DYSFUNCTIONAL FISCAL MISMANAGEMENT IN WASHINGTON is “disturbingly similar” to the incompetency of European leaders – “addicted to last-minute, short-term fixes, and so incapable of agreeing on long-term strategy… in three depressing ways: (1) Inability to get beyond ‘patching up’…resorting instead to a succession of temporary fixes… while ignoring underlying fiscal problems; (2) The outside influence of narrow interest groups…and extremists too focused on winning concessions from the other side to work together; and (3) Politicians failing to be honest with voters – Democrats pretending that no changes are necessary to entitlements, and Republican solutions always involving unspecified spending cuts while regarding any tax rise as socialism… The saddest thing is how unaware leaders seem to be of the wider damage their petty partisanship does… Why should developing countries trust leadership, when it seems incapable of solving anything at home?” [THE ECONOMIST – Jan 5, 13]

AMERICA MAY BE RULED BY IDIOTS, BUT WHO ISN’T? America is hardly unique in the mix of cowardice and self- satisfaction that characterizes its political class… Most politicians are concerned with keeping power, not governing. Their narrow, self-serving outlook is a tragedy for us all… Lawmakers cannot perform even the most basic task of government: setting a budget… It is obvious to the whole world that the greatest enemy of American growth is the dysfunctional American political system.” [THE WEEK – Jan 18, 13]

MORE DYSFUNCTION IS ON THE WAY: Congress has pushed the bucket only 90 days to reach agreement on three even more serious ‘fiscal cliffs’ than the 12/31 fiasco: (1) increasing the ‘Ceiling’ for national debt borrowing, absent which the nation (like households) faces default; (2) authorizing federal spending after 3/27, absent which government faces partial shutdown; and (3) avoiding ‘Sequestration’ – previously negotiated mandatory across-the-board spending cuts which theoretically would halt the economy’s Recovery. “The debt battle is far from over.” [TIME – Jan14, 13]

AND FOR CALIFORNIA TOO: The state is already technically insolvent, yet continues paying public sector employees “far more than comparable workers elsewhere in almost all job & wage categories – from public safety to health care, base pay to overtime… California has set a pattern of lax management, inefficient operations and out-of-control costs (example: a highway patrol officer with pay & benefit package of nearly a half-million dollars)… With 2012-13 budget revenues already less than anticipated and shortfalls among all of the major sources… Democratic leaders with supermajorities in both houses of the legislature will begin increasing every tax imaginable to fill the budget gap, in what will amount to death by a thousand cuts… as waves of millionaires and business owners throw in the towel, given that there’s no longer anybody to protect them.” [ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER – Dec 28, 12]

TEENAGERS WHO ARGUE WITH PARENTS LEARN BETTER HOW TO REJECT PEER PRESSURE. “Constructive debates with parents are critical training ground for independent decision-making.” Univ. of Virginia research found that 13-year old kids who “had argued the longest and most convincingly without yelling or whining… over issues like chores or grades” turned out several years later to be 40% “less likely to have accepted offers of drugs & alcohol, than the teens who were required to simply obey their mothers.” [THE WEEK – Dec 28, 12]
THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK: Expecting “cost reduction” benefits promised by obamacare? California private health insurers (Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield) have filed for 2013 premium increases of 20% to 26%.
Average age of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court is nearly 67. Average age of the four Rolling Stones, now on their 50th anniversary tour, is almost 69.