Executive power to confirm nominees if the Senate didn’t get them done before their recess.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing illegal about doing this, believe it or not. Executive Orders do not require Congressional approval to be implemented. They have the same legal status as if passed by Congress. The same with recess appointments which are a bit more short-termed, as recess appointments expire at the end of the Senate’s next session.

Authorization for Executive Orders is specified in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution which grants “executive power” to the President. Section 3 of Article II further clarifies, stipulating that the President “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

There is, of course, a fair amount of controversy when Presidents resort to Executive Orders.  From

Executive Orders are controversial because they allow the President to make major decisions, even law, without the consent of Congress. This, of course, runs against the general logic of the Constitution — that no one should have power to act unilaterally. Nevertheless, Congress often gives the President considerable leeway in implementing and administering federal law and programs. Sometimes, Congress cannot agree exactly how to implement a law or program. In effect, this leaves the decision to the federal agencies involved and the President that stands at their head. When Congress fails to spell out in detail how a law is to be executed, it leaves the door open for the President to provide those details in the form of Executive Orders.

Controversy is no stranger to the previous occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Most Presidents have resorted to using it but sparingly. Some of the more notable uses:

  • Integrating the armed forces (President Harry S. Truman)
  • Desegregation of schools (President Dwight D. Eisenhower)
  • Barring racial discrimination in federal housing, hiring, and contracting  (Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson) 
  • Barring the use of federal funds for advocating abortion (President Ronald Reagan but later reversed by President Bill Clinton)

Now while that would seem to give Obama the green light in regards to things like healthcare and the Cap and Tax bill, there may be some issue as to whether a sitting President can implement something as sweeping as completely doing away with the health care system as it currently exists or fundamentally changing (some say “scuttling”) the free enterprise system by forcing Cap and Tax in this manner.  Nothing as sweeping as these two would-be changes has ever been done via Executive Order… but leave it to Barack Obama to want to be the first. This is the man with the golden ego who, in his own estimation, was destined to do great things.


There are two types of recourse available if he should dare go this route. The first would be legislative recourse. This would require, essentially, a Congressional 2/3 majority which, being an election year, would give some Democrats a chance to redeem themselves with voters if they were to vote to reverse such an executive order. This would, however, require guts on the part of the Congressmen and women, and we all know what a shortage there is in that department.

The second form of recourse is through the courts. This would normally be done on the grounds that the Executive Order exceeds the President’s constitutional powers. Should Obama decide to act on either of these two issues via executive order, there could easily be a case made for a judicial course of action.

In the end, Obama would be wise not to try to implement either healthcare reform or Cap and Tax in this manner. Either one might just stand a chance of being reversed in Congress if enough Democratic members who would like to see their political careers continue vote for what they know their constituents prefer.  

If that doesn’t work, a legal challenge could take long enough to delay implementation until the fall elections give Americans the chance to register their displeasure. Even if that failed, the next President would be able to issue an executive order to reverse Obama’s damage… if it’s not too late to save our economy and free enterprise system. Or if the country simply revolts (Obama would be wise to consider that possibility).

In the end, I believe democracy will prevail. While Obama might be able to thumb his nose at the American people now that he’s in office, the American people may well have ability to reverse his damage.

In any event, if Barack Obama is fool enough to follow Rahm Emanuel’s advice and attempts  to strong-arm his agenda down the throats of the American voter, all he will accomplish in the end is to validate what so many of us have been saying: That he has a socialist agenda that is designed to break our economy, nationalize health care and reduce Americans to relying on the Government for virtually every aspect of life.

Back off, Mr. President.  You don’t have the skills, the knowledge, or the talent to pull this off successfully. You have arrogance, ego, and nothing more than an ideology that has proven itself a failure wherever it has been tried. The American people (you do remember us, don’t you?) have made it abundantly clear we do not want these changes you seek. We may have been sleeping during your campaign, but we are wide awake now and now let us be perfectly clear. Any attempt to implement your socialist agenda against the will of the American people would be seen by millions as nothing less than an act of treason; your legacy reduced to being remembered as the President who sparked the next American revolution.

And you thought Bill Clinton’s legacy was a stain…

Gerry Ashley

Go, West!

February 16, 2010

Now here’s an example of change we can believe in!

If Col. West were to run for President in 2012, I believe I’d vote for him. Does that make me a racist?


Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

February 15, 2010

Sure looks like a lot of the Democrat incumbents have seen the handwriting on the wall, and have realized that their days in Congress are numbered. They have been weighed in the balances by their constituents, and are found wanting. As a result, Democrat incumbents are dropping like flies.

The latest? Illinois Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh,who joins Patches Kennedy of RI, Chris Dodd of CT, and Sen. Byron Dorgan of ND in unexpected retirement.

Next on the list could be my own representative, William Delahunt of Massachusetts, who, after Scott Brown swept to a Senate victory last month, and amid some possibly troubling information swirling around the Amy Bishop tenure shootings, has indicated that he also may not seek re-election.

The bottom line?

We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it any more.


Valentine’s Day Gift To You From Grand Rants

February 14, 2010

Proof positive that life provides us all with an embarassment of riches whether we are wealthy or poor. Today is the day we set aside each year to remind ourselves as much as our loved ones that, perhaps, love is the greatest of all riches.

I wanted to post something for Valentine’s Day that says, very simply, how much we appreciate our readers.  The task was enormous for several reasons. First, “Thank you” doesn’t cover the enormity of gratitude we feel for our readers who have boosted Grand Rants into one of the top blogs in our first year.  It seems perposterously inadequate.  But since sending candygrams to each of you is, let’s just say, out of our budget, I wanted to do something else today that says “Thank you” in a special way. I think I’ve come up with just the thing.

Claudio Baglioni - 1978

A quick back story: in 1978 I was working for a major computer manufacturer as a senior software instructor. I was chosen to represent the company to provide training for scientists at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Serpikov, several hours outside of Moscow in the former Soviet Union. While spending week-ends in Moscow, I met and fell in love with a beautiful young Russian woman who would later become my wife.

She had a cassette of a young Italian singer named Claudio Baglioni. He was not only a talented singer whose every note exhuded his passion for life, he was also a brilliant composer and arranger. I didn’t understand a word of what he was singing, but that’s what made it so interesting. His phrasing and his emotion rang true in a way that transcended any language barrier. I guess it also helped that I was a  young and hopeless romantic.

Baglioni Circa 2010

Over the years, I have followed Baglioni’s career, even though he has never actively pursued the American market (outside of a brief tour early on in his career).  His more recent works include the official Anthem for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin. He has worked with such musical luminaries as Vangelis,  Youssu N’Dour, Phil Palmer, Tony Levin and many others. 

For years, I worked through a record importer in Washington DC just to locate and obtain Baglioni’s records. Indeed, my love for his music has lasted longer than my marriage did. I take some comfort, believe it or not, in thinking that she still listens to his music as well. The hopeless romantic lives!

The advent of the Internet has made it much easier to follow his career. Today, Baglioni is still seen as one of Italy’s top singers/composers and continues to enjoy a huge following. Yet he remains all but unknown here in America.

What does this have to do with you? Me?  Grand Rants? Simply this: I wanted my “gift” to give you something memorable that would take you by surprise rather than merely just being another song by Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles that you all know by heart. Something of serendipity, that takes you to a place you’ve never been, at least musically. And where today’s subject is all about “amore,” what better way to present this than by a singer, composer and arranger whose work has defined passion for over 30 years? 

My gift to you all is “Ora Che Ho Te” (I believe the translation to be “Now That I Have You”) by Claudio Baglioni. May his music help you to rediscover your passions in life wherever they may lie.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Grand Rants. And thank you.

Gerry Ashley

Bonus: If you would like to see more on Claudio Baglioni, here’s a link to a recent live performance of him doing one of his most popular songs, Strada Facendo.

Also, he now has his own Youtube channel, Claudio Baglioni TV.

Camelot Fade To Black: Patrick Kennedy Retires

February 12, 2010


Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) Rhode Island


When I was young, I had the good fortune of seeing the stage play of Camelot in an early Boston run. I was probably 10 years old at the time, an impressionable youth with a love for imagery.  As you might expect, I was mesmerized by this, my first experience of the performing arts. 

Camelot was as real to me for those few hours spent in that theater. But when the show was over, the cast took its bows and left as the house lights came up, I wondered where Camelot went? The stage was empty. It had all been a mirage. As I rode home in the back of my parent’s car I was filled with the experience, but it was tinged with a sadness, for down deep, I knew that the Camelot I had seen didn’t really exist. It was the state of mind it put me in that sustained us all for that brief moment in time.  That time was over and I felt empty. 

Camelot, as a musical and as imagery, became a phenomenon, one linked to the magic of the Presidency of JFK.  We were filled with hope for the future. And when he died, I was once again faced with the fact that Camelot didn’t really exist. It was the state of mind we were in with a youthful, exuberant President suddenly taken from us. 

Bobby Kennedy emerged as the standard bearer for the Kennedy family. Did we dare believe in Camelot again? Many of us did. And it seemed that his popularity would sweep him into the White House. His appeal was broad based (a term we didn’t realize, at the time, had a second application). Just as we got our hopes up that Bobby would take the reigns of the country and lift us all back to the magic of Camelot revisited, he was taken from us. The emptiness I felt burned its way into my heart as it did with so many others. Still in my late teens, there was a lesson learned; not to believe in imagery, but rather search for (and acknowledge) reality

 As a society, however, I think we’ve fallen lazily into the effortless comfort of worshiping imagery rather than substance. Is there any other way to explain the 40 year career of Ted Kennedy? How else does one explain Kennedy continuing to  get re-elected time and time again? The people of Massachusetts conveniently looked past his endless character flaws, from Chappaquiddick  to his womanizing and drinking. Character meant nothing. 

A younger generation of Kennedys came upon the scene. Mostly the children of Bobby or Ted. The vast majority of them have seen their political careers overshadowed by their personal problems of drug abuse, drinking and simply boorish behavior. There was little character to observe. 

The rose colored glasses that were strapped to my head in the late 60s have long since been thrown out. I stopped looking at the Kennedys as royalty after the 1968 death of Bobby and then Chappaquiddick the following year. 

So we are now being told that Patrick Kennedy, the third child of Ted and Joan Kennedy, will not seek re-election to the House of Representatives, representing Rhode Island. It would be easy to take a few parting shots at Patrick. By the time Patrick came along, it was more like, “Oh, God… not another Kennedy!” And he lived down to the reputation. But, somehow, I’m just not interested in taking any cheap shots. Patrick is choosing to leave. Something his father never had the class or decency to do.  And why not? He had the support of constituents content to believe in facades, mirages and imagery. 

In truth, Patrick Kennedy never really established himself as anything but another Kennedy. He has battled substance abuse, and bi-polar disorder all his adult life by his own admission. He firmly established his credentials as Teddy’s boy when he plowed into a barrier near the Capital building in the wee hours of the morning back in May of 2006.    

The reasons for his not seeking re-election have not been made clear. They need not be. The fact that he is stepping down is enough for me to say, “That’s that” and move on.  No need for cheap shots. Nothing more to see here, people, move along, please. 

The news services are having a field day with the fact that, for the first time in nearly 60 years, there will be no Kennedy family member serving in the House or Senate in Washington. I’m not sure what symbolism they are trying to whip up for those who still choose to live in the world of imagery, but for me it simply reminds me of one of John F. Kennedy’s favorite lines from the final song of Camelot: 

“Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.”

Yes, but in truth, that really was long, long ago. And it was, in reality, only in our minds. 

Good luck and God speed to you, Patick. There’s still time for you to flourish as a person. May you find your personal peace outside of the political arena. 

Gerry Ashley

The Fly On The Wall – Espisode 3: Here Come Da Judge

February 11, 2010





Gerry Ashley

Showdown In Tehran – Islam Makes Its Move?

February 11, 2010
Tehran Iran 2/11/2010 (Source: AP)

Protests Turning Violent In Tehran (from Fox News)
Iran Shuts Down Gmail, Announces National E-Mail Service (From Fox News)

Tuesday, February 11, 2010

As I write this 12:45am Eastern Standard Time) morning has already dawned in Tehran, Iran. February 11th is the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. But this year, the fireworks may just be real.  For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m referring to, from AtlasShruggs:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the nation will deliver a harsh blow to the “global arrogance” on this year’s anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Ah yes, Islam, the religion of peace…

Ahmadinejad said that in the three decades of its history, the Islamic Revolution had inspired some great developments in the world.
Yes, honor killings, cliterectomies, and gay executions  and promised Jewish genocide, Christian persecution, religious intolerance.

The Iranian president made the remarks as the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution approaches.

Iranians are expected to pour into the streets on February 11 to celebrate the occasion in public rallies across the country, as they have done annually over the past three decades.

Iranians in the streets? Expect blood and executions from this “window to liberty.”

Indeed. Maryam Namazie, a Coordinator for Iran Solidarity, Based in London, UK writes on

Dear friend

February 11 or 22 Bahman is the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian revolution – a left-leaning revolution against the Shah and for freedom and prosperity, which was crushed by the Islamic movement.

But since history is written by the victors, this failed revolution is often called an ‘Islamic’ one. And every year, on this day, the Islamic regime of Iran holds commemorative rallies to mark ‘its’ day.

But not this time.

This time, the tide has turned and on Thursday 11 February 2010 the people in Iran and those standing in solidarity with them across the globe will come out in their millions to reclaim history and push forward the present-day revolutionary movement that aims to end 30 years of Islamic medievalism and drag Iran into the 21st century.

‘…If history is the story of change, then real history is the history of the undefeated – the history of the movement and people who still want and are struggling for change, the history of those who are not willing to bury their ideals and hopes of a human society, the history of people and movements that are not at liberty of choosing their principles and aims and have no choice but to strive for improvements…’ (Mansoor Hekmat, The History of the Undefeated,

On 11 February and everyday until we are rid of this vile regime, join us and be part of real human history in the making…

Warm wishes,


With a mad man (Ahmadinejad) racing to collect nuclear weapons and constantly threatening the existence of Israel, we sometimes forget that Iran is a nation of people who have built a solidarity movement towards returning to democracy. The prediction is that they will take a stand against Ahmadinejad and in favor of democracy on this anniversary. This was the kind of call America used to answer either openly or covertly. Not so, under the current administration. And this is what we’ve come to.

Wild claims that Iran will “stun world powers”during this week’s 31st Annverary  of the Islamic Revolution have been floating from the mouths of Ahmadinejad as well as Irans Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“The Iranian nation, with its unity and God’s grace, will punch the arrogance (Western powers) on the 22nd of Bahman, February 11, in a way that will leave them stunned.” Khamenei, who is also Iran’s commander-in-chief, told a gathering of air force personnel according to AFP.

What, then, is this new threat from Ahmadinejad and Khamenei?  By the time most people read this, we may have the answer.

Meanwhile, does anyone know which Barack Obama will be in the oval office to respond if and when something major does happen?

  • Will it be the foreign relations neophyte who thought he could apologize his way into the hearts of our enemies only to embolden them and have them laugh at him for being weak?
  • Or will it the Barack Obama I refer to as the “Male Model” (because posing  seems to be his biggest talent). This Obama makes the tough sounding speech, but then fails to act on his words, further damaging the image of the country.

I liked it better when we had a President we knew to be on our side; one who would not hesitate to defend the Constitution at ALL costs. Not systematically try to dismantle it. So for the record, yes, I DO miss George W. Bush. More than that, however, I wish Ronald Reagan were still leading this country.

What lies ahead today regarding Iran? It’s anybody’s guess, but It’s likely to be a brutal day, at least for the civilian population of Iran. And my guess is that the 80 pound peace-keeping gorilla known as the United States will, under Barack Obama, simply vote “Present.”

Brace yourselves.

Gerry Ashley

Fox News Poll Being Hijacked

February 10, 2010

UPDATE: Two days later and they’re still at it. Sadly, they’re succeeding.

There are some real crazies over at Reddit. Their latest fun seems to be gaming a poll posted at Fox News, which asks for opinions on what the Tea Party movement is all about.

The Fox poll gives several choices to vote for:

  • Small government and fiscal responsibility
  • Exposing Democrats’ socialist agenda
  • Voicing outrage at out-of-touch politicians
  • Fruitless mix of racism, conspiracy theories
  • Other (add your comment)

I’m sure you can guess which choice all the Reddit folks are clicking… Currently, the choice “Fruitless mix of racism, conspiracy theories” leads at 61%

Please go to Fox News and add a voice of reason to their poll.