Archive for May, 2010

National Debt Passes $13 Trillion

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Our national debt has now passed $13 trillion, and will surpass $14 trillion before the year is over. That is just amazing to me. Take a look below at the escalation of our national debt in recent years, and notice the huge jumps during the last few time periods.

National Debt

So what does this mean? Nothing good, I guarantee you that. A ballooning national debt will be a significant drag on our economic recovery, and could be partially responsible for driving us into another recession — what many refer to as a double-dip recession.

A Look Back
In 1990 our national debt was approximately $3.2 trillion. Despite the strong economic times of the ’90s, our national debt grew to approximately $5.6 trillion by 2000. That’s an increase of 75% over a ten year period. While that seems like a lot to me, that’s by far our best decade since 1960-70 where our debt increased by only 31%.

In comparison, from 1970 to 1980, our national debt more than doubled from $381 billion to $909 billion. And from 1980 to 1990, our debt increased more than threefold from $909 billion to $3.2 trillion. (During the ’80s, Reagan was spending tons of money on the military, and the democratically controlled Congress was spending tons of money on everything else. The ’80s were an interesting economic period that we can discuss at a later time.)

Now let’s look at what’s been going on this last decade. From 2000 to 2010, our national debt will have increased from $5.6 trillion to approximately $14.4 trillion, though that’s still an estimated figure. It could end up higher than this. That’s almost a tripling of our national debt in only 10 years.

Finger Pointing
This is why I don’t like either party. The Republicans like to pretend that they’re the party of financial discipline, but while they largely controlled Congress from 2000 to 2006, our debt grew from $5.6 trillion to $8.4 trillion. While not a booming economy, this was certainly a period of steady growth. There’s no good excuse for increasing our national debt by 50% during this six year period.

The Democrats condemned the Republicans as fiscally irresponsible. So what has happened since they took control of Congress in 2006? Our national debt is expected to balloon to $14.4 trillion by year’s end. They’re close to doubling our debt in only four years. Add to that another whopping increase anticipated over the next five years of approximately $5 trillion. By 2015, it’s expected that our national debt will be approximately $20 trillion.

The Recession
Democrats are going to write to me and tell me I’m wrong. That our national debt is ballooning because of the recession caused by Bush, and that recessions reduce tax receipts to the federal government. And they’re partially right. Recessions DO decrease tax receipts. (We can debate at another time the primary causes of this recession — Bush was only a piece of the puzzle that was built over the last 20 years that caused this recession.) But that’s why we MUST pay off debt during periods of economic growth. A small level of deficit spending during a recession is needed, in my opinion. You can’t shut down federal programs that our public relies on for everyday life. That’s why I do not support a balanced budget amendment. But the only way deficit spending during a recession makes sense is when you’re paying OFF the debt during periods of economic growth.

So why do I say that they’re partially right? Because the out of control spending from our federal government is HURTING our economy, not helping it. And by hurting the economy, they have further exasperated the problem of reduced tax receipts to the federal government.

What To Do
They’ve got to get spending under control. It will be painful, but it can be accomplished. Some economists are predicting a lost decade. That we can’t return to economic prosperity any time soon. I say they’re wrong, but I’m an optimist at heart.

Time to Retire “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Time to Repeal Don't Ask Don't TellIt’s time to retire Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” compromise of the ’90s. Actually, it’s long overdue. I have been very pleased to see President Obama and Congress proceed with the repeal of this legislation. And I think it’s smart for them to proceed as they are, in a measured and methodical manner. Last night, according to “The U.S. House and a Senate committee approved amendments to a military bill Thursday that would repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay and lesbian soldiers from military service, but only after some conditions are met.”

See the full CNN story here.

While the Republicans are on the public’s side of many recent polls, this is one where they find themselves largely out of step with public sentiment. According to a recent CNN poll, 78% of respondents said that “people who are openly gay or homosexual” should be able to serve in the armed forces. But these numbers are nothing new. The results are similar to what CNN found in December of 2008 (81%) and May of 2007 (79%).

But if you look at the votes yesterday, Republicans in Congress obviously do not support the repeal. From CNN: “The Senate committee’s vote on the amendment was mostly partisan, with 15 Democrats and one Republican — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — supporting the compromise repeal language. The House vote also was along largely partisan lines, with 229 Democrats and five Republicans supporting the repeal amendment, while 168 Republicans and 26 Democrats opposed it.”

It’s time for Republicans to wake up and understand that we want equal protections and rights for all Americans.

Politics — By The Numbers 5-25-2010

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Polls are interesting, but it is important to understand that they’re only a snapshot in time. And polls can be misleading. Take it from a marketing professional, how a question is phrased can certainly impact the responses given. The polls that I tend to read the most are the ones that are repeated over time — the tracking polls. Even if there’s an element of bias built in to the poll — intentional or unintentional — the trend over time is still revealing. Here are a few recent poll numbers I’ve found interesting.

63% Favor Repeal of National Health Care Plan
As news continues to trickle out about the health care plan, such as the CBO’s recent revision of the costs associated with the bill, support for repeal of the plan continues to rise. According to Rasmussen Reports, 63% of U.S. voters now favor repeal of the health care plan, the highest level ever.

From the same poll, “33% of voters now believe the health care plan will be good for the country, down six points from a week ago and the lowest level of confidence in the plan to date. 55% say it will be bad for the nation. Only 3% think it will have no impact.”

Generic Congressional Ballot, Republicans Hold 8-point Lead
In Rasmussen’s Generic Congressional Ballot, Republican candidates now hold an eight-point lead over Democrats. These numbers have been fairly consistent for several months. “While solid majorities of Democrats and Republicans support their own party, the plurality (41%) of voters not affiliated with either major party now prefer the Republican candidate, while 20% like the Democrat.”

Obama’s Job Approval Numbers
Virtually all of the major polling firms has a presidential approval tracking poll. Real Clear Politics does an average across all of the major polls, and according to RCP, Obama’s favorables are at 47.9, and unfavorables are at 46.4.

RCP's Presidential Approval Graph

64% Favor Offshore Drilling
I think this is the number that surprised me the most. According to Rasmussen: “Despite the major oil rig leak that continues to spew an estimated 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf of Mexico, the majority of U.S. voters still support offshore oil drilling. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 64% believe offshore oil drilling should be allowed, up from 58% earlier this month.”

LOST: The Story of Redemption

Monday, May 24th, 2010

“If we can’t live together we’re going to die alone.”
Jack Shepherd

Jack ShepherdMy LOST journey began with the final episode from season one. I happened to catch it the week before the premier of season two. I was instantly hooked. I went back and watched all of the episodes from season one while watching the new episodes from season two. It’s the only TV series that I’ve watched every single episode. One by one, my family became hooked as well. Beginning last summer we started from the beginning and watched (or for me re-watched) all of the episodes in order to prepare for this, the final season.

The storytelling from season one in particular was incredible. The character development unparalleled in television. Possibly among the best throughout all of literature in the last century.

Many could not overcome the science fiction components of the story. The unexplained phenomenon. I was happy to embrace the unknown.

Like so many losties, I became lost in the story. But in a good way. I enjoyed the journey. Enjoyed the speculation. Enjoyed the revelations about the island. And enjoyed watching the ongoing development of the characters.

My initial reaction last night to “The End” was a bit unsettling. It wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped. What was the purpose of the light? What was the real name of the man in black? What about the delicate balance between good and evil? After all, the island and the ancient tale of good and evil was the story. I felt like I was left twisting in the wind. I had become so lost in the journey, that I had forgotten the real story.

This was not the story of a fantastic and magical island. The island was only a vehicle to tell the story. This was a story of redemption. The story of Jack Shepherd.

Jack was a lost soul when the series began. The reluctant hero. The man of science who eventually became the man of faith. The reluctant hero who eventually embraced his destiny without understanding what his destiny truly meant. A story of salvation. And finally, a story of redemption.

“If we can’t live together we’re going to die alone.”
Jack Shepherd

Jack and all of our heroes learned to live together. And in the end, they did not die alone.

Dems Give Calderon Standing O for Criticizing Arizona Law

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, watching politics is like watching a contact sport. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. There are so many sides to the Arizona immigration story that’s it’s difficult to know where to start. So I’m going to try to hit on some of the highlights.

Mexico's President CalderonCalderon Criticizes the Law
We’ve watched our own public officials criticize the law (more on this in a moment) but I found it pretty nauseating to watch Mexico’s President Calderon criticize the Arizona immigration law in front of Congress, and then receive a standing ovation from the democrats, including Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. How out of touch are the democrats with the sentiments of most Americans? Clearly, a lot.

Read the Damn Law
And what I found even more nauseating this last week was that both Holder and Napolitano admitted that they have not taken the time to read the law, though both have continued to criticize it. Holder has even threatened a potential federal lawsuit against Arizona. Here I am, a little blogger from Kansas, and before posting my own comments on the law a couple weeks ago, the first thing I did was I READ THE LAW! In a recent FoxNews Opinion Dynamics Poll, 83% of Americans found it “shocking” that Holder admitted in front of the House Judiciary Committee that he had taken a stand against the law despite not having read the bill.

Out of Step with Americans
The majority of Americans support a state’s rights to pass laws like the Arizona immigration law. And when you dive in deeper, you find that 84% of Americans, including 75% of democrats, favor “requiring people to show documents proving their immigration status if government officials have reasonable cause to ask for them”. (From the same FoxNews poll.) So while many democrats say they oppose the bill, most of them actually favor the underlying principle.

Supreme Court has Already Ruled on This
One more surprise I learned this week: the Supreme Court has already ruled on reasonable suspicion and immigration status. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a UNANIMOUS decision in Muehler v. Mena, found that questioning someone regarding their immigration status is not a violation of Fourth Amendment rights — provided that person is already lawfully detained. Why has this not received more news coverage?

And since Arizona has made some changes in their bill, the guidelines in the Arizona bill are now stricter than the federal law they intended to duplicate.

Highlights from the Poll
These are from the same FoxNews poll:
• 76% believe that the security along our borders is not strict enough
• 65% believe that a state has the right to pass laws on immigration and to protect its borders
• 65% favor allowing local and state law enforcement to question anyone they think are in the country illegally
• 76% favor allowing local and state police to detain anyone who cannot prove their immigration status

And in case you don’t like the FoxNews poll, here are some numbers from Rasmussen:
• 55% of voters nationwide favor passage of a law like Arizona’s in their own state
• 69% believe a police officer should be REQUIRED to check immigration status of anyone stopped for a traffic violation
• 55% say they agree more with political leaders in Arizona than they do the political leaders in Washington
• 71% in Arizona support the state law

The Politics
It really makes you scratch your head sometimes. Why do the leaders in Congress and in the White House seem so far out of step with public sentiment? It’s hard to justify their position. The law is clearly against them. And the people are clearly against them on this issue. The only conclusion I can come up with as that they’re attempting to energize their base (the left) for the upcoming elections in November. The right is clearly energized due to health care reform and out of control spending. So maybe this is the issue that energizes the left? I really don’t know.

Quick Thoughts on Trey Hillman

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Trey HillmanCertainly nobody was taken by surprise, were they? The Royals are atrocious. Kansas City is 12-23. Only one team in baseball has a worse record than the Royals — The Baltimore Orioles. Sooner or later, a change had to be made.

Was Trey Hillman to blame? Yes. And no.

I see a lot of parallels between Trey Hillman and the position the Chiefs found themselves in with head coach Herm Edwards. Edwards is a good man, and a decent coach. Nobody could have coached the Chiefs to a winning record in ’07 or ’08. They just didn’t have enough talent on the team. But it was also clear that Edwards had some limitations as head coach. While the losing wasn’t his fault, it was also clear that Edwards was not a good enough coach to ever lead the team, given the right talent, to the promised land. Edwards’ flaws had been exposed.

I think that Royals’ general manager Dayton Moore looked at Hillman this week and came to the same conclusion. Hillman is a good man. The type of guy you root for in sports. The losing isn’t really Trey’s fault. There’s just not enough talent on the major league club to produce significantly more wins. But we’ve seen enough warts on Hillman to know he’s not the manager we’d hoped. Hillman doesn’t have a good enough feel for the game, or rapport with his players, to lead the Royals out of this mess.

I had already been thinking about writing a post about the Royals this week. A post to discuss some patience with the process. When Dayton Moore accepted the job four years ago as general manager, it’s hard to describe what a mess the Royals were in. And not just the major league ball club. Their minor league system was just as bad and underfunded as the major league ball club. By all accounts, the minor league system has taken some significant steps forward. Draft picks are starting to produce in the minors, but this is really a long-term project. Royals fans don’t want to hear it, but fixing the minor league system is realistically a five to ten-year process. And the Royals are just four years in. It may still be a few years of misery before the Royals begin to win.

Does this excuse the losses? Kind of. But we’ve also seen Moore make some bad mistakes with the big league club. His failure to fix the bullpen this year is what has hampered the current team the most. With a decent bullpen, the Royals have several more wins, and are at least within spitting distance of .500. And Trey Hillman is still the manager.

On a side note, I really enjoy the Star’s Sam Mellinger and his coverage of the Royals. Sam knows baseball. Here’s a link to his story on Hillman. It’s a good read.

April Brings Showers, and a New Record Budget Deficit

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

This is from the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The federal budget deficit hit an all-time
high for the month of April as government revenue fell sharply.

The Treasury Department says the April deficit soared to $82.7
billion, the largest imbalance for that month on record. That was
significantly higher than last year’s April deficit of $20 billion
and was above the $30 billion deficit private economists had been

The government normally runs surpluses in April as millions of
taxpayers file their income tax returns. However, income tax
payments were down this April, reflecting the impact of a severe
recession which has pushed millions of people out of work.

From the great Winston Churchill: “The idea that a nation can tax itself into prosperity is one of the cruelest delusions which has ever befuddled the human mind.”

The spending by this Congress and administration remains out of control. It’s not just that tax revenues are down, but spending is up. You cannot tax your way out of a recession, or spend your way out of a recession. All the federal government is doing is digging a bigger and bigger hole. Next up are tax increases, which will only exasperate the problem. And the tax increases won’t just be on the rich. You can’t tax the rich enough to solve our budget and debt issues.

Holder Wants Miranda “Flexibility”

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

In a pretty significant policy change from the administration, Eric Holder wants “flexibility” in the Miranda system. This is from the Huffington Post:

Attorney General Eric Holder said for the first time today on ABC’s “This Week” that the Obama administration is open to modifying Miranda protections to deal with the “threats that we now face.”

“The [Miranda] system we have in place has proven to be effective,” Holder told host Jake Tapper. “I think we also want to look and determine whether we have the necessary flexibility — whether we have a system that deals with situations that agents now confront. … We’re now dealing with international terrorism. … I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public-safety exception [to the Miranda protections]. And that’s one of the things that I think we’re going to be reaching out to Congress, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our times and the threats that we now face.”

It would be interesting to know who initiated this policy change. Holder has been steadfast in his desire to prosecute terrorism as a criminal offense in civil courts, and award terrorists the same rights that are required for U.S. citizens, and not enemy combatants. Personally I think this is a move in the right direction, though it won’t play well with Obama’s base.

The Hidden Tax Change in Health Care Bill

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Congress and the Tax Code

This is what happens when politicians with little understanding of business are in charge of tax policy. According to a recent article on

Section 9006 of the health care bill — just a few lines buried in the 2,409-page document — mandates that beginning in 2012 all companies will have to issue 1099 tax forms not just to contract workers but to any individual or corporation from which they buy more than $600 in goods or services in a tax year.

The stealth change radically alters the nature of 1099s and means businesses will have to issue millions of new tax documents each year.

Before we get into this, let me tell you a little about my dad. My dad thought he was good with money. And to his credit, he had a few periods in his life where he made quite a bit of money. But he also had a couple periods of his life where he lost virtually everything. He had a gambler mentality. But not the smart gambler mentality that told him when to walk away. He was the gambler that never knew when to stop. And he refused to learn from his mistakes.

Dad understood that it took spending money to make money. But he had no concept of diminishing returns. This is an over-simplified explanation of diminishing returns.

Let’s say as a business owner you can spend $100 on materials and labor, make a product, and sell it for $200. That’s a $100 profit. That’s good.

Then you discover you can build a better product for $130, and sell it for $300. That’s $170 profit. You not only increased your profit by $70, you increased your cost by only $30. That’s even better.

There becomes a point where diminishing returns kick in. Let’s continue with the example and build an even better product. Your cost is now $250. And you can sell this product for $500. On first glance this looks good. You’ve now made a $250 profit. But it’s not as good as it sounds. You’ve spent an additional $120 to increase your profit by $80.

That’s diminishing returns.

My dad never understood diminishing returns.

Neither does the federal government.

So let’s get back to this new tax policy where every business must generate 1099s for every individual AND every corporation from which they buy more than $600 in goods or services in a tax year.

The Burden of Creating the 1099s
I own a very small business, and I may have one hundred vendors which I will pay $600 or more every year. I will have to contact every one of my vendors to obtain their EIN numbers and enter their information into QuickBooks. At the end of the year I will have to print 1099s for these vendors, stuff them into envelopes, stamp them, and mail them. How much time will this take? That will largely depend on how easy and responsive my vendors are in providing the information I need. I will guestimate that I’ll have a good 50-60 hours into this project in the first year, plus expenses.

That’s 50-60 hours I can’t spend growing my business. And I’m a very small business. Multiply that out across the country for EVERY business, big and small. How many businesses are there in our country? How many hours of time to gather the required information and process it? How many millions of documents will be printed? How much postage will be used to mail millions of documents? What about the resources used to do all of this? I don’t know. I guarantee that it will be substantial.

The Burden of Receiving the 1099s
Now this also means that most of my customers will be issuing me 1099s. I will have to provide them with my EIN number upon their request. And every year I’ll receive a few dozen 1099s from my customers that I’ll include with all of my tax information to my accountant. This won’t be much of a burden for me personally. As I said, I’m a very small business.

But what about larger companies? What about Dell? Office Depot? Holiday Inn? They will receive tens of thousands of 1099s in the mail every year. If not more. They will have costs involved both in sending 1099s to their vendors, as well as processing the 1099s they receive from their business customers.

Who pays for this? Oh yeah, the customer. Dell doesn’t just absorb these new costs and move along. Their are repercussions. And the repercussions will either be in increased prices for their products, or financial cuts elsewhere to compensate for the new expenses.

Diminishing Returns
Now you’ve probably been wondering why I started this post talking about my dad and explaining diminishing returns. The question becomes, what is the net result of this tax policy change?

According to the same CNN article, the IRS estimates that the federal government loses more than $300 billion each year in tax revenue on income that goes unreported. This is the government’s attempt to collect a portion of this tax revenue.

But how much can they truly expect to increase in their tax collections with this policy change? Who will pay more in taxes and have to declare money that had previously gone unreported? Or under-reported?

Not Dell. They report their income. Receiving potentially hundreds of thousands of 1099s will not change the amount of income they report. What about Holiday Inn? What about Office Depot? What about IHOP? What about me? Nope. I already report all of my income. And I suspect that most of these other companies do as well. But even if a large company is purposefully under-reporting their income, would we really expect a change in their behavior resulting from receiving these 1099s? I wouldn’t think so. They would still find a way to under-report their income.

I don’t have a problem believing that the IRS fails to collect a lot of money due to unreported income. But which businesses will actually feel compelled to declare more, or all, of their income who aren’t doing so already? Whose behavior will this tax policy change?

One, it would have to be a business who does most of their work for companies, not individuals, as they would only be receiving 1099s from companies. And two, a company who is actively under-reporting their income who would feel at risk if they continued this behavior. I can only imagine that this scenario fits a very small set of very small businesses. Large companies currently cheating on their taxes will continue to find ways to cheat on their taxes. And that’s probably true for most small companies as well. I don’t expect this tax policy change to net the IRS a significant increase in tax revenues. And we haven’t even discussed the new burden on the IRS of receiving millions of new 1099s to process.

So once again, what’s the net result? I couldn’t find anything online that discussed this in detail, or broke down increased costs versus increased tax revenues. Though I didn’t really expect to find anything. Common sense tells me that it will cost business significantly more than it will net the IRS in increased tax revenues.

But our politicians don’t care about diminishing returns. They don’t care if it costs business $100 for them to increase tax revenues by $10. After all, it wasn’t their $100 that was spent for them to receive the $10. It was ours.

Cartoon from

The Truth About the Arizona Immigration Bill

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Linda RonstadtLinda Ronstadt and Shakira don’t like it.

“Mexican-Americans are not going to take this lying down,” singer Linda Ronstadt, a Tucson native, said at a news conference on a lawsuit planned by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Immigration Law Center.

“It goes against all human dignity,” said Shakira.

Reading the Law
I’ve heard a lot the last couple of weeks from critics and supporters. It’s clear that both sides are attempting to use this law like a club to gain a political advantage over the other party. We’ll come back to the politics of this in a minute. My first thought was I wondered if Ronstadt or Shakira had bothered to read the law? (Read Arizona Senate Bill 1070 here.) Or if they bothered to do any research on the legality of racial profiling? My guess is that no, they have not.

Racial Profiling
This really seems to be the biggest criticism of the bill — that Arizona law enforcement will question and detain Hispanics because they’re Hispanics in order to ascertain whether or not they’re in the country legally. People seem to believe that this bill will transform well-intentioned policemen into racist profilers violating the legal rights of Hispanic Americans who are legal residents of the United States.

This is just an absurd conclusion. And hugely disrespectful to the fine men and women who put their lives on the line protecting our communities.

Profiling is legal and a component of law enforcement. But what is ILLEGAL is racial profiling. Law enforcement cannot, even under this bill, profile people based on their race in order to question or detain them.

A Copy of the Federal Law
A significant portion of the Arizona law is  basically a copy of the federal law. It’s making a state crime out of a federal crime. For instance, the federal law requires “every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him.” The problem is that this federal law is not routinely enforced, so state officials are making it a state crime and plan to be more proactive in the enforcement of the law. (For more, read this post on

Is it Constitutional?
Certainly the portion of the state law that mimics the federal law is Constitutional. And racial profiling remains illegal. But there is some gray area in this bill that needs to be clarified and fixed. Law enforcement can only engage people in “lawful contact”, and can only question them about their status in the country if they have “reasonable suspicion”.

Here’s the law: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation.”

The gray area is “reasonable suspicion”. We’ve already covered that it can’t be racially driven, but this still remains a pretty broad and ambiguous statement in the law. Typically this is something that would get sorted out in the courts over time, but because of the national attention to this law, it will probably need to get sorted out more quickly than that. My guess is that Arizona lawmakers will likely revisit this bill, and try to clean up some of the ambiguous language in the law. (There are two posts on that covers this portion of the law. Here is post one and post two.)

The Politics
I’ll be honest with you, immigration law is really not very high on my personal radar. It’s clear that the lack of security on our borders is a national security problem. The number of illegal aliens in our country is a huge financial drain on our communities. And an incredible amount of illegal drugs enter the country through the Mexican border. This has been a problem for generations that our lawmakers have not had the political fortitude to fix. President Obama admitted this week that Washington doesn’t have the “appetite” to tackle this issue any time soon. But that hasn’t stopped people from using this controversy in Arizona for political gain.

Democrats and liberals portray the right as racists every time illegal immigration comes up. Republicans and conservatives blast the left as soft on national security, and unwilling to uphold immigration laws.

The truth is that border states like Arizona are left holding the bag when the federal government doesn’t uphold their end of the bargain. Border security and illegal immigration are federal responsibilities. But what is a state like Arizona to do when the feds refuse to fix the problem?