Thursday, October 31, 2013

Boo Humbug

As the years go by, Halloween continues to move up the list of my least favorite holidays.  It's fast-becoming as over-commercialized as Christmas, and some of the displays going up around town are just over-the-top--especially when you consider, we are talking about just a one day festival here. 

My first beef with Halloween is that the candy sucks now.  As someone who has eaten candy for 40-years, I can tell you there is nothing "fun" about the "Fun Size" candy bars the major brands package now for Halloween.  My wife and I pride ourselves on giving away the good stuff (you know, M&M's, Snickers, Kit Kats, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups) but the bags you buy now have these little, tiny bars that you almost feel embarrassed to hand out.  That's why we usually end up giving the kids two or three pieces just to make it worthwhile.  (And of course, the candymakers like to trumpet the fact that you are "still getting the same number of bars for the same price!!")

Secondly, the kids don't seem to put much effort into anymore.  The costumes have been on the decline for decades.  When I was a kid, you wanted a costume so good that your neighbors couldn't tell who you were (which is why you wore a costume).  Now it seems that half of them just put on some gray face paint, throw some blotches of red ink on their rattiest sweatshirt and call themselves "zombies".  Also, based on scientific research at my house last year, only 63% of kids still say "trick or treat" when you answer the door.  "Thank you" was offered just over 52 percent of the time.  If you're going to get the free candy, kids, you gotta be willing to put in the work here.

And finally, Halloween has become rather skanky recently.  If you were to go out tonight, all you would see are Naughty Nurses, Sexy Catwomen, and Miley Cyrus MTV Video Music Awards twerking outfits.  It's like women have decided that Halloween is the one night that they can dress up like strippers and it will be socially-acceptable. And don't forget that those same barely-there costumes also come in Teen and Tween sizes--so the objectification of girls can start as early as middle school.  Ladies, if you want to go the "sexy" route, might I suggest donning the Princess Leia Slave Girl outfit that Jabba the Hutt made her wear in Return of the Jedi.  Every guy in the bar or at the party won't be able to take his eyes off of you.

So if you are one of those people who will be going to work today in a costume--or you stayed up all night baking a desert that looks like severed body parts--don't expect any "treats" from me today.  You're more likely to get a "Boo Humbug".

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Deconstructing a Legend

Growing up in Manitowoc County during the early 1980's, I heard a few stories about Mickey Crowe.  The kid who played at a small, private high school in nearby St Nazianz was something of a "rural legend" in those parts.  You would hear someone talk about how they saw him score 100 points in a game (his actual single-game high was 72) or how he scored 5,000 points in his high school career (his actual total was a then-state record 2,724).  And those stories would always end with "I don't know whatever happened to him."

Remember, these were the days before the internet and Wikipedia and social media, so keeping track of someone was far more difficult.  There were rumors that he was still playing in beer leagues around the area and lighting everyone up like in his glory days.  There were stories that he was coaching somewhere out of state.  But in nearly all cases, nobody really knew exactly what became of Mickey Crowe.

Now, we have a chance to find out.  Brett Christopherson of the Appleton Post Crescent tracked down the legend, has worked with Crowe on an authorized biography.  For the first time, we will find out why someone who was better than anyone ever was in Wisconsin high school history at putting the ball in the hoop, basically walked away from the game after graduation.

I find stories like this fascinating.  I wonder why someone with so much talent decides to forego all of that and let it go to waste.  I always figured that Mickey Crowe was just another typical '70's burnout--the long-haired hippie who decided that smoking pot and getting drunk was more fun than playing hoops.  Based on some of the excerpts from the book, that was a factor.  But it also appears that Crowe's father may not have wanted his son to move on to bigger and better things--because it was likely that facing bigger, faster opposition, the points (and the glory) would be much harder to get.  And Crowe may have feared facing the reality that he could never live up to the legend his high school career created.

We will talk with Brett Christopherson about Mickey Crowe at about 8:45 this morning here on WOSH.  If you can't tune in, I would highly recommend picking up his book--just in case your son is ever called "The Next Mickey Crowe".

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

When Suspending Disbelief Goes Bad

Those complaining today about how their health insurance plan is being cancelled--or the cost of their existing plan is going up exponentially are going to find little sympathy from me.  I'd like to feel sorry for all of those people who are going to end up as the big losers in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but I can't--because I keep thinking about how they chose to ignore all of the warning signs that this would be the end result of the health care overhaul, and they allowed it to happen anyway.

As far back as 2008, as junior Illinois Senator Barack Obama was promising that forcing everyone to buy health insurance would "lower the costs for everyone", they should have been recalling their high school Macro-economics 101 to realize that by forcing insurance companies to pay out more to high-risk policyholders, low risk customers would have to foot the bill.  Instead, they thought "Hey, this guy is a Community Organizer, he must know more about how insurance works than I do!"

And in 2009, as Congress prepared for its Christmas Eve vote to approve the Affordable Care Act and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi urged her fellow Democrats to "pass the bill so they could find out what's in it", they could have thought "Shouldn't all of the long-term affects of a major piece of legislation be fleshed out before it even comes up for a vote?"  But instead, these people thought "Well, she was a housewife before being handpicked to serve in a safe Democratic Congressional District, she must understand the implications of all 17-hundred pages of the law better than anyone else!"

And again in 2012, as a desperately seeking re-election to preserve his legacy President Obama assured the nation that "if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it", these people should have thought "Why are all of these people in the health insurance industry saying that the President's promise was not true?".  But instead those voters went to the polls thinking "Well if there was any truth to that, the President surely would have told us in 2010, right after the Health and Human Services Administration changed the language of the law to force the cancellation of my policy because it won't cost enough."

And then this year, when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius assured everyone that the website would be ready and more than capable of handling the required demand for the purchase of insurance they should have thought "Shouldn't something that important be beta tested before it goes live?"  But instead they believed "Well a career politician since 1974 should know very well what is required to make a website function properly when 30-million people are trying to use it!"

 So complain all you want about losing the policy you were promised you could keep.  And cry about increased cost that you were assured you would not have to bear.  Those of us who chose not to suspend our disbelief in the rhetoric that was tossed around for five years now don't want to hear it.  You had your chance to change the course of this disaster--and you blew it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Very Narrow Vision

With Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt doing his best to scare WalMart away from building a store on Broadway Street it rekindles the debate over what should be a priority in "downtown revitalization"--one man's "vision" for an area--or the needs of the people living there.  Schmitt is on record as saying a big box retailer at the site of the former Larsen Cannery isn't what he "envisions" for that property.  He would like WalMart to consider sites sort of in that same area--but just not along the street that he likely considers his "legacy" as Mayor.

Being familiar with the area surrounding the Broadway District in Green Bay, I would describe it as lower to moderate-income at best.  It is also described as a "food desert" by advocacy groups--meaning there are few if any low-cost supermarkets or grocery stores in that area providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables or meats.  It is also an area that major retail chains have abandoned for the areas along the major highways circling the city.

So a WalMart on Broadway would bring a lower-cost grocery outlet--along with a place to buy cheaper school supplies, kids clothes, diapers and pharmaceuticals.  Not to mention, hundreds of jobs--which are also in short-supply in that area.  Are they career-building jobs?  No.  But shouldn't we be encouraging people to earn whatever paychecks they can rather than sitting around and collecting from eight different entitlement programs?

If Mayor Schmitt doesn't like how a WalMart is going to look on "his Broadway", what are the alternatives that he thinks will come in and provide the same benefits to the surrounding community?  Does he want upscale condos with riverviews on the site--filled with tenants who will drive out of the area to do all of their shopping?  Does he want a "senior living community" with controlled rents that provide little economic impact to the surrounding area?  Is he going to fall back on the old standby "mixed use"--with more boutique shops that employee three people and a food co-op with higher prices that won't serve the thousands of folks living just a few blocks away?  And where are the developers bringing their proposals to the table right now?  Perhaps Mayor Schmitt would like to hear the story of the "Old Maid" who drove off suitor after suitor in the belief that someone (or in this case, something better) was about to come along.

It's a dangerous form of myopia when government officials imagine what a single street should look like--and forget the potential impact on fifty other streets surrounding it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances

So most of Europe is pissed off at the US for what amounts to spying on high ranking officials.  Thanks to Edward Snowden we know that the NSA was hacking into the email accounts of the French Foreign Minister and monitoring the use of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone.  For Merkel this really had to be a crushing blow since she is such a fangirl of President Obama--getting all giggly and googly-eyed whenever they are together at international conferences.  It's almost like the 16-year old girl that finds out her star quarterback boyfriend was reading her diary or checked out all of her emails and text messages to her friends on her cellphone.

So why would the US do that?  Why would we risk the good relationships we have with our European allies with such nefarious tactics?  While spying on our friends is nothing new (trust--but verify, you could say) the intrusion on the privacy of seeming harmless people is all part of the Obama Administrations efforts to appear like they are not actually targeting those most like to be associated with international terrorism.  Remember all of those complaints about "profiling" of certain segments of the population in the early days of the Patriot Act?  The initial complaints were lodged against the Transporation Safety Administration, which had to start choosing old ladies in wheelchairs, children and guys like me to pull aside for "extra screening" as often--if not more often--than those who fit the profiles of those who took over and crashed those four planes on 9-11.

So President Obama--"sensitive" to the feelings of members in certain religions and natives of certain countries--has the NSA get around the same complaints about "profiling" by violating the privacy and civil rights of EVERYBODY.  Need to monitor the emails of the Afghan or Yemeni Foreign Ministers for intelligence on Al Qaeda or the the Taliban?  You'd better steal the emails from the French Foreign Minister as well.  Want to know who the Prime Minister of Pakistan is talking to?  Better get the same info on Chancellor Merkel as well.  Worried about what a 25-year old Saudi national who has overstayed his student visa in New York City is looking up on the internet?  Better get the same smartphone data from the 13-year old girl in Oshkosh as well.

President Obama and Chancellor Merkel reportedly had a lengthy phone conversation yesterday (recorded I'm sure) to discuss this issue.  I'm sure he told his Number 1 Fan that he certainly didn't want to violate her trust like that--but it is far more important to keep up appearances.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How DARE YOU Be Better Than My Son!!

Having been on teams that have gone entire seasons without winning games--and having once finished dead last in a golf tournament, 12-strokes behind second-to-last--I can tell you that losing sucks.  And getting blown out sucks even worse.  It's humiliating and even emasculating.  But when it happens you have one of two options  You can choose the path of strength and go back into the gym, the weight room, the practice field or the driving range and get better.  Or you can choose the path of weakness and just give up.  But now there is a third chioce in today's "nobody is responsible for anything bad that happens to them" culture--you can blame your opponents for being a bunch of bullies.

That is the path one parent in Texas chose when an undefeated football powerhouse ran roughshod over his or her son's team last Friday 91-0.  A complaint was filed alleging the opposing coach engaged in bullying behavior by allowing the losing team to be embarrased in such a way by the margin of defeat.  And under Texas state law, time had to be wasted to actually investigate the complaint and exonerate the coach.

By all accounts, the team that "ran it up" wasn't even trying hard to do it.  They ran just 31 offensive plays--and scored touchdowns on ten of them.  They also returned three punts for touchdowns.  The starters were out early in the first half, the second string guys were done by halftime and a bunch of freshman and sophomores mopped up in the second half (still scoring points). 

If your wondering where the parent may have gotten the idea that physically overwhelming a less-talented opponent is "bullying", you just need to check the Texas education definition of "bullying":

"Bullying occurs when a person is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength."

To that parent, his or her son was "repeatedly exposed" to more "power and strength" from the opposing players.  And because he had "difficulty defending" against that superior talent, he had to endure the "unwanted, negative action" of repeated touchdowns.  If I was a wrestler or a wrestling coach, I would worry about the future of my sport since it is entirely predicated upon "an imbalance of power or strength".

This case just further exemplifies the societal trend toward punishing individual excellence.  Why should the coach of the winning team tell his kids not to try their hardest when they are out on the field?  Why should the second, third and fourth string players have to kneel on the ball, or go half-speed so as "not to be better" than their opponents?  And as the player on the losing team, how are you going to gauge your own improvement in performance if the guy across the line from you isn't being allowed to challenge you to be better?

If the parents of the "bullied" football players can't accept the fact that their kids aren't as good at something than another kid, maybe they should move into something less competitive--like glee club.  They let everybody play the lead character there don't they?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Deadbeat Days, Volume 3

When people overwhelmed financially call the Dave Ramsey Show (heard 2-5 weekday afternoons on WOSH) saying they have "no way to pay their bills", Dave always walks them through a priority list of what needs to be paid first.  The first item is invariably the mortgage or rent, so they have somewhere to live--followed by the utilities and then groceries.  You know, the basics.

I'm hoping that someone from the Oshkosh Sawdust Days Committee calls Dave's show one of these days so they can learn Basic Budgeting 101, because once again, they have failed to pay their Special Events Permit fee.  We found that out after members of the Common Council asked City Manager Mark Rohloff about it during their meeting last night.  Rohloff says the bill was due a month ago--and NOBODY from Sawdust Days called him or sent an email warning that the fee would not be paid, or to explain when the City can expect payment.

You would think that given the controversy surrounding Sawdust Days' efforts to get out of paying the event fee--and the stern message sent by a vast majority of Councilmembers that no exemption will be given--that the organizers would have made sure that was the very FIRST bill they paid.  Especially when you consider that without a permit to even hold the event, there is no need to pay for tents, Zydeco acts, Mariachi bands, midway rides and Port-a-Johns.

Now it's easy to understand why Sawdust Days would choose to pay everybody else before the City.  It's because if you don't pay the tent rental guy, or the Zydeco acts, or the Mariachi bands, or the midway operator or the Port-a-John guy, they don't do business with you anymore!  People who make money for a living tend to stay away from deadbeats!

But the City of Oshkosh is not a business--and if City Councillor Tom Pech, Jr hadn't asked about the permit fee non-payment last night, it likely would have flown under the radar until Sawdust Days needed to make its 2014 permit request.  And during the long delay, there could have been emails sent to Councilmembers, letters submitted to the editors and desperate pleas for a waiver made in radio interviews.  Heck, a slate of non-special-event-permit-fee Common Council candidates could challenge the "anti-Sawdust Days" incumbents in the spring elections!  And if they win, they could give the "poor folks" at Sawdust Days a break--while continuing to charge the Pub Crawl, Waterfest, Oktoberfest, Irishfest, the Hmong Soccer Tournament, the Run for the Light, the Downtown Farmers Market, the Mayors Breakfast and the 995 other events hosted by the City of Oshkosh--all of whom have had NO PROBLEM meeting their financial obligations to the taxpayers.

It is time for the Council to put its collective foot down and either demand money from Sawdust Days upfront for its 2014 permit fee--or deny the request and make Menominee Park unavailable to the organizers.  There are other options for them around Oshkosh--like the SunnyView Expo Center or Community Park.  But I highly doubt Winnebago County Parks Director Rob Way, County Executive Mark Harris or any of the non-Oshkosh supervisors on the County Board will take any of this deadbeat crap either.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Death Spiral

I flipped over to MSNBC after the Presidents Rose Garden infomercial for the Affordable Care Act yesterday to see how those on the left would A) Blame the Republicans for the problems associated with the rollout of ObamaCare and B) Carry on the President's sales pitch that the ACA has been a "great success so far".  (The answer to "A" was to blame the government shutdown for creating all kinds of "confusion and worry" for health insurance consumers.  The answer to "B" was "look at all the unemployed 25 year olds getting insurance through their parents!")

But one topic that the talking heads kept expressing the greatest concern about (despite the show host--Alex Wagner's--best efforts to steer them toward less gloomy subject matter) was the potential Death Spiral that swirls just below the surface of ObamaCare.  In a nutshell, the only way the health care exchanges are going to work as the designers of the ACA hope it will is if large numbers of young, healthy people buy policies with inflated premiums in order to allow older, sicker people to purchase policies at artificially low rates.

And that is where the greatest concern lies with the failure of the website.  Young, tech savvy people--already leery of being "legally required" to buy health insurance that they may not see financial value in having--aren't going to try 25-times to log in and register.  The handful of people who actually were desperate to buy health insurance--and who will ultimately cost the providers in the exchanges the most money--will try and try and try (or wait until a taxpayer-funded "helper" comes to their door with the forms and pens) until they get their tax credit and their subsidized health care.

If those "Young Invincibles", as one of the pundits called them yesterday, stay away from the exchanges in droves--the death spiral is set in motion, as the insurance companies (who cannot operate at a continuous loss like a government entitlement program) have no choice but to jack up rates on all premiums--making the policies even less appealing to those least likely to file claims and the whole system collapses.

Ms Wagner tried to argue that the "Young Invincibles" will buy into the system for no other reason than "it makes financial sense" and to not do so would be "breaking the law".  Apparently she has forgotten that she is talking about the "financially smart" generations that took out huge student loans so they could live off-campus at a private school for six years while getting a degree in a field that nobody is hiring in--and who bought everything they wanted when they wanted on credit cards.  And as far as being afraid of "breaking the law", she might want to check out the rates for underage drinking, recreational drug use and texting while driving.

My advice would be to remain seated and keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times until the Death Spiral comes to a complete stop.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Making Chicken Salad Out of Chicken S%$#

While the Affordable Care Act increases premiums for young healthy adults, forces people out of the health insurance plans they liked, prevents them from continuing to see the doctors they want to see, drives up the cost of health care, causes employers to cut workers' hours and hastens the bankruptcy of the country, there are a few good things that might actually come out of this new law.  It could become one of the best crime-fighting tools government has ever had.

By making the Internal Revenue Service the enforcement agency for the individual mandate--rather than the toothless Health and Human Services--ObamaCare will provide Government with a great new way to track down all kinds of people currently evading the law.

First off, because you must apply to receive the federal tax credit to subsidize your health insurance premiums, the IRS should be able to quickly track down the 7-MILLION Americans who fail to file federal tax returns every year.  No tax return--no federal credit--and for people desperate for health insurance coverage, that must surely outweigh the punishment of back taxes and fines, right?

The IRS filings should also help local police from around the country to track down the more than one-million people with outstanding warrants for their arrests.  Most are for probation and parole violations and unpaid traffic citations--but there are still plenty of dangerous criminals who have either eluded arrest or have jumped bail and can now be brought to justice.  It should be very simple to compare the lists of ObamaCare enrollees with the lists of outstanding warrants and conduct sweeps to pick them up.

And the enforcement of the individual mandate will also reveal the locations of millions of parents who are delinquent in their child support payments.  Only about 40% of parental support cases are paid in full every month.  Armed with the ObamaCare lists, Family Services departments in all 50-states can locate those deadbeat parents and get them to start paying up.  Liens and garnishments can also be placed against them through the employer that they list with their IRS filings.

Of course, this use of the Affordable Care Act to bring millions of scofflaws and deadbeats to justice relies on the belief that those who have gone out of their ways to avoid government interaction for years are suddenly going to be "scared" into revealing their locations to avoid a "penalty" of $95 next year--which, by the way, no one has explained yet how the IRS is going to collect from people whom they either don't know exist--or haven't been able to locate for years.  All of which means millions of people desperate for health insurance will remain uncovered--strictly by choice or necessity.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Not So Social Media

The Winnebago County Sheriff's Department and the Oshkosh Police Department are learning the hard way that social media isn't all that it is cracked up to be.  While the medium can certainly be a powerful tool for communicating important information to citizens in a timely fashion, the interactive nature of Facebook and Twitter are proving to be very problematic.

Postings about incidents, arrests and unsolved crimes have usually devolved into ugly "conversations" about the makeup of our community--and who is "to blame" for crime in our area.  You would also find plenty of Monday Morning Quarterbacks trolling the sites offering up their "expertise" on what officers and deputies should actually be doing with their time.  I won't be repeating any of the comments that I have seen posted to the departments' accounts by users--but suffice it to say, it would not make you very proud of your fellow Oshkoshians.

The departments initially asked people to keep things civil on the sites--but those requests continued to go unheeded.  So now the Sheriff's Department is dedicating more time to monitoring the comments posted on Facebook and deleting those deemed to be inappropriate or offensive.  Repeat offenders will also be banned from posting on the sites.

I'd really prefer that my law enforcement officers be spending their time doing something other than deciding who can respond to their social media posts--and what is and isn't appropriate for public consumption.  On the My Two Cents Blogger site I accept comments on my posts--but nothing shows up on the site itself until I have a chance to review it and okay it.  And quite honestly, I don't have a lot of time in the morning when I write these to be going through 100-comments and clicking through to links that people want to post to make sure that I'm not encouraging my followers to visit a child porn site.

Besides, I don't think anyone is going to provide a major tip in an internet forum.  So it's far better for both departments to just turn off the comments feature on their social media sites--and make it all it really needs to be, a way one source of information.  If the trolls want to make their stupid comments, they can post them on their own pages for their three, like-minded followers to "enjoy".

Thursday, October 17, 2013

There's Something About Mary

I must say, Democrat Mary Burke's campaign for Governor is certainly off to an interesting start.  After basically endorsing her opponent, Governor Scott Walker's $100-million dollar property tax cut bill (which is clearly a campaign talking point to compare to Burke's effort to increase property taxes to the maximum allowable limit every year she has been on the Madison School Board) she is now telling the Associated Press that she is going to make no campaign promises.

That's a unique positioning statement, "I'm not promising you anything.".  It can't reassure an already doubtful union base that has been quick to point out that Burke hired only non-union workers at Trek Bicycle.  Obviously, they want a candidate that they know will make every effort to repeal Act Ten and restore their bargaining powers.  However, that was one of the specific points in the interview that Burke chose to side step.

Burke also provided no stance on taxation--either on the rich or on corporate profits.  That has to worry the Progressive wing of the Democratic party who worry that Burke is just your typical born-rich, corporate hack who won't be willing to soak it to the more successful in society to bail out those not putting in the effort.  (Which reminds me, will we see comments about Mary Burke's status in life like we did from the Left against Senator Ron Johnson?  My favorite is still "Born on third base and think's he hit a triple".)

(And aside #2--will Mary address Trek's relationship with Lance Armstrong?  While she can claim credit for the growth of the company under her watch, much of those sales spikes came as a result of Armstrong riding Trek bikes during his 7 Tour de France titles--and his endorsement of their products.  I'm not saying that Burke or anyone at Trek knew that Armstrong was riding dirty in all of those races, but does she see those profits and that growth as "ill-gotten gains"--similar to the "dirty money" that other "Republican" corporations made by outsourcing work or cutting employees but maintaining production levlels?)

Perhaps learning from Governor Walker, Burke isn't throwing any numbers around for job growth targets either.  I'm sure her handlers have done the math and they know that anything they toss out there will immediately be compared to the number of job losses the state incurred while she was serving as Governor Jim Doyle's Secretary of Commerce.

It's still early, and Burke could still come out with actual stances and plans for the future--but for right now, it looks like her main selling point is going to be "I'm not Scott Walker."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Life Is Full Of Risks

I finally had a chance to see the PBS Frontline documentary "League of Denial".  The show dominated sports/talk radio for several days last week with the dire predictions that "no mother will ever let her son play football again" and "this will be the death of tackle football in America".

While I did find the documentary thought-provoking and fairly level-headed (albeit one-sided, due to the NFL's refusal to provide anyone for comment).  The stories of former greats like Mike Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers descending into homelessness and deep depression due to brain damage likely caused by repeated blows to the head while playing were very sad.  And the details of the NFL's efforts to discredit any medical research into the effects of such repeated blows was infuriating.  But in the end, nobody was saying that "If you play football, you will end up with permanent and debilitating brain damage."

What makes me chuckle now, is the "day after" reaction from the talking heads and pundits.  "No mother will allow her son to play football after this".  Really?  Like no mother allows her son to drink before he is 21, have sex before he is 18, never use illegal drugs and view only age-appropriate material on the internet?  Good luck with that.  And you are telling me that the single mother of an inner city child who can run a 4.2 40 or the family of a 6'4" 280 pound 15-year old with natural strength and good balance are going to pass up a chance to get their son into college and the NFL Draft and the golden egg of a multi-million dollar contract over concerns about his mental condition 40-years from now?  Yeah right.

Just three days after Frontline aired, I was in the press box at a high school game seeing those same "concerned parents" cheering big hits that caused fumbles and incomplete passes and sacks--and not a single mother or father ran down onto the field and dragged their son off out of "concern for his safety".  The same thing happened at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday--where, ironically enough--Jared Abbredaris of Wautoma had to be removed from the game in the 1st half due to a "head injury".  He hopes to play this Saturday night against Illinois.

As I mentioned in a previous My Two Cents, the death of football will not come from millions of moms vetoing Junior's request to play middle school and high school ball.  It will not come from thousands of doctors expressing their concerns about repeated head trauma.  And it won't come from viewers of PBS Frontline.  The people who pose the greatest threat to the future of football are the six or seven or eight people who sit on local School Boards--who after hearing from one or two concerned parents who "saw a show on TV" or who "read a report on the internet" about concussions in football--will vote to end the sport at their schools.  And it will be the Faculty Senates--jealous of the money generated (and spent) by big-time college athletic programs--who will demand their universities drop the sport "for the student-athletes' safety".

Let's hope Frontline never does a documentary on the dangers of teen drivers--or kids will never be allowed out of the house again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Windfall Principle

I'm not entirely sold on Governor Scott Walker's plan to return 100-million dollars in excess state revenues.  I can see why the Governor wants to take this course of action.  The surplus serves as proof--yet again--that when you cut income taxes, you actually end up collecting more in taxes--in this case, higher than expected sales and corporate tax revenues.  Returning a cool hundred mill gives the Governor the ability to give all of those Democrats who fled to Illinois a big middle finger in the face and an "I told you so!"

But I consider this budget surplus to be a windfall--and good financial planning doesn't call for you to go out and get rid of that money the quickest way you can.  Under the good old Dave Ramsey financial planning system, you apply any extra income to savings and then your priority list of unfunded needs and finally "fun stuff".

The new state budget already called for a record deposit into the Rainy Day Fund--so technically, the savings requirement is already being met down in Madison.  So that brings us to unfunded needs.  Since the Governor has chosen to use school districts as the vehicle for this "refund", might I suggest the schools actually get to keep that $100-million for NON-RECURRING, one-time capital improvement projects that they currently cannot fund under the property tax levy limits.

Please note, that the key to this process is NON-RECURRING expenditures.  To use the windfall money on things that would just increase your expenses in each successive budget (like wage increases, insurance subsidies or hiring more staff) would be asinine--since you can't guarantee that money is coming your way every year.  Although, if we keep cutting the tax rates and being pleasantly surprised by the surplusses--maybe it will become a regular thing.

Every district in the state probably has a boiler that needs to be replaced, or a couple of roofs that are nearing the end of their lifespans.  I could give you the financial projections that show how my $13 expected property tax cut would grow in my investment portfolio to be able to buy me several months of groceries when I'm 75--but a new heater or roof purchased for one of my local schools will last several decades--and to me, just seems like a better use of the money.  Besides, I know most homeowners getting that refund aren't nearly as disciplined as we are in my household--so their 13-bucks would probably go to Starbucks or the corner pub.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Man Up Weekend

As I watched another weekend of NFL Football featuring pink ribbon balls, pink towels, pink gloves, pink shoes and pink ballcaps on the sidelines, I was wondering why the league doesn't have a weekend dedicated to a social issue that really needs more "awareness".  Let's face it, there probably isn't a person left in the US who doesn't know that breast cancer exists.  These pink campaigns have moved to full-on fundraising--rather than "awareness".  So why not use the giant platform of the NFL to shed more light on the problem of domestic violence and child abuse in this country?

This line of thought stems from the beating death of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's two year old son by the new boyfriend of the child's mother last week.  As far as we have come in allowing women (and some men) to admit to having breast cancer, is how far we still have to go to convince women and children to come forward with their allegations of abuse.  While they may claim its "the first time that ever happened", the vast majority of those arrested and charged with domestic violence or abuse have a history of such incidents.  It's usually only after someone is sent to the hospital--or dies--that the pattern of abuse is uncovered.  The alleged victims are often to scared (or unable to) to got to police and report the prior abuse on their own.

And that is where the NFL can raise the "awareness" of not only the problem--but also send a strong message to abusers--with what I call "Man Up Weekend".  You could start by adding the names of those killed by domestic violence or child abuse to the sidelines around the field of play.  Every camera shot would pick up the memorials and give viewers some idea of the extent of the problem.  Or the pictures of the victims could be placed on signs and hung from the guardrails in front of the first row of seats.  Public service announcements could run on the network broadcasts and in the stadium featuring players telling men that it is "not tough" to beat up on women and kids--and to encourage unmarried fathers to remain a part of their kids' lives.

An even more powerful statement could be made if players were given special nameplates on the backs of their jerseys to describe the challenges they have overcome to get where they are.  Imagine what it would be like to see the all four receivers in the spread formation with "I was abused" on their backs as they line up for a play.  Or to see the entire defensive line letting the world know that "I had no Dad".  That's a bit more powerful than the statement made by pink shoes isn't it?

Of course, Man Up Weekend will never happen in the NFL because the topic of domestic violence and abuse hits a little too close for the league.  It would be a bit embarrassing for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to beg out of doing a PSA about violence toward women, after two ladies accused him of forcing them to have sex with him.  And Antonio Cromartie of the Jets might appear a bit hypocritical in telling men to be a part of their kids' lives when he wasn't able to name all eight of the children he has fathered by seven different women in six different states during HBO's Hard Knocks a few years back.

It's obvious that the country--and the NFL in particular--could use a Man Up Weekend to raise awareness of the issues of domestic violence and child abuse more than the "feel good" donning of some pink gloves and shoes.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Most Useless Poll Numbers In History

Much is being made about the ridiculously low approval rating for Congress  in a new poll by the Associated Press.  Just 5% of American say they like the way the Senate and the House are conducting business right now.  The political pundits and the late night comedians are having a field day with this--pointing out that cockroaches and child molesters are more popular than politicians.  With so much hatred toward those in Washington you would expect the 2014 Mid-term Elections to be a blood bath right?  Well, it probably won't be.

Just by looking at the poll numbers, you would anticipate that 95% of Congress is on its way out the door--and that the House will flip to Democrats while Republicans will take over the Senate in a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment.  But on November 4th of 2014 about 95% of those same lawmakers we rivile now will be going right back to Washington--leaving the so-called "experts" wondering where all of that voter outrage has gone.

Part of the problem is the poll poses a very broad question--asking people to consider Congress as a whole.  A similar question asking what Americans think about their individual Congressperson or Senator would probably bring very different results.  (Actually, the most common response would be "Um, I'm not sure who that is to be honest with you).  Individual approval ratings would run much higher--because most voters don't see "their guy" as the one causing the "problems".  "My guy is okay--it's the 'rest of them' that are creating this mess"--is the most common attitude.  Do you really think that John Boener or Harry Reid are worried about losing their seat anytime soon?  Politicians in districts or states considered to be more "in play" or "vulnerable" in 2014 are keeping their heads down on this one--or are trying to sound as "moderate" and "conciliatory" as possible--so they can come back next fall and tell everyone that they were "working behind the scenes to reach an agreement."

Plus, we are a full year and a month away from those mid-terms.  The American voting public has a very short memory.  That's why this government shutdown and debt limit crisis are happening in a non-election year--and why any solution to the issues will be conveniently pushed out beyond November 4th of 2014.  Between now and then there will dozens of new "crises" that arise--are "solved" and also fade into memory.  And the ads next fall will make no mention of these couple of months--focusing instead on unemployment, immigration, taxes, the failure of ObamaCare and the need to keep ObamaCare.

So hate on your Congressman and your Senator all you want this month.  Come November of 2014, you'll likely be filling in the little circle next to his or her name again.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Bridge On The River Fox

One of the all-time classic World War II movies is The Bridge On The River Kwai, a fictionalized account of British prisoners of war being forced to build a railroad bridge in the jungles of Burma.  Usually, such prisoners would do poor work or sabotage their projects to frustrate the Japanese--but in this case the ranking British officer--Lt Colonel Nicholson (played brilliantly by Alec Guinness) becomes obsessed with the idea of proving his intellectual and technological superiority over his Japanese captors that he demands his men build a "right, proper bridge".  He even attempts to derail an Allied effort to destroy the bridge--and a train passing over it carrying Japanese dignitaries and soldiers--in order to preserve his "monument to British superiority."

Little did we know that Oshkosh has its own version of Lt Colonel Nicholson in City Councillor Steve Herman.  Herman doesn't like the look of the new lift bridge the Canadian National Railroad built at the mouth of the Fox River.  Councillor Herman thinks the bridge looks "too rusty" and he wants it painted--so that it looks "right, proper" if you will--and so that it matches the rest of the riverfront "motif" that the City is trying to create.

An alert listener has brought to my attention a couple of things that Councillor Herman should have considered before going so public with his criticism of the bridge and his demand to have it painted.  First, designs for the rail bridge were available as early as February of 2012--and the renderings appear to capture the color of the eventual structure very accurately:

If Mr Herman had a problem with the color of the bridge, it would have been better to raise those concerns more than a year ago--as opposed to after 23-million dollars have been spent to put it in place.

Secondly, the new bridge is made out of COR-TEN Steel--otherwise known as "weathering steel"--and the "rusty" appearance is by design.  The alloy used in the beams develops a light layer of corrosion on the outside--which actually helps prevent further corrosion on the inside of the metal for decades.  It was developed for the sole purpose of NOT having to paint the steel over and over again to protect it from rust.  Furthermore, attempts to paint weathering steel have shown to actually INCREASE corrosion in the metal--as the protective patina never has a chance to develop. So if Lt Colonel Nicholson...I mean City Councilmember Herman wants to paint the bridge, he will actually be sabotaging its future stability and safety. 

Besides, it's just a bridge.  It's a piece of infrastructure designed to get a train from one side of the Fox River to the other safely and efficiently.  It's not a piece of modern art, nor is it a monument to the "vision" some people have for the Oshkosh Riverfront. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Allegorical Malapropisms

President Obama and his speechwriters really need to work on the analogies they use to compare the operation of Government to how things work in the "real world".

Last week in his speech from the Rose Garden, the President drew criticism for comparing the major malfunctions of and the ObamaCare sign up process on state-run sites to a minor security issue with Apple's new iOS7 operating system.  What the President and those who put the words in his mouth seem to have forgotten is that anyone unhappy with their iPhone or iPad can select several other product options in the marketplace.  And that no one is required by Federal law and the threat of penalty to own an Apple product.

A more correct comparison would have gone like this:

"The major problems with and the state-run sites is much like another Government entity: the DMV.  You know that it won't be open at times convenient to you.  You know that you will have a long wait with a bunch of other people to get service.  And you know that once you get up to the counter you will have filled out the wrong form--or you won't have the information along with you to properly fill out the forms--so you have to start the whole process over again.  But does that mean that you don't renew your driver's license? No.  You put up with the Government incompetence and the hassle because you know if you don't, the police (or in the case of ObamaCare, the IRS) will keep busting you and you will have to pay a bunch of fines."

The President and his TelePrompter goofed again during yesterday's press conference at the White House--comparing Congress' failure to approve another increase in the Debt Ceiling to someone refusing to make their mortgage or car loan payment.  Actually, most of the borrowing the Fed has to do is to pay off existing debt, so a more accurate comparison would have gone something like this:

"Now Congress refusing to raise the Debt Ceiling again is like the average American who has been living well beyond his or her means for decades refusing to call Bank of America to request a credit limit increase so they can use the balance transfer checks they got in the mail this week to pay off the minimum balances due on their Discover, American Express, Chase Sapphire, Capital One, Delta SkyMiles, Lowes, Home Depot, Menards, Kohl's, JC Penney, Macy's, Shell Rewards, Best Buy, Amazon, Victoria's Secret and Sears cards.  Obviously, this make no fiscal sense."

I think you would agree these allegorical references capture the problems in Washington far more accurately--and would certainly help all Americans to properly place the blame.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Worst Person in Sports

With apologies to Keith Olberman (whom I believe has brought his "Worst Person in the World" skit from his old MSNBC show to his new nightly program on ESPN2), I would like to nominate someone for the Worst Person in Sports.

When I started formulating this column, I thought the nod would go to Dominic Raiola--the Detroit Lions center, who on Sunday spent the pre-game warm-ups screaming profanities and slurs at members of the University of Wisconsin marching band before they performed the National Anthem.  What I find interesting is that a 295-pound guy is calling a 250-pound kid "fat". And what I find most disgusting is that Raiola carries the captain's "C" on his jersey.  As I tell the kids who come out for captains' meetings when I ref basektball, they should be proud to have been selected as captains and that we expect them to be leaders of their teams.  I also wonder what reception Raiola will get from his brother, Donovan--who just happened to play at Wisconsin--and didn't seem to be nearly as big a douchebag as his brother.

But what I realized as I spent more time thinking about it, is that the Dominic Raiola incident is just the latest in a long line of truly bad behavior from various members of the Detroit Lions.  I'm sure Packers fans still remember Ndamukong Suh stomping on Evan Dietrich-Smith's head a few years back.  Not to mention his "accidental" kick to the groin of Houston's Matt Schaub on Thanksgiving Day.  He even was flagged for trying to trip Aaron Rodgers this past Sunday. And the Lions misbehavior extends off the field as well.  Six players were arrested in the 2012 off-season.  And Titus Young (while he had been cut by the team a few weeks earlier) was arrested twice in ONE DAY earlier this year.

All of this can be traced back to one person--who seems to have made it his mission to make the Lions the "baddest" team in the league--Head Coach Jim Schwartz.  Schwartz himself has even gotten into the punk parade--challenging 49er's Head Coach Jim Harbaugh to a fight on the field after Harbaugh "congratulated him a little too aggressively" after the game.

Teams in all sports take on the personality of their coaches.  If a head man is disciplined and detail-oriented--his teams tend to be disciplined and don't beat themselves.  If a coach is hands-off and doesn't hold guys accountable--his teams tend to be sloppy.  And when a guy thinks he's the toughest dude--but is actually just a bully--his players go out and act just like Jim Schwartz's Lions act--week after week after week.

Believe me, Detroit players wouldn't stomp on opponents, ridicule college kids and ride around drunk and high if their head coach made it clear that such behavior would not be tolerated.  And that is what makes Jim Schwartz the Worst Person in Sports.  Of course, if owner William Clay Ford, Sr continues to keep Schwartz as his coach, that might make him the next candidate for the "honor".

Monday, October 7, 2013

Save the Burgeoning Arts!!

For some reason, Friday turned into "Save the Arts Day" here at the Radio Ranch.  We had pianist Alpin Hong stop by the WOSH studios in the morning to promote his appearance that night at the Grand Opera House--and to talk about how he visits schools wherever he performs to give free shows for kids in order to "save his art form".  A little later in the day, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center sent us a press release about an event they held with area teachers showing them how "the arts" can be used to improve performance in the classroom and even deal with issues like bullying.  The money for the program came from a Kennedy Center grant to "preserve the arts in schools".  And then in the afternoon, came the story that the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra had posted a $1.8-MILLION loss in their last fiscal year--touching off a debate on how to "save the Symphony!"

I'm always skeptical of these "save the arts" efforts because "the arts" seem to be burgeoning in today's society.  I can turn on my TV and find hundreds of outlets featuring comedy, drama and musical performance.  Nearly any piece of music ever recorded is just a few mouse clicks away.  And billions of photographs, illustrations, paintings and animations are available on millions of websites to be viewed in high-definition brilliance.  One could argue that this is the greatest period ever for artists of all types--as the access available to them and their audiences has never been as wide as it is now.

What is being "threatened" is a very narrow band of "the arts" as defined by a stuffy few (usually academics) who like to use their expertise in the genre as proof that they are "smarter" and "more refined" than the general masses.  And these "arts" are usually confined to and controlled by an expensive infrastructure.  One cannot teach one's self to play Beethoven "properly"--you must learn from an instructor (with a masters degree or a doctorate).  You cannot perform opera in a community center--you must have an acoustically-perfect opera house (constructed with public tax dollars).  Paintings cannot be "fully appreciated" by viewing them in a coffee table book or on a computer screen--they must be seen in person (from a safe distance) at large museums (maintained with more public tax dollars).

As much as "supporters of the arts" like to think that their forms of entertainment are somehow above the economic realities of needing to be self-sufficient, the reality is that what passes for "fine art" today is just what got the most financial backing at the time of its creation.  You don't think Bach, DaVinci, and Wagner didn't expect to get paid for their songs, paintings and operas?  They had wealthy, private "patrons" who gave them financial support.  There were probably thousands of other pianists and painters who produced just as good of work--but nobody was giving them a penny--and they had to hang it up.  People vote with their pocketbooks, and today's society has decided that it appreciates other forms of "art"--and no amount of taxpayer funded school programs are going to change that.

Friday, October 4, 2013


If you see me out and about and notice that my face looks a little puffy and bruised, that's from slapping my forehead repeatedly while listening back to our interview yesterday with the supervisor of the Healthcare Exchange signup program here in Winnebago County.  It turns out that Wisconsin is no different from the rest of the nation in that few people have been able to get into the exchange website to sign up for their federally-mandated coverage.  What gets me is the matter-of-fact way that Anne said it was no surprise to them:

"You know, this is not unusual.  When a new program starts that we administer--no matter what the program and no matter whose in charge of it--this is pretty normal at the beginning.  So it's not scaring us, I guess."

The only thing missing from the end of that answer is "Well, we are talking about the Government here."

There is a good reason why we have come to accept this type of incompetence--those of us actually footing the bill for the exchange websites aren't the ones actually using it.  President Obama tried to compare the exchange site "glitches" with the new iOS7 operating system from Apple.  But the iOS problem was with a little used security feature.  Everybody was still able to use their iPhones and iPads (which, by the way, they are not federally-mandated to buy).  Believe me, Apple wouldn't be the most valuable brand in the world if every time they launched a new product, consumers had to wait a few weeks for it to actually work.

I remember when the Oshkosh Common Council was voting years ago to discontinue garbage pickup at apartment buildings.  Not a single tenant came down to the meeting to complain "I'm a taxpayer and I demand to receive the same services that everyone else is getting!"   No, it was only the landlords who came down to complain, because they would still have to pay the property taxes--AND the the cost of hiring a private collection company.

 Because the Federal Government is overseeing the Wisconsin exchange, we don't know how much it cost to set up the registration website--but in California, theirs cost $313-MILLION--and it works worse than ours. I know that we opponents of ObamaCare are covertly cheering the myriad problems with its implementation as yet another sign of the incompetence of this Administration--but we should still expect better performance from our tax dollars.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Enjoying the "Death of the Planet"

I had the strangest thought the other day while I was playing golf in shirtsleeves and shorts here in October: What do Climate Change Alarmists think on days like we have had here in the Fox Valley this week?  An entire week of high temperatures 15 to 20 degrees above normal ioncreases the likelihood that we will see another one or two tenths of a degree annual temperature increase this year--adding to the impending "disaster" awaiting the planet (until the next Ice Age starts in about 2,000 years).

Do the alarmists call the TV stations to complain about how cheerful and happy the weathermen and the news anchors appear when they talk about above-average temperatures?  Do they demand that forecasts of upper 70's to around 80 include a disclaimer that this is "obviously not right and is proof that we have passed the point of no return"?

When they are buying their fair-trade-certified, soy mocha latte in the 100% recycled content cup, do they shoot angry glares at the others in the coffee shop smiling and laughing about the warmer weather?  I bet they mutter under their breaths "I hope your great, great, great, great, great grandchildren enjoy going to "Underwater Disney World in what's left of Florida".

As they drive by schools in their Priuses, do they spy the kids running around with no jackets on in the warm sun during recess or gym class and think about pulling into the parking lot to demand the teachers bring them inside immediately to watch Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and to write essays about how "sad they will be" when there are no more polar bears? 

At the Farmers Market do they complain to the vendor with the certified-organic, vegan products about how the extended growing seasons will only "put more money into the pockets of those greedy bastards at Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland with their genetically-altered, drought and disease-resistant super-crops."

And did they cheer when the Old Farmers Almanac predicted a colder and snowier than normal winter for the Great Lakes region this year--because that is "what's needed" to get temperatures back down to "what they should be"--even if it means greater danger to senior citizens trying to clear their driveways and that it will cost low-income families more to heat their homes?

The next time I see a miserable looking person getting out of a vehicle plastered with Obama/Biden and Russ Feingold bumper stickers, I'll have to ask them "How about this weather?"

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Sad Truth Behind the Rhetoric

While I'm sure it wasn't intended to be that way, I found "President Obama's message to Republicans in Congress using the media rather than actual face-to-face negotiations" yesterday rather insightful.  Actually, it was the last couple of minutes that contained anything of value.  The dog and pony show with the human backdrop of all the people who couldn't afford health insurance--but who could afford to travel to Washington DC on a workday afternoon to stand on a platform for ten minutes on national TV--was just the usual fluff from this administration.  But the final few minutes got to the heart of what the government shutdown is really all about: This country is way too far in debt.

The President pointed out that the continuing resolution hung up in Congress right now isn't about keeping National Parks, the Smithsonian and NASA operating right now: "It does not authorize anybody to spend any new money whatsoever. All it does is authorize the Treasury to pay the bills on what Congress has already spent."  We've already borrowed the money to run the Federal Government for this year--we just need to pay for what it cost to run it last year, or two years ago, or five years ago or heck, maybe even ten years ago.

The President then tried to compare the situation in Washington to that faced by debt-addled Americans at home: "If you buy a car and you've got a car note, you do not save money by not paying your car note. You're just a deadbeat. If you buy a house, you don't save money by not authorizing yourself to pay the mortgage. You're just going to be foreclosed on your home. That's what this is about."  I had to take to Twitter in the seconds following that phrase to remind the President that you actually save money by NOT BORROWING TO BUY A CAR and by PAYING OFF YOUR MORTGAGE AS SOON AS YOU CAN!!

And then finally, the President had this line--which was perhaps the most insightful of the entire speech: "And I want to underscore the fact that Congress doesn't just have to end this shutdown and reopen the government; Congress generally has to stop governing by crisis."  If you ask anyone who is--or who has been--in over their heads in debt, they will tell you that life is nothing but managing crisis after crisis.  There is the car break down, the kids get sick, their hours at work get cut--all at a time when you are least able to afford them.  However, these are all events that families with their economic affairs in order handle with little or no stress.

It should be pointed out that the continuing resolution battle is just a prelude to the fight coming up over raising the Debt Ceiling AGAIN--which has to happen in the next two weeks.  Let's hope our President doesn't have to go out there before the cameras and sound like a desperate consumer begging CitiBank to raise his credit card limit while the balance is 20-years past due.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


The big day is finally here--the day when the millions of Americans "desperate" to get health insurance can sign up for plans available from the new state exchanges.  And the response from a majority of the country is....."Huh? Whut?"

A new survey by the Kaiser Foundation finds the majority of Americans have no idea what is going on with the Affordable Care Act.  Two-thirds don't know what is in the law (even though Democrats passed it so everybody could find out) and could not tell you how it is going to affect them.  I can see how this very minor new law could have slipped past everyone's attention.  I mean there was hardly any media coverage of it in the 2008 Presidential campaign, the 2009 Christmas Eve vote to approve it, the voter backlash against it, the multiple efforts to repeal it in the House, all of the President's rallies and town hall meetings to promote it, the 2012 Presidential campaign, the delay of the business mandate and now the partial Government shutdown over another effort to delay it.  Perhaps if Kanye West, one of the Kardashians, Hunter Moore or Miley Cyrus tweeted about ObamaCare, more people would know about it.

What I find most interesting in this survey is that among the uninsured--the people who will be impacted the greatest by the ACA--the level of ignorance is a full 88%.  If these people are truly "desperate" to get health insurance, they sure have a funny way of displaying that desperation.  I know that if I had been trying for years to secure something as important as health insurance and it had been out of my reach--the minute it might become available to me I would be doing everything I could to make sure I knew how to make that happen.  And even if I didn't actually want it, I would still try to find out how to avoid the tax penalty for failure to enroll. 

That must be why those in Human Services say they are less concerned about today's start of the exchange sign-up period and are more concerned about the December 15th deadline to enroll in plans for 2014.  They know that the vast majority of those 14-million uninsured people that will cost taxpayers a TRILLION dollars over the next decade will actually have to be dragged--some kicking and screaming--over the finish line.