Monday, December 5, 2011

Verdict for America: Solutions for our Most Pressing Problems

Bill Ponath, an attorney and long-time pro tem judge living in Arizona, has written the definitive up-to-date and eye-opening book on the most critical issues facing the U.S. Written so anyone will understand, but not so basic as to bore the experienced politico, he analyzes eight issues thoroughly and recommends insightful common sense solutions.
At one point the U.S. had its act together. Bill lays out the mistakes we made and the only rational solutions to overcome our errors. For example: In Russia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia their economies tanked based upon their socialist/communist infrastructures. They each elected to apply flat taxes and those taxes have directly caused economic booms. Even those nations that still rely on so much socialism; including government health-care, ie.; Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, have had economic recovery despite having flat taxes of 20 to 25%. Russia instituted a 13% flat tax and their economy skyrocketed. The U.S. can turn things around just like those countries did.
Bill explains things many of us should know but don’t or have forgotten. What is the Laffer Curve? Why isn't illegal immigration decreasing, even though we continue to increase the number of border agents on the border? What do you need to know about investing in gold?
Having spent many years in politics, I started reading the book expecting not to learn much. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover otherwise. Bill has thought these issues through much further than most of us including me, and researched them to a level that most people do not have the time for. There are plenty of illustrations throughout which make for easier understanding.
Bill reveals how much healthcare is costing us and how much costs have increased over the years. The numbers are staggering. Costs have increased by 5189% since 1960! Public funding from government sources has increased 10,013%. Bill proposes shifting payments back to per treatment rather than spread out over annual premiums. If patients pay higher co-pays and lower premiums, they will be discouraged from running to the doctor frequently unless really necessary. Bill also recommends high-deductible policies and Health Savings Accounts.
Bill does a thorough job of discrediting the often-repeated claim that 45.7 million Americans are uninsured. 26% are actually eligible for public insurance coverage, 19% have family incomes above $75,000, and another 18% have family incomes above $50,000.

Bill believes that the most fundamental error we are making in the U.S. is in the area of education. It is the only error that cannot be solved for those who have already endured such a poor and deteriorating system. We spend more money on education than on defense. Fortunately it can be corrected quickly by privatizing the system and providing vouchers, as is done with great success in every other industrialized nation in the world.
Bill goes over the success Florida schools have had had due to implementing a voucher system and emphasizing performance. Arizona’s premier think tank, The Goldwater Institute, has done extensive research comparing the academic successes Florida schools have achieved in contrast with other states. Funding is tied to performance, and teachers receive bonuses based on performance. As a result, the average Hispanic student’s test scores are higher than the overall score for students in 15 other states including Arizona.
Federal involvement in the schools does not work. No Child Left Behind created an incentive for states to lower standards to make tests easier to pass in order to avoid federal sanctions.
Illegal Immigration
Bill lambastes the media for misleading the public about what Arizona's SB 1070 law really does, stating that the inflammatory coverage is meant to incite a riot. One interesting solution Bill proposes for fixing illegal immigration is to offer illegal immigrants dependent upon welfare a sort of “severance pay” in exchange for leaving the country.
He explains why illegal immigration is not decreasing even though the numbers of border patrol agents on the border is increasing. The problem lies in that we are only securing parts of our border. Illegal immigrants are finding other routes to cross the border that are more dangerous, resulting in more deaths. The real way to fix the problem is to dismantle the welfare state magnet that attracts illegal immigrants.
Oil and Energy
The United States has more than 70% of the world’s oil under our feet; not including the inherently dangerous offshore drilling.Yet the U.S. is the only country in the world that is decreasing its production of oil instead of increasing it. This puts us at a tremendous disadvantage as we are forced to pay higher and higher prices to foreign countries who manipulate oil prices. If the U.S. were to produce its own oil and export oil to China and Japan, we could pay off all of our $3 trillion debt to those countries within seven years. In addition, Bill explains that the gas prices we pay are entirely fictitious and that proper production in the U.S. will cause prices to go to the low $1 range, AND we will stop providing financial assistance to the governments who finance terrorist organizations.
Housing and the Economy
Bill nails precisely what is wrong with the housing market and what caused the recession. Government manipulation of our housing market is responsible for the current crisis. If the government would stay out of the market and stop providing special deals for homeowners who really cannot afford them, home prices would stay relatively stable.
Bill offers some useful insights on investing in gold. He explains that gold is very stable, but that means it does not increase in value long term, other than to keep pace with inflation. In the short term, its value increases and decreases inversely to the stock market. This leads me to believe when the stock market eventually starts to rebound, it will be a bad time to invest in gold. Gold sold for more than $2,000 per ounce at the end of the Carter administration. When a president who understands the economic principles outlined in this book is elected, gold will subside to what Bill believes is its real inherent value, $500 to $800 per ounce.
Bill's background as an attorney is an asset in this section as he explains how constitutional law has developed in the area of religion in the public sphere. The “Lemon test,” so named from the court case it emerged in, has become the main method the courts use to determine whether there is an impermissible entanglement of government and religion. Bill advises those dealing in this area to tread carefully so their actions are not perceived as promoting religion, because that is the key factor the courts look at when determining whether something violates the Lemon test.
This is one of the best chapters in the book, rightfully reflected in the positive reviews at the beginning of the book. As he did in the preceding chapter, Bill carefully advises those involved in this area how they can best accomplish their goals while avoiding the courts striking down their efforts as unconstitutional. He begins with a discussion of partial birth abortion. It is heartbreaking to read the testimony of a nurse who assisted with these “D&X” abortions. It is even more distressing to read that “D&E” abortions are not really any different but they are legal. Bill maps out an approach for dismantling Roe v. Wade by chipping away at it little by little. He cites a case in Idaho where an employee at a computer chip plant filed a wrongful death claim against her employer for causing six miscarriages. The Ninth Circuit dismissed her complaint, holding that the law did not allow for claims by nonviable fetuses. Bill urges state legislators to pass laws granting protection to nonviable fetuses. Louisiana passed a law in 1997 creating liability for wrongfully terminating a pregnancy that damages either the mother or the unborn child. Bill emphasizes that legislatures must take small steps for now and not overreach, or the courts will strike the laws down. Arizona has some of the best prolife laws in the country, including an informed consent law that requires doctors to provide women seeking abortions with extensive information such as a physiological and anatomical description of the unborn child.
Federal Budget
Bill reminds us that the federal government is spending an unsustainable $1.50 for every $1 it brings in (some estimates are even higher, above $1.70). He shows where spending has increased and makes recommendations for cuts. Increasing taxes won’t solve runaway spending, because the Laffer Curve demonstrates that as taxes are increased, taxpayers have less of an incentive to work harder, so revenues start decreasing. Defense spending has decreased in recent years. In 1962, defense spending made up 60% of the federal budget. Now it only makes up 24%. Still, almost half of all military spending in the world is done by the U.S., 47%.

The book ends with a list of every bill relevant to the issues in the book considered on the House and Senate floor in 2008 and half of 2009, and a chart giving each member of Congress a score reflecting how they voted on each bill.
Anyone can slap together a knee-jerk superficial book about politics. This is nothing of the sort. Bill understands the issues better than anyone and has analyzed them further than most political authors. This is a must read for anyone who wants a first-rate update on the hottest political issues facing us today, and should be a required textbook for high school and college courses on government.

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