Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year, A New Chapter Begins

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Happy New YearWith each new year we begin a new chapter in our lives. People who know me know how I feel about personal responsibility. I have always believed that we control our own destiny. That we are accountable for our successes. And our failures. That while we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control how we react to the circumstances we face. And it’s how we react and move on that tells the greatest story.

This chapter has been a difficult one for so many people. It’s certainly been my most difficult chapter to write. I’ve been faced with decisions I never wanted to make. Had to face my biggest failures. And had to decide what to do next when their were no good choices to be made. Every time it felt like it couldn’t get any worse, it did. It’s been a humbling and life-altering year.

Through it all I’ve done my best to keep it in perspective. It hasn’t always worked. I have a friend who has been my inspiration, and he doesn’t even know it. When I’ve been at my lowest moments, I think of him. He lost his son several years ago during a freak accident while on vacation. He and his wife, and their remaining son, had to pick back up the pieces of their lives and move on. I can’t even imagine the emotional obstacles they faced. But they persevered. They moved on. And they’ve continued to write new chapters for their lives. I can imagine nothing worse. What I’ve had to face is nothing in comparison.

Tomorrow my new chapter begins. I will do my best to write a good one. I will make this a chapter to remember.

I hope all of you have a wonderful new year. And that this next chapter is your best chapter yet.

Tax Cuts and Federal Tax Revenues, Historically Speaking

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Tax Cuts and Federal Tax RevenuesThere’s a reason I’ve chosen to write about federal tax revenues and tax policy. I’ll get to it in a moment. But first we have to debunk the biggest myth that seems to exist about tax cuts and tax revenues.

Tax revenues are the lifeblood of the federal government. It’s through the taxation of the American people and businesses that our federal government has the funds to support our military, protect our country, create social programs and run federal organizations such as the FDA and the EPA.

So the question is: What happens when we cut taxes?

If you ask a liberal politician, their (myth) answer is: “This will reduce the amount of money we have to spend on important social programs. We’ll have to fire teachers and policeman because we won’t have enough money to pay them. We won’t be able to take care of the elderly, the poor and needy children…”

If you ask a conservative politician, their (myth) answer is: “Our federal government is too big already. We’re wasting our money on all of these pork programs. By cutting taxes we can reduce the size of our federal government…”

We hear this from our politicians every time we discuss tax cuts. They’re both wrong.

Let’s take a quick look at the last 50 years. In this time, we’ve had three presidents who have promoted and passed sweeping tax cuts: Kennedy in the ’60s, Reagan in the ’80s, and Bush in the ’00s. (These figures below are provided by the Tax Policy Center, and have been adjusted to 2009 dollars.)

John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960. Though he was killed in ’63, the tax cuts he championed were passed into law in 1964. In 1964, the government collected $112.6 billion. By 1970, just six years later, the federal government collected $192.8 billion. That’s an increase in tax revenues of more than 70%.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president, and passed sweeping tax cuts in 1981. In 1981, the federal government collected $599.3 billion. What year do you want to compare for future tax revenues? Within six years (1987) the fed was now collecting $854.4 billion, an increase of more than 42%. Tax revenues continued to grow every year. By 1992 when Bill Clinton was elected, the federal government collected $1,091.3 billion in tax revenues. That’s an increase of of more than 82% in about a decade.

And lastly, George W. Bush was elected in 2000, and lead the charge for a series of tax cuts in 2001, 2002 and 2003. In 2000 when GWB was elected, the fed collected $2,025.5 billion. And by 2008, the fed collected $2,524.3 billion, an increase of more than 25%.

All three presidents pursued tax cuts to stimulate the economy. And it worked every time. Taxes were cut. The economy was stimulated. And tax revenues went up.

So why is this important now? The Bush tax cuts will expire soon. And if they expire, the net effect is a tax increase, which will further damage our economy. The debate will begin soon. And expect to hear the same old misrepresentations from each side of the aisle.

Evaluating the Chiefs

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

Kansas City ChiefsI had planned to write this after the season, but I think we’ve seen enough to take a look at the roster and start making some decisions.

Quarterback: Lots of people in Kansas City have been critical of Matt Cassel. I think it’s way too early to draw any conclusions. Early in the season Matt got no help from the running game or offensive line. He was hit more than any quarterback in the league. Now his receivers have forgotten how to catch the ball. The Chiefs lead the league in dropped passes. He’s frustrated. And he has every right to be. My two criticisms of him is that you’d like to see more accuracy on his deep ball, and you’d like to see him control his frustrations better. He certainly deserves more time, and hopefully he’ll get a better supporting cast. The Chiefs seem pleased with Brodie Croyle as the backup. And unless Matt Gutierrez loses the third spot, I don’t expect much to happen here during the off season.

Chiefs Runningback Jamaal CharlesRunningback: Jamaal Charles has been one of the few positives to come out of this season. But the Chiefs will need to find a complementary back who can touch the ball 5-10 times per game. Kolby Smith cannot seem to stay healthy. The Chiefs will need to add some depth through free agency or the draft. Have liked the addition of Tim Castille to the backfield. He is more of a threat from the fullback position than Mike Cox.

Wide Receiver: The carousel is spinning. Let me off! I still like Dwayne Bowe. Chris Chambers has really helped this team, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll resign with the Chiefs. Other than that, nobody else has earned a job next year. Help!

Tight End: I’m not exactly sure what happened here. Sean Ryan was Cassel’s favortie target early, and now he can’t get on the field. They picked up Lenoard Pope after he was dropped by the Cardinals, and he’s been fairly solid. Brad Cottam has all lthe physical tools you’d want, but couldn’t earn his playing time till late. Then he got hurt. And the team has carried four tight ends with rookie Jake O’Connell most of the year, who has done nothing but drop the ball when given an opportunity to play. Personally, I think the Chiefs are fine with Pope and Cottam. Unless they pickup somebody cheap in free agency to add some competition, I don’t see much immediate need here. At least, not with so many other pressing needs.

Offensive Line: The o-line was awful early in the year, and has stabilized some lately. They’ve found some rhythm working with Jamaal Charles in the running game. And they’re doing a better job of protecting Cassel. Having said that, I’m still hopeful that they’ll use a couple of their top picks on offensive linemen. Possibly even offensive tackle Russell Okung with their first pick. They can always move Branden Albert to right tackle. Then draft a guard with one of their picks in the second round. The Chiefs have not sufficiently addressed their offensive line over the years (see this post A Tale of Two Lines).

Defensive Line: This is a particularly difficult unit to grade right now. The entire defense is not getting the job done, and typically that starts up front. But defensive linemen take a few years to develop. Don’t ask me why. Rookies seldom make an impact here. And the best d-linemen are typically in their older 20s and early 30s. The Chiefs have to give Dorsey, Jackson and Magee more time to develop. They don’t have much choice. Hopefully they can find a backup nose tackle in free agency to push Ron Edwards.

Linebacker: Another tough unit to grade. Tamba Hali has been a bright spot, and has transitioned well to outside linebacker. I assume he’ll only get better. Mike Vrabel has brought some fire and leadership, but he’s certainly just about done with his career. Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams have been serviceable in the middle. And Derrick Johnson has found it difficult to earn playing time. I do think the team will likely need to address this position in the draft. Good defenses need a star linebacker, and I don’t see one on the club.

Cornerback: The Brandons (Flowers and Carr) have been pretty solid on the corners, but the team has struggled to find an effective nickel back. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chiefs draft another cornerback this year. You can never have enough quality or depth at cornerback.

Safety: What had once looked like a position of strength has turned into one of our biggest areas of need. Fans have been extremely critical about the release of Bernard Pollard, though they seem to have selective memory about all the times Pollard was caught out of position the last couple of years and gave up big plays. Don’t be surprised to see the Chiefs draft safety Eric Berry with their first pick in the draft. He would be an impact player for years to come.

Punter / Kicker: One of the only positions on the team that appears to be in good shape. Dustin Colquitt is legitimately one of the top ten punters in the league, and rookie Ryan Succop has been solid as our kicker.

Returner: The Chiefs have not had a threat returning kicks or punts since Dante Hall. Charles has shown some flashes here, but you can’t expose your starting runningback in the return game. This must be addressed.

Coaching: Expect to see some shakeup on the coaching staff, starting with the two coordinators. Here’s what I would do!

Lots of work to be done.

NFL Draft — Chiefs Update

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Kansas City ChiefsThe Chiefs are moving to the top of the list, but not the list we want them to top. At 3-11 the Chiefs now appear to have the fourth pick in the upcoming NFL draft. With two more likely losses on the team’s schedule, it appears certain that the Chiefs will indeed have another top five pick this year. And while the Chiefs need all the help they can get, top five picks are virtually untradeable, limiting their options moving forward.

I have already written a couple times about the Chiefs need to draft offensive lineman (read NFL Draft and A Tale of Two Lines). My opinion remains unchanged. Though after watching the defense fall apart the last few weeks, it’s clear the Chiefs have many holes to fill.

What’s interesting for me is watching the players change on the projected draft boards. Just a few weeks ago I’d find one or two offensive tackles projected in the first round. Scouts Inc. now has five in their top 32 available players. And that will continue to change. Though Mel Kiper still only has Russell Okung from Oklahoma State in his top 25 (#6 on Kiper’s board). You would expect Okung to receive considerable consideration from the Chiefs.

Safety Eric Berry from TennesseeSo if the Chiefs don’t go for an offensive tackle with their first pick, where do they go? I love Ndamukong Suh (#1 on Kiper’s board) from Nebraska, but I’d probably scream if the Chiefs picked another defensive lineman that early. The Chiefs certainly are not in the market for a quarterback, so that takes Jimmy Clausen (#4 on Kiper’s board) and Sam Bradford (#5 on Kiper’s board) out of the mix.

The name to watch is Eric Berry (#3 on Kiper’s board and #1 on Scouts Inc.’s board), the safety from Tennessee. He’s been compared to Ed Reed. He’s a playmaker. And while picking a safety at the top of the draft isn’t very sexy, the Chiefs need playmakers, and safety is an area of need.

News and Notes

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Have been out of town. Just a few sports notes to touch on to start our Sunday.

Kansas City ChiefsChiefs Blacked Out
It’s been 19 years since a Chiefs game has been blacked out. Unable to watch the game on TV today, I’m sure I’ll have the radio on and listen to the Chiefs broadcast with Mitch and Len. For years I would watch on TV but listen to the radio broadcast. Mitch and Len do a great job. But the signal no longer matches up, and it’s distracting to hear a play on the radio and see it happen about 10 seconds later.

Anyway, on to the blackout. I think there’s been a misconception out there by fans about TV blackouts. We’ve seen a number of games the last few years where attendance has been down. You can tell by looking at the stands that there’s no way the game was sold out. There’s been an assumption that the TV stations must be picking up the spare tickets to make sure that the games can be televised. And maybe they’ve picked up a few. But this never made sense to me economically.

810WHB had some good information this week explaining the whole process about NFL blackouts. It’s obvious that the Hunt family has been purchasing the unsold tickets in order to televise the games. They haven’t done this for financial gain. They have undoubtedly spent much more on the tickets than they’ve gained from the games being televised (remember that TV revenues are shared throughout the league). They’ve done this so that the fans can watch the games. And to their credit, they’ve done this without saying a word.

So why did the Hunt family not do this one more time? Hard to know, and I’m sure they’ll never tell. They’ve probably spent significantly more this season purchasing tickets than any season in the past, and maybe they’ve decided enough is enough. Or maybe they’ve decided to use this as leverage to push season ticket sales next year. Those of us who stay home and watch the games can no longer be guaranteed to see all of the games. Or maybe a little of both.

Chiefs Runningback Jamaal CharlesTexas Sized Talent
A nice article this morning in the Star on running back Jamaal Charles. I like this kid, and had called earlier in the season for the Chiefs to use him more. If he can stay healthy, and solve his fumbling tendencies, he could become a star for the Chiefs. I like how Charles responded to being declared inactive against Oakland earlier this season. He went to coach Haley and said that he’d do whatever it takes to play.

This is in stark comparison to linebacker Derrick Johnson.

Johnson and Charles are probably two of the most gifted athletes on the roster. Both were stars in college for the University of Texas. Both were high draft picks (Johnson round one, and Charles round three). Johnson came in and started immediately, but has never lived up to his ability. Every year we heard how this would be the year that Johnson would breakout. But every year we were left with questions about Johnson’s ability to consistently make plays in the pros. This year he was benched by Haley, and plays primarily on passing downs. When asked earlier this season if DJ had spoken with Haley about the benching, Johnson replied that no, he had not talked with the coach about his limited playing time.

I remember being astonished at the time. If I had been demoted at my job, I would want to know why. I’ve always thought that Johnson lacked the passion to be a great linebacker. It appears he doesn’t even have the passion to fight for his job.

Impressed by Turner Gill
Another really nice article in the Star today — this one about new KU head coach Turner Gill. I’m becoming optimistic that maybe, just maybe, this was a great hire by Lew Perkins. Gill can certainly recruit. He appears to be a good leader. A good coach. And a good man. Gill appears the type of man who would be very happy at KU, and willing to stay for a long time.

Welcome Turner Gill to KU

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Buffalo Head Coach Turner GillGood morning Turner Gill,

Reports are that you have accepted the job at KU, and will replace Mark Mangino as our next head coach. Congratulations on the new job. I would like to welcome you to Lawrence, Kansas.

It has been obvious from the beginning that you were high on KU’s list of potential candidates. Please don’t take offense that you were not high on my personal list. I was hoping for Jim Harbaugh. Was intrigued by Tommy Tuberville. And would have been excited by a number of candidates including Skip Holtz and Kevin Sumlin. Obviously Lew Perkins looked beyond your 20-30 record in Buffalo, and found more to like.

You have the reputation of a man with high integrity, and that you’re a player’s coach. I’m certainly not surprised that KU wanted a more player friendly coach after the problems that surfaced with Mangino’s program. (See my post here about following up a mean coach with a nice coach.) You have considerable experience in this part of the country with your time as both a player and a coach at Nebraska. And you’re from Texas, with strong recruiting ties to the south. Your resume seems very appropriate.

The job at Kansas comes with more pressure than it has in the past. KU fans have experienced some success in the last few years, and are hungry for more. The boosters have spent a lot of money in upgrading our facilities, transforming KU into a legitimate upper-tier program. And as your new boss Lew Perkins is not very popular in Lawrence, you hiring will face considerable scrutiny by the locals.

But most of us will accept you with open arms, and give you some time to achieve success in Lawrence. We wish you good luck. And look forward to the football that is to come.

Rock chalk Jayhawk!

Sincerely,

Lee

Congress to Raise Debt Ceiling, Again

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Lots has been going on in politics lately and I’ve had little time to write about it. The health care debate continues. ClimateGate. Copenhagen. Afghanistan. The EPA considers naming carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The jobs summit. But right now, nothing has me more concerned than our ballooning national debt.

Uncle Sam is in debt, who will bail him out?The Debt Limit
By law, Congress cannot surpass our federally imposed debt limit. So whenever our debt begins to get close to our debt limit, Congress just votes to increase that limit. Don’t you wish you could do that?

Congress is discussing raising our debt limit from $12.1 trillion to almost $14 trillion. This isn’t anything new. Congress has repeatedly raised the debt ceiling over time. In 2006, Congress raised the debt ceiling to almost $9 trillion. And they’ve raised it several times since.

Since 2006 and the democratic takeover of Congress, we’ve watched as Congress has raised the debt limit at least five times. I say at least because this has been a difficult subject to research. Congress tends to sneak these debt ceiling increases into other bills, making them hard to track. And our media does not always spend much time reporting on national debt. It’s not sexy news.

The most recent increase came earlier this year with the passage of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the stimulus bill), which was signed into law on February 17, 2009. This bill raised the debt limit to around $12 trillion, where it now stands. At the time, this was the third increase within a year.

The Politics of Raising the Ceiling
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner began asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling a couple months ago. As we are quickly coming up on the cap, it appears likely that Congress will raise the debt ceiling before the end of the year.

So let’s do the math. In 2006 our debt limit was just under $9 trillion. And by late 2009, Congress will have raised our debt limit to almost $14 trillion. Which means they’ve raised our ability to go into debt by more than 50% in just over three years.

In a purely political move, the democrats are doing two things that I find distasteful:

1. They plan to raise the debt limit by $1.8 trillion so that they won’t be faced with having to vote for another increase before next year’s elections.

2. They’re including the proposed debt ceiling increase into a bill for the funding of our troops in order to make sure that the republicans must vote for it as well.

My goal isn’t to pick on the democrats. I’m an independent and have no love for either party. But Congress controls our government’s expenditures. And this Congress loves to spend our money.

Debt as a Percentage of GDP
These numbers are so big that they’re difficult to fathom. I have always found it more relevant to look at our debt as a percentage of our GDP (gross domestic product).

During the recent Bush years, this rate was on a slow but steady increase:

2000: 58.2%
2001: 57.74%
2002: 59.9%
2003: 62.31%
2004: 63.57%
2005: 64.29%
2006: 64.98%
2007: 65.67%
2008: 70.49%

Now look at the projected numbers for this year and next (projections from this site that tracks government spending):

2009: 90.36%
2010: 98.15%

So once again, look at the numbers since 2006 when democrats took over Congress. At the end of 2006, our debt was basically 65% of GDP. And it’s projected to be more than 90% by the end of this year. That’s an increase of almost 40%. And at almost 100% of GDP within a year, which would be an increase of more than 50%.

And in case you don’t trust this website, here’s information from the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) and their long-term budget outlook. Notice that both of their budget scenarios have significant increases in our debt level compared to GDP.

CBO's Budget Outlook


The Ugly Truth

The estimated population of the United States is 307,453,688 so each citizen’s share of this debt is $39,352.74. The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $3.84 billion per day since September 28, 2007!

What does all of this mean? We are witnessing one of the largest and most aggressive expansions in our federal government in the history of our country.

Jim Harbaugh Could Be KU’s Next Head Coach

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Stanford Head Coach Jim HarbaughThe rumors have started. According to FootballCoachScoop.com, KU is currently negotiating a contract with Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. Personally, Harbaugh has been at the top of my wishlist for days. Would be very pleased for Harbaugh to come to Lawrence.

Was also surprised to see Tommy Tuberville throw his hat in the ring according to the KCStar. Tuberville is a fine coach, and a great second option to Harbaugh.

It’s a great sign for the University of Kansas to see coaches the caliber of Harbaugh, Tuberville and Skip Holtz interested in coming to KU.

Offseason Priority #1 — New Coordinators

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. Two names. Two coordinators. And the New England tradition continues in Kansas City.

The Chiefs were slow getting out of the gates last year. After the season, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt took some time in hiring Scott Pioli as the team’s new general manager. Pioli took some time to evaluate his surroundings before dismissing head coach Herm Edwards and moving forward hiring Todd Haley. By the time Haley and Pioli began building the coaching staff, the best names had already been acquired elsewhere.

Charlie WeisOffensive Coordinator
It’s common for a team to retain a coach or two to help with the transition for a new staff. Chan Gailey was kept as offensive coordinator from Herm’s staff. I like Chan, and had really liked his ability to adapt the offense around Tyler Thigpen in 2008. Gailey also has head coaching experience, which would have helped with Haley’s transition to head coach. Firing Gailey near the end of the preseason was puzzling. It certainly hurt the development of the offense to change gears at such a late point in the preseason. And it didn’t do Haley any favors when he’s still trying to learn how to be a head coach. It’s hard to predict whether Charlie Weis would be interested in coming to work for Haley and Pioli after his dismissal from Notre Dame, but he would be a great hire for the Chiefs. It wouldn’t surprise me if he took a year off from football. He’s certainly the biggest name available. And he has ties to both Haley (they were assistants together with the Jets) and Pioli (when Weis worked for New England).

Romeo CrennelDefensive Coordinator
The Chiefs hired Clancy Pendergast who had been the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals, but didn’t name his as defensive coordinator for the Chiefs until weeks later. Though it’s never been confirmed, many believe that the Chiefs were attempting to hire Romeo Crennel as their defensive coordinator. The Chiefs would be well served to make another run at Crennel. Romeo is a fine coordinator, and like Weis, has head coaching experience. Between the Chiefs getting their late start, and their inability to land Crennel, Kansas City missed out on some great defensive coordinators who were hired by other teams last year including Dom Capers (Green Bay), Gregg Williams (New Orleans) and Mike Nolan (Denver). All were hired last year to convert their team’s to a 3-4 defense. And all have enjoyed considerably more defensive success than Kansas City, who is ranked #32 on defense. Green Bay is ranked #1, Denver is ranked #3, and New Orleans is ranked #18. All have more talent than the Chiefs on defense, but they also have better coordinators.

Not sure the Chiefs can pull it off, but adding Weis and Crennel would be great hires for Kansas City.

NFL Draft 2010 — Early Thoughts

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Kansas City ChiefsIn Kansas City, when our team is 3-9, it’s not too early to start thinking about the 2010 NFL draft. If the draft was held today, I believe the Chiefs would have the sixth pick in the draft. It’s almost impossible to trade out of a top five pick, so the Chiefs are probably best served by winning another game or two and staying out of the top five. This will open up more options for them to pick or trade down.

Biggest Needs
The Chiefs have a lot of needs, but none more glaring than the offensive line. (See my post here about our lack of picks for the offensive line the last several years.) It all begins up front. The Chiefs have trouble running the ball, protecting the quarterback, making first downs, scoring points, and sustaining drives. The Chiefs must upgrade the line. They have several serviceable parts. I’m not down on any particular lineman. If you can improve the line at a couple of positions, you’ll put the entire offense in a much better position to succeed.

We also have holes to fill at safety, running back, nickel back and wide receiver. And can use upgrades just about everywhere except our two kickers.

The Chiefs will likely be a bit more aggressive in free agency to fill some holes next year, but free agency is not the answer for building and sustaining a winning team. So assuming they do not find a starter for the offensive line in free agency, the Chiefs need to use two of their top four picks in the draft on offensive lineman. Remember that because of the Tony Gonzalez trade, the Chiefs have two picks in the second round. Which should give them three picks in the first 50 assuming that Atlanta’s second round pick will be somewhere in the middle of the round.

Offensive Tackle Russell OkungThe unfortunate thing for the Chiefs is that this draft does not appear to be as top heavy with offensive tackles as the last two drafts. According to Scouts Inc., they have only two offensive lineman in their top 25: Russel Okung from Oklahoma State at #5 and Trent Williams from Oklahoma at #8. Mel Kiper lists Okung at #6 and Williams doesn’t even make his top 25 at this point. Lots will change on the draft boards before April.

At this point I’d hope that the Chiefs draft an offensive tackle in round one (hopefully Russell Okung is still on the board), and take a guard or center with one of their second round picks.