Saturday, August 20, 2016

How Much Of Your Tax-Paid Federal Tax Dollar Goes To Each Federal Program?


One thing that is pretty scary is how very little the average, or any American taxpayer and voter really knows about where their tax dollar goes in the first place.

We are having a Presidential contest right now where the most 'important' things seem to be what one candidate says or what the other candidate has done wrong with emails and contributions.

Both are 'important'. However, they pale in comparison when you think about what they and the next Congress are going to do with YOUR tax dollar each and every day for the next 4-to-8 years while in the White House.

That is what we are doing, aren't we? Electing someone to lead this entire nation of 322 million people and lead the process to make decisions over how we fund everything in the country which not only has domestic ramifications but international as well.

And if you ask your spouse, partner, friend, family or colleague nearby right now, dollars-to-doughnuts they have no idea of where their taxpayer dollar is being spent right now, aside from the fact that they don't have that dollar in their pocket to spend on their families and what they want to do with it.

We grabbed the chart above from President Barack Obama's White House website where this simple calculation was posted up until 2014 but for some reason, has not been updated for 2015 and 2016 figures yet.

Go ahead and put in the amount of money you paid to Washington last year in total from your income, capital gains, payroll and any other federal tax you may have paid and see what the chart spits back out to you.

If you are an average American, you paid about $9000 in combined federal tax last year which is the figure we used for the example above.

Once you calculate your percentages and raw tax amount paid, stare at it a little while and ask yourself:

'Is that what I really want my federal tax dollar being spent on? And in that magnitude and amount?'

For example, $816.30 of that $9000 paid went to pay interest on the national debt. The national debt is the accumulated debt rung up by President Bush and Obama and Congresses over the past 16 years when neither have decided to be the fiscally prudent leaders we need and help facilitate making the decisions on the large public policy decisions that we elected them to do.

It has been the most damning indictment of our current leaders simply because the number has gone from about $5.8 trillion in overall gross national debt in 2001 when President Bill Clinton left office to $20 trillion today. 

Neither President Bush nor President Obama nor any of the Congresses since 2000 get any accolades for doing anything right when it comes to balancing federal revenues with federal expenditures. They are all culpable and blameworthy regardless of political party or good or bad intentions.

$20 trillion in national debt accumulation in relative peacetime compared to out-and-out war such as we experienced in World War II is $20 trillion in national debt accumulation no matter how you slice it.

And just wait until interest rates rise back to a more 'normal' level on T-bills and longer term US bonds. The next generation of taxpayers might see $2000 of their yearly $9000 tax payment go solely to pay off the interest on even more debt unless the next President and Congress puts a halt to this fiscal spiral of insanity and/or figures out how to stimulate or at least allow the economy to grow robustly again, unlike under President Obama who still has not figured out the fallacy of his economic philosophy and policies.

Take a look at Health Care. It is now the largest combined expenditure out of Washington when you add Medicare and Medicaid together. It exceeds our national defense spending by 3.5 percentage points.

An average taxpayer paid $2474 to pay for the health care of millions of other Americans last year when many of those same average American taxpayers were being hammered with rapidly escalating premiums, deductibles and co-payments on their own health insurance plans.

That same taxpayer paid $2152 for our collective national defense.

Go to the White House website and see what you paid in actual dollars for each program above. If you are a very high income taxpayer, your amounts are understandably going to be much higher than the average of $9000 noted above.

The rest of us should thank you and shake your hand every time we see you then. Mainly because you are paying for the vast preponderance of ALL of these programs above, not the rest of us. 50% of American taxpayers don't pay any income tax at all and only pay payroll taxes that ostensibly pay for SS and Medicare (but they really don't cover the entire cost of either, contrary to public perception)

The top 1% of all American taxpayers now pay approximately 1/2 of all income tax in America according to a CNBC report

Good Grief! Talk about a top-heavy tax system. Why would we ever want to dissuade wealthy people from making more money? They need to keep making it so they can pay the taxes everyone wants paid to fund the programs they like!



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Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Lost Obama Years: Want 8 More Years Of This?

We generally prefer to talk about public policy issues with facts and references to original data sources since we believe that is truly the only way to be honest with each other and then try to find the best solutions for us all as a nation.

There has been a lot of pirouetting, back-flipping and spinning coming out of the Obama White House and his economic advisors lately about just 'how great!' the American economy is today.

Hillary Clinton and her team, many of whom are from the Obama worldview of how to run government and the economy, are parroting the same lines as always:
  1. 'Things are just great!'
  2. 'Times under Reagan and Bush 41 and 43 were just terrible!'
  3. 'Trust in us and we will set you free!'
Well, things just are not all that great economically. It hasn't for the last 8 years.

We just got back from a trip through eastern North Carolina. In small town after small town, all we saw was boarded-up businesses, deteriorating homes and empty streets.

One town was so depressing and dusty that one could have sworn it was a ghost town from the Old West.

The question we will put to you, the jury representing the American people today, is this: 

'Do you really want 8 more years of the 'Lost Obama Years' as we can now honestly call it?'

Take a look at this chart above (all in billions of dollars) All we have done is taken the CBO 10-year projections from January 2008 and compared them to the CBO 10-year projections issued this summer.

Remember, at the beginning of 2009, the financial crash had already started and the economic and financial analysts were busy downgrading their forecasts for the American economy. Much of that was baked into their forecasts in January, 2009 so the slamming impact of the Crash of 2008 was already available to them.

What has basically happened since President Obama took office in 2009 is threefold:
  1. The American economy has under-performed CBO projections by at least $1.045 trillion. Some estimates put it at $2 trillion in lost economic potential.
  2. The debt held by the public is over $4 trillion higher than otherwise projected in 2009.
  3. The annual deficits are up over $200 billion more than projected and heading back up in an escalating manner to over $475 billion in 2019, not downward towards zero as it should be.
There was a lot of euphoria when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data recently that pronounced '255,000 new jobs were created in July, 2016!'

Yay!

What most media analysts failed to tell you was that anywhere between 100,000 to 150,000 of those 'new' jobs were just part-time jobs, a disturbing trend that started in 2009 as a result of the recession and as a response to mandatory compliance with Obamacare that has failed to dissipate even 8 years later.

Boo!

Here's our take on all the economic numbers put out by the Obama Administration and the news media:

'If these sorry economic numbers had been produced under President George Bush 43 or any other Republican President, you would have thought there was blood in the water and sharks were splashing all about'

Just to repeat an old refrain:
  • There has been an average of under 1.76% per year GDP growth over all 8 years of President Barack Obama.
  • First time any modern US President has not presided over at least 1 year of 3%+ GDP growth
  • 2Q economic growth was a truly dismal 1.2%.
  • Economic growth begets job creation and general wealth creation for all Americans.
  • No economic growth hurts people at the middle and lowest economic levels in our society the most since they depend so much more on income from wages versus income from investments.
  • President Obama's policies of more taxes and far more regulation on the American economy have put the brakes on the economy, not helped return it to the normal 3%+ annual growth that has been the norm for decades in America
We can't think of one economic boom in modern American history that was preceded by a massive increase in the Big 3 of economic disincentives imposed upon the economy by the President or Congress in charge at the time: 

Taxes. Regulation. Federal spending.

There was hardly any economic recovery during the entire 11-year period of massive federal spending after the Great Depression started . When it did look like the economy was about to break out of its long slump in 1936, another major recession occurred that drove unemployment back up to 19.2% up from what the FDR Administration officials were then touting as 'major progress', 14.3%.

The economic malaise under FDR lasted 9 years from 1933 until the US entered World War II in 1942. The massive onslaught of federal spending did not solve the economic problems faced by our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents; many economic historians say his policies prolonged it.

Unemployment averaged 18% during Roosevelt’s first two terms in the White House. Over the course of those two terms, U.S. industrial production and national income fell by 1/3, not expanded. Despite billions of taxpayer dollars being spent to do the opposite.

We are about to end our 8th year of sub-par, near about negligible economic growth under President Obama.  His top-down-from-Washington heavy-handed, high tax and non-effective federal stimulus government spending approach is now proven not to work. At all.

If you look closely at every economic boom, including the ones started under Democratic Presidents John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, they were triggered by the passage of a series of taxes cuts coupled with pledges and promises to reduce federal regulation and hamstringing of American business and hold the line on federal spending and be fiscally mature adults about everything during their terms.

In other words, the successful Presidents gave American business, both big and small, the most important things they can have when it comes to expanding their business and hiring more people:

More Freedom and Confidence In the Future. President Obama did not succeed at doing either and Hillary Clinton is promising to continue his economic and fiscal policies and in many ways, expand them considerably.

JFK defended his tax cuts by saying something to the effect of business being a friend of people who like to spend more money on federal programs because 'without their taxes, we won't be able to spend it on programs we want to spend it on'

At least he was pragmatically honest about it.

If you think that everything is going great, and you think the grow-government-first approach is the way to create tens of millions of new full-time jobs over the next 8 years, then Hillary Clinton definitely is the person you should vote for as President in November.

There is almost a 100% chance she will follow the FDR/Obama 'Heavy Hand of Government Model'.

Not the 'Allow The American Economy Freedom To Grow Model' that Ronald Reagan employed as did President Bill Clinton once Congress came under Republican control in 1995 and he worked with them to balance the only 4 budgets we have seen in our lifetimes.



charts from CBO long-term projections, the first from Jan 2009 and the second from summer 2016



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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Was $400 Million in Unmarked Bills 'Ransom' Or Not?

Things just keep getting
curiouser and curiouser
the more we look at the
Iran Nuclear Deal, yes?
Believe it or not, aside from the whole question about whether the Iran Nuclear Deal was a 'good idea' to begin with, and the second question about whether $400 million paid in cash was 'ransom' in conflict with centuries of standard American policy to never negotiate with terrorists who take American hostages, there is a fundamental federal budget question to ask:

'Out of which federal fund was this whole deal consummated?'

We worked for a fine gentleman who was CEO of Harris-Teeter before he ran for Congress in 1984, Alex McMillan who knew more about budgeting, accounting and fiscal management than perhaps any Congressman before or since he served from 1985-95.

He used to always say this: 'If you want to see what someone's policy is in any field, business, government or personal account, follow their spending decisions and how they allocate their money. That will tell you what their priorities are.'

Let's take a look at how the Obama White House handled the financial transaction to complete this Iran Nuclear Deal so you can determine for yourself what you think the Obama priorities were.

First: On January 21, 2016, the White House told the WSJ the entire $1.7 billion was 'wired' to the Iranians as part of the completion of this past arms deal that Iran says they were owed $400 million.
'The U.S. Treasury Department wired the money to Iran around the same time its theocratic government allowed three American prisoners to fly out of Tehran on Sunday aboard a Dassault Falcon jet owned by the Swiss air force'
Hold it right there: If the money was reported as having been 'wired' in January, why then the need for $400 million in cash on pallets in small denominations in Dutch guilders, French francs, euros and American dollars, unmarked and untraceable, of course?

That begs the question: 'If $400 million was sent in cash on pallets to Tehran in an unmarked jet in the middle of the dark of night prior to the release of the 4 hostages, as we now know happened for sure, where the heck did the other $1.3 billion go? And was it ever sent by wire transfer to a central bank in Tehran from anywhere as is the case with normal transactions government-to-government?

Second: The White House is trying to spin the $400 million as Iran's money from the canceled arms deal in 1979 that took place before the overthrow of the Shah of Iran but before American arms were shipped to Tehran. Perhaps, but if it was just that, the $400 million in cash received in 1979 was supposed to have been held in an escrow account earning since 1979.

Escrow accounts typically do not pay interest unless agreed to during the negotiations prior to the agreement being executed. Escrow accounts are typically established to insure the pure safekeeping of the cash until the deal is consummated or reconciled later.

However, it appears as if the Obama Administration and State Department acquiesced once again in negotiating with our adversaries and gave them the imputed accrued interest on that amount as if it had been earning interest for 37 years.  Which it hadn't.

$1.4 billion in past accrued interest they came up with. Somehow.

The Obama Administration is implying that this $1.3 billion in 'accrued interest' is coming from some financial investment such as a bond in which that $400 million originally received from the Shah of Iran in 1979 was deposited and has been just earning and compounding interest since then.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

This $1.3 billion did not come from any earned interest in such a manner.

Care to guess where that $1.3 billion came from?

Your federal taxpayer dollars.

Right out of a line item in the Treasury Department which is a permanent Treasury Department fund established to cover court judgments and settlements which is annually appropriated funds during the normal appropriations process on Capitol Hill.

Again to reiterate and re-emphasize: This $1.3 billion in imputed accrued interest is not from 'actual' paid accrued interest from the $400 million originally received in 1979. It came from your hard-earned taxpayer dollars. US federal tax paid for through and through.

Here's the link to the Judgment Fund at the Bureau of the Fiscal Service at the US Department of Treasury out of which this $1.3 billion was paid. Check it out for yourself.

So, to summarize:

  1. Was this a 'ransom' paid or not?
  2. If it was, then what is Congress going to do about it in terms of punishing President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for engaging in such surreptitious activity?
  3. If it was not 'ransom', then why all the secrecy what with the unmarked plane arriving in the dead of the night like it was  in the movie 'Casablanca' or something and all the pallets of $400 million in cash in unmarked bills from a bunch of different currencies?
  4. What happened to the rest of the $1.3 billion in accrued interest that was supposedly 'wired' along with the $400 million (that arrived in cash on the plane in the dead of night)?
  5. Why does it look like the Obama Administration is lying about this and trying to cover it all up?
To be honest, the only time we have ever heard of cash being used in government circles is to bribe a politician or a dictator of a foreign government or to cover up a secret arms deal that no one wanted to be in the public's eye in the first place.

Do the names Oliver North, Fawn Hall, Elliott Abrams or John Poindexter mean anything to you?

They were involved in the Iran-Contra Affair in the 1980s where lots and lots of cash was exchanged for arms and hostages and Iran and Israel and the Contras in Nicaragua were involved as was the terrorist group, Hezbollah, supported by Iran and well...you should read the whole story sometime because back in 1986, the Democrats went bonkers on Capitol Hill once they found out about it being surreptitious and illegal and all that.
'In 1985, the Reagan Administration sought the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, and Iranian-backed terrorist organization. The U.S., without Congress’s knowledge, clandestinely sent American-made weapons to Iran through Israel in exchange for the release of the hostages.
The cash generated from the exchange was then used to purchase weapons that were funneled to the Contras, a guerrilla organization fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. The Americans held in Lebanon were released, but Hezbollah took more American hostages afterwards'
If you don't think the current Iran Nuclear/Hostage/Arms Deal Settlement episode raises the same sort of eyebrows on the Republican side of the aisle as Iran-Contra, you haven't been paying a lot of attention over the past 8 years.

Things just keep getting 'curiouser and curiouser' as Alice said in her 'Wonderland'.

Maybe the truth will come out in the House hearings soon. Maybe there is an aspiring young honest and fair and balanced reporter out there who really wants to do some serious investigative journalism like Woodward and Bernstein did long ago.

Then again, maybe pigs will fly one day as well. One of the very real dangers to our American democratic republic is when the free press decides to choose one side or the other and become a mouthpiece or spokesman for either party instead of presenting the truth to the American people.

Maybe one day, we will see a return to a truly free press as well, one free from the constraints of being political first  so they can become newsworthy and trustworthy once again.




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Sunday, July 31, 2016

The 'Monty Hall Election' or 'Let's Make A Deal!'

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement today after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its latest Long-Term Budget Outlook showing the national debt climbing to 141 percent of GDP by 2046, with real economic growth remaining at a depressed 2.1 percent on average over the next 30 years, and Medicare and Social Security facing insolvency.
“One wonders how anyone can look at this report and not feel compelled to take action.
We have no choice. The Congressional Budget Office is sending yet another wake-up call, and policymakers better listen. These debt projections portend a horrible fiscal legacy that is being left to our kids and grandkids with a correspondingly weak economic growth outlook that will mean less opportunity for our nation and its citizens in the years to come.
“The good news is that we can enact policies that ensure a more responsible fiscal outlook. A balanced budget would help deliver greater economic growth. We can protect current seniors and tomorrow's retirees from insolvent Medicare and Social Security programs. We can do all this while embracing policies that support a healthier and more vibrant economy.”

Let's take a look at what is really important about this upcoming election on November 8:

Our future. Your kid's future. Your grandkid's future.

No pressure, right?

We have written about this so many times before that we will just urge you once again to download and print out this 162-page CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook and read it in its entirety.

Keep it handy so you can take notes and scribble in the margins as you listen to the talk show hosts and the evening news and  see just how far off the mark all of them are when they misspeak or misquote the facts about our somewhat dire fiscal situation.

Just don't read it before you go to bed at night or else you will have nightmares.

The key to this election is electing a President who will lead the US Congress and Senate into a workable compromise on balancing our budget primarily through limitations on federal spending, reducing federal regulatory burdens on US businesses and passing legislation that basically frees up the creative energetic power of the free market to grow business which will then lead to more jobs and higher employment.

It sounds so simple. How can it be so hard to put into practice, then?

Which brings us to the great Monty Hall, host of the long-running 'Let's Make a Deal!' television show which ran from 1963 to 1976.

Despite this being perhaps one of the most raucous elections since those of 'Old Hickory' 'Gen'l Andy' Andrew Jackson's presidential campaigns near the beginning of the Republic (you ought to read about them and see how really nasty American campaigns used to be), we still have some very serious public policy decisions to make as a country and we are electing either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to lead us to those conclusions.

Who do you think has the best chance of being able to make deals with Congress to fix our national finances? Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

Monty Hall used to bring wild, enthusiastic people down from the audience, many dressed up in costume and paraphernalia that would make a French masquerade party seem tame by comparison, and offer them deals based on this simple premise:

'Do you keep what you know for sure is behind Door #1 or do you take a risk and trade it for what you hope will be a far greater prize behind Door #3?'

Sometimes behind Door #3, a contestant would see a bright new shiny red Mustang convertible behind the curtain which would make his/her trade of a Fridgidaire behind Door #1 seem like a great deal.

But sometimes behind Door #3 would be a booby prize which meant the contestant essentially traded down for nothing.

After decades of seeing and hearing and watching and investigating Hillary Clinton, we seem to know her pretty well inside and out, don't we? 26 years in the national limelight is plenty of time for people to form impressions of people in public life, whether rightly or wrongly. After that long of a time, it is difficult to imagine that the person you see in public is going to be much different for the rest of their lives.

Richard Nixon is the first person many people equate Hillary Clinton with when you ask them who she reminds you of in public life. Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower are not usually the first two comparisons you hear made.

Hillary Clinton is behind Door #1. Like her or hate her, she is a 'known quantity' when it comes to public life because she has made thousands of decisions either by vote in the US Senate or as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama for 4 years.

She has a record of supporting so many more government and liberal causes that her 'variance from the norm' based on her past will be relatively small if elected to the White House. Her tack further left to satisfy the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party on issues such as forgiving $1 trillion in student debt (guess who would pay for that, taxpayers?) virtually assures that she will be boxed into the same ideological corners as far to the left that Tea Party Republicans get boxed in to the right.

However, she is still a 'known quantity'. The chances of her reversing course and becoming a staunch advocate of the free market and fiscal sanity such as by curtailing federal spending first and foremost is about 10% perhaps.

On the other hand, you have Donald Trump who might be have as wide of a range of variance as any presidential candidate in modern history when it comes to being put in some political philosophical silo. He has no official voting record as an elected official so no one can point to this vote or that vote as 'proof' of what he would do if elected President in about 3 months now. He has no record as a Cabinet official such as Secretary of State, Treasury, Commerce or Defense that anyone can point to either as evidence of his 'good judgement' or 'lack thereof'.

Which is THE primary reason he has defeated every other candidate who had a record of elective service this past year when you come to think about it. 'None of the people with elective experience have solved many big problems we face' say his voters, 'so why not Donald Trump?'

Donald Trump is behind Door #3. He might be the 'bright new shiny red Mustang convertible' or, as many of his detractors believe, he might be the 'Unsafe at Any Speed' Corvair, as Ralph Nader coined it and killed it forever.
Is this 'Donald Trump' or 'Hillary Clinton'?

Let's say there is a 50/50 chance he could be either the shiny red Mustang or the Corvair. Are you willing to take that chance on the upside knowing that what you are going to get in Hillary Clinton has very little chance of ever turning out to be like the thrill of riding down the highway in a bright red Mustang convertible with your hair blowing in the wind like Donald Trump's blond hair one day?

Or is it just 'too risky'? In which case, you just keep riding along in the same old Edsel we are riding in now that is running out of gas and heading towards a financial and fiscal cliff with each passing day? (The Obama Economy, which Hillary Clinton would extend and continue as President Obama's third term legacy, just clocked in at a dismal 1.2% growth rate for 2Q, 2016)

Presidents rarely have campaigned in the past on one platform or set of basic philosophical political principles and then done a complete 180 degree about-face once elected and done the complete opposite in terms of proposing legislation and signing whatever came back from Congress.

FDR campaigned as a tight-fisted fiscal conservative in 1932, for example. Once elected, however, he went completely over to expanding the welfare state, first as a means to get people fed during the Great Depression, but then as a matter of leadership and getting re-elected despite repeated challenges and over-rulings from Chief Justice Louis Brandeis on the US Supreme Court that FDR had vastly overstepped his boundaries as Chief Executive of the nation.

Presidents have to be malleable to deal with any contingency that may arrive under their leadership. It would be very difficult to imagine a pacifist, anti-war President who promised to stay out of war, for example, not declare war against Japan the day after Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941.

Most of the time, they change once in office. Slightly. Hardly ever do US Presidents completely lie about what they will do once elected because if they do, they get beat in the next election usually.

The question you have to decide is this: Which person do you think can lead us out of this morass of fiscal and economic problems we face today....based on your reading of the problems we face in the Long-Term Budget Outlook we have just given you as an assignment to read?

Just make sure you read that as soon as you can. You don't want to make the wrong decision for the future of this country, do you?





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Friday, July 22, 2016

The 'Stag-Nothing' of President Obama's 8 Years In The White House

Remember the term 'stagflation'?

Unless you came of age during the late 70s/early 80s, this term will mean absolutely nothing to you.

It was a term coined by British Conservative politician, Iain Macleod, in 1965 who later became chancellor of the exchequer in England in 1970.

Generally, 'stagflation' was used to describe a horrible economic mess of a condition where bone-headed and wrong-minded government fiscal and monetary policies combined to produce high inflation, stagnant economic growth and high unemployment.

It was used to hammer President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential campaign by Ronald Reagan to great effect.

Why?

Because President Carter's almost completely inept leadership on fiscal and monetary policy during his only term in office led to outrageous rates of inflation, up to 12% by end of his term; 21% interest rates; unemployment rates that hit 10% less than a year after he left office on January 20, 1981 and a general sense of 'wrong direction' for the country such that even he had to admit it was a 'malaise' in a national address that was almost too hard to even watch.

Know what the 'dissatisfied with the way things are going' poll numbers under President Carter' were as recorded by Gallup in 1980?

77%

Know what they are today under President Barack Obama?

70%

That looks like the American people are about as 'unhappy' with the results they have gotten under President Obama's leadership as they were under President Jimmy Carter, doesn't it?

Look at those economic indicator numbers. They also led to the 'misery index' which Ronald Reagan used to ask people: 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?' to great effect and great success as he walloped Carter in the largest electoral wipeout of an incumbent President in American history.

We don't have rampant inflation rates today. We don't have rampant interest rates today. We don't have rampant 'official' unemployment rates today, although we do have 'rampant' under-employment and people leaving the workforce which does not affect the official unemployment rate because they are simply not looking for work due to discouragement and other factors.

What we have today after 8 years of President Obama's leadership (sic) and policies in America is this:

'Stag-nothing'

Seriously, think about it. We don't have anything even remotely close to an economic boom going on in America today.

Oddly enough, if we did have massive job creation and hiring going on, you would see interest rates and inflation start to drift up due to higher demand for money and the material and services that almost always accompany any even modest economic recovery.

It has now been 7.5 years under the leadership of President Obama who can not possibly still be blaming George W. Bush 43 for this lackluster economy, can he? (don't answer that)

We have somehow 'successfully' (sic) managed to rein in our humongous national economy, the most diverse and productive economy the world has ever seen, to slow to a virtual crawl after 8 years of increased taxes and regulations emanating from Washington federal bureaucracies like millions of fire ants spoiling a picnic.
What we need is a President who doesn't like more
fire ant regulation of American business

Since Barack Obama took office, and before he leaves on January 20, 2017, a record number of federal regulations will be issued by his Administration, did you know that? He will have presided over the record number of close to 640,000 pages as published in the Federal Register spewing bureaucratic verbiage to install over 24,000 new final rules and regulations to tell our nation's businesses mostly what they can and can not do.

FDR in his heyday of virtually nationalizing everything under his New Deal for 12 years probably didn't exceed those mind-numbing generation of promulgated regs.

People who like more government write more laws and more regulations. It just goes together like a hand-in-a-glove.

As a result of the wet blanket of these mind-numbing new regs when coupled with all the new taxes and deficit-spending under President Obama, we are now at the virtual stage of an economic standstill if there ever was one.

Let's review the cold hard facts of our economic situation today from official government sources:
  1. Inflation for the last year has averaged about 1%.
  2. Federal funds rate at the Federal Reserve is now 0.5%.
  3. US prime interest rate is 3.5%
  4. 'Official' Unemployment Rate is 5%.
  5. 'Real' Unemployment (U-6) Rate from Department of Labor is 9.6%.
  6. Close to 8 million Americans are 'officially' unemployed *
  7. Another 7.6 million Americans are under-employed or part-time looking for full-time *
  8. 15.6 million unemployed or under-employed Americans today *
  9. The Average Economic Growth Rate for the last 7.5 years under President Obama is 1.76%
1.76% average GDP growth for 8 long years. When we worked on Capitol Hill, any projection of growth rates below 3% per year were considered 'decimal dust' and 'ridiculous'.

'How could the greatest economic engine the world has ever known be kept BELOW 3%?' was the sentiment.

Well, we did it. Yippee. Congratulations.

In otherwise 'normal' economic times, inflation at near-zero levels would be terrific for business, economic expansion and massive job creation.

In otherwise 'normal' economic times, interest rates at historically low levels would be terrific for business, economic expansion and massive job creation.

In otherwise 'normal' economic times, unemployment rates at below 5% levels would be terrific for business and economic expansion since, obviously, massive job creation had presumably occurred.

In otherwise 'normal' economic times, unemployed people who wanted to work and make a living and provide for their family would be sprinting towards the job market, not leaving it in droves, as in many months under President Obama, when more people left the job market than the number of people who found jobs,

We have 'none' of that today, do we? Ask around. Ask your friends and families if they feel a sense of exuberance about their economic prospects and financial situation today.

Ask them if they are finding job opportunities jumping out at them from every source they meet.

That is what a 'normal' economic expansion would look and feel like. Older folks who experienced such expansions in the 1980s and mid-to-late 1990s can tell you that is exactly what it looked and felt like when they experienced it.

They don't see it happening right now. They have not seen it happen for the past 7.5 years.

So ask yourself this serious question in the privacy of your own home:
  • Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago? By a lot, by a little or not by much?
Any continuation of the same economic policies for the next 8 years will most likely yield the same desultory results.

'Stag-nothing'.

Is that what you really want for the next 8 years?


*(see Jobenomics for a full in-depth analysis of all the employment numbers)


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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

If Vouchers Are Good Enough for Veterans in the GI Bill…

Freedom of Choice in Education
First published in North State Journal, 7/17/16

People express concern from all sides of the political spectrum about the quality of our public education system.

Some say the answer is paying our teachers more money. Others believe the size of classes need to be reduced. Others say we need more modern curricula. Still others say we need to go back to basics and a classical education.

How about injecting a full dose of freedom of choice into public education nationwide?

Milton Friedman in his seminal book, ‘Free to Choose’ wrote about the dynamics of such freedom of choice in education in 1979. At the time, the experiments with vouchers and educational choice had very limited experience up to that point.

We have had 37 years since then to evaluate whether the established public education model with ‘big box’ schools and heavy administrative overhead has worked to better educate the youth of our country.

You can decide for yourself whether it has worked well or not.

Before you completely go bonkers about ‘vouchers in public education’, though, consider two things that might pop your opposition balloon pretty quickly:

1) The GI bill allows veterans to get funding from the federal government to use at ANY institute of higher learning whether it is public, private, religious or graduate school ANYWHERE in the country.

Millions of veterans have taken full advantage of the GI bill which is nothing but a voucher any way you slice-or-dice it. No restrictions on using federal taxpayer money for any purpose other than letting the veteran get a college or graduate degree at any college or university of his or her choice.

Not the government’s choice or with any restrictions.

2) Have you ever heard of the North Carolina Legislative Tuition Grant Program funded by North Carolina state tax dollars since 1975?

According to their official description, ‘(t)he NCLTG program pays a grant to eligible undergraduate North Carolinians enrolled at an approved private institution’.

That’s right. Your publicly-paid and supported North Carolina tax dollars are annually appropriated for the targeted purpose of helping North Carolina undergraduates pay for expenses at approved, eligible ‘private’ universities in the state.

Here’s a short list of the private universities your state tax dollars have been going to help students pay their tuition for the past 41 years:  Duke, Davidson, Mars Hill, Wake Forest, Shaw, Lenoir-Rhyne, Guilford, Belmont Abbey.

Virtually every private college or university in North Carolina is eligible for a student to use this grant of just under $2000/annually to pay for college tuition. Close to 50,000 students annually are given this state grant subsidy to the tune of $88.4 million in this year’s budget.

If that is not a form of a full choice ‘voucher’ to pay for higher education at private universities, some of which still maintain some form of religious affiliation, then there is no such thing as a true voucher anywhere in the country.

To summarize, the GI Bill has worked well for the past 81 years and has enjoyed bi-partisan support every year. North Carolina has long been using taxpayer funds to subsidize college tuition at private colleges and universities.

What exactly is the problem with vouchers again when it comes to public education?

The key point for everyone to remember is that the only objective we must achieve is educating our youth in the best way possible. If the current status quo has failed to achieve that objective over the past 50 years, isn’t it time to change and do something different?

Injecting more parental choice in public education might be the way to go. It works for GIs and North Carolinians who go to private colleges on the taxpayers' dime.

Why not our schoolchildren?


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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Why Do Hillary Clinton's Emails 'Matter' In the First Place?

Benedict Arnold-Was He Or Was He Not 'Extremely Careless'
with Sensitive Classified Information Under Gen'l Washington?
There is a lot of chatter going on about FBI Director James Comey's decision not to recommend a prosecution of presumptive Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her 'extremely careless' handling of classified emails while Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

Sadly, much of the chatter immediately degenerated into political barrages, most of which was not based on any personal expertise or actual experience with classified information in the federal government to begin with.

So what else is new in this social media age?

We like to deal with original documents and data resources when we dig into budget, tax and health care issues and then let you decide for yourself what you think about each issue.

The issue of the proper use and handling of classified documents is so important we thought we would devote an extra large dosage of information for you to use as you decide what to think about this whole ordeal.

Loss of classified information no matter from what level is extremely dangerous and should not just be dismissed out-of-hand as a trivial matter.

Because it is not.

Protection against espionage is as old as the American Republic to begin with. General George Washington was particularly attuned to it as portrayed in the pretty well-documented AMC series 'Turn: Washington's Spies' which you should watch if you get the chance.

General Washington did not take the loss of confidential secured classified information very kindly. He authorized the execution of those who participated in the loss of sensitive information as they were caught and discovered.

In this case, we reached out to several folks who are experts or attorneys in the world of federal classified information for some background for you to consider as you follow the fallout from the FBI decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton.

A) First, here's a personal reflection from our experience as we went through the secret clearance process to be a congressional staffer who could gain access to secured classified information for a subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the US House of Representatives:

Getting a secret clearance to review classified federal government information is hard. Getting 'top secret' clearance is very difficult.

Gaining access to any classified information means you have to submit a very detailed questionnaire that you have to sign under penalty of the law if you submit falsified information in any way before you get completely grilled by interviewers who not only interview you as a candidate to gain classified information but also dozens of other people who know you or might be part of your immediate or extended family.

Imagine the surprise of your siblings when one calls up to say: 'I got a call from the FBI today to talk about you. I hope you haven't done anything wrong'.

Quite honestly, during our interview, we were more than surprised to find out that the interrogator brought up a few things about the past that caused a shiver to go down our spine and wonder: 'How did they ever find out about that?'

Once secret clearance was granted, we had to go through a training session on how we were going to access the classified material in question that lasted several hours.

During this training, we were told in no uncertain terms that what we were going to see on a classified basis was 'important to our collective national security' and 'any breach of security regarding the information in question would be dealt with the most severe penalties possible under the law'.

No one came out of that briefing with any sort of ambiguity about what that meant. ANY release of information, whether deliberately or by accident, would put any one of us into severe jeopardy, legal and career-wise.

Beyond that, however, was this very clear and succinct message:
'Any and all classified information in the federal government is that way for a reason. People could die and our national security could be compromised with ANY release of classified information no matter how big or small we may have thought it was. SO DON'T DO ANYTHING STUPID TO RELEASE THE INFORMATION!'

When we went to view the material, we were asked to empty our pockets of all pencils, pens, papers, wallets and anything else that could be used to take notes and then walk out with them.

About the only things we were allowed to take into the secure room were the clothes we were wearing that day to work.

Before we went into the secured room guarded by 2 military guards, we each had to sign an affidavit that what we were about to see and hear in the room would not be divulged to anyone outside of that secured room.

We went into the secured room where they locked the door behind us and we were allowed to view the material and ask questions for about an hour.

After the meeting, the door was unlocked from the outside and we were escorted out of the room but not before we were essentially frisked to make sure we were not trying to walk off with one of the secured binders of classified information, which would have been quite uncomfortable given that it was about 3 inches thick and in one of those large binder notebooks.

We were reminded once again of our oath to protect everything we saw or heard in the classified briefing from being disseminated in any way, shape or form and we were not allowed to discuss anything we saw with anyone outside of the room.

Then we were allowed to go back into the halls of Congress and resume our regular workday.

That was the regular course of treatment of classified information for any Congressman, Senator or congressional staff who was involved in any intelligence matter and who 'needed to know it' to conduct the course of their work on Capitol Hill.

B) Here's a comment from a former White House staffer who was in charge of classified clearance for White House staff and officials:
'For any of my friends who don't realize how unlikely it is for classified information to accidentally end up on a non-classified computer or server (government or personal).
Classified computer systems are physically separate from non-classified systems. They do not connect in any way. It is not possible to accidentally email from a classified system to a non-classified system.
When I had a classified computer system at my desk, I had to physically switch a toggle on a box on my desk, to even get to the classified system and did not have any access to my unclassified computer system while working on the classified one. We were all instructed to never remove any classified information from the premises, and certainly, never ever take it home!!
Additionally, I had to log off of that system at the end of every work day, physically remove the hard drive, and lock it up overnight. If it was discovered my hard drive was not locked up (yes, co-workers were expected to check/report on each other), I could receive a security violation, which could lead to the loss of my clearance, and therefore the loss of my job.
We were all expected to take the most extreme measures possible to protect this information. There are tens of thousands of Americans who follow these precautions every day, because they care about ensuring the safety of the American public and protecting our National Security.'

Fortunately, 99% of the people who work in the federal government with classified information take it very seriously to protect our national security.

That is what makes this whole case with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton so disturbing to begin with.

ANY rational person would have to believe that the Secretary of State of the United States of America, of all people, would take extraordinary steps to protect classified information at least as seriously as the lowest-ranking career civil servant at the State Department who had access to such classified information.

Yes or no? It is not a trick question.

C) Here's a comment from an attorney in Northern Virginia who right now, today, is defending several people who had access to classified government information and are being charged with various violations of the very same 'classified' laws and regulations of the State Department and Department of Defense that governed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and all of her staff while still in that office:
'I'm working on some cases right now where ordinary citizens are being pursued by the federal government for "recklessly" failing to report the potential release of classified information.
No actual release.
No intent.
Just alleged failure to report it.'
Did you get that? His client is being charged not for releasing the information; not for actually forwarding the classified information to anyone; not selling it in a treasonous deal with ISIS operatives but only for their 'alleged failure to report the potential release of classified information'.

If that was a standard the FBI used against Hillary Clinton and all of her key aides who participated in this transmission of multiple sensitive classified emails, 'failure to report it', then all of them would have to be guilty since none of this would have even come to light except for the Benghazi hearings long ago that brought them to the national forefront.

One thing that really bugs us is the apparent insouciance of many on the left to discount the importance of this breach of security and gross 'extremely carelessness' when it came to Secretary Clinton and her aides handling classified State Department emails.

These are not recipes for beef stew that are being posted on classified State Department emails like you see on Facebook or Instagram.

These are travel plans, names, strategies and plans of attack by American servicemen or diplomats or CIA agents or spies, all of which we have to protect with the utmost reliability or else, as our trainer said back on Capitol Hill, 'people will die and our collective national security will be compromised'

This is a far more serious case than just being 'another political witch hunt' as some on the left and in the Hillary apologist crowd want you to believe and dismiss as they do.

Even though the FBI and now the DOJ have failed to prosecute, there are other steps that can and should be taken to restore some of the confidence that has been lost by the American public watching this play out on national tv.

For one thing, any and all of Hillary Clinton's aides and her lawyers, none of whom had security clearance Director Comey admitted today in his congressional hearing so they should not have been allowed to review the emails in the first place, should be allowed to gain security clearance of any degree or level if Hillary Clinton does become President Clinton and she asks them to join her in the White House.

That is what 'extremely careless' handling of sensitive, secure and classified information would get you, as an ordinary citizen and employee of the State Department, at the very, very, very minimum.

If you didn't go to jail, that is.



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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Most Important Book You Can Read This Summer

Besides the Bible or whichever religious scriptural text you choose to follow, that is.

It occurred to us recently that if you were born in any year after 1980, believe it or not, you have a very limited appreciation or even knowledge of a time in America when things were moving along at a fairly robust economic clip where people were joining the workforce, not dropping out of it, because there were so many jobs been created everywhere.

Think about it. If you were born in 1980, you were turning just 20 years old when President George W. Bush 43 was sworn into office in 2001. Unless you were a very unusual child prodigy interested in economics or business, you probably did not pay as much attention to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and economic growth data from the US Department of Treasury, OMB and the President's Council of Economic Advisors as you did to video games, sports, dating or any other diversion pertaining to youth.

You did not see or fully understand the economic recovery explosion America experienced under President Ronald Reagan from 1982-1988. You did not see or fully understand the economic explosion under President Bill Clinton from 1995-2000, fueled mostly by the rise of the internet but also because of sound fiscal and economic policies from the Clinton Administration which mercifully brought in businessmen such as North Carolina's own Erskine Bowles to run things at the White House.

As soon as you were sentient about what was going on in the world around you, 9/11 hit and the Dawn of the Age of Global Terrorism was upon us. The economy weakened under President Bush and never really got going very well before the financial house of cards crashed in 2008 and we experienced the worst recession/depression since the Great Depression from 1929 until we entered World War II after Pearl Harbor in December, 1941.

The 1.76% annual rate of growth under President Barack Obama is quite simply, the worst economic record of any modern American President.

If that had been for just one term, that would have been bad enough. But for two full terms or 8 straight years???

Normally, that would have been labeled as 'catastrophic!' by the national media. Had that been the record of any Republican President, of course. However, since the mainstream news media has long since forgotten how to be impartial, fair and balanced, they defend the economic record of President Obama as 'terrific!' which redounds only to the detriment of all the young people who can't find a good job now or have to work 3 jobs just to make ends meet.

What can change all of that?

We have started to re-read 'Free to Choose', a magnificently easy-to-read primer on market economics by Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, formerly of the Chicago School of Economics.

We remember reading this book in 1980 and feeling like a massive neon light went off in our brains. We had been indoctrinated in high school and college with the advantages of the welfare state and how great 'top-down' management of the economy supposedly was.

But we were watching the US economy melt down all around us as we graduated from college. Inflation hit 12%; interest rates were approaching 21%, President Jimmy Carter instituted gas-rationing where you had to figure out if you could go fill up the gas tank in your car on odd-or-even days (don't ask); Iran held 52 American hostages for 444 days in Tehran and things just generally felt like they were going to hell in a hand-basket.

Things were not going as splendidly as the people who loved more government and bureaucratic control of everything wanted you to believe in 1980. In fact, almost everything run by the federal government was falling apart at the time. Deficits were running about 35% each year and the national debt was 'spiraling out of control'. (It was 'only' $908 billion but the economy was only $2.8 trillion in GDP at the time as well)

Which is the prime reason why the American people voted Ronald Reagan in as President and kicked Jimmy Carter to the curb in what is still the largest landslide vote to turn out an incumbent president in American history, 489-49 electoral votes.

Here's why we think it is so important for everyone, especially every young person, to read Mr. Friedman's book this summer:

'It will give you hope for the future'

'Free to Choose' gives you a roadmap for the proper role of government in American economic life. Mr. Friedman says the role of the federal government, or government anywhere, should be as a 'referee', not as a 'participant' in any economic endeavor.

The amazing part of American history is the extent to which we have always aimed for the idealism embodied in Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations' that free men and free women, acting on their own initiative and hard work, can produce a society where goods and services are freely transacted on a daily basis to the benefit of everyone involved.

The more government interferes with those decisions, the less efficient and productive the economy becomes, almost as if the fuel injection systems of your high-tech automobile are gummed up with residue, muck and carbon build-up.

'Clean out the carburetors and let the engine run smooth as silk' was Mr. Friedman's basic message, to date this book back to a time when there were carburetors to clean out in a car's engine in the first place.

We have reached another hinge point in American history very similar to the one we faced in 1980. The economy is dragging along as if it has a $20 trillion debt burden on its back (it does) in addition to a wet blanket of regulations, rules and taxes as deep as the volcanic ash that covered Pompeii from President Obama's 7.5 years in office.
The Crushing Effects of President Obama's Taxes,
Laws and Promulgated Regulations on the
American Economy

This is by no means an argument for 'no government' as detractors of free market economics say whenever faced with arguments advocating more economic freedom and less government control.

As Mr. Friedman said, the government should be a 'referee', not a participant in economic transactions made between free people. One of the worst things that happened during the Crash of 2008-2009 was that young people saw hundreds, if not thousands of Wall Street bankers and money-changers essentially get bailed out of their own freely-made economic decisions that turned out to be disastrous, and hardly any of them were forced into bankruptcy or, if crimes were committed, tried and sent to prison.

Most, if not all, were restored to full economic health and massive wealth by you, the individual taxpayer with help from the Federal Reserve 'expanding their balance sheet'.

It had the same detrimental impact to young people observing it all as watching a wealthy guy cheat on the golf course. Any other golfer would be disqualified from the tournament if he so much as started to putt the ball and it moved. The Wall Street bankers basically took 10 mulligans on each hole; kicked the ball out of the rough like Judge Smails in 'Caddyshack' and laughed about it all the way to the bank after taking your money in a $1 trillion Nassau.



(click through title link of this post to see video)

We have to restore confidence in the private sector. We can not have a healthy economy if we continue on the Obama pathway towards more government, more socialism and more bureaucratic control of our economy.

Mr. Friedman opens his book with this pithy observation:
'We have not yet reached the point of no return. We are still free as a people to choose whether we shall continue speeding down the 'road to serfdom' as Friedrich Hayek (said) or whether we shall set tighter limits on government and rely more heavily on voluntary cooperation among free individuals to achieve our several objectives.
Will our golden age come to an end in a relapse into the tyranny and misery that has always been, and remains today, the state of most of mankind? Or shall we have the wisdom, the foresight, and the courage to change our course, to learn from experience, and to benefit from a 'rebirth of freedom'?
Read 'Free to Choose' this summer at the beach. Buy copies and give one to each member of your family, your extended family, your neighbors, co-workers and church congregation. Give one to every person you meet in the street.

It is that important of a book.

And far more important to the future our our country than, say, reading 'Bay of Sighs' or 'End of Watch', two books on the New York Times best-seller list this summer.


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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

'We Have Never Seen Such Negativity In American Politics Before!'

Lee Atwater
Said no one ever who has worked in any national or statewide or congressional or senatorial campaign.

There's been a lot of hand-wringing about the negativity we have seen so far in this presidential campaign that started really, in essence, the day after President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012.

It just 'seems' like an eternity, doesn't it?

If there was one thing we could or should do to restore some tiny sliver of sanity to our presidential politics, it would be to return to the days of when the intensity of a presidential campaign didn't start up until after Labor Day, took a brief hiatus during the World Series at the end of October and mercifully ended the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every 4 years.

Don't really know how to do it since campaigning and spending money to get elected are part of everyone's protected right to free speech and all that. So get ready for the next presidential campaign for 2020 to start, well, it has already started for the ones who were vanquished in the primaries this year plus others who want to be President because they 'just know' they are better suited than either of the 2 nominees this year, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Two things seem to be going on nowadays:

  1. Not many younger people seem to have read much history
  2. The faux 'indignation!' of the major news channels, cable and radios talk show hosts is a ruse to keep you, the political news consumer, coming back for more so the more titillating the news story, the higher their ratings which drives their ad revenues to ever higher levels which leads to more profits for all the 'bad' corporations which includes liberal outlets such as NBC, ABC, CBS and MSNBC.
If you read any history about presidential politics in America, you will quickly discover that negative campaigning has been with us from the beginning and Founding of our Republic. George Washington was the only person to ever run unopposed and elected unanimously by the Electoral College.

It has all been downhill since.

John Adams, or one of the political operatives behind John Adams, is attributed as saying the following about Thomas Jefferson, the Writer of Our Declaration of Independence, for goodness sakes!:
"(Mr. Jefferson) was nothing but a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father, as was well known in the neighborhood where he was raised, wholly on hoe-cake (made of course-ground Southern corn), bacon, and hominy, with an occasional change of fricasseed bullfrog, for which abominable reptiles he had acquired a taste during his residence among the French in Paris, to whom there could be no question he would sell his country at the first offer made to him cash down, should he be elected to fill the Presidential chair"
In response, Mr. Jefferson, who was a Governor of Virginia in addition to many other important positions, or those in his political camp such as James Callender, called Mr. Adams, the sitting Vice-President of the United States! at the time:
"(A) hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."

(click through title link of this post if you want to see video content of Adams/Jefferson feud. And really, who doesn't enjoy seeing political fights even from the early 19th century?)



We worked with Lee Atwater on our re-election campaign in 1986, who, if nothing else, was one of the latest in the direct line of campaign operatives that originated with James Callender and which includes James Carville and David Axelrod and Paul Manafort who is now running the Trump campaign.

Lee was part of the Republican campaign consulting firm, Black, Manafort, Stone and Atwater in the 1980s which didn't lose many campaigns. One of Lee's guiding principles was to find ways that would drive up the 'negatives' or unfavorable ratings of his candidate client's opponents over 40%.

'If you can do that, you candidate will not lose!' he would say with the thought being that voters will vote against a candidate who is viewed as being more detrimental than the other with more emotion and certitude than they vote 'for' all the the favorable ratings of your candidate could ever imagine.

The psychological and emotional effects of a negative impression of a person you may know is far more impactful on your decision to spend time with them in any way than any multitude of favorable attributes that person might have.

We learned from the 'Positive Coaching Alliance' that it takes between 7-10 positive comments from a coach to rebuild the attitude of any young player for every 1 negative comment.

The same can be said about voting for a presidential candidate. And if you hear 10,000 absolutely outlandish, and in the case of Mitt Romney's character assassination by the Obama campaign, untrue and unfounded ads about his business career and integrity, there is not enough time to run 100,000 positive ads that you will see to unwind the damage of those negative ads.

Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis was on the receiving end of one of Lee's more famous attacks ads, the 'Willie Horton' ads in 1988. He pointed out that his campaign thought they could run a totally positive campaign, despite having hammered former Missouri Dick Gephardt as being a 'flip-flopper' to win the Democratic primary in the first place.

He was proven wrong.

'Negative ads are the crack cocaine of politics' former Democratic Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle often said in public. *

GOP campaign consultant Mike Murphy, who despite having $150 million this year to help Jeb!(Bush) (sic) win the Republican nomination, which didn't happen, is credited with saying: “(T)he only difference between negative and positive ads is that negative ads have facts in them.”**

President Obama used negative ads in 2012 to bludgeon the formerly sterling reputation of Mitt Romney into an unrecognizable pulp to win re-election to the White House.

Former Republican Bill Clinton destroyed long-term Republican Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole long before the general election was held in November, 1996 with a series of negative attacks, many of which were unanswered which is the absolute worst thing any candidate can allow happen in politics.

So get ready for a barrage of negative ads from both the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns.

You ain't seen nothing yet. Trust us.

Apparently the threshold for Lee Atwater's negative ratings is now 70% since both candidates seem to be heading that way on their own.

Imagine what will happen when each side helps them get there.

quotes * and ** from great article 'Nuke 'Em' by Frank Rich. Read this if you want a more full summary of negative ads in American politics from the beginning through Andrew Jackson, Harry Truman to LBJ on Goldwater to today. You will notice not too much is different

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

What Happened To Lower Tuition Rates In North Carolina?


(first printed in North State Journal, June 12, 2016)

For years, advocates for low in-state tuition at North Carolina’s public universities have screamed at the General Assembly for allowing in-state tuition to ‘skyrocket’.

Even though they still are at least 40 percent lower than in-state tuition at public universities in our neighboring states, Virginia to the north and South Carolina to the south.

The state Senate recently tried to help college students and their families at five state-supported universities with a proposal that would help them save close to $10,000 in college tuition costs over the next four years.

Many of these families would have had to have received a $1000 tax credit for the next 10 years to equal $10,000 in savings.

The five universities were Western Carolina, Pembroke State, and three historically black schools (HBCUs): Winston-Salem State; Fayetteville State and Elizabeth City State.

However, HBCU supporters thought they saw this as a backdoor way to weaken the three HBCU institutions and successfully got them removed from the list. Western Carolina and Pembroke State students are now the only ones left who will benefit from this $10,000 price cut if it makes its way into the final bill signed into law at the end of this legislative session.

What in the world is going on here?

Did opponents of this proposal ask any current HBCU student or family supporting those students at these three universities if that was okay with them? Was there any kind of poll taken or survey asking these 12,000 students and their families if they were ‘happy’ that they were going to have to cough up $2,500 more per year for the next four years to go to one of these three universities than they would have had to if the Senate proposal been accepted and passed into law?

Whatever happened to the state constitution’s free in-state tuition ‘as far as is practicable’ argument? Isn’t $1,000 annual tuition better for the student and the family than paying $3,500-$4,000 annually for the same university?

Isn’t a lower tuition closer to being free as far as practicable far better than paying a higher in-state tuition fee by anyone?

The argument has been made that the ‘trust level’ is not what it should be between member institutions and the General Assembly. The expressed fear was that the roughly $70 million in additional funding the Senate proposal was going to provide for these five state universities to make up for the lower tuition might be removed in future years.

State funding for anything can be removed at any time for any reason, political or economic. The $70 million could be replaced by higher in-state tuition next year if there was a ‘revolt’ of some sort from the students and families at these three HBCUs because they did not like paying such a low in-state tuition this year — which would be highly unlikely, if you really think about it.

To put this in context, consider what state tax cuts would have had to have been for these 12,000 students and families to be equal to the lower tuition that was proposed:

• Many of these families would have had to have received a targeted 100 percent state income tax cut for the next 10 years to equal $10,000 in savings.

• Many of these families would have had to have received a $1,000 tax credit for the next 10 years to equal $10,000 in savings.

As it is, the students at Western Carolina and Pembroke State now stand to gain close to $10,000 in more disposable cash available or savings kept vis-à-vis their HBCU counterparts at these three universities starting August 2016.

One father of an incoming freshman at Western Carolina told me that he felt like he 'had just hit the lottery!' He is a minister so every dollar he and his wife can save from in-state tuition is helpful to say the least.

Modern Math must be more complicated than previously thought.

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