About Me

In writing the "About Me" portion of this blog I thought about the purpose of the blog - namely, preventing the growth of Socialism & stopping the Death Of Democracy in the American Republic & returning her to the "liberty to abundance" stage of our history. One word descriptions of people's philosophies or purposes are quite often inadequate. I feel that I am "liberal" meaning that I am broad minded, independent, generous, hospitable, & magnanimous. Under these terms "liberal" is a perfectly good word that has been corrupted over the years to mean the person is a left-winger or as Mark Levin more accurately wrote in his book "Liberty & Tyranny" a "statist" - someone looking for government or state control of society. I am certainly not that & have dedicated the blog to fighting this. I believe that I find what I am when I consider whether or not I am a "conservative" & specifically when I ask what is it that I am trying to conserve? It is the libertarian principles that America was founded upon & originally followed. That is the Return To Excellence that this blog is named for & is all about.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Responses - Engineering Class Of 2009 - Report

Below are two responses to the recent subject report that additionally illustrate the point that our Engineering Schools & students are losing ground to those in other countries like China & India. 
Further to the subject report - a few statistics from Norman Augustine's speech @ the University of Maryland in September 2005:
1.  38 of the top 50 research universities in the world are in the U.S. - 52% of PhDs in engineering are foreign born.  Many of these people return to their home country after completing their studies.
2.  Percent of students receiving their undergraduate degrees in science or engineering - 59% in China, 66% in Japan, 32% in U.S.
3.  In 2004 China graduated 600,000 engineers, India 350,000, & the U.S. 70,000.
4.  In 2001 U.S. industry spent more money on litigation than on R&D.
5.  Of the 120 new chemical plants being built around the world with a price tag of over $1 billion only one is being built in the U.S. - 50 are in China.
6.  In an international study of 49 countries , U.S. twelfth graders ranked second from the bottom in both math & science & specifically ranked @ the very bottom in physics.
The above statistics, although alarming for our future, are predictable when you consider the raw material going into our universities from government run high schools.  For instance only 70% of ninth graders graduate from high school on time - Detroit graduates only 24% of its high school students @ all.  It should be no surprise that many students attending college are so lazy & spoiled that they are  unwilling as well as unprepared to do college work - this results in foreign nationals filling such a high percentage of our universities. 
In turn the universities practice grade inflation for Americans who graduate without the basics needed to contribute to our standard of living as the first responder to the original report so vividly points out below when she so honestly says that she allowed her graciousness to overrule her sense of outrage.  Now I am not looking for trouble everywhere I go but as M. Cox recently wrote "I have posted links on Facebook in the attempt to wake up & educate the small circle I might influence.  The risk to our country is far greater than the risk of a few friends & relatives" & acquaintances you meet @ a fundraiser.
---Response #1---
Dear Doug,

A couple of years ago, I found myself sitting next to a man I didn't know, at a fundraiser.  He was the owner of a large business that employed a great many engineers, and was on the BOT of a major state university's College of Engineering.  This was a university with which I have close connections, and whose declining standards I have observed with dismay.

I asked him whether, in his business, he was able to hire graduates of the university on whose Board he sat.  He told me no -- they didn't have the basics.  If he hired them, which he occasionally did, he had to invest considerable time teaching them basic engineering concepts they should never have graduated without knowing.

Because this was a social event, I resisted the temptation to say, "Your job, as a Trustee, is to correct or prevent the very situation you are describing."

I regret allowing my wish to be gracious (I was there as someone else's guest) overrule my sense of outrage.
---Response #2---
We agree with your comments.  Foreign students receive much more schooling in technical subjects that they are taking - therefore when it comes to employment in U.S. they have an edge over American students.
Also many top jobs in those fields are held by foreign nationals. You can be assured they will look to hire students from their native country.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Engineering Class Of 2009 - Report

Over the past several years Carol & I have worked very closely with Donors Trust, The American Council of Trustees & Alumni, The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, & the American Institute Of Chemical Engineers re several projects to improve higher education in America.
My educational concerns started over 50 years ago when it became apparent (to my mother) that government schools were deteriorating in the K to 12 grades.  More recently I realized this deterioration had spread to  liberal arts fields in colleges across America. 
Our biggest concerns are that America's universities are dumbing down & that the deterioration has spread to science & engineering curriculums.  Two good measures to see if my suspicions are true are 1) the willingness of employers to hire American graduates & 2) the ability of these graduates to pass a Professional Engineering exam - especially an exam given in a state where the student did not attend college.
The year I graduated from Engineering school there were two jobs available for every graduating chemical engineer.  The latest survey for the engineering class of 2009 for chemical engineers shows that 40% of the graduates found industrial employment, 30% went on to graduate school, 21% are still seeking employment, 4% found employment with the government, 2% are undecided, & 3% miscellaneous.  I all too frequently receive unsolicited letters from firms I never heard of asking me if I am interested in pursuing employment.  What is wrong with the new graduates?
Below is my letter that the AIChE's Chemical Engineering Progress magazine published (sentence in red was omitted) in the September edition re this subject that is another contributing factor to the robbery of America's future increase in our standard of living by not graduating the scientists & engineers who are capable of being the bedrock of our innovation, productivity, & growth.
Dear Editor,
In October 2007 I attended a seminar given by a firm specializing in higher education excellence.  A representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spoke about "Mickey Mouse" courses, verifying my suspicions that engineering schools are dumbing down the curriculum.  I have recently read in Chemical Engineering Progress a series of editorials about changing the Ch E curriculum for the worst.  Regarding American students he noted that employers complain that "the skills are not there," so foreign students get the jobs.
I believe that an excellent criteria for determining whether graduates of American universities have the technical ability necessary to gain the experience required to contribute to improving America's standard of living is their ability to pass the exam to become licensed Professional Engineers.
I disagree with the sentiment that getting a P. E. license is unimportant for chemical engineering graduates.  I do, however, believe that after earning a BSChE that requires 144 credits or more, one does not need a master's degree to qualify to take the P. E. exam.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Perilous Self-Delusion Of Energy Independence From Foreign Oil

Below is a message I received from a regular reader of my blog ReturnToExcellence.net that illustrates the arithmetic of the economic foolishness of BO's "Cash For Clunkers" program.  In essence BO's program cost taxpayers over $3 billion & saved only $350 million worth of gasoline.
Now I am sure that BO would say that the stimulus effect of producing the additional vehicles resulting from the program would more than offset the disadvantage of considering only the fuel savings cost deficit.  This of course ignores that many people merely moved up their purchase of a new car because of the government sale going on (read subsidy) as well as the fact that such a program is just plain terrible economic policy in that it rewards people who were driving clunkers & needed a welfare handout in order to buy a new car & penalizes anyone, like many people I know, who of their own volition prior to the "Cash For Clunkers" program bought a new fuel saving car - no matter how misguided such a decision is based on never recovering through fuel cost savings the purchase price of the new car that depreciates over 25% in value the minute it leaves the showroom floor.
But all of this misses the larger point that all of the government's programs (BO's included) that fall under the "energy independence from foreign oil" goal first presented by Richard Nixon in 1974 is a perilous self-delusion as long as America participates in the global market.  Just ask yourself how energy independent will we be after we reach the point where we do not import any foreign oil if all of our trading partners around the world still rely on foreign oil?

A vehicle getting 15 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 800 gallons a year of gasoline.

A vehicle getting 25 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 480 gallons a year.
So, the average Clunker transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year.
They claim 700,000 vehicles – so that's 224 million gallons per year.
That equates to saving a bit over 5 million barrels of oil per year. I repeat - per YEAR.
5 million barrels of oil is about ¼ of one day's U.S. consumption.
And, 5 million barrels of oil costs about $350 million dollars at $70/bbl.
Our Government "gave" each Clunker Trader $4,500 per car for 700,000 transactions which cost
US Taxpayers $3,150,000,000 (that would be 3.15 BILLION dollars) - not including Washington's astounding Administrative costs.

So, we all contributed, through our taxes more than $3 billion to save $350 million.
How good of a deal was that for American Taxpayers?
But hey, I'm sure they will do a much better job with health care.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eyewitness Accounts & Responses - Washington Tea Party Report

As a follow up to the Washington Tea Party Report message from Sunday night I share with you below two eyewitness accounts (both from FairTax supporters) & just three of the responses I received (with a few comments from me in red).

The crowd size has been widely estimated from 75,000 to 2 million people. A calculation based on elevator space required by a human being taking into account Pennsylvania Avenue's 1.2 mile length & 160 feet width results in over 400,000 people estimated. Just look @ the above photos & you know it was a lot of people & from the various accounts we know they came a long way @ quite an expense of time & money. A tremendous example of dedication & patriotism.

Regardless of the exact size it can safely be said that this is the largest protest assembly of BO's presidency. So like in the earlier message the question remains why did this event not get more media coverage? The answer is obvious when you understand how much the media is in the tank for BO in their desire to establish a statist society in America. This lack of coverage is just another example.

The lesson from this Tea Party event is two fold - 1) Do not financially support, read, or watch any news organization that does not share your values for America, & 2) do support people who work for America @ Tea Party & Town Hall meetings - in fact participate yourself the next chance you get.

---Eyewitness #1---

There were approx. 2 million people in DC and when you hear them sing patriotic songs and chant USA it makes you proud. There were people from FairTax.org from all over the country. We spoke to as many people as possible. It was a good day.

With re to me questioning the count being lower - @ that time maybe but people kept coming. The march was to start @ 1 pm but started several hours early. There were thousands that came all day long. Glenn Beck showed a side by side on Jan 20th and there were far more people on Saturday. Independent news said over 2 million. I've seen the pictures. And the larger figure sounds right. They had areas blocked off to rally goers. There wasn't a spot to be had on the streets and the green.

---Eyewitness #2---

Hello Doug and Carol

As you know I was at the Tea Party this weekend in Washington D.C. I drove to Washington on Friday morning and spent the weekend returning Sunday night. As usual the broadcast media gave very little coverage if at all this event. Some cable news sources estimated the crowd at one thousand or so. There were more than one thousand people in my hotel, and nearly all of them were from Alabama. They had arrived Friday afternoon by bus, made signs in one of the meeting rooms that night. This group went to the Tea Party, stayed all day, returned to our hotel and waited three and a half hours for their bus to arrive to head back home. All on their own money, no meal vouchers, no payment just a commitment to do the right thing.

Saturday morning the lines for the metro (subway) ticket machines were six to nine people waiting in line at my stop. I spoke to a friend of mine at another station, it was worse there. The ticket system could not keep up with the number of people. Machines were out of service because they were FULL OF MONEY and could hold no more. Metro cars were packed solid; the average wait to get on a car was forty five minutes. I was lucky, a bit of pre-planning by purchasing my metro card the night before was a good idea. As I am physically challenged, I did not have to wait long for a car, I waited about three minutes.

How many people were there? I did not have a counter but the traffic on the highways leading into D.C. were at a standstill for hours, streets in our capital were no better. Pennsylvania Avenue was closed for nearly four hours due to the overflow of people that could not find space on the mall. The police had to ask the crowd to disperse so vehicular traffic could flow again on Pennsylvania Avenue.

If it was one thousand, one hundred thousand, one million or more the point is many people are not happy with this administration and the people at Capitol Hill. They let it be known that change may be needed but to tear down and restructure our entire form of government just doesn't make sense.

PS - One thing I forgot to mention. The D.C. Metro (subway) reported that they served 2.5 million riders on Saturday. For all those who claim there were only a few thousand people at the Tea Party...............where do you think the rest of the people were ? On The White House Tour?

---Response #1---

One great response: Thanks for the report...so happy to see such a large turnout...have been following this event on Fox. Hmmmm - proves a point.

---Response #2---


You asked a great question! in original message

"Accordingly, why would you want to support an obvious hostile anti-American media that wants to filter news to you that benefits everyone but you?"

They better start listening to these TEA partiers -- The Government underestimates America's rebelliousness. A distinct possibility in such a divided land.

---Response #3---

My niece was there from Maryland with a group.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Washington Tea Party Report

Above is a photo showing people from all over the country who came to Saturday's Tea Party held on the Washington DC Mall.  Just like the August Town Hall meetings this Tea Party was not exclusively for the FairTax but it was well represented by FairTax supporters including dozens from NJ who made the bus trip to Washington starting @ 5:30 AM Saturday.   Although the crowd was hard to estimate we know that 10,000 people on the Mall would look like a dot - there are some photos that show the Mall covered  from end to end meaning that there were hundreds of thousands of people participating.
As pointed out in our last message your line in the sand against a complete high jacking of your way of life is being defended only by people like this who have attended Tea Parties & Town Hall meetings in a tremendous grassroots movement all over the country for the past six weeks.  The majority of the Republican party politicians in Congress have offered no resistance to BO's Democrat party lurch toward Socialism that has started in earnest with universal healthcare - BO's #1 agenda item.
Now FNC gave extended coverage of the Tea Party starting with Saturday afternoon's live coverage.  Their coverage also continued Saturday night & into Sunday.  If you have learned more from this message & the posting on the ReturntoExcellence.Net blog about this event that was held to protect your best interest (& your children's & grandchildren's) you would be wise to realize that your source of information does not have your best interest @ heart.  Accordingly why would you want to support an obvious hostile anti-American media that wants to filter news to you that benefits everyone but you?  Find another source of information that deserves your trust. 
The stakes could hardly be higher & the only people you can really rely on could not be working harder @ Tea Parties & Town Hall meetings.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Last Universal Healthcare Reform President

Well just like in the 2008 presidential campaign when it took over a year & a half to drag out of BO just what he stood for & who he stood with, the current healthcare reform process is taking a similar tack. Last night @ precisely 8 o'clock BO was scheduled to explain in clear terms what his healthcare reform plan called for, what it would cost, & how it would be paid for. After a 45 minute speech given to a joint session of Congress we learned little that has not been in any of the various bills in Congress. We still do not know any significant detail of the plan that should make any of us except the most die hard statists want to proceed to turn over 17% of our economy to the government to run. In this regard, the speech that was scheduled for precisely 8 o'clock started after 8:15 PM because BO was late -not a reassuring start.

We learned (or have strong reason to believe) that as of last night BO's plan is estimated to cost $900 billion over ten years, that he now approves of John McCain's proposal for insuring high risk people by putting them in insurance pools that operate on guaranteed issue principles of not denying coverage, that the plan imposes a penalty on insurers of high end insurance plans like unions endorse, that it includes a federally controlled insurance exchange that anyone could buy into under community rating principles (an idea that tends to price younger & low risk people out of the market) regardless of any pre-existing conditions, that it does away with lifetime caps on coverage & forbids insurers from dropping people once they get sick, & if there was any doubt about the "public option" being included that guarantees universal healthcare's inevitability the plan includes a trigger for the "public option." The trigger ensures the "public option" comes into existence if insurance companies do not lower healthcare spending or shrink the number of insured - voila, universal healthcare European style. There also is a penalty for employers who do not provide healthcare for their employees - the penalty is set below the estimated cost of healthcare insurance so the employers will be sure to drop coverage which is another mechanism for bringing in the "public option." This also does away with the notion that you can keep your insurance plan if you like it because it will no longer be there when your employer drops the plan in favor of paying the penalty. Points for paying for the plan include cuts in Medicare theoretically resulting from finding fraud in Medicare estimated to approach $700 billion meaning that many people reading this message will have their Medicare coverage reduced when that much fraud is not found - you also have to wonder why BO is not looking for this fraud right now.

Some of the above points will stick in the throats of BO's supporters but his abandonment of trial lawyers was not as complete since he only agreed to pursue tort reform for nuisance lawsuits that drive up medical malpractice insurance costs & defensive medicine costs (& patient inconvenience) by possibly starting a pilot program in a few states. Such a program would not be included in any legislation but rather would be authorized by executive order meaning that it will never see the light of day.

BO said that "he is not the first president to pursue (universal) healthcare reform but he is determined to be the last" - we can only wish him well with this as we get rid of it & him forever.

Social Insurance programs trace back to Germany in the late 1880s when Chancellor Otto von Bismarck implemented his Prussian Plan to provide retirement benefits & other benefits to German workers. Bismarck's plan was the basis of TR introducing in 1912 a platform calling for national health insurance for industry which in turn led to FDR getting his idea for Social Security. FDR & Truman both wanted to include universal healthcare in their plans but were shot down mostly through the work of the American Medical Association (AMA) & politics getting in the way with internal government conflicts over priorities much like we have today. Truman proposed a single payer system that would include all of American society - Truman's plan was denounced by the AMA & was called a Communist plot by a House subcommittee which certainly still holds true today re BO's plan. In 1965 LBJ signed Medicare & Medicaid into law & today these two programs consist of one third the total healthcare spending in America, are 75% subsidized by taxpayers, & the explosion in the quantity of healthcare demanded over the past four decades because of these two programs is the main reason for healthcare inflation according to Professors Sharp, Register, & Grimes in their book "Economics Of Social Issues." In the 1970s Nixon made an attempt @ universal healthcare when he renamed prepaid group health care plans as health maintenance organizations (HMOs) & proposed legislation that provided federal endorsement, certification, and assistance. Carter was pushed into universal healthcare proposals by Ted Kennedy in 1979 & you don't have to be an economic historian to remember Hillarycare in the 1990s right after George H.W. Bush also proposed a universal healthcare plan in 1991. Our history is loaded with failed attempts @ universal healthcare but there are enough successes for us to realize that incrementally we are moving in the universal healthcare direction like with the passage of the SCHIP expansion earlier this year.

Now this infamous history shows that universal healthcare has been pursued by many political parties including the Bull Moose Party & the Republican Party but the main pusher has been the Democrat Party. The involvement of all parties in this regard is why you haven't heard any substantive response from the Republican Party including the post-speech appearance on FNC by the so-called new lion Eric Cantor of Virginia who gave such a tepid disappointing response to BO's speech that Carol told me "I hate to hear him talk like that." The only real response we have had is from the people who have attended Tea Parties & Town Hall meetings in a great grassroots movement all over the country - this is what pushed BO into giving his speech last night. If this issue is important to you I suggest that you start to participate or continue to participate in such events to make your voice heard since it is the only thing you can rely upon to combat the socialist onslaught.

But of course this is really not about your health, government concerns about your health, or improved healthcare plans @ all but rather is about control & the power to confiscate & redistribute your wealth. As Fred Zydeck recently wrote "their real purpose - a public option in healthcare, funded by taxpayer dollars to drive private insurance out of business, ration healthcare, & put the U.S. on a more equal footing with the failed systems of Canada, the United Kingdom, & France" thereby making the American people totally dependent on government - both financially through taxes & physically through universal healthcare.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Deflation & Increased Social Security Purchasing Power

Ever since the government announced there would be no Social Security cost of living increase next year I have received several messages from members of our group like "but can you explain this to me? Government will not pay more in social security benefits next year - BUT it seems they have money to pay for a new health care plan. Where is that money coming from?"

For those senior citizens who have similar feelings please realize the healthcare & Social Security issues are not directly related.

Since 1975, Social Security general benefit increases have been cost-of-living allowances or COLAs that are based on the change in the consumer price index (CPI) which is actually negative over the past year mostly due to the large drop in energy prices (gasoline dropped from over $4 per gallon last year to $2.50 per gallon today). By law Social Security benefits cannot be reduced due to deflation like the current index calculation indicates which means that Social Security checks actually have more purchasing power now than they did a year ago.

I have kept monthly inflation figures since January 1967 when I finished college mostly to gage how my income & purchasing power were doing compared to both the government CPI inflation figures & my own personal index of actual changes in my cost of living. My charts bear out the government's current deflationary figures.

For anyone who wants to have some fun with inflation comparisons please click on
this website. Go to the top right hand side & you can compare the cost of living for any two periods from 1913 to 2009. A reduction of 1% in the cost of living is shown if you plug in 2008 to 2009.

Inflation is regarded as robbing people who live on a fixed income of purchasing power so that these people really live on a declining income not a fixed income. In truth purchasing power of the Social Security portion of seniors' incomes will increase this year based on the CPI - your own personal index may say something else. The real problem is for those seniors who rely on CD interest income where interest rates have fallen to record lows - CD renewals this year really do reduce seniors' purchasing power because the CD interest rate reductions are greater than the CPI deflation figures.

Interest rates are largely determined by inflation (both perceived & anticipated). These low CD rates are another indication that verifies there is no general inflation recognized by the bond market - otherwise the rates would be higher.

So for any senior who prefers having an inflation increase in their Social Security check to having a real purchasing power increase thanks to deflation & the rules that say their checks cannot be lowered no matter how much deflation we have I can only ask them if they would have preferred having their home mortgage interest payments doubled when they were buying their house so that they would have had a bigger income tax write off.