Sunday, January 31, 2016

Would The Syracusans Have Given The War Machines of Archimedes To The Invading Romans?

Archimedes' 'Weapon of Mass Destruction', circa 211 BC
Did Archimedes of Syracuse freely give away the technology behind his catapult, claw and sun mirrors that burned ships to the Romans who wanted to conquer his home city?

Did the Athenians 'just give away' their trade secrets in making their ship-battering triremes to the Spartans and Persians and forfeit their naval superiority to their mortal enemies 'just for the heck of it'?

These were the sort of thoughts that rumbled through our heads as we were talking with someone who is far more adept at understanding and explaining the intricacies of nuclear energy as it pertains to the Obama Iran Nuclear Deal recently completed.

What kind of sense does it make to give one of the worst sponsors of terrorism around the globe, Iran, with the stated purpose of destroying America, Israel and western civilization as we know it, the pathway and the money to building a nuclear weapon, period?

Perhaps adding salt to the wound is the fact that it was done by the single action of one person in this country, President Barack Obama, through an executive order. He did not do this even as a treaty with US Senate concurrence as called for in the US Constitution.

If you can think of a single instance in human history where any country, superpower or not, has willfully armed its adversary with the most powerful military weapon at the time, we would like to hear about it.

Because we simply can not think of another precedent anywhere close to the Iran Nuclear Deal.

What does an oil-rich nation need nuclear energy for anyway? They have one of the lowest costs of production of oil in the world to power their nation's needs. Iran could perhaps more than most other nations try to harness solar energy in the deserts of Iran.

Why do they 'absolutely have to have nuclear energy' in the first place and 'why now' in the second place?

Here's a very short beginner's primer in the steps in developing the capacity for nuclear energy according to this double Ph.D in the sciences, although he did admit he was not a nuclear engineer or physicist:
  1. You need about 5Kg (about 11 pounds) of plutonium 239 or 15Kg (33 pounds) of uranium 235 to make a nuclear weapon.
  2. Problem is, plutonium is virtually non-existent in nature … so you have to create it . The process of creating P-239 is pretty involved.
  3. We get P-239 as a byproduct of a nuclear reaction (i.e., you need a reactor to do it) involving uranium 238 and a chemical separation process.  The process yields impure plutonium that is graded (according to percent contamination by plutonium 240 created in the reactor) roughly as follow: < 3% = super grade, < 7% = weapons grade, < 18% = fuel grade, other = reactor grade.
  4. The uranium 238 required to make plutonium 239 is mostly what we find in nature, but is not fissile. We need a different type of uranium to fuel the nuclear reactor that will be used the production P-239 from U-238.  This other type of uranium is U-235.  In nature, U -235 is the only fissile material and it is found mixed in with U-238 in concentration of about 0.7%. In high enough concentration, U-235 can also be made into a weapon.  The trick is to get higher concentration of U-235 than is found in its natural mix with U-238.  The  process of increasing the concentration of U-235 is called enrichment. There are several processes that can be used to enrich uranium (diffusion, laser, and most commonly centrifuge). In high enough concentrations, U-235 can be used to make a bomb (about 90% U-235 would work)
    .
  5. Enrichment is a technical challenge.  (Go read the history of Oakridge,TN and their electromagnetic enrichment process during the Manhattan Project.  It required so much electric power that the government had to build the TVA to supply it, and it took nearly every ounce of silver held by US Mints to construct low impedance conductor bars.) It takes MANY centrifuges (very complex technology) a long time to yield highly enriched (weapons grade) uranium in sufficient quantities to be a nuclear threat.
  6. Commercial nuclear power is, today, a natural pathway into weapons development.
  7. Commercial  reactors need fuel that is moderately enriched … of course it is also obtained from centrifuges.  Once in place, centrifuge technologies can in principle be extended to reach weapons grade enrichment, or simply used to fuel a reactor that processes spent commercial fuel (which contains lots of U-238) into plutonium in a breeder program. It is very difficult to monitor production of reactor fuel because of the fuel’s small dimensions and the materials isolation needed to ensure safety.
  8. It all begins with uranium, and you would think that the source mines (there are very few on the world) could be managed. Problem is, there is a lot of U-238 out there loose in the world because of the viability of 60 years of commercial nuclear energy.  A lot of U-238 is in the form of low grade waste from spent nuclear reactor fuels, and unused fuel grade material that is produced the power industry.
Believe it or not, the thing that scared this engineering professor and me the most is not the fact that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are turning over this nuclear technology to a nation that has shown absolutely zero inclination to being 'one of the good guys' in the world in terms of promoting peace and fighting oppression and terrorism.

It is the fact that we have eliminated the embargoes that have held up to $150 billion out of the leaders of Iran's hands for the past 35 years to fund more terrorism around the world.

Know what Secretary of State Kerry said on January 21?

"I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists," he said in the interview in Davos, referring to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"You know, to some degree, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented'.


Wow. For a minute there, he had us worried that he didn't think any of the money was going to go to fund terrorism! Talk about a Pollyanna-ish, Panglossian view of the world and human nature that would have been for a US Secretary of State!

Former Secretaries of State Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Clay, Webster, Seward, Hull, Marshall, Acheson, Rusk among others must be rolling in their graves thinking about how the US under President Obama has just given the green light to one of our worst adversaries ever in American history to develop the bomb.

Imagine if we had 'just given' the Bomb to Adolf Hitler had we had it before 1939. 'Sure he is a bad guy...but he is going to get it anyway so let's just give it to him now! (which is why our parents and grandparents, not us, fought in World War II in the first place: to destroy Hitler and the murderous Nazi regime)

We have not even given our former adversaries and now long-term proven solid economic and strategic allies, Germany and Japan, direct capabilities to make their own nuclear weapons after 81 years of peace and stability with them! (Given their history, do you really want a re-militarized Germany or Japan with nuclear bomb capability?)

But today, right now, we are giving the keys to a nuclear bomb to one of our most staunch adversaries and advocates of terrorism, Iran?

That doesn't make any sense at all, does it? At least our parents and grandparents crushed the life out of the completely evil and destructive Nazi and Japanese regimes in 1945 before we helped rebuild both countries into the economic and democratic societies they are today.

Shouldn't we at least make 100% sure that Iran: 1) Will not sponsor any more terrorism; 2) Support the right of Israel to exist and 3) Stop killing Americans around the globe before we give them any pathway to possessing a nuclear bomb?

It is easier to fight and subdue a rogue nation before they gain nuclear capabilities. Not after.

Just ask the professor who gave us the primer above. Or go back in time and see what the Syracusans would say about 'giving' Archimedes' secrets for making war machines to the Roman invaders.

They would say we are crazy to do so.


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Saturday, January 23, 2016

'No Compromise!' Stance of Republicans Has Led To Donald Trump

Elected Conservatives' Reading For Past 15 Years
The National Review has dedicated its recent edition to making the case with 22 'conservative' commentators that Donald Trump should not be the choice of Republican voters for President of the United States of America.

We can tell you why Donald Trump is slaying all incumbent Republican elected officials in 11 words:

'They have not gotten anything done for the past 15 years!'

Nothing of major bipartisan consequence, that is. The least of which is the federal budget and national debt as you will see below.

There is absolutely nothing 'conservative' about allowing the national debt to explode either by commission or omission of effort while any conservative Republican is in elective office anywhere in Washington, D.C. Conservatives have collectively failed the American people by not arresting federal spending and deficits when: 1) they had control of the White House and/or Congress and 2) by failing to work every day to cut deals with Democrats in control of the White House or Congress to do the same by whatever means necessary.

All of the hot air blown out over the airwaves over the past 15 years has accomplished exactly the same result as when you flick a square of Jello with your finger and it shivers a little while on the plate...and then returns to the exact same position it was in the beginning.

President George W. Bush was a Republican and the US Congress and Senate were under GOP leadership for most of his time in the White House. He did get the Bush Tax Cuts through Congress* along with authorization and money to prosecute the War in Afghanistan after 9/11 which most people supported and the War in Iraq which divided America in ways we are still trying to repair.

The reason why nothing has gotten done in a big bipartisan way is because neither side understands or remembers the importance of the word 'compromise' in American democratic republican government history. 

Today, we are focusing on the failure of the Republicans. We have already pointed out the many failings of President Obama in this regard.

So-called 'conservative' commentators noted above have held to the shibboleth of 'No New Taxes!' for 25 years now, ever since President G.H.W. Bush 41 'broke his promise!' and signed a budget control bill that included some taxes in 1990.

Lesson #1: Don't make promises in politics.
Lesson #2: When you do make them, don't break them.

Can anyone remember what the tax hikes were in that bill? (answers below)

Nope.  But you know what else was in that bill?
  1. PAYGO, The law that forced legislators to either find savings in other existing program to pay for new programs they want or propose new taxes to pay for them.

    (Think of the fiscal discipline that was lost in this one budget tool when Bush 43 and a GOP Congress repealed PAYGO in 2003-2004 so they could pass their tax cuts)
     
  2. Discretionary spending caps on non-entitlement federal programs.
  3. Overall spending discipline that forced Congress to do a better job of congressional oversight to make sure your taxpayer money was spent more wisely and efficiently or else they would have to raise taxes to pay for new programs.

Know what that led to?

Correct. 7 years later in 1997, we had our first balanced budget since under President Eisenhower in 1960.

President Bill Clinton signed a deal negotiated by his chief of staff Erskine Bowles with Republican leaders Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Tom DeLay and John Kasich in 1997 based on the foundation of the 1990 agreement and a Republican budget called 'Cutting Spending First' that started on the Republican side of the House Budget Committee in 1993.

We had balanced budgets and actually paid DOWN federal debt from 1998-2001 to the tune of just under $1 trillion.

Can you even believe that happened not too long ago in our lifetimes? Hard to believe given our current fiscal straight-jacket we find ourselves in today with $19 trillion in national debt staring us in the face.

The point is this: Massive amounts of 'compromising' went on in 1990 to get the 1990 budget agreement done. It included 3 tax increases: 1) the cap on Medicare payroll taxes was lifted on earned income; 2) federal cigarette taxes were doubled to 4 cents/pack; and 3) a 'yacht tax' was imposed on high-end yacht purchases.

No 'conservative' back then liked voting for these tax hikes. In fact, they had the dry heaves before the vote thinking about voting for them.

However, they knew what they were about to get in return for having to swallow these tax hikes:

Massive Budget Discipline and Restraint. The core bedrock of conservative principles towards self-governance for centuries.

'Conservatives' who wanted to keep federal spending down got the following: a lower overall federal baseline in overall spending that led to the balancing of the budget for the last 4 years of the decade.

Probably $3-5 trillion in additional debt was avoided during the 1990's because of the compromise of 1990 which included taxes and the 1997 budget agreement that did not include higher taxes (although there were higher 'fees' on certain federal programs)

Now THAT is a 'conservative' value. Saving money and avoiding debt is a 'conservative' value. Having a smaller bloated federal government without the capacity to overburden the American economy with overwrought regulations is a 'conservative' value.

Know one thing about voting for higher taxes the 22 commentators in the NR don't seem to understand? They can be repealed by a vote the next session of Congress.

KNOW WHAT CAN NOT BE REPEALED BY A VOTE OF CONGRESS EVER? THE NATIONAL DEBT! HOLDERS OF OUR DEBT WANT TO BE PAID ON TIME EVERY PAY PERIOD. 

Period.

Saying you are 'against taxes!' while allowing the federal debt to go from $3.3 trillion when Bill Clinton left office to over $19 trillion today 15 years later is not a 'conservative value'.

The people of America know that. They may not all be Harvard or Yale-educated economics or public finance majors but intuitively they know that something is wrong when our elected officials can't hammer out a deal to balance our budget and reduce this debt and instead choose to go outside and throw excrement at the other side like the monkeys do at the Washington Zoo every day for 'not balancing the budget the way we want to do it!'

That is why we elect people to go to Congress in the first place: Hammer Out Deals.

Think the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia didn't compromise their powdered wigs and silk pants off? They compromised their rear ends off on everything except slavery which they chose to punt to 20 years in the future when they would be dead and gone. From public elective life at least, most of them.

Donald Trump has his faults, to be sure. But he is viewed by a growing number of average, non-elite Americans as a 'deal-maker', a 'negotiator-in-chief', a guy who will get people into a room, unlike President Obama, and not leave until a deal is done for the overall good of the nation.

That is what the 22 commentators in the National Review are missing sadly. An appreciation for the concept of 'compromise' in our democratic republican system.

Without it, we will perish. That is what the Founders believed as well.

*Cutting taxes leads to bigger deficits and higher national debt unless they are offset by spending reductions elsewhere in the federal budget which President Bush 43 and the GOP Congress at the time sadly failed to do.


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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Job Creation 'Coming Up Short' Under President Obama



Ever wonder what the worst foul shot ever shot was? (click through title link if you can't see the video)

Well, now you know. Not only did it not go in the hoop, it barely made it 2/3rds of the way to the basket!

The job creation results under President Obama have been pretty much like the DeSagana Diop free throw for the Charlotte Bobcats: way short of the goal.

We readily grant the fact that when he was running for President, we were about to head smack-dab into the nastiest economic recession since the 1930s.*

However, most Presidents who see the economy go in the dumpster right before they take over in the White House are prepared to do something concrete about it. After all, they usually run on a platform of 'Vote for Me And I Will Get You A Job!' or some variation thereof.

Most Presidents see a rapid recovery of jobs lost during a recession in a very short amount of time. Not all the jobs lost come back; some of them just disappear as automation replaces manual labor, some are moved overseas and never come back.

But the vast majority of those lost jobs return and are filled by the laid-off employees and the economy starts to grow again. Assuming the new President and Congress enact the right kind of fiscal policy and the Fed maintains the correct monetary policy to give the resuscitating economy as chance to survive, that is.

That is where President Obama and the Congress of 2009-2011 failed the America people. They chose to 'stimulate' the economy with massive amounts of federal aid for 'shovel-ready infrastructure projects' (hardly any were completed); 'cash-for-clunkers' ranging from automobiles to refrigerators; and hundreds of billions of dollars to bail-out state budgets that were way overspending incoming revenues mostly by keeping union state workers on the payroll.

It didn't work for the most part, did it?

Just for argument's sake, let's take a look at where we were job-wise in 2008 before the Massive Recession and where we are today versus where we could have been had we just stayed on a steady growth trajectory of 3% per year.

In 2008, there were 145,362,000 Americans with a job in the workforce. Some were part-time but they were still counted as 'employed' in official government statistics.

At the end of 2015, as of December numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 149,929,000 Americans with a job in the workforce. Not bad; 4.5 million more jobs over the 2008 baseline is pretty good, especially when you consider that the economy first had to recover 8.8 million jobs that were lost in the nasty recession from 2009-2010.

However, what is the 'potential' job force that could be out there today in the American economy if we had a President and Congress that fully understood what it would take to get this economy jump-started again after being on life support during the recession?

(President Ronald Reagan inherited economic conditions from President Jimmy Carter in 1981 almost as bad as President Obama did in 2009 but the economy revived pretty quickly from 1983-on and ignited one of the largest economic booms and job creation eruptions in American history)

We were shedding millions of jobs from 2008-2010 so we are going to leave those years out of this calculation. Let's give a full 2-year period from 2011-2012 to recover the lost 8.8 million jobs just to be generous.

Once we theoretically had gotten back to square one by January 1, 2013 in terms of having 145,362,000 Americans employed at the end of 2012, a full 4 years after President Obama was elected as President in 2008, how many jobs should we theoretically have out there today in the American economy had he pursued solid pro-growth economic policies that produced just a 3%/year annual growth rate and not thrown such a heavy regulatory-and-tax wet blanket on American business and individuals?

158,841,000 American jobs.

Almost 9 million more jobs than exist today in America.

That is the 'opportunity lost' we have collectively incurred as a nation due to the economic and regulatory policies pursued and passed into law by President Obama and Congress during his first 2 years in office and virtually nothing concrete since then.

Literally. These are millions of 'job opportunities' that have been 'lost', jobs that were not created and which young and old people looking for work could not find or fill due to decisions made in 2009-2010 by your elected officials in Washington at the time.

Sure, a Republican Congress was elected in 2010 to stop his abrupt shift to the left on most public policy issues which includes the economy and creating new jobs for American citizens. They pretty much were following the 'Loyal Opposition' role every political party not in control of the White House has followed since President George Washington left office.

Who's responsibility is it to lead the country, the Congress or the President?

Ideally, there would be enough statesmen/women in both the US House and US Senate plus a President to realize the Constitution gives such talented leaders the tools and the right and the duty to exert positive leadership to force compromise and come to solutions for the good of the country as a whole.

However, the nation usually looks to their Chief Executive (Officer) in the White House to take the lead in 'being a leader' simply because he is an army of one and can speak clearly with one voice. Congress can try but they can't; it is like herding cats up there on either side of the aisle or The US Capitol.

That is where President Obama has perhaps failed the most which even he admitted as much in his SOTU last week.

As soon as President Obama said these words to the Republican Caucus: 'Elections Matter' while cramming legislation through Congress in 2009-2010, he pretty much sealed his fate for the next 6 years to not get much of anything else done once the Republicans took back control in the 2010 elections and built majorities in both the House and Senate in 2012 and 2014.

'Elections Mattered' in 2008, just as 'Elections Mattered' in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

So, if you are wondering why there is 'so much anger' out there in the hinterlands that is causing people all over the country to run to Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump (among others) on the right, look no further than the abysmal job creation history over the past 7 years.

You don't have to have a Ph.D in economics from Harvard or Yale to understand when you and your friends and neighbors lose their job in 2009 and can't find comparable work over the last 6 years with anywhere near the salary or benefits of your previous job, that 'something just ain't working right!' in America lately.

If we had an extra 9 million new jobs today, our labor participation rate would not be at the lowest level since 1977 under President Jimmy Carter, 62.6%. It reached a high of 67.1% under President Bill Clinton in 1998 when, yes, the American economy was experiencing a technological and internet-fueled boom.

More older people would be back in the workforce actively looking for these jobs and young people just graduating from college and high school would have an easier time finding new jobs.

There probably would not be as much anger out there in the populace either. Any incumbent today better be wary of their re-election prospects on either side of the aisle. 'Anti-Incumbency' is the winning ticket this year across-the-board most likely.

More supply of work opportunities leads to more people looking to do that work.

Don't you want something better for the next 4-8 years?

You deserve better than what has happened the past 7 years.


* (If you want to have any chance of understanding just how bollixed up our financial system had become by 2008 through a comedy of errors on the part of Congress and past Presidents plus out-and-out greed from Wall Street bankers and real estate speculators, you need to go see 'The Big Short' as soon as you can)



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Saturday, January 16, 2016

'Why Doesn't EVERYONE Notice This?'



'We Feel Like We Are Taking Crazy Pills!'

We have to admit: Watching President Obama's final State of The Union was tough to watch.

Not because it was his last one forever and we were getting all sentimental about his policies while in office.

It was because his view of what has happened over the last 7 years is so diametrically opposed to the actual truth and reality of where we really are in America today.

As time has rolled on and President Obama's plans, proposals, philosophy and policies were laid out in the open, it became readily apparent that he has a very limited understanding of economics, business practices and how jobs are created, sustained and maintained in America. His understanding of federal budget and tax policy is limited to his dreams about his liberal agenda, not whether it actually works to create jobs and stimulate growth and prosperity for everyone.

On foreign policy, he has tried to reverse over 200 years of American defense and foreign policy stature first by apologizing for it in the early stages of his Presidency and later, by retreating from the world stage and withdrawing America from a strong position as the world's remaining superpower.

He doesn't even understand practical politics which, at its pinnacle, requires a Chief Executive in the White House with the dexterity and political acumen to reach across the aisle and build working majorities in both chambers of Capitol Hill.

Even he admitted he was a failure at that crucial task in his SOTU.

At the heart of the Obama Administration, there was a continuous failure to heed the observation about politics by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr when he said:

'Democracy is the process of finding proximate solutions to inherently insoluble problems." 

The idea is to get elected....and then try to win as many legislative contests as possible by getting more of your agenda and legislative goals completed and set into law than you give up to the other side.

Ronald Reagan used to tell his legislative team: 'Get 75%, 60% of what we want this session of Congress. We will come back next year for the other 25-40%. And the year after that. And the year after that'

That is how successful Presidents 'govern' by leading. They set goals and then they compromise to get as much done as humanly possible during a legislative session. And then try, try again. 

President Obama got elected in 2008 on his vague and, somewhat vacuous in retrospect, 'Hope and Change' theme and slogan. He and his advisors thought that meant they could change everything in America by legislative fiat. With Congress, as in his first 2 years with solid Democrat majorities in the House and Senate, or without Congress, once it flipped back over to Republican control.

Our Founders, many of whom were young enough that they should be considered 'Founding Youngsters', were smart enough to set up a government to frustrate any Chief Executive who wanted to consolidate power, bypass Congress and 'do it their way' no matter how noble they or their supporters think their agenda may be.

President Obama even has taken the extreme steps of trying to legislate on very big issues via executive orders that bypass Congress totally which has further cemented his isolation from the elected leaders of the People's House, as it has been known in the past.

We deserve better as a nation. We demand and deserve results from our elected leaders that yield positive outcomes for the vast majority of Americans. We deserve elected leaders from both parties who know how to lead but also how to cut deals and compromise.

Just as our Founders did when they wrote the US Constitution in the first place, even though many of them hated each other, namely Jefferson hating Hamilton and vice versa which only intensified after ratification of the Constitution in 1789.

You don't really have to 'like' people from the other side once you are elected to Congress or the state legislature. But it would help. A lot. Add to that some measure of personal respect and appreciation for the democratic republican governance system we have in place and you have the seeds for restoring American government to a workable mechanism once again.

Let's take a peek at some of the 'successes' (sic) President Obama cited in his SOTU speech and compare them with the reality of where we are today in 2016 to see if you, along with designer legend 'Mugatu', have been taking 'crazy pills' for the last 7 years as well:

  1. Obama: 'We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history. (Applause.)

    Truth:  Given where the economy was in 2008 when the recession started shedding 8.8 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it stands to reason that it would take a good while to recover the jobs lost on the recession which ended in 2009 experts say.

    We have just barely recovered those lost jobs and hardly made a dent at creating new ones for all of the new entrants into the workforce over the past 7 years.

    Most recessions lead to robust economic growth in a short period of time once economic conditions and fiscal and tax policies are adjusted to allow growth to happen. President Obama's policies have put and kept the proverbial straight-jacket on the American economy from Obamacare to higher taxes, more regulation and a general disdain for the whole capitalist notion of how people make decisions to better themselves and the lives of the families.

    We are going into the 8th year of the slowest economic recovery in modern American history. 1.78% per quarter.

    That is like saying a D-I basketball team is on a 7-game winning streak, even though they have only beaten Division III opponents by 1 point in quintuple overtime each time.

    You still are 'winning'....but just barely over very weak competition.
  2. Obama: 'More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth (what is he talking about?) since the ‘90s'
    Truth: 
    Untrue. The number of new jobs that have been created total since 2009 is about 9.3 million, not 14 million as the President claims.

    According to CNN Money'...(I)nstead of starting at January 2009, the White House starts the clock in February 2010. The Obama team argues that it took time for the administration's policies to take effect to get the country out of the crisis'

    Anytime there is a recession, you have to assume that the jobs lost will be the first ones to recover, right?  If you compare the 9.3 million jobs that have been 'created' since Obama was sworn in for his first term with the 8.8 million jobs that had to be 'restored' in order to stay even with employment figures pre-recession, there has been a net increase of about 500,000 under the entire two terms of President Obama.

    Over 7 full years. 49,000 net new jobs on average per year over what the base level was 7 years ago. Wonder why it is so hard for young people to find great jobs nowadays? There's your answer.

    Only in mid-2015 did we pass the number of Americans who were employed as of the summer of 2008. It was as if time stood still in terms of overall economic and job growth until we got back to even under not one but two terms of President Obama.
  3. Obama: '...an unemployment rate cut in half'
    Truth:
    'True (sic) with an asterisk*'.  We have written about this almost as many times as we have written on any other subject but the 'truth' about why the unemployment rate is now half of what it was when Obama took office in 2009 is almost totally due to the fact that millions of Americans have dropped out of the workforce altogether so they are not even counted as being 'unemployed' any longer.

    Many are retiring Boomers which by some reports accounts for between 20-30% of those who are leaving the workforce. That still leaves 70-80% of the potential employment labor force that is not retiring or leaving the workforce by choice and they would rather be working full-time at a job with great salary and of interest to them. Millions are now scraping by on part-time income; reduced salary and benefits compared to previous jobs or somehow making ends meet by scratching together several smaller jobs on 1099 basis contract work.

  4. Obama: 'Our auto industry just had its best year ever. (Applause.) That's just part of a manufacturing surge that's created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.

    Truth: True. 2015 was the best year ever for American automobile manufacturers in terms of numbers of cars sold.

  5. Obama: 'And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters'

    Truth: False. In order to take credit for 'cutting our deficits' by anyone, you actually have to cut or reduce something like federal spending to get there in the first place.

    There has been next-to-zero-degree-on-the-Kelvin-scale emphasis on cutting the deficit or spending control during the entire Obama Administration. None. Nada. Never Happened. Never Will.

    His first 4 years averaged $1 trillion in annual federal deficits which has to led to a doubling of the national debt under Obama. When President George W. Bush left the White House on January 20, 2009, the national debt stood at $10.6 trillion.

    Today, it is just under $19 trillion. You do the math.

    President Obama taking credit for 'cutting' the deficit from $1 trillion+ per year for his first 4 years in office to 25% of what they were is like a severely obese person saying they have quit eating 24,000 calories per day and now 'only' are consuming 6000 calories per day.

    There's some progress. But you are not going to see such a person running the marathon anytime soon, are you?
  6. Fact: President Obama has done less to curb federal spending, federal deficits and the national debt in relative peacetime conditions than perhaps any other US President in American history.
    At least Abraham Lincoln had the Civil War to deal with and FDR had the Great Depression and THEN World War II to deal with so their explosive deficit-spending and debt accumulation can be understood in those national emergency contexts.

    Those were some serious problems Americans at the time somehow survived.
  7. President Obama went on to trumpet his 'success' (sic?) in the foreign policy areas of Syria, ISIS and Iran, to whom he and Secretary Kerry just gave the bomb and apologized to the Iranian leaders for somehow letting US soldiers be captured on the very same day that the President was giving his SOTU speech!

    Truth
    : We are so bewildered, bewitched and befuddled by the 'Lead from Behind!' foreign policy strategy of President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that we can't even begin to try to explain how he could see his foreign policy as anything but a failure over the past 7 years.
So, as we turn the page on American history here in 2016 and enter into the primaries to select the 2 candidates, one of whom will be our 45th President-Elect after November 8, 2016, ask yourself the same question as 'Mugatu': 'Doesn't everyone notice what has been going on under President Obama's leadership for the past 7 years?'

We can't afford another 8 years of jobless growth, a moribund economy and weakness overseas. Just to name a few problems we face.

If you are a young person under the age of 35, you really have not seen or been a part of an economic boom cycle where it seems everyone who wants to work can find a good-paying job and so can all of their friends.

The Reagan and Bill Clinton years were the last two big boom eras, 1981-1989 and 1993-2001 respectively. They were a sight to behold.

You deserve to see one. Your 401k and job prospects and earned income are depending on it. So are all the fortunes of your friends and colleagues.

Choose Wisely.





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Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Rorschach Test Of Electing A President

Everyone wants to look at an inkblot of our presidential politics and see a Thomas Jefferson somehow arise out of it.

Or a George Washington. Or an Abraham Lincoln.

Never does anyone want a Millard Fillmore, John Tyler or James Buchanan to somehow emerge out of the muck of a presidential race to lead our great country. (The string of inept Chief Executives from 1837 to 1861 makes you wonder how The United States of America survived the last part of its first century....which it almost didn't)

But we have survived bad presidents before, haven't we?

It is just that things seem to go better when there is someone at the helm of the nation who can: 1) keep our nation safe from harm, both domestic and foreign; and 2) make sure that our economic and fiscal policies are in line with the basic fundamental truths about business, capitalism and the free enterprise system so everyone can pursue their dream of following the American Dream.

Whatever that may be for that particular person.

We have been struck lately by how people, people who are registered to vote and who are most likely to vote that is, have been looking at the current presidential contest and 'projecting' their hopes and dreams onto this candidate or that candidate.

It is no different than when people were 'projecting' their hopes and dreams on a little-known Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama in 2008 and then again in 2012.

People see and hear what they want to hear from their favorite candidate. Somehow, we all can selectively filter out what we don't want to hear from 'our guy' or 'my candidate' all in the 'pursuit of winning at all costs...or else America is doomed!'

Again, just as a reference, The United States of America survived Presidents Millard Fillmore, John Tyler and James Buchanan, didn't we? And President Jimmy Carter for a more modern reference to an almost completely failed presidency. Which we will come back to later.

We were asked to comment on last night's Donald Trump rally in Rock Hill, SC on a local cable news show and after almost 2 hours of watching and talking about Donald Trump, these thoughts became crystal clear:

  1. The phenomenon of Donald Trump is almost the mirror-image of the phenomenon of Barack Obama in 2008.
  2. People will flock to the candidate who offers the most hopeful vision of the future with the least amount of nagging and niggling details.
  3. Presidential politics is, has been and always will be part P.T. Barnum, Shakespeare and Rodney Dangerfield stand-up comedy.
Let's just compare the rise and candidacies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, just to keep things simple.

In 2008, we were about to dive head-first into the deep end of the collateralized debt obligation pool that our Big Banks had created to profit from the no-down payment, no-background check housing boom of the previous decade and our economy was about to go down with it.

President George Bush 43 had led us into a War Against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attack on New York and Washington which most people supported. But he then veered into a seemingly interminable war in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein which many people did not support. Subsequently, voters were looking for a new face with new policies and new slogans to reverse the policies of George Bush 43.

Onto the national stage stepped a young charismatic African-American with a white mother from Chicago who was a gifted orator, Barack Obama. Little experience, had just been elected to the US Senate in 2004 after a not too distinguished career in the Illinois state legislature. Many votes were recorded as 'present' which is not what you want to see or hear from any elected representative. Anyone can vote 'present'.

So in 2006 he decides to run for President of the United States of America preaching a gospel of 'Hope and Change' which is about as vague as anything any candidate is peddling today come to think about it. He promised to pull all of our troops not only out of Afghanistan but Iraq as well regardless of the situation on the ground. Because of his mixed-race heritage, he seemed to be the perfect person to run for President and heal our nation's racial divide from the Oval Office.

When the economy tanked in 2008, people instinctively placed all the blame on the 8 years of President George Bush 43 for all of it crashing down around us and looked for another choice other than old, aged and cranky Senator John McCain who did not 'look like the future' to most people

That 'choice' was Barack Obama. Who came out of nowhere it seemed to defeat Hillary Clinton, who at the time was considered the favorite to win the nomination and the presidency in 2008 much like the University of Kentucky was a 'lock' to win the 2015 NCAA Basketball Championship. 

She didn't in 2008 and they didn't in 2015. Underdogs won both.

So now it is President Barack Obama who is being judged for the past 7 years of economic and foreign policy decisions and it is not looking too good for him or the American public.

The economy still feels as if it is stuck in mud spinning its wheels trying to find some traction to provide millions of people young and old great new jobs instead of part-time or less than optimal jobs as it has done for the past 7 years.

It feels as if America has lost its leadership in world affairs which stands to reason since President Obama made it a high priority to withdraw from the Middle East as soon as possible and to 'Lead from Behind' which basically means stay out of everything until someone else takes control of the situation which right now seems to be Russia over there.

Into the breach steps Donald Trump preaching how he is going to 'Make America Great Again!'

Not a whole lot of details. Maybe more so than Obama's 'Hope and Change' details (did anyone see the details of Obamacare laid out in the 2008 elections? Didn't think so) but not a lot.

He is gonna 'build a wall and Mexico is gonna pay for it!'. He is going to send Carl Icahn over to China and they are going to stop stealing our trademarks and pirating our technology and send jobs back to the US for our citizens, not theirs. 

In short, Donald Trump is proposing to be the 'Anti-Obama' just as Barack Obama was promising to be the 'Anti-Bush 43'. They are mirror-images of one another.

The true-blue (true-red?) believers in both candidates will hear what they want to hear from both candidates and lock those ideas and principles down in their heads and throw away the key.

Obama supporters didn't want to hear or acknowledge that all of his records were sealed away under lock and key and court order or that he had very strong socialistic training and upbringing under his father and other socialists such as Frank Marshall Davis, a well-known socialist and activist in the 1930s, 40s and early 50s. They didn't want to hear about Reverend Wright, and the Obama Campaign didn't want people to hear about Reverend Wright either.

Nor did they want to acknowledge that there was no way possible that 'everyone could have health care...and save $2000 per year at the same time!'

Talk about false advertising.

Donald Trump supporters are so eager to throw off the yoke of Obama's policies both foreign and domestic that they really don't care what he says about Muslims as long as they think he can help create great jobs for them and their families and friends and keep us safe from Islamist terrorism.

There is selective hearing and reasoning going on in both cases. Donald Trump and Barack Obama are whatever their supporters 'want them to be'. They are like the inkblots in the Rorschach tests where psychologists can show the same inkblot and you think it is a flower and I may think it is an atomic bomb.

In order to win enough delegates to be the Republican nominee, Donald Trump needs to get 50%+1 of all Republican delegates to believe in his inkblot just as Barack Obama convinced 50%+1 of all Democrat delegates in 2008 and then in 2012 to believe in his inkblot and then of course, they have to do the same in the general election through the Electoral College.

So don't be shocked when you see or hear a candidate such as Donald Trump say something outlandish. Other Presidents have gotten elected by saying 'outlandish' things as well. Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt come to mind first. It is part of their 'charm' or 'aura', at least in the eyes of their supporters.

The narrative surrounding Donald Trump is not unlike the narrative that surrounded and became the aura of Barack Obama except that it is coming from the other side of the political spectrum.

Here's another case of how two inkblots worked off the other:

In 1980, America was drowning in double-digit inflation rates of 12% and interest rates approaching 21%. Oil prices were sky-high; 52 American hostages were taken by the Iranian government under the direction of Ayatollah Khomeni who assumed control after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran; America's role in the world seemed diminished.

And to top it all off, poor old President Jimmy Carter was out fly-fishing one day and a rabid rabbit came swimming towards him in his boat and cameras caught him flailing at the rabid rabbit much like Elmer Fudd attacking Bugs Bunny.
'Get away, you wabid wabbit!'

He was done. Ronald Reagan, running as the Anti-Carter, tapped into the anger of the American public who felt threatened and in danger economically and internationally. He was elected by the largest landslide ever against an incumbent president.

Despite the misgivings many had about him being 'just a western cowboy', even though he had served two terms as Governor of California, and maybe pushing the nuclear button at the wrong time, millions of Democrats deserted Jimmy Carter and crossed over to vote for the guy with the cheery disposition and optimistic vision for 'that bright light shining on a hill', The United States of America.

Lofty, somewhat vague narratives with a positive vision for America are Rorschach inkblot tests that work.

Ask Barack Obama. Or Ronald Reagan, if he were still alive.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

'He Can Cry Out Of One Eye!'

Crying Out of One Eye
Former Republican National Chairman and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour used to marvel at the ability of former President, and now First Spouse-in-Waiting, Bill Clinton to create tears as if on cue during any particular news conference or meeting that called for them.
Haley Barbour
'Bill Clinton is a fabulous political performer. I mean, he is the first politician in American history who perfected the ability to cry out of just one eye' --Haley Barbour, October 23, 2000 'Crossfire' with Bill Press. 
We were reminded of that quote yesterday as we watched President Barack Obama tear up as he resorted yet once again to his tried-and-true way of governing in our American Democratic Republic: the Presidential Executive Order.

We have no way of knowing if President Obama was truly overwhelmed by emotion as he spoke about the tragic massacre of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School 2 years ago. He sincerely may have felt that way as he spoke to the nation yesterday.

However, with the plethora of mass shootings and tragedies that have happened across the nation since he became President in 2008, he could have been bawling his eyes out over the senseless and tragic shootings or murders at any one or all of the following incidents that will always be remembered by the site of the tragedies just as the bloodiest battles of the Civil War are known by the name of the nearby town or river or creek:
  • San Bernardino
  • Colorado Springs
  • Roseburg
  • Chattanooga
  • Charleston
  • Isla Vista
  • Fort Hood
  • Naval Yard
  • Santa Monica
  • Newtown
  • Brookfield
  • Minneapolis
  • Oak Creek
  • Aurora
  • Oakland
  • Seal Beach
  • Tucson
  • Manchester
  • Huntsville
  • Fort Hood
  • Binghamton
You don't even need to know what state many of these towns are in to remember the helplessness and pain of all of the families and friends of the victims of these mass murders.

And it doesn't even include the out-and-out cold-blooded murders caused by the Tsarnaev brothers at the Boston Marathon. No guns involved; just cold-blooded pipe bomb-in-a-knapsack murders.

The sincerity of any politician including The President can usually be ascertained by a couple of things:

#1 is the recognition of the root causes of the problem at hand. 
#2 is the resignation and determination to do whatever it takes to get a reasonable and plausible solution completed through the legislative process. 

Which usually means going against some of your campaign promises and basic inherent political principles, no matter how much you hold them near and dear to your heart and how important they are to you close advisors and supporters.

Let's look at what President Obama said yesterday and see if it passes the test of 'sincerity' or whether it was just another photo-op geared more to make gun control a salient political issue now that we are less than a month away from the Iowa Caucuses and 6 weeks away from the New Hampshire Primary:
  1. There was no mention of the fact that since President Obama was elected in 2008, there are now 100 million MORE firearms legally purchased by American citizens than before he was elected.
  2. We now have close to 330 million firearms in America, over a 50% increase since 2008.
  3. We now have far more firearms that have been legally purchased and background checked than we have people living in this country.
  4. Had President Obama not made his intentions for more gun control so clear once elected, maybe we would have stayed at close to 200 million firearms that were legally bought and background checked as was the case in 2008 before his election.
  5. President Obama acknowledged yesterday that nothing he proposed would have done anything to stop the senseless murders at San Bernardino or any of the other tragedies mentioned above.
  6. The reason? Because the problem with people who commit mass murders with dangerous weapons is because they are either mentally disturbed or provoked by religious extremism, mostly influenced by Islamist terrorism lately and we have to find a way to curb both before we can make progress on limiting the number of deaths caused by mass shootings in America.
There is a mention of funding more mental health efforts in his executive order but this will have to be authorized and appropriated by Congress and can't happen just by waving his executive order pen in the White House.

The bottom line is that President Obama would have been far, far ahead of the game had he not made it one of his prime missions to intimidate legitimate gun owners in America with the threat of loss of their guns from the beginning of his Presidency. 

Instead, he could have focused on working together with Republicans in both the House and the Senate on ways to strengthen and clear up federal laws relating to the admission of folks deemed to be mentally unstable to mental health facilities and provide the therapy they need before they could resort to mass murdering other innocent folks while hallucinating for example.

While this would have gone against his grain and almost pathological aversion to meeting with and then compromising with Republicans no matter who they are, it would have been a more fruitful effort now that we are entering his last year as President.

He could have focused the federal government's attention on ferreting out potential killers who were influenced by Islamist terrorism such as the San Bernardino murderers who got their passports without any federal authority being able to access their Facebook page where the female killer clearly announced her support for ISIS for all the rest of the world to see...but the federal government authorities were forbidden by the Obama Administration to use social media posts to do their background checks for some odd reason.

That makes absolutely no sense.

And, in one other important area, President Obama could have led the national effort to help reduce the number of crimes caused by guns by inner-city African-Americans on other inner-city African Americans as Reverend William Barber said recently at the funeral of a 1-year old baby girl who was shot and killed on Christmas Day in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

"We gotta stop these funerals. Our people made it through slavery without killing one another,” said Rev. William Barber.

Amen.

In the spirit of a new year, we are going to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the sincerity of his tears yesterday at the press conference announcing yet another end run around the prerogatives of the US Congress.

However, tears and executive orders don't really cut it in a democratic republic such as ours. Executive orders can be wiped away as quickly as any tear can dry on your cheek. As soon as a president of the other party gets elected, any and all executive orders ever written before can be wiped out with the stroke of his/her pen. In 10 seconds. (see footnotes below)

Give us Presidential leadership when it comes to compromise and hammering out lasting legislative solutions aimed at curing the root causes of any problem any day of the week, any year, any time.

President Obama might want to give it a try in this his last year in the Oval Office.


* Summary of executive orders issued by each President: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/orders.php

** Limits on Presidents Acting Alone- New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/01/20/us/politics/presidental-executive-action.html

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Do Yourself a Huge Favor In The New Year

'Oooo No! I bet there will be people
in 21st century America who think
going  to private SS accounts
won't hurt anyone either!
Tell your congressman and senator you will not vote for them until and unless they vote to improve your Social Security benefits by a factor of 10.

Or more.

Howzat you say?
'Are you now completely out of your fiscally-responsible mind? Have you gone over to the Dark Side and are now advocating a rapid rise in Social Security benefits without raising taxes to pay for it? we can hear long-term readers say.
Nope. We are not advocating for more direct benefits and higher payroll taxes to take care of all the golden geezers in their retirement days, which now includes all of the dreamy-eyed Baby Boomers who started out wanting to 'change the world' in the flower-powered '60s and such.

In some ways, they have made some change for the positive. In many ways, namely leaving tremendous debt for our children and grandchildren to pay, the Baby Boomers have been like locusts: consume everything in sight no matter what the cost will be.

Take a look at this clear-as-a-bell analysis of Social Security benefits from Jeremy Siegel, professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, properly titled 'My Sorry Social Security Benefits'

We think if every reader of this one article would tell 10 of your friends to read it and then have 10 of their friends read it and so on, building political pressure based on common sense will start to turn the tide towards modern financial management of your assets and away from the bankrupting politics behind Social Security for the past 80+ years.

After all, it is your money, you know. Not the government's money to give to you scot-free. Every single dollar of the money now being paid into the Social Security system is deducted from your paycheck every tax payment period and then matched by your employer dollar-for-dollar to pay for current SS benefits paid out to current SS recipients.

Not 1 dollar goes into a private retirement account on Wall Street or in some bank account located in the mountains of West Virginia that has your name on it to build wealth through the miracle of compound interest and dividends over a very long time, such as your working career of say 45 years.

In the case of self-employed people, the SS contribution is doubled right out of, yes, you guessed it, your pocket which goes directly to current retirees, not a private account with your name on it as described above.

Let's look at how Professor Siegel clearly points out how every person, both rich and poor; African- Latino-, Asian- or white- American gets the shaft when it comes to getting substandard returns from the current SS system as configured:
'Last month I turned 70 and, thanks to my earnings, became entitled to Social Security’s maximum benefit, currently $3,500 a month, or $42,000 a year. And so, if I live to 90, I will receive $840,000 worth of (inflation-adjusted) benefits.
Over the past 50 years, according to the Social Security Administration, the combined taxes paid into the system by me and my employers equaled $329,640.
This sounds like a good deal—the benefits I would collect over the next 20 years are more than twice what I put in. But the benefits are only about one-third the $2.27 million I would have accumulated had the taxes instead been invested, over time, in a stock index fund.
Moreover, the benefits I would collect are even less than the $1.28 million I would have accumulated if my “contributions,” as Social Security taxes are euphemistically called, had been placed in U.S. Treasury bonds.'
It is almost as bad in Medicare:
Over the past half century, my Medicare taxes exceeded $1 million, more than three times my Social Security taxes. That’s because since 1994 there has been no cap on the income subject to Medicare taxes. I have calculated that these taxes, invested in Treasury bonds, would now have accumulated to almost $1.75 million.
I do not know the most expensive health-care coverage that I could buy at my age, but the so-called “Cadillac” coverage, upon which the government will apply a stiff surtax, is $10,200 a year. Even if I purchased super-premium, all-inclusive medical coverage that cost $20,000 or even $30,000 a year, I will never begin to make back the money that I paid the government to take care of my medical needs.
Professor Siegel wrote this from the perspective of an affluent senior who might live to age 90. But the magnitude of benefits anyone could accrue from private accounts over meager current SS benefits paid out holds true for every income-level, every race, every gender in America.

And the real kick in the rear end? ANYONE who passes away before the official retirement age today of 66 in SS has nothing to pass on to his/her spouse/partner or family or heirs as would be the case with private accounts.

The real tragedy in today's SS system is that an African-American male father, a cohort that has the lowest longevity rates of all Americans, could pass away at age 65 years, 11 months and 30 days and never receive $1 of SS benefits after 45 years of hard work and contributing (through forced payroll taxation) to the SS Trust (sic) Fund. Nor would he have a handsome nest-egg of several hundred thousand dollars to pass on to their heirs even if he had received the minimum wage for his entire work lives.

Professor Siegel points out that the federal government 'makes out like a bandit' with wealthy people by not having to pay them the true market rate of return for all of their paid SS taxes over the years.

Perhaps it is time to start calling people who 'believe' in the current SS structure and system as the modern-day equivalent of the 'Flat Earth Society' who long ago believed that western sailors would fall off the edge of the earth if they sailed to the Orient going west instead of east.

The common sense of shifting to a private account for everyone in America is so over-powering and compelling that standing up for the current system without any changes at all is just about as absurd as assuming the earth is flat nowadays.

Do something great for yourself and your children in the new year. Start telling all your friends to contact your elected representatives and senators in Washington and demand they take up legislative action to fix Social Security and Medicare once and for all by following Professor Siegel's sound financial advice.


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Thursday, December 17, 2015

''The Federal Government Will Be Just A Massive Health Care Plan That Pays Bond Interest by 2025!'

'Break Open When Elected!'
No matter who is the next President of the United States, he/she is going to have one whale of a problem right off the bat to solve if he/she wants to get anything else done during their 4/8 years in the White House from 2017 to either 2021 or 2025.

'The Size of Federal Entitlements Crowding Out Everything Else!'

They are not going to want to hear that on their first day when their staff comes in and says: 'Uh, President Trump, you know all those tax cuts you want to make to help the economy explode and create millions of new jobs....uhhh....you can't do them without making the national debt explode even more than it did under President Obama!'

Or for President Hillary Clinton: 'Uh, President Clinton, you know all those programs you want to pass making college almost free for everyone and all the other things you promised on the campaign trail, well, uhhhhh....you can't do those without making the national debt explode even more than it did under President Obama!'

The truth of the matter is that we have painted ourselves into not the proverbial corner but the actual corner of fiscal insanity. No President short of Superman or Hercules cleaning out the Augean Stables is going to be able to unwind the trajectory of our national debt until and unless he/she does 1 thing to fix it all, which we discuss later.

Take a look at the following charts below, both gleaned from data in CBO documents and projections. Notice in the first one a little dotted red line that goes right across the middle of the chart. That is the historical average of the percentage of GDP that typically comes in as revenue in all forms of federal taxes: income, payroll, estate, capital gains and dividend taxes.

Take a look at what happens along about 2021, 2022 and 2023. The blue graph denoting 'all other federal spending' starts to diminish until it completely vanishes at 2025 under that red dotted line.

You know what that means?

What that means is that nothing except Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, Obamacare and Net Interest on the national debt can be or will be paid by revenue paid to the federal government by taxpayers. All Entitlements Plus Net Interest.

EVERYTHING ELSE will have to be paid for by more borrowing from overseas or domestic sources. 100% of it. Including defense. Including transportation. Including environmental protection.

Everything. Every round of ammunition, every R&D dollar spent at the NIH to cure cancer, every dollar spent on environmental protection or research will come from money we will be forced to raise overseas or beg for in some fashion or manner.

Even President Obama's own commission came to this unsettling conclusion in 2010, even though he has done next to nothing to do anything about it:

"By 2025 (federal) revenue will be able to finance only interest payments, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security," the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform stated in its final report.  "Every other federal government activity -- from national defense and homeland security to transportation and energy -- will have to be paid for with borrowed money."

Take a look at the second chart below. You will see the disproportionate growth entitlement programs have had on chewing up bigger shares of the federal budget since 1980 when the rapid rate of inflation in overall medical health care costs drove up the costs of Medicaid and Medicare faster than the rest of the budget.

And this is even without interest rates being anywhere close to what they could have been had we had any sort of normal recovery and economic growth from the Great Recession of 2008! Interest rates have effectively been near or at zero when adjusted for inflation. Historically, interest rates of 5% would not have seemed 'extraordinarily high' in the past.

With a national debt approaching $20 trillion by the time President Obama leaves office, after more than doubling the national debt accumulated under President Bush 43 from 2001-2009, 'normal' interest rates of 'only' 5%/year would cost the federal government $1 trillion in net annual interest payments to bondholders who expect to be paid on time and in full. Per year. Each year. In the national federal budget.

Where would that come from when we are already spending 100% of all tax revenues from all sources on entitlements alone? The tooth fairy?

So, as much fun as it is to watch the current campaign primary drama unfold before our very eyes, keep in mind that we are going to be electing someone to sit in the Oval Office in the White House starting on January 21, 2017 to figure out what to do on this, perhaps our most serious current political threat mainly because it is so invisible, hard to understand and confusing in the first place to most people.

What is that 'One Thing' the next POTUS has to do to make things (relatively) right again for 315 million people by then? 

Our next President is going to have to be able to work with Congress and the Senate from Day One, meaning compromise their brains out to get a deal done in some fashion that first gets our annual budgets to balance so we don't have to keep adding to the national debt each year and make our interest payments only that much higher when 'normal' interest rates return to the scene.

And then, they are going to have to agree to some compromise deal that keeps them balanced for a very long time.

And then, they are going to have to figure out a way to start paying down this debt, either through direct payments as was done from 1998-2001, the last time we had balanced budgets in America, or ...just let inflation take care of it by making future dollars worth less and thereby pay back the current debt with those depreciated dollars.

Maybe 'President Donald Trump' can restructure the $20 trillion bonds we will owe in 2017 much as he did with many of bank loans he negotiated down to 1 cent on the dollar when he took some of his properties into bankruptcy. That $20 trillion in national debt might be knocked down to $200 billion just like that overnight!

Inflation is, sadly, the time-honored way most governments have 'paid off' (sic) their national debt over time. Britain just made their last debt payment to the United States for loans incurred to help prosecute World War II so you can just imagine how much the pound had depreciated since 1945 in terms of buying power.

So, no matter who you 'want' to win the Presidency, and no matter who you think might do the best job advancing your interests and politics, keep in mind that whoever it is from either side is going to be severely handicapped at delivering any of their promises simply because of one thing:

We did not do the job of balancing the budget and keeping entitlements in line over the past 30 years.

So good luck! Hope you vote for the right candidate who can pull this off! 














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Sunday, December 13, 2015

What Would We Do About 'Radical Hare Krishna Terrorists'?

'Hare Krishna Comin' To Get You...
Gonna knock you right on the head'*
Sometimes, to get a particular political point across, resorting to the theatre of the (absolute) absurd might help to reveal the root of the problem faced and perhaps, once the problem is soberly faced, a policy or solution can be formulated to win.

So let's wonder out loud how America or any civilized western country should or would respond to a threat posed by another disaffected and deluded sect of a religion who have gone off the rails against peace and resorted to violence:

The Hare Krishnas.

Some of the most peaceful people the world has ever known, the Hare Krishnas, although they used to be pretty annoying at any airport you used to walk through before they were banned from hanging out there.

(See? Even with peaceful believers such as the Hare Krishnas, government took action to 'protect' innocent citizens from being accosted by strangers who said they were just 'exercising their right to freely speak and freely worship'. 'Freedom of speech' and 'freedom of religion' in America doesn't mean you have to listen to them or worship with them if you don't want to, plain and simple as that)

Let's start by assuming that for some reason, a group of disaffected Hare Krishna believers start to blame the United States and its Judeo-Christian, Puritan, free enterprise capitalist culture and history for all the world's problems as well as theirs.

Somehow, in their reading of the Hindu religious text, the Bhagavad Gita, they find obscure lines or quatrains that seem to indicate that they should engage in violent warfare against the infidels who are not believers. They come to the conclusion that instead of 'loving' other people into the faith and giving them flowers at the airports and giving them a positive reason to join with them, the best thing to do is to kill them and rid the earth of scum like them forever.

Let's call this disaffected disgruntled violent sect the 'Hairy Krushers' (HK for short) since that is a catchy phrase the news media could use with abandon to help further the cause by publicizing each and every action widely.

The HKers start issuing press releases and making videos calling 'America The Great Satan' and blaming us for all the harm and damage the world has ever known. They make it pretty to clear to anyone who is paying any attention that they intend to strike and do harm to American citizens soon and often.

'We declare war on The United States of America! We will fight to our deaths to win!' they say on their videos made for wide distribution on the internet.

Other peace-loving Hare Krishna leaders say they have badly misinterpreted the Bhagavad Gita. However, since they are a peace-loving sort, they have no intention of engaging in any sort of opposition against the belligerent Hare Krishnas in any way, shape, fashion or form.

'You'll have to do it if you want to get rid of them, not us!' the Hare Krishna leaders tell the US Secretary of State at the time. 'Besides, they are so violent and dangerous that we fear for our lives that they are going to come after us and slaughter us for being infidels to the 'true' faith as well! They really scare us!'

Despite hundreds of gun laws in (pick your state or city), these disaffected Hare Krishnas, steal some semi-automatic weapons or have a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend in the sect who gives them an arsenal of guns as a way to renounce his own wayward ways and asks them to dispose of them properly for him.

They don't.

Instead, since they are already in the United States and don't have to worry about passing through customs with valid passports and visa, they make plans to murder as many innocent people as possible so they pick out 3 of the most vulnerable places to attack simultaneously: a senior citizens center, a mental institution with disabled children and adults and, in a place that will surely directly affect millions of Americans who love animals, a large veterinarian clinic during an adoption day for rescued pit bulls who have been saved from Michael Vick's farm.

Despite multiple warnings by the HKers and despite electronic surveillance and monitoring of the HKers for months, the HKers go ahead with their threat of violence and pull off a mass murder in one day unlike any the world has seen since Mithradates of Pontus killed 80,000+ Roman citizens in 88 BC. **

What do we do now?

There are those who would espouse doing basically nothing. 'Until they actually commit an atrocity, we have to respect their privacy, freedom or speech and religious beliefs no matter how much we disagree with them. We must respect our sacred American values' say some well-meaning civil libertarians.

The relatives and friends of those slaughtered victims would disagree in all respects most likely.

There are those like Donald Trump who may say: 'Round up very Hare Krishna in America and ship them out of the country Send them back to whatever country they came from!' even though Hare Krishnas are all over the world nowadays.

Neither of these extremes seem to make much sense to us. One is totally naive and devoid of any consideration of the real-world and how bad people act. James Madison said it best in Federalist 51:
'If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions'
Even Hare Krishnas are no 'angels', are they?

Perhaps the most over-arching American 'value' that gets overlooked when many civil libertarians start talking about 1st Amendment freedoms guaranteed to all of us is the 'value' we place on living in peace free from being mass-murdered in our homes, workplace or houses of worship in the first place. Reasonable people can see and hear and watch what violent jihadists are doing today and come to the reasonable conclusion that these people really want to kill and injure as many Americans as they can.

It stands to reason that we should be able to take any precaution or pre-emptive actions, with reasonable cause of course, to protect the lives of 310 million citizens from a few hundred or thousand terrorists dedicated to killing us, isn't it?

The second approach as enunciated by Mr. Trump is misguided because it presumes that everyone of a particular faith is guilty, if for no other reason than by association through a common faith. If that were true, then every antebellum Christian believer in the North would have been held responsible for the actions of the Southern plantation owners who believed slavery was scriptural, even though the abolitionist movement started in the Northern Christian churches which led to the bloody conflict that eventually ended slavery in 1865.


What are some practical things we could do?

For one thing, we can take action against suspects who have clearly announced their intention to do harm to Americans since there clearly is a 'probable cause' to assume they are about to do violence.

The Socialist French government, post-Paris Attacks, has taken swift, deliberate and definitive action to clear out the nests of Islamist terrorists in France. They 'have raided 2,235 homes and buildings, taken 232 people into custody, and seized 334 weapons – 34 of which were war-grade - since the brutal attacks on 13 November that saw 130 people killed in the French capital' (per The Independent)

They have also shut down 3 mosques that were suspected of being hives of terrorist activity and planning. When places of worship become bunkers to conduct war, the line between 'freedom of religion' and 'becoming a danger to society' has been breached and must be dealt with as France has done.

If Bernie Sanders has come out and said he approves of the way the French Socialists have dealt with this threat, we haven't see it yet.

The other thing that can be done is to see the moderate, modern Muslim community and religious and civic leaders come out in public to renounce Islamist terrorism in a forceful way. Hossein Askari, Economist, Professor of Business and International Affairs at GW University and a writer on Middle East Economies and Islamic economics and finance, has written a piece for the Huffington Post 'Muslims--Take Back Your Religion that essentially asks peaceful Muslims to do whatever it takes to refute and renounce the violence perpetrated by others in the name of Islam.

As crazy as it sounds to even imagine the Hare Krishnas spawning a violent streak among some of its followers, it is a helpful exercise nonetheless because it takes the current political tension out of the debate and focuses on the issues that matter: the safety of the American people from domestic and foreign attack.

When every elected official in The White House, Congress or the US Senate takes the following oath of office, they are not just 'defending and protecting' the US Constitution from foreign and domestic attacks, they are taking the oath to protect us as US citizens. We should all remember that.

'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.'


* with apologies to John Lennon.
Lyrics to 'Instant Karma'
Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you're gonna be dead
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin' to do
It's up to you, yeah you

Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna look you right in the face
Better get yourself together darlin'
Join the human race
How in the world you gonna see
Laughin' at fools like me
Who in the hell d'you think you are
A super star
Well, right you are

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Ev'ryone come on

Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you off your feet
Better recognize your brothers
Ev'ryone you meet
Why in the world are we here
Surely not to live in pain and fear
Why on earth are you there
When you're ev'rywhere
Come and get your share

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah we all shine on
Come on and on and on on on
Yeah yeah, alright, uh huh, ah

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah we all shine on
On and on and on on and on

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun

** go get 'The Poison King' by Adrienne Mayor and read about how King Mithradates basically invented asymmetrical guerrilla warfare and was the biggest pain to the Roman Empire for decades 




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