Sometimes Saving Money Is Rocket Science

It’s ironic Elon Musk, one of America’s premier subsidy farmers, is also a perfect example of the difference between the private sector approach to cost and the government’s. Musk differs from earlier entrepreneurs like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford who became wealthy by building a better mousetrap. Musk became wealthy by harvesting government subsidies.

The LA Times ran the numbers and Musk’s Tesla Motors, SolarCity Corp and Space X “have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support.”

The best part about subsidy farming, as opposed to wheat farming, is that Musk isn’t required to make a profit. Tesla and SolarCity have been in business for ten years and neither has made so much as a dime.

Even more galling, much of Musk’s subsidies go to benefit one–percenter Global Warming hobbyists. Tesla buyers receive a $7,500 federal income tax credit for purchasing a new hummer that costs up to $135,000. One reason the average household income of Tesla customers is $320,000.

The one company that isn’t a subsidy vacuum is where Musk wields a sharp pencil. SpaceX has received a paltry $15 million in subsidies and much of that came from Texas when it built a launch pad. Sure Musk has $5.5 billion in government contracts with NASA and the Air Force, but he has to perform to get the money.

Musk’s lesson is his approach to recycling. When NASA was king, boosters were fire and forget. That works fine with a mortar, but applied to sending men to the moon, costs add up fast.

If you tossed the station wagon after every visit to see grandma it wouldn’t be long before the kids had only a hazy memory of what the old girl looked like. The same applies to the moon. Space priced itself out of even the federal market.

Reusing boosters would have saved money but the suggestion was viewed as crazy talk. For the bureaucrat a reusing boosters is all cost and no benefit. There are no awards in the federal service for saving money. Someone looking to spend less is not a team player, since leftover money in the budget means Congress won’t give the agency as much next year.

Recognition in the bureaucracy goes to the functionary that invents a new program with new spending, not the green–eyeshade who finds a way to do more with less. Besides the potential for bad publicity should a recycled rocket cause a mission to fail was a risk not worth taking.

That’s why SpaceX’s March 30 launch was such a milestone. It successfully launched a communication satellite into Earth orbit perched atop a Falcon 9 rocket with a first stage that had already been launched once and recovered.

Ray Lugo, who directed NASA science missions, told Florida Today, “It’s potentially a big cost-saver and it will make a difference, provided you can re-fly multiple times. If this works, over the long term it will be difficult for anyone that throws boosters away to compete.”

At least as far as SpaceX is concerned, Musk is now a money–saving fool. That launch also saw a first time recovery of the nose cone. Musk evidently had to fight NASA thinking. According to the Daily Mail, Musk ordered his engineering team to make the attempt, “Imagine you had $6 million in cash on a pallet flying through the air that’s just going to smash into the ocean. Would you try to recover that? Yes, you would.”

Maybe in the private sector, but the feds would be worried about Greenpeace activists if a fish died during recovery.

This is what competition does. Musk launches now have a cost advantage over those of Jeff Bezos, who has yet to recover a booster. Another former NASA administrator estimates SpaceX can cut 75 percent of the cost of a rocket by reusing boosters.

Musk is already offering launch discounts to customers who opt for recycled boosters.

His goal is for each booster to be used between 10 and 100 times with an additional goal of being ready to launch after a one–day turn around. That’s three times better than the turnaround time of an F-35, which under Pentagon management requires three days between sorties.

The case against privatization is always put in terms of there are just some things that only government can do, like space flight. Only, our government isn’t doing space flight anymore, because it priced itself out of the market.

The market rewards efficiency and innovation, while government rewards government employees.

It’s not rocket science to conclude if the market can bring down the cost of space travel, it can certainly bring down the cost of health insurance.

But if Congress won’t give the market a chance, the solution isn’t Musk’s recycling. It’s NASA’s fire and forget.

Advertisements

Gullible Republican Voters Fooled Again

When Republican voters went to the polls last November, electing Trump meant seizing the last branch of government in Washington. Trump would join the existing Republican House and Senate. These optimistic voters looked forward to ushering in a new era of unchallenged conservative government. Trump’s election would be a stunning repudiation of Obama’s eight years of big government, soft socialism,

Instead, what Trump voters got was Vichy France.

Although in fairness to the French, when President Albert Lebrun surrendered to the Germans in 1940 Hitler was at the height of his power.

Republicans in Washington — led by Curator of the Senate, Mitch McConnell —surrendered to Chuck Schumer after Hillary lost the presidential election and Schumer failed to capture the Senate. But Democrats don’t have to actually win to defeat Republicans.

Democrats just have to exist.

I’m sure the explanation for this rout has something to do with the 2018 mid–term election.

In the run up to the 2016 vote, Republicans were warned not to expect too much in the way of conservative legislation from the GOP–controlled Senate and House. The GOP was defending more incumbent Senate seats than Democrats and McConnell had to protect the vulnerable.

In 2018 it looks like Republican voters can’t expect a return to conservative government this time because the Democrats are defending more incumbent Senate seats.

How does this budget bill betray the base who keeps electing Republicans and the new voters Trump added? You’ll see for yourself when you click the link below to the rest of the column on Newsmax.

https://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/congress-goals-legislation/2017/05/02/id/787714/

 

Trump Looks for Love in All the Wrong Places

If President Trump is disappointed by the outcome of his dalliance with Amanda Knox, wait until he gets a load of what passes for reciprocity from Rep. Hal Rodgers.

This clown caucus is the last place Trump should go to for support.

Amanda Knox is the student that was accused of a particularly gruesome murder in Italy, where she was attending school. Most of us would gravitate toward OJ or Robert Durst if we were going to advocate for someone accused of a messy murder, but maybe Trump thought he already had senior offenders in the bag.

Trump picked the hot coed and tweeted during her appeal trial, “Everyone should boycott Italy if Amanda Knox is not freed – she is totally innocent.”

Fortunately for the Italian tourism board, Knox was found innocent and returned to the US, where she proceeded to display a politician’s gratitude. The Independent reports the accused murderer endorsed the enthusiastic abortion supporter, Hillary Clinton, instead of her Twitter buddy, Trump.

In a column Knox wrote for the West Seattle Herald she observed, “If Obama’s song was a rousing anthem, Clinton’s is a subtle symphony. And Trump, a broken trumpet. [Clinton’s] impending victory represents the triumph of nuance and poise over prejudice and childishness.”

I won’t go out on a limb and contend Trump’s elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts in his proposed budget was to make sure Amanda never received a “writer in residence” grant, but it is an intriguing thought.

Now Trump is looking for love in all the wrong places. I know Trump is new at this, but it’s time to focus. Reaching out to RINOs and Democrats in the White House means asking Ivanka to pass the salt. Doing so in Congress can have serious repercussions with Trump’s base.

How serious? To learn that you’ll have to click on the link below and read the rest of my column at Newsmax.com:

https://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/trump-freedom-caucus-rep-hal-rodgers/2017/04/19/id/785266/

 

Finally! Democrats Support Cutting Off the Money

It hasn’t made the national news (except for this column) but for a brief time it looked like Democrats around our nation’s capital were going to accept the fact the federal government can withhold funds from states that don’t cooperate with the feds.

And this wasn’t a mere threat to turn off the spigot; funds for Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia have been cut off.

metro-cartoonYet no Democrats are vowing to fight to the last ditch to get their money. No state attorneys general are rushing to the courthouse hoping to find a federal judge willing to write legislation from the bench. No legal defense funds have been established. No lawyers have been hired. No posters have been printed. And no protestors wielding superglue and PVC pipe have blockaded entrances to buildings.

Why George Ramos wasn’t even thrown out of a news conference for asking impertinent questions.

If you’re thinking now that Trump has vanquished the Sanctuary City movement, it’s time to move on to Obamacare repeal, I have bad news.

Now I’ve got you. You’re wondering what bad news? The question is easily answered by clicking on the link below and reading the entire column on Newsmax.com:

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/city-federal-funding-sanctuary/2017/03/01/id/776296/

 

 

Future Is Cloudy With Occasional Trump Gusts at National Weather Service

How many weather people does it take to change a forecast? Evidently more than we currently possess.

The National Weather Service Employees Organization is issuing a severe hiring freeze warning. The union is afraid if Donald Trump’s freeze order is applied to the National Weather Service it will be a cold day in hell before it can add another employee.

global-warming-forecasts-mckeeThe union hopes it can slip through a loophole under cover of a rhetorical fog bank. Trump’s order doesn’t apply to agencies involved in the military, public safety or public health. The Washington Post says the NWS is hoping to reclassify itself as an integral part of the nation’s public safety apparatus: First responders when the precipitation hits the fan.

If NWS brass has its way, soldiers fighting for our freedom, anti–terror agents protecting the homeland and doctors battling dread disease will be joined by the guy who eyeballs the rain gauge at the airport. Each doing their small part in the vital effort to keep taxpayers alive and paying taxes.

Normally you would call this sort of bureaucratic aggrandizement “mission creep” but in the case of the weather service we’ll call it moisture creep.

The real problem facing weather wizards is it’s difficult to make the case for 650 new hires before Hurricane Donald arrives, when the desks have been empty for years and no one, outside the cleaning crew that dusts the monitors, has noticed.

A union functionary claims the vacant slots are “Emergency Essential” and it’s a big deal, “meaning those employees are critical to the life-saving mission of the NWS, so they must report to work (in hurricanes, floods, blizzards, furloughs, etc.).”

That’s a confusing explanation. I’d have thought an employee who shows up at the office after being furloughed is a potential source of workplace violence, not a reason to consider NWS workers the equivalent of Marines with barometers. As for the rest of the examples, when the morgue is empty it’s easy enough to claim your agency was responsible, but where’s the evidence these vacant slots represent a “life–saving mission?”

When a city is short of cops or has a surplus of demonstrators crime goes up. With a shortage of doctors patients pile up. But it will take some convincing to persuade me a shortage of weather oracles encourages tornadoes.

Making the case the NWS is a public safety necessity is difficult when the weather service has trouble coping with normal weather. Last week, while a blizzard was slamming into Maine and California was wondering if leftist sanctuaries would protect citizens and illegals from flood waters, the NWS system went offline.

A case could be made the cat was out of the bag and Maine and California were already familiar with the weather, but knowing if the rain was expected to stop would have been helpful to the sandbag crew.

Instead two “core routers” failed and the system was offline for three hours. The WaPost’s weather blog reminds us NWS systems failed as Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on Florida last October and in July it experienced another network issue.

It’s almost as if Hillary is the IT consultant.

Even if NWS bureaucrats can convince Trump a weather watcher wielding a weathervane is the public safety equal of a doctor brandishing a thermometer, there is the vetting problem.

In a government that yawns over classified phone call transcripts being leaked to the opposition media there’s a surprising amount of paranoia regarding the five–day forecast. Higher level NWS employees are for some unknown reason required to have a security clearance.

It’s not like you can hide the weather, just go outside and you know as much as President Trump. The only forecasts that have any usefulness are next day predictions. Three and five–day forecasts, which you can get from any weather poodle on TV, are about as reliable as a Republican Congressman’s promise to repeal Obamacare.

I suppose if your life is wrapped up in humidity the staffing shortfall is a big problem, but to me it looks like a good way to save money. It would be cheaper to let NWS focus on gathering weather data and let the private sector handle the forecasts. Using the same data the NWS employs, the Weather Channel is already more accurate and if you don’t like those global warming fanatics there’s always your local TV weather babe.

Why fight it? The missing 650 employees are approximately 14 percent of total employment. Since Trump wants to cut the federal workforce by 20 percent, the NWS’ head start puts it well on the way to meeting that goal.

It’s new motto could be: All the Weather at 80 Percent of the Cost!

Senate Still Can’t Understand Why Trump Won

Hammer–wielding petulants attacking Larry King’s rented limo in DC may boast of being “the Resistance,” but their effect on the Trump administration will be as fleeting as their fame.

Same goes for the estrogen–ettes who held their march the day after the inauguration, proving even angry women have trouble being on time.

rat-republicans-against-trumpThe real resistance to Trump’s agenda wasn’t marching on the streets. It was sitting behind him as he took the Oath. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Orrin Hatch and Lamar Alexander personify the Republican Resistance to Trump. They’re the “don’t start your budget cutting with me,” the “don’t disturb my complacency” and the “I’m strictly a big picture guy” wings of the Can’t Do Caucus.

The Can’t Do Caucus — led by “Mitch McClellan” — is composed of GOP politicians who campaign as conservatives and govern as spendocrats. They go along with the base just far enough to get re–elected.

Their charming combination of duplicitousness and inertia is the reason Trump won. Conservatives are tired of being told the issues they supported and voted for at election time are completely impractical at governing time.

Since establishment Republicans can’t comprehend why Trump won and still believe Jeb! may be viable in 2020, they not only resist draining the swamp, most will claim there is no drain.

Senate votes aren’t divided between Republicans and Democrats. The division is between self–interest and the national interest and so far the national interest is on the short side of the ledger.

That’s why I’ve been studying the photo of the large “Resist” banner that was hung from a crane near the White House. Is that Mitch McConnell dangling just out of the frame? Can’t be sure. But I am sure Trump will be fighting more than just Democrats in Congress.

You can find out who the ringleaders are of the internal opposition and why they are fighting Trump by clicking on the link below and reading the rest of my Newsmax column:

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/federal-senate-spending/2017/01/25/id/770378/

 

Social Life a Little Slow? Award an NEA Grant!

December was a great month for entertainment, unless you’re an atheist. There’s an almost unlimited menu of plays, concerts, exhibits and lectures. Even jihadis look forward to Christmas because of the targeting opportunities.

Yet the best part is all this activity takes place without being subsidized by a single dollar of taxpayer money.

Buffet from Hell.

Buffet from Hell.

(Note: I’m not talking about Christmas counter–programming. For example, Santa as a cross–dressing lesbian who kills “Rudolph The Oppressor” and liberates the reindeer, thereby preventing the enslavement of millions of vulnerable children by a rapacious consumer society. Those are government grant productions, notable for their grim intensity, thin skin and lack of audience.)

You might find this shocking, but prior to 1965 EVERY “art” production managed to get by without a single federal taxpayer handout.

Most of us don’t recall 1965 as being such a cultural wasteland that it required federal intervention for culture to continue.

Movie audiences enjoyed Doctor Zhivago and The Sound of Music. Theatre attendees witnessed Man of La Mancha and The Lion in Winter. And readers plowed through Dune, In Cold Blood, Autobiography of Malcolm X and Midnight Cowboy.

Local theatre groups continued to gratify relatives and stupefy audiences without any assistance from Uncle Sam. Museums opened, exhibits appeared in galleries and artists committed “art” without the assistance of Uncle Sam’s “arts” apparatchiks.

So what happened? LBJ and “intellectuals” for one and the result has been expensive and insulting for taxpayers. I have a personal anecdote and a solution, but you’ll have to click the link below to visit my Insider column at Newsmax to find it:

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/national-endowment-for-the-arts-government-waste/2016/12/23/id/765398/

 

2016 “Spendy” Award Winner Announced!

It’s time to announce the 2016 “Spendy” award, bestowed upon the federal agency with the most extensive record of incompetence and contempt for the taxpayer. Bonus points are awarded to agencies performing a function completely absent from the Constitution and better left to the private sector.

100-bill-toilet-paperSpendy winners are characterized by cabinet secretaries who condescend to attend congressional hearings, where hours are spent detailing the mismanagement, waste, theft, and general uselessness found in their kingdom. After which the secretary looks the committee chairman straight in the eye and blames all his troubles on Russian hackers.

Who was in the running this year? Well, we had last year’s winner the US Dept. of Agriculture and the runner–up Veterans Administration, along with perennial contender, the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Then there was the Pentagon, which is always in a class of its own.

So how did I pick a winner among these unworthies and who was it? You know the drill. Click on the link below and be whisked to my Newsmax Insider column where all will be revealed.

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/congress-pentagon-usda-va/2016/12/29/id/766070/

 

Pentagon Remains a Quart Low on Integrity

The biggest mistake the Germans made in World War II wasn’t the invasion of Russia. It was failing to line the beaches on D–Day with Members of Congress. Evidently these worthies are such fierce antagonists that installing a few Barbara Comstocks or Chuck Schumers in each pillbox would have meant a devastating repulse for the Allied invasion.

After that crushing setback the only hope for the Allies would have been to send GIs over as “undocumented immigrants” and hope Berlin wouldn’t notice.

defense_guide-to-cutting-waste-spendingThe news on the potency of politicians with regard to the Pentagon is deep in a Washington Post story on waste. Pentagon officials commissioned a study and when the researchers found $125 billion being spent on superfluous bureaucrats they buried the report.

The scenario was a little like Rocky I. The Defense Business Board, composed of experienced corporate executives and management consultants, was supposed to find chump change–sized waste that could be easily eliminated earning the Pentagon high praise and bonuses.

But like Rocky Balboa, the committee didn’t know they were a palooka. It discovered the Pentagon spends “almost a quarter of its [yearly] $580 billion budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management.”

Compare that with overhead spending in the private sector where Alix Partners analyzed over 1,900 public and private companies with revenues over $500 million. Overhead as a percentage of sales varied between 14.6 and 15.2 percent, a bit over half what the Pentagon spends. The numbers are even worse for the Pentagon, because many private sector overhead employees are instrumental in producing revenue.

Whereas in the Pentagon, revenue just rolls in like the tide and the bureaucracy wastes it.

So what happened to the recommendations from the study? How does the Pentagon compare with private sector staffing? How much do the generals in charge of firing money into the air know about total Pentagon spending?

All will be revealed when you click on the link below, which will whisk you to the rest of my Newsmax.com column.

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/pentagon-government-waste-department-of-defense/2016/12/09/id/763199/

 

Mitch McConnell, Trump’s Uncertain Senate Trumpet

It turns out Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln have a lot more in common than a passing reference in the second presidential debate. You may recall a leaked transcript from one of Hillary’s closely guarded speeches had her admitting “both a public and a private position on certain issues.”

Hillary explained she was only following the duplicity precedent set by Abraham Lincoln during passage of the 13th Amendment.

Gen. George McClellan & Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McClellan

Gen. George McClellan & Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McClellan

It was an audacious lie, but a lie nonetheless.

As Trump said, “Now she’s blaming [her] lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln…okay, Honest Abe never lied…That’s the big difference between Abraham Lincoln and you.”

It’s not surprising Hillary would use the dead to buttress a lie — rumor has it she blames Vince Foster for the email server — what’s surprising is learning Trump and Lincoln both confronted a similar governing situation.

Both lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College. Lincoln and Trump were met with riots instigated by political opponents. Each wanted to take control of the capital, although in Lincoln’s case it was Richmond.

Lincoln’s top priority was success on the battlefield, while Trump’s is success in the political arena, yet both must rely on subordinates who oppose their plans and hold them in contempt.

Lincoln’s burden was Maj. Gen. George McClellan. Trump’s is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McClellan.

Whoops, make that Mitch McConnell.

The parallels between these two timid, ineffective, self–protecting “leaders” and the damage they do their putative cause are remarkable. You’ll be amazed at my insight, but you know what comes next: First you’ll have to click on the link below to be taken to Newsmax.com to read the remainder of the column.

As always, feel free to re–post:

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/lincoln-mcconell/2016/11/17/id/759488/